Star Trek

Star Trek

Monday, April 6, 2015

Season 3, Episode 73 "The Lights of Zetar"

"The Lights of Zetar"
Production Order: 73
Air Order: 73
Stardate: 5725.3
Original Air Date: January 1, 1969

Dude, there's only six more episodes left of this goofy-ass show. Seems so weird. If you're asking yourself, "Will Lady Archon be covering the animated series?" the answer is, fuck yeah, I will. I watched the first minute of the first episode, and the guy at the helm was an alien with a third arm protruding from his chest. It made me wonder if Starfleet has a tailor who has to design uniforms for different races, and how much that job must suck sometimes. No way would I miss that shit. I'm also planning on doing the films, but I'll probs split each one in two so the posts aren't novels. I haven't decided whether or not I'm doing TNG, DS9, or Voyager yet. Those were done better and haven't aged as badly, so I'm thinking they won't be as funny to review, but we'll see. I refused to continue watching Enterprise after the first few episodes, but I've encountered two people who watched them all, and assured me that seasons one, two and four were terrible, so they might be worth reviewing. I dunno. Either way, I'm going in release order, so if I do post-animated series, we'd be getting a slew of show-film combos, then just show again, then JJ Abrams films. Dubs and Roomie once did the math, and if they stop making shows and films, and I keep doing one review a week until I reach the end, I'll be doing this shit for ten years. Only now we're getting Reboot Movie #3, so... I guess they're going Who on it? Whatever, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Though hopefully not the one Kirk dies under.
Wait. Spoilers.

Gonna be writing this blog til the androids come home.


*******



Kirk's Log 5725.3: "Heading out to Memory Alpha, which is a planetoid that's set up like a library. It'll contain all of the cultural information on every planet in the Federation. We have one Lieutenant Mira Romaine onboard. She's some kind of specialist who is overseeing the transfer of equipment to the planetoid or some crap. Anyway, we needed a reason for her to be onboard the ship, so that's the reason we're giving."

Wait, I've seen this episode: you have to count the shadows, right?

The next thing that Star Trek wants us to know about this episode (after the library planet thing) is that Scotty is hopelessly in love with Lt Romaine. He's got her down in engineering, and is telling her that she's smart and nice and sane. ("Sane"? Really, Scotty? No, for serious: he leads with sane. What the hell kind of girls have you been dating, Scotty?)

Still more of Kirk's Log: "Scotty's an older dude, and when you get that old (like a few years older than myself), you start talking to the ship and realizing how lonely you are."

You're a dick friend, Kirk. Why the hell are you talking shit about your chief engineer in your official logs? You do realize that people are Starfleet are going to be going over these logs later, right? And they'll be filed away for posterity?

We've switched to the bridge while listening to Kirk's monologue, and the shot here is pretty cool. Unfortunately, they finish it by zooming in on Kirk from that angle and height, and the effect is weird and somewhat blurry.


Chekov remarks to Sulu that he didn't think that Scotty would go for the brainy type, and while it's kind of rude to talk about your friends while they're in the same room like that, at least he isn't including it in an official report to Starfleet. Anyway, make a note of that: everybody thinks Mira Romaine is smart. Kirk goes over some last-minute procedures with Scotty and Romaine for when they get to Memory Alpha, and Spock congratulates the lieutenant on her first assignment for Starfleet. I'm a bit confused as to how she managed to get a rank of lieutenant without any previous assignments, but I'm going to guess that what he meant was her first assignment in space rather than in general.
There's a disturbance outside, which Spock says reads like a storm, and they put it on the viewscreen. It's a collection of flashing lights, and Romaine steps toward to see it better.


The shields are up, and the flashing lights come forward and everyone stares at them. Kirk's mouth flaps like a fish out of water, but no sound comes out. The camera focuses in on Romaine, and then zooms in until we just get a still shot of her eye, and we see that the lights have been super-imposed over her iris.
Dramatic music! Credits break!


