Holy shit, this is it. This is it. Three final episodes, one big wrap-up, and we’re officially done with our giant Star Trek: TOS project.
Let’s just get straight to it, shall we?
Holy shit, this is it. This is it. Three final episodes, one big wrap-up, and we’re officially done with our giant Star Trek: TOS project.
Let’s just get straight to it, shall we?
Holy shit, only six episodes to go! SIX EPISODES LEFT, PEOPLE.
“Requiem for Methuselah”
Okay. For real. What the fuck is this?
A fatal epidemic is raging on the Enterprise, so our Holy OT3 beam down to this zero-pop planet to find the cure—only to run into Flint, an all-powerful old bastard who eventually invites them home to meet his super smart adopted daughter, Rayna. Flint is shifty as hell: he has unknown da Vinci paintings and Brahms’ compositions that seem to be the real deal, but were made way too recently. Also, he’s clearly jealous of Kirk and Rayna while simultaneously pushing them together. Turns out, Flint actually is da Vinci and Brahms (I was afraid of this), as well as Methuselah, Merlin, Solomon, Alexander the Great, Lazarus of Bethany, and probably a bunch of other people, too. Rayna, meanwhile, is a robot. Flint has been trying to create himself the perfect woman and has been using Kirk to “wake up” Rayna’s emotions, since she’s pretty non-responsive to Flint’s kisses. (Frankly, she doesn’t seem that into Kirk, either, and who can blame her? Even for TOS, their love story is absurdly paced here.)
Flint briefly miniaturizes the Enterprise and plans to kill our OT3, but that angers Rayna, who discovers her true nature and has a lovely moment of self-empowerment, realizing she makes her own choices and no one can tell her what to do. Unfortunately, trying to A) adjust to these newfound emotions, and B) choose between two men she loves equally is too much for Rayna’s poor female robot brain, and she dies. (Or, as Spock puts it: “The joys of love made her human, and the agonies of love destroyed her.” FFS.) Flint lets them go, I guess, and everyone on the Enterprise is cured, although Kirk is too busy moping about the 90th love of his life to give a shit. He falls asleep, wishing he could forget, and Spock (after a brief discussion with Bones, who also wishes Jim could forget—but nevertheless takes the time to needle Spock about his inability to love because that’s Bones for you) unilaterally decides to mind meld with a sleeping Kirk and steal his memories of Rayna away. Holy unethical bullshit, Batman!
There’s just . . . I really don’t have anything positive to say here except that it’s kinda cool to see James Daly as Flint, I guess, because he’s Tim and Tyne Daly’s father. (Also, his outfit is hilarious, as all TOS outfits are.) Otherwise . . . yeah. I’ve never been very into historical retcon tropes like Beethoven Was an Alien Spy, and this one is particularly ridiculous, cause like, come on, Flint is ALL these guys? This is absurd. Did humanity even accomplish anything, or was it all just this one motherfucker? Then we’ve got the love story, which . . . look, insta-love is nothing new for Trek, but this is especially egregious. Kirk’s acting like he’s been in love with Rayna for the better part of a decade; it’s actually been less than four hours, which we know because anything more than that, and everyone on the Enterprise would be dead. That’s the kind of plot clock that should give this episode some tension, but totally doesn’t because Kirk is too busy giving laughable speeches about love to remember his people are dying. (It would also help if we saw any of our regulars sick. Hell, even a handful of extras in Sickbay would do.) Then we’ve got Rayna’s death, which is infuriating: it’s more of TOS’s logic bomb nonsense, but with the added insult of equating romantic love with humanity, which, gah. And then Spock just up and psychically assaults his BFF? Like with good intentions, sure, but still—in the wise words of Jake Peralta—cool motive, still murder.
Chief Asshat: All of them.
MVP: Louise Sorel, who plays Rayna. Rayna deserves fix-it fanfic immediately.
Line of the Episode: “I am close to experiencing an unaccustomed emotion.”
“The Way to Eden”
Christ, it’s all downhill from here, isn’t it?
On the upside, I’ve seen GIFs from this episode for years now and am delighted to finally have an explanation for the unlikely jam session seen above. Also, I’ve learned that an early rejected draft of this episode introduced Bones’s daughter, Joanna, a character I’ve only ever come across in Alternate Original Series fanfic, so that’s kind of neat. On the other hand, whew, The Enterprise vs. A Cult of Space Hippies is painful, and it’s painful for a lot of reasons. Uhura’s absence doesn’t even make the Top 5, but it’s still weird as hell to see some white blonde lady at her station.
Our heroes chase down a stolen shuttle. It’s about to enter Romulan space and, more urgently, explode, but luckily the thieves are beamed aboard before that can happen. The thieves—henceforth known as the SHC or Space Hippie Cult—are a group of young people who reject technology and authority and otherwise want to live free. They also wear sorta-futuristic hippie clothing, use a bunch of future slang that I don’t buy, and sing about fucking everything. Under the direction of their leader, Dr. Sevrin, the SHC are searching for Eden; unfortunately, Sevrin is a carrier for some disease that came about from creating artificial atmospheres? Like, you can see why the guy’s bitter about technology, but he’s also 100% willing to risk infecting/killing anyone he comes across, and if he did successfully settle on a planet without the proper vaccinations/medicines, he could easily spread a whole ass plague. So, fuck this guy.
Usually, Kirk is the one to wax poetic about living the simple life, so you’d think he’d be the most sympathetic with the SHC; instead, it’s Spock because he . . . apparently relates to their feeling of alienation? Oh, that feels like a stretch. Maybe if the hippies were actually thoughtful, well-rounded characters and not easily-led, cheerfully obnoxious idiots. At any rate, the SHC quickly manages to take over the ship, partially because Chekov used to date one of them, Irina, and accidentally tells her how—whoops—but mostly because it’s absurdly easy to take over the Enterprise whenever the plot calls for it. FFS, their whole plan to free Sevrin from isolation?
A) Put on a little concert
B) Blast the music ship-wide
C) Wait for the security guard to sway around, distracted by the groovy song, before knocking him out.
That’s it. That’s the whole plan, and it’s even stupider because it works. (On the upside, it’s nice to see someone besides Kirk have the Romance of the Week—even if Chekov is a whiny jerk the whole time.) At any rate, the SHC once again heads through Romulan space on their way to Eden, but don’t worry; this will come to absolutely nothing. Instead, our hippies steal a shuttle and land on a planet that appears to be paradise— only all the plant life is full of acid, and not the fun kind. One hippie, Adam, dies from a bite of poisonous fruit; truly, this is a subtle episode. Kirk and co. save the rest of the SHC except for Sevrin, who’d rather die than return—or possibly has just convinced himself that he’s meant to survive. (Sevrin is diagnosed as insane, but mostly, dude just seems like an asshole willing to delude himself and others because he can’t afford to back out now.) Sevrin bites into a fruit and dies. Bye, terrible man!
Chekov and Irina fondly say goodbye, which is a nice moment except how it makes very little sense. Chekov’s been a sullen shit this whole episode, but after Irina’s leader tried to murder him and everyone else, he likes her again? Two of Irina’s friends are dead, Eden was a massive bust, and she’s heading off to face presumably criminal charges, but she’s feeling warm and flirty? God, who wrote this?
Chief Asshat: Sevrin, although I also wanted to throw things at Chekov.
MVP: Oh, definitely Nurse Chapel. She’s in this episode for about five seconds, but the way she says “you’re next” to one of the space hippies like she is absolutely 100% done with their shit? It’s a thing of beauty.
Line of the Episode:
“Be incorrect, occasionally.”
“And you be correct.”
“The Cloud Minders”
Okay! Okay, this is better. Perfect, no, but it’s not crushing my goddamn soul, at least.
