Star Trek

Star Trek

Monday, January 26, 2015

Season 3, Episode 64 "The Tholian Web"


"The Tholian Web"
Production Order: 64
Air Order: 64
Stardate: 5693.2
Original Air Date: November 15, 1968

Roomie got a new job recently, one where (among other things) she opens a lot of letters.
"My coworkers all have cool letter-openers, so I need one too," she said, popping open her laptop.
Curious to see what sorts of letter-openers existed in the world, I did the same. The lightsaber and Sonic Screwdriver openers failed to catch her eye, and she was feeling discouraged, until I found the best one yet: tiny bat'leth.
"Roomie! Tiny bat'leth! Twenty bucks!" She went excitedly to the Think Geek website, but then I noticed something unwelcome. "Oh. Sold out."
She howled in frustration. "They have them on Amazon for fifty! I can't spend fifty bucks on a letter opener!"
Sadly, we are still on the hunt for a geeky letter opener, knowing that nothing will ever be quite as good as that tiny bat'leth.






*******

RAWR. Sometimes you sit in the living room, needing to write your blog post, and your roommates put Guardians of the Galaxy in the blu-ray player, and of course you're forced to watch, because it's Guardians of the Galaxy and it's awesome. Then they put in Fantasia, which you haven't seen in a million years, and which you can't ask them to turn off because it's also awesome, and because Rumor hasn't ever seen it, because he was raised by monkeys in Africa or some crap, and you're finally forced to sequester yourself in your room to watch this fucking web shit. Another RAWR. Harry Potter 5 angst.
Imagining Kirk being eaten slowly by Chernabog. OM NOM NOM.

You make the best faces, Chekov.

Kirk's Log 5693.2: "Looking for the USS Defiant, which disappeared three weeks ago, in an area of the map marked here there be aliens."

Everyone is all on edge.
"Sensor readings are weird," says Spock. "They say space is breaking up."
"This weird area is messing with the engines," says Scotty.
Chekov sees something on the viewscreen. It's the Defiant, which is glowing or something.
"Huh," says Spock. "We see it, but the sensors don't."
Okay, this is actually a really smart move by the budget: they made the Defiant a Constitution-class ship like the Enterprise, which means they can re-use the E model as a stand-in for that ship. And because there's something wrong with the Defiant, they can cover the call letters on the model with green spots and claim that it's a special effect. What's more (spoilers), when the away team beams over to the Defiant, they can re-use Enterprise sets.


Sulu brings the ship to within transporter range, and Kirk tells Uhura to hail the Defiant. Because she does her job well, she informs him that she's been hailing them for several minutes. I commend her for being able to say that without rolling her eyes at him. Kirk puts together an away team of himself, Spock, Chekov and Bones and leaves Scotty in charge. Seriously, as often as Scotty is put in charge, you'd think he'd just be promoted to captain. Kirk can be demoted to Guy in Charge of Getting Himself Kidnapped.
In the meantime, we are treated to this awesome shot:



So let's recount: The Defiant has been missing for three weeks, they find it glowing in an unexplored area of space which the sensors report is breaking up, and because no one is answering hails, Kirk has decided to take several people and just blindly beam over there. I wanna yell at him for it, but apparently he's taken the precaution of suiting up. The laugh I get from these suits is amazing. Shiny, sparkly, skin-tight silver with colored tubes, and the mesh on those helmets makes it look like they photocopied headshots of the guys and taped them in.


When they beam onto the bridge of the Defiant, the first thing they see is the captain on the floor, having been choked to death by a Red, who is also dead. Dramatic music! Break for credits!

While Bones scans the bodies, Chekov asks if there has ever been a mutiny onboard a Starfleet vessel, and Spock replies that it has never happened. That sounds like crap, but Spock enumerating mutinies wouldn't make a lot of sense here, so he simply said no. (Even though he comprised one in *cough, cough* "The Menagerie" *cough, cough*) Spock scans the ship for the mutineers and Kirk calls Scotty for a complement of Reds. You know that'll be canceled though, because the costume-makers would not have made more of those ridiculous suits. So then Spock says everyone on the ship is dead, and that cancellation comes true. He sends Chekov to engineering and Bones to sick bay.
In sick bay, Bones finds crewmen strapped to the beds. Chekov gets a quick visual in engineering of all the dead bodies. He reports in, and then sways, unsteady on his feet. They use the fish-eye lens to show his POV.

I have an issue with the two guys that have artfully draped themselves
over the dilithium crystal chambers. Were they having a dance party on top
 of it when they died? Why didn't they fall off? Dead weight is just that:
they would not still be perched on top of the chamber if they were
actually dead.