When we return, the bridge crew is shielding their eyes while the lights flash. They end up backing off, and Kirk begins barking orders. Romaine collapses. Bones is called to the bridge while Scotty cradles her. Her mouth opens and moves, but instead of speaking, this sound emanates. The best comparison that I can make is "stomach rumbling sounds." She stares straight ahead. Bones comes in. He scans her, then hypos her in the arm. She faints and then comes to. Bones insists that she go to sick bay, and when she  protests, Kirk pulls rank on her. Scotty asks to go with her, but Kirk puts the smack-down on that and sends him back to his post. Everyone reports in that no equipment was damaged, but Spock says that sensors were down for a moment. Uhura complains that while the lights were flashing, she was trying to operate her station, but her hands wouldn't work. Chekov says that he couldn't lower his eyes to his console. Sulu reports that he couldn't speak. Spock says that brain function was impaired, and was different for different people. Then he says that it wasn't a storm so much as an attack.



In sick bay, Romaine lies on the table staring at the ceiling. There's an interesting shot of the read-out monitor above the bed where you mostly see the charts and results, but Bones and Christine are vaguely visible in the reflection. They're not finding anything wrong with Romaine, which is probably good, because she's being bitchy and uncooperative. Scotty comes in and says that she's mostly got space sickness, and is struggling to adjust to it. He gives Bones a bunch of excuses for her churlish attitude. Bones replies nastily that she needs to be less bitchy, then he leaves. Christine gets a rare third line, in which she tells Scotty in a fake Scottish brogue that he has a great bedside manner before she leaves as well. Once alone, Romaine reveals that she's concerned that her physical reactions to this situation may reflect badly on her, and that she'll be sent back to Starfleet. He assures her that that won't happen.


On the bridge, they have a problem. The storm thing is headed for Memory Alpha, but Chekov can't give Kirk an ETA because the storm thing can change speeds. Uhura is trying to hail the planetoid, but no one is answering. Oh, also, the planetoid has no shields.
Okay, Spock gives the reason that it was felt to be inappropriate that a planetoid meant for academic purposes and which is open to all should need protective shielding. I get it. They want the place to be welcoming. They want people to feel like they can visit without having to go through channels to get shields dropped.
BUT HAVING NO SHIELDS OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF SPACE IS FUCKING DUMB.
There are a lot of terrible people out there with clunky little ships who will fire on your planetoid for no reason other than the fact that they are dicks. Then you have a-holes with fleets of ships who just like to watch the world burn. The galaxy is full of Hitlers, yo.
It's also full of natural disasters. What if the sun goes nova? I mean, yeah, technically, you're toast if that happens, but you get some warning, and some time to prep, and your shields are a helpful thing to have in that case because you don't want your library staff to die of freaking melanoma in the meantime. Having no shields whatsoever is like having no levees in New Orleans because you want people to visit during Mardi Gras, but you think they might be put off by them. Put up some precautions. They're nice to have "just in case."
While they're chatting, the storm hits the planetoid. When it passes and moves on, Spock reports no life signs in the computer complex, which would have been hosting students and academics.


Kirk prepares to send a landing party to the surface, and he calls Scotty in engineering. Scotty calls him back from sick bay, where he's been checking on "the lass," and reports back that she's fine.
"Awesome," says Kirk sarcastically. "Is the doctor there, or is he down in engineering?" Sassy.
Kirk orders both Scotty and Bones to the transporter room so they can beam down.
When they leave, we zoom in again on Romaine's eye, where we get flashing lights again, then an image of a dead werewolf in a chair. Ugh, here we go again with the creepy eye powers.


Kirk's Log, supplemental 5725.6: "Storm left, and we can't raise Memory Alpha, so we're beaming down. Taking Bones in case we need a doctor, Spock for science-y reasons and Scotty, because he knows machinery and check out the equipment on the surface. Me, I'm just going because I feel like it. Captain's privilege and stuff."

They beam down, and discover that the computer core has been completely erased, and all of the people are dead, including that werewolf dude who appeared in Romaine's eye. I don't want to sound like an insurance salesman, but shields could have prevented this shit from happening, you know.



