Friday, September 30, 2011

A Taste of Armageddon

*** (3 stars out of 5)

Attempting diplomatic contact with Eminiar VII, our heroes receive a Code 7-10 message. (This means "Back The F Off".)

Fine, we'll just be boldly going...

Except Ambassador Robert Fox demands the life-saving presence of a United Federation of
Planets Treaty Port in this quadrant, even over the objections of the locals. (He puts the 'ass' in ambassador.)

Nevertheless, Kirk obeys him. "Peacefully, I hope, but peacefully or not- we're going in."
Mea 3 of the Division of Control greets them and introduces Councilman Anan 7.
It seems they have a very good reason for discouraging visitors: they are at war with neighbouring planet Vendikar and have been for the last 5 centuries. There are 1-3 million casualties on each side every year. But, the place still looks great because...

They are playing electronic Battleship: registering 'hits' by computer. Purely mathematical attacks- but these people, with an inhuman sense of duty, report to REAL disintegration chambers voluntarily. Civilization preserved- massive cost in lives.

Mea and the entire Enterprise are 'hit' in the latest attack. Within the day, they must all die.

The Eminians fake a call to Scott from Kirk: 'Hey, our invasion worked perfectly! Come on down for shore parties- no, not in shifts. Everybody come down! Right now! Bring my swim trunks!'

Thankfully, Scotty is suspicious and the computer confirms it was probably a voice duplicator. (I find myself praising Scott for being paranoid. Not always a virtue, but it worked today.)

Spock's telepathy works through a wall- jailbreak! Kirk takes Mea 3 hostage, then destroys a Disintegration Station with disruptor fire. The Eminians shoot at the Enterprise.
Disruptors, it seems, are sonic weapons. And they work in space. SCIENCE!

Fox is a real prick. Ferris at least, was urging haste for medical relief reasons. Fox is a warmonger in hippie clothing. But he's not a tactician: Scotty gets in trouble for refusing Fox's order to lower the screens. Fox thinks it would be a show of good faith! Even bleeding heart McCoy thinks that would be a deeply stupid move.

"The best diplomat I know is a fully activated phaser bank" quips Scotty. That haggis muncher's my hero today. Go, Scotty!

Spock orders Yeoman Tamura to prevent Mea 3 from doing her duty, even if it requires sitting on her. Oh, what an imagination, Mr. Spock! (Spank her, too.)

If this Tidy War escalates back to Real War, disease & suffering & maybe cultural extinction return.
"It would frighten any sane man." Anan quails, but he won't stop the machines.
Kirk gives Scotty General Order 24- wait a day, then destroy the world.

Yeesh! I hope that's a bluff, genocide looks terrible in a report.

Anan says killing is inevitable, instinctive.
Kirk agrees. "We can admit that we're killers- but we're NOT going to kill today."

The Captain resorts to what is fast becoming standard operating procedure. He blows up their computer so they'll be forced to die for real-real, not for play-play... or choose peace.

The execs considered a spin-off series called 'Aftertaste of Armageddon', but the pilot flopped. I'm joking, of course. It wouldn't go down well.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Space Seed

***** (5 stars out of 5)

Twisted childhood: I saw the movie that is sequel to this episode before I saw 'Space Seed'.
So I had the luxury of being immediately afraid of Khan in exactly the way our characters aren't.
Probably that would've happened anyway: Ricardo Montalban is superb.
Kirk invites McCoy along to explore a two-centuries old derelict, the S.S. Botany Bay.
"If you're actually giving me a choice..." says the Doctor.
"I'm not."

It's a sleeper ship with 42 men and 30 women from the twentieth century. They stopped making these in 2018, you know.

"What a handsome group of people!" gushes the historian gal. She asks the Captain if she can keep one. This burly Northern Indian man, perchance. Possibly a Sikh warrior, definitely buff.

He's no ordinary man: his heart is twice as powerful, his lungs are 50% more efficient, and he has the most magnificent, luxurious wig. Also, he can lift in one hand any two grown men who might dare laugh at his wig.

Men were bolder, more colorful in the 1990's. Matthew Perry, for example.