A botanical plague threatens to wipe out all vegetation on this planet, endangering the lives of everyone there. The Enterprise goes to a different planet to pick up some zenite, the only cure; unfortunately, the landing party is attacked by a group of Troglytes who live and work in the mines. They’re rebelling against the rich people who live in Stratos, a city in the clouds where art is the chief occupation and violence has (supposedly) been eliminated. High Advisor Plasus and his daughter Droxine believe the Troglytes must remain in the mines, providing a vital function for society, as they’re much too inferior and ignorant and violent to live in the clouds. Bones then discovers the Troglytes are considerably more violent and less intelligent, but it’s because the zenite they’re mining emits a hazardous gas in its raw form. Kirk tries to warn everyone and trade the zenite for a bunch of filter masks, but nobody believes him. Finally, Kirk manages to convince Vanna (the Troglyte leader) when he and Plasus try to kill one another under the influence of the gas. Our heroes get the zenite, Vanna vows her people will now make real political change, and Droxine (apparently) sees the error of her ways and goes off to live amongst the miners for a while.
I primarily associate cloud cities with The Empire Strike Back, so it’s kind of neat (and slightly hilarious) to see one here that predates the film by roughly a decade. Trek costumes are always delightful, of course, and this episode is no exception. There are some decent lines here, and examining a dystopian society feels much more on brand for Star Trek, rather than, say, “annoying young hippies . . . but in space!” I’m not terribly convinced the hazardous gas is necessary, or at least I think the story would be much stronger if we learned that Plasus had known about it all along and done nothing to help. But it doesn’t bother me so much because it seems pretty clear that Plasus would continue to do nothing if his hand wasn’t being forced.
My biggest criticism is Droxine’s redemption. (Well, that, and how Spock apparently just up and tells her about pon farr, because I guess that’s not a secret anymore?) While Plasus is almost hilariously sneery, Droxine strikes me as much more terrifying because she’s all delicate and ethereal and “innocent.” While arguing with Vanna, Droxine isn’t sneering as she says horrible things like, “Your eyes are not accustomed to light, as your minds are not accustomed to logic.” She’s saying them in a girlish and reasonable tone, like of course the Troglytes don’t need or deserve sunlight; of course they can’t think like civilized people do. That’s just how it is and, more importantly, how it should remain—which is way more disturbing, as it’s very much how racism in the real world can sound. And it’s interesting, too, because when Spock has a (pretty random) voiceover, wondering if Droxine could “retain such purity and sweetness” while being aware of the miners’ misery, we soon get our answer: Droxine already does know, and she’s totally fine with it—which is to say, she’s a shitty, hateful person. But since she’s very pretty, I guess, she gets a totally unearned change of heart at the end of the episode, presumably because she has a crush on Spock, and he disapproves of illogical things like ‘prejudice’ and ‘gross inequality.’ It’s disappointing, to say the least.
Chief Asshat: I supposedly Plasus wins because he does torture Vanna. Wait, no, Droxine is there for that, too, and actually argues that Troglytes don’t understand anything but violence, so. Yeah, they’re both the worst.
MVP: I actually do like Jeff Corey, the actor who plays Plasus. His line delivery when he argues in favor of torture’s effectiveness is great. Still, I might go with Vanna (Charlene Polite) here. She does betray Kirk, but it’s not like she has much reason to trust him. She’s also the reason Kirk survives his kinda terrible ‘I’ll poison us all to make them believe me’ plan. And I like that she genuinely cares about her people. (According to IMDb, Fred Williamson—who I know best as Frost from From Dusk Till Dawn—is one of her fellow Troglytes, which I thought was pretty neat.)
Line of the Episode:
“What would Troglytes do here?”
“Live. In the sunlight and warmth as everyone should.”
“The Mark of Gideon”
(I usually try to get GIFs or videos from the episode in question, but I’m having difficulty with that lately, so the excellent Swear Trek will have to do!)
Like a lot of TOS episodes, “The Mark of Gideon” starts out really fun, and then just kinda . . . falls apart. The Enterprise orbits the planet Gideon for some “join our cool Federation” negotiations. Only Kirk is allowed to beam down, though; once he does, he mysteriously goes missing, ending up on a duplicate Enterprise with a bruise on his arm and a small gap in his memory. Excellent! The only other person aboard is Odona, who says she has no memory of how she got there. Meanwhile, Hodin (the Gideon leader) won’t let anyone beam down to search for Kirk, and Starfleet Command orders Spock to play along, even though they know Hodin is behind Kirk’s abduction. Spock isn’t allowed to interfere unless he has definite proof that Jim is in imminent danger.
It turns out that the people on Gideon are functionally immortal: they live an extremely long ass time, have an ability to regenerate, and live on a planet with absolutely no germs. Since they apparently don’t believe in contraception (life is sacred, gah), Gideon is suffering from critical overpopulation. The Gideons kidnapped Kirk specifically for his blood, so they could inject it into Odona and hope she dies from some terrible sickness that Kirk once had. (Odona, BTW, is Hodin’s daughter and a willing participate in this whole experiment). They also hoped that Kirk would fall so hopelessly in love with Odona that he’d agree to stay behind on Gideon and spend the rest of his life giving a fatal disease to anyone who wants it—which, IMO, is not exactly a foolproof plan. Spock goes against Stafleet’s orders and rescues Kirk, Kirk saves Odona despite the fact that she chose to die, and Odona survives to fulfill Kirk’s role of infecting anyone who wants to sacrifice their lives.
The initial mystery is pretty entertaining, and there are a few moments here or there that I enjoy: Scotty’s indignation on behalf of the Enterprise, David Hurst’s performance throughout the episode. But the writing is pretty bad, and it’s pretty bad in multiple ways. Overpopulation anxiety is . . . fine, I guess, but one of the reasons it exists at all is because humans don’t have anywhere to go if we overrun Earth; this is not a problem for people in TOS, where there are thousands of cool places to explore, not to mention a deserted, livable planet for every five you come across. No one would have to engineer a whole ass alien plague if some of the people on Gideon just moved. (It’s also pretty hard to take overpopulation seriously when it’s represented by roughly 12 people wearing hooded unitards bumbling around a room, like, I know Season 3 had basically five bucks for a budget, but damn.)
Starfleet’s decision to ignore Kirk’s kidnapping also makes no sense because this episode never bothers to establish why Gideon is so important to the Federation. Maybe they’d be willing to sacrifice a legendary starship captain if Gideon had, say, a fleet of planet-killing starships or if dilithium crystals grew on trees there, but as presented, this is just nonsense. Likewise, Spock’s cynical dialogue about diplomacy feels deeply inauthentic. Leonard Nimoy’s line deliveries are beautifully disdainful, but from the bottom of my soul, I do not believe that Spock would bitch about diplomats only being useful to prolong a crisis. There’s a real world cynicism on display in this episode that just doesn’t feel true to the characters or institutions of the story. Combine all that with the usual BS romance and the complete lack of consequences for Spock disobeying Starfleet, and . . . yeah, this isn’t one of my favorites.
Chief Asshat: Hm. Hodin, I suppose, but there’s certainly an argument for that shitty Starfleet admiral.
MVP: David Hurst, who gives a very solid performance despite the weak material. (The serious moments are good, but I particularly like him when he’s being infuriating and hilariously snotty.)
Grade: Rocky Road
Line of the Episode: “Very well, then. You shall test the skill of your very excitable repairman.”
“That Which Survives”
This episode begins with the Enterprise coming across a “ghost planet,” that is, a planet which doesn’t fit any proper categorization and basically defies all the laws of science. Kirk, Bones, Sulu, and Soon-To-Be-Dead D’Amato happily beam down to investigate. Their good cheer does not last, partially because they immediately get stranded on the planet while the Enterprise gets knocked across space, partially because Losira (Lee Merriweather, AKA Catwoman!) keeps popping up to murder people left and right, and partially because, IDK, someone pissed in everyone’s replicated Corn Flakes, I guess? Kirk snaps at Sulu multiple times for no reason; Bones also cuts off Sulu once, and Spock, well, he’s a pedantic asshat to basically everybody he talks to: Scotty, M’Benga, Uhura, etc. (Uhura, at least, gives Spock a Look, which I definitely appreciated.) This is the second episode in a row where Spock’s dialogue has come across as surprisingly inauthentic, like, being a dick is one thing, but Spock is weirdly over literal here, in a way that just doesn’t ring true for his character at all. He kinda feels like a Spock written by somebody who’s heard about TOS but never actually seen it.
