Star Trek

Star Trek

Monday, September 21, 2015

ST:TAS Season One, Episode Sixteen "The Jihad"

"The Jihad"
Air Order: 16
Stardate: 5683.1
Original Air Date: January 12, 1974


So unless you are living under a studio-made rock right now, you probably know that the ship goddess is part of a NASA mission:


Does it go into space? No. It's like a shuttlecraft. It hangs out in the air and collects information. Does anyone care much that Uhura is not actually in space? Why would they, when she give us photo ops like this:


I can't even, you guys. I just can't.
How can you be so badass and adorable at the same time, Nichelle?

*******



Kirk's Log 5683.1: "We're orbiting this planet because Spock and I have been called by the Vedala for some secret mission. We don't know what it is, but the Vedala are hella smart, and are the oldest-known space-faring race in the galaxy, so we're gonna trust their judgment and walk blindly into this situation."

Kirk and Spock beam down to the surface, and I just kind of sigh. The animated series is awesome for allowing Star Trek to boldly go where no live-action show has gone before, but this is one of those episodes where they take advantage of not having to pay more for special effects and costuming, and instead of being extra cool, it just looks jumbled, and pretty much like they were trying too hard to push the envelope.
For instance, our heroes beam down into a circle of aliens, and it looks more like a zoo than last week's episode, which featured... a zoo.


So first we have a Vedalan, which looks like exactly like a white Kzinti, but apparently is not. Then there's what looks to be a Gorn, but again... is not. One one side of the Gorn doppelganger is some kind of pupae-insect thing, and on the other side is a Skorr, a sort of griffon-thing. We've seen one of these before, in "Yesteryear". Last but not least, there's a human, but she obviously comes from a different Earth-colonized planet. The Vadalan introduces them around. 
The Skorr is the prince of his people, and he has a problem, in that some religious artifact of his people has been stolen. None of his people know that it's gone, and they need to get the thing back and keep it a secret, otherwise, his people might declare a jihad on the galaxy for no other reason that their thing is gone.

Like Christine Chapel, Tchar has far too many neck bones.


So each of them was called up for a reason. Em/3/Green, the pupae guy (no, I'm not fucking with you, the dude's name is Em/3/Green), is a lock picker and a thief. He was sentenced to this expedition, as he loudly complains. He's already singled himself out as a douche, so that's easy for us. Tchar the Skorr prince is there for information obviously, but the human girl Lara is a hunter. Spock is there because he's smart. Kirk just tagged along for the ride because he felt like it.
No, that's not true. They wanted him for his leadership skills and adaptability, blah, blah, blah.
We don't really find out why Sord the Gorn look-alike is there, because Em/3/Green interrupts to whine about shit.


So Tchar gives us some background on the artifact, which doesn't actually come into play at all, so there really isn't much reason to mention it, beyond how it ties into the situation: the Skorr are all civilized now, but were once warriors. Alar is the Skorr version of Serak, convincing them to be peaceful, which is good, because the Skorr breed like rabbits and could build a huge army in two years. When Alar died, they trapped his brain waves in some ugly sculpture, and that's what's missing.
Nobody knows who took the sculpture, but when Spock asks where it is, the Vedalan surprisingly roars and waves her arms. Apparently, this is how she uses her powers of conjuring and teleportation or whatever. A hologram appears of a planet, and she says the sculpture is on this shitty planet where nobody lives, and the place is some kind of geological nightmare.


The Vedalan admits that they are the fourth expedition to try to get the sculpture back, and nobody seems to flinch at this notion. They seriously lost almost twenty people to this, and nobody balks?
"How come you guys didn't just go get it?" Kirk asks the Vadalan. "You guys have better powers than us."
"We're weak little pussies," replies the Vadalan. "Besides, it's better to sacrifice you guys than us."
Somehow, everyone agrees to this plan, even that whiny bitch Em/3/Green, and the Vadalan waves her arms and roars again, and she teleports away.

We cut to the surface of the "mad planet" where the group is getting into some kind of ATV. Em says he will work the technology, and then proceeds to blow up one of the control panels.
"Fuck it," says Lara, the human hunter chick. "I know navigation, I'll just do it by hand."
You know what else needs to be done by hand? The trimming of your Klingon-esque eyebrows, Lara.

Lara also has too many neck bones.

