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Star Trek TOS, Season 1: “Balance of Terror,” part 1

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Before watching, this episode, I wasn’t anticipating finding it to be anything special. I knew that the emphasis was on a space battle, and there have been so many space battles shown on screen with so much better special effects, I went in with low expectations, but now I see why this is generally considered one of the top five TOS episodes (with the other four being: “The City on the Edge of Forever,” “Amok Time,” “Mirror, Mirror” and “The Trouble with Tribbles”).

This episode definitely has the feel of short movie rather than an episode in a TV series. It begins with Kirk conducting a wedding ceremony in the chapel on the Enterprise. (There’s a chapel?) Immediately I have a very obvious foreshadowing that one of these two people getting married is going to get killed. Instead of ruining anything with this very obvious portent, it has the opposite effect of making the whole episode feel darker and more serious.

In pretty much every Star Trek episode where someone dies, that someone is very unimportant to us. “Another guy in a red shirt dies, too bad so sad, no one knows his name anyway, let’s carry on.” But here, Kirk’s consoling of the grieving fiancée at the end actually brought tears to my eyes. This is the only TOS episode that manages to make you feel sad that someone was killed. And unlike in the typical TOS episode where the death occurs at the beginning of the episode (as a plot device to build tension), here the death happens at the end.

Space combat in this episode is modeled after WWII submarine combat. It’s a very slow drawn out affair, with the senior officers discussing how they can find the hidden Romulan ship. I can’t imagine that a science fiction space battle will ever be portrayed like this again. Audiences want more action, and technology exists to give it to them with fast and furious special effects.

Yeoman Rand is still in this episode, and it’s so cute when she embraces Kirk right before the Romulan energy weapon is about to hit the ship. Rand’s presence will be missed, even though I don’t think that Grace Lee Whitney is an especially good actress.

This episode’s pacing and building up of tension (without having to kill a guy in red shirt) is as perfect as Star Trek ever gets. Perfect enough that I forgive this episode for having space, science and technology stuff that doesn’t make any sense, and a really cheesy looking Romulan bridge where everything looks like it’s made of Styrofoam. Which it surely was. If you’re waiting for the TOS episode where they finally managed to make everything look good by modern standards, it’s never going to happen.

In the second part of this review, I will discuss what I consider the three most important philosophical and moral issues presented in this epsode:

1. Kirk’s decision that the correct and necessary response to the Romulan attacks on Earth outposts is to destroy the Romulan ship. I feel as though this wouldn’t have happened in a modern Star Trek series. In Star Trek Discovery, everyone was too goody two-shoes to end the war with the Klingons by destroying the Klingon home planet.

2. The bigotry that Lieutenant Stiles feels for Spock. In 2018, we all know that racism is really bad; is there anything to learn from a TV episode from 1966 that’s obviously preaching against racism? The answer is yes.

3. Why the Romulan captain is depicted the way he is: war weary, following orders he disagrees with, and generally an enemy who you are supposed to view sympathetically.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 16, 2018 at EDT pm

Posted in Star Trek

Star Trek TOS, season 1: The Corbomite Maneuver

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Star Trek update: I will skip “The Menagerie” because I don’t feel like watching a two-parter that mostly recycles footage from the pilot which I already watched, so for readers who want to follow along, the next episode to be reviewed will be “Balance of Terror,” because from now on, I will watch the first season in production order rather than the air-date order used by Netflix. Also “Balance of Terror” is said to be a top-five TOS episode, so looking forward to re-watching it! After “Balance of Terror” I will watch “Conscience of the King” and then “The Galileo Seven” (an episode which focuses on Spock).

UPDATE 2: Yes, “Balance of Terror” is possibly the best of all TOS episodes, will be writing a review in the near future.

* * *

Although the tenth episode to air, it was actually the first episode filmed after the two pilots, and there are still aspects of this episode that are different from future episodes, such as the lighting on the bridge and the camera angles used, Uhura is wearing a gold uniform instead of a red one, Spock is still shouting on the bridge like he did in the second pilot.

This was obviously intended to be the first episode to air. The purpose was to introduce all of the major characters: Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Yeoman Rand (yes, Rand was originally intended to be a major character), Sulu, Scotty and Uhura. And to have a plot that wasn’t too intellectually demanding, and also set the tone of the show in various ways. Why wasn’t this episode actually the first to air? My speculation is that NBC was against Spock because they thought he looked like the devil and would scare away advertisers in Christian markets in the South and the Midwest (for real!), and this episode featured a lot of Spock, starting out with him in charge of the bridge while Kirk is sickbay.

The very first scene with Kirk shows him without a shirt taking a stress test in sickbay. When Kirk leaves sickbay, his shirt is draped around his neck, so we see shirtless Kirk walking around the hallways and riding the turbolift. The message here is that, if you keep watching, you will see a lot more of William Shatner’s bare upper torso. Did this really attract any female viewers to the show?

There is also a scene with Kirk sharing a drink with McCoy, very much like the scene in the first pilot where Captain Pike’s doctor makes him a martini. For some reason, Gene Roddenberry thought it was important to show the Captain and the ship’s doctor drinking together. And then he changed his mind in the 1980s and replaced alcohol with synthehol in The Next Generation.

The most important tone-setting exercise is to show that the Enterprise is on a mission of peace, and that Kirk’s goal is to make peaceful contact with aliens, not shoot at them with the ship’s phasers, and not to get mad and give up on diplomacy even when they pretend that they are going to blow up the Enterprise and kill everyone. I think everyone on the ship took that too lightly. How would you feel if someone held a gun to your head and told you that you had ten minutes to live before he kills you? And you really believed it. I don’t think you would so easily forgive that. Our laws would put that guy in jail for violent acts. But Kirk just says “Oh, so you convinced us we were all going to die, and captured our ship against our will, but you mean it was just a good-natured test of our character? Ha ha, cool. Let’s be best friends! You can even keep our screw-up of a navigator as a token of our goodwill.”