Back in sick bay, Bones calls Kirk to say that everyone killed everyone else. He's gonna take a bunch of readings and analyze them back on the E, where the bodies aren't piled up like a Monty Python film. Then he discovers that he can put his hand through bodies and tables.
"So the ship is dissolving," he tells Kirk.


Sulu alerts Scotty to the fact that the Defiant is phasing in and out of space. Scotty calls down to the transporter room, because surprise! the transporter is broken.


So Spock tells Kirk that what happened to the Defiant is now happening to the E as well, and they should get the hell out of Dodge.
"Transporter's busted because of this weird space falling apart thing," says Scotty when they call for a ride. "I got three spots, but they're iffy."
Guess who volunteers to stay behind? The one who probably should be volunteering, and guess who tells him that if anyone should be left behind and be all heroic, it's him instead - so... yeah. Kirk will stay behind. Idiot.
Scotty has to try a couple of times, and mess with the controls, but he finally succeeds in beaming back Chekov, Spock and Bones. No go for Kirk. The Defiant phases out completely. Scotty tries again, but there isn't anything for him to beam from, and he announces that Kirk is gone. Dramatic music! Commercial break!

So the computer calculates that it'll be about two hours before the next time that the Defiant will phase back into this area of space. Spock guesses that it's like two layers of space laid on top of one another, and that the Defiant should appear again when they match up. In the meantime, it's kind of okay that the E can't go anywhere, because power fluctuations could mess with that line-up.
Chekov flips his shit for no reason, and suddenly attacks Spock and Sulu.


Bones happens to enter the bridge rather coincidentally, just as Spock pinches Chekov. Two Reds haul the unconscious navigator to sick bay.
"The hell?" asks Bones.
"Dunno," says Spock. "He lost it and attacked us."
"He was being weird earlier, like he was in pain," says Sulu.
"I think there was an illness on the Defiant that lead everyone to fly into a murderous rage," Bones tells Spock. "Possibly we brought it back with us. We should get away from here."
"Can't," says Spock. "Have to wait two hours, then try to get Kirk back. That's when we phase again. His suit has about three and a half hours of air left."
"Ship approaching us," says Sulu, and everyone looks to the viewscreen.
There is a ship. It looks like a paper airplane.


Uhura gets a visual on the screen.
...um.
Points for trying to make a non-humanoid alien. But... yeah, that looks like one of those origami balls that you fold up, and then inflate. They cut eyes in it and put some kind of iridescent paper behind them. Barring that, it's maybe a deranged peep candy?


The voice of the Tholian is super high-pitched and sounds like nails on a chalkboard.
"This is our space. GTFO."
"Bitch, this is free space," says Spock. "We're doing a rescue mission on a ship that's interphased. Should be back in like, two hours. Do you want to help us?"
"Fuck no," says the Tholian. "But we'll hang out for two hours. If you don't get your shit together by then, we'll administer dick-punches to your crew."
"Good to know," says Spock.

In the med lab, Bones is trying to mix some kind of serum to cure Chekov and keep others from getting rage-sick. Unfortunately, a lab assistant loses his shit and attacks Bones. Christine jumps in and hypos the guy. He drops to the floor and Bones thanks her. But the real news here is that they finally found a hairstyle for Christine that isn't obnoxious or a weird color-match.


The interphase time comes around, and Scotty tries to beam Kirk aboard, to no avail.
"The hell?" Spock asks Sulu. "We timed it right. Crap, I think the Tholians being in this space disturbed things enough that it screwed over the match-up."
Bones calls Spock. "We have to GTFO. Another crew member lost it just now, and it's not an illness. It's because we're phasing, too. It screws with the body. Do we have Kirk?"
"Nope," says Spock.
The Tholians fire on the E. Spock orders Sulu to transfer fifty percent of the phaser power to the shields. Then he fires on the Tholian ship. It's a hit, and the Tholians are dead in the water. The E is too, according to Scotty.
Bones bursts onto the bridge. "Why the hell are we still here?" he demands. "Quit screwing around with these aliens, and let's get the hell out of here!"
"Not without my boyfriend," replies Spock. "Get your ass back to sick bay and find a cure."
"Another Tholian ship is here," says Sulu, and they watch as the two ships connect at the rear, then fly away from each other, with a thread between them.
Then more threads appear across the screen.
Wait. Hey Star Trek, what are those threads connected to?



