Star Trek

Star Trek

Monday, December 2, 2013

Season 1, Episode 19 "Arena"

"Arena"
Production Number: 19
Air Order: 18
Stardate: 3045.6
Original Air Date: January 19, 1967


Oh, man. While pet-sitting for my friend's cat rescue (just me and 17 cats), I happened to catch several episodes of Next Gen on cable. Picard made a captain's log, and I instinctively reached for the remote, to pause live tv, so that I could write down the stardate.
Roomie laughed when I told her. "Occupational hazard."
Blargh, I guess so. I will never be able to watch an episode of Star Trek in peace again.

*******

This week's episode starts with the Enterprise orbiting an orange planet - Cestus III - and an away team is being beamed down to meet with Commodore Travers, who is apparently very hospitable. The commodore calls to make sure they're bringing tactical officers, as he is hoping they can solve a problem for him. Scotty beams them down, but in the two seconds since they talked to the commodore, the outpost has been destroyed.


Kirk's Log 3045.6: The outpost was destroyed days earlier, the messages from the commodore faked. The away team finds a survivor who is badly hurt but conscious. Spock scans the area and detects other non-human life. Red Shirt O'Hurlihy is sent to investigate, but a few feet away, he glows red, disappears, and an air raid starts.

Effective as it is, this weapon is not used again.

Kirk radios for a beam-up, but Sulu replies, "Wow, sucks to be you. We're under fire, too." He can't drop the shields to beam them up, or the ship will be vulnerable. The away team moves to a spot with better cover, and Kirk sends Lang and Kelowitz out. Bye, guys.
Kirk decides to make for the armory. He runs serpentine for 10 feet, then, in a Squirrel Moment, he ducks behind a rock to check in with the Enterprise. He is totally an Overly-Attached Boyfriend. Sulu reports that they're being attacked by a ship whose configurations don't fit anything he's familiar with, but that the ship is too far out to be in visual range. You know, I know that's probably a budget decision, that it's cheaper not to build a model of an alien ship (especially if they never use this alien again), but it's kind of an un-clever excuse.

Damn, Georgie. Lookin' good! Even that Red Shirt thinks so.

Kirk tells Sulu to use photon torpedoes, and when it doesn't work, to warp the hell out of there. Kirk finally makes it to the armory, and Spock and Kelowitz catch up to him. Kelowitz reports that Lang is dead. Two down in the first ten minutes. Spock realizes that this unknown enemy has locked onto his tricorder, fed back the impulses, and overloaded it. Spock chucks it away, and it explodes.. Kirk loads what appears to be a giant paint ball into a short potato launcher, and fires it. A big explosion occurs, then nothing. Sulu reports that the enemy activated their transporters, then left. "Beam us up, then transport 30 medical officers down here," says Kirk. Damn, the enemy gave up easily.
Kirk's Log, supplemental: They're following the aliens into a mostly-unexplored section of space.
The OT3 interviews the survivor in sick bay, who says the outpost welcomed any ship that approached them, but they were fired upon immediately. The actor playing the survivor is pretty much the most fidgety guy ever. We don't see anything but his head in this scene, and I guess he figures he has to make the most of the small-ish acting part by moving around as much as humanly possible. He has a lot of energy for being mostly dead.

Fun with Silly Putty!

In his quarters, Kirk and Spock debate the likelihood that the Enterprise was lured to Cestus III.
"We're the only protection in this sector," says Kirk.
Um, I thought you were a science vessel, and not the space police? Also, the outpost had an armory to protect themselves. Would their weapons be less effective than those on the Enterprise?
"If they take us out, then the whole area is left wide open. INVASION!" Dramatic music!
Spock reasons that if this is the case, they need to destroy the other ship before it reaches home.
"Yep," says Kirk. he puts the ship on red alert, and orders Sulu to overtake the other ship and arm torpedoes, becuz Murica! Ennerprise!


Kirk's Log 3046.2: They're following the aliens, which have sped up. 
Spock reports that there's no good info on this sector, only "space legends". Still supposedly a science/exploration vessel, Kirk orders the scanners to record everything, which is probably the least-rash thing he's done to date. Spock points out that it may not be necessary to destroy the aliens - only scare them. Kirk says "they can't go unpunished" for destroying the outpost. Spock then brings up the idea of wanton destruction of sentient life.
"Damn it, Spock! Stop trying to be respectful of other life-forms when I'm trying to war-monger!"
This time, he actually refers to himself and the crew as space police, and says the aliens have committed a crime against the Federation.
Wait, have we finally made our way to the Federation? Hooray, a governing body in place to keep Kirk in check! ...awww, who the fuck am I kidding? Starfleet won't control his ass, who says the United Federation of Planets will?


