Star Trek

Star Trek

Monday, August 31, 2015

ST: TAS Season One, Episode Thirteen "The Ambergris Element"

"The Ambergris Element"
Air Order: 13
Star Date: 5499.9
Original Air Date: December 1, 1973



Kirk's Log 5499.9: "Gonna explore the planet Argo a bit. It's covered in water, but was once more land-based, and it's really similar to another planet in the Federation. Argo became water-based due to seismic activity, and the other planet is on the verge on becoming that way as well, so we're check it out and see if there's any way we can keep the same thing from happening twice."

I'm really digging this first shot, looking over Scotty's shoulder and onto the shuttle bay, where he is opening the doors so the craft can get out. Also, this "reason why we're at this new planet" is pretty good. Often it's just, "there's some uncharted planet here that Starfleet has asked us to check out, and oops, things have gone sideways." Here, there's a specific, scientific reason that's less open-ended than usual. I like that.

The shuttle leaves the Enterprise, and lands on the planet. You guys! This craft is both space-ready and amphibious! Yes! That's awesome. I'd imagine that it doesn't get much use, but it would be pretty sweet to have on board. Probably it was loaned or given to them when they were assigned this mission.



In our amphibious craft we have an away team of four: Bones and Spock are our scientists, and the Red, Clayton, is piloting the shuttle. Kirk is there, but who the fuck knows why? Sometimes I think they pull up to a new planet, and Kirk vaults out of his chair and runs down to the shuttle bay, yelling "Shotgun!"
Also, I know what you're thinking: Random Red Clayton is gonna die. And if this were TOS, I would agree. But the Powers That Be declared that No Will Die on Saturday Morning, so everyone that's part of the crew for the TAS years gets a reprieve. Except for Chekov, who was eaten by Arax.



So our boys in blue are prepping to hop in the drink to collect samples from the sea bottom, and I guess Kirk is just going to kick it (uselessly) in the shuttle while Clayton tries to make awkward conversation with El Jefe Grande.
But then, someone unleashes the space kraken! It picks them up and tosses the shuttle quite a ways, swimming back to it to screw with the craft some more. When it tries to pick them up again, Spock uses the phasers to stun it.

Raise the roof!

Seems like earlier scans didn't pick it up as a life form, and Kirk decides that, rather than wisely leave it be, he's gonna take the shuttle down so he can poke it with a stick. Now, I realize that science sometimes means making the choice between walking away and poking unknown shit with sticks, but I'm pretty sure the correct answer here is: walk the fuck away.
Oh, well. The shuttle is submersible! Cool!
Fortunately for dipshits like Kirk, the technology is available that means that one does not actually have to have a stick or do any poking. Bones just scans it and records the data.



Too bad the stunning wears off right away. They get a cursory reading, then the cranky kraken wakes up, and they are chased to the surface. Spock tries to stun it again, but the kraken Disabled the Shuttle, so the phasers don't work. Kirk attempts to call for an emergency beam-up, but the kraken picks up the shuttle and throws it against a rock. Clayton and Bones tumble out. Kirk and Spock are shown unconscious in the wreck of the shuttle. While Clayton and Bones watch, the kraken grabs the shuttle, roars at them to get the fuck off his lawn, and disappears beneath the waves.

Ship's Log, recorded by Scotty, 5504.2: "Been five days gone now, and we can't find any evidence of Kirk or Spock. We keep looking, but we got nuthin.'"

Down on the surface, Bones and Clayton are on some kind of rescue-dinghy with Scotty, checking out the territory. Clayton spots something through the binoculars and they check it out. It's the shuttle, and the Enterprise crew is really not getting their deposit back on that. A little ways away, they spot Kirk and Spock laying face-down in the water.
"Maybe they're alive!" says Bones.
That's optimistic, yo. Your friends go missing for five days and turn up face-down in water, and you think they might still be alive? I hereby dub thee Dr Cleopatra, Queen of de Nile.



He takes some scans and finds that everything is up and working properly, with the exception of the lungs. (Yeah, no shit.) He has them dragged out of the water, and they come to just enough to complain that they are suffocating. Kirk grasps at his throat with webbed hands. They no longer breathe air.
Dramatic music! Commercial break!



