Monday, October 31, 2011

The Paradise Syndrome

*** (3 stars out of 5)

Asteroid threatens Native American World!
Captain Kirk loses mind, marries!
Film at 7.

Despite Hodgkin's Law of Parallel Planet Development we've heard so much about, our well-travelled crew are somehow startled to see another planet a lot like Earth. It's no coincidence: we learn today that Earth vegetation and culture were transplanted by advanced aliens called 'The Preservers'. The Preservers borrowed races they felt were going extinct and seeded them in safer places. (Nobody's met these Preservers- did they go somewhere safer? And if so... uh oh.)

Anyway, here's a culture of peaceful Navajo, Mohican, & Delaware people. Their Preserver artifact, a strange obelisk, swallows Kirk and zaps him in the head, resulting in space amnesia. Spock and McCoy cannot find him, but must depart to divert the approaching giant asteroid.

Emerging from the obelisk temple, Kirk is mistaken for a god by the priestess Miramanee. He does vaguely remember being from the sky, and he can breathe life into a drowned boy. The god thing does look likely... so the Elder gives Salish's medicine chief job to the newcomer, who they name Kirok. The job comes with a traditional marriage to the priestess. Miramanee is altogether too happy about that. Poor Salish's dead father also selfishly denied him the hereditary secret of the temple... and how it is used to keep the skies from darkening.

While keeping the skies from darkening, Spock's phaser blasts of the asteroid burn out the power relays. On mere impulse power it will take 59 days to return to Miramanee's world.

Spock studies the Preserver language for two months without much sleep.

Kirok and Miramanee use that time to play kiss tag.

He dreams of his sky lodge, Miramanee gets preggers. Kirk's sideburns grow into rectangles instead of triangles, but still no beard. Futuristic depilatory? Did free electrolysis come with the space amnesia?

Kirok can make a lamp and plan irrigation, but when the wind picks up he can't deliver on the "rouse the temple spirit" part of the job. Disgruntled and afraid, the tribe stones Miramanee and, to a lesser extent, Kirok. Spock restores Jim to himself with the Vulcan mind fusion.

The temple opens with the tonal qualities of "(chirp) kirk to enterprise"? That's just a horrible coincidence.

Once inside, they use the Preserver deflector to turn away the asteroid. The world is saved, but Miramanee dies. Sad stuff.

According to wikipedia, Professor Daniel Bernardi criticized the portrayal of the Indians, particularly citing Miramanee as simple-minded. I would point out that she is no dumber than Shahna or Drusila. I'm pretty sure it's not as much about whites being innately smarter as about Captain Kirk having a "type".

"The Paradise Syndrome" seems to refer to how wonderful everything was before people could zip from star to star, instantly have food out of machines, and keep all their teeth until their death as a centenarian. How perfect: disease and superstition held us back, nobody knew CPR, and half of marriages ended in somebody being stoned. And not the good kind.

The Enterprise Incident

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

"The Enterprise Incident", you may have guessed, is an incident involving the Enterprise. You may also have guessed by the stars that I'm a big fan.

Captain Kirk is inexplicably a Grouchy Pants and he orders his ship into the Romulan Neutral Zone. As often happens when one does this, one is surrounded by Romulans. But just this once, they're all in Klingon ships. In-story reason: a temporary Klingon-Romulan alliance. Real world reason: money. (The CGI version puts in a Romulan Warbird for added awesomeness.)

Who secretly wants a cloaking device? The Federation, apparently. Have the Romulans got one they're not watching?

Kirk and Spock beam aboard in a hostage exchange to meet the Man in Charge.

The Romulan Commander... is a lady.

She's very impressive. For one thing: she's speaking English. For another: she actually is more in the right here than Kirk and Spock.

They are playing a game of deceits and espionage in order to steal a cloaking device. She, at least, is a brutally honest loyal soldier of the Romulan death machine.

Spock first swears Kirk is off his rocker, then pretends to kill his Captain. She offers Spock a place in her Empire if he makes good on his overtures of defection.

Spock starts a seduction to distract and manipulate this woman. The Romulan Commander is cunning, logical, and emotional. And, like many before and after her, she's got Vulcan fever.

McCoy surgically alters Kirk to pass for Romulan so he can beam back there and steal the new cloaking device.

The Romulan Comander whispers her secret name to Spock, and dresses to impress him in the boudoir. They engage in some heavy "finger kissing". But her underling Subcommander Tal bursts in before the good stuff- they detected Spock's covert communicator signal.

The Commander seems genuinely betrayed, slaps Spock, and sentences him to an unpleasant execution. Spock claims the Right of Statement: he filibusters for 15-20 minutes. Long enough for Chekov to scan for the only Vulcan aboard. They beam Spock out and get a two-for-one deal when they also snag the Commander.

I'm starting to think the Romulans don't even HAVE shields!

Scotty adapts the stolen cloak in time to turn invisible and skulk away.

Rather than the brig, Spock escorts her to quarters on Deck Two. (By way of every other deck, I guess, it's quite a long, emotional turbolift ride to travel down one floor.)
They will set her free at the nearest Federation Outpost.

