Warp Speed to Nonsense

Warp Speed to Nonsense

Monday, November 9, 2015

ST:TAS Season Two, Episode Six "The Counter-Clock Incident"

"The Counter-Clock Incident"
Air Order: 22
Stardate: 6770.3
Original Air Date: October 12, 1974

Kirk's Log 6770.3: "Taking Commodore Robert April and his wife Sarah to the planet Babel for a retirement ceremony because Commodore April has reached the mandatory retirement age of 75. He's an ambassador now."

April is waxing poetic about how he was there when the E was built, and how he always considered her to be his kid, when Bones and Mrs April enter the bridge. Apparently, Sarah was not only April's chief medical officer (um, can they do that?), but because they were space pioneers, she also designed a lot of sick bay equipment that Bones still uses.

There's some brief talk about how the flower she's holding is from Capella, and how it only lasts a few hours before dying. Spock breaks in to say that they are approaching the Beta Niobe Nova. They put it up on the viewscreen, and sadly, it looks like a giant space doughnut. I don't have to try very hard to see a giant Homer Simpson floating up to it in an astronaut suit and taking bite out of it, and I bet you don't, either.

They're discussing the nova, and how Kirk was present at the initial explosion, when Spock reports in about something traveling at warp 36, right at them. Kirk orders red alert.
"The hell?" asks April. "Nothing should be able to travel at that speed."
They move the E, and the mystery ship zooms past them. They were on a collision course by chance. 

The ship is actually headed for the center of the nova. Kirk flips out, because whoever flies a ship into that nova is prolly gonna die. He asks Uhura to raise the other ship.
The other captain does not respond, so Kirk orders Sulu to put a tractor beam on it, to slow it down and stop it.
This gets a response, and a woman comes onscreen, speaking some language that the universal translator doesn't translate out for them.

Uhura runs the transmission through the translator again, and it turns out she's speaking the same language as them, but backward. They replay the transmission in reverse.
"The hell?" she says. "Let go of my ship. I'm on a priority mission!"
Kirk announces that bad shit will go down if she flies into the nova, mainly that she'll die. I guess he's trying to be helpful, but I can't help but marvel at the fact that Kirk seems to think that this woman hasn't thought out her actions before taking them. Like he's the only person in the universe that thinks doing this is a bad idea, and a woman with an obviously superior ship in no way realizes the danger she's in.
She doesn't respond to any of his return hails.
Scotty calls from the engine room to say that they haven't really slowed her down, they've just hitched their wagon to her run-away oxen. They're going much faster than the ship was designed to go.
They have just under four minutes to fix this crap, or her ship is going into the nova. At warp 14, Kirk tells Sulu to release the tractor, because it's no good sacrificing 400+ people to save this one kamikaze chick.
"Can't do it," says Sulu. "Helm is having its own thoughts."

They're now down to two minutes, and up to warp 20. Kirk turns to the Aprils, and apologizes, because, you know, they're probably all going to die just as he's reached retirement age.
"It's cool," they reply. "We're still in Starfleet, and we get it. This is a dangerous job."
Yeah, but... you wouldn't be in this mess if Kirk hadn't decided to save this girl from herself, and lasso her ship.
So Kirk's new plan is to wait until the other ship has gone into the nova and burned up, then to slam on the brakes and execute a course change at the last minute. Spock calculates that they will have to do this at the 42 second mark, so they have ten seconds to prep.
But her ship disappears into the nova, and they are still being pulled along. They can't break free.
Kirk is astounded and calls Scotty. "Can we brake?"
"Are you high?" asks Scotty. "We're going way too fast, and we have no control."

Sulu reports that the helm is still out, and Kirk is flabbergasted that this new plan to brake and change course is not working at all. He actually gets up to micromanage at the helm. Why is this guy so convinced that he's the only one in space that knows what he's doing?

Spock does a bit of count-down, and the Aprils hold each other close, and the flower in Sarah's hand withers and dies. But then they just fly into the thing, and are all surprised when nothing happens. The viewscreen shows white space with black stars.
The Enterprise flies backward through it.
Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Kirk's Log 6770.6: "Sooo, we're in some kind of reverse universe or something, and the other ship is still pulling us."