They then go into the corridor, where they find a technician who is still alive. (But apparently didn't register during the scan for life-forms? Way to pay attention, Star Trek.) She opens and closes her mouth like a fish and makes that stomach rumbling sound like Romaine did. Her face glows a bunch of colors. Bones scans her and says she's pretty much a goner already, as her brain functions are all messed up. She dies. Kirk messages for Romaine to beam down.



When Romaine appears, Kirk tells her that when she passed out earlier, she was making funny noises, and the technician that just died was making them as well. She rushes into the other room to find all of the people dead, and insists that the away team GTFO, as the storm is coming back and will kill them all.
"No way," says Spock.
"Way," she answers.
"Hey," says Sulu over the comm. "You guys should get back to the ship, cuz the storm is coming back."
The away team beams back, but no one notices that Romaine isn't with them until they all step off the transporter pads.
"I got that chick's pattern," says Lt Kyle, that British dude who seems to have done every job on the Enterprise. Today he is the transporter chief. "But she hasn't re-materialized."
Scotty works his voodoo, and she re-appears, complete with Pretty Girl music.
"Rad," says Kirk. "Let's get the fuck outta Dodge."

Scotty and Romaine go back to engineering. She's freaked out because she saw that dead werewolf guy before she actually physically saw him, and she feels weird. He convinces her that it's a touch of space sickness, and that reporting it would land her in sick bay for the entire voyage.

On the bridge, Kirk & Co. are being stalked by the storm. After some fancy scanning, Spock reports that the storm is not an it, but a they: ten distinct lifeforms inside that one collection of lights. When they attack, they attack brainwaves. Kirk asks Uhura to hail the lights.
"Hey, you lights," says Kirk. "We come in peace. Please don't try the physical contact thing again, cuz it's harmful to us, 'kay?"


The lights respond by repositioning themselves directly in front of the E.
Down in engineering, Romaine starts to freak out. She begs Scotty to hold her, but then we zoom in on her eye again, and we don't see what she sees. She pushes him away, yelling, "No!" Mixed messages, lady. Then when he touches her shoulder, she grabs him again.
Back on the bridge, Kirk has decided that even though he just told those lights that they were there for peaceful purposes and meant them no harm, he's going to fire phasers near them. Sulu fires the phasers, but they have no effect.
"Screw it, fire at them," Kirk tells Sulu. Way to be peaceful, dude.
The lights keep coming, but now Scotty is calling Kirk, begging him to stop, because the phaser fire is somehow killing Lt Romaine.
Kirk orders Scotty to take her to sick bay. Dickishly, Sulu asks if he should fire again, even though everyone on the bridge most likely heard Scotty tell Kirk that the phaser fire was killing Romaine. Kirk tells him no, then has a brief discussion with Spock about how to get rid of the lights aliens without hurting Romaine. Kirk calls Bones and asks if Romaine is okay to attend a meeting. Bones says yes, and that they will meet up in the briefing room.
I have to object in a nit-picky way here: engineering is most likely in the drive section, the bottom of the ship, if you will. For safety purposes, sick bay is most likely in the saucer section. (Ed.: upon further research, sick bay is on deck five.) I know the lifts are supposed to be quick, but they aren't quick enough for Scotty to have carried/dragged a half-conscious Romaine to sick bay, several decks up. There was also no time then for Bones to check her out and assess her ability to make it to the meeting, which will supposedly be taking place very soon. All of these conversations take place within about two minutes. At least give us a scene change here so we know that some time has elapsed, guys. This isn't Harry Potter or I Dream of Jeannie. No one is disappearing from engineering and reappearing in sick bay instantaneously.

I don't care how "turbo" your lifts are: you're not making it
 from one end of the ship to the other in 30 seconds.