The patient seizes a scalpel from McCoy's Shiny Display of Horrifying Medical Antiques. McCoy just got them, he's very proud of them, tomorrow he's maybe going to tuck them in a drawer instead.

The warrior holds the scalpel to the doctor's throat and McCoy tells him where to stick it. Metaphorically speaking.

"I like a brave man." says the Sikh, relinquishing his weapon.
"I was simply trying to avoid an argument." McCoy assures him. (Please reference my earlier statements regarding McCoy and how he is awesome.)

Kirk meets the visitor soon after. Sure, you can leaf through the technical manuals, unidentified knife-wielding genius strongman. Where's the harm?

Kirk worries about the effect the guy has on Historian Marla McGivers, but McCoy shrugs it off. "There aren't any regulations against romance, Jim." There AREN'T? Then what's been the problem with Captain-Yeoman relations that seems to come up so often? Metaphorically speaking.

In 1993 a selectively bred group of engineered young supermen seized power in 40 nations. Khan Singh was the head honcho, from 1992 to 1996 absolute ruler of one quarter of Earth from Asia through the Middle East. Not a metaphor. Really happened. Ask anyone. Bombed whole populations out of existence. Unified humanity like a team of animals under one whip. And they were nuts for yoga.

"We offered the world order!" snarls Khan, for it is he.
He is disappointed with how little humans have evolved, despite their technological advances. "Improve man and you gain a thousandfold." He does not add 'in my pants'.

Khan's improved men and his captivated woman help him seize the ship, but wouldn't you know it, McGivers gives it right back to Captain Kirk again. She's a giver. Cheers for actress Madlyn Rhue as Khan's demure but duplicitous fickle female.

Despite being five times stronger, resistant to neural anesthesia gas, and able to squish a hand phaser like bread dough, Khan is still felled by Kirk's pipe to the back.
Outsource that!
But Kirk thinks a Reorientation Center would waste the potential of these mighty champions from a bygone age: so he drops all charges and gives them a world of their own to tame, the fifth planet of Ceti Alpha.

What dire space crop will spring from this space seed?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Return of the Archons

* (1 star out of 5)

What if instead of living normally, then attending church every week, you lived all the time in your Sunday Best but went batshit when the clock struck six?

That's the poorly conceived and executed story of 'The Return of the Archons'. The title refers to the starship Archon which crashed here 100 years ago, but the only impact it left on the society or the story was a crater somewhere, so don't bother asking. If I had to sift through many episodes like this, 'Star Trek' wouldn't be worth two years, let alone five years or the whole of my life. Let other reviewers oppose me elsewhere.
Welcome to Beta III, where the Puritans rule. Here's your tricornered hat. Oh, good, you're just in time: It's Festival! Like flipping a switch, when The Red Hour strikes, the populace goes mad all night long. Screaming, smashing windows, sticks and stones breaking bones, perhaps a smidgen of name calling.

In 'Clone High' parlance "They're rioting at a college level!"

The old dudes are exempt, but the Lawgivers of Landru require everyone else to pillage (and it is more than implied) rape and murder. Charming.

Local victim Tula's father Rager (ironic name for a man seemingly incapable of anger) makes no attempt to rescue her from assault on the other side of his boarding house door. He says it is Landru's will. It is for the Good of the Body. And Rager's the bravest, most moral guy on this world.

O.K., so it's a stiff, weird indictment of oppressive religion. (Or possibly socialism?) Monks carry hollow tube weapons with nothing inside to make them work. Is that a metaphor for something? Cause nobody explains it.

A hologram in a gold sheet makes spooky noises and seizes control of people. Including McCoy. McCoy, when absorbed, makes a most convincing creepy cultist- praising Landru and smiling blankly. "He knows and he watches."

Who is this L'Andrew you ask? Well, I'm glad you asked and are reading at all anymore. Landru (sometimes pronounced like laundry) is the 6000 year old computer simulation that runs this Crap Factory. It's malfunctioned? Or is working exactly as some sadistic dead programmer intended? Or as Captain Kirk believes: it is "soulless"? Nobody knows for sure or makes any effort to find out, but Kirk talks it into obliterating itself. Society is freed!