In future episodes, Kirk would go on to kill a lot of aliens. He kills the alien in The Man Trap even though it’s the last of its kind and didn’t pose a serious threat to humanity (it was just dangerous the way a hungry lion would be dangerous). He kills the robot alien in What Are Little Girls Made Of. I guess he forgot about the purpose of the showing being peaceful coexistence.

This episode is named after Kirk’s last-ditch efforts to avoid death. Kirk explains to the alien, Balok, a scary-looking dude who sounds like Lurch from the Adams Family, that the Enterprise contains a compound called “corbomite” that will destroy any ship that tries to attack it. I got the impression that the alien knew all along that Kirk was full of cr*p, and that the real reason the Enterprise wasn’t destroyed was not fear of “corbomite” but because Balok never intended to destroy the Enterprise in the first place. He later reveals that it was just a test to find out their true intentions. And the alien actually turns out to look like a little retarded kid with a squeaky voice, the scary-looking alien was a muppet.

None of the reviews I’ve read about this episode address the pointlessness of Kirk’s “corbomite” bluff. Maybe Spock’s logical way of doing nothing and just accepting the inevitable had more dignity? It’s even possible that Kirk’s bluff could have backfired, making humans seem more barbarous and thus more worthy of killing.

It’s my opinion that this episode has aged poorly and is no longer very interesting. There’s a lot of really loud and over-done music to build tension that isn’t there, because we all know the ship isn’t really going to be destroyed. I am surprised that reviews on the internet are nearly all positive. I didn’t like it. Although if you are a Star Trek aficionado, it’s worth watching because it’s the first post-pilot episode to be filmed. In retrospect, I should have watched this episode third, after watching the two pilots. Or possibly even, watch this episode first, and then work backwards through the pilots to see the evolution of the Star Trek idea.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 13, 2018 at EDT pm

Posted in Star Trek

Star Trek TOS, season 1: Dagger of the Mind

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If there’s a message to this episode, it’s the same as What are Little Girls Made Of. In that episode, Roger Korby’s request to beam down alone sounds fishy, but Kirk’s attitude is that Korby is a famous scientist, everyone knows how awesome he is, so of course we can trust him.

In this episode, the situation down on the prison planet also seems fishy, but Kirk’s attitude is that Doctor Adams is a famous criminal psychiatrist, everyone knows how awesome he is, so of course we can trust him.

In both episodes they turn out to be mad scientists (or a mad scientist robot in the case of Korby), so the lesson is that you shouldn’t be star-struck like Kirk and blindly trust in someone because he’s a famous authority figure.

This episode doesn’t get any deeper than that, but I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected I would, it’s the most underrated episode that I watched since Charlie X. And what makes this episode most enjoyable is the guest actress who plays Helen Noel, a psychiatrist that McCoy assigns to Kirk to help him investigate the prison planet. The actress who pays her is 24 years old and she’s the best looking Star Trek babe since Vina from the original pilot episode. She’s almost as pretty as Vina but comes off as a lot sexier. Helen’s skirt is so short that if it were any shorter it wouldn’t be there at all.

In addition to being a babe, unlike babes in previous Star Trek episodes, she’s actually useful when she needs to be. Although initially even more star-struck than Kirk, once she realizes that Adams is an evil mad scientist and they are in big trouble, then all by herself she crawls through the air ducts, turns off the electricity so that the force field comes down and Spock can send a rescue party, and even shoves a prison guard into the electrical circuits, electrocuting him.

Kirk and Helen are great together. There’s a backstory about a drunken one-night-stand after a Christmas Party. Or maybe it didn’t actually happen that way, there’s some doubt about what actually happened. And at the end, Spock comes in and interrupts a smoldering kiss. (They still have Christmas parties in the future? I thought that there was no more religious believe in the future. Why not a Zefram Cochrane Day party instead of a Christmas party?)

The guest star who plays the guy who escaped from the prison planet (who was actually a victim of mad scientist Doctor Adams and not a criminal) did a good job of playing a crazy guy, overacting forgiven.

This episode is the first time we see a Vulcan mind meld.

A fun episode, very well paced for a TOS episode, recommended.

* * *

Why is the Enterprise, a military vessel with a crew of 400+, bringing a few boxes of supplies to a prison planet? Don’t they have much less expensive cargo ships for that kind of stuff? It’s interesting that episode after episode, they can’t think of sensible reasons for why the Enterprise is warping around the galaxy.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 10, 2018 at EDT am

Posted in Star Trek

Star Trek TOS, Season 1: Miri

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The message of this episode is similar to a message from other Star Trek TOS episodes that I already reviewed: transhumanism is bad, really really bad.

Specifically, in this episode, the Enterprise discovers a planet where three hundred years ago, scientists were trying to develop a virus that would make everyone live for thousands of years, but instead it backfired and everyone died from a horrible disease. In the previous episode, What Are Little Girls Made Of, we learned that it’s also wrong to try to achieve immortality with robot bodies.

Everyone died except for the children, who age extremely slowly and don’t die until they enter puberty, at which time they contract the horrible disease and die.

This episode has the assumption that without adult-enforced discipline, long-lived children develop into a dystopian society reminiscent of the Lord of the Flies.

There is also an assumption that emotional and cognitive maturity comes from the biological aging of the brain, and children with non-aging brains will remain children forever. Rally bratty children in this case. Spock compares them to animals and mice.

Of course the landing party of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Yeoman Rand (?) and two red-shirts also get the disease. This is the second time in the series where they get a really bad disease that almost kills them. You would think the lesson would be that they should wear hazmat suits when they visit strange planets. On the other hand, they were wearing hazmat suits in the first disease episode, The Naked Time, but the suits didn’t work because they were made from shower curtains. So maybe the lesson learned was why bother wearing the suits if they don’t work?

Another lesson I learned from this episode is don’t bring a blonde-wigged bimbo along with a landing party. And in fact, in this rare case, they did actually learn the lesson, because this is the last episode where Yeoman Rand has a major role.