She picks a direction, and Tchar agrees to fly overhead and scout while the others drive.
Lara is mildly annoying, and is unfortunate enough to be a weird mix of Calamity Jane and Ellie May Clampett. She dresses like Zarabeth, that cavechick that Spock fell for in "All Our Yesterdays", but she calls Spock a "cold-blooded critter" when he defends her navigational skills. She's also racist, but not in a jokey way like Bones, and she starts hitting on Kirk in an aggressive, creepy way.
"Good," I think, "this chick will give Kirk a taste of his own medicine."
That's not the way it happens, though.
He turns her down in favor of getting the job done.
He isn't even going to walk away thinking that he should treat women better.

They're driving through some crazy weather, earthquakes and stuff, and a pretty decent joke comes up:
Em the pupae guy declares, "We're all gonna die here!"
"A statistical probability," reasons Spock.
"You ever quote anything besides statistics, Vulcan?" asks Lara.
"Yes," he replies. "But philosophy and poetry are not appropriate here."
Vulcan for STFU, Lara.


Tchar flies back with the news that he's spotted where the ugly soul sculpture is, but now they 're having issues with erupting volcanoes.
Dramatic music! Commercial break!

We return from the break to see... one lone shot of the E. It's not orbiting a planet, and we don't see what's going on aboard while Kirk and Spock are away. It's more like, they had seven seconds to fill and used that shot. Or they were going to add a scene on the ship there, but changed their minds just before broadcast and never removed that shot. Maybe it's just there to remind you what you were watching before you got up to pee or get more cereal.


So now they have this problem, which is that they're about to be overtaken by lava, and conveniently enough, it is making it's way toward them through a ravine. Also, even though the E is elsewhere, we ended up with a Disable the Ship: their ATV is too slow to be of any use against lava.
Pssst, hey Star Trek: lava doesn't flow that fast. How slow is your freaking car?

Anyway, they've come up with two plans that are kind of one. Spock and whiny Em are going to hotwire the car so it can go faster than the lava (zero to ten in 0.6 seconds?), while the others dump huge boulders in the ravine to block the lava flow for a short period of time. Because they've pretty much frying the car's circuitry, they only get to go fast for a few seconds. (OMG, they may get up to fifteen!)


So miraculously, Kirk and Sord and Lara manage to push a whole bunch of boulders into this ravine and of course it buys Spock and Em just enough time to hotwire their ATV. It's a good thing too, because that blockade they set up really just proves to be some kind of launch ramp for the lava coming from the ravine.
It's raining lava, you guys. It's raining lava, and they're just barely escaping it.


I'm only half-way through this shit.
Can I watch something else? I'm simultaneously bored and annoyed at the lack of science here.
There's a series of shots that show lava flowing and chasing the car and acting like lahars instead of actual, slow-ass lava, and of course the car hits a rock or something, and Spock is thrown from the ATV.
You know what comes next.
Spock selflessly declares that they go on, despite the fact that no one at this point as suggested otherwise. Or maybe he's pre-empting Kirk, who of course jumps from the car to help him up.
Now, I'm not suggesting that we should most definitely leave people behind, but can we have a different outcome sometimes? Or just stop using this cliche?
We get it. You're brothers in spirit, and no way would you ever leave the other behind.
Just stahp.


But then it doesn't matter that Kirk held them up by helping Spock, because their damn ATV can't get up the hill, they're stuck getting out to walk.
Kirk and Spock pause for a lovers' quarrel over rescuing others at a risk to the group, and you know everyone on that mission is thinking "Just kiss already!"
Sord pretty much tells them to get a room.
It starts snowing. They go back to the somehow unburied car and gather whatever equipment they need (never mentioned before, and won't be used, so who cares?) before leaving on foot.
When we cut to the next scene, the ground is covered in snow.
Really? Volcanic wasteland to Winter Wonderland?
And zero reaction between the snow and lava, which sometimes takes years to cool down?
RAWR, fuck this show!


So the ground gives way under Em's feet, and he almost falls into a chasm, which would be fine by me, but Kirk insists that they rescue the little green asshole, so Spock and Tchar pull Em to safety. Em then declares that he's too tired to keep going. No, he's not hurt. Just sleepy. But instead of drinking a Red Bull or whatever, Sord gets talked into carrying that whiny motherfucker the rest of the way to the sculpture.