We are told that Sociologist Lindstrom stayed behind to help the world recover. Recovery is already indicated by domestic disputes and fist fights. Uh,... yay?

Roger Korby's dilemma is echoed here: it seems you can't put yourself into a computer without losing your darn soul. Also some parallel to the societal stagnation of Miri's world, I guess. This is the first we hear of Starfleet's "Prime Directive" of non-interference, and it is only mentioned because our "heroes" break it in order to "improve" a place they make no attempt to understand.

After the Red Hour this episode drags along at a GLACIAL pace. Senseless violence shouldn't be the highlight of your story. Nothing to recommend.

Sometimes I think just by talking nonsense to my computer I could get it to perish. But it's a Mac. So it never does!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Court Martial

*** (3 stars out of 5)
It's been a lousy day for our crew. Battered by an ion storm, they've lost an observation pod and more relevantly, the poor records officer who was inside it. They put into beautiful Starbase 11 'The Court Martial-iest starbase in the quadrant" for repairs. The portmaster, Commander Stone, takes Kirk's sworn deposition on the death of Lt. Commander Benjamin Finney, when...

What the... Sailor Moon? No, it's Finney's daughter Jame, here to slap "The main who kailed my faw-ther!"

... when it turns out the computer log has Kirk pegged as a perjuring coward who ejected Finney into space without warning.

At the starbase lounge, Kirk's captain peers and former Academy classmates have all turned against him. Even old Captain Mike (no relation). 'Everybody Loves Finney' was their favorite show, and now all that's on anymore is 'Two & A Half Pieces of a Man'. Kirk refuses to accept a quiet ground assignment under the label of exhaustion, he swears he's innocent and now he's the first starship captain to face Court Martial.

Plus he had sex with his prosecutor, Lt. Areel Shaw, 4 years, 7 months earlier. Whoops. Over the dulcet strains of Alexander Courage's groovy Star Trek Theme muzak, she recommends Samuel T. Cogley for his defense.

"Books, young man, books!" declares Cogley. He hauls around a library of thousands of paper law books and never turns on that blasted synthesized, pasteurized, homogenized law computer!

"You have to be either an obsessive crackpot who's escaped from his keeper or Samuel T. Cogley, Attorney At Law!"

The court clerk has George Jetson's job: push one button and take a seat. Cushy.

Spock and McCoy support Kirk to the hilt as witnesses. Cogley doesn't let the court computer skimp on reading out Kirk's many achievements & valorous awards.
"I wouldn't want to slow the wheels of progress, but then on the other hand, I wouldn't want those wheels to run over my client in their unbridled haste."

The video record looks damning. Not just to Kirk, but to whoever designed a captain's console with the "Jettison Pod" button right next to the "Red Alert". It's like the Spitting Image puppet President Reagan in the "Land of Confusion" video with the identical buttons for "Nurse" and "Nuke". Not too bright.

Cogley argues for human rights- for a man's right to face his accuser: the computer. A machine with no rights has been elevated over a man, and Cogley must demand justice for "Humanity Fading in the Shadow of the Machine."

The scrappy lawyer's antics include a field trip to the empty Enterprise, and an auditory scanner (a machine, incidentally) that saves the day by detecting the hiding Finney's heartbeat. He's faked his death to frame an old friend: he's a jealous, paranoid fruitbat.
"I loved the service more than any man ever dared!" Finney screams.

In fact, it was daring to love a service transtator assembly that really got him passed over for command.

So of course, the Captain chases the renegade down alone. Beats him up... alone. Fixes his sabotage ALONE. While NINE people just sit there listening to the whole thing on the bridge. Cushy.
Nobody take Finney into custody or anything... just finish your lattes.

Kirk kisses Shaw, but never got to thank Sam- the dude is already building a case for Finney's defense.
Cogley- AWAY!

Who was that crazy Luddite?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Tomorrow is Yesterday

**** (4 stars out of 5)

Time travel and Star Trek? Hook me up! 'Tomorrow is Yesterday' was written by Dorothy Fontana, hands down my favorite original series Trek writer. It's big on action, loaded with wit, and if the time travel stuff made one iota of sense it wouldn't be time travel now, would it?

