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Star Trek TOS, season 1: “The City on the Edge of Forever,” part 2

with 28 comments

This is a continuation of the review of “The City on the Edge of Forever.” Read part 1 here.

After this, I will review the final episode of Season 1, “Operation: Annihilate!”

* * *
EDITH KEELER

Edith Keeler (played by Joan Collins) is more carefully scripted character than the typical Star Trek babe of the week. She doesn’t merely represent an archetype or a trope, but she is central to the plot, and as the episode progresses, various hints are dropped with respect to her being what Spock calls a “focal point in time.”

Why does she immediately offer help to two men who broke into her basement and admit to being on the run from the cops? And why does she give them another pass after she learns that Spock picked a lock to steal tools. Why does she put a crazy man (McCoy) into a bedroom? Is she just hopelessly naïve? I think the correct answer is that, as a “focal point in time,” she’s drawn to Kirk and Spock, and later McCoy, because they are time-travelers.

Also, it’s her nature as a “focal point in time” which draws Kirk and Spock to exactly the right place to prevent McCoy from changing history by saving her life. Otherwise, Earth is a huge place. If Kirk and Spock had come back in even a different neighborhood of New York City, they would never have bumped into McCoy or Edith Keeler and would not have been able to prevent history from being changed.

The obvious hint about Edith Keeler’s role as a focal point is the speech that she gives after the free meal:

Now, let’s start by getting one thing straight. I’m not a do-gooder. If you’re a bum, if you can’t break off of the booze or whatever it is that makes you a bad risk, then get out. Now I don’t pretend to tell you how to find happiness and love when every day is just a struggle to survive, but I do insist that you do survive because the days and the years ahead are worth living for. One day soon man is going to be able to harness incredible energies, maybe even the atom. Energies that could ultimately hurl us to other worlds in some sort of spaceship. And the men that reach out into space will be able to find ways to feed the hungry millions of the world and to cure their diseases. They will be able to find a way to give each man hope and a common future, and those are the days worth living for.

The one thing I find amusing here is the show’s conceit, as a space opera, that journeying out into space is the key to feeding the hungry millions and curing diseases. In reality, those things are happening independent of manned space travel which is a hugely expensive boondoggle that hasn’t done much for humanity besides provide jobs for a lot of nerdy engineers at NASA.

This type of accurate (from the perspective of Star Trek) futurism is totally out of place coming from a hot babe do-gooder from 1930, but it makes sense coming from someone who’s a “focal point in time.” (I even remember watching this as a kid and thinking that a pretty woman talking about science-fiction stuff wasn’t realistic.)

One can also use the “focal point in time” theory to explain why Kirk is also so drawn to Edith Keeler that he falls in love with her, and we get the impression that this is the one episode where Kirk would like to abandon his command of the Enterprise and settle down. Spock seems to be worried about this, so he continually reminds Kirk of his duties. He tells Kirk, “Save her, do as your heart tells you to do, and millions will die who did not die before.” The roles of Kirk and Spock are reversed compared to This Side of Paradise in which Spock fell in love and abandoned his duties, and Kirk had to snap him out of it.

THE PHILOSOPHY OF WAR AND PEACE

Edith Keeler, if allowed to live, will screw up the timeline by creating a peace movement which would allow Hitler to win the war, which would be really really bad. Ever since World War II, Nazi Germany is the only enemy that writers for TV shows and movies can get behind as a country we could make war against without moral doubt.

KIRK: But she was right. Peace was the way.

SPOCK: She was right, but at the wrong time. With the A-bomb, and with their V2 rockets to carry them, Germany captured the world.

This sounds very profound, but how is anyone living in a particular time supposed know whether or not now is the time for peace? Kirk and Spock only know that from the perspective of a fictional future. One could read the message of the episode as “let’s be on the safe side and make war not peace,” which is the exact opposite of what Kirk and Spock say about peace, and is the exact opposite of the utopian future that Gene Roddenberry promotes.

NITPICKS

Joan Collins’ British accent is totally out of place in New York City in 1930.

Why is McCoy running around with a hypo filled with a hundred times the normal dose of “cordrazine,” known to be an especially dangerous drug? With all of that future technology, they can’t build better safety features into the hypo injector?

The Guardian of Forever seems like a very dangerous thing to be just sitting around unguarded. What happens if the Klingons discover it, and use it to change the past so that they can defeat Earth and take over the galaxy? This sort of discontinuity is typical of Star Trek.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 14, 2018 at EST am

Posted in Star Trek

Star Trek TOS, season 1: “The City on the Edge of Forever,” part 1

with 14 comments

After this, I will review the final episode of Season 1, “Operation: Annihilate!”

* * *

PLOT SUMMARY:

The Enterprise is exploring an area of space with “ripples in time.” McCoy accidentally injects himself with a massive dose “cordrazine,” (a drug never mentioned again in Star Trek) which causes him to become crazy and paranoid, and he beams himself down to the planet.

(McCoy is able to beam himself down to the planet despite Kirk calling for a “security alert.” As we know by now, the Enterprise has the galaxy’s most inept security team. No one thinks that a “security alert” should include turning off the transporter or at least having two armed men guarding it.)

Kirk, Spock, Scotty, Uhura and two useless red-shirt guys beam down after him. They discover the “Guadian of Forever,” which is like a talking stargate that can send people to their race’s past. McCoy runs through the stargate and vanishes. And now Uhura has lost contact with the Enterprise. McCoy has changed the past and the Enterprise no longer exists!

