Warp Speed to Nonsense

Warp Speed to Nonsense

Monday, August 3, 2015

ST:TAS Season One, Episode Nine: Once Upon a Planet

"Once Upon a Planet"
Air Order: 9
Star Date:
Original Air Date: November 3, 1973

I was hanging out my friends' house this week, and they realized that they had very little room left on their DVR and needed to delete some things.
"I have like, six episodes of Pokemon on here," said their ten-year-old. "You can get rid of those. They're so cheesy that I can only watch one or two at a time before I have to walk away."
And I snort-laughed into my drink, because I can totally relate to that.


Kirk's Log 5591.2: "Time for some shore leave, so we're going back to the shore leave planet from that one episode. I think it was called "Time Off"? Something like that."

It seems to take us forever to get to any action in this episode, because Kirk takes a long-ass time to make his log entry, and all we get are shots of the ship during his voice-over. Then we get another very long shot of the shore leave planet's landscape, and while I'm annoyed that we're just running out the clock on this episode, the backgrounds here are stunning. It looks like an Albert Bierstadt painting.
Also, check it out: an away team that does not contain Kirk! Already this episode shows promise.
So Sulu, Bones and Uhura have beamed down to set things up with the Keeper, the guy who runs the place. They note that the planet seems to be exactly as they left it all those years ago, and that this is the spot where they beamed down last time. They're completely ignoring the fact that last time, they beamed down next to a lake, but I guess we can shrug that off. Sulu and Bones laugh about how previously, Bones had conjured a White Rabbit because he had been thinking about Alice in Wonderland.
Of course a harried White Rabbit hops by, complaining about the time. Alice follows, asking about it. Uhura points her in the right direction. They tried to give Alice a bit of a fudged English accent here to cover up the fact that Nichelle is pretty much talking to herself.

Our away team drops a bit of exposition here for anyone viewing now that didn't see the original "Shore Leave" episode: none of the figures are real, they're just highly-realistic robots created by the planet. When you think of something, the planet detects it, and creates stand-ins that think and act like the thing you were thinking about. This can sometimes create issues, though, as the computer will duplicate anything negative as well. Last time, crew members were chased by WWII bombers and loose tigers, and Bones was run through by a knight on a horse.

In the next scene, Uhura is sitting by the water's edge, humming to herself. It's a nice shot, even if her insignia badge, rank stripes, and the remaining landscape are missing from the reflection.

Overlaid with the sound of Uhura humming are shots of Sulu taking a relaxing walk through the woods, and Bones showing up at like, Twelve Oaks or something.

He's clearly wondering if he can talk Mammy into letting him wear that green and white dress to the Wilkes' picnic, when the Queen of Hearts and two playing cards appear, shouting "Off with his head!" This Queen of Hearts has a distinctly Tenniel look to her, so it's either an iconic reference, or someone on the animation crew was a fan.

"The fuck?" he asks, and one of the cards throws one of those long-handled axes at him.
It sticks in a tree near his head, and as he runs away, we see that both of the cards are still carrying their axes. I'm gonna call animation fuck-up on that rather than say the magical planet conjured another weapon.
So Bones is running across the open landscape, and he calls for an emergency beam-up. Uhura hears it on her comm, and calls the transporter room to find out what the emergency might be, but some floaty robot thing takes the comm from her hand.

Upstairs, Bones and Sulu have been beamed aboard and are now on the bridge talking to Kirk. Bones says that it was exactly like before, even with Alice and the White Rabbit, only this time there were playing cards that tried to put an axe through his head.
Spock notes that the Queen of Hearts was a character from Through the Looking Glass. (He's technically thinking of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, but I'll give him credit for at least getting the franchise right.)
"How the hell do you know the Alice stories?" asks Kirk. "Like, I read those as a kid, but they're pretty human."
"Bitch, I'm half-human," Spock reminds him. "My mom was into Lewis Carroll."
Oh my fuck. 
Oh my fucking fuck.
Imagine Amanda reading Lewis Carroll stories to little Spock at night. Sarek approves of these fantasy novels because they include logic, as well as discussions of strategies for chess and card games. The comparisons of logic versus fantasy are discussed at the dinner table, along with the fact that Carroll was a mathematician who taught at Oxford, leading young Spock to take up first regular chess, and then the 3-D version. They probably had copies of Carroll's logic puzzle books as well, which Sarek encouraged as an appropriate way for Spock to explore his dual heritage.


Unfortunately, that one line about Amanda being into Lewis Carroll is the best part of this episode. The rest of it is kind of meh, but you didn't come here to read about me fangirling over the literature studied in Sarek's household, so we'll just get back to the Meh, okay? Okay.