“That Which Survives” is an okay episode. Weird planets are fun, and I like Lee Merriweather. The mystery surrounding her character is intriguing: why is she killing people, why can she only hunt one person at a time, all that “I am for you” stuff, etc. (Plus, she’s got a fun outfit and fantastic eye shadow; I’d cosplay her in a hot second if I was a more confident person.) I’m happy to see Sulu have something to actually do for once, although the fanfic writer in me is dying for some post-ep H/C goodness here—like, disrupting/exploding all the cells in one’s shoulder should probably have some lasting effects, yes?) I also enjoy seeing Scotty literally reversing the polarity to save the ship, as well as M’Benga’s return. And there’s an Indian lieutenant with a bindi who has actual lines and everything. (It’s really cool for about two seconds, until you realize that Lt. Radha is definitely being played by a white woman.)
Unfortunately, the mystery does kinda fall apart for me at the end. It turns out that all the people who once lived on this artificial planet died, and Losira is basically just an old super computer defense system, which isn’t terrible; it’s just that we’ve done this sort of thing before. Plus, it doesn’t really explain Losira’s whole “I am here for whoever” bit—a defense system that can only attack one specific person at a time does not strike me as particularly well considered. (Yes, yes, she eventually multiplies, but not until the end of the episode and is pretty easily defeated, besides.) Also, Spock’s constant pedantry gets pretty annoying. I like that he refuses to sacrifice Scotty, and how he points out that Losira’s beauty wasn’t what made her remarkable (unlike Kirk, Bones, and Sulu, who all keep pointing out how gorgeous she is whether it’s relevant or not—it never is), but man, Spock feels off, and it gets very grating after a while.
Chief Asshat: Spock, although I wanted to slap Kirk around, too. You don’t get to be snippy to my man Sulu, Kirk. That is not allowed.
MVP: Probably Lee Merriweather, who I think does the absolute most she can with kind of a limited role.
Line of the Episode:
“Question is, why are you alive?”
“Captain, I’m happy the way it turned out.”
“The Lights of Zetar”
The Enterprise is on its way to drop off new equipment to Memory Alpha, which is basically a whole ass Library Planet. (Okay, fine, a Library Planetoid. Still.) This is awesome for multiple reasons: one, a whole ass Library Planetoid, and two, Memory Alpha is the name of this excellent Star Trek wiki which I reference all the damn time. Lt. Mira Romaine is onboard to supervise the equipment transfer, and—very unfortunately—she and Scotty are in love. I say unfortunately because despite being extremely competent 99% of the time, Scotty is apparently the Absolute Goddamn Worst when he falls in love, completely unable to prioritize, do his job, or answer basic questions. Also, it’s important to know that while Mira has both a name and a rank, rarely does anyone but Scotty actually use it. She is continuously and maddeningly referred to as “the girl” by everyone—or, in Scotty’s case, “the lass.”
The Enterprise encounters a very strange, very colorful phenomenon—let’s call it Space Fireworks—that incapacitates everyone in different ways. Mira is the only one who gets hypnotized, though, and weird sounds come out of her mouth after she collapses. She’s also unreasonably agitated by her mandatory checkup in Sickbay, but Scotty decides it’s just nerves because this is Mira’s first deep space assignment. Soon, the Space Fireworks appear again, this time attacking Memory Alpha. Everybody on the planetoid dies, and the memory archives are completely destroyed—a tragedy that is noted once and then never mentioned again. Mira has a psychic vision of the corpses (I swear to God, I initially thought one of them was a werewolf), but even when she finally tells Scotty, he insists that it’s just Space Hysteria, or whatever, and that she’s under no obligation to tell anyone else. I want to murder him. I want to cut his heart out with a spoon.
Turns out, the Space Fireworks are actually the last survivors of Zetar—or what’s left of them, anyway. (Kinda like TNG’s “Power Play!” Okay, not really—those guys were prisoners—but still. I’m having a lot of TNG nostalgia here, maybe because the aliens’ voices also remind me of Possessed Troi in “Clues.”) Communicating through Mira (which Spock unnecessarily explains for the audience—it’s an embarrassment), we find out that the aliens are looking for a compatible corporeal host, and that they’re fully prepared to kill everyone if they don’t get it. To their credit, though, our heroes never suggest giving up on Mira, and even more refreshingly, Mira doesn’t offer to surrender herself, either. I genuinely like the moment when she says, “Life was given to me. It is mine. I want to live it out. I will.”
Scotty puts Mira in a pressure chamber, which kills the aliens, and the day is saved. It’s decided that Mira doesn’t need any additional time off for further medical or psychological evaluation (Mira, herself, doesn’t seem to have any voice in this decision), as she fought back well against psychic invasion, and also because’s Scotty’s love will undoubtedly help her recovery. FFS. Instead, they head back to Memory Alpha because Mira’s got a lot of work ahead of her—the understatement of the fucking century, since the computers are apparently forever fucked and everyone there is dead, but you know. Let’s not worry about that now; this is Holy OT3 Banter Time!
Chief Asshat: Scotty, no question.
MVP: . . . I think I’m giving MVP to the Space Fireworks. They’re hilarious and delightful.
Grade: Rocky Road
Line of the Episode: “Somehow, I find transporting into the darkness unnerving.”
Oh shit, it’s this episode.
So, “Plato’s Stepchildren” is best known as the first time an interracial couple (or specifically, a white/Black couple) kissed on US television. Obviously, I’ve been waiting to see this episode, although it turns out I’ve been waiting to see “Plato’s Stepchildren” for different, less historic reasons, too. You see, I’ve often come across GIFs like this—
—and of course—
—and wondered, Okay, what the hell is happening here? When am I gonna get to this what-the-fuckery? Well, folks. We’re here, and let me tell you, “Plato’s Stepchildren” is 99.5% what-the-fuckery.
Basically, it goes like this: the holy OT3 beam down to some planet in response to a distress call. They find the Platonians, a telekinetic and functionally immortal alien species who are, uh, followers of Plato, I guess? Sure, I’ll go with it. Their leader, Parmen, has been gravely injured from a small wound, as these people have never had to deal with sepsis before. Bones cures him, so yay! Unfortunately, these people are also total assholes, and they want Bones to stay behind forever in case of any other medical emergencies. Bones refuses, and thus we get roughly 40 minutes of Parmen trying to make Bones change his mind by humiliating Kirk and Spock, psychically forcing them to do all sorts of weird shit: sing, dance, hurt themselves, put on little plays, etc. The absolute most bizarre shit is when Parmen makes Alexander (their servant, a dwarf without any telekinetic abilities) jump on Kirk’s back as he crawls around, making whinny noises. Yes. This is a thing that ACTUALLY HAPPENED.
The kiss comes about because Parmen uses his mind powers to A) beam Uhura and Nurse Chapel down to the planet, and B) force Kirk to kiss Uhura and Spock to kiss Christine. So, it’s, uh. Not at all consensual from anyone involved, which is kind of a bummer for such a historic television moment. Although it’s still pretty awesome that William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols deliberately fucked up any of the non-smooch versions, so the studio had to use the kiss take. On a character level, though, Spock kissing Nurse Chapel is much more interesting because she’s had this crush on him for so long now, and she never imagined (or wanted) their first kiss being anything like this. Poor Nurse Chapel. I wish the episode bothered to check in with her again afterwards, but unsurprisingly, they do not. (Apparently, in the original script, Spock was supposed to kiss Uhura, but then William Shatner intervened. I find the tiny glimpses of Spock/Uhura in TOS fascinating, so I find this a little disappointing, too.)
