Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Survivor

**** (4 stars out of 5)
Shapeshifters come in all shapes and sizes, but not often with a Porn 'Stache. Until "The Survivor"!

Carter Winston was missing for 5 years. Dr. McCoy is delighted to meet the famous philanthropist who ended the famine on Cerberus. This saved (among others) the life of McCoy's daughter. (It's the only on-screen reference to Joanna and I'll accept it! Canonical!)

Winston's fiancee is aboard: Lt. Anne Nored of Security. He tells her he's changed since crashing on Vendor. "I'm sorry I can't explain why, but I can't marry you, ever."

Worryingly, this is because he is secretly a huge orange octopoid (Octopede?) and, in this out-of-context image, looks to be preparing to marry Captain Kirk. (I kid. He's only stealing Kirk's soul... I mean, shape. Sorry.)

The Faux Kirk orders them directly across the Romulan Neutral Zone. Sulu indicates the treaty allows the Romulans to keep any ship they catch there. Not for the last time, ask yourselves: WHO AGREED TO THAT?

In her first appearance, Lt. M'Ress, the humanoid cat, puts the ship on yellow alert. Like Arex, I enjoy M'Ress, even in a small role, because in case you didn't know: aliens are awesome!

O.K., this episode is what you'd get if you crossed 'What Are Little Girls Made Of?' with 'The Man Trap'. But I'm not even going to click my tongue and grumble 'Derivative!'- because it works and I like it, dammit.

Faux Bones raises Spock's suspicion... by being too agreeable and admitting he's capable of mistakes! Someday, that's how they'll catch my evil twin...

Kirk's keen observation skills catch the shifter pretending to be an extra table. Spock explains that Vendorians can rearrange their molecular structure into anything of the same general size and mass. Also Spock says they practice deceit as a way of life. That's why their world is quarantined. This particular fellow sabotaged the shields, leaving them vulnerable to...

...Romulans who lay claim to the trespassing Enterprise (obviously). Captain Kirk accuses them of sending the Vendorian saboteur (obviously). Now for the surprises that make it all worthwhile...

The Vendorian spins a tale of tending the dying Carter for a year, hearing of his love for Anne, and how the longer his people hold a form the more they take on its emotions. He claims he loves Anne. It's very convincing. (Hey, didn't Spock say these people are a deceitful culture?)

But when the Romulans attack, the Vendorian becomes a deflector shield(!) and apparently saves all their lives.

He says he is an outcast, a non-producer, a menial on his world. He admits to working for the Romulans to feel of value, but protected the humans out of Carter's altruism.

The Vendorian will stand trial, but Kirk will vouch for him, and Anne accepts him outright!

And that's what I love about these people- trust. Even if it's a bevy of blonde vampires or a duplicitous creepozoid, the humans of 2269 tend to give everybody their respect... and often their kisses, too.

More Tribbles, More Troubles

*** (3 stars out of 5)
"More Tribbles, More Troubles" does what it says on the tin. Writer David Gerrold returns (and appears as a toon cameo) alongside his fuzzy creations.

Enterprise is trying to protect a quintotriticale grain shipment to Sherman's Planet when they must intervene to save a civilian from a Klingon battleship.

It's a space battle! It's not very animated, but it's more special effects than could be managed by models back when, and technically speaking, the first time we see the ship of...

...Koloth! Radiant, like all his crew, in his daring lavender vest. He's attacking Cyrano Jones, known in the Empire as an ecological saboteur. Stanley Adams reprises Jones' wheedling voice to good effect.

Cyrano has shortened his parole on Station K-7 by finishing the tribble clean-up with an assistant: the genetically engineered predator called the glommer. Jones has had 'safe' tribbles made: they don't reproduce, they just get fat. Also, they're pink.

As a side business, Jones stopped selling Spican flame gems and now sells Spican flame gems (rhymes with frickin' instead of lichen).

My favourite image is the glommer unable to get its mouth around a fat tribble. I guess I can relate: I've made my own attempts to bite off more than I can chew, usually pie!

A derivative sequel to a fun episode is still a fun episode. Maybe it would've been more fun, or maybe no fun at all- if Gerrold had used his original (but not Saturday kid fare) notion in which the glommers breed rapidly as well, but feed on the crew.

I liked the tribbles when they were fat, but I had to scratch my head at the less amusing revelation that they were colonies packed together. That just returns us to the tribble avalanche gag, and the "fob them off on the Klingons" ending we've already seen. But at least McCoy got them out of Kirk's chair.

As Scotty put it: "It's best if all your tribbles are little ones."

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Lorelei Signal

*** (3 stars out of 5)

"The Lorelei Signal" by Margaret Armen has certain benefits easy to appreciate: namely, that when the men of the crew turn into love-sick idiots, it is Uhura & Chapel who take center stage.

Now, the Lorelei Signal itself- Uhura says it's like music. If you think music is a single, maddening, tortuously unending note- sure.