Tchar goes on ahead to check out the building where he thinks the sculpture might be, and the others keep walking. At one point, Sord swears he saw something moving in the bushes. Yeah, that's right. No longer snowing, now just bushes and mountains. They meet up with Tchar again, who says he saw that building again, and why are we repeating this shit? Was the episode too short? Tchar leaves once again, and this time, Kirk and Lara break off to scout ahead.
Sord, Spock, and Em have a somewhat paranoid discussion as to whether or not they are alone on this planet, and very cheap animation gets made more cheaper by the fact that the animators select camera angles to hide mouths so they won't have to animate those parts when characters are talking. They do it to both Sord and Spock but allow us to see Em talking just so that it's not super obvious.


We catch up again with Kirk and Lara. Lara suggests that they hook up because "that would make the trip easier," and "provide us with green memories."
"I already have green memories," Kirk replies.
Sorry? Did I miss something? "Green memories"?
I had to look that shit up, and dig a bit for it on the Google.
It's like memories that are alive or young.
Anyway, Kirk says "maybe later" and Lara has decided to keep wearing him down. Way to be creepy, Lara. Also, way to muddy things, Kirk. Yes or no, dude. She's just gonna keep harassing you.
"No, thank you. I'd like to keep this professional" is nice and definitive.
But he sounds more like he's filing her away for a booty call the next time he's in her sector.


So they finally, FINALLY reach the building where Tchar thinks the soul thing might be, and Kirk remarks that it looks like a Skorr temple. The lock on the door has to be picked, and I guess this is why it was important that they save Em from being swallowed alive by this planets.
And I guess they needed a commercial break here, because why else would haul out the Dramatic Music?


We get another random shot of the ship when we return from break. I mean, I love the angle on this, but between these ship shots and footage of Tchar flying, this episode has been padded all to hell.

So Em is opening the locks, and he tells them in a panicky voice that they're on a timed trigger, and that he has to open them all correctly or the whole thing will explode. Okay, fine.

Oh, what in gay hell? Fucking dragons again! Were these things seeded? They're on every fucking planet in the known universe!


They start shooting, and the dragons blow up. Turns out they're machines. One carries off Tchar. Em announces that the door is open, and then we, in turn, get close-up shots of each person in the party, as though Em opening a door is cause to get everyone's reaction.




Em looks how I feel.
Enough with this shit. I'm pretty sure that if we removed the opening theme, the random shots of the ship, and all of the crap like this - all of the padding, basically - this episode would be about ten minutes long.

So they walk inside the building, and Kirk says the most un-Kirk-like thing ever:
"Should we rest for a while?"
...whut?
This is Kirk, the guy who jumps in without taking precautions and who is okay with running other people ragged in pursuit of something. Yet now he's suggesting a nap?
"No, fuck that," says Lara.
"Seriously, what the hell?" asks Spock.
They all walk past him, because this is not Dungeons and Dragons. You're pretty much gonna find what you want right away, and you know why? Because there's only like six and a half minutes left of this shit, so we know you're not gonna take a siesta and then go fight a Minotaur before making your way to the center of a maze. Also, mazes and Minotaurs are not Star Trek. That's  the Myceneans and Doctor Who and Harry Potter and shows with actual budgets that come from other places besides the change in Gene's couch cushions.


So here's our fugly sculpture thing, and it's clearly floating a bit off the floor, but when we swing back to the group, Kirk starts talking about how they have to figure out how to get to it from across the room.
... something didn't translate there. There doesn't appear to be anything wrong with the floor, and it doesn't look like there's any kind of force field keeping them from walking over there. nor does it seem that the thing is floating very far off the ground. So why is Kirk lamenting that the walls are not climbable?


The door shuts, and Em whines that they are prisoners, as there is no way out. Kirk has already figured out that it's a trap, because he's Kirk the All-Knowing. He's guessing based on the fact that three expeditions have already failed, and he suspects that one of the group has sabotaged the whole thing. Spock says this is likely.
Kirk notices that there's a ledge around the room, and he, Spock and Lara climb up. Sord gives Em a boost, but stays on the floor himself. Dude, Kirk just said there was no way to climb the walls. Like, ten seconds ago.


Kirk and Spock are discussing how to get the sculpture down when they are attacked by Tchar.
"You dick!" yells Kirk. "You're the saboteur! Why would you start a war like that?"
"My people are wusses," say Tchar. "I want them to die in glorious battle!"
"You're gonna start a war within the Federation for funsies?" asks Spock.
"Yup," replies Tchar.