A black star near Starbase 9... a warp speed near-collision... a rubber band or something: whatever went wrong the result is what matters. The Enterprise is back at Earth, too low down in the atmosphere, and too far back in the past!

It's July 1969, somewhere over Nebraska, and the US Air Force Pilot Captain John Christopher is sent to intercept the UFO with the saucer and kooky cylindrical projections. He gets a great look at it and some nifty photos (much greater in the special editions) but their tractor beam wrecks his plane and they are forced to beam him aboard.

John gets an eyeful of THE FUTURE! Captain Kirk, as is often the case, gets an eyeful of weird mood lighting. My wife Trish pointed this out and I see it all the time now.

We learn in this episode that the main computer (refurbished by the lady technicians of the female-dominant planet Cygnet XIV) has a crush on the Captain, and expresses its affectionate personality through giggling and pouting. Now that we know the ship loves Jim as much as Jim loves the ship, I think it's clear what the lighting is about: Enterprise puts a band of light across Jim's face in the visual recordings to highlight his lovely eyes.

We hear Kirk explain for the first time that he works for the United Earth Space Probe Agency (or UESPA as we heard in 'Charlie X'). It's a division of U.N.C.L.E., probably.

Captain Christopher is flabbergasted to meet Spock.
"I've never believed in little green men!" says the pilot.
"Neither have I." Spock deadpans.

So, Spock doesn't believe in Orions? Or just not in their men?

Though it was an accident, they've contaminated the locals with knowledge of the future and they debate what to do with him. (Why, if they put him back he might just change their past and before you know it everyone would be younger, sexier, and Vulcan would implode.)

Spock tells Jim the records show John made "no significant contribution". Right to his face! "A-douche!" was, I believe, the noise my wife made. True dat! No significant contribution... so do you mind if we just throw you into the sun? Thanks.

Then they beam up a police sergeant for good measure. It's not a great day. At least they didn't beam up Barney Fife.

Turns out John's due to have a son, Shaun, who's vital to the Earth-Saturn Probe. They gotta put him back or he'll never do the nasty in the pasty!

To recover the A/V records John's jet made of the starship, Kirk and Sulu sneak into the Air Force base at night. A covert mission, mind you, in full futuristic uniform where they stop to peer into trophy cases, poke the thermostats, and talk loudly about how primitive the computers are.

Needless to report, captured. To be fair, those computers are DINOSAURS!
Kirk gets in some smart remarks at his interrogators, then gets in some face punches, body slams, and doorway kicks, too. Swinging from, I mean, there's no reason to kick a doorway.

Spock does the calcs for time-travel in his frickin' head, Scotty cranks up the engines, and it's 'a mighty rough ride'... at least in the special edition. I had to add a star for this version's climax: instead of the classic "gently swaying against a motionless starfield" effect, we get rocketing across the face of the big damn sun to enter time warp! Oh, what an improvement!
Then (don't ask me HOW THIS WORKS) they use the transporter to quantum leap John back into his own past self in the Blue Jay 4 cockpit, the cop back into himself on the base, & even vanishing the past Enterprise right out of the sky.

If the plan was to erase history & undo the whole adventure anyway, why the song and dance with stealing the film footage? You see, to properly appreciate the causality-entangled predestination... mumble, mumble, trailing off... AND THEY'RE BACK TO THE FUTURE! Yay!

A wish-fulfillment fantasy for a generation yearning to fly and forced to always be so grounded. Obviously a strong influence on other time-travel tales both in and out of Trek. A fun romp.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


***** (5 stars out of 5)

Let's get ready to rumble! 'Arena' is probably the most recognizable Trek episode, and it made an indelible impression on the kid I was over 25 years ago. It still holds up for the man-child I am today.

McCoy's looking forward to a 'non-reconstituted meal' from Commodore Traver's personal chef on the Cestus III outpost. Spock accuses him of being 'a sensualist'. "You bet your pointed ears I am." says McCoy the Awesome.