Meet Theela, who calls herself 'The Head Female'. Oh, dear. Well, whatever makes you popular!

The women of the second Taurean planet lure in and drain the life-essence of men, and not in the fun way. The hapless slobs are aging a decade per day, while stylish headbands siphon their years into immortality for the sneaky sirens.

How's this for weird? The voice cast includes both Nichelle Nichols and Majel Barrett. Why not have Majel reprise her role as Ship Computer? Why have Nichelle do it?

11 minutes in: Scotty croons a ballad. You can't beat that. Well, it's better than more Lorelei Signal.

Uhura in command! Chapel is Chief Medical Officer! About damn time!

Wrinkly Spock's dying request for an all-female landing party- BEST. REQUEST. EVER.

The local computer, (called Opto-aud) spins a vague history report in which the planet itself killed the Taurean men and mutated the women.

Oh, goody, now here's the first use of the transporter to magically cure aging. That's highly convenient and raises no lingering questions. (Heavy sigh.)

An all-girl crew will transplant the Taureans to happy normal lives on a brand new world...

In a Rehab Colony, surely? Or isn't luring many hundreds of men to their deaths a crime these days? Even with extenuating circumstances, shouldn't habitual vampires at least have to register with the authorities?

Unless the screwy environment was turning the Klingon and Romulan females blonde and blunting their ears, then either all five starships that went missing had all male crews or the Taureans have been quietly doing away with women for decades, too. And they can't plead necessity- they've had access to starships for a century and a half! They are apparently killing because it's easier than MOVING HOUSE.

They seem eager to begin dating and, frankly, I'd be a little curious about what they'll put on their spacebook pages: Mutant Mindee, hair: blonde, eyes: blue, age: 170+, status: single, interests: music, leisure, simply devouring men! Klingons and Romulans welcome, no smokers please.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

One of Our Planets Is Missing

**(2 stars out of 5)
"One of Our Planets Is Missing" is fair, a 'Fantastic Voyage'-style adventure in the belly of a beast.

Enterprise rushes to the Pallas 14 system, home of Mantilles, outermost planet in the Federation. It's under threat from a cosmic cloud.

Kirk's log declares: "Nothing like it has ever been seen before". Except the Vampire Cloud from 'Obsession', or the giant amoeba in 'The Immunity Syndrome'.

Bob Wesley from 'The Ultimate Computer' left Starfleet to become Governor of Mantilles. Apparently he dyes his hair brown now and wears science blue. Coloring and Jimmy Doohan's voice notwithstanding, that's a neat character cameo, adding to my personal assertion that the animated series is and always was canonical, no matter what the Great Bird may have said.

Ambiplasma tendrils capture the ship and pull it inside the cloud beast.

My wife says the cloud's cross-section looks like Australia with a horse being struck by lightning inside, and I am forced to agree.

Passing alongside antimatter villi of the gargantuan digestive system, Kirk reveals his basic lack of what must be grade school biology in his century: asking of Bones "Villi?" Who's the cabbage today?

Despite the Starfleet regulations against killing and his personal values, Kirk may need to kill the cloud to save the 80 million meatbags on the planet it wants to eat. It's an agonizing decision, but at least he has pants on today, instead of the gold onesie he was apparently wearing in the same still during the pilot.

Spock telepathically plays 'Horton Hears A Who' with the Cloud-Beast. The wording is also a little graphic. "We are very small, and we have come inside of you" springs unfortunately to mind.

To give the lady cloud some instruction in perspective (or maybe a menu), Kirk presents the creature with computer-record views of Earth. Luckily, Spock talks her out of her carnivorous ways and suggests she head home instead of staying for seconds.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


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

"Yesteryear", by series story editor (and a personal favourite of mine) D.C. Fontana, is must-see. Assuming you ever watch any of these cartoons, watch THIS one.

It's a sequel of sorts to both 'The City on The Edge of Forever' and 'Journey To Babel'.

The Guardian of Forever on the time vortex planet is being (rather recklessly?) used for historical research.

(I love the Bird Guy with the tricorder. You just KNOW he's got a story. It's one of the strengths of animation- they can bring us a really ALIEN alien.)

Kirk & Spock return from a trip to the Orion past and nobody else remembers who Spock is! In this reality- Kirk's first officer has been an Andorian called Thelin for 5 years.

A Search for Spock reveals he died, age seven, in the kahs-wan maturity test. Since then his father Sarek has thrown himself into his work, and his mother Amanda Grayson has died in a shuttle accident. In the history Spock remembers his mysterious cousin Selek saved his life. Now Spock must become Selek, travel back thirty years to Tasmeen the 20th, 8877, and save his own young life to restore time.

(I love Thelin's sanguine response to his potentially being written out of a job, maybe out of existence. As a warrior, he is not especially charitable, but he respects family. Spock and Amanda's lives have value, so he simply offers the Vulcan salute.)