Anyway, our OT3 discovers that the Platonians get their superpowers from their food supply. Bones quickly synthesizes similar chemicals, and Kirk overpowers Parmen. And . . . yeah, that’s about the whole episode. And, like, there are a few things I enjoy besides the historical significance of that kiss. Uhura has a very pretty dress. Spock pisses off an alien by guessing her age at 35. (I definitely felt this moment, having once angered a coworker by guessing her age correctly.) I enjoy Spock suffering from emotions that are psychically inflicted upon him, mostly because I’m a monster. And I really like Michael Dunn, who plays Alexander. The character is much more nuanced than I would’ve expected from TOS, has a whole emotional arc and everything, and Dunn plays the part well. But that Kirk-as-horse scene is pretty fucking painful, and also the writers apparently couldn’t resist throwing in one “little” joke by the end at Michael Dunn’s expense, which, UGH.
Mostly, though, the episode is just . . . plotless and weird. I can kinda see how it might’ve worked on paper, like, maybe they were conceiving it as a fun, cracky episode à la “I, Mudd.” In execution, unfortunately, it’s mostly just uncomfortable and strange.
Chief Asshat: Parmen, obviously
MVP: Definitely Alexander. I’m so happy he lived!
Grade: Rocky Road
Line of the Episode:
“The release of emotions, Mr. Spock, is what keeps us healthy. Emotionally healthy, that is.”
“That may be, Doctor. However, I have noted that the healthy release of emotion is frequently very unhealthy for those closest to you.”
“Wink of an Eye”
The Enterprise responds to a distress call; once again, it’s a trap. I feel like that’s been happening a lot lately? Anyway, our bad guys this time are the Scalosians. Years ago, due to a series of devastating environmental catastrophes and tons of radiation, the Scalosians somehow became accelerated in time, like, they’re basically just stuck in the Speed Force nonstop. They move so fast that they’re invisible to the human eye, and the only evidence of their presence is an occasional high-pitched, insect-like noise. The Scalosians (presumably, just the men) also became sterile, so now they abduct people into the Speed Force and use their captives as breeding stock to propagate their species. Only human bodies aren’t meant to live at accelerated speeds, so even the smallest bit of cellular damage will eventually rapidly age and kill those captives. This happens to the Red Shirt that helps sabotage the Enterprise.
Deela (Kathie Browne) is the Queen of the Scalosians, and she is easily the best part of this episode. She wants Kirk to be her baby daddy, so she doses his coffee with Speed Force accelerants—I was wondering why we had a yeoman for the first time in ages—and then proceeds to spend half the episode sexy flirting with him. And while I find Kirk a boring choice for this storyline, I will say that “Wink of an Eye” is one of the rare episodes where his flirting doesn’t creep me out, probably because both characters are clearly using one another to get what they want. While Deela genuinely likes Kirk (because he’s stubborn and feisty and “pretty”), she also never falls head over heels for him, either, as is typical on TOS. She never stops seeing Kirk as a means to an end, and I enjoy that. Deela is a calm and confident villain: cool, amused, and utterly unapologetic for what she considers necessary to save her people. It’s refreshing to see, honestly. Also, I think she’s got some serious Natalie Dormer vibes. Obviously a plus.
On the downside: Deela’s Jealous Scalosian Dude is very dull, I sorta wish Kirk had fallen under Deela’s spell (they imply it’s an inevitable side effect, hence Red Shirt’s brief betrayal), some of the timing seems a bit off (Scotty gets stuck in the same spot for like 80 years?), and the ending is . . . not great? See, Bones figures out how to accelerate Spock’s speed so he can go rescue Kirk. Spock also has the cure (admittedly, experimental) to get everyone back to normal speed. He has every opportunity to tell the Scalosians this, too; instead, Spock says nothing as they beam our bad guys back to their planet where they’ll inevitably go extinct. Only then do Spock and Kirk take the cure, and like, yeah, these people are the villains, and Red Shirt deserves justice and all that, but . . . wow, our heroes don’t even try to help. Spock and Kirk are just like, “Well, too bad these people are doomed to isolated annihilation, I guess,” and fuck off to the nearest star system with their miracle cure in hand. It’s fucking weird.
Chief Asshat: I mean, I’m giving it to Kirk and Spock because of that ending. But admittedly, Rael the Jealous Lover is a bit of a pill, too.
MVP: Obviously Deela
Line of the Episode: Hm, difficult. Kirk has a pretty great line when he says, “I can think of nothing I’d rather do than stay with you . . . except stay alive,” which is an excellent example of correct priorities. Deela, too, has a number of quotes I enjoy, from introducing herself as “Deela, the enemy” to coolly telling Rael, “Allow me the dignity of liking the man I select.” Still, this one might be my actual favorite:
“Because I like you. Didn’t you guess? Or are you so accustomed to being kissed by invisible women?”
On today’s adventure, our Holy OT3 beams down to some science colony that’s been observing a sun about to go supernova. The scientists are missing, though; all our heroes find is a truly comical level of dust before they quickly get abducted themselves, taken somewhere deep underground where they find a mysterious mute woman who they decide to name Gem. Gem is our titular empath, and she’s . . . not great. She makes a lot of weepy faces and melodramatic body gestures and is pretty much impossible to take seriously. It’s also hard to know how much Gem actually understands. She doesn’t make much effort to communicate, and it’s insinuated at one point that she might not understand human speech at all, but if she doesn’t even know why she’s here . . . well, we’ll get there.
Soon, a couple of alien doctors appear. They’re doing a series of experiments, most of which involve torturing our heroes. Kirk, who gets tortured first, is told he can decide who will go next: Bones or Spock. Bones takes the choice out of his hands when he sneak-sedates Kirk, then quickly does the same thing to Spock and volunteers himself for almost guaranteed death. And indeed, Bones is in rough shape after his torture. His only chance of survival is Gem, who, as an empath, can also heal people, I guess? It does hurt her, though, and it’s unclear if such a serious healing could potentially kill her. But it turns out that’s the whole point of this experiment: to see if Gem will willingly risk her own life to save another.
See, the doctors have the power to save only one planet in this dying solar system. They’re considering saving Gem’s world, but only if she proves that her people are worthy of being rescued. Gem heals Bones, a little, but is too frightened to finish the job. She does go back, though, only this time Bones stops her, not willing to be saved if it means she might die. Spock argues that her offer should be enough to call the experiment a success, and Kirk accuses the doctors of being all intellect, no heart. (UGH). Eventually, the doctors agree—or at least, they agree to heal Bones. Gem and her planet’s fate are left a bit more ambiguous. One of the doctors scoops up the unconscious woman in his arms, and they all disappear.
And like, okay. Number one: can you imagine our entire planet depending on one asshole proving he’s a selfless person? What if the aliens abducted Elon Musk? Donald Trump? Your shitty coworker who clearly learned nothing at sexual harassment training? How are we possibly judging an entire species on a sample size of one? And for that matter, what happens if Gem does fail her worthiness test? Are we giving similar tests to other people in this system? Remember, we’ve been presumably testing Gem for at least 3 months, considering that’s when the first scientists were taken. Could we maybe use this time more productively, like, IDK, figuring out a way to save more people? (Not to mention, the aliens insist that the scientists only died because of their own fears and imperfections, which, uh. Is that supposed to imply that these dudes weren’t as noble and self-sacrificing as our heroes, and thus Gem couldn’t learn from them? Cause one way or another, I’m pretty sure the scientists actually died from, you know. Torture.)
