Archive for the ‘Star Trek’ Category

Star Trek 3.19: Requiem for Methuselah

Monday, 7 November, 2011

Requiem for Methuselah“Requiem for Methuselah” is something of a take on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and so shares some similarities with that other classic of science fiction, Forbidden Planet. It begins with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beaming down to a supposedly uninhabited planet to find a source of ryetalyn, which they need to cure a lethal outbreak of Rigellian fever on board the Enterprise. (At first I thought the drug they were talking about was Ritalin!)

On the planet they are attacked by a robot (shades of Robby, or Ariel/Caliban), and saved by an old man calling himself Flint (shades of Morbius, or Prospero). He first angrily orders them to leave, but changes his tone when Kirk insists at phaser-point on finding a cure for the fever. Flint invites them to his home while the robot, M-4, gathers and processes the ryetalyn in a technicolour science lab. Is his amazingly well-appointed home (he even has a flat-screen TV!), Spock is amazed to see what are apparently original works by Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare, and other famous historical artists. In a turnabout, Kirk is concerned with science (the ryetalyn), while Spock is preoccupied with art. Kirk is equally amazed to see the beautiful Rayna (shades of Altaira, or Miranda), Flint’s young ward, who he immediately begins seducing. He dances with her as Spock plays an original piano composition written in the unmistakeable hand of Brahms. Although beautiful, Rayna is probably the most clothing-covered girl of the week yet seen in the series.

Things are looking good until McCoy reports that M-4 has botched the ryetalyn and M-4 decides to try killing Kirk. He phasers it, and Flint appears to apologise. Suspicious now, they search behind a forbidden door that Rayna had indicated earlier, finding primitive versions of Rayna, now revealed to be an android! Not only The Tempest, but also Pygmalion! And Flint is revealed to actually be Leonardo, and Shakespeare, and Brahms, and thousands of years old!

It turns out Flint has created Rayna to be his companion and assuage his immortal loneliness, but needed Kirk to stir her emotions so that she would be a real woman. Rayna enters the forbidden room and discovers the secret about her own creation, turning her against Flint as he talks to Kirk about her in the third person while she is present. Kirk and Flint fight and Rayna is so torn between her loyalties that her circuits overload and she dies. Kirk and Flint are both shocked. Flint, now distraught and alone, lets them leave with the ryetalyn. Kirk is depressed too, having fallen in love with Rayna. In the closing scene, Spock uses a mind meld on Kirk as he sleeps, and says the word, “Forget…” – a touching variant on the famous “Remember” line he would utter at the end of The Wrath of Khan.

I really enjoyed this episode. The story is decent, the mystery is intriguing, the revelation is clever, and the execution is pretty well done. This is definitely one of the best episodes of season 3, IMO.

Tropes: The Plague, Technicolour Science, Girl Of The Week, Forbidden Fruit, Robotic Reveal, Robot Girl, Pygmalion Plot, Julius Beethoven Da Vinci, Beethoven Was An Alien Spy, Really 700 Years Old, Who Wants To Live Forever?, Disney Dog Fight, Logic Bomb, The Dulcinea Effect, Laser Guided Amnesia.
Body count: 3 Enterprise crew form Rigellian fever pre-credits, Rayna.

Star Trek 3.18: The Lights of Zetar

Sunday, 16 October, 2011

The Lights of ZetarThe Lights of Zetar” is an episode I remember primarily from the Star Trek bubble gum collector cards I had when I was a kid (card #82 in the linked set). I remember it has a bunch of flashing coloured lights, and not much else.

The story revolves around Scotty’s girl of the week, Lieutenant Mira Romaine, who is being taken to the library planetoid of Memory Alpha. On the way they experience a space storm (the aforesaid flashing coloured lights) which affects the nervous systems of many of the crew with minor symptoms. Romaine suffers the worst, fainting. The storm moves on to Memory Alpha, and when the Enterprise arrives they discover everyone on the planetoid dead.

