Star Trek

Star Trek

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

ST:TAS Season Two, Episode Three "The Practical Joker"

"The Practical Joker"
Air Order: 19
Star Date: 3183.3
Original Air Date: September 21, 1974


Hey friends, just in case you're paying attention, yes: this episode does take place more than one hundred years before the previous episode. Doesn't our ships' crew look fabulous for being more than 100 years old?



*******

Kirk's Log 3183.3: "Doing this asteroid survey thing and feeling like hot shit because we're ahead of schedule."

As everyone knows, anytime you've ahead of schedule on anything, something will come along to fuck up all of the shit, and you'll end up late.
For instance, Romulans in Klingon cruisers.


So the Romulans start firing, and Spock guesses that they were waiting behind the asteroid to ambush the E.
"Let's fight back!" says Scotty.
"Naw," says Kirk. "We're outnumbered. Let's just walk away."
Wait, Mr Shoot First and Ask Questions Later wants to walk away? Is it Opposite Day or something?
So they fly in the other direction, and the Roms chase them, and Uhura opens a channel.
"What the hell?" Kirk asks the commander.
"You're in our space," the commander replies.
"We're nowhere near your space!" says Kirk. He threatens to file a complaint in the same sort of voice that bitchy entitled soccer moms use when they ask to speak to your manager.
"Yeah, you forgot that trespassing into our space is punishable by death, huh?" And the commander signs off to fire again.


Scotty says the shields can't take more hits at close range, and Sulu reports some kind of weird anomaly up ahead.
"Not on the sensors," says Spock. No equipment can figure out what that thing is.
"Cool, let's fly into it," says Kirk. "We can lose them that way."
Wow. Really? Getting into a fire fight with the Romulans isn't worth it, but flying your expensive ship and it's 500 crew members into some mysterious space goo is perfectly safe?
Kirk is the kind of guy who will sniff the milk when you offer him the carton and say "Smell this."


Half-way through the cloud-thing, Kirk remembers to ask Spock what their chances are of coming out the other side. Not before. Half-way through. They do come out the other side, and Sulu says that the Romulans wisely turned away and decided not to fly in after the E, so Kirk has effectively lost them. 
I'm not giving him credit for that. That was a dumb move.
They decide to pause there in space for repairs.

Later, the senior crew members are in the briefing room, sharing a meal, and for once, the food is not those weird little colored squares of Jell-o, or whatever the hell those were. It's actual food. 


They talk about repairs, and toast themselves for being awesome. Sulu spills water down the front of himself, and I vow not to make a cum joke. Please feel free to make your own, though.


As turns out, they all spill water down their fronts. Kirk proposes that they have a practical joker on board.
"So what?" asked Bones. "We did that back at the Academy, with trick glasses."
 And Sulu chimes in:

STAHP IT, STAR TREK.

Scotty says it might be problem with the food replicator. Kirk tries to take a bite of his food, and the fork bends away from his mouth. They laugh.

Kirk's Log, supplemental: "Everybody's getting punked. Even Spock."

So Spock finds some new piece of equipment at his station, and instead of one large eyepiece like usual, this one has two eyepieces, like binoculars. You know what's going to happen. Much like Kirk saying, "Let's just fly through that random pea soup in space," Spock decides to put his eyes to the eye-holes of this mysterious equipment. Sometimes, I wonder why any of these people are still alive.


Everyone laughs at Panda Spock, and I guess that scene was not so much a scene on its own as it was a break in Kirk's supplemental log. I kind of like that. Normally we just get some voice over with an exterior shot of the ship for log entries.

More Kirk Log: "It's not as funny now."

Arax and M'ress are eating in the mess hall and invite Scotty to join them. He is busy working, and thanks them, planning to grab a grilled cheese on rye and head back to work. The replicator then drops a crap-ton of food on him, and I'm left to think about how fucking awesome a grilled cheese on rye sounds.


M'Ress and Arax laugh, but Scotty is pissed off, and he ends up blaming them for it, claiming that he's going to report them. The replicator tosses a cream pie in his face.

Kirk's Log continues, saying that everyone is now on edge.

An irate Kirk stomps onto the bridge, yelling about pulling clean uniforms out of the laundry chute and finding this on the back:


I'm sure you can imagine the barking laugh I let out at seeing that for the first time. (I was sitting in the stands at an indoor pool, too. It ricocheted off the walls.)
 A raucous laughter issues from the PA system, but Kirk just thinks it's one of the bridge crew. He's alerted to the fact that fog is seeping in under the door to the lifts, and he and Spock go through the door. I guess that there's another door on the other side of the lift, because they walk through the lift and into the corridor. A scan says the fog is real, and Kirk slips, ending up in Spock's arms. There's a nice little moment for all you Spirk shippers out there. It even comes complete with an Austin Powers-type pick-up line:

"Oh no, I fell over! Oh no, I fell over again!"

They hear the laughter through the PA again and surmise that the practical joker is actually the ship herself.