No, seriously. Do you not know how spiders work? The spider lets some line out from it's butt, and attaches it to something, then it moves to something else, and attaches it to that other thing. Now it may attach other threads to this thread. That is how one makes web. With threads and attaching.
"That's an energy field," says Spock, even though he has no reason to know that. "If the Tholians finish their web before we can get the captain and repair the ship, then we are fucked."
So, the Tholians started this web-thing by connecting to each other and flying in opposite directions. I really would not take issue with this if Star Trek was claiming that the web was sphere-shaped, and that they were creating it from one thread by spiraling in that sphere shape. In order for that to be the case, we would have to see the spiral threads cross in front of the E before any kind of "weaving" took place.
...we don't.



There isn't anything on that side. We don't, in fact, have any idea what shape the web might be, and the Tholians are just kind of guessing that the E isn't going anywhere, and that they can build this giant web on one side of the ship without working on the other side, all in the hopes that the E won't just fly away.

So Spock is gathering a bunch of crew members in the chapel for some meeting, and Bones comes in. Spock gives him flak for leaving sick bay when he should be working on a serum. Bones barks back that sick bay is proceeding fine without him, and that "this service" is where he needs to be.
Hold. The motherfucking comm badge.
Are you having a funeral for Kirk? Now? Even though one will probably be held at Starfleet later? While you're at red alert? While you're waiting for another interphase window to try and see if you can beam Kirk onboard? While you're supposed to be repairing the ship? And looking for an antidote? Are you shitting me?


"So the captain is probably dead," Spock addresses the crew. Then he uses the opportunity to justify his actions since Kirk kicked the bucket. Appropriate, Spock. A Red flies into a rage, and is hauled off to sick bay by two security Reds. There's a moment of silence and everyone leaves. Bones approaches Spock.
"We have to go to Jim's quarters," he says. "He left us instructions to be carried out, should he ever be declared dead."
Sure, why not? We've already wasted time at this funeral service, why not waste more hanging out in Kirk's cabin? Spock objects, but Bones convinces him.
Once in Kirk's cabin, Bones yells at Spock for staying and fighting the Tholians, rather than leaving that space and ensuring the crew was safe.
"I was trying to save Kirk, like always," replies Spock.
He puts a tape in, and Kirk appears on the little monitor.
"I'm probably dead," says Kirk. "You guys need to help each other. Play nicely, now."
They both feel kind of shitty after that.
"Sorry I was a douche," says Bones. "Hug it out, bro?"
"Don't touch me," says Spock.  
Scotty calls him to the bridge.

Uhura is in her quarters hanging out. We finally get to see her out of uniform, and she's wearing yet another floaty, shapeless thing. Blech. Anyway, she's in front of the vanity when she keels over in pain. When she looks up in the mirror, she sees Kirk in his weird-ass space suit.
She tries to talk to him as though he's really there, but he disappears.


She runs out into the corridor and into Bones' arms. 
"I saw the captain!"
He doesn't believe her, and she insists that she isn't crazy. Then she faints for some reason, and he hauls her off to sick bay.

We check in briefly with outer space, where the Tholian ships are continuing to build webs that are not attached to anything, not in any particular shape, and don't actually enclose the ship at all. As far as real estate goes, the Enterprise is "web-adjacent."

A Red attacks Scotty in engineering, and they take him to sick bay. A bit later, Christine brings Bones the test results on the Red engineer. He doesn't have a serum yet, but he kinda-sorta thinks he might know what could cure them. 

Oh, hey. The Tholians have finally started on the other side of the web. Which is probably also attached to nothing.



In engineering, a Red looks like Death Warmed Over. Scotty thinks they might be phasing, but a quick call to the bridge says they are not. Then he sees the ghost of Kirk.
"I see Kirk!" he says over the comm.
Bones comes onto the bridge. "Maybe they think they see Kirk because they've lost faith in you," he suggests bitchily. Seriously, Bones: WTH?
"Dude, get off my bridge," says Spock.
Bones starts to get angry, then apologizes, saying he thinks that the space is affecting him.
"Ain't no thang," Spock shrugs.
But then Bones faints in his arms as Scotty enters the bridge.
"It's Kirk!" Scotty yells.


Down in sick bay, Bones releases Uhura and tells her that she's not crazy. He then takes a drink to Spock's quarters. Spock and Scotty are discussing the interphase. The phasers definitely screwed things up, and Spock guesses that the next interphase time when they will line up properly is in twenty minutes.
"Cool," says Scotty. "I can have the ship ready then."
Bones comes in with the serum-drink and tells the boys that he's found a cure, and that they need to drink it. Apparently, it's a diluted Klingon nerve-gas mixed with alcohol that does something to the brain so that they don't become homicidal maniacs. Scotty is hesitant because of the nerve-gas thing, but once he's assured that it's safe, he grabs up the rest of the bottle, asks if it's good with Scotch, and exits. Ladies and gentlemen, this is our head engineer.