Undercover Spock observes his child-self responding with emotion to the taunts of racist little bullies. Sarek makes apology for his son, and Spock responds with "In the family, all is silence." I find that line especially disturbing in that it sounds like a Vulcan cultural platitude. Yikes!

I also enjoy Spock's line to his young self: "There is some human blood in my family line. It is not fatal."

Spock, age 7, (trailed by his bearlike old pet sehlat I-Chaya) runs off to the desert to try to prove himself. Spock, age 37, neck pinches Battlecat, a green miniature godzillasaur called a le-matya. The le-matya poisons brave I-Chaya in young Spock's place. The boy must choose to have the Healer extend the pet's life painfully, or to grant the beast a dignified death.

"Loss of life is to be mourned, but only if the life was wasted. I-Chaya's was not."

It's a delight, an insightful look at Vulcan and Spock's orgins, and a touching tale. I love it so.

Beyond The Farthest Star

* (1 imploded star out of 5)
"Beyond The Farthest Star" is the first of Trek's cartoon series. It's well-regarded in Star Trek magazine and on IMDB, but even for a pilot episode this is poor. Maybe it seems better in the middle of the night...that's when I used to watch them. But I've never liked this particular tale.

It starts leadenly with five minutes of numbers and people saying flank speed.

A dead star. A dead lifeless ship. A dead-voiced cast barely animated. I'm sorry for the pun, but this is very, very flat.

A SLIGHT MAGNETIC FLUX READING! Oh, don't worry, it comes to nothing.

The ship is 300 million years dead. Kirk says that's before life emerged on Earth. It isn't.

First appearance of Life Support Belts. More like Money Belts, and tightened ones at that. Fine idea to save on drawing spacesuits, but it always takes me out of the moment to be reminded how cheaply they made these. "Draw every character AGAIN, but in space suits? What are we, Japanese? Slap a forcefield belt on, kids won't care."

That said, it's a source of amazement to me that all the original crew (save Walter Koenig) returned as their character voices. As for the astonishing James Doohan, he voiced over 50 characters other than Scotty. He played most of the villains, most of the guest stars, and my favourite: Lt. Arex the six-limbed navigator. Who gets no lines today in his high nasal chatter.

A malevolent Redjac-like energy being gets into the ship, fires torture beams (from the ceiling-mounted Defensive Thimble never seen before or since) at the crew to make them OBEY, is tricked into fleeing when they bluff a crash, and then it whines when they leave it behind.

"Don't leave me alone please so lonely," it wails. Granted, it was a jerk, probably murderous, maybe the crew couldn't have done things any differently, but on a mission "to seek out new life" they do a lot of failing to communicate today. They make no attempt to discover the identity or goals of the creature. Compare and contrast the excellent 'Where No Man Has Gone Before' by the same author.

From Kirk's oxymoronic final log:
"Course- beyond the farthest star of our galaxy. Mission- star charting." What? Is that like saying 'we're taking the day off''? How do you chart the stars in starless extragalactic void? ' I bet there's a lot of black felt marker involved.

Spock inadvertently reviews the episode for me: "It's registering energy. Very little, but building." I like this series, part nostalgia, part good stories, but there's only one thing to recommend today: after four years in the void, it's new Star Trek. And that's good enough.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Turnabout Intruder

*** (3 stars out of 5)

It looks like the folks at Elba II missed a couple of homicidal nuts when they found the last 15 in the galaxy back in "Whom Gods Destroy".

Dr. Janice Lester, space archeologist, and Dr. Coleman, MD (Malpractice Douchebag) found an ancient alien mind-switching machine on Camus II. She ordered their team of witnesses into areas of deadly radiation and he failed to treat them. Then they hatched a dastardly scheme. Fiendish, even.

When the Enterprise shows up, Lester is faking sick until she's alone with Kirk. (They were in a bad break-up after a year together in the service.) She feels his "world of starship captains doesn't admit women" and whether or not that's literally true, she's found a loophole: she steals his body. While she's gloating in his, she ironically doesn't have the balls to strangle him in hers. Beaming up, Janice the Man is in charge, while Kirk the Woman is made to rest, stay sedated, and be quiet.

Spock and McCoy suspect "Kirk" almost from minute one. Chapel, sadly, believes Coleman and straps "Mad Lester" down and brings her a glass of PomWonderful. Kirk cuts her bonds and makes a run for it, but Big Stong Lester knocks her out again in front of Bones and Spock.

Bones has "Kirk" submit to exams including the Robbiani dermal-optic test to reveal basic emotional structure. Spock talks logic with "Lester" who acts very much like Jim, and telepathically reads as Jim. Telepathy is not admissable, and the Robbiani doesn't show an emotional disorder. (Some test! What happened to the brain scan that conclusively showed Mira Romaine was possessed? Not to mention the psychotricorder...)

Man Janice gets Spock, McCoy & Scotty on recordings talking mutiny, and orders their unlawful execution. Sulu, Chekov, and Lt. Lisa (identical cousin of Angela Martine) thankfully refuse to obey Captain Janice Crazypants.