This adventure is indeed a feast for the senses, but not tasty kind. Cestus (named for the spiky gladiator glove) has been totalled (to a man, woman, & child) by aliens. Last survivor of an unprovoked attack? There's a uniform for that. Poor plasma burned Harold is wearing Hansen's outfit from the Romulan attack in 'Balance of Terror'.
Spock & Kirk do some astonishing stunt dives as enemy artillery fire impresses the audience and earns Nimoy and Shatner lifelong tinnitus.

Up in space, Sulu makes Federation first contact of the phaser and photon torpedo kind! Enterprise chases the foe ship at dangerous Warp 7 and desperate Warp 8. Spock urges vengeful Kirk to respect sentient life, but Kirk speaks instead as a policeman who must punish a crime.

In an uncharted region called 2466 PM, both ships are stopped and disarmed by inexplicable, advanced means. The Metrons announce themselves, angelic types who do not permit violence. Therefore they insist the alien captain, called a Gorn, will battle Kirk to the death on a desert asteroid, and the loser's ship will be destroyed in the interests of peace. That's how non-violence works, right?

Kirk feels instinctual revulsion for reptiles, and well, who wouldn't? Bulky, rasping, fanged and clawed, but in a darling leopard print gold lame dress! Revolting... and I love it so. Bought the doll.

The aggrieved captains get down to it. A dropped boulder from Kirk, a vine trap and obsidian knife from the Gorn. Kirk leaves a sign: "Free Bacon for Gorns" beside some ACME dynamite, the Gorn puts a dress and lipsitck on a shapely cactus. That sort of thing.

Kirk uses "simple chemistry" to construct a diamond-firing cannon out of bamboo. Never mind the Mythbusters, whose efforts in recreating this weapon strongly indicated if it did any damage at all it would be to the poor slob beside the cannon.

Instead, I balked today at Kirk's statement that diamonds were the hardest substance in the universe. He was at the table in 'Balance of Terror' when Spock explained how that property currently belonged to "cast rodinium" (or, as I always believed, 'Castrodinium' named for Fidel.) Which is it, Star Trek? Like Kirk and the Gorn, they can't BOTH be the hardest...

Victorious, Kirk refuses to deliver the killing stab and accuses the Metrons of watching them for entertainment. The Metron ALSO has a darling dress. He's a tow-headed lad of 1500 years who admires Kirk for displaying the unexpected and advanced trait of mercy. He lets them get back to slaughter or diplomacy of their own making, hopefully planning to check in again in a thousand years.

The voice of the Metron is Vic Perrin, also the Control Voice in the credits of 'The Outer Limits'.
The profoundly basso creepy voice of John A. Gorn is provided (like Ruk and Balok before him) by Ted Cassidy.

It's high noon and my own Gorn is rumbling for some corn. A corn-fed Gorn. Then tennis with Bjorn?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Squire of Gothos

** (2 stars out of 5)

In the days before 'Quadrant' meant one fourth of something, our crew explores Quadrant 904, a stellar void with an uncharted planet. When Kirk and Sulu vanish from the bridge, McCoy, DeSalle, & Jaeger beam down after them with life support breathers. They aren't needed: there's a pocket of Earth conditions with a nearby castle.

Inside they find Nancy the Salt Vampire in a display case, as are Kirk and Sulu. They encounter the collector, a foppish hobbyist who calls himself General Trelane, Retired, The Squire of Gothos. He's got advanced matter-transmuting power, and he's been studying Earth, especially the violent bits!

"You're one of the few predator species that preys even on itself!" he says with glee. "We're all military men under the skin, and how we do love our uniforms!" Perhaps Trelane would appreciate last week's repeal of the U.S. Army's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

He releases Kirk and Sulu (they're not as collectible if you take them out of the packaging, Trelane!) so he can play with their phaser guns. He destroys his own trinkets with a smile.
"Why, this could kill millions!"

Spock's beam-up rescue is short-lived, as the entire planet chases them down! Trelane isn't finished the game: he wants fine dining but has no concept of taste, he wants to be gallant to women, and mostly he wants a pistol duel!

"I object to you. I object to intellect without discipline. I object to power without constructive purpose." Spock says to the being.

As a pompous, bewigged Judge Trelane, he 'experiences genuine rage' at Kirk, and hunts the Captain down to play swords. The alien wins but his only prize is some slaps from Kirk and his glowing green parents showing up to say "It's time to come in".