On another deck, Sulu, Bones and Uhura are taking their down-time together, and enter what is marked as the "rec room." As soon as the door closes, Spock calls a general alert. But they don't hear him because THEY'RE IN THE FUCKING HOLODECK, YOU GUYS! First appearance of holoeck, y'all! They don't call it that, but you know that's totally what it is. The room started out plain and empty with a podium in the center, and Sulu programmed it for the beach.


They decide to take a walk through the woods, and the scene changes to a wooded area. M'Ress pages them over the PA, but the call isn't broadcast in the holodeck.
Uhura remarks that it's nice that they can hang out without having to worry about pranks, and they hear that laughter again. Bones decides that it's just an audio tape rewinding. But further along, a deep-ass hole is being covered up by branches and leaves.
Dramatic music! Commercial break!

So they're walking through the forest, and Bones makes his second "just what the doctor ordered" remark in three minutes. Then they fall in the hole, and I wonder if he'll say this isn't what the doctor ordered. Bones starts yelling at the laughing computer, and she twists his words into unclever puns.


On the bridge, Kirk and Spock ask the computer where Sulu, Uhura and Bones are, and she gives them cheeky answers. Kirk asks Scotty to shut down all of the computer's logic functions.

On the holodeck, Sulu and Uhura help Bones out of the pit. I really like that Uhura is shown helping her fellow crew member rather than just standing to the side watching Sulu do it. She may be wearing the world's shortest skirt and a pair of what is essentially go-go boots, but she's perfectly capable of helping a friend. You go, TAS.


Bones makes a vague threat against the computer, who declares that she'll cool him off, and the holodeck switches over to a snow storm. Sulu is concerned that they won't be able to see the exit in all the snow.

Down in the computer room, Scotty tries to shut down certain parts of the computer. The Enterprise retaliates by turning off the gravity. Scotty hits the ceiling, as does the bridge crew.

Arax looks awesome in zero-g. Also, pretty sure that's Scotty on the left.


On the bridge, Spock suggests that the E is trying to protect herself, and that if Scotty leaves the computer room, the E will turn the gravity back on. Kirk suggests this to Scotty, who crawls along the ceiling and into the corridor. He falls to the floor.
Spock, in normal gravity, suggests that something in that mysterious cloud they flew through altered the E, and now she is having the equivalent of a nervous break-down.
"How do we fix it?" asks Kirk.
"Fuck if I know," replies Spock. "Do I look like a mechanical Freud?"

Down in the holodeck, our intrepid trio are freezing their asses off without a solution. Uhura reminds them that they're still just in a room, so if they walk far enough, they should hit a wall. This is smart thinking, and they start walking through the snow.


A search party has discovered that Sulu, Uhura and Bones are trapped in the holodeck, and the door is jammed. They report to Kirk, who calls Scotty for Ops assistance, and they all start laughing. Spock determines that the ship is mixing their air with laughing gas, which apparently sucks for Vulcans. The trio in the holodeck trudge through the snow, laughing their asses off about how they're going to die.
Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Kirk's Log, supplemental: "Spock managed to get the air thing fixed before passing out. Three cheers for the Magic Vulcan!"

So they've determined that they only have six hours of breathable air left. Seems kind of late in the game for a Disable the Ship plot, but whatever. Six hours of breathable air left, six minutes left to wrap up this episode. I guess the writers set their own timer against themselves to come up with a solution. Though if you're like me, you knew instantly how the plot had to be concluded.

Scotty and his Ops Reds have given up trying to use electronic devices to get the door to the holodeck open, and are now utilizing crowbars. The E has decided that she's tired of snow, and switched our trio over to something more interesting.


It's all good, though. In another moment, the doors of the holodeck are pried open, freeing them. But after almost freezing to death, they're sent back to their stations on the bridge. I hope they called their unions after this mission. That's some straight bullshit.
The computer takes over the helm, and directs them back to the Neutral Zone.
Of course the Romulans are waiting for them.
But then the E stops and poops out this grey thing from the shuttle bay doors.
"The hell?" asks Kirk.


The grey thing morphs into another Enterprise. It looks like they're just flying in tandem, some space apart, but I guess it's meant to be seen as the new Enterprise is three times larger as the original. Oddly, the original looks like CGI here.


The Romulan ships back off a bit, and the bridge crew discuss what might be happening. Spock suggests that the E is getting revenge on the Romulans for firing on her earlier. 
Bones reminds them that the Roms will fire on the fake E, destroy it, and still have the upper hand.
But Kirk says that the Roms are all honor-bound and will find being tricked a worse fate than death.

We get a cool shot from inside the Romulan ship at this point. When they aren't able to contact it through subspace radio, they fire on it. It deflates like a balloon, and we hear the computer laughing. Maybe the laughter is also being broadcast over the PA of the Romulan ships. It's certainly heard when the fake Enterprise deflates, and I guess no one told the E that in space, no one can hear you chuckle.


The Romulans chase the remaining Enterprise.
Kirk decides to trick the computer into thinking that he's terrified of flying back through that intergalactic sludge.