Coleman's attempted murder of Prisoner Girl Kirk prompts their minds to switch back. Coleman says he'll look after Janice, but I hope no one lets him. You know... murderers.

Kirk's final line "Her life could have been as rich as any woman's. If only... if only.." Well, it's very Enigmatic, kids.
If only... Starfleet gave Captain's seats to homicidal maniacs?
If only... Kirk hadn't shattered Lester's mind when he left her for some blonde?
If only... women knew their limits?
If only... she was guest starring on 'The Mod Squad' instead?

"Turnabout Intruder" works on a pair of strong gender-swapped performances. It's no 'Freaky Friday' or the one with Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman urinating, but it's O.K.

Season 3 is weak, but without it Star Trek would not have reached syndication.
Where it got noticed big time.
And its legend grew.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

All Our Yesterdays

*** (3 stars out of 5)

"All Our Yesterdays" (the penultimate story of the classic Star Trek series) brings us a great Spock/McCoy story weighed down by the sub-par Kirk story tacked to it.

Having learned nothing from the Minaran nova earlier this year, Enterprise stops by the star Beta Niobe at the last minute.

Planet Sarpeidon has 3 hours to live, but everyone has fled into the past except the old librarian Mr. Atoz, who runs the time machine.

Atoz provides discs of the past on DVD, very similar to the format I'm watching this series on. (No time travel has been forthcoming for yours truly- except the usual direction.)

Through the atavachron gateway, Kirk hears a women's scream and winds up in a medieval Europe-like time zone complete with musketeer costumes and hot-and-cold running open sewers. The constabulary seize Kirk on suspicion of witchcraft. Then later he gets free. A jowly lawyer was involved- I nodded off.

Spock and Bones land in an Ice Age when they go after the Captain. The boys in blue are starting to match their shirts when they are saved from freezing by the fetching Zarabeth, unjustly exiled by a tyrant. Zarabeth is villain and romantic lead all in one, and her hide bikini hides very little.

Atavachron travellers like her have their cell structure changed to match their new time period, and to return is to die. Atoz never prepared our heroes, so they only have a few hours to live. Just enough time to avoid burning at the stake, or a tryst with a cave woman. Assuming you feel like avoiding that sort of thing.

Spock tells Zarabeth he knows of no way to return her to her own time (Guardian of Forever and high warp solar slingshot notwithstanding). Then again, he thinks Vulcan is millions of light years away (it's thousands at most) so he's not having a great day for thinking.

He is becoming a Vulcan of the past: meat-eating and girl-kissing.

Sarpeidon goes the way of all things, with Atoz, Zarabeth, and Jowls de Whipt long dead in the past.

Mariette Hartley (who despite the ruling of the court of public opinion is not James Garner's wife) is so great as Zarabeth that she returned in several other Roddenberry SF projects and (as I vaguely recall) a couple of Star Trek novel sequels.

Tell me this shouldn't have been the last episode aired: we are tragically forced to leave love behind, and the final shot is the death of a star.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Savage Curtain

*** (3 stars out of 5)

"The Savage Curtain" is pretty good. Not a ringing endorsement, I know, but they can't all be terrible even in Season 3. Don't know what the title refers to, though.

Despite the space legends, the lava planet Excalbia scans as lifeless. Captain Kirk is ready to call it a day when up floats Abraham Lincoln. Space Lincoln? I detect the patriotic drum beat of Gene Roddenberry!

"Do you still measure time in minutes?" Lincoln asks.

Kirk responds: "We can convert to it." Uh, yeah, you sure can. By looking at the chronometer on Sulu's console where it shows the time in these "hours" and "minutes" you've used all series long.

Alien-Broham Lincoln calls the communications officer "a charming Negress", then tries to apologize in case she'd found the term offensive?

She says she didn't, because: "In our century we've learned not to fear words."

It's my favourite line from Uhura. It's a two-stars line by itself.

On the tiny habitable land created amidst the molten rock: Kirk and Spock meet Surak, the Vulcan Jesus.

Surak, like Lincoln, was a heroic type to celebrate differences rather than fear them, and was father of Vulcan philosophy. His robes of gaudy old curtains were no doubt logical in their day. Maybe THAT'S the savage curtain!

A steaming pile of... rock called an Excalbian summons up some "bad guys" to pit the "good guys" against:
Genghis Khan, last seen helping Bill S. Preston & Ted 'Theodore' Logan with their history project.
21st Century genocidal soldier Colonel Green in the familiar garb of Khan Singh & Roykirk.
Zora, who performed grisly experiments on Tiburon in pursuit of the universes' unruliest eyebrows.
Kahless- the original tyrant of the Klingons.

Surak, who abhors violence, tries to negotiate and is killed. When Lincoln sneaks into the enemy camp, he is also killed. Outnumbered, Kirk and Spock still prevail.