They return to the ship, but a transporter glitch suspends Romaine in transit for a few seconds. She reappears, with the lights flashing in her eyes. The storm chases the Enterprise around a bit, and it becomes clear the lights have possessed Mira, giving her precognitive abilities to predict how it will move. Scotty plays it down, claiming it to be some sort of space sickness. The storm enters the ship and the lights swarm Romaine, entering her body. McCoy says he has no idea how to remove them. Spock merely says that Romaine has a high level of empathy, which is probably why the lights picked her. They speak with her voice and explain they are the last survivors of the planet Zetar,and want Romaine’s body so they can continue to live.

Scotty objects and Kirk decides to drive the Zetarians from Romaine. Since none of his scientific officers have any idea how to do this, Kirk unilaterally decides to stick Romaine in a pressure chamber and jack up the air pressure. Oddly enough, this works, apparently killing the Zetarians without anyone showing a shred of regret at having wiped out the last of a sentient species. The ending is happy, except Romaine needs to leave the Enterprise to rebuild Memory Alpha, so poor Scotty will probably never see her again.

A rather blah episode. The story seems like trotting out the same old recycled plot elements again, solved by Kirk pulling a completely unheralded miracle solution out of a hat. Except for that gaping plot problem, it’s all fairly predictable and uninspiring. Poor Scotty.

Tropes: Girl Of The Week, Fainting, Spooky Silent Library, Teleporter Accident, Powers Via Possession, Space Madness, Puppeteer Parasite, Dying Race, Only You Can Repopulate My Race (kind of), Guilt-Free Extermination War, Final Solution, Ass Pull.
Body count: Everyone on Memory Alpha (killed by Zetarians), 10 Zetarians (killed by pressure).

Star Trek 3.17: That Which Survives

Sunday, 9 October, 2011

That Which SurvivesThat Which Survives” opens with Kirk organising a landing party to investigate a strange planet that is too small, dense, and atmospherically endowed to conform to normal planetary geology. The party consists of Kirk, geologist D’Amato (fair enough), and for some inexplicable reason McCoy and Sulu. Perhaps Sulu’s earlier demonstrated fleeting passionate hobbies also includes a spot of geology. As they beam down, a mysterious woman mysteriously appears in the transporter room and kills the transporter operator, while Kirk and company can only look on as they dematerialise. They appear on the planet and immediately try to contact the Enterprise, but it’s no there! On board, the bridge crew are stunned to see the planet vanish!

It looks like some sort of Brigadoon world setup, but the Enterprise‘s replacement helm officer soon determines that the ship has actually been thrown across space almost 1000 light years. “990.7 light years” intones Spock, after no more analysis than looking at the starfield on the viewscreen. Back on the planet, Sulu attempts to explain the planet’s state by comparing it to the Tunguska event, prompting Kirk to exclaim, “If I’d wanted a Russian history lesson, I’d have brought along Mister Chekov.” The mystery woman appears on the planet and kills D’Amato, prompting Kirk to assign geology duties to Sulu. Through a futile attempt to dig a grave for D’Amato with a phaser, they discover the planet isn’t made of normal rock, but has been artificially constructed.

Replacement helm officer Rahda sets course back to the planet, saying it will take 11 hours to get there. Spock corrects her, “11.337 hours. I do wish you would be more precise, Lieutenant.” Back on the planet, the party’s concern for food and water is trumped by defending themselves against the mystery woman. Kirk and McCoy try to get some sleep while Sulu volunteers for the first watch. He immediately walks to the far side of a rock outcrop, to a location where he can’t see Kirk and McCoy – standard Starfleet watch procedure, I assume. The woman appears and attacks Sulu, but Kirk and McCoy are awakened by his screams and interfere in time to save him. Her touch disrupts Sulu’s tissues, but Kirk intervenes without being affected. They speculate she can only harm one person at a time. She later appears, saying she has come for Kirk, and McCoy and Sulu stand interposed, preventing her from reaching Kirk. This strategy seems to work fine until they stumble into a cave and find a computer controlling the planet, and it produces three copies of the woman, one to kill each of them!