So they're cruising along at the dangerous clip of warp 8, when the navigator reports that they're passing an unexplored solar system.
"It's scanning us," says Uhura.
"Hey, the alien ship slowed down and stopped," says Sulu.
"Hell yeah!" yells Kirk. "Let's blow them to smithereens!"
Yeah, no. Because now your ship is slowing to a dead stop as well. Everything else is fine, but propulsion and weapons have no power.
So everyone is stopped, and a voice booms through the ship. Is it God? No, it's the Metrons, who populate the aforementioned unexplored solar system. Kirk's little chase game means that the Enterprise and the alien ship ended up in someone else's space... a someone who is not happy. The Metrons appear on the viewscreen as the world's most seizure-inducing screen-saver. The flashy plaid light declares that it is not okay for the E and the Gorn ship (the Alien of the Week is Gorns, apparently) to be in that space, and it has been determined that both species are inherently violent.


Therefore, the only sensible course of action is to put both captains in an area where they will kill one another to settle their dispute. It's a little like saying, "Hey you kids. You didn't keep off my lawn, so I'm hosting the Hunger Games in my backyard with you two as Tributes. And I don't really give a shit who the odds favor."
Here are the rules:
- The Metrons will provide the "arena", which includes things they can use to kill each other;
- They'll each get recording devices so their experiences will warn others away from Metron space;
- No contact with their respective ships is allowed;
- The winner is allowed to leave Metron space, but the loser's crew, captain, and ship will be destroyed.

Kirk abruptly disappears from the bridge and Uhura lets out the sort of shriek usually heard in Hitchcock films. She certainly didn't scream like that when both Kirk and Sulu disappeared one week earlier.
The captain reappears on a desert asteroid with a reptilian humanoid. Not gonna lie - I'm totally singing the songs from Reptar on Ice in my head right now. This is our first look at a Gorn, and on this occasion, he has chosen to wear a belted cocktail dress and leather arm-warmers. Lovely!


We get an unofficial log from Kirk, but as he's not using the recording device, I'm not sure who he's talking to. Maybe he's narrating in his own head? Apparently, reptiles squick him out, and he has to remind himself that the Gorn is an intelligent creature. What a magnanimous guy! Personally, I'm hoping the Gorn is squicked out by little pink dudes.
They each grab a stick, but the Gorn's stick is bigger, and Kirk feels inadequate. They wrestle a bit, but either the Gorn has the strength of Fezzik from Princess Bride, or Bill was told not to harm the undoubtedly pricey Gorn costume, because his moves seem extra-wussy here.
We take a quick break to find that Scotty, Spock and Uhura can't get the ship started again, and can't fire on the Gorn ship... just like the Metrons said they wouldn't.


When dropped back on the asteroid, we find Kirk entering his first log on the recording device. He explains the situation, and talks a little shit about his opponent, who is listening in because apparently the recording devices are walkie-talkies as well. Then Kirk expresses some disappointment in saying that the Metrons said that they would provide raw materials for weapons, but all he sees is scrub brush, rocks, and minerals.
You know, when Kitten Kirk would do something dumb, it was known in our house as a Kirk-a-derp moment. Right now, the captain has gone Kirk-a-derp.


Kirk, you moron. Did you think the Metrons would set you down in the Phaser Assembly area of IKEA? Rocks, you dumbshit. Throw them at him. Bluffs: push him off of one. The Metrons know you well enough to know that you constantly engage in hand-to-hand combat on this show.
Up top, Bones gives Spock some shit for not knowing where Kirk is, and not being able to help him. WTF, Bones? I know you're worried about your bf, but there's exactly nothing you guys can do but wait. Untangle your manties and chill.


The Gorn laughs to himself as he constructs weapons while Kirk logs that the asteroid boasts some nice gems, then he whines about not having a phaser.


Kirk rolls a huge rock over the bluff onto the Gorn and thinks he's killed it, but that isn't the case. Instead, Kirk runs into a trap set by the Gorn using vines and rocks. Trapped, he waits for the other captain to come stab him with a clovis point that was made while Kirk was lamenting that phaser. He manages to roll out of range and hobbles away on what is probably a broken leg. He stumbles to a natural sulfur deposit, and again leaves a log entry about not being able to find "the weapon", which of course the Gorn can hear.


Hey, look! It's that gold powder that effed up the transporter in "The
Enemy Within". This week, it's guest-starring as "Potassium Nitrate".

Upstairs, Spock finally gets to talk to the Metrons, who tell the E crew that Kirk is losing, and because they are a compassionate race, they will allow the crew to watch Kirk die. How nice of them. The crew watches on the viewscreen as Kirk stumbles onto some potassium nitrate, and gets this dawning smile on his face because he's finally gotten his shit together.


The Gorn addresses Kirk over the walkie-talkie and tells him that he's done running, and would like to kill Kirk quickly. It comes out that Cestus III was in Gorn space, and that they were protecting their territory.
"Shit," says Bones. "We invaded them."