Yarnek the Excalbian draws no conclusion until Kirk points out "evil" was motivated by the offer of power, while "good" fought to preserve life. Kirk asks what gives the test maker the right to test: and receives a surprisingly fair response: "the need to know new things".

That said, tell that to the Excalbians who transmuted themselves into historical figures and got speared.

The Cloud Minders

** (2 stars out of 5)

"The Cloud Minders"

A plant plague on Merak II requires the mineral zenite from Federation member world Ardana. Will the High Advisor of floating city Stratos help?

I'm five, so I giggle when they keep saying 'The HIGH Advisor' of Stratos.

The classic image of Stratos the Cloud City was a lovely painting, and the CG version is better still.

Troglyte miners are forced to toil for zenite on the surface, while the Ardana elite lounge around the clouds being elite.

The miners with their totally tubular shades lay a smack down on the landing party until High Advisor Plasus shows up to make apology for his disgruntled wage slaves.

Spock calls the city "The finest example of sustained antigravity elevation I've ever seen." Seconds later he meets Plasus' daughter Droxine and is forced to repeat himself while staring at her bikini.

Spock has the inequitable situation figured out instantly and spends his time pursuing Droxine, flirting with ten-dollar words, and uncharacteristically spilling rather a lot of beans about the supposedly unspeakable Vulcan mating cycle. It's a conversation that strongly implies that while all Vulcans MUST mate every seven years, they CAN mate whenever they damn well... deem it... logical.

The hypocrisy of Ardana's government, claiming total non-violence but practicing ray torture on labour dissidents, is quickly exposed. McCoy's examinations reveal Troglytes are mentally impeded by the gas emitted from unrefined zenite- Kirk offers filter masks but Plasus forbids it. Kirk therefore brings one to imprisoned Troglyte leader Vanna. She takes him hostage to dig the mines.

Vanna considers the hostage Captain more valuable than "their mortaes and thongs".
I don't know what that first thing is, but I'm sure those dirty Troglytes would look fetching in thongs!

Kirk, to prove digging zenite makes one stupid and violent, traps Vanna, Plasus and himself in a cave with dwindling oxygen until they all begin to fight... stupidly. VICTORY!

That's all for now, drive safely, mind that cloud.

The Way To Eden

**** (4 stars out of 5)

"The Way To Eden" has taken a lot of flak and scorn over the years. I'm one of those rare few who actually loves it!

Enterprise is in pursuit of a bunch of drop-outs in a stolen ship. The Aurora originally looked like they'd stolen it from the Tholians and slapped on a couple of warp engines. The CG version is a splendid improvement.

But there's no way (and no reason) to update the look of Aurora's crew: They're space hippies, and they'll always BE space hippies.

In the summer of '69 (2269, that is) there was a youth revolt. Sit-ins, chant-ins, love-ins. Severin's rebels will never, ever be any good.

They have turned their backs on Federation society and this particular group is trying to follow Dr. Severin of Tiburon to mythical planet Eden.

One is purple-haired Tongo Rad, surely a surfer dude and son of the Catullan ambassador.

Another is Chekov's Academy ex- girlfriend Irina Galliulin. Don't say it too fast, Herbert, it's a mouthful. Irina fled Pavel's disapproval back in their Academy days.

I love Chekov and Irina together. The good solider and the protester girl. (Walter Koenig thinks it's a low point, but I thought they both did a wonderful job. Compare and contrast the zero chemistry of Mira Romaine or some of Kirk's romances.)

Charles Napier is real now as tune-strumming Adam. My favourite of his lyrics: "All kinds of trouble come to an end when a man tells another man 'be my friend'" I enjoy the connection he makes with Spock as fellow musician.

Poetically, Spock describes Severin's movement as an almost biological rebellion against planning, technology, and things being generally nice and orderly. He says the counter-culture has a hunger for spring, which makes me wonder: there's no SPRING anymore?

Spock is not exactly sympathetic to these flower-children of the Scrambled Infinite Egg, but he seeks understanding- Spock, too, knows what it is to feel like an alien in his own world.

McCoy uncovers an ugly truth: Severin carries a nasty little bug called synthococcus novae produced in the last few years by their aseptic, sterilized civilizations. Anyone who catches it from Severin MUST remain in reach of immunizations or die- the primitive planet he seeks is out of the question.

Spock suggests Severin get his people to behave, legally colonize their Eden. But though Spock believes in what they seek, he is sure the Tiburonian leader is insane. Severin blames
computers and science for his illness and wrongly believes that going back to nature will cure him.

While the filthy hippies have their jam session, Rad breaks his boss out and they hijack the starship from auxiliary control. Wouldn't you know it- Eden is in Romulan space.

The poor misguided bastards stun the establishment and take a shuttle down to 'Eden'. Bare feet and trusting mouths are horribly burned- on a world made of acid.

"Be incorrect occasionally." says departing Irina to Pavel, and he urges her the reverse... occasionally.