Spock returns to the bridge, where Uhura and Chekov have also returned. You know, it seems to me like a stint in sick bay would come with a mandatory rest period following, but you know, I don't run this ship, so...
Chekov says the Tholians are completing their web. Of course the next interphase is coming at the exact same time, because why not? On the viewscreen, the bridge crew sees the Kirk ghost and the web.
"We're being pulled by a tractor beam!" says Sulu.
Huh?
Scotty gives Spock all of his engine power, and the ship shakes, and they're free of the web.
"We broke through?" asks Chekov. "We're two parsecs away now."
"No, using the ship's power threw us clear of it," replies Spock.
I think that's what he just said, Spock.
The Kirk ghost reappears. Even though they've totally moved away from where Kirk and the Defiant were, Kirk's pattern was still in the transporter beam, or some shit that sounds only a little plausible. Mostly it just sounds like the sort of science that occurs when one is trapped in a web that's attached to nothing and has to get their captain free from some unsynced area of outer space, within the five minutes allotted at the end of the episode.
They try the transporter again, and get Kirk this time, much to my disappointment. Kirk has run out of air at the same time as the interphase and the completion of the web (how convenient), so Bones gives him a hypo. Way to go, Bones. By hypoing the back of his shoulder rather than at his exposed neck, you actually ruined the integrity of his quarantine suit.



On the bridge, Kirk tells Spock and Bones that he had his own little universe there for a bit. I suspect that Kirk spends a great deal of time in his "own little universe." Actually, I'm starting to wonder if Star Trek is some solipsistic dream of Kirk's, where only he exists and everything and everyone else is a figment of his imagination, created to amuse him. It would certainly explain a lot.
"How did things go without me?" Kirk asks, because apparently the whole world falls apart when he disappears.
"Things went fine," says Spock. "Nothing to report."
"Did you guys get along?" Kirk asks, because he's the daddy on this ship. Next he'll ask if they ate all their vegetables while he was gone.
"Yep," says Bones.
"What about that tape I left for you guys, that you were only supposed to watch if I was dead?"
"What tape?" shrugs Bones.
"We were too busy saving your ass to worry about watching a tape," says Spock.
"Totes," Bones agrees.
"O...kay, cool, I guess," replies Kirk, who looks put-out that they didn't watch the tape.
And Chekov snickers at the con, because he even though he wasn't there, he knows that Spock and Bones are full of shit.



There are three big issues that I took with this episode: firstly, that web. I know I've stated that it's not connected to anything, but Zod dammit, it wasn't connected to anything! Seems like a huge oversight, considering that one must have anchors in order for that sort of thing to work. Secondly, we just left the Tholians. No explanations given for them, because who cares? They were only a distraction, something to think about while we were waiting to get Kirk back. Like, there was a two-hour window between when they lost Kirk and when they tried to get him back the first time, but the writers wanted Spock to do something more interesting than just Netflixing during that time, so they made some hostile alien race to kill time. Here's the thing: if you're gonna name the episode after the race you're battling, make them more interesting, and don't just drop them like a rabid tribble when you're done with that part of the story. Thirdly: Kirk goes missing or gets himself kidnapped every fucking week, and he has for the last three years (actually, we skipped a year and a half in there according to the stardates, so it's really been closer to five). This is the only episode where they quickly declared him dead in the middle of the rescue mission, held a fricking funeral, and watched some posthumous tape he made. Now maybe we can excuse the tape by saying that he realized that he does this a lot and only recently made that tape because of it, but the first two? No way.


Death Toll:
Red deaths this episode: 0
Red deaths this season: 3
Gold deaths this episode: 0
Gold deaths this season: 0
Blue deaths this episode: 0
Blue deaths this season: 0
Total crew deaths this season: 3
Total crew deaths thus far: 45

We aren't really given numbers for the Defiant, and no one on the E bit the dust this episode, so numbers remain the same.

So reader Jon pointed something out that I had also noticed, but not until after I had posted last week's review: "The Empath" is shockingly similar in plot to "The Cage." Now, I know they say that there are a finite number of stories in the world, and that we really have no new ones to tell, we can only figure out new ways to tell them. Unfortunately, the writers of the scripts picked up by Star Trek believe in this whole-heartedly, to the point where there are like, 10 stories on this show, all rehashed week after week. So I'm gonna start putting that at the bottom, just for my own Hermione-like amusement.