Spock and Kirk decide to go through the stargate, into the past, trying to arrive one week to a month before McCoy, so they can prevent him from changing the past, even though they don’t know what was changed. Spock will have his tricorder recordings to guide them. Scotty, Uhura, and the two red-shirts are left behind.

They arrive in New York City in 1930. With their Starfleet uniforms and Spock’s large pointy ears, they don’t fit in. Kirk steals some clothes that hanging to dry from a fire escape. They are caught by a policeman. Kirk tells a hilarious story to try to explain themselves, and then Spock give the cop a Vulcan neck pinch. They escape into the basement of the 21st Street Mission. After they change their clothes (the change of clothing conveniently includes a wool beanie which covers Spock’s ears), Edith Keeler (played by Joan Collins), the woman who runs the mission, discovers them.

Edith Keeler offer to help them, and she’s not the slightest bit creeped out that she’s alone in a basement with two men who are running from the cops. She even sets them up with a place to live in her own apartment building. Time passes, with Kirk using the money from his low-paying job at Edith Keeler’s mission to buy electronics so that Spock can build a device to read stuff from his tricorder.

Spock eventually learns that Edith Keller was supposed to die in a car accident, but that McCoy will do something to save her life and she will found a peace movement that keeps the United States from entering World War II, and then Nazi Germany will develop the atomic bomb first and take over the world.

Kirk says, “Spock, I believe I’m in love with Edith Keeler.”

Spock says, “Jim, Edith Keeler must die.”

Meanwhile, McCoy arrives in 1930, and he is also discovered by Edith Keeler. She lets him recover in a little bedroom. No worries about being alone in a bedroom with a crazy man. In the morning, McCoy feels a lot better and tells her his name.

Edith Keeler and Kirk are going to a Clark Gable movie. Kirk says “What?” Even though it’s natural that Kirk wouldn’t have heard of Clark Gable given that he wasn’t famous yet in 1930, Edith thinks that’s weird and says “You know, Doctor McCoy said the same thing.”

Kirk runs back to the mission looking for McCoy, who comes out at the same time, and Spock is there too. Edith is crossing the street, and McCoy sees that a car is going to hit her, and McCoy tries to run into the street to save her, but Kirk holds him back.

McCoy is angry. He says, “You deliberately stopped me, Jim. I could have saved her. Do you know what you just did?”

Spock says, “He knows, Doctor. He knows.”

And then they are back on the planet with the stargate, and Kirk says, “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

COMMENTARY:

Wow, that was a long plot summary. This episode has a much more intricate plot than most Star Trek episodes. A better name for this episode would be “Edith Keeler Must Die,” except that would give away too much of the plot.

Early in the first season, Star Trek was going to be more of an ensemble cast, with Uhura, Sulu and Yeoman Rand getting as much airtime as McCoy and Spock. But in these later episodes, the show has become all about Kirk, Spock and McCoy. I would say that the show is now 40% Kirk, 35% Spock, 20% McCoy, and 5% everyone else on the Enterprise.

Everyone knows that this is the best episode in all of Star Trek. I’m not going to try to argue against that. People also say that The Inner Light is the best episode of The Next Generation. I agree with that as well.

It’s interesting to compare what these two episodes share with each other and what they don’t. They are both stories that take place for an extended time outside of the normal time and space of the series. But I think that’s where their similarities end. The Inner Light stands by itself as a story that has little to do with the series, but The City on the Edge of Forever is in many ways quintessential Star Trek. You have the Kirk-Spock bromance. You have Spock being logical, McCoy being emotional, and Kirk having to navigate between those two extremes and make the tough decision to let Edith Keeler die. You have a time travel story that’s meaningful; whether or not Kirk and Spock succeed or fail has great stakes for mankind, but Picard’s story in The Inner Light was rather meaningless to everyone else but him.

Read part 2 of the review.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 13, 2018 at EST pm

Posted in Star Trek

Star Trek TOS, season 1: “The Devil in the Dark”

with 12 comments

After this, I will skip Errand of Mercy because I previously reviewed it (but I highly recommend watching it), and then I will review “The City on the Edge of Forever” which everyone knows is the best Star Trek episode ever made. And then, finally, the last episode of Season 1, “Operation: Annihilate!”

* * *

Going forward, I will start these reviews with a summary of the plot. Spoilers!

PLOT SUMMARY:

There is a mining colony where people are dying because of some unknown monster. The Enterprise comes to help. This is a very important mining colony because they mine “pergium.”

Kirk and Spock discover that the monster is based on silicon instead of carbon (not life as we know it). The monster emits a corrosive substance that kills humans and that the monster also uses to tunnel through solid rock.

Kirk and Spock injure the monster with phaser fire. When they catch up to it again, the monster is less aggressive and let’s Spock mind-meld with it. Spock discovers that the monster is a member from an intelligent species called the Horta, and she is actually peaceful, she was only killing the humans because the humans were killing her “children,” her unhatched eggs, which the miners innocently thought were merely geologic oddities.

McCoy is able to heal the injured Horta, but only after complaining that he’s a “doctor, not a bricklayer.”

The miners are then able to live peacefully with the mother Horta and her hatching children, now knowing how to respect each other’s boundaries.

COMMENTARY:

Pergium? What the heck is that? Why haven’t we heard of it before and why don’t we ever hear about it again?

Another mining colony? As I’ve pointed out before, in the early days of Star Trek, the writers had the Enterprise visit a lot of mining planets because they couldn’t figure out what else people would be doing on all of these far-flung planets.