And he turns off the fucking gravity. He's decided that the rest of the group are actually pretty hearty people, and he wants them to fight and die in the air, like some proud Skorr warrior.
Kirk turns to Spock. "How long since you did The Matrix wire-fighting thing?"
"Bitch, that was last week," replies Spock. "And then we made out in zero-g. Remember?"
Of course they work out in zero-g. Kirk wins every fight because he always seems to be familiar with every kind of fight and environment. Hell, he even knew how to expertly use the pon farr weapons the first time he picked them up. So are we shocked that he and Spock work out in zero gravity, and are then given the opportunity to fight in such a situation? We are not.


While fighting Tchar, Kirk hooks his foot on the sculpture, and yells at Lara to call for beam-out. Somehow, they are beamed back to the grove on Vadala, an entirely different planet. Either that, or they beamed up to some ship orbiting the scary planet, which then carried them to Vadala, where they all beamed down to the grove with the sculpture and Tchar, who is now encased in glass.
"Sorry we can't give you rewards or recognition or anything," says the Vadalan. "We can't call attention to this or it'll fuck up all the shit with the Skorr."
"It's all good," says Kirk. "but what do we tell people who ask where we were?"
"No worries," says the Vadalan. "After a while, you won't even remember going on this mission."
"Bye, James," says Lara. "Sorry I didn't get to bend you over the helm of your own starship."
And Kirk and Spock beam back up to the transporter room.
"The hell?" ask Sulu at the console.


"You were only gone two minutes," says the helmsman.
"Oh, um... the Vedala changed their minds," says Kirk. "Let's get the hell out of here."
And they fly away without cracking a joke that makes no sense.




You know an episode is bad when you start looking for ways to entertain yourself while you're watching it. Not in that sort of multi-tasking "must be doing four things at once" way that we've become so accustomed to, but I started wondering what else I could be watching while watching this show. Could I watch something else?
This episode is twenty-five minutes consisting of Kirk and a bunch of aliens beaming down to a planet to find a thing. They find it, then discover that the dude who took it also lured them there and has been pretending to be their friend. They capture him, and return the thing. The end. It took twenty-five minutes and five other alien species to say that.
There wasn't really anything about this episode that I actually like, which is a pretty difficult feat, considering that I can typically find something. But the extra characters were annoying (with the exception of Sord, who was almost not there at all), and the science was effed up. I'm pretty sure that lava plus snow equals chemical reaction, not Currier & Ives Christmas card. While the fight scene was short, it was almost too short. Kirk goes for Tchar and gets bounced off a wall. He and Spock grab Tchar, he grabs the sculpture, and Tchar is denied the fight he was looking for.
Plus, it was padded all to hell. 
"Let's add in still shots of stuff to lengthen out the episode," I can hear the writers say.
"That whiny dude, when he opens the door, let's get everyone's reaction."
"Okay, great. Because the door might have exploded, but didn't. We can see their shock and relief."


"No, it costs too much to draw facial expressions. Just show a shot of each. That's fine. It'll buy us another ten seconds."
You know what I'd like to see now? A live-action shot for shot parody remake of this episode. And I want the final battle to be a slap-fight between Kirk, Spock and Tchar. That would make it worth watching.

*******


I was complaining to Roomie the other day that our tea cupboard is full of tea that I only ever seem to drink one packet of, then the rest just sits there, not being consumed by anyone else.
"I don't want to keep adding to the pile," I lamented.
"You should drink that barley tea that Anim8ed gave us," she suggested.
I paused. I knew this tea existed at the back of the cupboard, but I had not touched it, because Anim8ed had given it to Roomie. It's also in a Ziplock baggie labeled with Japanese kanji.
I was also suspicious of it. It's made with roasted grains. What the hell would that taste like?
Fishing it out of the cupboard (I had to go deep, as it was buried behind 40 other things), I looked up steeping times and other information.
I guess it's really popular in Japan, and kind of in Great Britain as well, and it's got a bunch of supposed health benefits.
But it's made from barley: would it taste like beer?
Nope. It tastes like shredded wheat. Shredded wheat made with coffee rather than milk. Though it's still kind of milky as well.
I put the baggie back in the cupboard.
Roomie can have the rest.








Curie

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