Trelane sulks "I haven't finished studying my predators yet!"

His parents apologize for their cruel, disobedient, spoilt child.

Spock asks what to call Trelane, for the record. Kirk suggests 'God of War' slash 'Small Naughty Boy'.

William Campbell, (who passed away earlier this year) brought a charming and sinister quality I appreciated to both his Star Trek roles. Both stars are for his performance. It's not an otherwise stellar story.

"Fascinating is a word I use for the unexpected." Spock said at one point. He apparently finds this whole affair 'merely interesting'. No doubt he's recalling earlier encounters with Gary & Charlie, other immature, unbalanced minds with non-constructive power who inspired more dread. Not the first, and not the last, but almost certainly the inspiration for certain single-letter naughty and judgmental war gods of future Treks.

When other kids were Rockin' Round the Clock, I was doing a thing called the Crocodile Spock.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Galileo Seven

**** (4 stars out of 5)

'The Galileo Seven' is tense, clever, and thrilling. I have fond memories, and for me, at least, they still hold up.

Due to pick up medicine from Makus III to deliver to the plague-ridden New Paris colonies, the Enterprise made a slight detour to study the Murasaki 312 quasar. And to repair the hole in the bucket they'll need to swallow a spider to catch the fly. I don't know why they swallowed a fly.

A sudden ionization effect shorts out most of the instruments and causes them to lose shuttlecraft Galileo. On board: our fondly familiar friends Latimer, Mears, Scotty, Gaetano, McCoy, Boma, & Spock. A 24-foot shuttle lost. Galactic Commissioner Ferris insists they stick to the schedule. Sorry, I meant Galactic Ass-Hat. Seriously, you guys, who smiles at the news of seven lost people?

Uhura locates the right planet, Taurus II, despite the equipment all being down. (I think she proves in moments like this that she's not just for answering phones.) A futile search shuttle goes out to try to find that proverbial haystack needle.

It may be noted here that I'm in love with this shuttlecraft. Were it not for my lovely wife and the laws of men and gods, this shuttlecraft and I would have strong, boxy, metallic babies.

To lift off from Taurus II Scotty will need to improvise fuel from the phasers, and they'll have to lighten the load by 500 pounds. On the downside (AND the upside) two of them are killed almost immediately! Latimer gets the biggest spear in the back you ever saw. Like a telephone pole! Gaetano is savaged by a terribly unconvincing class 480-G anthropoid (big cave man, to the lay peeps).

Now it's starting to look like either the pretty girl or the insubordinate black guy will have to stay behind... if only Latimer had been fattimer!

Back on the bridge, Ferris stands over Kirk banging his pocket watch against the back of the Captain's head.

Tensions run high as a ratty-looking giant alien bangs equally unconvincing rocks against the roof. Great lines, well delivered, as Boma & McCoy butt heads with their ultra-logical commander.

I have to admit I side with Spock on the subject of fixing the ship BEFORE the burial ceremony. It sucks, but the humans seem extra irrational today: very, very eager to saunter out, dig some graves, bow their heads and get a GIANT SPEAR in the eye! At least Scotty seems focused on his work, and Mears is finding boxes of pretty shoes and hats she might live without (kidding).

Oh, it turns out Ferris is a HIGH Commissioner. That explains it. Probably has the munchies. Enterprise gives up, but moves off as slowly as space-normal speed permits- just in case.

The Galileo finally takes to the heavens, tenacious monkey bastards clinging to the tailpipe, but they've got scant time before they'll fall back into the atmosphere & burn up.

So logical Spock logically makes a big desperate gamble: igniting their fuel as a flare... a gorgeous damn CGI flare!
He's made a human choice at last: and earned McCoy's respect. Just as the shuttle plummets- Enterprise beams the five of them out and they all have a good laugh at Spock's expense. Just you wait, humans. One of these days that guy is gonna snap and spear you good.

Quick question: with the rescue complete, why does Kirk set out at a mere Warp One? There IS a plague on, man!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Shore Leave

**** (4 stars out of 5)

Yay! Shore Leave! Not the fabulous secret agent/sailor from 'The Venture Bros", but the Star Trek episode, cause that's who I am, yo.