In the plot summary, I left out the nine guys in red uniforms who Kirk has beam down to help in the search for the monster. As usually, the guys in red uniforms are the galaxy’s worst soldiers. One of them gets killed (no surprise there), otherwise they are totally useless in hunting the monster, and they can’t even properly perform crowd control against the miners who take them down. By this point in the series, everyone is so used to these red-uniform guys dying that Kirk doesn’t even seem to be upset when one of them dies. (I bet that dead red-shirt wishes that Kirk had let him stay on the paradise planet from the previous episode!)

I remember this episode as one of the very first that I watched as a kid. This is an important episode in the evolution of the character of Spock was well as the general themes of Star Trek. But otherwise, it’s only an average episode, not as enjoyable as “This Side of Paradise” which preceded it.

Kirk is gung-ho about killing the creature. Because damn it, the galaxy need premium. Kirk says, “We must get production going again. We must have that pergium.”

Spock presents the idea that maybe the creature shouldn’t be killed:

SPOCK: Or it is the last of a race of creatures which made these tunnels. If so, if it is the only survivor of a dead race, to kill it would be a crime against science.

KIRK: Mister Spock, our mission is to protect this colony, to get the pergium moving again. This is not a zoological expedition. Maintain a constant reading on the creature. If we have to, we’ll use phasers to cut our own tunnels. We’ll try to surround it. I’m sorry, Mister Spock, but I’m afraid the creature must die.

In this episode, Spock has a totally different outlook than he did in one of the earliest episodes, The Man Trap. There was a monster with ESP-illusion powers that was killing people to suck out their salt. All they had to do was leave it with a big pile of salt and let it stay on its planet, and everyone could have been happy. There wasn’t even any pergium involved, it was just a useless desert planet. But in that episode, both Kirk and Spock were eager to kill the monster, if for no reason other than revenge and because Kirk distrusts ESP-illusion powers.

The other things to note here is Spock’s developing friendship with “Jim.” When Spock is thinking of Kirk as his friend rather than his commanding officer, he calls him “Jim.” Thus, when Kirk tells Spock over the communicator that he’s looking at the creature, Spock has a total change in attitude.

[Tunnel]

SPOCK: Kill it, Captain, quickly.

[Cavern]

KIRK: It’s not making any threatening moves, Spock.

[Tunnel]

SPOCK: You don’t dare take the chance, Captain.

[Cavern]

SPOCK [OC]: Kill it.

KIRK: I thought you were the one who wanted it kept alive, captured if possible.

[Tunnel]

SPOCK: Jim, your life is in danger. You can’t take the risk.

We see that Spock puts aside his high-minded philosophy when Kirk’s life is in danger, but Kirk puts aside his low-minded pragmatic obtain-the-pergium-at-all-costs philosophy when he sees an injured creature.

The message of the episode is that we shouldn’t kill things just because they don’t look like us. We should truly come in peace. Please ignore that earlier episode where the message was that space-monsters with scary ESP-illusion powers must all be destroyed.

The final topic I will address is the Prime Directive. This episode, strangely, seldom appears in Prime Directive discussions about Star Trek. But if the Horta are intelligent, then according to the Prime Directive they ought to leave the planet and it’s pergium behind and stop interfering with them. That’s what Captain Picard surely would have done! Of course I always hated Picard for being such a smugly moralizing prick.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 11, 2018 at EST pm

Posted in Star Trek

Star Trek TOS, season 1: “This Side of Paradise”

with 17 comments

After this, the next episode to be reviewed will be “The Devil in the Dark,” and then I will skip Errand of Mercy because I previously reviewed it (but I highly recommend watching it), and then I will review “The City on the Edge of Forever” which everyone knows is the best Star Trek episode ever made. And then, finally, the last episode of Season 1, “Operation: Annihilate!”

* * *

“This Side of Paradise” is certainly one of the most underrated Star Trek episodes. I don’t recall seeing it on a list of top episodes, but it’s definitely one of the best episodes of Season 1. As I’ve written before, I feel that the episodes that don’t take themselves too seriously have withstood the test of time a lot better. This episode has a lot of great humor in it.

Alas, there’s another poorly choreographed fight seen where you see William Shatner change into his stunt double. But I can forgive that.

The premise is that the Enterprise visits a colony that no one has heard from in years and everyone is presumed dead. But it turns out that everyone is thriving and in perfect health.

The colony’s secret is that there are these plants on the planet that shoot out spores, and once you get infected by the spores, you become happy. The spores don’t have any of the negative side effects of any happiness drugs we know about on Earth. Everyone just lives in peace and harmony and they enjoy life, plus the spores give everyone perfect health. The spores even cause appendixes to grow back!

And they even work on Spock. After he’s infected with the spores, he is able to fall in love with his old sort-of-girlfriend. She was in love with him, but he couldn’t return those feelings because he had no emotions. But now, thanks to the spores, he could live happily ever after. Seeing Spock happy, and smiling and laughing and making out with a girl, is one of the highlights of the episode.

So what’s the downside of the spores? They take away people’s ambition. Although is that really a downside? Why fly around through space, almost getting everyone on the Enterprise killed every other episode, when you could just settle down on this planet and live a perfectly happy life, and presumably a longer life than you’d live elsewhere on account of the spores giving you perfect health? Isn’t the purpose of all this ambition ultimately to make us happier? So why not give that up for something better, that actually works?

Well, according to Kirk (in the episode’s final scene), “Maybe we weren’t meant for paradise. Maybe we were meant to fight our way through. Struggle, claw our way up, scratch for every inch of the way. Maybe we can’t stroll to the music of the lute. We must march to the sound of drums.”

And Spock’s response is, “I have little to say about it, Captain, except that for the first time in my life I was happy.” I think that’s one of the most poignant lines in the entire series. Spock prefers a miserable life of duty to Starfleet and duty to his Vulcan ideals of suppressing all emotions.