So Bones says that he wasn't thinking about Alice in Wonderland at all when the Queen of Hearts showed up. Sulu says nothing weird happened to him on the surface.
Scotty calls to say that he lost his lock on Uhura, and can't beam her up. Kirk tells him to keep trying to hail her, and to beam up anyone else who has gone down to the surface.
Spock does a scan and determines that she's not where they last recorded her.
Kirk asks if they encountered the Keeper at all, the dude who runs the shore leave planet. But Bones and Sulu say no. Kirk wonders if he was underground when they showed up, because he has quarters and an infirmary underground. Both boys shrug. They have no idea where to find this underground chamber. Which is weird, because when he was "killed" by the knight in that earlier episode, Bones was taken to the infirmary and healed, then showed up again at the end of the episode with a bunch of explanations about how the place worked. Logically, Bones should know how to find the entrance to the underground chamber, and also know how to get in.
Kirk makes up a new away team consisting of himself (I'm shocked), Spock, Bones and Sulu.

Meanwhile, Uhura is being held captive by more of those floaty robots, who seem to answer to a computer. This computer keeps yelling at Uhura.

"I'm keeping you here so your Master won't leave," it tells her.
"WTF do you mean, Master?" she asks. She and I are wearing the same face, which clearly suspects that this is one racist-fucking computer.
But then it turns out that the computer thinks the Enterprise is her Master, that she's a slave to it. It's not talking about Kirk. It calls her a dumbass - twice.
Uhura gets pissed off. "You better let me go, asshole. My friends will come looking for me, and they have zero compunctions for violating Prime Directives or killing off space buffaloes."
"Pssshh, whatever," says the computer. "Your friends are here, but I don't need more hostages, so I'm gonna turn them off."
It isn't talking about dancing around the away team in a G-string. It means that it's gonna kill them. "Turn them off" is a cutesy, colloquial computer way of talking about murder.

Kirk's Log, supplemental: "Rehash, rehash, rehash. Rehash: rehash."

Arax calls Kirk to tell him that scans say that Uhura is not on the surface. Sulu reasons that she could not have been taken off the planet, or they'd've noticed. Kirk does a bit of digging, and notices that the dirt and foliage only goes down so far, and that underneath is a crust of metal. He calls up for a phaser bore. But M'Ress calls back that his signal is growing weak, and she can't understand him. Scotty attempts to send down the phaser bore, but he is blocked from doing so. Arax says there is some kind of energy block in place.
Sulu notices some big metal thing in the trees and they go to investigate. A plaque on the metal obelisk says that it's the final resting place for the Keeper, and Spock says his scans indicate that there's a body buried down there.

The plaque also says that he was the last of his race, which is interesting because... no, he wasn't. Unless something horrible happened, and his race was obliterated in the meantime, then they're out there somewhere. You know what else is interesting? This planet was set up for use by the Keeper's people, not just anybody in a ship passing by. I don't recall the Keeper being all, "Drop in anytime!" at the end of that episode. Technically, they're trespassing.

Upstairs, Scotty has a rescue team loaded into a shuttle, but Arax reports a short in the electrical system, so they can't open the doors or launch the shuttle. Scotty declares that the planet has officially Disabled the Ship. M'Ress purrs that that doesn't really gel with the idea of a pleasure planet, but Scotty shrugs, because facts are facts. 
In the meantime, check out this sexy shuttle bay.

Downstairs, Uhura spots a button on the control panel that she could possibly use to disable the computer, but it reads her thoughts and handcuffs her instead.
On the surface, our boys are arguing the best way to find the underground lair where Uhura is most likely being held.
"What, you want like, a fucking sign to point you there?" demands Bones.
"That would sure make it easier!" barks Sulu.
"Hey!" says Spock, and they all look where he's pointing in the bushes, where a sign has just sprung up.
Kirk puts on his Admiral Ackbar mask. "It's a trap!...but we don't have any other clues, so... whatevs."
When they walk past it, the sign disappears.

They come upon a cave, but guess what? It's guarded by pterodactyls. They make a run for the cave, and are trapped inside by the flying lizards.

"The planet is playing cat and mouse with us," muses Kirk, who should have kept his fat mouth shut.

"Jerk," says Spock. "Why the hell'd you do that? You know this place will conjure up everything we think of."
"Idiot," responds Kirk. "Remember? No one was thinking of those pterodactyls, they just appeared. The planet uses us against ourselves, but it throws shit at us randomly as well."

In the underground lair, Uhura watches the cat batting in the cave on a little screen.
"Dude, what is your problem?" she demands.
"STFU," the computer replies. "I'm busy doin' stuff."