This episode is shocking similar to: "The Naked Time", where the crew of a space station gets sick and kills one another, then the E crew brings it back on board the ship, and Bones must find an antidote before everyone dies.

*******

Stumbled across another kind of bottled tea, called Heart of Tea, and grabbed the Pomegranate-Orange flavor. The leaf base was black, and the flavor at first reminded me of those Mondo juice drinks that were briefly the rage in the nineties. Then, oddly, it reminded me of expensive chocolate. I have no idea why it reminded me of both of these things, but it did, and I can't account for the weirdness of tea. Sometimes it just is. It was good either way, and Heart of Tea comes in a bunch of flavors that sound pretty good.






That's not helpful.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

Season 3, Episode 63 "The Empath"


"The Empath"
Production Order: 63
Air Order: 67
Stardate: 5121.5
Original Air Date: December 6, 1968

So my friend Teacup posted a video to my Facebook wall, which consisted of shots of Will Riker doing his weird sit-thing (he swings his leg over the top of low-backed chairs, then straddles them, for those of you who are not well-versed in TNG).
Here's the video if you're curious.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVIGhYMwRgs


I commented that I'd like to see him do that in a scant, TNG's answer to the ass-skimming tunics worn by TOS females. Scants are worn by both genders on the first season of TNG, and were made into dress uniforms worn with leggings by male officers in later seasons.
Teacup obliged by posting this in the comments:



This is what happens when your sarcastic friends also have art degrees.
Also, thank Zod this Riker isn't going commando.


*******


Our adventure this week begins with our intrepid trio beaming to the surface of the same desert planet set that they always use. It's not the end of the world, but it seems like Star Trek seems to favor desert planets because, I dunno, maybe those are cheaper to furnish and film? They also tend to film a lot of actual  outdoor (rather than studio) shots in desert settings as well. Maybe I'm just annoyed because I grew up in a desert area and find it ugly. Maybe I'm irritated because I think there should be more variety in the universe. Whatever. It doesn't really matter.

Kirk's Log 5121.5: "We're on the second planet in the Minarean system. The star is going nova soon, so the Federation set up a research lab here to watch it in the meantime. We're here to pick up those dudes because as crappy as the Federation can be, they don't believe in vaporizing citizens for the sake of science. At least, I don't think they do. Who knows?"

The boys go into the dome to get the scientists, but end up walking into Miss Havisham's house. There are old, gross cobwebs on everything, as well as a quarter-inch of dust. I'm looking for the nasty rat-infested wedding cake. No, seriously: Kirk says that the science station has only been there for six months, and I know they want to get the point across that it's been abandoned, but it would take years to accumulate that kind of neglect. Maybe the set dresser had an enthusiastic intern or something.
Anyway, Scotty calls Kirk to alert him that there's a solar flare coming from the sun, and that, while the trio will be protected by the planet's atmosphere, the E is at risk. Kirk tells him to back the ship up to protect it, and they'll contact the E again when they need a lift out of there. Are we paying attention, friends? We are only a minute and a half in, and they've already Disabled the Ship.


Spock miraculously finds the tape of what happened to the scientists. (That was quick, Spock. Was it labeled "What Happened to Those Two Guys Who Used to Work here"?) He says it's from three months earlier, and again, I have to point out that the timeline here would not have allowed for the accumulation of that much dust and spider activity. Spock puts the tape in and we're treated to a view from across the lab showing the two scientists working at their stations. I have the same complaint here that I had with season one's "Court-Martial": who the hell is filming this? There are two dudes on this station, and it's not a log entry, so is it CCTV? Why was this being filmed? 
Anyway, there's an earthquake, and Orange Coveralls complains about wanting to finish their work and get the hell out of Dodge. Pink Coveralls responds with a Bible verse. There's a high-pitched whine, and Pinky stumbles to the stairs in pain. There's a weird moment when colorful animation showing a dot pattern appears, and there's a funny sound effect, then Pinky vanishes.
"WTF?" yells Orange Coveralls, then the animation comes up with the sound effect, and he's gone too.


Suddenly, the high-pitched whine comes up again, and the animation, and the sound effect, and Spock disappears. Then Bones. Kirk is stumbling up the stairs with his hands over his ears when an earthquake occurs. He falls backward onto the floor and disappears as he is getting up.
And for those of you are thinking that I'm exaggerating about the dust, there is enough of it on the floor that when Kirk fell down, he made a fucking DUST ANGEL:

Looks like he was encased in corbonite ass-first. Heh.