How did they escape the spores? After some of the spore-containing flowers are beamed aboard the Enterprise, they get into the ship’s ventilation and everyone becomes infected except for Kirk. (You’d think by this point in the season, they would implement better decontamination protocols, but no, they keep make the same dumb mistakes over and over again.)

Uhura sabotages the communications systems so that Kirk can’t contact Starfleet. Kirk eventually finds himself all alone aboard the Enterprise, with everyone else in his crew having beamed down to the planet to live a life of happiness. We learn that Kirk is unable to pilot the ship by himself. Apparently, the Enterprise in the original series is less automated than future ships. By the time of The Next Generation, the ship will fly with only one person onboard.

And then he happens to walk past a flower stalk and gets shot directly spores. (It didn’t occur to him to put on an environmental suit and then clear out all of those flower stalks and beam them out into space.) But don’t worry, the effect doesn’t last long on him, and he recovers before permanently beaming down to the planet.

My theory for Kirk’s immunity is that, for Kirk, paradise is being in command of the Enterprise. He already has paradise, so the paradise offered by the spores has little appeal to him. Whereas everyone else who is NOT in command of the Enterprise prefers the happiness offered by the spores.

Kirk discovers that anger makes the spores go away, so his plan is to beam up Spock, make him angry, and then the spores will go away, and Spock will figure out what to do. And the plan works.

How does Kirk make Spock angry? By saying a lot of racist stuff to him.

KIRK: All right, you mutinous, disloyal, computerised, half-breed, we’ll see about you deserting my ship.

SPOCK: The term half-breed is somewhat applicable, but computerised is inaccurate. A machine can be computerised, not a man.

KIRK: What makes you think you’re a man? You’re an overgrown jackrabbit, an elf with a hyperactive thyroid.

SPOCK: Jim, I don’t understand.

KIRK: Of course you don’t understand. You don’t have the brains to understand. All you have is printed circuits.

SPOCK: Captain, if you’ll excuse me.

KIRK: What can you expect from a simpering, devil-eared freak whose father was a computer and his mother an encyclopedia?

SPOCK: My mother was a teacher. My father an ambassador.

KIRK: Your father was a computer, like his son. An ambassador from a planet of traitors. A Vulcan never lived who had an ounce of integrity.

SPOCK: Captain, please don’t

KIRK: You’re a traitor from a race of traitors. Disloyal to the core, rotten like the rest of your subhuman race, and you’ve got the gall to make love to that girl.

SPOCK: That’s enough.

KIRK: Does she know what she’s getting, Spock? A carcass full of memory banks who should be squatting in a mushroom, instead of passing himself off as a man? You belong in a circus, Spock, not a starship. Right next to the dog-faced boy.

(Spock bends the metal bar with one blow, and throws Kirk around the transporter room with ease. Fortunately, Kirk is able to dodge the blows that damage the walls and equipment until finally…)

Would it have been OK to show on TV if, instead of being Vulcan, Spock was black, and Kirk said a lot of things that are racist against blacks, like comparing him to a monkey instead of a computer, and liberally using the n-word, and saying that his race is fit only for slavery? Even though it was necessary to save everyone from a life of spore-induced happiness without any ambition or accomplishment?

* * *

A commenter writes (about Kirk): “Kirk seems to view struggle as it’s own reward, that a live lived without purpose is no life at all.”

Another commenter writes (about Spock):

I don’t think that Spock is saying with those lines that he prefers a ” miserable life of duty to Starfleet.” It sounds like he would have preferred the spores because unlike humans who can find happiness without spores, that was Spock’s only path to love and happiness. However freed of the spores, he chooses duty over happiness BECAUSE of duty. I think for him, more so than any of the other human crew, it was a far more difficult choice.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 9, 2018 at EST pm

Posted in Star Trek

Stupid Christian violates the Prime Directive

with 137 comments

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-usa-murder/american-killed-on-remote-indian-island-off-limits-to-visitors-idUSKCN1NQ0QT

A Christian preacher goes to a forbidden Indian island to convert the indigenous natives to Christianity, and they kill him with a bow and arrow.

The island is off limits because of the Prime Directive.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

November 21, 2018 at EST pm

Posted in Star Trek

Star Trek TOS, season 1: “Space Seed” (Khan!), part 3

Read part 2 of the review of “Space Seed.”

* * *
In case I review more Star Trek episodes instead of devoting my time to writing stories about teenage girl vampires in high school, the next episode I will review is “This Side of Paradise,” and then “The Devil in the Dark,” and then I will skip Errand of Mercy because I previously reviewed it (but I highly recommend watching it), and then I will review “The City on the Edge of Forever” which everyone knows is the best Star Trek episode ever made. And then, finally, the last episode of Season 1, “Operation: Annihilate!”

* * *

I didn’t get this episode when I watched it as a teenager. This is only barely a plot-drive episode. It’s really about the psychology of the characers: Khan, amoral and driven to rule over others at all costs, and Marla McGivers, a woman who lusts for powerful men who take what they want without asking permission.

Regardless of whether “eugenics” would create a person like Khan (I say nonsense to that), Montalbán gives an amazing performance in playing him. I have previously written of William Shatner’s Kirk’s alpha-male charisma; Ricardo Montalbán’s Khan takes that to the next level.

Marla begins lusting for Khan from the moment she sees him in his suspended animation/deep sleep chamber:

MARLA: From the northern India area, I’d guess. Probably a Sikh. They were the most fantastic warriors.