Scotty calls to report that the crew in engineering is having to re-learn how to run the ship, because everything runs the opposite way now. Mrs April points out that her dead flower has come back to life, and that she can "feel it growing younger." 
O...kay. What did you take, Mrs April?
It shrinks back into a seedling, and Spock reports that the ship's chronometers are running backward.
Uhura says that the other ship is calling again.
The other captain is called Karla Five, and she's pissed off that Kirk almost fucked up all of the shit.
Spock says that they can understand her now because their brains are now working in reverse, so they are probably speaking in reverse, as she is.
I'm gonna call BS on that. If she was speaking in reverse in your universe, then you should be speaking reverse in hers. They should not be able to make real-time conversation, because she should have to reply to everything backwards in order to understand them. 
Anyway, Kirk asks how she came to be in their universe, and she says that she's a space explorer, and that she was hanging out near this dead star, minding her own beeswax, when the star came to life. She was sucked in and spit out into Kirk's universe. Her theory is that two stars in the same place going nova at the same creates a passageway on that spot.
That's... I dunno. I'm not an astrophysicist, but that sounds more like fiction than science.
Then she does the most amazing thing (and which is almost impossible to screencapture): she shrugs. And she shakes her head. I don't think I've seen any characters on this show do either of those things.

Let's be honest: the animation on this show is shit. It's meant to be scrape-the-bottom-of-the-barrel cheap, and it shows. Having the characters do expressive things like shake their heads in disagreement, or shrug their shoulders is probably thought of as being a waste of time or money, which is why I'm so excited to see it. Why was it done here and nowhere else? Did they have a really enthusiastic intern that week? Did Gene Rod find an extra twenty bucks in a coat pocket and tell the production company to "live it up"?

So April buys into this theory of two novas, and Kirk muses aloud that they will have to go back through again. Karla Five thinks this is impossible, as the nova star is now just a regular star, and she tells them to follow her back to her planet, Arret.
Oh, that's cute, Star Trek. Arret is Terra spelled backward. You dorks.

They follow Karla's ship, which also flies backward.. which makes no sense. The cockpit of her ship appears to be on the "front end" so her ship is flying through space ass-first. How the hell can she see? By back-up cam? I mean, I know this universe is supposed to be reversed, but it has to make some kind of sense. Seriously, Star Trek - did none of you read Through the Looking-Glass?

Kirk's Log, supplemental: "Um, what you just watched."

Kirk is in the briefing room with his senior staff and the Aprils. he makes a joke about them growing younger for a change, and Robert April says that he's excited. You'd think it would be about being young or whatever, but no: dude is happy because if they stay long enough, he won't have to retire.

Can I just ask a question here? What is it about being a Starfleet captain that makes all these people so gung-ho about their jobs? Is this job really that fabulous? I've been watching variation of Star Trek for years now, and it seems like any time one of these older guys reaches retirement age or some kind of promotion that moves him out of the captain's chair, he balks. Are the upper echelons of Starfleet really that crappy? Does retirement in the future suck? Am I really supposed to believe that ship captain is the ultimate job, and no one is interested in being promoted or retired? Doesn't anyone want to stop getting shot at by Klingons or talked down to by Romulans? DOESN'T ANYBODY WANT TO JUST FUCKING GARDEN?

Spock is over this shit in a heartbeat, and he starts talking about how to recreate the conditions that brought them there. He says they need to find a star in this universe that is being born, and one in their universe that is dying. April doesn't think it can be done. They make plans to beam down to Arret.

Kirk, Spock and April beam down to the surface. Not sure why April is there, as he isn't part of the mission or the crew, but whatever. Karla Five introduces her son, Karl Four, an old man. There's a baby in a playpen that she says is her father, presumably Karl Six.
"This makes sense," says Spock. (Lol, whut?) "Here, you are born in old age and die in infancy. So your descendants are born before you and your ancestors after you."
I'm ... not even gonna attempt that. I have no idea how that would even work, and as far as I can tell, the system runs forward, but it's simply labeled backward. One could conceivably be born old and get younger with time (I recall this being the case on Mork and Mindy as well), but it would still mean starting out small enough for gestation and delivery, which does not happen in Kirk's universe.