So we get to the meeting, and Bones comes in first, telling Kirk to go easy on Romaine, because she's pretty weak, and been through a lot in the last few hours. Kirk agrees. Scotty helps Romaine into the meeting room, and even though Kirk's firing of the phasers was obviously not done on purpose to hurt her (how could he? He didn't know), they both look at Kirk as though it were all his fault. Then Romaine sits in a chair on one end of that weird-ass shaped table (I think it's an obtuse chevron?) and Kirk, Spock, Bones, and Scotty all sit at the other end, like it's some damn interrogation. They sort of treat it like that, too. Sure, their voices are kind, but they're essentially drilling Romaine on why the lights affect her this way, despite the fact that she's as far in the dark as they are. Bones says that physically, she checks out. But then he puts up a scan of her brain waves, and Spock puts up a scan of the lights'  brain circuitry patterns, and it matches up: the lights are altering her brain waves to match their patterns. This creeps out everyone, least of all Romaine.


Scotty apologizes to the others, saying that Romaine had told him that she felt "off" but that he had discouraged her from going to sick bay because he thought she just had space sickness, and that it wasn't worth bothering McCoy over.
"In hindsight, that was kind of fucking dumb," he says. "Like putting no shields on the planetoid that holds all of the cultural information on the Federation."
"Agreed," says Kirk.
I guess I can see it from Scotty's POV: you don't go to the doctor for a cold, but you do go to the doctor for a sinus infection. But you can't always tell the difference between said cold and sinus infection. Although in this case, hallucinating about the deaths of some werewolf alien before it happens really should have screamed "sinus infection." He handed her a tissue rather than getting her a script for antibiotics.
Romaine loses it a little bit and grips Scotty again, because now it's become clear that her mind is being flooded by thoughts that are not her own. She also reveals that the last time we zoomed in on her eye, she was seeing Scotty's death.


Scotty pats her on the back and says the have a good chance of winning this thing, and Sulu calls into the meeting to says that evasive maneuvers are no longer working. Spock predicts that the next time the lights hit the ship, they'll break right through the shields like an intergalactic game of Red Rover.
So even though he's never encountered this situation before, Kirk thinks that the best way to proceed is to dress Romaine in a animal bikini and offer her to King Kong as bait. Then, when the lights take over, the E crew can take control of the situation, and somehow separate Romaine from the alien. Even though they have no idea how they got a hold of Romaine to begin with. And they have no idea how they'll do the separating. Surprisingly, Romaine agrees to be bait. Oh, wait. Kirk is calling for the anti-grav test chambers to be prepped, so I guess he knows what to do, despite the fact that using zero-gravity to extract alien life forms from a human doesn't sound like a viable solution.
In fact, it sounds like the writers had no idea how this would be accomplished, so they came up with something off-hand and figured no one would question it. So in the future, if my body is taken over by non-corporeal life forms, and I try to use an anti-grav chamber to fix it, and it doesn't work, may my advocate lawyer then sue CBS for making me think that it would work?

Out in the corridors, everyone is calmly but quickly going to stations or general quarters as Sulu broadcasts that they have an intruder alert. They all disappear into side rooms, then the lights come onboard.


The members of the interrogation take Romaine into the anti-grav chamber room, but they don't quite get her into the machine in time. The lights surround her, her face flashes different colors and she makes that stomach rumbling sound. She says out loud her name, and that she's going to choose to be who she is, and won't let the lights take over. Then she slides down the wall and the light beings speak through her. The voice-over here is really excellent. Good lip-syncing.
Spock gives some unnecessary exposition here, telling Kirk that the aliens are speaking through Mira Romaine, and that Kirk can talk to them through her. No shit, Spock.
The aliens tell Kirk that they are taking Romaine's body, and there's nothing anyone can do to stop them. Kirk introduces himself and tries to get some info out of them. They are the life forces of the last hundred humanoid beings of a planet called Zetar, and they've been searching for a millenia for someone whose body they could take over, so they could live out their lives as a corporeal form. Again, Spock unhelpfully offers an explanation that all life on Zetar was wiped out forever ago, and again, no shit, Spock.