Joanne Linville is a delight as the Commander. No wonder she turns up so much in Trek fiction.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Spock's Brain

** (2 stars out of 5)

A massive letter writing campaign saved 'Star Trek' from cancellation. Nice work, fans!
Of course, letters don't stop budget cuts. The first result of this was "Spock's Brain", and I think everyone's suffered enough.

The thing is, 'Spock's Brain'; while undeniably, embarrassingly bad, is quotably, enjoyably bad. Watch it with friends and shout back at it!
A brunette in go-go boots from a spaceship Scotty apparently wants to ask out (the ship, I mean, not the woman) knocks everyone unconscious and walks off with Spock's mightiest organ.

Horrified McCoy explains, "He was worse than dead... his BRAIN is gone!"

Bones continues. "Where are you going to look... in this whole galaxy? Where are you going to look for Spock's Brain?"

"I'll find it." Kirk assures him.

True to his word, 16 hours later, they take a gamble on Sigma Draconis VI. The landing party is set apon by howling bearded barbarians wielding what appear to be big, brown sausages.
Stunned, one male tells them he's never heard of "women", but he's scared of the "others", the small ones that give pain and delight. You know the ones. Women. Am I right, guys?

Bones beams down with Remote Control Spock. He's slapped on a headband and is walking Spock around like a lumbering, clicking zombie. Clicking?

The underground city is populated by, you guessed it, women. They are less informed, if possible, than the surface dwellers.

"What is this place?" asks Kirk.
"This place is here." says Luma the Eymorg, who is not a Morg and knows the spacemen are not Eymorg and not Morg. For all the good that does anybody.

Spock's disembodied voice leads them by communicator. They are captured and given snazzy pain belts by the Eymorg leader Mistress Kara. She was the brain thief, but has never heard of a brain. She stomps her foot petulantly. "Brain and brain- what is brain?"

These simpletons have put the brain in charge of air conditioning and heating. Their own brains are atrophied unless they use the teacher tapes. McCoy uses the risky teacher machine to boost his skills and restore Spock's brain. The knowledge wears off when Bones is only half finished, but Spock talks him through the rest.

It doesn't seem to work on any level. Not as metaphor for the gender divide, or mind over matter, or whatever. It's not action, comedy, drama, dromedary, fantasy, romance, or horrorstraganza. It's a mess, like a haphazardly re-inserted alien brain. But, worryingly, it's not the worst episode of the year.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Assignment: Earth

*** (3 stars out of 5)

Enterprise has used the light-speed breakaway factor to visit Earth: 1968. Their mission is one of observation: how did the human race survive?

The answer is... someone else!

Thanks for visiting, I know how horrifyingly dangerous time-travel can be: how one careless mis-step will wipe out everything, so by all means use it frivolously to attempt to launch a back-door TV pilot.
Gary Seven, a 20th Century man in a business suit, is intercepted beaming in on "Assignment: Earth" from an advanced and hidden world. Raised on this alien planet since his ancestors were taken there 6,000 years ago, Seven was trained to help Earth mature safely. From his New York City office, with his clever shapeshifting cat Isis, and his plucky Earthling assistant Roberta Lincoln, Gary Seven helps avert nuclear disaster during the launch of a weapons platform. The literal-minded computer Beta 5 (hidden behind a drinks cabinet), and Gary's sonic screwdriver, I mean... servo will open doors and help him out of jams.

Roberta says she is one of those crazy rebel generation who wonder if they'll live to see 30. I'm glad a lot of them did, although this pilot did not sell. A real-time 15-minute rocket launch countdown is not as thrilling as once it must have seemed. Still, this could have been a good series along the lines of 'The Avengers' or 'Doctor Who'. In a parallel world I could be watching seasons of "Gary 7" on DVD.

That said, our regular characters look pretty useless standing around waiting for Gary to do things. Or looking gob-smacked while Gary does things. Or looking smug when Gary does things!

I did learn that it can be frustrating when our favourite Starfleet characters fade into the background while intriguing, technically skilled, emotionally limited people named Seven arrive from advanced civilizations to upstage them. But just this once.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bread and Circuses

** (2 stars out of 5)
'Bread and Circuses' begins with the search for the S.S. Beagle on planet IV of Star System 892 (because yesterday they ran out of star system NAMES). Beagle's captain was R.M. Merrick, who Kirk knew at the Academy. Merrick was dropped in his 5th year (Since we later learn Starfleet Academy is a 4 year program, I think I see why they dropped him).

Planet IV is a 20th Century Rome. T-Shirts replaced togas. Cars replaced chariots. Slaves are in revolt and TV studios make live bloodsport broadcasts in black & white.

After some token muttering about the Prime Directive, McCoy (I hope sarcastically) declares his wish to land someplace and pretend to be an angel. Or that Spock could get a pitchfork...

At peace for 400 years, this Roman World didn't have the 6 million deaths of Earth's WWI, the 11 million of WW2, or the 37 million of WW3.
But they still made all the same technological advances, speak & write in English, and they had their own Julius Caesar by THE SAME NAME. In accordance with Hodgkin's Law of Parallel Planet Development this makes sense somehow.