On the Enterprise, meanwhile, the woman has appeared again and killed engineering crewman Watkins, and sabotaged the engines. Spock states that they have 14.87 minutes until the ship blows up – his penchant for excessive numbers of decimal places has now been fully Flanderised. Scotty needs to fix them by crawling into a duct and poking a spanner into a hatch. But wait… the ship has been subtly altered by the instant 990.7 light year flinging process, so Spock advises Scotty to reverse the polarity on the spanner! Scotty saves the day just in time and a party beam down to save Kirk and co. by destroying the computer security system on the planet. A recording of the woman (named Losira) appears and explains that her race died out ages ago, and as the last survivor she has programmed the computer to defend the station against anyone not of their species.

A moderately interesting episode, with some good moments of suspense and drama. Spoiled by the playing up of Spock’s personality quirks and the fact that they are dealing with yet another semi-omnipotent alien force.

Tropes: Vanishing Village (averted), Ludicrous Precision (3 times!), The Tunguska Event, That’s No Moon, Rock Paper Switch, Flanderisation, Reverse Polarity, Sole Survivor.
Body count: Nameless transporter officer, geologist D’Amato, crewman Watkins (all zorched by projection of Losira).

Star Trek 3.16: The Mark of Gideon

Monday, 3 October, 2011

The Mark of Gideon“The Mark of Gideon” is the episode I was least looking forward to rewatching. Not because it’s bad, but because this was one of the most horrifying, nightmare-inducing things I ever witnessed on TV as a child. I still get creeped out thinking about it.

It’s a story about Kirk beaming down as the first ever diplomatic envoy to be allowed on to the surface of the planet Gideon. The planet is known as a paradise with no disease and long-lived natives. Kirk beams down to the coordinates given by the Gideon High Council, and finds himself apparently back on the Enterprise, only everybody else is gone. (This is not the scary part.) Mysteriously, Kirk finds a bruise on his arm, that he has no memory of receiving. (This is not the scary part.) We cut to … the Enterprise, where Spock and Scotty are upset that Kirk seems to have vanished – never arriving on Gideon according to the Council. (This is not the scary part.) Spock requests permission to beam down and search for Kirk, but the Council refuses.

Kirk, on the empty Enterprise, comes across the lovely Odona. She has no memory of where she came from or how she got there. (This is not the scary part.) Kirk notices the ship is flying away from Gideon at warp speed, so uses the controls to drop out of warp. Odona comments that she didn’t feel any change; Kirk agrees and says that’s weird. (This is not the scary part.) Odona starts remembering bits of where she came from, saying how horrible it was, always being surrounded by people, and how nice it is being on the ship alone with Kirk. (This is not the scary part.)

They notice a rhythmic thumping sound, which Kirk doesn’t recognise as normal ship operation. He says it seems to be coming from outside, but… that’s impossible… (This is not the scary part.)

Kirk opens a viewport, and they see THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE OUTSIDE THE SHIP STARING IN AT THEM! (This is the scary bit!!!)

Arrrrrgh!!!! Arrrrrgh!!!! Arrrrrgh!!!! Arrrrrgh!!!! Even writing about it freaks me out.

We learn that the Gideon Council had Kirk beamed into an exact replica of the Enterprise on the planet, and that they are deliberately exposing Odona to some disease that Kirk was carrying, to reintroduce disease and death to Gideon. She falls ill and her father Hodin of the High Council enters the fake Enterprise to thank Kirk for helping them. He is dumbstruck as to why they would want this, surely Gideon is a paradise? Alas no, they explain, with no disease or death, their population has grown so much that the entire planet is shoulder-to-shoulder with people, and nobody ever gets any privacy. (This is not the scary part.) Kirk is aghast, wondering why they don’t use modern contraception, at which Hodin explains that they love life so much that it would be against their nature.

The questions that arise from this are numerous. If the planet is that full of people, what do they eat? Where do they grow food? How do they deal with waste? Basic hygiene? It’s obvious they’re still breeding… (This is not the scary part.)

Spock meanwhile beams down to the coordinates they sent Kirk to, and finds the fake Enterprise. He deduces its nature immediately, finds Kirk, initiates some fist-fighting with native guards, and beams up with Kirk and Odona. McCoy cures her so she won’t die, but her blood now contains the virus necessary to reduce the population on Gideon, so she returns there (this is not the scary part), parting wistfully from Kirk as the Enterprise flies away.