They get down to brass tacks: Karl Four and Spock have both been independently working on the problem, and they overlay star charts of their universes on this huge-ass display. The red marks on the overlaid charts are where there are pairs of stars that they can use for their gateway project. That's rather convenient.

So none of those star pairs is nova in the ways it needs to be, and April says they can make one star here into a nova, then escape through the gateway. Karla points out that she had to fly her ship hella fast to keep from burning up, and that the E cannot handle the trip by itself. She offers Kirk her ship.
"Cool," he says. "But your ship is too small. I have too many crew members to fit in your ship."
"We can tractor the ships together, and fly her ship remotely, pulling ours," suggests Spock.
That's a pretty good suggestion, although there isn't a reason why someone from the E crew couldn't have piloted Karla's ship. There really isn't a reason given for why it had to be unmanned.

Kirk's Log 6770.1: "All set up. Gonna fire some positive matter into a dead star to wake that shit up, then we're gonna fly ourselves outta here."

Did you notice the tiny, added bonus there? The ship's chronometer is running backward, so the ship's logs are being recorded earlier. I almost missed it. Good job, Star Trek.
Kirk jovially tells April that they're going to get to Babel after all, and April is all sad-sack about it because he doesn't want to retire.
Karla calls to wish them luck, because whether they succeed or fail, she'll never know either way.
Kirk agrees. "Yes, we can either make it back to our own universe, or burn to a crisp."
DUDE: just say "fail," okay? No need to get graphic there.

So here's where it gets weird.
Yeah, I know.
But the rest of this episode is not that weird, just kind of inaccurate.
"How long until the youngest crew member reverts back to birth?" Kirk asks Spock.
Did you forget about that?
I kind of did, too.
But here's the thing that isn't properly explained: the crew is no de-aging quicker than they were before. The theory that goes unmentioned here is the one about time slowing the fast you go, and because they are aging backward here, and going faster than before, the crew members are de-aging faster than previous.
Spock says, "A little less than twenty minutes."
And he points out that in reverting back to little kids, they're all going to forget how the ship is run. Kirk's voice cracks as he asks Sulu how things are going. Sulu replies in a squeaky voice that he isn't sure. This first round of de-aging is subtle, but you can see the difference in Sulu.

Sulu and Uhura have reached the point where they're too young to know how to run their stations. Spock relieves both, as well as Kirk, because as a Vulcan, Spock ages the slowest, and can remain in command longer than all the others.

Kirk's Log, supplemental: "Everybody's too young! We have eleven minutes to get to the nova and do our thing, but we might not make it!"

Spock is in command at the helm, and -
Look at little Arax!
Look at how frickin' adorable!
My kingdom for a little Arax plushie!

April pulls rank on Spock. (Un)surprisingly, young April looks just like Kirk.
And despite what he says, I'm pretty sure he's enjoying the hell out of this.

A teenage Spock hands the command over and sits at the helm, and Arax has only gotten fucking cuter!

They arm Karla's ship and blow up the star, bringing it to life. They fly back through. 
"The reverse-aging process has stopped," April announces.
"Um, still little kids?" his wife reminds him.

Baby Arax sucks his thumb. I can't even.

"Okay," says April. "It's cool. The transporters have their DNA profiles and stuff. We'll just feed them through there, and they'll go back to their old ages again."
"We don't have to do that," she suggests. "You and I can stay young, and live our lives over again."
"Naw," he replies. (He shakes his head!) "I think we're good. We've lived awesome lives, and I don't think we need to re-do them."
He's being all romantic and sentimental, so they make out. I'm not sure that's happened on TAS before. Last episode - better late than never, I guess.

Sometime later, after the Aprils have fed some 400+ kids through the transporters, and have climbed in themselves, they are back on their way to Babel. Uhura says that Starfleet has called to say that they are reviewing Robert April's appeal of the retirement age again. (Setiously? He appealed previously, and they gave him the finger and told him that he must attend a party in his honor? That's kind of shitty, Starfleet.) Apparently, they were super impressed with his performance on this voyage. He replies that this is awesome, because sometimes a person who is 75 still has services to provide to the galaxy at large.
Kirk notices that Mrs April's flower has bloomed again. She answers back that going into the other universe gave it a second life, and then we get the final line of the series:

Not... really, Mrs April. It gave you and your husband a second chance to be young and take-charge again, and it means that Starfleet will reconsider allowing your husband to remain an ambassador, but it didn't give anyone else a second life. Everyone else on board got a few hours as a child and an infant in a time and place where both were inconvenient. Nobody else benefited from this little jaunt into a reverse universe but you guys.