The Zetarans then go on to explain that their world was dying, and they were preparing to leave, but some kind of final disaster came, and wiped the planet of all life. The life-force of the last hundred beings couldn't be destroyed or something, so they've been looking for someone to "host" them. And by host, they mean taking over someone completely and not allowing that person to live anymore. They're looking for a fucking vessel.
"Hold the motherfucking comm badge," says Kirk. "You can't just steal somebody like that. Plus, you killed all those people on Memory Alpha."
"We didn't want to," says the aliens. "They resisted us, so they died."
Ah, I see. So their choices were, become an empty shell that houses some non-corporeal aliens, or die. Wow, what fabulous selections! Sounds great! Sign me up!
Romaine comes through a bit, and kind of argues with herself about how she wants to live.. with, you know, no alien creatures inside of her. I think that's a fair request.
Bones reports that the Zetarans are winning the battle, and Spock says they have to get her into the anti-grav chamber post-haste. The Zetarans reply that they'll kill everyone, which is a pretty viable threat, as they seem to be able to electrocute people and throw them across the room. Scotty volunteers to chuck Romaine in the chamber because "Mira won't kill me." Bones points out that the amount of pressure needed to extract the aliens and kill them might just kill Romaine too.
Scotty places Romaine in the chamber, and at the last minute, he gets a shock from the Zetarans that sends him flying, but he's fine. They lock the door, and Spock monitors how many atmospheres are inside the chamber. There's a bit of padding here and tension-building, but Spock eventually gets that chamber cranked up to about 40 atmospheres' worth of pressure in there, and then we see the zoomed-in eye with the lights, which are still there when we zoom back out again. The lights gradually fade away.


So... is this total crap? You bet. The human body can only take so much pressure while still breathing normally, and after a quick science-based Googling, it is revealed that Romaine would have had some health issues after a quarter of that final pressure. Nobody told her to breathe differently, and nobody gave her a machine in which to ease her breathing. Bones declares the aliens gone, and instructs Spock to decrease the pressure very, very slowly.
Spock makes a quip about Scotty's patience, but the bends are no joke. That shit sucks. It's only now that they start talking to her about breathing in a specific way. Bones also tells her that she's going to be in the anti-grav chamber for about 20 minutes. Also probably crap, but they can probably get away with saying that advances in technology have made the decompression time shorter by pumping in a different mix of oxygen or some shit like that.
Anyway, the fact that one can drive invading aliens out of one's body with a pressurized anti-grav chamber is crap, the fact that she somehow survives all of those atmospheres without specialized breathing is crap, it's all just crap. They can slap a "science fiction" label on it and say, "Maybe it's like that in the future!" and everyone shrugs.


Later, Kirk, Spock and Bones go into Bones' office to discuss the situation. They agree that Romaine did well in retaining her own personality while her brain was being flooded with Zetaran thoughts, and that because of the experience, she'll probably be a stronger person for it. Kirk asks if they should ship her off to a starbase to recover, but Spock and Bones both think that this isn't necessary, and that getting back into her work routine will probably do her some good. Interesting that they know so little about Romaine, but it's apparently enough to guess a prognosis and assume how this will affect her in the future.



"What about the fact that she's in love with Scotty?" Kirk specifically asks Spock. Because when we're going to talk about emotional stuff, we should ask the guy who purposefully attempts to control all of his. It's on par with "Let's talk to that diabetic chef about Death By Chocolate!" and "We should discuss polyamory with an asexual."
Spock admits that humans set a lot of stock in love being a motivating factor for getting shit done. Bones breaks in to say that Scotty's love for Romaine totally played a part in her overcoming the Zetarans. Kirk calls Scotty and asks if he thinks that Romaine is fit for duty. Scotty cheerfully replies in the affirmative. Then he calls Sulu and tells him to set a course for memory Alpha, because Romaine now has a shit-ton of work to do.
"This is a first," announces Kirk. "Spock, Bones and Scotty all agree on something for once. Can I stand the strain?"
Spock pops and eyebrow at him. Bones rolls his eyes. And Kirk looks pleased as punch with himself.