Actually, you know what, everything else about this story is freaky and horrible too, yet I still can’t get over that image burnt into the primal fear centres of my developing brain when I was a kid. Objectively, I’d say this isn’t a bad episode. It has plot holes and problems, but the suspense and mystery are well done. Just don’t make me watch it again.

Tropes: Accidental Nightmare Fuel, Ontological Mystery, Amnesiac Hero, Ass In Ambassador, Gaussian Girl, Jungle Drums, Population Control, Empire With A Dark Secret, Who Wants To Live Forever?, Nobody Poops, Depopulation Bomb.
Body count: None!

Star Trek 3.15: Let That Be Your Last Battlefield

Tuesday, 27 September, 2011

Let That Be Your Last BattlefieldLet That Be Your Last Battlefield” is famously one of the most anvilicious episodes of Star Trek ever made. It starts with the Enterprise en route to decontaminate a plague planet, when they intercept a shuttlecraft stolen from Starbase 4, just before its life support fails. The occupant is a strikingly pigmented alien, white down one side of his body and black on the other side, split right down the middle of his face. Spock declares it a “one of a kind” anomaly.

The alien, Lokai, mends in sickbay when a mysterious ship approaches. Sulu helpfully announces there’s “a space vehicle ahead”, just so there’s no confusion that it might be a Spanish galleon or something. The vehicle mysteriously doesn’t appear on the viewscreen, despite sensor readings showing it there, then it suddenly vanishes amidst intercut shots of red alert lights dramatically zooming in and out, depositing on the bridge the alien Bele, who is pigmented asymmetrically like Lokai. Bele says he is a justice officer pursuing the criminal Lokai for the past 50,000 years across the Galaxy from their homeworld of Cheron. Bele and Lokai engage in a war of words. Lokai says he was persecuted and claims political asylum with the Federation, while Bele demands custody of him. Kirk keeps them apart and declares Lokai must first face trial for the theft of the shuttlecraft, but neglects to place any guards on the two aliens obviously bent on killing one another.

Bele uses his psychic powers to take control of the Enterprise and head for Cheron. Kirk foils it with a threat to self-destruct the ship, forcing Bele to allow him to save the plague planet first. Bele then regains control, having deactivated the self-destruct mechanism first, and the ship flies to Cheron. Bele and Lokai fight, and Bele calls Lokai and “his people” all sorts of thinly veiled racist epithets, and Kirk expresses his amazement that they could be so at odds, when clearly they are alike. Bele drops the hammer that no, he is black on the right side, while Lokai and “his kind” are black on the left side. Kirk sees the racial hatred for what it is now. They arrive at Cheron and discover the entire population annihilated by war and hatred. Kirk calls on Lokai and Bele to forget their enmity and live in the Federation in peace, but they escape and beam down separately, to continue their fight alone. Kirk delivers the obvious moral.

It’s actually not a bad story, once you get over the sheer heavy-handedness of the anti-racist moralising. And the improbability of the colour scheme. And the unimportant padding provided by the plague world. Hmm. Well it is still interesting and engaging to watch, unlike some episodes. And although the moral couldn’t be more heavy-handed, the ending does leave the right sense of “what a terrible waste“. (The population of Cheron, that is, not the episode.) So yeah, actually not as bad as it could have been.

Tropes: Anvilicious, The Plague, Amazing Technicolour Population, Red Alert, Really 700 Years Old, Self Destruct Mechanism, Two Keyed Lock, Cardboard Prison, Wham Line, Fantastic Racism, Hell Is War, An Aesop, Padding, Values Resonance, Silly Reason For War.
Body Count: Entire population of Cheron (off-screen, before episode).