Dramatic music! Credits break!
Alright, Trek fans. We're at four and a half minutes now, and this is where the episode gets weird. Our boys wake up on the floor of what is pretty much the empty studio. You know how when, sometimes you go to see a play or a ballet or something, and the set designer is a minimalist, and instead of actually designing sets, s/he just puts some random background pieces out and chooses to use spotlights and darkness to further the story? That's what happens here. For about forty minutes of this episode, it's really just our boys, a few guests, and an empty stage.
Not gonna lie. This episode is boring. I fell asleep twenty minutes in on the first viewing, and had to work on paying attention when I went back to re-watch it. I suppose the lack of background sets saved them some moola, but I had trouble becoming immersed in the show. The story itself wasn't enough to keep me interested, and I kept wandering over to Facebook in the meantime.
Anyway. Kirk has a gash on his forehead, which is interesting, because while he tumbled over a bunch of times, at no point did he tumble forward. Spock does a scan and says that they were beamed onto the empty stage by some kind of alien technology. He detects a humanoid nearby and they all walk in that direction with their phasers drawn. They come to a dais with a bed, and the spotlight comes up to reveal a girl.
Dramatic music! 
The girl sits up in a way that is so "modern dance" that I have to ask myself if I'm watching Star Trek or some kind of bullshit cultural thing on PBS. (Don't get me wrong: I love cultural shit on PBS. But there are times when you're flipping through the channels looking for something good on, and you happen across modern dance programs and you're like "Oh, heeellllll nnnoooo." This is one of those. Ditto on Sia's "Chandalier": I like the song, but could do without the kid in the leotard.)


Spock thinks this chick didn't evolve on this planet, so she was probably brought here the same as they were. Bones says his scans show no vocal chords: mute. He thinks her species is probably all like that. Kirk wonders how they will communicate with her, and if she might be a telepath, but Spock informs him that if she were, they would be able to hear her thoughts, which they don't.
"I'm gonna call her Gem," Bones announces randomly. Spoilers: she is not truly outrageous.
There's a sound effect and a pair of alien douchebags appear. They have weapons of some kind. Points for this alien make-up, but everything else about them is annoying.


So the aliens are Vians, and they are already familiar who Kirk and his friends are, enough that when Kirk gets out his phaser to explain the Prime Directive, the Vians trap their asses in a forcefield.
"I can't stand up!" complains Kirk, who is already fucking standing.
The Vians tell them that the forcefield draws energy from their systems, so the more they struggle, the stronger it gets.


The Vians scan Gem, then declare things "sufficient" and disappear. The forcefield goes away, and Kirk checks out Gem. She sees that he has a cut on his forehead, then she touches it, and there's an animation star and a ding, and it's gone. It reappears on her forehead, then there's another star and ding, and it's gone. Lots of time-lapse photography in this episode.
"Oh, she's an empath," says Bones.
Hmmmmmm, no. An empath is someone who understands feelings on a deep emotional level. That works for this girl until you add in the fact that she can magically heal people's wounds. That is not empathic. That's more like "magical wound fairy."
They take Gem and walk to another part of... wherever the hell they are, and encounter another place with random computer consoles and stuff. There are glass tubes that are holding the bodies of Orange and Pink Coveralls. They appear to be frozen or something.


The camera switches to our intrepid trio, and when we look back at the Coverall Twins, they are no longer grimacing. Way to stay on top of the continuity, Star Trek. Actually, Ozama appears to be samba'ing and having a good time now.


Dramatic music! Commercial break!
When we return, the boys take two steps to the left and find that their names have been attached to three empty tubes. Gotta give the Vians credit here: they kidnapped three guys and have already labeled their holding tanks. Very efficient.
One of the Vians comes back, and says that they intend to do alien anal probes and crap, and that the samba brothers died because they were weak. Spock pinches him and Kirk takes his weapon. A scan reveals an exit up ahead, so they move off toward it. 
Kirk keeps leading Gem everywhere by the hand. She's mute and comes off as super-vulnerable, so it feels like he's infantilizing her. WTF, Star Trek? You either feature female badasses like Uhura and the Romulan commander, or they're little girls like Miri, or women to be seduced (fucking Shahna).
The group reaches the surface, but the E has moved out of range. They decide to run around outside in the heavy wind.
Look! It's Scotty with two Reds! Hooray, we're saved!