It's been months since the Enterprise crew had a break. The tired Captain's got an aching back, and he thinks Spock's rubbing it. THAT he's O.K. with, but not Yeoman Tonia Barrows. Ick! A girl!

This lovely little garden of a world in the Omicron Delta region is just the spot for some R & R. Stop a while in a pleasant green glade- or, if you prefer, the tailings pond behind Desilu Studios.

Everything anyone mentions or even thinks tends to suddenly turn up here. McCoy's spotted a rabbit in a waistcoat, Esteban's seeing tigers and airplanes, and Mr. Sulu's gleefully firing a wonderful antique projectile weapon into the wilderness Sarah Palin style.

Poor Angela Martine seems quite the merry widow thanks to episodes airing out of production sequence- mourning Rob last episode and cuddling up to Esteban Rodriguez today. Of course, it could be even more complicated: Kirk calls her Teller. Did she marry the famous stage magician between stories? No, it's down to last-second rewrites courtesy of Gene R., scribbling away under a tree even as the poor director tried to shoot.

The planet reads thoughts and immediately manufactures multicellular castings of plants, bugs, birds, clothes, vehicles, and people, too.

McCoy and Barrows do a little flirting after he rescues her from the advances of amorous android Don Juan. She announces she's changing clothes and he assures her "I'm a doctor. When I peek, it's in the line of duty." Did I already say McCoy is awesome? Well, remember it, McCoy is awesome.

The Captain gets to live out two fantasies he's always dreamed of- he could spend some quality time with Ruth, a girlfriend from 15 years ago, or Finnegan, an upperclassman from the same year who mocked and taunted Kirk mercilessly.
Kirk chases down Finnegan. Because everybody secretly wants to beat up a leprechaun.

Stabbed through the heart by the Black Knight, McCoy is so awesome he turns up alive anyway, on the arm of a pair of Rigel II Cabaret Chorus Girls in muppet-fur bikinis. As you do.
Or don't, in front of your date. Tonia seems disapproving, so the trollops accost Spock instead. Fascinating!

A kindly old goat in paisley robes assures them everything is safe here (no multicellular steez, I suppose) and sure, they can use his advanced race's fun park whenever, as long as they wipe it all off when they leave.

Perhaps coincidentally, I re-watched 'Futureworld' this afternoon, a story along exactly the same lines. A wondrous, futuristic amusement park with all manner of robots to fight or f...lirt with.

I'll just ride Star Tours another dozen times, if it's all the same to you.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Balance of Terror

**** (4 stars out of 5)

'Balance of Terror' is "Das Boot" with Romulans, or if (like Captain Mike) you've never seen that one, think "The Hunt for Red October" with Mark Lenard as Sean Connery.

I was eager to say I never tire of this one, but I did manage to bore my poor spouse with it.

"9 hours, 47 minutes motionless." says Kirk's log, and I guess that's how it seemed to her.

Trouble is a'brewin' in the Neutral Zone as Scotty gives away the bride. Angela Martine & Robert Tomlinson from phaser control are to be married by law and according to many traditions... but it is sadly not to be. After a century of isolation, the Romulans are using an invisible ship and a plasma weapon that pulverizes all it touches.
What's more upsetting; humans get their first look at their canny foe of generations past, and they look just like Vulcans! What the what?

The Romulan Commander is marvelous: he's blasting human outposts with hideous ease, and, what's more... he hates his job. Maybe he hates his precious Praetor, too. It sure sounds like it. His pal the Centurion figures strength is all the justification they need for war. "Must it always be so?" the enemy pleads.

"War is never imperative," McCoy echoes. Bones also gets a great little speech. He comforts Kirk with the thought of the vastness of a universe of billions of galaxies, each with millions of worlds "...and in all of that, and perhaps more, only one of each of us. Don't destroy the one called Kirk."