ALSO. Does Gem even understand that her people are depending on her willingness to become a martyr? Because we’ve been pretty unclear about how much language she comprehends in this episode. And whether or not she does understand, are we really condemning Gem as a shitty person just because she’s afraid to sacrifice her life to save three dudes she’s known for approximately 15 minutes? PLUS, are we really supposed to be okay with the fact that Gem’s been abducted and emotionally tortured for months just because these docs have ultimately good intentions? She doesn’t even go free at the end of the episode, at least not that we can verify! EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS WHOLE EXPERIMENT VEXES ME SO MUCH.
On the plus side, “The Empath” is basically someone’s H/C fanfic becoming canon, which I personally think is pretty great. Also, Bones gets to say, “I’m a doctor, not a coal miner,” and at one point, William Shatner has to move like he’s in slow motion, and that shit is hysterical. It so, so bad. So. Not a total loss, I guess?
Chief Asshat: Obviously, the alien doctors. They SUCK.
MVP: Bones. He’s a sneaky, heroic motherfucker.
Grade: Rocky Road
Line of the Episode:
“Why did you let him do it?”
“I was convinced in the same way you were, Captain: by the good doctor’s hypo.”
“Day of the Dove”
You know, this one is pretty fun: silly sword fights, psychic manipulation, a bit of a mystery, etc. Our heroes respond to a distress call and beam down to some planet, only to discover zero evidence that anyone’s ever been there. Soon, a beat to hell Klingon ship appears, and the surviving Klingons, led by Kang, briefly capture the away team, insisting that the Enterprise attacked them. (They also say the Klingons and the Federation have been at peace for three years without incident, which seems, uh . . . wildly inaccurate?) Kirk surrenders, which infuriates Chekov because his brother Piotr was murdered by Klingons, which—wait, Chekov’s brother was murdered by Klingons? Holy shit, how did this not come up in The Undiscovered Country? Did we just transfer his familial angst to Kirk or what? (The answer is no, but we’ll get to why in a moment.)
Kirk, of course, is only pretending to surrender. He secretly signals Spock, who beams everyone up. The away team properly materializes on the Enterprise, while the Klingons are temporarily held in the transporter buffer, effectively shelving them in oblivion for a hot second, which—holy shit, we can do that on purpose? That’s horrifying. I’ve never wanted to write a Star Trek horror movie so badly IN MY LIFE. Kirk lets the Klingons materialize again (despite Chekov’s protest) and takes them prisoner, but unbeknownst to everyone, a weird spinny light has followed them all on board.
And then shit gets weird. First the Klingons escape when a bunch of random objects suddenly transform into swords. Then Chekov openly defies Kirk to seek vengeance, but Sulu, who knows his bro (or boyfriend, shippers you do you), is all, “But Chekov . . . doesn’t have a brother, though?” And then almost everyone gets extremely irrational and aggressive, like, Uhura just seems a little upset, but Bones becomes weirdly racist about Klingons (it’s weird because it’s not Vulcans, see), and Scotty gets super racist about Vulcans, and even Spock gets quietly, ominously violent for a hot second there. Kirk, unfortunately, mostly just becomes increasingly melodramatic, wondering if they’re all doomed to become so wantonly violent, is this Armageddon, etc., (Kirk’s dialogue is easily one of the worst things about this episode; see also, the Klingons’ makeup, which is awful for, well. A multitude of reasons, really.) Chekov, meanwhile, isn’t just seeking vengeance for his imaginary brother; he also tries to rape Kang’s wife, Mara, which, WTF. This scene isn’t necessary at all, but I will say that Walter Koenig is surprisingly creepy in it. TBH, I kinda wish I’d seen him play a villain now cause damn.
The weird spinny light, it turns out, is basically an evil emotional vampire, creating and feeding on everyone’s negative emotions. Once Kirk convinces Kang that they’re being manipulated, they both order their men to stop fighting. They also laugh as they tell the alien to hit the road, which is pretty funny, particularly when Kang smacks Kirk hard on the back, and Kirk, nearly falling over, has to keep laughing anyway. HA.
Chief Asshat: I mean. We’re told Chekov isn’t at fault for assaulting Mara, but it’s worth pointing out that he’s the only character who tries to rape anyone. Also—and this is obviously less important—he keeps holding his sword with one hand around the blade like, Chekov, my dude. What the fuck are you doing here?
MVP: Sulu, no question. He seems to be the only person who’s never affected by the alien, and he awesomely takes out one of the Klingons with a magnificent judo chop to the neck. (Though sadly, he rarely gets to use the sword he carries, which is just poor continuity, considering “The Naked Time” and all.)
Line of the Episode: Shit, this one’s hard. Kang actually has several great lines, like when Kirk tries to convince him that the alien is keeping anyone from dying, and Kang’s all, “Then no doubt you will reassemble after I’ve hacked you to bits.” Also, when he’s telling the alien to fuck off: “Out! We need no urging to hate humans!” (Kang is pretty great, TBH.) Still, this exchange with Chekov might be my actual favorite.
“You killed my brother!”
“And you volunteer to join him. That is loyalty.”
“For The World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky”
Whew. Look, I know I just sold a story that has a nine-word title and all, but goddamn. This one’s a mouthful.
So, this episode is . . . less great. The Enterprise successfully avoids a mysterious missile strike and discover that they were attacked by a 10,000 year old ship that looks like a giant asteroid. The asteroid-ship is on a collision course with a very highly populated planet. No lifeforms are detected, so Kirk, Spock, and Bones head down to the surface, where they are almost immediately captured by aliens who live underground. Whoops. Also? Bones is dying. See, just before beaming down, Bones reluctantly tells Kirk that he has some fatal disease and only has a year to live. (Kirk is sad about it, obviously, but also immediately asks Starfleet for a CMO replacement, and you just know that bullshit wouldn’t have happened if Spock was the one dying. I’m just saying.)
Anyway, it turns out these aliens are the descendants of the Fabrini, and they’ve lived on this generation ship so long that they believe they’re on an actual planet. Even the high priestess and leader Natira doesn’t realize this; she only follows the commands of the Oracle, a (sigh) secret supercomputer which actually runs everything. This complicates Kirk’s whole “let’s change the collision course” plan, particularly because these aliens aren’t allowed to do all sorts of things that might clue them into the fact that they’re on a spaceship. Climb mountains, for instance. If they do, a chip in their head (ominously known as the Instrument of Obedience) will quickly kill them.
Kirk and Spock get caught sneaking around and are sentenced to death. Thankfully, because Bones and Natira have (SIGH) instantly fallen in love, Kirk and Spock are allowed to return to the ship. Bones, however, decides to stay behind, get married, and enjoy what time he has left with Natira. He also allows her to put the death chip in his face— which, okay, NO—and finds out some secret info. He tells Kirk and Spock about it and immediately gets punished. Natira, too, gets punished when she questions the Oracle. Thankfully, Kirk and Spock (ignoring Starfleet Command) return and manage to stop the Oracle from killing anyone. They change the course of the asteroid-ship. They also happily find a bunch of lost Fabrini medical knowledge which lets them cure Bones. He decides to go back to the Enterprise, and Natira decides to stay on her ship, but they’ll likely rendezvous for a quick date in 300 or so days when the asteroid-ship finally lands at their original destination, a new home world.
And, like. There’s just a lot of dumb to go around in this episode. How about those missiles that instigated this plot? Yeah, they’re never mentioned again. Where the fuck were the Fabrini coming from that they couldn’t reach a new planet for 10,000 years? Is their destined home world even A) still habitable and B) unpopulated after all this time? Why does the Oracle try to slowly cook everyone to death when it previously just zapped the shit out of people—something to which neither Spock nor Kirk had any defense against? How is the Oracle still functional at all since apparently no one’s been maintaining or repairing it for a millennia? Also, why did we even create a five second obstacle with Starfleet Command when absolutely nothing came from it? I can’t even get into how awful the insta-romance between Bones and Natira is. Their whole relationship is sped through so quickly that the emotional beats don’t even make sense.