Proconsul Marcus bribes Kirk, hoping the Captain will do as Merrick did and order his crew down into the arenas. The bribe is a night with a slave girl. It is STRONGLY implied Kirk took this bribe. I believe I speak for everyone when I say 'Ick'.

Kirk's execution will be in FULL COLOUR! Scotty blacks out the studio from orbit. Merrick saves the Starfleeters, but is stabbed to death by Marcus for his treachery.

Uhura pipes up with a tidbit from her radio monitoring. The local peaceniks called the Children of the Son aren't Sun Worshippers, they are referring to the Son of God... Jesus Christ. His two thousand year old message of brotherhood and peace is only now bringing down the despots.

Our crew smile fondly and wish they could stay to see it happen again.

Yeah, those sure were twenty awesome centuries! Earth's Son Worshippers and their stifling of other philosophies made this planet a paradise so long ago we forgot how wonderful it all was! Thank God for the Holy Wars that forced everybody alive from one end of the galaxy to the other to believe in anything they liked... as long as it was Christianity.

The Ultimate Computer

**** (4 stars out of 5)

Twenty-five years ago, Dr. Richard Daystrom designed the duotronic systems used on starships like Enterprise. Now, he's sold the Federation government "The Ultimate Computer" called the M-5 multitronic unit. It was designed to save lives by replacing the starship captain.
Starship Captain Kirk greets this news with little enthusiasm.

Spock, it should be noted, likes computers. "The most unfortunate lack in current computer programming, is that there is nothing immediately available to replace the starship surgeon."

Daystrom unfolds from beneath his device, approximately nine feet high and with a voice equally imposing. The actor William H. Marshall was amazing, I loved his Othello but I loved his Daystrom first.

Commodore Bob Wesley runs an unscheduled drill on the M-5 with a mock attack from starship Lexington. It's a rapid victory for the automaton.

Spock prizes loyalty above the new machine. "Computers make excellent and efficient servants, but I have no wish to serve under them."

Bob, however, has to pour salt in the wound, calls Kirk useless. While Kirk drinks and moans poetry to Bones, M-5 makes a small boo-boo.

"Your brilliant young computer just destroyed an ore freighter." growls Bones. "In fact, it went out of its way to destroy an ore freighter!"

When they try to shut M-5 down it casually disintegrates a guy (and his red shirt) to tap a new power source.

Daystrom regards M-5 as his learning, growing child, and despite all the murder, he is still driven to protect it. He impressed human engrams into M-5's synapse-like relays. It thinks... and it does so with a copy of Dick's Big Brain. Sadly, Daystrom has serious emotional problems.

How much did the government pay for this? Who signed off on it? 'Let's hand the power to destroy a planet to a prototype! Don't ask it to pass the Turing Test, don't ask it to pour drinks for a few years to work its way through college, just give it torpedos and then attack it 'for pretend'!'
They try to stop it with a fleet. It fights back, and hard.

"It misunderstood!" sobs Daystrom.

Nearly 600 dead, including everybody on the Excalibur. Kirk lays a guilt trip on M-5, using its erroneous belief that the penalty for murder is death. But, in fact, we were told last year that there is only one death penalty left: for breaking quarantine on Talos IV, and they let the guy who did that off with a warning. Murderers go to Rehab Colonies. That's where Daystrom is bound, after his breakdown.

But the M-5's suicide solves the problem, too. And only Daystrom feels bad about it. Because as we learned today, compassion keeps men ahead of machines.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Omega Glory

* (1 star out of 5)
U.S.S. Exeter was patrolling around Planet Omega IV (with fatty acids) six months ago, now it's circling around empty... except for hundreds of uniforms full of tiny, white crystals.

Is it in poor taste to suggest the writer of 'The Omega Glory' may have smoked some of these crystals?

Exeter's last survivor, Captain Ron Tracey, is an identical cousin of Tantalus Director Simon Van Gelder from 'Dagger of the Mind'. And he seems to think he's the GREAT WHITE HOPE of the world. Sorry, I meant THE CREAM OF THE CROP... and the cream is WHITE. Is this sounding racist? Well, get used to it.

The local villagers, called Kohms, are Asian flavored tyrants and the grunting savages are a Caucasian brand called Yangs.

Kirk tells us that a star captain's most solemn oath is to die or sacrifice his whole crew before violating the Prime Directive of Non-Interference. (I guess nobody made John Gill take this oath before he brought us Nazi World now with Extra Nukes. But what's Captain Kirk's excuse? Is there a clause where you can interfere- as long as the culture you're messing up is stagnant?)

Captain Tracey thinks he's found the fountain of youth in this planet's post-apocalyptic viral stew of an environment. The locals live for well over a thousand years, you see. McCoy confirms you might cure the common cold here, but you'd have to plague and bomb yourselves silly first.

His phaser out of power from killing THOUSANDS of Yangs, Tracey decides to 'axe' Kirk a question: Can I have ten more phasers?

The insane speculation continues: Yangs might be Yankees with a quasi-American Indian culture, Kohms could be Commies playing Mongol hordes. But every mad guess is true: the Yangs have a tattered American flag, a Bible in English, the American Constitution and the Pledge of Allegiance. By the mighty evolutionary power of coincidental horse shit!

Ron and Kirk have a knife fight to determine who is the more awesome. Guess which.