The landing party discovers Miri, who is supposed to be a girl who’s just entering puberty, maybe she’s supposed to be around 13 years old. Captain Kirk uses his alpha-male charisma on her, like he does to all women he meets down on planets, and acquires her cooperation as a result. And then Yeoman Rand gets extremely jealous of Miri, and that causes Miri to get jealous of Rand and mad at Kirk for paying attention to Rand instead of her, which leads to Miri convincing the other kids to kidnap Rand so they can then lure Kirk to find her so they can punish him.

The highlight of the episode is the actress who played Miri, she did a completely convincing job of having a crush on Captain Kirk. Her highly competent acting only reminds us of how horrible an actress Majel Barrett is, and to a lesser extent Grace Lee Whitney who plays Rand. Barrett was completely unconvincing in being attracted to Spock in “The Naked Time,” and being the fiancée of Roger Korby in “What Are Little Girls Made Of.” Truly an example of a bad actress being hired only because she’s sleeping with the boss.

The girl who played Miri (who was actually 18 or 19 at the time this was filmed) went on to play Mattie in the movie True Grit where John Wayne won an Academy Award.

Because this is not a great episode, it makes me want to nitpick things. Like how at the beginning, they discover a planet that looks exactly like Earth. That’s really mysterious, isn’t it? How did that happen? But then they completely forget about that. Maybe early on in Star Trek, they didn’t think it would make sense for aliens on a distant planet to speak English and look exactly like humans, so they came up with the idea of a planet being a parallel Earth.

And then there is the problem of the disappearing red-shirts. They beam down with two red-shirts, but then midway into the episode the red-shirts simply disappear. No they don’t show them being killed, they just get written out of the story. Where did they go? And Kirk really could have used them, because we see Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Rand all leave their communicators on a table in a lab in the hospital while they leave the room to respond to a strange noise outside the room, and then we see the bratty kids sneak into the room through an air vent and steal the four communicators. Isn’t there some Star Fleet protocol that says you aren’t supposed to leave all of your communicators lying around unattended on hostile planets?

Now they can’t communicate with the ship, and without communication with the ship they can’t access the ship’s computers for help in concocting a cure for the virus. But what about the two red-shirts? Don’t they have communicators? But everyone has forgotten about them. My theory is that they originally intended for the two red-shirts to get killed, but then afterwards they decided that it didn’t play well to have the red-shirts killed by children, so they cut out that scene or never filmed it in the first place.

Reading other modern reviews of this episode, most of them are creeped out by Kirk using his alpha-male charisma on a 13-year-old girl. But apparently no one in 1966 thought it was a problem. And I don’t see the problem; it makes sense for Kirk to use his alpha-male charisma in this situation, because they needs Miri’s cooperation. It’s not like they had sex, or even kissed.

Notes:

Kirk’s ripped shirt: Kirk’s shirt gets ripped in various places, but we see less skin than most other ripped-shirt episodes.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 9, 2018 at EDT pm

Posted in Star Trek

Star Trek TOS, season 1: What Are Little Girls Made Of? (Sexbots!)

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Notes:

1. I skipped the episode “Mudd’s Women” because I recently reviewed it here. The key takeaway from “Mudd’s Women” is that in the 1960s, women were valued for their looks and their domestic skills like cooking and cleaning (because in the future they lost the knowledge we have today of easy-to-clean Teflon pots and pans).

2. I created a new Star Trek category so you can more easily see all of my Star Trek posts!

Housekeeping:

Shirtless Kirk: in order to make a robot Kirk, you have to take off his shirt (as well as his pants). Hey, just two episodes ago there was a duplicate Kirk from a transporter malfunction, and now we have a duplicate Kirk from a robot-making machine.

Red shirt deaths: This will become a trend in future Trek episodes. You would think Kirk would learn a lesson about sending men off by themselves to do useless tasks. Every time someone dies, it’s because Kirk says something like “stand here by yourself and guard the entrance to this cave” (which is what happens in this episode). It happened the same way in “The Man Trap.” There are more than 400 people aboard the Enterprise, why can’t they beam down twice as many red-shirt guys so they can work in pairs?

Nurse Chapel: I believe that this is the only Star Trek episode where she was featured as a major character. Majel Barrett did a horrible job of acting in this episode, I can see why they wouldn’t want to use her again in a major way. Clearly an example of an actress getting a role because she was sleeping with the boss and not because of any talent.

*SPOILER ALERT*

All of my Star Trek TOS reviews have spoilers, but this episode has a surprise plot twist, or what was probably a surprise to viewers in 1966, but it seems kind of obvious watching it today, especially if you recently watched the HBO series Westworld.

This episode is quite complex to describe from a plot standpoint, although also very cheesy and stupid and it hasn’t held up as well as other TOS episodes. But at the same time, some of the ideas in this episode were way ahead of its time.

A lot of what we see in the HBO series Westworld can be traced back to this episode, including:

  • A character you think is human turns out to be a robot.
  • Robots revolted against their flesh-and-blood creators (a long-dead alien race).
  • Human brains can be copied into robot brains, thus achieving a sort of immortality for the human. A very creepy sort of immortality.
  • There’s a robot-creating machine that, although ridiculous looking and based on limited special effects they could afford back then, nevertheless reminds me of the 3D robot-printing machines from Westworld.
  • Robots can have sex with humans and with other robots.

Roger Korby, galaxy renowned scientist, lost for five years, and also coincidentally Nurse Chapel’s fiancé, is found living in underground caves on an ice planet. Korby says to beam down alone, but Kirk beams down with Nurse Chapel (whose wig was dialed down a bit from the previous time we saw her), and then when no one is there to meet him, he orders two red-shirt guys to beam down as well. The two red-shirt guys are promptly killed by an alien robot who looks and sounds just like Lurch from the Adams Family (and is played by the same 6’9” actor who played Lurch on the Adams Family).

Now, let’s talk about the sexbot, named Andrea in the episode (sounds like Android), if you’re into small anorexic-looking girls, then she comes off as a real sex kitten, but totally useless for doing anything else. When Nurse Chapel is first introduced to her, she seethes with jealousy.