On the plus side, we do get some downright hilarious costumes to laugh at. Also, I do really like the scene where Spock finds out that Bones is dying, and also just generally DeForest Kelley’s whole performance in this one. It’s too bad that we didn’t get this subplot in a much better episode.
Chief Asshat: I’m giving this one to the Fabrini. Their planning skills are seriously lacking.
MVP: DeForest Kelley. It’s not his fault that Bones makes absurd decisions like, “I met a girl so pretty that I’ll let a suspicious super computer put a death chip in my head.”
Line of the Episode:
“Bones, this isn’t a planet. It’s a spaceship on a collision course with Daran V.”
“I’m on a kind of a collusion course myself, Jim.”
“The Tholian Web”
Ah. Good old Swear Trek. I regret to inform you that Bones does not actually talk about farting in this episode, but our heroes do wear space suits again! I think the last time we saw anything remotely like this was way back in . . . yeah, “The Naked Time.” Those were two-piece biohazard suits made out of shower curtains, and they were the most functionally useless things I’ve ever seen in my life. These new suits are A) a huge improvement and B) definitely another addition to my Star Trek Dream Cosplay List.
This episode is partly great and partly maddening, so pretty par for the course for TOS. We begin with the Enterprise finding the missing Defiant in an uncharted part of space where space itself seems to be, er. Thinning? Look, kids, l know science isn’t my strong suit, but I’m reasonably sure that space doesn’t do that. Anyway, the Defiant is drifting (and ominously green), and while everyone can see the ship, it doesn’t actually show up on sensors. An away team beams over to investigate and finds some absolutely creepy shit. Not only is everyone on the Defiant dead, it’s obvious that they all murdered each other. Some of the corpses are strapped down in Sickbay. Also, Bones tries to touch a few things and his hand goes through them. Like, Act I is some awesome space horror, and I am absolutely here for it.
Since the Defiant seems to be dissolving, Kirk orders everyone to beam back home. Unfortunately, the Enterprise is now having its own mysterious malfunctions and can only beam up three people at a time. Kirk is left for last, and the Defiant disappears before he can materialize on the Enterprise. Spock, though, thinks there’s a chance Kirk’s still alive in some alternate universe. They have to beam him back at exactly the right moment, and also not expend any energy that might disrupt the dimensional rift. Unfortunately, there are multiple problems with that plan. People aboard the ship begin to go crazy and attack one another. The Tholians appear, insisting that this is their space, and eventually attack when the Enterprise refuses to leave. The ship, now drifting, are helpless as the Tholians begin creating an energy field that will trap the Enterprise once completed. Also, Bones is just a massive dick to Spock the entire episode, only apologizing once they watch Kirk’s “In Case of My Death” message, in which Kirk essentially reminds them to chill the hell out and trust one another.
Spock now thinks that Kirk is dead, but Uhura briefly sees him in her mirror. She tells Bones, but she’s also borderline incoherent and faints in his arms because, you know. Women. (SIGH.) So, everyone thinks she’s just hysterical. Eventually, though, other people see Kirk too, and Spock figures out the next interphase moment. They get just enough power to beam Kirk to safety and escape the Tholian web. Meanwhile, Bones figures out the antidote to Space Rage, which looks like tangerine juice and is actually some Klingon nerve gas diluted with alcohol. Finally, Spock and Bones troll Kirk by pretending they never even bothered to watch his final message.
And look, there are definitely good moments in here! The whole first act. More evidence that Sulu has heart eyes for Chekov. I genuinely like Kirk’s final message, as well as Bones and Spock trolling him about it. (Chekov, certainly, thinks it’s hysterical.) We get to see Uhura in off-duty clothes, which is cool, and Nurse Chapel subdues a guy attacking Bones, which is very cool.
Unfortunately, the conflict between Bones and Spock doesn’t work at all, mostly because Bones’s arguments are nonsensical even for him. He’s mad at Spock for putting Kirk ahead of the crew, despite the fact that he’s definitely chewed Spock out in the past for prioritizing the crew over Kirk. He’s mad at Spock for, IDK, being power hungry and hoping that Kirk is really dead, which isn’t just ludicrous; it’s almost the exact opposite of what Bones was arguing five minutes ago. Some of that could work, if you take grief and Space Rage into account, but these scenes never really play that way, and there are a lot of them. It’s incredibly frustrating to watch.
Also, it must be said that the Tholians are building the slowest and most worthless prison of all time. Whole generations were born and died in the time it took to create this fucking web, and one energy discharge is all it takes for the Enterprise to escape it. I know the episode is literally called “The Tholian Web” and all, but truthfully, this whole story would be better if our bad guys just weren’t in it.
Chief Asshat: Bones, no question.
MVP: Spock, for not punching Bones in the face. I know that kind of behavior is atypical for a Vulcan, but honestly? I think we all would’ve understood.
Line of the Episode:
“The renowned Tholian punctuality.”
“And The Children Shall Lead”
Ah, I see it’s time for another episode of Kirk vs. Creepy Children!
In this particular episode, the Enterprise responds to a distress call from some science colony and finds A) a bunch of dead scientists who’ve died by suicide, and B) the scientists’ very alive and disturbingly cheerful children. Bones is concerned that the children won’t cry or otherwise acknowledge their dead parents and thinks they’re in traumatic shock. He insists that Kirk shouldn’t interrogate them until they’re seen by a child specialist, and like, I am genuinely happy that Bones is a strong advocate for kids here, but as we don’t have a child specialist on board the ship, FFS, yes, we should still probably question them about what the hell happened to their very dead parents.
Well, it turns out that the kids are secretly in contact with an “angel,” AKA, this malevolent alien entity who’s been giving them psychic powers so they can take over the Enterprise. The five children are able to do this absurdly easily, mostly by making our crew hallucinate shit they fear. Like, Uhura sees herself as a super old and wrinkly woman (sigh), and Sulu sees, er. Giant floating space swords? (They’re hysterical.) Kirk, meanwhile, is infected by an overwhelming anxiety that he’s losing command, so obviously Spock comes to the rescue by dragging him from the Bridge and meaningfully murmuring Jim into his ear. It’s fantastic. I mean, it’s also hilarious because Shatner is overacting, per usual, but come on. The ship. The SHIP.
Kirk then saves the day by emotionally torturing the children with happy home movies juxtaposed with recordings of their parents’ corpses and graves. This makes the kids cry and turn their back on the entity, who gets all melty/gross and quickly fades away. Bones insists that—with the children finally experiencing their grief—they can be helped now and everything will be okay! Personally, I think he might be calling victory a mite early, because these kids are absolutely gonna be traumatized for life.
“And The Children Shall Lead” is often considered one of the worst episodes of TOS and, like. Yeah, it’s not good. Characters make wild leaps in logic, the kids take over the ship far too easily, and also they do this whole “shake their fist in the air” routine whenever they use their magic powers, which gets old real fast. Also, uh. The Enterprise tries to beam two officers down to the planet, only due to magic fuckery, they don’t realize they’ve long left orbit, so I think . . . I think they just beamed two dudes into space? And no one ever mentions it again? Holy shit. Still, I’m pretty sure this wouldn’t even crack my Top 5 Worst TOS Episodes. Remember, I just watched “The Paradise Syndrome.” This show’s gonna have to work pretty hard to top that bullshit.
Chief Asshat: I mean. Psychologically terrorizing small children isn’t great, but Kirk kinda had to do it to save everyone on board and all. Still, he could probably stand to feel a little worse about it afterwards, instead of standing around like a smug asshole.
MVP: George Takei has to pretend to be afraid of giant floating space swords. I’m giving this one to him.
Grade: Rocky Road
Line of the Episode: “Humans do have an amazing capacity for believing what they choose and excluding that which is painful.”
“Is There In Truth No Beauty?”