It is implied the hippies will rejoin society- but is it really such a bad one?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Requiem For Methuselah

** (2 stars out of 5)

"Requiem For Methuselah" may be well-performed, but I object to its principles, or lack thereof. You can't have tragedies without having fatal flaws, but our heroes fail a lot today.

Ryetayln, a rare medication mixing ritalin and rye, is needed to cure Rigellian fever, which has infected the crew and killed three. Mixologist McCoy to the rescue!

The doctor, Spock, and Kirk beam down to planetoid Holberg 917G and are set upon by upside-down NOMAD wearing a pair of colanders. It's called M-4 (Daystrom's cast off, no doubt).

Get offn' my poperty! grouses Mr. Flint, the owner of the robot (and the planet) in so many more high-falutin' words. Flint also mutters on about listening to the rustling rats in 1334. It's not an apartment number- he's an immortal. You can tell: he's got a lot of artsy stuff.

Flint tells his girl genius ward Rayna Kapec that humans are selfish and brutal. So she rushes out to meet them!

M-4 attacks Kirk for attacking Rayna with kisses. Spock disintegrates M-4, and another is quickly back at work, thanks for playing.

Spock does not attempt to kiss M-4.

Scan of Flint shows the recluse is 6,000 years old. He claims to have been Solomon, Alexander, Lazarus, Methuselah, Merlin etc. Also that he knew Galileo, Socrates, Moses why not, yadda yadda. Stone tablet birth certificate: born 3834 BC in Mesopotamia. As the B-52s had it- 'where they laid down the law'. If you mentioned it, Flint would probably say he WAS the B-52s. All of them.

Rather than risk his privacy Flint suspends the Enterprise crew in an AMC model kit on his desk. As you do. At least as you do if you are hoarding advanced transmutation, stasis, and mass manipulation tech the likes of which might benefit humankind if applied for unselfish purposes. But his jerkiness doesn't stop there...

Flint was matchmaking Kirk and Rayna in the hopes that the Captain would prime the pump of her robot feelings and Flint could then have her for himself. As he is her CREATOR, I have to say: Ick. Sorry, but if you crafted her, taught her, raised her, (given she is self-willed and emotional) then the word is not immortal lover, not "property" but daughter. You ass.

Kirk has fallen so hard for Rayna during one hour that he seems to have forgotten his men are dying. Kirk also forgets about his not killing policy and physically fights Flint for the Girlbot.

Rayna is so brittle that she dies of the vapours from watching them fight. Back to the drawing board.

McCoy, who also seems to have forgotten everything at stake, (and that taking a pulse might be useless on an android) scans and says Flint is dying of not being on Earth. Um... move back? No, forget it, don't care, he seems like a jerk ass jerk.

Finally, Spock uses mind meld to erase miserable, grieving Kirk's memory of Rayna. Without Kirk's permission. Uh, not cool. Is this some Federation custom? Reverse Ethics Day? I think either Flint's brandy or the brain attack of the Lights of Zetar must have done more damage than anyone thought.

Why are immortals always famous people? And who is in the tombs of Brahms, da Vinci, etc? Did this ass kill a vagrant every 50 years on average since Sumeria? Forget a Requiem, this Methuselah deserves a punch.

The Lights of Zetar

* (1 star out of 5)

"The Lights of Zetar" is apparently Ronald D. Moore's least favourite classic Star Trek episode, which is one thing Battlestar Galactica's showrunner and I have in common. It's a close race in this season, though, with plenty of duds to choose from. I'm being slightly arbitrary, but this may win the prize for Duddiest.

Memory Alpha (before it was an oft-consulted Trek wiki) is a central library planetoid with all the accumulated scientific and cultural knowledge of the Federation. How many navy beans make five, what wine to serve with Regulan blood worm... everything you'd care to know and so much more.

Information specialist Lt. Mira Romaine is helping to upgrade the place and Scotty has fallen in love with her. He calls her "The sanest... women that has ever come aboard this ship." Oh, he also calls her pretty, and nice, and all that mush. 'Sane' just stands out for me, gives me a chuckle because it makes the engineer sound like he thinks 'woman' is a synonym for 'totally addled'.

Or as Sulu jokes: "I don't think he's even noticed she has a brain."

Even Spock's impressed with this paragon, this Mary Sue, but... wait- she's a lieutenant, and a specialist, and this is only her first assignment for the Federation? How did she earn a rank without having done anything?

A weird storm approaches at Warp 2.6. "Check that" snaps Kirk. "No natural phenomenon can move faster than the speed of light."

Spock confirms this- "It cannot be a phenomenon of nature."

They both remember the Vampire Cloud, right? That phenomenon of nature they fought last year? The one that moved even faster than this one?

The storming lights hit the shields and zoom in on the negative scratches on a picture of Lt. Romaine's eye. She begins making the noises I often make with my stomach and internal sphincters. Maybe you know the ones I mean.

The nerves of everyone's brains have been attacked (much as I just attacked you with the imagined noises of my digestive secretions) but only Mira collapses.