KORBY: Christine, you must realise an android’s like a computer. It does only what I programme. As a trained scientist yourself, you must realise that

CHAPEL: Given a mechanical Doctor Brown, a mechanical geisha would be no more difficult.

KORBY: You think I could love a machine?

CHAPEL: Did you?

KORBY: Andrea’s incapable of that. She simply obeys orders. She has no meaning for me. There’s no emotional bond. Andrea, kiss Captain Kirk. Now strike him. You see? There’s no emotion in it, no emotional involvement. She simply responds to orders. She’s a totally logical computer. A thing is not a woman. Now do you understand?

I probably didn’t get this when I watched as a kid, but notice how Korby never denies that he had sex with Andrea, he just makes the argument, crudely translated, that he was merely masturbating to a really high quality Playboy magazine. Do we agree with that logic? Should a woman feel like her fiancé cheated on her if he has “sex” with much better looking sexbots? And remember, the guy was alone on a planet for five years. Wouldn’t a large percentage of present-day men pleasure themselves at least a few times during the five years, if not a lot more often?

But later, we find out that Korby is also a robot, albeit a more human-like robot because Korby’s brain was copied into it. So it was actually robots having sex with robots, like Dolores and Teddy from Westworld, except that unlike Dolores, Andrea is useless for anything except having sex. I made the same comment about “Mudd’s Women.” And Kirk is into Yeoman Rand even though she’s not intellectual at all. The message from these old Star Trek episodes is that women are for sex, and for interesting conversation you should rely on your male friends like Spock or McCoy.

Leaving aside the wonderfully politically incorrect observations of 1960s attitudes towards sexual relations, let’s talk about the significant philosophical point that the episode is making. Robots aren’t real people. If you copy a human brain into a robot brain, you just get a machine, a dangerous machine, but not a machine that you should feel any remorse for killing, you can’t kill a machine any more than you can kill the smartphone or computer you are using to read this, you can just turn it off. When Spock arrives at the end and asks “Where’s Doctor Korby?” Kirk responds with “Doctor Korby was never here.” The robot-Korby doesn’t count as the real Korby.

Star Trek totally reversed on this message with The Next Generation, where Data is introduced as a character that you are supposed to believe is a sentient being, with the same rights as humans, but why is Data any more sentient than Rock (the robot who looks like Lurch) or robot-Korby?

It is my opinion, and this is very important, that the TOS viewpoint is correct and the TNG viewpoint is horribly wrong. We must think of machines as machines, no matter how human-like they appear to be, in order to survive as a species.

Another message from the early Star Trek episodes is that people with super-powers are a dangerous threat to be eliminated. So a “human” who is now an immortal robot with more powerful logic, that’s a sort of dangerous superpowers. And of course Korby demonstrates his dangerousness by his plan to secretly replace humans with robots. Korby poses just as much danger to the continued existence of the human race as Charlie from “Charlie X” or Gary Mitchell from “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”

And yet another continuing message from early Star Trek episodes is that transhumanist technology means the destruction of humanity. The Talosians from “The Cage” (the original pilot) ruined their civilization after they discovered mind control powers. The aliens who used to live on this ice planet destroyed themselves by creating robots. Eventually we will get to the episode with Khan who was cast out from Earth because he was genetically enhanced.

* * *

I forgot to discuss the Star Trek tropes that Kirk uses to escape his bad situation (held prisoner by Korby while robot-Kirk prepares to take Korby’s robot-making equipment to a human colony where they will begin secretly converting humans into robots).

1. He uses his Kirk logic-illogic-judo on Lurch and convinces him that Korby is the enemy (even though Korby is also a robot). Star Trek teaches us that a smart human like Kirk can always defeat a robot or a computer by out-talking it. I am absolutely certain that will never work in the future of the real world.

2. He uses his alpha-male sexual charisma on the sexbot robot to confuse her and make her even more useless than she was before he did that. Totally unrealistic, yet more fun to watch than asexual Picard.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 8, 2018 at EDT pm

Posted in Star Trek

Star Trek TOS, Season 1: The Enemy Within

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A transporter malfunction splits Captain Kirk into two Captain Kirks. One is good and docile, the other is evil and ferocious. (As you can imagine, Shatner really over-acts the evil Kirk.) Sulu and some other guys are trapped on the planet, where temperatures are extremely cold and not conducive to human life, until the transporter can be fixed. Also, there’s a dog in a unicorn costume representing the planet’s native animal life.

The science part of this episode makes no sense. How can a transporter malfunction do that? And why can’t they send down a shuttlecraft to fetch Sulu and the other crewmembers. Even ignoring the shuttlecraft question, after they think the transporter is fixed but they can’t agree on whether or not it’s safe to use it to unite the two Kirks back into a single Kirk, why can’t they beam down some heaters, some tents, food, etc, so that Sulu and the other guys won’t die from the cold?

Despite all this, it’s still a good episode for TWO reasons: (1) the philosophy/psychology about what personality aspects an alpha male needs in order to be an alpha male; and (2) the battery and attempted rape of Yeoman Rand by the evil Captain Kirk. Plus the dog in a unicorn costume. Trekkies remember this episode a lot better than many other episodes with fewer plot holes.

Let’s get some housekeeping out of the way:

Shirtless Kirk: there’s a gratuitous scene where Kirk changes his shirt. So far, the only episode where Kirk is not seen either shirtless or with a ripped shirt is “The Man Trap,” the first episode that aired. After that, every episode made sure to show some of William Shatner’s upper torso. Did this female fan service help to attract any female viewers?

“He’s dead Jim”: McCoy says this after the dog in a unicorn costume is killed when they try combine its good and evil halves in the transporter.

Sickbay is also the ship’s liquor warehouse: The first thing that evil Kirk does is go to sickbay and demand “Saurian brandy” from McCoy. This is not the first time we’ve seen booze associated with the ship’s doctor. In the first pilot, the ship’s doctor brings Captain Pike a martini. In the more politically correct The Next Generation, alcohol is banned and replaced with “synthehol.” Everything that was manly about TOS got neutered in TNG.