Star Trek 3.14: Whom Gods Destroy

Wednesday, 21 September, 2011

Whom Gods Destroy“Whom Gods Destroy” begins with Kirk and Spock beaming down to the penal asylum colony of the coincidentally named planet Elba II. We learn that this is the last asylum in the Federation, since mental illness is apparently almost completely eradicated, with just a handful of difficult cases remaining. One of those cases is the former Starfleet combat veteran and hero Garth of Izar. Kirk and Spock meet Dr Cory, only to discover that it’s really Garth using a shapeshifting disguise, and the real Dr Cory is imprisoned in a cell! Garth captures Kirk and Spock and releases the other inmates, setting up his own personal empire within the colony.

Garth’s insanity is underlined by his choice of clothing, with one blue shoe and one yellow shoe, and his unbelievably hammy acting. Another inmate is the green-skinned space babe Marta, whom Garth declares to be consort to him as emperor. Cory explains that Garth has somehow (inexplicably) learned to change his shape, and also that he claims to have developed an incredibly powerful explosive. If he escapes the colony, he will wreak havoc in the Galaxy. Garth’s attempt to get on to the Enterprise by posing as Kirk is foiled however when Scotty insists on the correct countersign to a chess problem password. This makes Garth angry and he goes on a hammy rampage of torturing Dr Cory and then Kirk in some sort of mental treatment chair, and showing off his madness more by donning a fur coat.

Garth then goes into a decadent phase and has Marta dance for him and everyone else. Music appears from nowhere to accompany her dancing. Garth apparently isn’t pleased, because after another failed attempt to get on board the Enterprise he resorts to intimidating Kirk by pushing Marta out of the airlock on to the deadly planet surface. Then while she’s choking, he detonates an explosive in her necklace!

Inevitably, things end up with Garth changing shape into a copy of Kirk, and then fighting the real Kirk in a fist fight. Spock appears and has to figure out which is the real Kirk. After some inconclusive dead ends, one Kirk tells Spock to shoot the other one, while the second Kirk tells Spock to shoot them both. Spock concludes the real Kirk would sacrifice himself to ensure Garth never escapes, so makes the right choice. Garth is finally subdued and begins his mental treatment again, showing now memory of earlier events.

Not a bad episode. There’s suspense, drama, intrigue, and you’re genuinely left wondering how Kirk and Spock can get out of this mess. Garth is a truly over-the-top villain, but then he’s supposed to be insane, so it kind of fits. And just when you think Kirk will manage to save Marta, she meets a truly shocking end, underlining just how dangerous Garth is. Put it all together and it works pretty well.

Tropes: Insane Admiral, Shape Shifting, Great Escape, Large Ham, Green-Skinned Space Babe, Newton, Einstein, Surak, Trust Password, Chess Motifs, Evil Is Hammy, Agony Beam, Invisible Backup Band, Thrown Out The Airlock, There Is No Kill Like Overkill, Ham To Ham Combat, Good Old Fisticuffs, Spot The Imposter, Kill Us Both.
Body count: Marta (blown up while choking to death!).

Star Trek 3.13: Elaan of Troyius

Wednesday, 7 September, 2011

Elaan of TroyiusI watched “Elaan of Troyius” several weeks ago, but haven’t had time to write this up until now. It’s a very awkward episode to watch, both for the cringe-worthy 1960s gender relations and the psychedelic orange plastic space clothes.

The Enterprise has been ordered to carry out a diplomatic taxi mission, taking the feisty Elaan, Dohlmen (i.e. Queen) of the planet Elas, to the planet Troyius in the same system, where she is to marry the ruler in an arranged marriage. Elaan is not happy about any of this, is arrogant and bossy, and followed by absolutely loyal guards who boss around the Enterprise crew on her every whim. What’s more, they are armed with what Kirk describes as “armour and nuclear weapons” (while Elaan is clad in a stripperific royal outfit). Kirk bristles at Elaan’s arrogance, but holds his tongue. The Troyian ambassador Petri is also restrained, but cannot hide his inner dislike of Elaan and her barbaric ways. This ends with Elaan’s dagger in Petri’s back. Despite this, Kirk doesn’t call off the mission or arrest Elaan.