Spock's mental command to a Yang gets her to open a communicator and bring Sulu's rescue.
Yup, he just looks at women and they do his bidding. Spock, ladies and gentlefish!

Kirk's rant in praise of the blessed holy perfection of the United States Constitution rings every jingoistic jingo bell in the jingo gym. He pokes the Yang Chief, arrests Tracey, and leaves us scratching our heads. Scratching our heads with victory!(?)

What bugged me most? Weird disease that cures itself? Immortality red herring? Racial insensitivity- to at least three races, not counting Vulcans? Kirk's rapid recovery from skull bashing with a metal bar? Or the finger of God that touched America and made it a light unto the universe forever? Maybe those last two cancel each other out: when McCoy repairs Kirk's brain hemorrhages the preaching will tone down again.

By Any Other Name

**** (4 stars out of 5)
It might be time to stop answering distress signals...

Today, in "By Any Other Name" our trusting, helpful expolorers are captured by invaders from the Andromeda Galaxy. An advanced multi-generational warship from the Kelvan Empire broke apart while coming through the galactic barrier, and its conquering crew need a replacement vessel for the return trip.

With their advanced technology, they seize the Enterprise in minutes. A device on their belts can make people play freeze tag, or reduce them to their essence in compact but brittle sponge-like shapes. Yeoman Thompson and her Red Shirt are crushed to a handful of dust when Kirk is not co-operative. Yikes!

Enterprise is quickly modified to make the intergalactic journey in only 300 years. For Federation science, the journey would have taken thousands. Now they can turn the Warp Drive up to 11! (Unless they should happen to forget how before the next generation...)

The Commander, Rojan of Kelva, does not colonize well with others. Their culture is one of conquering and control. The aliens reduce the superfluous crew to little blocks.

Spock's tried-and-true telepathic jailbreak trick doesn't work for long, but the mind-touch reveals much. The Kelvans, in their natural state, have giant bodies with a hundred tentacles but little in the way of distracting perceptive senses. They lived all their lives in a sterile can in an empty void, eating nutrient pills. They have adopted human forms only recently.

And along with human forms come human feelings. The temptations of the flesh. Sweet flowers to smell. And so forth.

Scotty gets Tomar drunk on something he found on Ganymeer... mede. It's green. By the time Tomar passes out, Scotty is too blitzed to do anything about it.

Kirk puts the make on Kelinda. Spock convinces Rojan that this kissage is making Rojan jealous.

Kirk's taunts and slaps to Rojan lead to a brawl. Kirk points out how human Rojan's become after only a brief exposure to humanity. It's only going to get worse over centuries.

"When this ship gets to Kelva, the people on it will be humans!"

But, instead, they can send an invitation back by robot ship and the Kelvans can settle the Milky Way in peace.
Would they really extend this courtesy to invaders?

"No, but we would welcome friends."

If they'd had the budget to show the Kelvans' true forms back then, would our heroes still have "stimulated" these tentacled, faceless monstrosities?

If it's tough to sit across from one and keep your drink down, it's probably tougher still to tongue kiss them!

It was too easy a win, but I like the idea of a victory won with kisses instead of phasers.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Patterns of Force

* (1 star out of 5)
All these Nazi costumes hanging empty in the Props Department- seems like a shame to waste them...

What luck! Here's a Nazi Planet!

Kirk's old academy history instructor, Professor John Gill, hasn't reported in from his studies of planet Ekos. And the Ekosians suddenly have thermonuclear missiles. Coincidence?

The warlike Ekosians were technologically primitive, while their peaceful neighbours on planet Zeon have interplanetary ships. Now the Ekosians have adopted Nazi culture, declared John Gill the Fuhrer, and are dealing death to Zeon pigs. (For story purposes, don't ask why the Zeons didn't just take their ships back to Zeon.)

If dressing up as Mobsters was funny, dressing up as Nazis should be a RIOT!

Kirk & Spock are instantly captured and jailed.
It's time for shirtlessness and whipping again. Gotta have something for the ladies.

Thanks to Voltaire for summing up the plot of this episode in his song "U.S.S. Make Shit Up": "We met a nasty Nazi alien who locked our asses up. We used a hunk of crystal and a metal piece of bed, and made a laser phaser gun and shot him in the head."

Ekosians love Nazi culture so much, they changed their own name for themselves, but they write in English on their Fire Doors? I sense the genius of the Red Skull behind this!

The Zeons are named Abrom, Isak, & Davod. If no Earther was messing with planet Zeon, how come they're so Jewish already? Spock (despite Miri's Earth & others) states the Ekosians being Nazi parallels was IMPOSSIBLE. But nobody wonders what's up with Zion, uh, Zeon.

Ask the Enterprise computer for a 1944 Gestapo Doctor Colonel uniform and no problem, away you go. Ask what the flipping flying frak John Gill was thinking and all I hear is the wind...

Granted, Deputy Fuhrer Melakon seized power, drugged Gill, and corrupted the 'Nazi Efficiency Without Nazi Sadism' Plan. But even for a fictional character, John Gill must be the dumbest history professor in Starfleet history. Why did he interfere at all? Why give them nukes? Why does dressing as Nazis make them more efficient? Maybe the biggest question of all: why would he want to make violent aliens MORE efficient?