Scotty: The second episode where Scotty gets airtime. He mostly just operates the transporter, but he also courageously sticks his hand in a dog cage and holds down the super-vicious evil dog in a unicorn costume so that Spock can inject it with a tranquilizer. I guess that in the future they lost the technology of tranquilizer darts.

Good Kirk, bad Kirk, the true meaning of the episode

I totally didn’t get this when I watched it as a kid. The point they are making is that Kirk is an alpha-male, and an alpha-male is alpha because of dark qualities like ferocity, aggression and a strong sex drive. Of course they don’t use the term “alpha male” in the episode, but it’s what they mean. Spock calls it “the power of command.”

SPOCK: Judging from my observations, Captain, you’re rapidly losing the power of decision.

MCCOY: You have a point, Spock?

SPOCK: Yes, always, Doctor. We have here an unusual opportunity to appraise the human mind, or to examine, in Earth terms, the roles of good and evil in a man. His negative side, which you call hostility, lust, violence, and his positive side, which Earth people express as compassion, love, tenderness.

MCCOY: It’s the Captain’s guts you’re analysing. Are you of that, Spock?

SPOCK: Yes, and what is it that makes one man an exceptional leader? We see indications that it’s his negative side which makes him strong, that his evil side, if you will, properly controlled and disciplined, is vital to his strength. Your negative side removed from you, the power of command begins to elude you.

I’m not saying that the guy who wrote the script was 100% correct about everything, but core concept was correct, and something that maybe has been lost since the 1960s. Today, feminists would consider the qualities that made Kirk a good leader to be “toxic masculinity.”

As depicted in this episode, the good Kirk is indecisive, lacking in energy, he looks like he overdosed on valium. The perfect beta male? The evil Kirk, on the other hand, acts like an animal much of the time. He shows a limited ability to act civilized for a few minutes, but then can’t hold it and has a wild temper tantrum or resorts to violence. Spock and McCoy treat the good Kirk as the real Kirk for the simple reason that the other Kirk is unable to act civilized. Even though, if you think about it, the evil Kirk ought to have an equally legitimate claim to be considered the real Kirk, because we are told that they are his two halves and must be brought back together for Kirk to become whole again.

Here’s some additional 1960s management and leadership theory:

KIRK: Yes, I’ll make an announcement to the entire crew, tell them what happened. It’s a good crew. They deserve to know.

SPOCK: Captain, no disrespect intended, but you must surely realize you can’t announce the full truth to the crew. You’re the Captain of this ship. You haven’t the right to be vulnerable in the eyes of the crew. You can’t afford the luxury of being anything less than perfect. If you do, they lose faith, and you lose command.

Manly men, the kind who become leaders, never show any weakness or vulnerability, are never self-deprecating in any way. No one is teaching this kind of thing to boys today, that’s the “toxic masculinity” that feminists are trying to eradicate.

The attempted rape of Yeoman Rand

Among the negative traits that make a man an alpha male is unbridled sexual lust. After the evil Kirk takes the bottle of brandy from McCoy’s office, he heads to Yeoman Rand’s quarters where he grabs her and demands sex.

Rand shows the proper 1960s reaction to improper behavior like this. She fights back. She gives evil Kirk a wicked scratch to the face and screams and gets the attention of a crewman and tells him to call Mr. Spock. Then evil Kirk beats up the crewman and runs away. Women today claim they were raped even though there is no evidence of any sort of struggle like Rand had with evil Kirk. Even though women today are supposedly more “empowered” than women in the 1960s, 1960s women were empowered to actually fight back against rapists.

I think that if only Kirk has followed the advice he gave to Charlie from two episodes ago, to “go slow,” he would have gotten sex out of Rand. And by “slow,” I don’t mean spending months courting her. Just a few minutes of wooing and small talk was probably all that was needed, but the evil Kirk has absolutely zero patience for anything.

Then we have this really uncomfortable confrontation with Yeoman Rand facing Spock, Kirk and McCoy, and Kirk insists that he didn’t do it. Even though I’m red-pilled, this seems wrong to me. At this point in the story, Spock and McCoy know about the dog in a unicorn costume which was split in two, so they suspect the same thing happened to Kirk, but Rand doesn’t know that. From her perspective, she’s in a room with the guy who tried to rape her and two other men who are taking his side. I think that even in the 1960s, a woman is entitled to have her say without the person she says is the perpetrator of the crime being the one who questions her, and also aanother female crewmember by her side so it’s not just her against a bunch of male officers.

And then, at the very end of the episode, after Kirk’s two halves are re-united and the crew on the planet have been rescued, and Yeoman Rand sort of knows what happened, Spock says to Rand “The, er, impostor had some interesting qualities, wouldn’t you say, Yeoman? ” I thought that Spock is really being an asshole. It’s my understanding that Gene Roddenberry himself added that line to the script.

I will really miss Yeoman Rand once I get into the episodes after she was fired. Even though Grace Lee Whitney isn’t an especially good actress, and she’s not half as pretty as they try to present her as being (with ridiculous wig, huge amounts of makeup, and a blurry camera lens), the series really benefited from the presence of her character. She added a very enjoyable soap opera element. After watching the first five episodes, viewers were surely wondering things like: Will Uhura sleep with Spock? Will the nurse in sickbay with the super-ridiculous blonde wig sleep with Spock? Will Sulu sleep with Uhura? Will Sulu sleep with Rand? (Sulu and Rand were eating lunch together in the ship’s botanical garden in the first episode, “The Man Trap.” Was it more than just lunch?) Will Kirk sleep with Rand? Alas, these questions were never answered, everyone became asexual, except for Kirk who only did it with aliens.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 6, 2018 at EDT am

Posted in Star Trek

Star Trek TOS, Season 1: The Naked Time

with 19 comments

The fourth episode to air, and the worst of the four in my opinion.

Space is like a McDonalds. Everything is supersized. In previous episodes, ESP powers become super ESP powers. In this episode, the crew becomes super drunk because of a disease.