Bones' Log 5506.2: "So we found Kirk and Spock two days ago, but some kind of something-er-other in their blood changed them to water-breathers, and they have second eyelids, like fish. I can't change 'em back, so they're stuck in a tank of water in sick bay, where I'm keeping an eye on 'em."

There are some cool effects used here: Bones and Scotty are talking to Kirk and Spock, who are in the giant water tank. They're used some kind of sound device to make it sound as though Kirk and Spock are talking through the water. This is also a really great use of the wavy water effect that they sometimes use for space scenes.
Anyway, Bones says that nothing in the Federation memory banks has information on the changes that were made, which were made most likely by an intelligent life form. Spock points out that there were no recorded intelligent life forms on this planet, but clearly that's crap. Kirk wants himself and Spock to go back into the ocean to find whatever changed them. He's pretty sure that they can be changed back. Right now their options are to live in a water tank, or go back and live on Argo. Neither of them like these choices. Once again, Bones tries to talk them out of doing the risky thing, but they wave him off. With webbed hands.


Our boys are dropped off in the sea again, and swim only a short way to the bottom before encountering (for lack of a better word) merpeople. They're surprised to see these dudes, who appear to be gathering food or something, but the merpeople seem to know them.
"Go the fuck away," says one. He calls them air-breathers, which I guess is merspeak for "assholes."
One lady says something about Kirk and Spock being saved by young merpeople, and the fact that that sucked. They swim away in anger, muttering about Kirk and Spock being on their lawns.


When they leave, Kirk and Spock briefly discuss the fact that those rude merpeople said that the young people saved them, and that the other merpeeps come off as total dicks.
When the merpeople left, they swam away to the right. Kirk points to this huge, dark-ass crevasse to the left and says they should go there to find answers, as though they saw any evidence whatsoever of there being people or answers in there. Spock agrees, because apparently, Spock has water on the brain.
Pro-tip: no answers can be found in dark, scary crevasses. Only serial killers and monsters.


They swim into and through the crevasse, and come out the other side into what I guess is supposed to be a merpeople village. 
"Their village is cool and technological-looking," says Kirk. "Plus, they know medical shit that we don't. How come they're afraid of us?"
"They probably think we're ugly," shrugs Spock. "We look weird, so they're afraid."
Then they have a conversation that is not supported by actions on-screen: Kirk decides that they should go into the village "over there" because there's "much less activity." 
....there's no activity in the village. They didn't bother to animate any people in this scene other than Kirk and Spock.


Then we get a cut, as though Kirk and Spock are moving to the far side of the village to enter... but then they're shown in the exact same position as they were in before the jump in scenes. They observe that one building seems more important than others, and seem to be deciding to check it out, when a net is thrown over them, and they are taken hostage by a couple of merfolk.


Our boys are taken to some kind of tribunal, and the dude in charge is an older guy named Dolmar. he insists that they are spies, and some other old dude says that their ancient records warn them that this would happened. Spock reminds the merguys that they came unarmed, and some younger people chime in that maybe they aren't enemies or spies. There's some mer-politics involved here, and the younger merdudes are clearly more progressive than their elders. Someone mentions how successful the surgery was to make Kirk and Spock merpeople (turns out they're called Aquans, but that's less fun to say that adding mer to everything).
"Hey, that was you guys?' demands Kirk.
"Yeah, you needed saving," says Dolmar. "We don't believe that anybody is 100% a dick. Then we altered your memories so that you couldn't come back here to hassle us. "
Um, hey merpeople: it would have actually been easier to just take them back and leave them with the now-rusting shell of the broken craft. Their people could have come to pick them up, and they probs would have left after collecting samples. But you grabbed them up, altered their DNA, then erased their memories so they couldn't find you again. Following all that, you dumped them back on land, where they were sure to struggle and possibly find you again. Seems like an awful lot of work, to be honest.

Despite not being shown here, there are actually females on the tribunal.

Also, the merguys seem to think that Kirk and Spock live on the surface of the planet, and that they've "come back to spy on the merdudes."
"Naw, bro, we don't live here," says Spock. "We're from other planets completely."