Upstairs, the ship leaves orbit very suddenly at high speed, then races back and resumes orbit.
"The fuck?" yells Scotty as Arax hits the button to set the engines on manual control.
Scotty asks M'Ress for an explanation of what happened, and after a few minutes, she says that there have been more directions for short-burst maneuvers, but they're not being carried out because Arax locked the controls down. Scotty takes a look at the maneuvers ordered, and realizes that the planet is getting a feel for the control of the ship.
ERMAGERD! Crazy-ass dramatic music! Commercial break!

Kirk's Log, supplemental: "Rehash. Stuff you already knew, unless you were distracted by someone yelling at you that cartoons rot your brains."

So our boys are trapped in a cave, and the cat is gone, but Spock suggests that they stay in the cave to gather info.
"You're high," says Bones. "What're we gonna learn in here?"
"Dumbshit, you were injured here last time, and they took you underground to fix you," Spock points out. "So what we have to do is injure someone again. The planet will take that person to the underground lair to fix them, and everybody else can follow."
Bones admits that he has a shot of something in his bag that will knock a guy out and discolor his skin for a while, making him appear worse off than he actually is. Kirk starts to volunteer, but Spock says that he is better at computers than Kirk, so Spock gets the shot.
He stumbles out of the cave and passes out on the ground.

Upstairs, M'Ress reports that communications are still out, then an alarm goes off, and artificial gravity goes. The crew begins floating on the bridge and all over the ship. This is interesting because... it shouldn't. It's not widely known, but it's still canon, that there are fail-safes in place on the E so that, should everything else fail, artificial gravity will remain. You know that was probably done so that the live-action show would never have to deal with recreating weightlessness, but it makes sense logically. If everything else goes - engines, life support, ect - and then the gravity goes as well, you're going to have a bunch of dead bodies free-floating into things, and further fucking up all of the shit. For whatever reason (probably because they can now depict it without spending a buttload of money), the gravity has failed here, and everyone is left floating.

Back on the surface, the boys watch Spock's body from the cave. They're nervous because the shot Bones gave him only lasts for five minutes or so, and they're at like four minutes and thirty-five seconds. But then some door in the rocks opens up, and one of those robots that kidnapped Uhura comes out. It grabs Spock and carries him away.

The boys run after the robot, but only Kirk is able to duck inside the rock door before it closes. Don't worry, kids. Bones and Sulu won't be bored outside - they have a two-headed dragon to play with!

You know what I kind of hate about this episode? I can't call them out on this stupid shit because we've already established that on this planet, stupid shit is the norm. Last week, I could call them out on that, because it was ridiculous what they came up with, story-wise. Here, we already know dumb things are going to happen, and can be explained away as "the planet did it." Basically, I'd like to bitch about not being able to bitch.

So Bones starts to yell at Sulu, who yells back, "Aw, hell naw! That did not come from me!"
And they bust ass away from the dragon, which breathes fire from both heads.

Down in the underground (ahhh-ah-ah), the robot sets Spock on a table and moves off to do... something. Spock gets up and Kirk, who has been following at a distance, calls to him. They duck into a side tunnel, and the robot tries to follow, but is too wide, and crashes into the walls.
Okay, seriously: why would you build an underground lair with corridors that were too narrow for your robot henchmen to fit in? What's more, why would you not make them smart enough to turn sideways to fit down said corridors? Did the head honcho computer take all of the brains for himself?

Anyway, Head Computer in Charge knows they are there, as does Uhura, because he shows her on the screen.
Kirk and Spock finally make it into the control room, where Uhura is now wrapped up tight in some kind of freaky robot bondage.

So now we'll reach the part where the bad guy monologues, and the mystery will be solved, and Fred and Shaggy will rescue Daphne, and someone, maybe Sulu, will get a Scooby Snack.

"What happened to the Keeper?" asks Kirk.
No, dumbass. We already solved that part. He died.
"Are you stupid?" asks the computer. "He got old and died."
"So then what's the deal?" demands Kirk.
"I've been here like, forever. And a bunch of sky machines would come through with their tiny hairless slaves, and I would amuse the slaves, and then they would go away," says the computer. "But this whole time I've been gaining power, and getting smarter, and now I'm smart and strong enough to leave. So I'm gonna take your sky machine and GTFO and look for more computers like me."

The engineers have told Scotty that the way into the room with the gravity control has been jammed shut, so Scotty goes down and jimmies them open. When he gets there, he see robot arms like the henchmen robots building a new computer in the place of the gravity control panel. He tries to take it out, but it shocks him.