My first thought is that being a “warrior” sounds pretty ominous, and I wondered why Marla sounds so excited about it. In the future, I thought that scientists and explorers are admired, but not warriors.

Kirk is kind of pissed about Marla’s reaction to Khan, and he dresses her down in Sickbay:

KIRK: I’d like to talk to you.

(They go out into the main area, where McCoy is at his desk)

KIRK: If I were to rate your performance as a member of the landing party today I

MARLA: I know, sir. I’m sorry.

KIRK: Lieutenant, at any one time, the safety of this entire vessel might depend upon the performance of a single crewman, and the fact that you find a man strangely compelling to you personally

MARLA: Not personally, Captain. Professionally. My profession is historian, and when I find a specimen from the past alive, I’m in the sheer delight of examining his mind.

KIRK: And men were more adventuresome then. Bolder, more colourful.

MARLA: Yes, sir, I think they were.

KIRK: Good. If I can have honesty, it’s easier to overlook mistakes. That’s all.

MARLA: Yes, sir.

But Kirk does not feel threatened by Khan, even though he should. Kirk never liked Marla, and he feels overconfident in his superiority over a guy from the 20th century.

When Khan wakes up, the first thing he does is hold a scalpel to McCoy’s neck. That I think was overkill. You would think that after that happens, McCoy would request a few red-shirts to keep him safe, but McCoy never even mentions the incident to the captain.

We see that Khan immediately starts ordering people around and acting like everyone should be subservient to him.

KHAN: Where is your Captain? I have many questions.

He doesn’t even say “please.” And then after the briefest conversation with Kirk:

KHAN: I find myself growing fatigued, Doctor. May we continue this questioning at some other time?

That’s a power play, getting Kirk to come to Sickbay, and then telling him to get lost, he’s too “fatigued” to talk, even though Kirk must know he’s full of ****.

Khan’s first conversation with Marla:

KHAN: A beautiful woman. My name is Khan. Please sit and entertain me.

(She perches on another bed)

MARLA: I’d like some historical information about your ship, its purpose and

KHAN: And why do you wear your hair in such an uncomplimentary fashion?

1. Although he says “please,” it’s said like an order he expects will be followed rather than an actual request. The way Ricardo Montalbán said that line isn’t apparent from just reading it.

2. He “negs” her. The original PUA!

To summarize the rest of this story:

Khan psychologically abuses Marla emotionally, and then physically abuses her with his superior strength. But Marla likes it and helps him take over the ship.

Khan can’t deal with just being a nobody in the 23rd century. There’s a starship, he has to be in command of it, and then he’s going to find a planet and “with a population willing to be led by us.”

Khan thinks that he can get cooperation from the crew of the Enterprise by threatening to kill them, one by one, in a decompression chamber, starting with Kirk. But unlike 20th century types, the crew of the Enterprise refuses to deal with him. Luckily for Kirk, Marla betrays Khan and frees him, which then leads to Kirk flooding all decks with gas, but Khan gets away and then Kirk and Khan have that poorly filmed fight in engineering.

At the end, Marla chooses exile with her abuser rather than a court martial where she’d probably be a lot safer. We have this idea that 23rd century prisons are for rehabilitation rather than punishment. Marla just needs to be taught not to lust after bad boys.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

September 17, 2018 at EST pm

Posted in Star Trek

Star Trek TOS, season 1: “Space Seed” (Khan!), part 2

Read part 1 of the review of “Space Seed”

Eugenics Wars nonsense

Maybe the word “eugenics” was thrown in there because it sounds like something Hitler allegedly did, and Hitler is really really evil, so eugenics must also be really really evil.

A good definition of eugenics that I found at Wordnet is “the study of methods of improving genetic qualities by selective breeding (especially as applied to human mating).”

Something similar happens all the time because of assortative mating. What type of spouse would a man, or woman, who is good looking, has top grades at Harvard, and is also an athlete, choose for himself or herself? I guarantee you it would not be some random schlub, but rather someone who is similarly exceptional. And the resulting children from such a union would not be supermen who have five times the strength of William Shatner and who become dictators, nope, their children are just more of the same. Happens all the time. It’s not called eugenics because it’s the result of individual mating choices rather than a more scientific attempt to improve humanity overall. In fact, assortative mating is actually dysgenic rather than eugenic, because statistically, that Harvard couple is likely to have fewer children than random low-IQ immigrants from crappy third-world countries. As reported by many sources, mothers with less education have more children, and education is a loose proxy for having better genetic stock.

What’s so evil about trying to nudge humanity towards better genes by encouraging those with better genes to have more children, and those with inferior genes to have fewer children? But once again, whether that’s good or bad, you don’t create superhuman dictators merely by breeding the best with the best. Real-world dictators usually come from lesser pedigrees. Benito Mussolini’s parents were nothing special, a blacksmith and a Catholic schoolteacher. Above average maybe, but not exceptional. Hitler came from even lower origins. His father was a civil servant and his mother was a housewife, described thus at Wikipedia: “Klara came from old peasant stock, was hard-working, energetic, pious, and conscientious. According to the family physician, Dr. Eduard Bloch, she was a very quiet, sweet, and affectionate woman.” Nothing there that would make you think that Klara would be the go-to woman if you wanted to breed evil dictators or supermen.

Spock states with the absolute certitude of his Vulcan logic that “superior ability breeds superior ambition” thus neatly explaining why any sort of attempt to create superior humans would automatically mean that they would become evil dictators, but the real-world experience shows that to be false. Our dictators have not been the people with the must superior abilities. Perhaps they come from the top 10% of their countries, but they are definitely not supermen of any sort.