Mira snaps at McCoy: "I haven't had a single response worth noting!" Oh, honey, truer words.

I can't tell- does she even like Scotty? There's supposed to be a romance blossoming- is it meant to look so one-sided? There should be more stories devoted to Scotty. Just not THIS one.

Mira only passed her preliminary Starfleet exams? Are they just handing out lieutenant ranks? Can I be a Lieutenant? No, a Ghostbuster. I want to be a Ghostbuster... I AM a Ghostbuster!

The Lights check out the library- killing every poor bookworm inside.

Our crew know the power is out, but they beam into Memory Alpha without flashlights. Nice training. This is everyone's first assignment, right?

The dead library technician gargles at them, turns every colour of the rainbow, and only stops breathing while dead in the Special Edition. Although maybe that wasn't a mistake: maybe it was simply a comment on the extreme physical stamina of librarians!

Mira is suspended in transport- for... because... uh, padding?

Scott and Mira decide not to report her strange mental visions. Scotty shrugs it off- "It's just space." This is not responsible, logical, or sane. If you have weird visions and a library full of people in the same circumstances have just died of brain hemorrhages, GO TO THE DOCTOR!

The Lights keep chasing the ship, and Kirk fights back. "Prepare to lock phasers into the heart of the Community." Joel McHale and Mira collapse!

The characters waste a few minutes going over the events of the episode so far. Thank you ever so much for a rehash of WHAT I AM WATCHING RIGHT NOW.

Kirk urges Mira to submit to the will of the Lights. Which means talking in a low, slow, 'spooky' voice.

The Lights are from Zetar: they are the desires and will of the last hundred people from a world wiped out by war. They have searched a millennium for a suitable host body. Or a Popeye's Chicken.

Kirk passes judgment: "The price of your survival is too high... you're entitled to your own life, but not another's."

Then our heroes stuff Romaine in a dryer and tumble the evil out.

(It's a gravity chamber, but I have to make my own fun today.)

The Zetars had the will to last through death in war, and a thousand years in space, but not PRESSURE! Pushing down on me, pushing down on you... a full Several atmospheres of pressure will crush those nasty ghosts... but not the girl somehow. SCIENCE!

Doctor Who actor Tom Baker called a companion who contributed nothing 'The Cabbage'. I think 'Romaine' is in the same vegetable family...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

That Which Survives

** (2 stars out of 5)

Screw purple mountains' majesty: this mysterious planetoid also has purple sky, patches of purple grass, and a woman in sky-purple dungarees. She insists: "I am for you. I must touch you."

This is not as good as it sounds: at her touch your every cell explodes.

Landing party stranded in a quake! Ship hurled 990 light years away! Unstoppable woman popping up from nowhere and killing at random!

Spock is fidgety and persnickety (perspockety?) all episode. Maybe it was when he banged his occipital region against the arm of the chair. Still, the man had his whole brain removed and weathered it better than this...

Mr. Spock refers to the makers of the purple artificial planetoid as 'a very high culture'.

I think I agree. What sort of space weed were they smoking when they built a superheavy planet for the sole purpose of dispensing creepy/sexy telepathic holograms? Holograms which sporadically read as life forms and are genetically coded to destroy only ONE individual intruder at a time? Seems like a weirdly elaborate and inefficient defence plan from a very high culture indeed.

Or is it another broken computer story? If it was broken- what the hell was it supposed to be doing? Deadly purple photocopier, I suppose.
The 'door' effect of Losira the hologram folding up in three dimensions is pretty damn cool.

Triplicating under the lights of her whirlygig disco cube, playing deadly touch football, and with some space weed percolating, this was probably more fun. I can't fault it for looks and action.

So, what is "That Which Survives"?
As Captain Kirk would have it in today's moral that is no moral:
"Beauty... survives."

The Mark of Gideon

* (1 star out of 5)
"The Mark of Gideon" is the first episode I've seen on this endeavour that made me alter the star rating of the previous one. I had to raise 'Let That Be Your Last Battlefield' by one star because NOW it doesn't seem so dull.

Kirk goes missing while beaming down to the zealously isolated planet Gideon.

From Kirk's perspective, everybody disappears from the Enterprise, and a cheerful blonde girl appears who moves at super speed... no, wait, that was 'Wink of An Eye". This blonde's called Odona instead of Deela.

Spock spars with the evasive leadership of Gideon. Oh, does it drag! How many times can you read out transporter co-ordinates, then verify and re-confirm them, guys? Verbally? The answer is seven, it only FEELS like a hundred.

As Kirk says of his mysterious bruise: "It is causing me some irritation."

The big reveal here is that Gideon is so hideously overpopulated that its habitable zones are covered in desperate, miserable people who live long, regenerative lives. Odona says any one of them would kill or die just to get some privacy. But her father Hedin says life is so sacred to them they cannot even allow the use of contraception- but they would rather instigate a plague!