Of course the E finds this fascinating, and flies herself right through the cloud again.
This time, the Klingons follow. We get another shot from inside their ship, only this time, we see it from inside the cloud. It reminds me of the opening scene from "The Magicks of Megas-Tu". All of the drugs were done on this show.


Back on the E, the computer's new personality is shutting down, and helm control is back. Flying back through the cloud somehow reversed the whole thing, even though Spock originally described the issue with the computer being "subatomic particles attacking the ship like bacteria attacking living matter." I guess flying through the cloud again just reverses that. 
Uhura says she hears something over the radio, and puts it on over the PA. It's the Klingon ships, yelling at one another to control the food dispensers. Much like both tribble episodes (here and here), Kirk has decided that, rather than help the Romulans, he'll just let them deal with it themselves, and the bridge crew laughs, and they fly off into space.


This episode was okay. We got some nice moments, like with that Spirk ship moment in the corridor, and when Sulu and Uhura help Bones out of the pit, and later, when he's tired of walking through the snow and they encourage him.
But there were a few unexplained things as well. For instance, how big was the cloud-thing? Was it so big that the Romulans could not have flown around it, and gotten at the Enterprise that way? Was following it their only course of action? While we're talking about the Romulans, what was up with that subplot? How did they know the Enterprise would be at that exact spot at that exact time? Did they infiltrate some information saying that the E was investigating space phenomena in the area? Kirk himself said they were three days ahead of schedule, and he had no idea that he'd be there at that time. How did the Roms know they'd be there? What's more, why were they there in the first place? Both the Romulans and the Enterprise claimed that each one was in their space. If the Romulans were right, why was the E in Rom space? Seems like a pretty big mistake to make, sending the E into Rom territory, especially if the punishment is death. It seems far more likely that the Roms were in Federation territory, but if that's the case, we never find out why.
The plot hole vendor apparently had lots of product to push this week.


A last thing concerning the holodeck, something which I've thought of often, and which is suggested here, but not explained: how does the holodeck work? I mean, I know the main logistics, but if Uhura is correct, and you simply walk far enough, you will hit a wall. I have never seen anyone run into the wall of the holodeck. I know that from the point of perspective, when you journey through the scene presented to you by the computer, the scene will change as you move and present you with different scenery, ie, walking down the street. But if Uhura is correct, you should actually, physically walk forward through the holodeck room and hit that wall eventually. The room is not infinite. I tried looking up the specs and technology for the holodeck, but this one piece of information seems to be missing, like some weird technological plot hole.


*******

So I have this theory, and even though I've had it for a while, I know others have had it, too. It's the theory of _______ Spice. Most of the time, the produce in question is pumpkin, but it can work for many different fruits or veggies. The theory is... that food item doesn't actually taste like pumpkin, or the other produce mentioned. It just tastes like the spice palette used. So pumpkin spice, apple spice and durian spice will all taste similar, because they don't really go out of their way to include that taste of produce. While apple spice is less likely to taste only like the spice palette used, I have encountered some apple spice items that just taste like a combo of cinnamon and cloves and nothing else.
The tea I had this week was like that. I had a mug of Tazo Organic Peach Cobbler, and did not expect it to fall into the realm of (Blank) Spice Theory, but it did. You know what peach tastes like. You probably know what peach cobbler tastes like. This tasted like neither. The box claims that it's made of "black teas with peach notes, apple and cinnamon, and other natural flavors." Wait, did it say apple and cinnamon? It did. And guess what this tea tastes most like? Apple and cinnamon. Any "peach notes" involved were gone with the wind, and while there was some apple, it mostly just tasted like a spice palette. Don't get me wrong, it was good. But it does not taste like peach or cobblers.








Uhura and Bratty


2 comments:

  1. The explanation from the TNG technical manual is that there's a forcefield on the floor of the holodeck that works sort of like a two-dimensional treadmill. So when you walk, the hologram projections around you change to match your walking speed, but you're actually walking in place on the forcefield.

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    Replies
    1. I got a couple of messages about this being the answer. Guess I wasn't looking in the right places for my info.
      The thing is, if this is the case, then Uhura's theory is wrong, and walking as far as you can in one direction or another wouldn't make any difference, and you'd never hit that wall. I suppose this could be explained away by saying that the technology wasn't in place for the treadmill thing until TNG times, but Uhura, Sulu and Bones definitely walked for quite some time and never hit the wall. This also creates an issue in that you'd have to voice-activate the holodeck to turn off the treadmill, probably by saying "freeze program" or asking for the controls. Our trio does neither, suggesting that if they walked far enough, they would reach the control podium again? Otherwise, they would have just walked forever on the treadmill, until the Ops Reds opened the door. That part could have been explained by the E taking over the holodeck to screw with them, and denying them the opportunity to walk far enough to reach the wall or the podium, but at this point, I'm thinking that they just didn't have enough logistics confirmed about this new technology that were introducing. I think I'm gonna file this away with stardates - "things they hadn't squared away before TNG."
      Either way, thanks for the info, Clothing-Devoid Lagomorph

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