In the beginning, Spock and some crewmen who we’ve never seen before, and will never see again because he later kills himself with a butter knife (the absurdity), beam down to a planet wearing hazmat suits that look like shower curtains, and apparently the hazmat suits don’t have zippers or anything, and the crewman never received any training about not taking off his glove and then sticking his hand inside his helmet to scratch his face.

In later episodes, we are told that Starfleet is the best of the best, but in this episode they are like the Keystone Kops. In addition to the hazmat suit incident, we have two super-drunk crewman (Sulu and Riley) walk off the bridge and abandon their posts, and none of the sober people on the bridge even notice.

Super drunk Riley is able to take over engineering by just walking in and telling everyone that Captain Kirk said they should all leave. And then lock himself in so good that no one can get in there. A lot of the show is wasted on this Riley guy who we’ve never seen before, and will only see again in one other episode.

Body count: of the first four episodes to air, in three of the episodes members of the crew died, and in the only episode where no member of the crew died, twenty people on another spaceship were killed. Yes, space is dangerous, why would anyone want to sign up to serve in Starfleet when they could stay on Earth and live off of the free stipend everyone gets, and where there are more women around.

Sulu without a shirt: We see Sulu without a shirt, and although lean and wiry, he’s really ripped for the 1960s. Some Star Trek fans got a kick out of the scene with shirtless Sulu brandishing a fencing foil. An iconic scene in a pointless episode.

Kirk with a ripped shirt: When McCoy needs to give Kirk his antidote shot, he grabs Kirk’s shirt and rips off the shoulder. But somehow, McCoy was able to administer the hypo shot to everyone else without damaging their clothing. And we are shown in other episodes that those shots are able to go right through clothing. So in three out of the first four episodes, Kirk has a scene with either a ripped shirt or completely shirtless.

Ridiculous blonde wigs: Nurse Christine Chapel is introduced for the first time, and she’s wearing this ridiculous blonde wig that looks several times stupider than Yeoman Rand’s blonde wig. The actress who played her, Majel Barrett, who was Gene Rodenberry’s mistress, looked better in the first pilot where she played Number One with normal looking non-wig dark brown hair. But she’s no beauty.

Being super drunk. Christine reveals her love for Spock. So maybe there was supposed to be a love triangle involving Spock, Uhura and Christine Chapel. And maybe Sulu also! How about this exchange:

SULU: I’ll protect you, fair maiden.
UHURA: Sorry, neither.

That’s funny, Uhura acknowledges being black and that she’s not a virgin! Did she lose it to Spock in the previous episode?

This is the first episode where we see Scotty! And the very first time when Scotty says “ I can’t change the laws of physics.” But he was wrong, the laws of physics were changed in this episode. After they “implode” the warp engines to break away from the planet (after super drunk Riley turned off the engines) the Enterprise travels “faster than is possible for normal space” and then the Enterprise travels back in time three days, a non sequitur ending that has nothing to do with the rest of the episode.

Also, Spock cries while he’s super drunk. Really too soon to show Spock crying, we don’t know enough about him after only three episodes (including the second pilot where he mostly screamed stuff and ran around with a huge phaser rifle) to be shocked that he’s crying. Maybe that’s what Vulcans do? I was more intrigued by him smiling while playing the harp in the Charlie X episode.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 4, 2018 at EDT pm

Posted in Star Trek

Star Trek TOS, Season 1: Charlie X

with 23 comments

This episode never appears on any list of best Star Trek episodes, nor do I have much memory of it being an episode that I liked, so I was very surprised when I discovered how much I enjoyed re-watching it. In fact, I take back all the insults about Shatner’s acting ability. Shatner played Kirk perfectly here!

This is the fourth episode in a row about psychic powers. In “Man Trap” (previously reviewed ) a woman they think is Nancy Crater is actually a space-monster with psychic powers. In this episode, Charlie, who they think is a normal teenage boy with poor social skills (because he was marooned alone on a deserted planet for 14 years), is really an awkward teenage boy with poor social skills who has super-psychic powers!

In “Where No Man Has Gone Before” (previously reviewed), Gary Mitchell gets super psychic powers and becomes a danger to the whole crew and the entire human race. In this episode, Charlie has super psychic powers and is a danger to the whole crew and the entire human race. The lesson that Star Trek is teaching us is that it’s not safe for one man to have superpowers that put him above all other men. They must be cast out or killed.

Leaving aside the unoriginal science fiction parts of this episode, the good thing about this episode is William Shatner who does such a perfect job of playing the father figure to Charlie. I will also include Yeoman Rand (played by Grace Lee Whitney), the MILF for whom Charlie has a bad case of oneitis, as another highlight of the episode, even though I don’t have anything especially good to say about Whitney’s acting skills. So sad that Yeoman Rand only appeared in eight episodes. Obviously, at the beginning of the series, the intention was that she was going to be a major character.

I also very much enjoyed a scene early in the episode where a bunch of the crew are in a lounge, and Spock is playing some kind of harp, smiling while he’s playing, and Uhura sings an impromptu song:

Oh, on the starship Enterprise
There’s someone who’s in Satan’s guise
Whose devil ears and devil eyes
Could rip your heart from you.

At first, his look could hypnotise
And then his touch would barbarize
His alien love could victimize
And rip your heart from you.

And that’s why female astronauts,
Oh, very female astronauts
Wait terrified and overwrought
To find what he will do.

Oh, girls in space, be wary, be wary, be wary,
Girls in space, be wary.
We know not what he’ll do.

Scenes like this, with crewmembers other than Spock McCoy and Kirk hanging out and doing stuff together, got lost from future episodes of the original series. So sad.

Hey, is it racist for Uhura to liken Spock to the devil because of his appearance which he has no control over? Is that any different than saying a black guy looks like a monkey? Is it racist to portray Uhura as the stereotype of a black woman with greater sexual appetites than white women? This is the second episode in a row where Uhura and Spock have some weird interaction with each other. Were they supposed to be secretly having sex? Why did this good stuff get dropped from the series?