O.K., like last episode's "racism sucks" I appreciate the moral of the story "don't overbreed". I truly do. But... but... as today's Guest Admiral said: "I am waiting for your explanation of why."

Why build a replica of the Enterprise? How did the Gideonites possibly find room for it? It's more than twenty stories high!
They bruised Kirk to steal his blood and infect themselves with his dormant strain of deadly Vegan choriomeningitis. They regret even bruising a stranger, but they want to have their kids volunteer to die? And THIS will make their world a paradise again?
What do they eat? If there's a mass of flesh from sea to people-covered sea, then I hope they like soylent green.
How do they hide so many billions of life-signs from orbital scan- under a really big tarp?
They dress in full body condoms already, but they won't stop having unprotected sex while apparently standing upright in crowds?!?

I swear, I usually like metaphors. I just want them to make some effort at believability.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Let That Be Your Last Battlefield

** (2 stars out of 5)

"Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" is pretty bad. But actor Frank Gorshin (yesterday Yvonne 'Batgirl' Craig, today The Riddler?) deserves some credit so I'm refusing to give it zero stars.

Enterprise catches a leaky shuttle stolen recently from Starbase 4. The thief stumbles out and collapses.
Good gravy, it's a MIME!

And they travel in pairs. But they're the talking-est damn mimes you ever did see!

They hail from planet Cheron in the southern region of the galaxy where the boll weevils are bifurcated and the cotton is on fire from ten times ten thousand years of race-based fighting.

Bele (to rhyme with peel) has been in pursuit of Lokai for 50,000 years in his invisible (and therefore cost-effective) ship. With a lot of padding and self-destruct bluffing, the totalitarian cop seizes mental control over the Enterprise to fly it back to planet Bigot III.

36 minutes in, Bele (to rhyme with Ed O'Neill) finally explains the source of the conflict between them: Bele's people, former enslavers, are black on the right side, Lokai's people, formerly oppressed, are white on the right side. See?

One side frosted for kids, one side sensible for adults. Like Mini-Wheats.

Kirk tells Bele (to rhyme with Jessica & Jennifer) how the Federation is big on individual rights. Chekov and Sulu assure Lokai that Earth has no persecution any longer. Neither alien seems eager to join up- bioelectric strangulation being so much more rewarding.

Kirk and Spock, with no evidence, state the Cheron people must once have been mono-coloured like Vulcans and humans. How did they reach that conclusion? Earlier today nobody had ever seen a duo-toned alien, now you're more confident in your guesses about their origins and evolution than they are? Looks like humans got more arrogant when they did away with persecution.

42 year old spoiler: Cheron is a lifeless ruin. This time we can't blame the damn dirty apes.

The last nine hours of the episode are Bele chasing Lokai while Spock reports on their progress like monotone Doodles Weaver at the racetrack.

Sulu gets a good line for once. "Their planet's dead. Does it matter now which one's right?"

I never loved this episode, but the moral had more impact when I was a kid. Now, it feels ham-fisted on the right side, numbingly dull on the left side.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Whom Gods Destroy

*** (3 stars out of 5)
"Whom Gods Destroy" they first make mad.

This episode is not well-regarded, but it doesn't make me mad. For me, it's got all the right ingredients: a nuthouse, a shapeshifter, and Batgirl painted green. Rrowr!

Poisonous planet Elba II houses the last 15 incurable criminally insane people in the galaxy. Kirk and Spock (in an ongoing effort to eliminate all drama) are delivering a new medicine expected to cure them, too.

No more insanity? Good news for the galaxy, bad news for Batman comics.

The inmates are running this particular Arkham. Shapeshifting former starship captain Garth of Izar apparently shops at the same coat store as Kodos the Executioner.
Awful Coats For Madmen's old curtain remainder bin, perhaps.

Garth has abandoned the title 'Captain' for 'Lord'- Leader of the Masters of the Universe. Skeletor of Eternia may have something to say about THAT!

Lord Garth has turned the torture chair from Tantalus into a torture chair. Sort of the same as Orion murderess Marta writing poems other people have already written. Or all the inmates wearing hand-me downs from previous episodes. The Tellarite and Andorian make-up has really improved, though.

Hey, whaddya call an Orion who stabs her lovers? A Green Widow.
Thank you. Tip your green waitress.

Speaking of which, 14 out of the last 15 psychos are male, and 6 out of the 10 onscreen are Caucasian humans. Even if the final 5 psycho killers left anywhere are aliens it still looks bad numbers-wise for white guys.

The moment when Spock tests the forcefield of his cell with his finger is good character stuff, and so is his double-nerve pinch to the goons moments later!

Spock's logic, however, seems to fail him in deducing which Kirk is which. After one generic tactical query, Spock gives up and waits for the outcome of Jim & Garth's brawl. (This was the director seeking more action, and Nimoy objected at the time. Nimoy was right, by the way.)

Star Trek director choosing mindless action over character? This way lies madness. (I'm looking at you, Star Trek Nemesis.)