Up on the surface, Scotty is hanging out in the rescue boat when Bones calls. Apparently, there's some huge sea-quake due within four hours that will alter seabed drastically. Unfortunately, that is about how long Scotty gave Kirk and Spock to find the reason behind their changes and attempt to reverse it. He has no way of contacting them prior, but he did have them microchipped, and he can see roughly where they might be underwater.

Rila, a female on the tribunal, is on the side of the boys, and she wants more information before doing something rash. Another female approaches the tribunal and announces that the rescue boat with Scotty and Bones is over by where they gather reeds or something. Dolmar takes this as a sign of attack, and he proclaims that Kirk and Spock are to be dumped topside on the boulders.
Didn't he already do that?
See how well that worked the first time?

The boys are dumped on the rocks next to the wreckage of the amphibious shuttle, and a heavy net is tossed on top of them. Rila swims up to free them, but the net is impossible for her to move on her own. Kirk croaks that she should find their rescue party by the big island. Rila leads Scotty and the others back to Kirk and Spock, and they get all get the boys back in the water. Remember in "Beyond the Farthest Star" when it was too big a hassle to animate environmental suits so the E crew could walk unimpeded in space, so they created life belts that made a yellow aura around the protected characters? Scotty is using one now to duck underwater with Rila and the boys.


He tells them that there's a quake due in two hours that will change the landscape of the whole area. Spock suggests that the Aquans evolved from the air-breathers when the land sank into the sea. Rila corrects him. Apparently, when the land began to sink, some of the air-breathers elected to get the surgery to make them water-breathers, and over time, the changes became hereditary.
"Strange that such a highly-intelligent race would become violent," muses Kirk.
Ummm, violent how, Kirk? You and Spock were changed because they took pity on you. When you returned to their society looking for answers, they banished you. Nobody hit you, or practiced any kind of psychological warfare on you.
Ah, they're talking about the air-breather people. Spock says that sometimes people who are exposed to frightening things, like disaster, will become violent. Rila says that the air people hunted her people, and the water people were afraid that they would become violent as well, which is why it became forbidden to change back to air-breathers.
Now they know why they were turned down when they asked to be changed back. Rila says that there are records in some ruins nearby of how the reverse surgery can be done. While she isn't allowed to actually go there, she agrees to take them as far as the barrier and point out where they need to go.


They swim through another freaking crevasse and into some ruins that look like they came from a fish tank. I'm not gonna throw rocks at it, though, because as reader Isabel pointed out quite a while ago, all of the background scenery that they made for the live-action show looked like fish tank habitats without water. It's a Star Trek thang.


Inside one of the buildings, they spot a caduceus, one of those winged-people-snakes thing that for some reason means "medical." Interesting that the same  symbol that means medical on Earth means the same thing here, way the hell out in space. You know, like when Romulan Bird of Prey ships have birds painted on them that look nothing like birds found on Earth.
Anyway, Spock realizes that some sealed tubes have those symbols on them, and the torsos look like they've been mutated, so they grab those and get the hell out of Dodge. Or they try. They're met on their way out by an old friend.
Well, shit. Who knew this was space-kraken territory?


It looks like the creepy guy at the park who watches kids from behind a tree.


Today is apparently their lucky day. While swimming like hell, the space-kraken makes enough noise and swims too close to things that he manages to bring a building down on himself. Ten bucks says that it was the last of its kind.
Up top, Kirk and Spock are back in the tank while Bones checks out the ancient scrolls in the tubes. Bones has run the scrolls through the universal translator, and he tells them that the thing that changed them was ambergris. Ugggghhhhh. For those of you who have not seen that episode of Bob's Burgers, ambergris is pretty much whale crap. Like, whales will eat squids, which have beaks, and that beak can't be digested, so the whale's intestines make this gross earwax shit that covers the beak so the whale can crap it out safely. Peeps used to hunt whales for this stuff because it's used to make perfume. That seriously makes me want to barf. And it's in Kirk and Spock's blood.
Bones says he can make an antitoxin to change them back, but he needs the venom of the space-kraken to make it.