Kirk's closing statements seem to include the notion that 'The Leader Principle' is innately bad. I... but... huh? Doesn't Kirk know he's a leader? Don't go looking for answers in "Patterns of Force".

Return To Tomorrow

** (2 stars out of 5)
Sargon in Captain Kirk's body makes the face I make when I have to watch "Return To Tomorrow"!

Oh, it's not that bad! (It's pretty bad.)

It starts with dead people on a dead world and meanders around from there. Less 'The Walking Dead' but 'The Wandering Dead'. So, there's this dead world, see...

"And I am as dead as my planet." intones Sargon. He's the disembodied alien consciousness who calls mankind his children and asks for their help- or they will perish, too!

(He's guessing about the children part: he died half a million years ago but he DID get around AND he never used protection...)

Possibly they colonized Vulcan? Sargon doesn't know, and their records were destroyed in their 'Ultimate Crisis'. They survived their Nuclear Power Era, but not their Godlike Era. And Sargon seems to be bluffing about the perishing part. Or threatening? Maybe senile? Your guess is as good as mine.

There are three consciousness receptacles (Giant Ping Pong Balls) containing Sargon, his love Thalassa and his former enemy Henoch. Because they don't want to be Giant Ping Pong Balls, they ask to borrow the bodies of Kirk, Dr. Ann Mulhall, & Spock.

With their rented fingers they will quickly construct robot bodies far beyond human comprehension! Then they will give the fleshy bodies back... plus information on warp engines the size of walnuts, medical marvels, and suchlike. 'Does your kind possess the knowledge of... The PVR?'

"A simple transferrence" says Kirk at the conference table.
"Quite simple," McCoy chirps. "Happens every day."
Kirk ignores him and gives a rousing lecture on taking risks.
"Risk is our business. That's what this starship is all about." Kirk's impassioned speech is the final word: the body swap is on. Just ignore the metabolic strain, the moral indecency, and the monumental risk.

Seconds into the endeavor, Sargon & Thalassa are kissing with Kirk and Mulhall's lips. Henoch likes his powerful body. He wonders out loud why Vulcan never conquered Earth. Everybody is too polite to wince or bat an eyelid or ask him not to be so creepy. Henoch immediately sabotages the medication meant to keep Kirk alive, and erases Chapel's memory of this plot to assassinate Sargon. Oh, how could this possession have gone wrong?

The android bodies don't seem all that advanced to me: basically department store manikins with no sense of touch? Sure, they're strong and they run on a drop of jelly, but they only last a thousand years? That seems like chump change after the claims of the Androids on planet Mudd. Sargon is content to move among the living and teach them, but Henoch goads Thalassa into rejecting that load and KEEPING their stolen forms! 'Try and catch me, bitch!'

"Can robot lips do this?" Thalassa asks, as she seemingly kisses Kirk to death. Uh, yes. Yes, they can. On Mudd's world and Exo III.

Thalassa offers McCoy his Captain's life if he will merely stay silent and let her keep Ann's. When the Doctor refuses to 'peddle flesh' Thalassa doles out psionic pain, but fortunately she can't go through with killing him.

Sargon (having faked his death & Kirk's death) is pleased with her choice not to be a killer... so, naturally they conspire to kill Henoch. Uh... anyway...

They pop Spock's mind into Christine's head like beef into a boyardee, then trick Henoch into thinking Chapel has killed Spock's body. Henoch leaps out of the "poisoned" Vulcan- and goes wherever disembodied killers go. Hang out with Redjac, maybe.

All this kissing and killing having been too much temptation, the Big S and his beloved kiss one last time and pass unafraid into oblivion together.

So... no walnut warp drives then? Thanks for NOTHING, you cosmic jackholes.

Seriously, what was the point of all that? Spock makes a nasty villain but I venture that nobody learned nothin'. Write in. Tell me I'm wrong. Also, explain the title. Who returned to tomorrow? Is it just something you write on an envelope if you didn't like the contents? If so, please "Return "Return To Tomorrow" To Tomorrow".

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Private Little War

** (2 stars out of 5)

"A Private Little War" will never be a favorite of mine. Let's dig in!

Thirteen years ago, Lieutenant Kirk did his first planetary survey on a tranquil Class-M planet where violence was virtually unknown. He stayed with the Hill People (all blonde guys for some reason), and made a friend called Tyree. The planet's inhabitants were just starting their Iron Age. Kirk recommended they be left alone to develop in peace.

Today, however, the return visit results in disaster. Spock is shot in a flintlock skirmish. McCoy, Chapel, and a specialist in Vulcan medicine, Dr. M'Benga, fight to save Spock's life.

The Klingons are lurking around, though this is a hands-off world. Kirk and McCoy don native garb to see what's what. Kirk is soon bitten by a poison monkey called a mugato. Tyree's wife Nona cures the bite with a rare herb and blood magic ritual. By legend, a man healed in this manner is the mental slave of his healer.

Nona is a rare 'khan-ut-tu woman' and, pardon my French, a bloodthirsty bitch. She's ensnared her husband with rage-&-lust inducing herbs, egging him on to seize power through killing.