First, it needs to be said that these red visors are nothing short of glorious. Move over, “Spock’s Brain” because I’ve got a whole new dream cosplay.
Fashionable visors aside, I actually think this is one of the more interesting TOS episodes I’ve watched in a while. The Enterprise has been tasked with escorting Ambassador Kollos to his home planet. Kollos is a super highly evolved alien, basically a bunch of weird psychedelic light in a box, and this physical appearance is apparently so ugly that if any human were to look upon him, they’d instantly go mad. Only Vulcans can manage it, and even then, only if they’re wearing the proper “warding off insanity” visors. BTW, guess what these aliens are called? Medusans. SERIOUSLY.
Assigned to the ambassador is Dr. Miranda Jones, AKA, Diana Muldaur, and I like her an awful lot here. (Way more than I liked Pulaski in TNG and more than I remember liking Mulhall in “Return to Tomorrow,” too.) Miranda is human, but she’s also a born telepath and has studied on Vulcan for several years for the chance to achieve a true mind link with Kollos. It’s her passion and life’s work, and she has absolutely zero time for romance, which will not stop literally every dude listening to this bullshit toast—
“How can one so beautiful condemn herself to look upon ugliness the rest of her life? Will we allow it, gentlemen?”
—from nodding along in agreement. Creeps. It also doesn’t stop Bones from kissing Miranda’s hand or Kirk’s usual icky flirting or this other dude, Larry, from declaring his extremely unrequited love. Ugh, this guy is so gross. This is apparently like his sixth unwanted confession, and he kisses her without asking, and whines shit like, “Why did I ever meet you?” This petulant fucker even manages to whine when Miranda, psychically intuiting his murderous impulses, still kindly offers to listen to him and get him psychological help. (I would’ve run screaming in the other direction, myself.) Larry’s response: “Great psychologist. Why don’t you try being a woman for a change?” THROW THIS WHOLE MAN INTO A FIRE.
Thankfully for everyone, Larry soon dies. He tries to murder Kollos, gets an eyeful of THE HORROR, loses his mind, and drops dead. (We get an honest to God, “He’s dead, Jim!” and I was so happy!) Unfortunately, Larry also briefly gained control over the Enterprise before dropping dead, speeding the ship up super fast and stranding them in some completely uncharted space—because weird shit happens on Trek when you go faster than warp 9. The Enterprise’s only hope is to achieve a mind link with Kollos, who has the superior knowledge to navigate them back home. However, Kirk and Spock decide that Miranda can’t make the link herself because she doesn’t know how to operate the ship—which kinda seems like bullshit to me, personally. I mean, there are plenty of people onboard who could help with that. This feels like it could’ve been a group effort. Furthermore, they don’t even bother discussing the situation with her because Miranda’s had (an admittedly pretty obvious) chip on her shoulder about Spock and Kollos interacting so far. (She wouldn’t have received the position if Spock hadn’t previously turned it down, see.) Thus Kirk decides to distract her with his Sexy Seduction Skills, while Spock secretly mind melds with the ambassador.
To my absolute delight, Miranda is wholly uninterested in Kirk’s creepy flirting and psychically senses what Spock’s up to. She insists that she can do the job. However, Bones tells her that while she can do almost anything a sighted woman can do, she can’t pilot a starship if she can’t see the controls. It turns out that Miranda is blind and that the elaborate beading on all her dresses actually provide this super sophisticated sensor web, which is just awesome. It’s extremely exciting to see far-future vision impairment and mobility aids, and combining them with fashion? YES. Also, Miranda’s quietly angry monologue here about pity is pretty fantastic. Unfortunately, it’s decided that Miranda’s blindness disqualifies her, which . . . IDK, maybe it’s cause I grew up on TNG and I’m used to Geordi doing all sorts of neat shit, but I just feel like they could’ve made this work. I’m seriously bummed for Miranda.
So, Spock does the mind meld with Kollos, allowing Leonard Nimoy the chance to smile, which is, admittedly, always delightful. They successfully navigate the Enterprise back home, but oh noes! Spock forgets to put his red visor on before he and Kollos break the mental link, so naturally, Spock goes mad. There’s only one chance to save him: Miranda must psychically connect to Spock and restore his sanity.
. . . And sadly, here is where the episode kinda goes to shit because when Miranda—not currently wearing her sensor web, BTW—says that she can’t save Spock, Kirk insists that she secretly wants Spock to die. He accuses her of psychically causing Spock to forget the visor in the first place and then full on manhandles her, like, throws her up against a wall and everything. Yup, that’s Kirk, our hero, just blatantly assaulting a disabled woman. He seems to regret it pretty quickly, but less because it was a terrible thing to do and more because it’s a pretty stupid way to treat the only person who can save your first officer/boyfriend/BFF.
Of course, Miranda does save Spock, and vexingly, thanks Kirk for his violent assault, telling him that he was right about her motivations, which just—doesn’t feel even remotely true. I mean, sure, she was jealous of Spock. I get that and, TBH, actually like it—people are flawed, after all—but nothing in this episode has convinced me that Miranda is so goddamn petty that she would’ve either attempted to MURDER Spock or happily allowed him to die. It’s frustrating because Miranda is otherwise such a fantastic character: intelligent, disabled, reserved, compassionate, envious, confident, and potentially aromantic. (Fuck it, that’s my headcanon, anyway.) So, I’ve chosen to raise my hand and wave this bit of blatant fuckery away because, without it, “Is There In Truth No Beauty” easily makes my TOS Top 10.
Chief Asshat: I think both Larry and Kirk are taking the crown here. Assholes.
MVP: Diana Muldaur, obviously. She’s absolutely fantastic in this.
Grade: Chocolate, if you subtract the last five minutes.
Line of the Episode:
“Bones, why hadn’t you told me?”
“She’d have told you herself if she wanted you to know.”
“Spectre of the Gun”
Well. It’s the Wyatt Earp episode, I guess.
The Enterprise has orders to enter Melkotian space and make contact, but the Melkotians are all, “GTFO, invaders, we don’t want you here.” (In fact, they’re like “GTFO” in every language, which is honestly pretty cool.) You’d think the Federation would respect that, but . . . nah. They’re more like, “Look, if a non-space faring species needs our help, we can’t do shit, but if an advanced species says, ‘Fuck off, we don’t want you here” . . . well, obviously, we have no choice but to ignore them.” So, Kirk’s all, “Well, I’ve got orders, so I guess we’re gonna go ahead, anyway,” which, IDK, like . . .
Kirk, sadly not nearly as cool Samuel L. Jackson, ends up beaming down to the planet with Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and Chekov, where they are quickly confronted by a Melkotian, who looks kinda like a giant rock head with glowy eyes, and is also (pretty rightfully) pissed off. Our heroes, sentenced to death, are seemingly transported to Tombstone, Arizona in 18-whatever. Everybody there is convinced that they’re members of the Clanton gang, which is obviously unfortunate, since the Clantons are destined to die at the hands of the Earps later that night. And if you’re thinking, gosh, this seems like a really random and unlikely execution method, well, you’re not wrong. I mean, it’s kinda neat that our telepathic aliens devise punishments based on the memories they uncover, but come on. The year is 2268. Wyatt Earp, really? Besides, think how neat it would’ve been to see our heroes act out some old Vulcan tragedy or something. That would’ve been WAY more interesting than watching Kirk run around, trying to convince everyone he’s an interstellar traveler from the future.