Kirk and Spock convince Rila and two other dudes to help them go back into the ruins to milk the space-kraken for venom. They take a big net, but it shouldn't be an issue, because the space-kraken was crushed under a building like an hour ago, right? Nope, he out and doing fine for whatever reason, so they toss the net over it, and get their venom. The space-kraken is pissed off now, so it thrashes around under than net, and brings another fucking building down on top of itself. Is this thing like really, really stupid or something? Or did the writers just run out of ways to incapacitate a giant sea creature?


Upstairs, Kirk and Spock are back in the tank with Bones and Christine, who are wearing the life belts. Bones does a bit of voice-over where he talks about how the dosage part of the scrolls is missing, but how he knows that if he give too much of the serum, Kirk and Spock will "over-mutate" and make the process irreversible. I know this is meant to add a bit of drama, but it isn't necessary, because this whole episode has been built on "what if they can't change back?" And frankly, having been a connoisseur for the last 30+ years, I'm already aware that they have 30 minutes to solve the problem so that the slate is blank for the next episode. Star Trek is not a serial soap, and I doubt they would make changes like that permanent, so saying that the serum may or may not work is moot. It was always in that state of flux. Putting it into more of a flux is a waste of time. Get on with it already.
So Bones gives him the first shot, and reacts by turning some colors, and the hand webs go away. Then he administers the last half of the serum, and Kirk passes out, getting his webs back as well as a fin and a shit-ton of scales.



But then it passes, and he's fine. Now they have to do Spock, which makes no sense, because as the first officer, he should have gone first. Whatever. Kirk prefers to do things back-assward, anyway.

Up on the bridge, Kirk tells Dolmar and Rila that they're going to shoot their phasers at some unpopulated area of the planet to change the epicenter of the quake, so it won't alter the landscape where there are people. I feel like this is another one of those things where Star Trek tries to wrap up a storyline by having something or someone (*cough, cough, Spock, cough, cough*) do something far outside of their/it's capabilities. Do I think a phaser can change the epicenter of an earthquake? Noop. But I wasn't invited to the writer's meeting for this episode, so I just gotta suck it up and roll with the animated punches. 


So they do their little thingy, and Spock reports that the earthquake hit in the northern polar sea, which is uninhabited. They beam down a few hours later when the seabed has settled, and arrive on a beach across from a new island with the raised ruins on it.
"Look! A new-old city!"
Okay, so... you changed the epicenter of an earthquake so that it would strike someplace else, but magically, it raised the city that sank previously? What the hell kind of tectonic plates does this planet have?
Rila says that the young merpeeps have decided to live in the ruins and make the place inhabitable again. The oldsters can't adjust to the idea, so they'll stay in the city.
"Make sure you keep in contact, so there isn't an issue like before, with your ancestors," warns Kirk.
"It's cool," says Dolmar. "We plan to pass ordainments forbidding non-contact so that doesn't happen again."
And I guess that's supposed to be the ending joke because all the Aquans ever did was pass ordainments forbidding things.
Ba dum tiss?


Despite some goofy story issues, I actually really liked this episode. While they used plenty of scripts that had been written for the live-action series, episodes like this would not have been possible, and the writers are really taking advantage of the fact that they can expand on ideas that they would not have been able to do without animation. Some of these episodes have been better than others (this one versus the shrinking crew), but at least they're bothering to try. 
Plus, bonus points to the Budget. the Filmation people traced swimming shots from their old Aquaman show when Kirk and Spock are swimming, which is a cheat that I totally approve of, because it looks legit, and who is going to notice?


******

So this week I tried Tazo's Berryblossom White, which sounded good, but also tasted familiar. It tastes familiar because Celestial Seasonings makes a Blueberry White, and despite the fact that the Tazo ismade with white cranberry and huckleberry, it still just tastes like blueberry-white tea. Both are good, though, with the delicate white tea blending nicely with the berry. I'd recommend, either, but if you're looking for cranberry, I'd suggest looking elsewhere, as you're not getting much here.









This is how a seven-pound cat takes up an entire couch.











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