It's delivered almost in a reverent whisper, which is GOOD, because when you're playing space submarines you gotta be quiet. Vewy vewy quiet: we're hunting Womulans. I'd point out (as many have) that sound doesn't carry across a vacuum, except that IT CLEARLY DOES TODAY, BITCHES! It's part of the damned plot: The Romulans detect the loud beeping from Spock's console & that's when they strike! I don't know how. It's the FUTURE! Scanners! Muons! Tunneling anti-gravitons & graviolis! This was an era before technobabble and even treknobabble. If it happened, just shrug and invoke science. Hnn. SCIENCE.

As if the Romulans skulking about wasn't enough, Navigator Stiles has some old family bigotry that gets a chance to peek out now. "This time we'll handle things without your help, Vulcan." Stiles snarls, seconds before not handling things during the phaser coolant leak that kills poor Bob Tomlinson to death.

The Romulan Commander loses his battle of wits with Captain Kirk, and blasts his dandy new cloaking ship to smithereens and gravioli rather than be taken prisoner.

We haven't seen the last of these fan favorite villains, or even the actors who played them, since they'll soon return (still with pointy ears) as the Vulcans called Sarek & Stonn.

Should I still leave my bigotry in my quarters if they really DO all look alike?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Conscience of the King

** (2 stars out of 5)

Captain James Kirk and Lieutenant Kevin Riley have something in common besides good looks, gold shirts, and the middle initial 'T'. In 2245, they both wrote school reports entitled "How The Famine & Mass Slaughter on Tarsus IV Ruined My Summer Vacation".

Twenty years later, and Kirk's buddy Dr. Thomas Leighton (William Sargent) is still sore about that. In fact, half his face is still bandaged. Tom lied to divert the Enterprise to his location on Planet Q (no relation), then he forces Kirk to spend an evening at the theatre.

Leighton is convinced Anton Karidian of the Karidian Company of Players is really Kodos The Executioner, the governor who personally selected 4000 people out of 8000 on Tarsus Colony to be slain so the rest might last longer. The burned corpse of Kodos convinced most people that he's toast, but there were 9 eyewitnesses who actually SAW Kodos' face. Tom & Jim among them. So Tom is killed, which makes his theory seem a little more plausible.

"I think we're due for a pick-up," says Kirk. He means the acting troupe... or does he? While transporting the thespians to planet Benecia for their next gig, Kirk puts the moves on Karidian's 19-year-old daughter, Lenore.

Say... is it creepy at all that she plays Lady Macbeth to her dad's Macbeth?
Or that describing the ship, she comes up with a line like: "All this power, surging, throbbing, yet under control... are you like that, Captain?"
Kirk precedes the inevitable smooch with: "Worlds may change, galaxies disintegrate, but a woman always remains a woman." Eat your heart out, Shakespeare!

Kevin Riley is poisoned with tetralubisol in his milk, and Kirk nearly goes kablooey from a phaser on overload in his quarters.

It was such a near thing that Kirk called out the only "double red alert" in series history.

Someone IS acting kind of Executioner-y...

Kirk confronts Karidian, who happens to know Kodos' "You're Going To Like This Idea, Tarsus IV" speech off by heart.

Karidian is disdainful of the merciless ways of the modern technological society.

Kirk replies "We've armed men with tools. Striving for greatness continues."

Kirk demonstrates some of that greatness by talking Riley down from a backstage murder attempt of his own when McCoy accidentally spills the beans about Kodos/Karidian and all the Mom & Pop Riley killing. Slightly undercut by the Captain's teenager kissing ways... oh, and the fact that Lenore's a full bore whack-a-doo, having killed seven witnesses to safeguard her daddykins. Then daddykins bites it, too, during what she had intended as a phaser rampage to turn the ship into "a floating tomb". Lenore flips completely out, presumably never to flip back again. Uh, shudder if ya gotta.

Mercilessly, this technologically advanced society plans to give her the best of care.

'The Conscience of the King' just doesn't work that well for me. There's no mystery to the murders, McCoy's blabbermouth nearly gets Kevin killed (or started on a vigilante life as Irish Batman!), Spock's a bit too fretful, and the whole eyewitness angle is screwy from the get-go since the computer's got Kodos pictures and voiceprints and all. On what kind of colony does no one know what the governor looks like? Was he behind a curtain, in a cave, wearing a mask BEFORE the famine?

Tune in tomorrow for something SUCCESSFULLY dramatic...