Petri recovers in sickbay. Nurse Chapel wonders why Elasian men put up with Elasian women, and Petri reveals in a blatant piece of foreshadowing that the women secrete a substance in their tears that acts like a love potion. Meanwhile, the bridge notices a weird “sensor ghost” that turns out to be a cloaked Klingon vessel trailing the ship. Elasian guard Kryton sneaks into engineering and tries to destroy the warp drive. Redshirt engineer Watson finds him and suffers a broken neck for his trouble. It turns out Kryton is conspiring with the Klingons somehow, but he kills himself when captured rather than reveal what he’s up to. Kirk orders Scotty to “check every relay” in the engine room for sabotage. I guess warp engine circuits don’t use transistors or integrated circuit chips. Relays are probably safer with all those weird particle fluxes around.

Kirk confronts Elaan with the aim of forcing her to behave herself. She confesses that she thinks other people don’t like her and starts crying… yes, you’ve spotted it already. Kirk gets affected by the love potion tears. Elaan decides she likes Kirk and would rather marry him than the ruler of Troyius. She changes from hard-edged savage queen clothes to much softer damsel-in-distress clothes – symbolic, saccharine, and tacky at the same time! They kiss… and Spock and McCoy burst in to say that Scotty has found a bomb is wired to the warp engine, and the Klingon ship is attacking! Kirk manfully pulls himself away from his desire and back to his duty.

While Kirk foils the Klingons with sub-light manoeuvres, Scotty defuses the bomb, but finds the dilithium crystals destroyed. Elaan shows up on the bridge in a wedding dress, complete with jewels… which look suspiciously like dilithium crystals. Kirk suddenly figures out the Klingons are after Elas’s vast dilithium deposits. Elaan donates her necklace to Scotty who repairs the engines in record time, allowing them to fire torpedoes and drive the Klingons away. Elaan is reformed and agrees to her arranged marriage. McCoy mixes up an antidote for Kirk’s besottedness, but it isn’t needed because, as Spock explains, “The Enterprise captured his heart first.”

Overall, with the interwoven plotlines and the Klingon intrigue, it’s not a bad story. It’s just painful to watch because of the truly annoying Elaan and her sudden about turn into a meek submissive when she meets the True Man, Kirk. If they’d toned that whole thing down a lot and concentrated on the Klingon mystery it probably would have been a better episode.

Tropes: Space Clothes, Nubile Savage, Call A Rabbit A Smeerp, Royal Brat, Stripperific, Love Potion, Red Shirt, Better To Die Than Be Killed, Technology Marches On, Pygmalion Plot, Moment Killer, Worthless Yellow Rocks, No Blood For Phlebotinum.
Body count: Watson (neck snapped by the Elasian Kryton), Kryton (suicidal self-disintegration).

Star Trek 3.12: The Empath

Tuesday, 2 August, 2011

The EmpathThe Empath” is a weird episode that looks very much like they ran out of budget to build sets. Most of the episode takes place in an interior that is obviously a sound stage with a few props and no walls – the scene just fades away into unlit blackness in the distance.

It begins with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy (being the three most expendable members of the crew) beaming down to a planet to evacuate a research station because the planet’s sun is about to go nova. But the researchers have vanished, possibly something to do with the unnatural 4 shadows cast by the unusual lighting on the planet’s surface. After a quick look around, they vanish as well, mysteriously reappearing 121.32 metres below the surface of the planet, according to Spock’s tricorder. Here they meet the mute Gaussian girl of the week, who inhabits this mysterious empty subterranean sound stage, with only a prop lounge to sit on.

It turns out she (dubbed “Gem” by McCoy, who takes a fancy to her) is an experimental subject being used by a pair of sinister big-brained rubber-forehead aliens, the Vians. They torture Kirk and McCoy to see how Gem reacts. She turns out to be an empath, having the psychic power to heal by transferring wounds to herself. Basically, the Vians want to see if Gem is self-sacrificing enough to deserve to live, whereupon they’ll save her entire planet and species from the nova. Not that the existence of another populated planet in the star system was mentioned before.

Throughout this we’re treated to Scotty back on the Enterprise saying of Kirk, “He’ll be more worried about us than we are about him,” followed by a hard cut to Kirk being tortured, with his shirt off naturally. Kirk then has to choose which of Spock or McCoy gets tortured next. McCoy gets not one – “I’m a doctor, not a coal miner” – but two – “I’m not a mechanic!”