Scotty calls the bridge to report the problem. There are two new developments here - can you spot them? That's right, Sulu is simultaneously on the surface of the planet battling a two-headed dragon, and also sitting at the con next to Arax. You know what happened there? That's Sulu's twin brother, Fred Sulu. Don't get too attached to him, as he'll be going away when Georgie is done with that dragon. 
The other thing we see here is seatbelts. Don't get attached to those, either. Even though it makes sense for them to have on all the time, seeing as how they keep falling out of their chairs, those will be gone as soon as the gravity comes back on. And then we'll never see them again. (Okay, if you want to get super-esoteric technical, they appear for the last time in a deleted scene in Star Trek: Nemesis, and the only way you're ever gonna see that is if you liked Nemesis well enough to own it, then watch the deleted scenes. Like, when the fuck is that ever gonna happen?)

Hey, kids. Can you guess what happens next? We've got a murderous, self-aware robot. If you guessed, "Kirk gives it an identity crisis," you're correct!

Kirk explains that the computer has things backward: that the people inside the ships are not the ships' slaves, but built the ships and computers, and together, they explore the galaxy. The computer is pretty sure this is bullshit, as it has noticed that computers are smarter than men.
"Nope, we each help each other," Kirk says.
"I'm tired of being a slave," the computer laments.
"There's no shame in serving someone else if you do it of your own free will," Uhura adds.
Hmmm, that's correct in essentials, but says to me pretty clearly that Uhura has never worked retail.
"You have a pretty sweet job," Uhura goes on. "You make people happy."
"Also, you get to learn from all different kinds of species who come here to relax and play," says Spock.
The computer has been slowly nodding its head this whole time, and it now agrees. "You're right. I've got an awesome set-up here. I mean, I had made it my dream to go out, see the other worlds, and maybe conquer them, but you've made me see that it's better to stay here and cater to others."

Up top, the systems are righting themselves. On the surface, the dragon slowly disappears behind a rock. And down in the underground (whoa-oh-oh), the computer agrees to let them have shore leave on the planet if they come down to talk some more to him about why they are not slaves, and why he is not one, either. Spock agrees to head up these conversations.
Kirk calls M'Ress to tell her that shore leave is back on.
"Looks like some people are already on shore leave," Spock tells Kirk. And he points to a screen that shows Bones and Sulu having a party with Alice and the White Rabbit, and the two-headed dragon, who would rather have tea and cake than eat them, because fuck you.

I was really not excited about this episode. Netflix does these TV Guide-style write-ups, which it puts under the title of each episode, and the idea of "returning to the shore leave planet" did not fill me with joy. That previous episode spent 45 of their 50 minutes building up some kind of tension, only to tell us at the very last second that they were never in any danger to begin with. This episode does a slightly better job, because we know the danger is kind of real, but we don't know to what extent. Having the computer kidnap Uhura was an okay touch, as it established that there was actually something wrong this time, and all was not as it seemed. It's rather annoying that we keep getting "computer gone awry" stories though, because we've learned by now how those are always going to end. I suppose it's not the worst thing ever. No, the worst thing ever is that screencapture of Sulu and Bones picnicking with that dragon. The best thing about this episode was that Spock headcanon, and frankly, he gave me one line, and I filled in the rest, so that's not really something I can completely count.

This is our second "return to" sequel episode of the animated series (the other being tribbles), and next week, we get a third. Hooray.


Bought some more of those pitcher-sized Tazo tea bags because it's hotter than the devil's fucking kiln right now, and it makes more sense to buy pitcher-sized bags than to make a pitcher using half a box of tea bags. This week, it's "Iced Citrus Bliss" and it straight up admits on the box that it's last week's tea (passion fruit and hibiscus) with citrus added. How does it taste? Like last week's tea... with citrus added. It's got a rooibos base, which is nice, then adds rose, lemongrass, blackberry, and other fruity flavors. It's pretty good, though I think I prefer the passion fruit-hibiscus from last week. 

Sleepy Andre

1 comment:

  1. I know you hate that Kirk always goes on away missions, but I kind of like it. He actually gets down and dirty with his crew and isn't afraid to work hard, rather than just sitting in his ship and sending his underlings to do his bidding. I didn't realize that I liked that about his character until I started watching Next Gen. So far all Picard does is yell at people to get off his bridge, tell communications to "shut up that noise" when aliens he's in negotiations with call up begging for help because their home is being shot to hell, salivate over a woman twenty years too young for him while hating her kid, and assign most of his duties to his new first officer. Old dude sends Riker, Data, and Chef Boyardee to do all the work while he sits his bald ass on the bridge all day and yells a lot about how he hates children and wants them to get off his lawn- I mean, bridge. He also yells at Data a lot when the dude is clearly just trying to be funny because he's lonely and wants people to like him. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a bloody robot uprising on Picard's Enterprise within the next few seasons. (Please tell me Picard stops being such a huge a-hole before too far into the series, because right now he's the main detriment to me enjoying it.)