My love for Shatner’s performance begins in the transporter room when Charlie is first beamed over from the Antares. First, Kirk seems to dislike Charlie (and there isn’t anything likeable about him, he’s a weird-looking kid with a whiny voice), but then when Charlie stares with puppy-dog eyes at Yeoman Rand and asks Kirk “Is that a girl?” Kirks whole attitude changes, and with great amusement says “That’s a girl.”

Charlie sees one male crewmember slap another on the butt, so he does the same to Yeoman Rand thinking that will help him bond with her, but Yeoman Rand of course gets mad and then tells him to ask Captain Kirk why it’s wrong to hit a girl on the butt, and Kirk’s response is awesome:

Me. I see. Well, um, er, there are things you can do with a lady, er, Charlie, that you er. There’s no right way to hit a woman. I mean, man to man is one thing, but, er, man and woman, er, it’s, er, it’s, er. Well it’s, er, another thing. Do you understand?

To really appreciate it, you have to watch Shatner stumble through those lines with just the right blend of amusement and bewilderment.

I liked the idea of Charlie trying to impress Rand by doing magic card tricks for her (which was real magic, an ominous portent of what would come later in the episode). Decades later, the PUA known as Mystery would advocate using magic tricks to pick up women. Did he get the idea from this episode of Star Trek?

A great red-pill lesson that’s even more important today than it was fifty years ago is when Kirk sternly lectures Charlie about his crush on Rand:

KIRK: Charlie, there are a million things in this universe you can have and there are a million things you can’t have. It’s no fun facing that, but that’s the way things are.

CHARLIE: Then what am I going to do?

KIRK: Hang on tight and survive. Everybody does.

I think a lot of spoiled kids, and adults, would benefit from someone telling them that there are a million they can’t have, and it’s the way things are.

Another great scene with Kirk and Charlie is in the gym, and shirtless Kirk (the very first Star Trek episode were Kirk is completely shirtless, but there will be more) has to deal with Charlie after Charlie shocks Kirk by making some other guy in the gym disappear because the guy laughed at him, Kirk does the stern fatherly thing and disciplines Charlie with complete alpha-male confidence, even though he knows that Charlie could make him disappear as well. I think there was an important lesson here about the power of the dominant alpha personality over the weak beta personality, even though when it comes to actual power Charlie (with his super psychic abilities) is way more powerful than Kirk.

Charlie has a case of beta-male rage long before the term was invented by one of the commenters on my blog. Mad that Rand rejects him, he uses his psychic powers to hurt a bunch of women on the ship. He turns one woman into an iguana, he makes Rand disappear like he did to the guy at the gym, he makes another woman’s face disappear (very creepy), and yet another young woman he turns into an old crone. He’s like Elliot Rodger or George Sodini, but with super psychic powers instead of guns.

How do they escape from Charlie’s super powers? Well, to give away the ending, the Thasians come to the rescue and take him away. The Thasians explain they gave him the super powers so he could survive on the deserted planet, and that he got away without them realizing it, and now they are taking him back. Sorry about the dead people on the other ship, but we brought back all the people he made disappear on your ship.

This episode is so good because it’s based on human relationships rather than some dumb science fiction suspense that doesn’t make any sense. There aren’t any gaping plot holes like there are in the previous three episodes I reviewed. The only scene that stands out as illogical and stupid is when Spock and Kirk are playing tridimensional chess, and Spock moves a piece and smugly says “check” and Kirk then moves a piece in return and says “checkmate.” Spock says “Your illogical approach to chess does have its advantages on occasion, Captain.” Come on, if you can’t see that your opponent will checkmate you in response to your move, it’s because you’re a crappy chess player and not because the other guy used “illogic” on you.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 3, 2018 at EDT pm

Posted in Star Trek

Star Trek TOS Season 1: The Man Trap

with 20 comments

This is the first episode of Star Trek that aired on television! Unlike with the two pilots, we have most of the regular crew in this episode: Kirk, McCoy, Spock, Uhura, Sulu. Scotty didn’t appear in this one, and Chekov didn’t appear until Season 2.

We also have another female Yeoman, this time Yeoman Rand. Rating the female Yeomans in declining order of sexual desirability:

  • Yeoman Smith (from second pilot) – wow, what a babe!
  • Yeoman Colt (from first pilot) – she was pretty cute, and according to the Talosians she has “unusually strong female drives.” In other words, she’s a nympho!
  • Yeoman Rand – eh – the actress who played her was a decade older than the other two actresses, and that blonde wig does nothing for me. They had to resort to the trick of using a blurry lens when filming her to suggest hotness that wasn’t really there.

Here’s something I didn’t know until I did research for this blog post: Yeoman Rand only appeared in eight episodes and then she was gone. Only eight episodes? Hard to believe: she has a much bigger role in my memory of Star Trek than her actual role. Gene Roddenberry fired her in order to give the role of thirty-something woman with a blond wig to his mistress Majel Barrett who played nurse Chapel. Even in the 1960s, women got ahead by sleeping with the boss.

Now, let’s talk about the politically incorrect scenes:

1. Lieutenant Uhura flirts with Spock on the bridge. She says “I’m an illogical woman who’s beginning to feel too much a part of that communications console. Why don’t you tell me I’m an attractive young lady, or ask me if I’ve ever been in love?” It’s almost like she says “Spock, sexually harass me on the job, I really want it.”

2. Two male crewmen stare at Yeoman Rand with extreme lust, and one says to the other “Yeah, how’d you like to have her as your personal yeoman?” Remember my review of the first pilot where I complained that the Talosians picked the wrong person to try to breed with Vina? If the Talosians chose of these guys, it would have been pretty easy to get them to have sex with Vina, who was way better looking than Yeoman Rand.

And now for a recap of the plot: Kirk and McCoy beam down to a planet along with a one of those crewmen who only appear in a single episode and only contribute to the story by getting killed in order to increase the suspense. This was before they got the idea of having all the crewman who get killed wear red shirts, so in this episode we see some blue shirts and gold shirts get killed.