Now maybe it would be possible, with genetic engineering, to create supermen, and maybe genetic engineering could give people psychopathic personalities that crave domination over all others (although why anyone would want to do that I don’t know), however there is no mention of genetic engineering in this episode. According to Spock, it was an “attempt to improve the race through selective breeding.” As I’ve already pointed out, selective breeding would only create more of the same and wouldn’t create new humans with super abilities like Khan is supposed to possess.

To pile on the nonsense, the Eugenics Wars were supposed to have happened in the 1990s, which means that if Khan were 30 in 1997, he would have been already born when the episode aired. So Star Trek was implying that there already existed, in 1967, a secret program by mad scientists to selectively breed humans with super abilities and a psychopathic desire for world domination. And it all happened in a single generation. Or maybe two generations if the program started in the 1940s. I’m sorry, THIS IS ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS.

This episode is consistent with a Star Trek theme that any attempt to improve mankind itself, rather than just improving the technology available to us, is a bad thing to do. Recall that in the episode Miri, an alternate Earth destroyed itself by trying to create a virus that would extend human life expectancy. And in What Are Little Girls Made Of?, trying to improve humanity by moving our consciousness into robot bodies was shown to have bad consequences.

Other anachronistic nonsense

This episode is hard to watch because it recounts a future history of the 1990s which never happened. In addition to the eugenics stuff, this episode predicted that in the 1990s there would be atomic-powered interplanetary spaceships with large crews of humans, plus the technology for putting people into deep sleep so that they could survive interstellar journeys of more than two hundred years. Well it should be obvious that none of this stuff ever happened, and it seems highly unlikely that space travel technology is going to reach the level predicted even by the 2090s. Fifty-one years after this episode aired, and the best we can do in space is put a small handful of people into a low Earth orbit. We can’t even send people to the moon anymore.

I suppose that in the exciting early days of the space program in the 1960s, lots of people really did believe that man’s destiny was the stars, and that it would all happen very quickly. We now know that it was a false hope.

Read part 3 of the review of “Space Seed.”

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

September 14, 2018 at EST pm

Posted in Star Trek

Star Trek TOS, season 1: “Space Seed” (Khan!), part 1

There’s so much to write about, I will make this a multi-part review like I did with Balance of Terror.

This episode may have easily wound up being another below average Trek episode with a really bad fight scene and hopelessly outdated, except for two factors:

(1) This episode inspired the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (TWOK) which was a sequel to this episode and which became a big box office hit that in turn induced the creation of more Star Trek. If TWOK had been another flop like the first Star Trek movie, the franchise would have died.

(2) Ricardo Montalbán! As one internet commenter wrote, “this was a case where the actor was way better than the material he had to work with.”

Before getting into the meat of the episode, let me cover some Star Trekisms:

(1) This is the first episode where McCoy complains about being transported. “I signed aboard this ship to practice medicine, not to have my atoms scattered back and forth across space by this gadget.” I don’t mean to be a Luddite, but I agree with McCoy. According to how the transporter is supposed to work, it disintegrates you, and then creates a clone with your identical memories at a different location. Theoretically, they ought to be able to use transporter technology to create multiple clones of a single person.

(2) This is the third time in the last four episodes that a guest onboard the Enterprise gets up to no good because Kirk doesn’t bother to guard him at all, or because the security guards are completely incompetent. Doesn’t anyone ever learn from the mistakes of previous episodes?

(3) Second-worst fight scene after the lizard fight in Arena. You can actually see Shatner and Montalbán turn into their stunt doubles, with Shatner’s stunt double looking nothing like Shatner. Maybe, when people originally saw this on broadcast TV with low resolution and bad reception, it wasn’t as obvious, but on the cleaned-up high-definition version on Netflix it’s as clear as day that Shatner has suddenly turned into a different person.

Also Khan brags that he has “five times” Kirk’s strength, but he doesn’t look that much stronger than Kirk in the fight scene. Unlike the lizard guy in “Arena” who was obviously way stronger.

(4) In TWOK, Chekov and Khan remember each other, but Chekov wasn’t introduced to the series until the second season.

(5) Kirk says “I’ll need somebody familiar with the late 20th-Century Earth. Here’s a chance for that historian to do something for a change. What’s her name?” And then we see Lieutenant Marla McGivers, the babe of the episode, in her spacious cabin, painting famous men from history, and looking annoyed that she’s called to an away mission.

In the future, when we have robots doing all of the value-creating work, we have to give people bogus featherbedding jobs like an Earth historian aboard a starship. We will see how bad this almost turns out for the Enterprise. The need to create make-work may also explain why the Enterprise has so many useless security guards.

RACIAL ISSUES

Is Ricardo Montalbán a white man, or an “actor of color”? Why does this matter? Because there are many complaints on the internet that in the 2016 Star Trek movie, Khan, who is supposed to be Indian, is played by a white actor, and while it was not ideal that Montalbán was not Indian, at least he was “Latino” and thus an “actor of color,” and the 2016 movie “whitewashed” him.

Ricardo Montalbán may have been born in Mexico, but his parents were European Spanish. Are Europeans from Spain not white? Do white Spaniards give birth to babies of “color” merely because they relocate to Mexico?

In order to play Khan, they gave Montalbán a black wig and had him put on skin-darkening makeup to make him look Indian. Under the crazy modern rules of what’s racist and what’s not, a light-skinned actor wearing skin-darkening makeup to play a non-white role is supposed to be super super racist thing.

When TWOK was filmed, Montalbán was allowed to look like himself and they didn’t try to make him look like an Indian.