The bridge crew watches Kirk gather potassium nitrate, sulfur, coal, and diamonds, and pack them into a short, wide length of bamboo. He manages to light it, and the explosion shoots diamond shards into the Gorn, who was conveniently hunting Kirk in the right spot. Kirk grabs the clovis point, but at the last second, decides not to kill the Gorn.


The Gorn disappears, but a Metron appears on a rock above him. The Metron looks to be about 14, but says he is 1,500 years old.
"You showed mercy. We're kind of shocked. You may not suck as much as we thought," he tells Kirk. Then: "We sent the Gorn back to his ship. You want we should destroy it?"
Sorry, what? You commend Kirk for not killing an enemy, then offer to do it yourselves? And if you're so fucking enlightened, why are you even suggesting such a thing?
"Naw," says Kirk. "We FUBAR'd this. We invaded them. We'll chat and see if we can work it out."
"Good job!" says the Metron in the same tone that adults use when praising potty-training toddlers.


Kirk reappears on the bridge. Sulu reports that they've suddenly ended up on the other side of the galaxy.
"It's cool," says Kirk. "Just take us back to Cestus III so we can settle up." Um, also, you wanna pick up those 30 med officers you left behind, right?
Spock tells Kirk that they lost the signal after Kirk set off the cannon, and wants to know what happened.
Kirk waxes philosophical by answering, "We show some promise, as primitive species go."
"Yeah... disagree," replies Spock.
Kirk laughs. "Gives us another thousand years to get our shit together."


***

RIP Roll-Call

Red Shirt O'Hurlihy

Gold Shirt Lang

We hardly knew ye. No, really. You guys only existed for like, 10 minutes.

*******

I hated this episode the first time I watched it. It was like a repeat of Shore Leave, but the obnoxious Irish guy was replaced by a walking lizard. In other words, too much Ripped-Shirt Kirk. (Shockingly, RSK does not show up in "Arena", though it seems like the perfect time for him to make an appearance.) But when I viewed it again to pick it apart, I actually discovered that it was more than just Kirk wrestling in the dirt again.
So I stumbled upon a new blog, which reviews many things, including the tv series ALF. (http://noiselesschatter.com/alf/). The reviewer proposes an interesting idea, that of the One Good Writer. The writing for the show ALF was terrible, but every so often, a good joke will make it in, or some backstory will be dropped that actually makes sense, or something along those lines, and the addition will be so good as to be shocking. It's almost a non-sequitir. I have decided that I believe in this theory for TOS. But in the case of this show, the Good Writer is the one who actually closes plot holes and does his research. He is the guy who used "azimuth" in this episode, which it turns out is a complicated unit of measurement used in artillery, among other things. The term was used when Kirk was in the hole next to the armory on Cestus III, and the team was determining about how far away they thought the Gorns might be. I damn near fell out of my chair. My God, was that science?
Later, the Good Writer made use of my favorite thing: the classical allusion. There was something telling about calling those seemingly omnipotent aliens the Metrons. It sounds very much like Metatron to me. In Judaism, the Metatron is an archangel, the guardian of the Tree of Life, and the Scribe of God. Basically, he records the good deeds done by man. He's also sometimes known as the voice of God. In "Arena", the Metron's voice booms through the Enterprise, informing Kirk that he will now be playing by their rules. Kirk is then magically whisked away by an alien race that is older and wiser than humans. When we get to see a Metron, he is seen as a young man, dressed in a silver tunic and sandals, with golden hair adorned with a laurel wreath. Dude looks like an angel.
We're presented with another episode wherein humans are proved to be inferior to another species. (We actually get two Aliens of the Week this time: the Gorns, who appear to be on the same level as humans; and the Metron, who are supposedly vastly superior.) For added oomph, take another look at that Metron.


He's very literally higher than Kirk, looking down on him and the human race, secure in his superiority complex. (Is he, perhaps, on the mount?)
 Surprisingly, these outcomes never seem to phase the captain, who appears to be aware of the fact that his race is unenlightened. He actually seems to find it funny. I blame Spock for being such a douchebag about it so often.

At any rate, cheers to you for doing your research, Good Writer. I hope to see more of your work again.

*******
Making my way through the Juicy Slices sampler again. The retail gods have declared that, as of last Thursday, it is now Christmas, and I must partake of traditional holiday drinks. So I selected the peppermint tea. I was a little hesitant, as I'm picky about peppermint, but it was actually really good. The mint wasn't overpowering, and it was effervescent without tasting like a cough drop. It was a very nice palette-cleanser and serves to aid in digestion, so it might make a good after-dinner tea.
(Also, the cat-sitting gig did not have any regular sugar, so I substituted brown sugar instead, finding that it did not alter the taste. Nice to know that I have that option if I need it.)


And the Juicy Slices Sampler link again:









Hope everybody had a happy Thursday!

1 comment:

  1. Filmed at Vasquez Rocks near Agua Dulce, CA. on the Pacific Crest Trail.

    ReplyDelete