The reason they beam down is to give some archeologist, Bob Crater, and his wife Nancy, the sole inhabitants of a planet, their five-year medical checkup. Now doesn’t this seem like a really inefficient use of a starship with hundreds of crewmembers onboard, to send them to a planet to give two people a medical checkup? Couldn’t they send a ship with just a doctor onboard? Or better yet, send a self-navigating ship and have him come back to the nearest starbase to get his checkup.

Anyway, what’s really going on here is that Nancy (who was previously McCoy’s girlfriend) isn’t really Nancy but a space-monster with ESP-illusion powers that can make people think they look like someone else. A monster that desperately needs salt (yeah, sodium chloride, the stuff you sprinkle on french fries) to live, and will get it by sucking the salt out of live humans, killing them in the process. Third episode in a row with psychic powers! The monster, or “creature,” is like the Talosians, but there’s only one of them (the last of its species) and it’s not as smart as them. Although it’s smart enough to make everyone think it looks like Doctor McCoy, and attend a briefing in which it makes the case for not killing it.

But Kirk has decided that it’s a dangerous animal so it must be put down! Kirk is a pissed-off alpha male seeking revenge against his dead crewmen. Do we kill off all the lions because lions, by their nature, kill humans? It doesn’t seem very Star-Trek-like to kill off the last member of an alien species. In the second season of Trek, there’s an episode where some monster is killing off miners at a mining colony, but Spock does a mind meld with it and is able to negotiate peace between the monster and the miners. Why doesn’t that happen here?

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 2, 2018 at EDT pm

Posted in Star Trek

Star Trek the original pilot (The Cage)

with 15 comments

I previously reviewed the second pilot (Part 1, Part 2). This is the first pilot which NBC executives rejected for being too cerebral.

I’m not sure if I ever watched this pilot. Most of the scenes from the pilot were used in a two-part flashback episode which was shown during the first season, and of course I’ve seen that episode, so although the story is familiar, as a solo episode it has a few surprises.

The biggest surprise is smiling Spock! Yes, they didn’t get the idea that Spock was an emotionless Vulcan until the second pilot. In the first pilot he’s just some guy with pointed ears, and every time he smiles it’s creepy and shocking because it goes against everything you know about Spock.

Other than Spock, no other character from the original series is in the pilot. However Majel Barrett, the actress who played Nurse Chapel, in the pilot she plays Captain Pike’s first office whom he only refers to as “Number One.” Kirk never called Spock “Number One,” but then that phrase came back in The Next Generation, it’s what Picard called Riker. I think I like Barrett better as Number One than I liked her as Nurse Chapel. I imagine that the network executives told Gene Roddenberry to get rid of the female first officer, no one would believe that, or want to watch a woman bossing around men. And the executives were probably right. Today we have The Last Jedi, full of women bossing around men, and no one liked that movie except for SJW reviewers and feminists.

I can appreciate why Jeffery Hunter, who played Pike, was dumped for William Shatner. Shatner brought a joie de vivre to the Captain’s role, while Jeffrey Hunter looks like he’s constipated. This episode also has a totally unnecessary scene were Pike tells the ship’s doctor (who carries around gin and vermouth in his medical bag) that he’s tired of being a Starship Captain and maybe he should retire. In contrast, Kirk loved being the Captain and would never dream of doing anything else, and that’s how Shatner played him.

Let’s recap the plot of this episode. Captain Pike is kidnapped by the Talosians, aliens with big heads, and they put him in a cage in a sort of zoo where the Talosians keep many different aliens. They try to mate him with a beautiful 18-year-old girl, Vina, so that they can re-populate the planet and be a race of slaves to take care of the Talosians who are too much into their fantasy world of vicarious entertainment to be bothered to do anything practical. Pike refuses to go along with this, and spends the entire episode being pissed off at his captors and trying to escape.

The Talosians have developed telepathy that allows them to create illusions in the minds of their captives that are indistinguishable from reality. They spend their days living underground and being entertained by watching their primitive alien captives doing stuff in illusory environments created by the Talosians.

It would appear that this episode predicted reality TV! There doesn’t seem to be all that much difference between what the Talosians are doing, and me being entertained by watching the Jersey Shore, featuring people more primitive than myself doing primitive stuff like getting into fights and having sex.

At the end, the Talosians realize it was all a bad idea, because after scanning the Enterprise’s online library, they realize that humans hate being in captivity and they are just too violent of a race for what they were looking for.

Then Pike offers to trade with them, but the Talosians say, “oh no, we don’t want to do that, once you learn how to do what we do, you will just spend all day watching illusions and your race will spiral into decay just as it happened to us.” Also, we learn that Vina is actually a deformed and ugly old crone, and not a super-hot 18-year-old babe. That was an illusion too.

The most obvious plot hole here is, why didn’t the Talosians just take some human sperm, and then breed humans through artificial insemination?

But I think it’s more interesting to focus on a mistake the Talosians made which seems obvious to me but is not something I’ve seen mentioned in any other review of the episode. The Talosians chose the wrong man to breed with Vina. They chose the Captain, the most alpha man on the Enterprise. If they had, instead, chosen some beta-male from engineering, he would very likely have been overjoyed to trade in his incel life of being bossed around by a female first officer for sex with a hot eighteen-year-old babe who was totally into him. Also, you don’t want alpha-male genes when you create a race of slaves. You want beta-male genes for that.

Another obvious point that needs to be made is that, according to Star Trek lore, the human race will, by the time of The Next Generation, accomplish with the technology what the Talosians do with their telepathy. The holodecks produce illusions just as good as what the Talosians can do. Why haven’t the holodecks caused the human race to stop advancing as people find life in the holodeck more interesting than doing stuff in the real world, as predicted by the Talosians?

* * *

Captain Kirk would have given a speech that convinced the Talosians to free him, but only after having sex with Vina.

* * *

The scene where Captain Pike enjoys the illusion of being a trader of green-skinned Orion slave girls would have been way too politically correct to appear on TV today. I love the political incorrectness of old TV!

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 1, 2018 at EDT pm

Posted in Star Trek

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