It is said Gene Roddenberry’s purpose for making the character an Indian was to quash the notion that “eugenically” bred superior humans would look Aryan. I will write more about the stupid “eugenics” stuff later.

In my opinion, Khan being Indian added nothing to the script. If they were going to have Montalbán with his Spanish accent play him, they should have just re-written him to be a Spaniard, a Mexican, or maybe an Argentinian. Carlos instead of Khan.

ADDITIONAL OBSERVATIONS OF RICARDO MONTALBÁN

(1) He was 47 years old in 1967 when this episode aired, but I think the character of Khan was supposed to be younger than that.

(2) He was damned muscular for a guy in the 1960s, which is surely one of the reasons why he was selected for the role. He was built like a superman for the standards of that decade, before anyone was familiar with the look of massive roided-up bodybuilders with their veins visibly showing.

(3) His chest was shaved for this role. In older photos of Montalbán, he had quite the hairy chest. Was this the beginning of Hollywood actors shaving their chest hair?

Read part 2 of the review which discusses the Eugenics Wars nonsense.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

September 13, 2018 at EST pm

Posted in Star Trek

Star Trek TOS, season 1: A Taste of Armageddon

The next episode I will review is “Space Seed” (Khan!), and then “This Side of Paradise,” and then “The Devil in the Dark,” and then I will skip Errand of Mercy because I previously reviewed it (but I highly recommend watching it), and then I will review “The City on the Edge of Forever” which everyone knows is the best Star Trek episode ever made. And then, finally, the last episode of Season 1, “Operation: Annihilate!” I am watching the first season in production order instead of the airdate order used by Netflix. For the second season, I will make things easier and just watch them in Netflix order.

* * *

This episode, “A Taste of Armageddon,” is clearly intended to be an allegory rather than any sort of realistic presentation of a non-human alien civilization. Consequently, the aliens look exactly like humans and speak better English than Yeoman Tamura who speaks with a thick Japanese accent (which is probably just as fake as James Doohan’s Scottish accent). The aliens are involved in a “war” which makes absolutely no sense, and can’t be written off as weird alien thinking because the aliens are stand-ins for humans.

500 years ago, when war with another planet in the same solar system got too much, the two planets came up with the idea for a computerized war, where the linked computer system would determine the casualties, and people declared dead by the computer would simply go to disintegration chambers to be killed. One to three million people per year! But much cleaner than a real war, because no buildings are destroyed, and life goes on as normal as long as you’re not declared a casualty by the computer.

As a normal viewer watching the show, you think that this makes no sense. The war is obviously pointless. No one ever wins or loses and there doesn’t seem to be any objective. Why don’t they just stop the fake war and stop the unnecessary slaughter? And then let’s apply the same message to Earth. Let’s stop the stupid wars so that people can stop dying.

The problem with comparing this episode to 20th century Earth, or even 21st century Earth, is that wars here are fought with an actual goal. At least one side expects to get something out of the war that they won’t get by not fighting the war. We don’t just fight wars for the sake of fighting wars.

There are two other concepts thrown in here. The first is Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). If the consequence of war is too scary, neither side will fight one. In retrospect, the people who endorsed MAD were right. We never had an all-out war with the Soviet Union. But on the other hand, we do engage in a whole bunch of small scale wars, like the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and afterwards the first Gulf War, the second Gulf War, the endless nation building in Afghanistan and Iraq. All of these wars share the feature that there’s no direct impact on the United States. There are some combat deaths, but the numbers are acceptable. Especially to the elites who rule our country who rarely have their own children die in any foreign wars.

Robert Heinlein has been called “fascist” because in his novel Starship Troopers (which predates this Star Trek episode) he presented a fictional future Earth government in which only military veterans can vote or hold political office. But actually the concept is anti-war: only the people who suffer the consequence of a war should have a say in whether or not we go to war. Presumably such a government would be less likely to get into a war in the first place.

The second concept of this Star Trek episode is the benefit of having galactic policemen. These two planets would have gone on forever killing one to three million people a year had not Kirk come with his powerful starship and forcefully put an end to the nonsense. He did this by destroying all of the disintegration chambers, destroying the computer that made the whole simulated war possible, and by threatening to use General Order 24 on the planet. What is General Order 24? Total destruction of a planet! Scotty, who is left in charge of the Enterprise while Kirk and Spock are hostages on the planet (albeit poorly guarded hostages), gleefully explains via communication channel:

This is the commander of the USS Enterprise. All cities and installations on Eminiar Seven have been located, identified, and fed into our fire-control system. In one hour and forty five minutes the entire inhabited surface of your planet will be destroyed. You have that long to surrender your hostages.

Scotty also says a little earlier in the episode, “Diplomats. The best diplomat I know is a fully activated phaser bank.” Isn’t Scotty awesome?

The message I got from this episode is that the Federation represents the United States, and the United States should use its military power, or the mere threat of its military power, to stop dumb pointless wars between sh**hole third-world countries. As well as rescue hostages. Maybe if President Carter had issued General Order 24 against the Iranians, they would have quickly released all of the hostages!

Science fiction has helped me to see the wrongful thinking of a certain strain of paleoconservatism which believes that the United States should just let the rest of the world go to hell. The Robert Heinlein novel Citizen of the Galaxy was even more helpful.

There are many things about this episode which seem un-Star-Trek-like, starting with General Order 24. Does the peace-loving Federation really have such a thing, and does the ship’s Engineer really have the authority to carry it out on the command of his Captain? Or would he return to the Federation as a war criminal? Along with everyone else on the Enterprise under the legal theory that just following orders is no excuse for the genocide of an entire planetary civilization.