Kirk sums up with an empassioned speech about the importance of emotions over implacable indifference that convinces the Vians to stop torturing everyone and just get on with saving Gem’s people. They agree and vanish with Gem, and return the crew to the Enterprise in an ending that seems way too rapid, given the amount of padding earlier in the episode. The question of what the Vians actually do with Gem and her people is never actually answered – for all we know they buggered off and murdered her off-screen. Oh well, never mind, Kirk, McCoy, and Scotty end the episode with a biblical reference and head on to their next adventure.

Well, it’s kind of a blah episode. Honestly, I was just bored by it. By the end I didn’t really care what happened any more, if only they could get out of that unlit sound stage. Gem really only came across as sympathetic because she was the Girl of the Week and therefore you knew she was supposed to be. And the main plot element was never really resolved unambiguously at the end of it all.

Tropes: Ontological Mystery, Ludicrous Precision, Cute Mute, Gaussian Girl, Girl Of The Week, My Brain Is Big, Rubber Forehead Aliens, The Empath, Psychic Powers, Empathic Healer, Secret Test Of Character, Humanity On Trial (variant species), Description Cut, Shirtless Scene, Sadistic Choice, I’m A Doctor, Not A Placeholder (twice!), Talking The Monster To Death, Emotions Vs Stoicism, Screw You, Elves!, Padding, As The Good Book Says.
Body count: Two scientists from the research station, found dead in giant test tubes in the wall-less sound stage.

Star Trek 3.11: Wink of an Eye

Monday, 25 July, 2011

Wink of an EyeWink of an Eye” is an interesting episode, and one I actually remember fairly well, for good reasons. It has an intriguing premise and the story proceeds with some mystery, then suspense and drama.

It begins with the Enterprise answering a distress call from the planet Scalos, but when they arrive all they find as a deserted city. The only life appears to be an annoying insect buzzing. While investigating, Kirk and McCoy see crewman Compton vanish right in front of their eyes! They beam back up, and then strange things start happening – equipment malfunctions, and then a weird piece of equipment appears mysteriously in engineering, hooked up to the life support system. Kirk and Spock try to disconnect it, but it’s protected by some sort of force field. Kirk returns to the bridge, where he hears the strange insect buzzing again before sipping some coffee.

Kirk notices everyone else on the bridge slow down and then apparently become paralysed. The Scalosian queen Deela appears, clad in an airy costume reminiscent of some sort of air sprite. Kirk demands to know what she’s done with his crew, but she smiles and says nothing, what she has done is to hyper-accelerate Kirk, so that he moves at a speed beyond human perception. This explains the “insect” buzzing – it is the high-pitched sound of the Scalosians moving around unseen by the crew. Now Kirk is effectively one of them and Deela says he can never return – they have searched for a way to reverse the effect for years and failed. Deela also explains that she needs Kirk… for breeding purposes. All the male Scalosians have been rendered infertile, so they maintain their culture by kidnapping males from passing spaceships.

The episode then cuts back and forth between Kirk, Deela, and some male Scalosians (including the jealous Rael, who wears some impressive space clothes) in hyper-accelerated time, and the rest of the Enterprise crew in normal time. This is necessary for the plotting, but it raises the logic problem of how Kirk can progress through hours of normal time without living through the subjective equivalent of days or months at his hyper-accelerated rate. This niggle is never dealt with, alas. A clever bit of cinematography I noticed is the heavy use of Dutch angles when shooting in the hyper-accelerated frame, to contrast it visually from the normal speed frame. This is subtle if you’re not paying attention, but very effective at separating the two interlinked story threads and giving an off-kilter feel to Kirk’s predicament.

Back in real-time, Compton reappears, dead, apparently of old age. In accelerated time, Deela explains to Kirk that living at such speed wears their kidnapped males out rapidly, so they will freeze the Enterprise using the gizmo attached to the life support system, so they have a stock of new males for the next while. Kirk records a message for Spock and leaves it where it will be found, then decides to play along with Deela, taking her to his quarters, where he seduces her with a kiss. Cut to Spock finding the recording and deciphering the buzzing sound on it as Kirk sped up, then McCoy preparing a serum to counteract the hyper-acceleration. Cut back to Kirk sitting on the edge of his bunk putting his boots back on, while Deela fixes her hair at the mirror.