So here's my TV Guide description of this episode: "A new girl on the Enterprise unwittingly becomes host to hostile deceased alien ghosts. Iffy science saves her." This episode was okay. It gets downgraded from great because of the aforementioned iffy science, the fact that it's similar to another episode, and because the plot wasn't super-interesting. We get a disappointingly small amount of information about the Zetars, and yes, they are doing a literal hostile-takeover on Romaine, but Kirk refused to even try to work with them, despite the fact that he was aware that they were space buffaloes. Seriously, see if they'll hang out for a little bit while the Federation builds them some androids. You just lost a whole crap-ton of cultural information because of these creatures, see if they'll start helping you rebuild the collection by giving you info about their own lost culture. maybe it wouldn't have worked, and maybe the Zetars are just jerks from being trapped in non-corporeal forms for a thousand years, but nobody even tried.
Remember when I noted earlier that everyone thinks that Romaine is smart? Star Trek has become awesome at throwing out mixed messages. Maybe it's a sign of those times, but they seem to spend a lot effort in letting people in general, and women and POCs specifically, that science is cool, and you should definitely consider going into that field. But again with the mixed messages: Romaine is smart, and probably good at her job, but she spends a lot of time throwing herself into Scotty's arms. Now, that could be written off as personality. Or maybe she's on edge because it's her first assignment in space, and she wants everything to go well. But here's what you can't write off: all episode long, Lt Romaine is referred to as "the girl" by other crew members, mainly Bones and Kirk. Scotty calls her Mira, which is fine, because they're on more casual terms. But to have others use the term "the girl" when talking about her... super disrespectful. How about Lt Romaine? It's not so long or complicated that they need to shorten it or give her a nickname.
Just... either you're going to encourage girls to go into organizations like the Federation to make a difference in the galaxy, or you're not. Don't do that, Star Trek. Don't make strong girls into damsels. Always stick with the formula you set up in season one's "The Naked Time": an altered Sulu grabs Uhura and says something to the affect of "I'll protect you, fair maiden!" and she pushes him away and barks, "Sorry, neither!" Uhura is a role model. She doesn't need someone to save her, because she can do shit on her own. And no one would dare fucking call her "the girl."



Death Toll:
Red deaths this episode: 0
Red deaths this season: 6
Gold deaths this episode: 0
Gold deaths this season: 0
Blue deaths this episode: 0
Blue deaths this season: 1
Total crew deaths this season: 7
Total crew deaths thus far: 49

No crew members, just assorted people on an unshielded planetoid. What do you wanna bet that this was the incident that caused the Federation to start thinking twice about leaving stuff defenseless?


This episode is shockingly similar to: "Return to Tomorrow", which featured a trio of non-corporeal aliens searching for physical bodies. While they received permission from Kirk, Spock, and a female crew member to borrow their bodies temporarily, one of the aliens was a dick and was insisting on keeping Spock's body.

Interesting trivia bits: The wikia engine for Star Trek is called Memory Alpha.
This episode was written by Shari Lewis and her husband Jeremy Tarcher. "Lady Archon, surely you don't mean the Shari Lewis with the puppet?" Yes, friends. That Shari Lewis. She hoped to get cast as the part of Romaine, but it went to Jan Shutan instead.


*******

So I'm a sucker for the peach-white tea Pom tea, but as I reached for a bottle this last week, I saw a new flavor on the shelf in the cooler: Pomegranate Honey Green. All of these things sounded acceptable, so I bought that instead. So I tasted each of the things that they claim it is (pom, honey, green), but the combination of those things actually put me more in mind of peach cobbler, which is strange, because there is no peach in that tea. Either way, it was damn good, and now I have an extra choice should I reach for the Pom teas again. Bonus points: the website has a "where to buy" button. Yussss.






Laptop iz make good cat bed.



1 comment:

  1. I actually just drank that tea for the first time a few days ago, and as I did so wondered if you would end up reviewing it sooner or later. Eerie. I do enjoy that slightly bitter tinge aftertaste pomegranate leaves. It stimulates saliva and makes things "tastier" (weird, I know).

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