Kirk notices the Vian douchebags and sends Gem ahead with the boys so they can beam to safety. The Vians shoot Kirk with some kind of ray that turns everything into slow motion. Unfortunately, I'm paying enough attention to notice that the wind is still blowing at the same rate in the background. The Shat is running in fake slo-mo. Whoomp-whoomp.
Also, Scotty isn't there. It's a freaking mirage. They run back to Kirk, who is falling in fake slo-mo.
"Hey," says one of the Vians, "we only really need one of you. Your friends can take off, Kirk."
"I volunteer as Tribute," says Spock.
"The hell you do," replies Kirk.
The boys in blue turn to leave with Gem, but there's animation and a boi-oi-oing sound, and they disappear. Kirk rages at the Vians, but then they disappear his ass, too. 

Upstairs, Sulu reports to Scotty that the storm cause by the solar flare will last another 17 hours or so.
"It's cool," says Scotty. "Kirk probably has things under control."
Um, how long have you served with Kirk, Scotty? That guy gets himself into trouble faster than you can say "I cannae do it!"


Just to prove my point, the very next shot we see is of Kirk hanging from the ceiling while the Vians torture him. Spock and Bones are missing, but Gem is kneeling on the floor like the Vians are her lords and masters.



The Vians tell Kirk that they have charted his kindness and compassion, but now they want to run experiments on him to determine his courage. During this conversation, we keep going back to Kirk, who is supposedly swinging from those manacles. But his arms are bent so we can't see his cuffed wrists, and they keep zooming in and out on The Shat so we are made to think that he is probably swinging back and forth in those manacles. It's sort of clever/not clever at the same time. The Shat's nipples are once again getting more screen time than is needed. Also, welcome to the party, pit hair. We really didn't need you to crash, but if you were going to show up rudely, you could have at least brought booze.

That left nipple is super-fuzzy, like it wasn't there, and some
stage-hand drew one on with a magic marker.


The Vians are super-vague about what they intend to do to Kirk, but Gem looks all concerned. She gets some Girl-O-Vision as we zoom in on her. You know, maybe she's not concerned. Maybe she's thinking of buying a boat.


Spock and Bones are wandering in the dark near the dais when Kirk and Gem appear. Spock and Bones are in the forcefield again, and Gem hesitates to help Kirk. Bones yells at her to help him, and she does. I gotta say, that was pretty rude of him to insist like that, knowing that in order to help him, she is taking on all of his pain and physical injuries. She's not just swiping a wet nap over his wounds and applying gauze, she's actually putting herself at risk. Anyway, she does just that, taking on Kirk's manacle injuries before getting rid of them on herself.


When released from the forcefield, Bones at least has the decency to scan Gem and declare her to be okay. They have a brief discussion about how Gem had to be encouraged to help Kirk, at her own expense.
"Beeteedubs, you have the bends," Bones tells Kirk.
"Hey, I think I can figure out how to work their transporter based on that weapon thing we stole off them," remarks Spock.
The Vians blink into existence. "So you're in charge of these other men, yes?" they ask Kirk. "Because we need one. If you pick the doctor, he'll probably die during the experiments. If you pick Spock, he'll probably end up with brain damage."
They disappear again, and Spock goes back to his examination of the weapon-thing. He and Bones get into an argument about who should be picked for the experiments, and Bones asserts that he is neither a coal miner, nor a mechanic.
"Both of you shut up," says Kirk. "I'm picking."
Bones sneaks up and hypos him in the back. Kirk drops like a bag of rocks.
"That was for your health," Bones declares.
"Awesome," says Spock. "With Jim asleep, I'm in charge. And I pick me for the experiments."
"Bullshit," says Bones, and he hypos Spock's ass, too.


The Vians show up and haul Bones away, locking him in the manacles. Kirk and Spock wake up, and Spock resumes his tinkering of the weapon-thing.
"It's mostly a transporter," he tells Kirk, "and it's tuned to the person wearing it. I can adjust it to my own brain patterns, and we can use it that way, transport back to the E."
"How come they let us keep it?" asks Kirk. "They would know that we could alter it to escape, which means that they really only wanted one of us to begin with. And Gem is at the center of this, because she was here before we were."
Spock fixes the weapon-thing to match to his own brain, and they transport over to where Bones has been shackled to the ceiling. His face is bloody and bruised.
Dramatic music! Commercial break!