This is one of those middle-of-the-road episodes, not mind-blowingly fabulous, but not crap, either. It moved quickly, which was nice (I do hate episodes that lag), but there were enough parts that made me pause and think, "That sounds iffy to me." Unsurprisingly, it gets very mixed reviews from fans as well. Some reviews I read gave it four stars out of five, some dropped as low as one star. No one gave it five. It certainly isn't strong enough to end a series with in my opinion, but I have no idea if they had expected to make more, and been canceled (a la TOS), or if they had just been told, "we got six more episodes, so cough up six more scripts and we'll make those." They didn't really go out with a bang, but it wasn't a whimper, either. More like they had been participating in a fun run, stopped arbitrarily, and someone had run up behind them and drawn the finish line right at their heels.
"You win!"
A shrug. "Okay, cool." 
And thus did end the five-and-a-half-month run of the Star Trek show that everyone forgets.

Next week: series overview.

Interesting Trivia:

- The name Robert April sound familiar? That's because it's the original name connected to the earliest Star Trek pilot script. At some point in time while working on the script for "The Cage," the captain's name became Christopher Pike. "Counter-clock" writer John Culver (pseudonym for NBC employee Fred Bronson) was a huge fan of Star Trek, and wanted to include tiny nods to fans. He carefully combed through ""The Menagerie" to see if it's mentioned how many captains had come before Pike. None were discussed, so he was free to state that April had come first, followed by Pike, and later, Kirk. The Star Trek Encyclopedia uses a doctored photo of Gene Rod in a pilot-episode uniform as their photo entry for April.

- This is the third time the planet Babel has come up. It was debuted in "Journey to Babel", and mentioned in "The Pirates of Orion".
- This is also the third time Capella has come up. The first, "Friday's Child", was set on Capella IV, and starred the fabulous Julie Newmar as Elaan the Badass. The second time was last week's "How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth" when we introduced to the Capellan Power-cat. This week, we find out that Capella also grows a flower that only lives for one day.
- TAS is only one of two series whose ending line in the series finale was spoken by someone other than the captain. The other series is DS9, and the final line there was spoken by Quark.


This week's tea is Tazo's Wild Sweet Orange, and it's really good. It supposedly also includes lemongrass, spearmint, and rose petals, but if you've picked up this tea expecting to catch any of those flavors, you'll be disappointed. All I caught was orange. This was fine by me, as I wasn't expecting anything else (and was surprised to read about these other ingredients being included, as I didn't taste them). The base is herbal, so you don't have to worry about caffeine intake late at night.
Will definitely drink this one again.

That's not helpful.


  1. Hey, Beta Niobe was Sarpeidon's sun. I thought it sounded familiar. Nice bit of continuity, Star Trek, even if I didn't like that episode.

    1. Haha, that was the one bit of trivia that I left out. Good memory!

    2. I thought Beta Niobe sounded familiar, but I couldn't remember where I'd previously heard it. Nice catch!

  2. Great review, as always, Baby Ajax was adorable, but then pretty much Baby everyone was adorable (except for Uhura, idk about you but I thought her child self looked kinda ugly, lol.) I was too busy fawning over Baby Spock- awdjawiodj- so cute! I'd hate to be a member of the crew in this episode, though, I'm happy growing older, I don't wanna be a kid again!

  3. Re: Retirement. More commonly among my parents' generation, the men are the 'salt of the Earth'/working-class types that have been doing their jobs their whole lives. Once retirement comes around, they're now faced with a third or even half of their day where they are not working... and it's very unsettling. There is suddenly a massive hole in their routine which they are not yet prepared to fill. They feel non-productive which can then make them feel useless or lacking purpose.

    I'm terrified of getting old and retiring, but I also don't see a time in life where I can afford to retire.