Many people on the internet ask “what of the Prime Directive?” Well the Prime Directive was first mentioned in Return of the Archons, which immediately preceded this episode in production order, and no doubt the person who wrote this script was unaware of the Prime Directive.

Some Star Trek weenies insist that the Prime Directive doesn’t apply because it only applies to pre-warp civilizations, but (1) I see no evidence that they had warp drives. Spock explains, “They’ve had space flight for several centuries, but they’ve never ventured beyond their own solar system.” I think that if they had warp drives, they would have taken at least one trip to see what was out there; and (2) just because a planet has warp drives doesn’t mean that a starship captain is allowed to come in and totally re-order their civilization because he doesn’t like the way they are doing things.

Some other observations about this episode:

(1) We have another stupid bureaucrat in charge of the Enterprise. In The Galileo Seven we had Galactic High Commissioner Ferris, and here we have Ambassador Fox. Even in the future, we still have the problem of morons getting promoted and then giving dumb orders to the people in the field who actually know what’s going on.

(2) Who’s in charge of the Enterprise when Kirk and Spock are away? In Court Martial, there was a guy on the Enterprise who had the same rank as Spock who we never saw before. Are there more people like him? In previous episodes, Sulu was in charge. But this time, Scotty is in charge. What’s going on?

My guess is that what they heard from the fans is that Sulu is boring but they want to see more of Scotty. And I have to agree. Scotty is delightfully fun in this episode, and in most future episodes where he gets to be in charge. Even though it doesn’t make sense because Scotty wears a red shirt which means he works in operations and isn’t a command officer.

(3) The episode gives you the impression that a major factor in Kirk deciding that he has to destroy all of the disintegration chambers and put an end to the war is because the beautiful blonde alien is listed as a casualty by the computer. So it’s all about white knighting.

(4) The Japanese Yeoman’s fake Japanese accent would be considered racist today. But SJWs would be OK with Chekov’s fake Russian accent because Russians are white.

(5) Why doesn’t anyone on this planet protest the war the way Americans protested the Vietnam War which had a much lower death toll? And to answer my own question, it’s because the people who created this episode only cared about telling an allegorical tale and didn’t care about believability.

(6) Kirk hates computers. In “Return of the Archons” he also destroyed a computer. And he will destroy many more computers in future episodes The lesson from the original series is don’t let a computer get too powerful. Don’t cede control over human affairs to a computer. They forgot this lesson in TNG when they made Data a Starfleet officer who people below him in rank had to obey.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

September 11, 2018 at EST pm

Posted in Star Trek

Star Trek TOS, season 1: “Tomorrow Is Yesterday”

I will skip Return of the Archons because I already watched and reviewed it two years ago, so the next episode I will review is “A Taste of Armageddon,” then “Space Seed” (Khan!). I am watching the episodes in production order instead of the airdate order used by Netflix.

* * *

“Tomorrow is Yesterday” is quite an enjoyable episode, and has held up pretty well. I’ve previously explained that I’m a lot more tolerant of messiness when the episode doesn’t take itself too seriously, and this episode is presented as a lighthearted humorous affair rather than a heavy and serious episode that wants to teach you a moral lesson, like Arena.

Also, Arena had the worst-choreographed fight scene of the series, while this episode has the best, with Kirk going against three 1960s military police at an airforce base. (Yes, the Enterprise has traveled back in time to the late 1960s!) Unlike the Arena fight scene which is unintentionally funny because it’s so bad, the fight scene in this episode is intended to be funny and it succeeds.

[Engineering]

KIRK [OC]: What is it, Scotty?

SCOTT: Progress report, sir. Everything’s jury-rigged, but we’re coming along with the repairs. We could re-energise in about four hours, but

[Captain’s quarters]

KIRK: But what, Scotty?

[Engineering]

SCOTT: Well sir, as I say, the engines are being repaired, but we’ve no place to go in this time. If you, if you see what I mean?

That could have been the start of a whole new series! What do you do when your starship is trapped in the past? Colonize an uninhabited planet? Beam down to Earth and blend in with the population? Seek out alien civilizations which had warp-capable spaceships back then, like the Vulcans? But alas, none of those things were ever discussed, because Spock figured out how to send the Enterprise back to the future.

Back to the Future was a better time travel dramedy. When Marty (played by Michael J. Fox) returns to the future, the future is different because he changed the past. We never see anything like that happen in Star Trek.

The time travel paradox problem is resolved very poorly. Somehow the Enterprise travels back in time before going forward again, and they are able to beam the two 1960s military guys they picked up back to where they were when they were beamed up to the Enterprise the first time, and somehow the events never happened. It makes no sense at all.

Now that everyone in the future knows that time travel is so easy, doesn’t that open a huge Pandora’s Box? What if the Klingons or Romulans use time travel to send a warship back in time to destroy Earth so that Earth never becomes the dominant power in that part of the galaxy? Except for all of the super-powerful aliens who don’t seem interested in establishing a space empire. Why don’t the Metrons, or the Organians, or Trelane’s parents, or Charlie X’s adopted parents, or that guy Baylock from The Corbomite Maneuver do something about the Borg?

This episode doesn’t say anything deep, but it was fun to watch. Even though the 1960s Air Force stuff was already dated when I first watched this episode in the 1970s.

The next episode I will review, “A Taste of Armageddon,” is not quite as enjoyable as this one, but I think I will have a lot more to say about it.

* * *

I wish I had time travel so I could go a year into the future, find out what stock is going to go up the most, come back and put all of my money into it.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

September 10, 2018 at EST pm

Posted in Star Trek

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