Kirk tries to explain to Nona why he won't arm Tyree's people. "There came a time when our weapons grew faster than our wisdom and we almost destroyed ourselves. We learned from this to make a rule during all our travels: never to cause the same to happen to other worlds."

Klingons have no such qualms: Commander Krell is arming the Village People (all guys with brown hair but no hard hats or sunglasses) and encouraging them to kill the Hill People and take their women.

Christine Chapel is having a rough day because the method for bringing a Vulcan out of a healing trance is a hearty slapping, which she cannot bring herself to administer. Dr. M'Benga knew this procedure, doesn't tell her in advance, and gets her body-slammed by Scotty who thinks she's beating an unconscious man for no reason. Hijinks!

Kirk arms the Hill Folk exactly as much as the Village People (I can't stop saying it now!) convinced that a balance of power is the only way to preserve both sides. He is unwillingly but knowingly creating the same situation as the "20th Century Brush Wars of Asia" which went on "bloody year after bloody year". McCoy hates it but can't think of any other answer.

Such as, I dunno, maybe disarmament talks after invoking the Organian Treaty on those Klingon varmints? Too much work! Pass the ammo!

Nona slips Kirk her potions, seduces him, nearly gets them both shot by jealous Tyree... who cannot bring himself to kill her. Then witchy woman nearly gets them eaten by Poison Monkey Number 2. Kirk summons just enough willpower to disintegrate this mugato. Nona thanks him with a rock to the head and takes his phaser to the Villagers. The Villagers thank her with sexual assault and a fatal stabbing.

In fact, fatal stabbings for everyone. Or, if they're lucky: Flintlock Face! Way to go, balance of power. I'm calling you a clear win for the Klingons.

It's a stab at realism, and a shaken fist at the senselessness of the Vietnam War. All war, probably. However, the episode is icky, sweaty, creepy, and vile. I guess that's real. It's not much fun, though.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Immunity Syndrome

**** (4 stars out of 5)
In Soviet Russia, Virus catches You!

The starship Intrepid is crewed by 400 Vulcans... until today. Spock senses their deaths across space. The Gamma 7A system and the billions of inhabitants there also croak.

McCoy knew Spock was a telepath, but was surprised at his range. He's also counting himself lucky not to suffer the death of his neighbour, as Vulcans apparently do.
"It might have rendered your history a bit less bloody." Spock observes, a little too smugly.

Well, la-di-da! Have we conveniently forgotten all that mildly unpleasant brutal Romulan colonization? Suddenly Vulcan poop doesn't stink.

On approach to the zone of darkness where Intrepid died, everyone becomes nervous, weak and irritable. Spock's unable to help: unidentified energy, unidentified power drain, unidentified illness. McCoy's recommendation is retreat. Scotty reverses engines, but they go forward. Turns out forward thrust slows them down. Also toilets are flushing up and hairlines are moving nose-wards.

Spock says here that Vulcan has never been conquered, and that Vulcan collective memory cannot conceive of a conqueror. I'm dubious. First, because it contradicts something McCoy said in the first season about Vulcan having been conquered (although in fairness, he was making a joke about booze at the time). Second, more relevantly, because I find it difficult to accept that not being conquered means you can't understand the concept. I haven't ever eaten a turd-encrusted giraffe tail, nor did any of my ancestors, but it wouldn't destroy my cognitive model of the universe if I did so and it tasted bad.

Speaking of horrible, at the bottom of the zone of sickness is a germ 11,000 miles long. Spock embarks on a dangerous mission by shuttlecraft to study the single-celled creature from the inside. McCoy tries to get that Martyr Mission for himself, and fails. He's worried about Spock but he can't admit it. They just keep arguing. It's a perfect Spocoy moment.

"Grant me my own kind of dignity," says Spock, heading for his probable death.
"Vulcan dignity? How can I grant you what I don't understand?" McCoy barks.
"Then employ one of your own superstitions- wish me luck."

Kirk's idea to destroy this virus with an antimatter bomb seems to strike Scotty as exceedingly innovative. Despite this being the same means Kirk used to destroy both the Planet Killer and the Cloud Vampire earlier this year. Maybe Scotty's just good at sucking up.

'Och, brilliant new plan, sir! Anti-matter, eh? How DO you do it? I'll go make a magnetic bottle right now!' And then Scotty grabs one from the pile he pre-made last week.

Distracted by minutia, I forgot to be swept up in the story of our heroes facing death. I like Spock's recording of a final message of respect and fellowship for his shipmates. Which goes unheard when Enterprise swoops in for the win.

"Shut up, Spock, we're rescuing you!"
"Why thank you, Captain McCoy."

"The Immunity Syndrome" giant virus is a striking image, even or especially when it looked like the ship was zooming around inside a lava lamp. Kirk's back-up singers in blue get some good screen time. Not to be missed.

A Piece of the Action

*** (3 stars out of 5)

A Gangster planet! What fun!

Sigma Iota II was culturally contaminated back in the 2160's by the USS Horizon before the Prime Directive of Non-Interference was in use. These humans dropped in one day on a planet of smart and EXTREMELY imitative humanoids, with wild tales of interstellar travel and amazing technology. They also left some books.