Spock scans Bones and reports that the Vians have fucked up all of his shit. He's gonna die soon. Gem hangs back.
"Can we ask Gem to help him?" Kirk asks Spock.
"We could," Spock replies, "but he's pretty close to death, and it might kill her. If she has a sense of self-preservation, she might not agree to it."
They go to ask her, but the forcefield comes up, and the Vians appear, telling them that they cannot interfere.
"What the hell is your problem?" demands Kirk.
So the Vians start monologuing: they know the sun is going nova soon, and that it will destroy every planet in the system. They have the power to save the inhabitants of one planet, but they need to find out if those people are worthy of being saved. They're considering Gem's people as the ones to save, but they have to find out more about them by running experiments on her. They insist that, rather than being experimental victims, our intrepid trio has actually been teaching Gem about the good parts of a society, where people are willing to sacrifice themselves to save one another.
Kirk and Spock seem to be satisfied with this answer, but I'm loathe to understand why they would be okay with this kind of sick Nazi psychological bullshit. The Vians have to determine if Gem's people are worth saving? Who gives a shit? You save them because it's the right thing to do, you assholes. Aren't you learning anything from your own experiments? While we're at it, you couldn't accomplish this with willing participants? You had to kidnap people to do this?
Take this katana, and go sit in the corner.

In the meantime, Gem has decided to help Bones.


So she does her empathy thing that's not really empathy but something else entirely, and the Vians rubberneck and talk about her as though she isn't there. I guess she passed the test, and those dicks will save her species after all. More time-lapse photography shows the wounds disappearing from Bones' face, and reappearing on hers. Then they clear up, because she's a magical wound fairy.

Not gonna lie: that special effects make-up was better applied to
De Kelley.

But then she starts to heal herself, which tells the Vians that her instinct for self-preservation is greater than her instinct for self-sacrifice, which is what they want to see. So they might not save her people after all.
"Hey, can't you guys save my friend?" Kirk asks.
"Yeah, but we won't," says Vian #1.
"Because we're dicks," adds the other.
Gem tries to heal Bones completely, but he pushes her away, not wanting her to sacrifice herself for him. Unfortunately, the asshole Vians declare that it's not enough for her to offer, that she actually has to die.
"Are you shitting me?" demands Kirk. "You guys are so high and mighty intellectual that you've lost all notion of the the things that you're studying, like kindness and compassion." He and Spock free themselves from the forcefield, and Spock returns the now-altered weapon-thingy.
The Vians pause, then heal up Bones, and scoop up an unconscious Gem. "Okay, I guess we'll save her people. Laters." And they just kind of float backward and up, receding back into blackness.


Upstairs, the trio discusses how, in the end, what the Vians were interested in was human emotion. Scotty suggests that Spock carry the idea back to Vulcan that human qualities were of great importance to mostly intellectual beings.
Spock gives them the finger. "Fuck you guys. Does every episode have to end with you making racist remarks against Vulcans?"
And of course everybody laughs.




Blech. This episode was okay, but not great. I'm generally turned off by that minimalist approach to set design, so that worked against it for me. I also wasn't down with the idea that intellect should be "trumped" by emotion. How about we not trump anything of that sort? I'm also irked that they referred to Gem as an empath, when her powers and communication comprised more than that. Come up with a new word for your aliens, Star Trek. You're allowed.
So costumes: the Vian silver robes were alright, if a bit cliche, especially with those huge bulbous "intellectual" heads. The whole look seems to have been copied from the Talosians in "The Menagerie". I'm giving them a five for being simple and uncomplicated.


Gem's costume gets a four. I'm really over Star Trek's use of bodysuit-under-Bedazzled -floaty-thing. It only scored as high as a four because I like the pattern on the sheer overlay part. Unfortunately, her blue-grey eyeshadow-up-to-eyebrows thing reminds me a bit too much of Mimi from The Drew Carey Show.






Death Toll:
Red deaths this episode: 0
Red deaths this season: 3
Gold deaths this episode: 0
Gold deaths this season: 0
Blue deaths this episode: 0
Blue deaths this season: 0
Total crew deaths this season: 3
Total crew deaths thus far: 45

*******

My friend and I strolled into a Teavana the other day while window shopping. The nice thing about that place is that they always have samples at the ready. This time, one of the samples featured was Gingerbread. No doubt they brewed a pot of this hoping to get rid of some seasonal stock before putting out new stuff. I grabbed a tiny sample cup and drank it down. It's nice, with a spice palette that a bit heavy on the cinnamon, but not so much as to be obnoxious. The leaf based was black, but it wasn't overly bitter, and it tasted just enough like a cookie to be satisfying.









Reader PD's cat, Mingo, in one of the cooler cat photos I've ever seen.
Chiaroscuro is the best, you guys.