McCoy finishes the serum, but they have no way to get it to Kirk. Spock drinks a sample of Scalosian water to hyper-accelerate himself and find Kirk. Together they defeat Rael and the others, and beam them back to Scalos. Kirk has a semi-sad parting with Deela, but decides they can’t do anything for the Scalosians, so he abandons them on their planet. This is a rather callous ending – Kirk doesn’t try to come up with any way to save the Scalosian culture, but rather decides he needs to warn other ships to stay away, until their race dies out. This is the only serious plotting problem with this episode – it just seems far too callous. Finally, when Spock returns to normal time with McCoy’s serum, he says he found it to be “an accelerating experience“. Apparently Vulcans are not above sleazy puns.

In the end, this is a refreshingly good episode for season three. It’s clever, tense, and dramatic. I’m hoping there are still a few more like this to come.

Tropes: Some Kind Of Force Field, Time Stands Still, Theiss Titillation Theory, Super Speed, Only You Can Repopulate My Race, Green-Eyed Monster, Dutch Angle, Boldly Coming, Sexy Discretion Shot, Incredibly Lame Pun.
Body count: Enterprise crewman Compton (old age).

Star Trek 3.10: Plato’s Stepchildren

Wednesday, 20 July, 2011

Plato's StepchildrenPlato’s Stepchildren“. Good lord, this is a bad episode.

The Enterprise answers a distress call for urgent medical assistance on an unsurveyed planet. They are met by a huge shadow, which turns out to be cast by the dwarf Alexander. The local ruler Parmen is dying of an infected wound, which McCoy heals. While ill, Parmen’s scary powers manifested spontaneously in his delirium. The natives turn out to be disciples of Plato, from Ancient Greece on Earth (it seems every uber-powerful alien race has visited and/or modelled their society on pre-21st century Earth for some reason), and live in a self-proclaimed Utopia, in which they have honed their psychic powers and attained near-immortality. They explain that because they live so long and are so healthy, they have no need for doctors – thus the distress call. Paradoxically, they also explain that because they’ve eliminated disease, their immune systems are incredibly weak, so a simple cut can be fatal. I am not making this up.

To cut a long and tedious plot short, Parmen insists that McCoy stays behind to act as a doctor to the remaining 38 Platonians. He refuses, and Parmen chucks a hissy fit, using psychic powers to prevent him, Kirk, and Spock from leaving. He beams down Uhura and Nurse Chapel, and then subjects them all to humiliating psychic human puppetry. This includes a couple of the most cringeworthy moments in the entire series, as Kirk acts as a horse, bucking and neighing, with Alexander riding on his back, and Spock sings and dances and is almost forced to step on Kirk’s face. Also notable is Kirk and Uhura being forced to kiss – which is an historic scene, often cited as the first interracial kiss on American TV (though apparently there were a couple of lesser known earlier ones, and this one is hidden by their heads). Nowadays it just comes across as embarrassingly bad acting.

Kirk and Spock manage to gain psychic powers from a special serum McCoy prepares from the native food (a trick which they forget about and never use again in the series), and use them to challenge Parmen. Alexander is the only non-psychic Platonian, and used as a lackey and buffoon by the others. His resentment bubbles to boiling point and he attacks Parmen with a knife, but Kirk tells him not to be so petty. At this point, they simply leave the planet, taking Alexander with them, and that’s the end. They never really resolve the problem of a planetful of dangerous psychics, except by saying they’ll warn others to stay away.

Meh. A painful episode to watch.

Tropes: BLAM Episode, Big Shadow, Little Creature, Malfunction Malady, Ancient Astronauts, Uncanny Village, Psychic Powers, Wall Banger, Kick The Dog, Playing With Puppets, People Puppets, Kissing Discretion Shot, Forgotten Phlebotinum, Left Hanging.
Body Count: None.