And in particular THE BOOK. The Iotians have based their entire society on one book called 'Chicago Mobs of the Twenties'. Good thing nobody loaned them 'The Sopranos' on DVD.

Anyway, what's done is done and from the costumes to the amoral codes to the fireplugs on the corners, these aliens have made their world into a celebration of classic organized crime. All the men are in rival gangs, all the women are molls, and tommy-gun drive-by shootings are all the rage.

So, of course, it's a comedy romp. Kirk and "Spocko" wear pinstripes and fedoras, pack heaters, and grind their gears trying to drive cars.

Bela Okmyx & Jojo Krako are the bosses of the largest rival gangs. Between playing pool and being jovial they put the hit on each other's goons and with the capture of spacemen they hope to use their advanced heaters to put a lot of hits on a lot more guys.

But the guy with the biggest heaters is still Scotty. Our engineer uses the ship-mounted phasers to stun all the Iotian mobsters around the block from up in orbit. Now Boss Kirk is in a position to say how it's gonna be.

Kirk's unconventional plan puts Okmyx in charge, and Krako as his lieutenant. All the other bosses will have to report to them, and all of Sigma Iotia II will report to the Federation. Every year the Feds will be back for their protection money.

Kirk tells his people the money will go toward guiding the Iotians toward a better world. Then again, McCoy thinks he may have lost his communicator down there. If these goons have proven anything, it's that they love to imitate. With a communicator transtator, they may soon figure out Starfleet technology. Who'll be boss of whom when that goes down? Somebody's going home in a box, and somebody's gettin' "A Piece of the Action".

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Gamesters of Triskelion

*** (3 stars out of 5)

'The Gamesters of Triskelion' is an ideal episode if what you're looking for is an episode easy to parody.

Captain Kirk, Lt. Uhura, and Ensign Chekov are seized by teleporter to be used as slave gladiators for the entertainment of The Providers. The Providers are similar to The Proclaimers except that The Providers, rather than a Scottish band with twin lead singers, are three brightly coloured brains in a dairy case.

Stolen from a tedious mission above tedious brown planet Gamma II, our unfortunate trio find themselves beneath a purple sky with three suns and a lot of other local colour. Triskelion boasts brown-haired barbarians, a green-haired lass in a tinfoil swimsuit, pink Barbie Dream Prison jail cells, and sparkling silver obedience collars. Your colour TV is worth every penny today!

The slaves are called thralls, and are "selected" for each other. Uhura fights off Lars' rough advances, as Chekov fights off the mustard-colured Timoon's more adorable (if wild-eyebrowed) wiles. Kirk, meanwhile, decides to educate his drill thrall Shanna (a she-devil) in the human ways of flattery, kissing, and "love". Sorry, I mean LOOO-ooo-OOOVE.

Pasty, bald Master Thrall Galt doles out punishment, harnesses, and whippings. The same sort of thing goes on in the hotel rooms at the Las Vegas Star Trek Experience to this day. At least, so I imagine. Ahem.

Shahna keeps Kirk refreshed with what looks exactly like a glass bottle of classic Coke.

The humans are vended to Provider One for 2000 'quatloos'. Perhaps a portmanteau of 'qumquat vindaloo', although why you'd want one of those, let alone 2000... well, probably not.

Spock and McCoy argue well while hunting high and low for their vanished friends.

Kirk's many, many questions get Shahna punished. Then he 'helps' her with more kisses. This is not punished, because it amuses the Providers. Jerks.

Brought before the Providers, Kirk wagers on a human vs thrall combat match, but not for trifling QUATLOOS: for the enslavement of the entire crew against the freedom and self-governance of all the Thralls. And he wins. Of course. Was there any doubt?

Shahna asks to go with Kirk to see the stars, and he refuses her(!) He tells her to stay here and learn.

Frankly, I don't see why. At least one of the Thralls (the Andorian) comes from a space-faring culture, probably most of them do. They are already as culturally contaminated as they can get. They know about space travel. Why can't he take her to the stars to learn? I guarantee the school system is better in the Federation. If you want to dump her, that's fine. But you could at least dump her at a Starbase, or any place less craptacular.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Trouble With Tribbles

***** (5 stars out of 5)
So what IS 'The Trouble With Tribbles'? NOTHING! It's a brilliant episode and everyone loves it even if they have no use for Star Trek. Writer David Gerrold's first sale to TV brings the funny throughout, the actors seem to be having a blast, and toy tribbles have net Paramount fat wads of cash that Cyrano Jones could only dream about.

Trader Cyrano Jones sells tribbles on Deep Space Station K-7. Adorable, trilling little animals that the local bartender seems leery of, but which come home with Uhura as a gift.

First one's free!

The trouble is breeding. Out of its predator-filled environment, the tribbles' survival mechanism of large litters, born pregnant, increasing exponentially twice daily begins to over-run both ship and station. Most call what the tribbles do asexual reproduction, McCoy calls it 'bisexual'. He also refers to them as 'attractive'. Best not to dwell on this. I'm sure he didn't mean it like that!

Meanwhile, the Cold War imposed by the Organian Peace Treaty has the Klingons and Federation competing to develop Sherman's Planet most effectively. Klingon Captain Koloth and Captain Kirk have tangled before, but today they just smile and let their crews take leave on K-7 at the same time. When a raucous bar fight breaks out, the Organians don't intervene, but they didn't do much on Capella either. Apparently the Organians just left an impression on both parties that has them playing nice while still loathing each other.

Staney Adams as irresponsible Cyrano Jones, Whit Bissell as K-7's Manager Lurry, William Schallert as overzealous Agricultural Undersecretary Nilz Baris, Charlie Brill as his obsequious assistant Arne Darvin, Guy Raymond as the snarky bartender, Michael Pataki as belligerent Korax, and Trelane... I mean... William Campbell as sneering Koloth: every one brings their own notes of humour to the cheerful melody of this popular tale.

I've heard it said that just as the Neural Parasites of 'Operation -- Annihilate!' resemble Robert Heinlein's creation The Puppet Masters in form and function, so do tribbles resemble his 'flatcats'. It's a great word, too, and descriptive: sounds halfway between a cat and a flapjack. But Heinlein didn't mind: there are similar creatures in the 1905 story 'Pigs is Pigs'.
Flapjacks and bacon... I'm getting hungry as a tribble...

Tribbles may be an ecological disaster waiting to happen, but their voracious appetite saves plenty of lives today: the poor things perished on poisoned grain meant for humans. The saboteur is revealed by the tribbles also: Darvin is a Klingon agent surgically altered. But while tribbles purr for humans & Vulcans, they squeal at Klingons no matter what face they wear!

Jones' illegal transport of dangerous animals carries a 20 year penalty at a Rehabilitation Colony- but he bargains Kirk down to clearing K-7 of the beasties: which Spock figures will take 17.9 years. As Kirk puts it: "Call it job security."

Soft tribble, warm tribble, little ball of fur.
Happy tribble, sleepy tribble, purr purr purr.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wolf in the Fold

**** (4 stars out of 5)

Scotty was recently concussed in an explosion caused by a woman. McCoy & Kirk believe the remedy for this is a pre-arranged rendezvous with a belly dancer on the pleasure-oriented world of Argelius. This young lady, Kara, is expected to head off any lingering resentment Scott might harbor toward the fair sex.

Sadly, seconds after they leave the club and run off giggling into the fog, the dancer is stabbed dozens of times... and stunned Scotty's got the knife!

Treknology Today: The Psycho-Tricorder. Thankfully, it's not a tricorder that wears a dress and murders you in the shower. No: it can give a 24 hour mental record of what happened to amnesiac Scotty.

What an extremely useful invention! Why, I bet a mind-reading box would come in handy plenty! (Never seen again on screen.)

Did you guys have that last year? You could use it with shapeshifters, mute people who can only blink yes or no, suspected murderers of Tellarites, Captains accused of jettisoning Records Officers, mad Commodores on the edge of suicide you can't gather enough evidence on to relieve of duty... well, the list goes on.

Why, it could remove the need for many long, wasted minutes of traditional speculation, investigation, court martials, and dramatic tension... oh, I see, never mind.

Psycho-Tricorder Technician Lt. Karen Tracy, the girl with the magic box (so to speak) is also done in while alone with Scott. Oh noes!

Argelian empath Sybo is recruited to conduct a seance according to the Old Ways. Another female assigned to stand near Scotty in the dark... GOOD PLAN!

She senses ancient, raging evil, a hunger that has a name: Beratis. Kesla. Redjac.
And it is her last statement because, well: Scott, Knife, Back.

Her widower, Prefect Jaris, agrees to have the investigation continued under truth analysis computer- with the agreement that if guilty, Mr. Scott will be executed by slow torture. See, Argelians are such peaceful hedonists they never got around to updating their laws.

The Enterprise computer turned up the names Sybo named: Red Jack aka Jack The Ripper of Earth centuries ago, Kesla of Deneb II more recently, and Beratis of Rigel IV last year: all unidentified mass murderers of women. And all, it seems, the same alien energy creature that feeds on horror, and takes various host forms with hypnotic camoflaugue (the cause of Scotty's amnesia). But Scott was never the host body, only the patsy...

Administrator Hengist (mildly overseeing the proceedings all this time) came from Rigel IV, and he brought the murder weapon with him! Unfortunately, once caught, Hengist falls dead and Redjac seizes control of the ship computer instead. It's high-pitched distorted laughter froze my blood as a youth. Cree-hee-pee!

Best line: "Whoever he is, he sure talks gloomy," says Mr. Sulu, ultra-ultra mellow from McCoy's sedative. 440 people are now too relaxed and doped up to sustain the creature's need for fear. These cool cats wouldn't even fear a supernova.

Redjac hops desperately back into Hengist's corpse, which they beam into space on wide dispersion.

"Wolf in the Fold" is exactly as creepy as it should be: totally!
It's not gory but it's deeply unsettling stuff thanks to writer Robert Bloch and a good cast. John Fiedler (known to me only as the voice of Disney's gentle Piglet character) was really darn freaky scary good. Not good, I mean. Horribly evil in kindly guise, the worst kind.

It's the better choice for Halloween scares if your only other option is 'Catspaw'.