Our heroes try to escape, but can’t. Chekov isn’t quite as bummed as the others because he’s got a girlfriend here; unfortunately, he dies while defending her honor. (Kirk displays regret for half a second, all, hey, maybe I shouldn’t have ignored the Melkotians’ warning. Like, yeah, MAYBE NOT.) Happily, since Chekov died hours before he should’ve, the gang realizes their futures can be changed. They try making a sedative to use against the Earps, but their test run fails for seemingly no reason, causing Spock to realize that this is all an illusion. Chekov didn’t die because he was shot by real bullets; he died because he believed the bullets were real. Since our heroes will also die if they have even a smidgeon of doubt, Spock mind melds with each one of them, instilling the belief that nothing here can kill them. It is kind of interesting to see Spock do, like, conveyor belt mind melds, though—per usual—I wish this led to some kind of cool side effects or consequences. It’s also at least mildly interesting that the Earps are portrayed as full on villains here. I mean, it’s been an admittedly long time since I watched Tombstone OR Wyatt Earp, but I feel like the whole town isn’t usually quite so supportive of the Clantons?
Anyway, the away team obviously survives the climactic gunfight. They have the chance to kill the Earps, but Kirk refuses to take it, which of course impresses the Melkotians enough that they decide to allow for some friendly chitchat, after all. And everyone’s magically returned to their ship, including Chekov, who is—not surprisingly—still alive.
Chief Asshat: Kirk, for obvious reasons, but also Bones and Scotty, too, who are absolute dicks to Spock about his typically reserved reaction to Chekov’s death. (Thankfully, they at least look mildly chastised when Spock reminds everyone that he is, in fact, half-human. But man, sometimes, I really wanna slap Bones.)
MVP: Leonard Nimoy, mostly, because Spock’s the only character here who doesn’t piss me off. But also, whoever designed the Melkotians, cause sure, they’re kinda hilarious, but also, it’s pretty fun seeing aliens who actually look very alien.
Grade: Hm. Vanilla?
Line of the Episode: “Captain, since we have seen that death is the one reality in this situation, I seriously suggest you reseat yourself immediately.”
Well, hello. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? It’s definitely been a while since I finished watching Season 2, but now that I’m back, I’m making a pledge: I’m finally, finally going to finish TOS by the end of 2022.
First, a quick reminder about my ratings system, which I changed last year. These are the new grades:
God-Tier – Chocolate Salted Caramel
Really Enjoyed This – Chocolate
Enjoyed This Okay – Vanilla
Technically Proficient, But Not My Thing – Strawberry
Well, I Liked SOME of It – Rocky Road
I Actively Disliked This Movie – Pistachio
I Could Not Finish This Movie – Mint Chocolate Chip
Obviously, this wasn’t initially intended for TV episodes, but to hell with it, right? Right. With that settled, let’s begin with the first three episodes of Season 3!
Oh, yes. Yes, I’ve been waiting for this moment. “Spock’s Brain,” one of the most infamously awful episodes in all of Star Trek. (It’s also, FYI, been on my list of Silly Dream Cosplays for a while now. Maybe someday, DragonCon!) While I’ve seen a good chunk of this episode before, I’ve never actually watched it the whole way through, and . . . wow, it’s really bad, maybe even worse than I remembered.
The premise is gloriously, ridiculously bonkers: aliens steal Spock’s brain. Not his memories, not his sanity, not his considerable intellect. Aliens literally steal Spock’s brain right out of his skull. Thankfully, this procedure is so scientifically advanced that Spock can remain alive for 24 hours before all hope is lost. All Kirk has to do is track down the missing brain-thieves and get Spock’s grey matter back so that Bones can somehow figure out how to reinsert said grey matter without killing the patient. Easy-peasy. Also, lest you be under the false impression that perhaps Vulcans just aren’t as reliant on their brains as humans are, let me assure you the opposite is true: Vulcans somehow need their brains more. Let me also assure you that I am still laughing about this whole scene, not to mention any moment where our heroes make Spock’s brainless body walk around via remote, like he’s an actual goddamn toy.
Everything that follows is equally absurd but, unfortunately, not quite as fun. It turns out that our alien thief lives in a subterranean facility on a Stone Age planet with a bunch of other “childlike” women who aren’t intellectually capable of stealing anyone’s brain. Kara, the thief, was only able to do so with the help of this Magic Smart Helmet (AKA, The Teacher), which temporarily gives her all the ancient knowledge of the Builders. NGL, I can’t remember if the show ever explains who the Builders are. I’m just gonna assume they were some all-powerful alien species who, for reasons unknown, provided these ladies with both this facility and the Controller, which has been running this place for 10,000 years. Spock’s brain is supposed to be their replacement Controller; as you can imagine, Kirk has some Feelings about that.
Bones ends up wearing the Magic Smart Helmet so he can re-insert Spock’s brain—with a big assist from Spock himself, since the MSH’s powers unfortunately wear off mid-surgery. Spock supposedly goes back to normal (TBH, he actually seems uncharacteristically enthusiastic to me), Bones gripes that he should’ve kept Spock mute, and Kirk assures Kara that her people definitely won’t die without the Controller. No, they’ll just have to go live on the surface with all the cavemen dudes, and their society will evolve naturally as it should, rather than staying stagnant down here where they’ve been so pampered that their minds have literally atrophied or some shit. And like, far be it for me to demand that Kirk put the lives of these brain thieves over his boyfriend’s, but also, “Let’s take a bunch of women completely incapable of taking care of themselves and force them to live with a bunch of cavemen who’ve never seen a woman before” seems like . . . well, like the kind of lack of responsibility and foresight I’ve come to expect from Kirk’s command, honestly.
Chief Asshat: I mean. Kara does just hop aboard the Enterprise and steal Spock’s brain. That’s pretty rude.
MVP: Hm. I think I’ll give this one to Bones, although I do love how bitchy Spock can be even as a disembodied brain.
Grade: Rocky Road
Line of the Episode: “BRAIN AND BRAIN, what is BRAIN?!”
“The Enterprise Incident”
This trailer is a thing of beauty.
You know, I enjoyed this one. We begin with Kirk acting like an unreasonable dick—not entirely unprecedented—snapping at his crew, ordering the Enterprise to cross the Neutral Zone into Romulan territory, etc. Of course, they’re captured pretty much immediately, and Kirk and Spock beam over to the Romulan ship. The Romulan Commander (we never hear her name) interrogates them, and Spock quickly and accurately throws Kirk under the bus, admitting the captain’s been acting irrational lately and is alone responsible for the Enterprise’s actions. (Kirk responds by overacting, shouting, “I’LL KILL YOU, I’LL KILL YOU!” LOL.)
While Spock gets the wine and dine treatment, Kirk gets thrown into the brig, where he promptly launches himself into a forcefield. Bones beams over to treat him and helps the Commander confirm that Kirk isn’t fit for command. Kirk then attacks Spock, and Spock, surprised, unleashes the VULCAN DEATH GRIP, killing Kirk instantly. Whoops! Guess that’s over then! J/K, Spock and Kirk are on a secret mission to steal the Romulan’s cloaking device. (The Vulcan Death Grip is not a real thing, unfortunately, but I sincerely hope that someone has named a cocktail after it, anyway. Also, a yoga pose. Also, a geek metal band.)
I won’t deny that Kirk and Spock’s plan here has, like, a BUNCH of holes. (I’m not even getting into the whole Disguise Kirk as a Romulan nonsense, although I will say that Deanna Troi wore it better.) Still, as far as TOS insta-seduction stories go, I think Spock/Commander is honestly one of the better ones. I do wish there was more time for their quasi-romance to breathe, like, it would make for a hell of a three-episode arc, if that was something TOS actually did. But I also think they have better chemistry than Kirk and literally any of the women he’s ever seduced; also, Leonard Nimoy just doesn’t come off as weird and creepy like William Shatner usually does in these stories. And I like that the Commander is trying to manipulate Spock, too. I mean, it’s obvious that her feelings are real, but they’re also both definitely trying to use one another to their advantage, which works for me. I genuinely like Joanna Linville’s performance, and her last scene with Spock is pretty great.
Chief Asshat: Kirk, although admittedly, that is part of the plan. (But it’s a pretty bad plan, so. We’ll still go with him.)
MVP: Joanna Linville. I particularly love when she immediately tells the Romulans to destroy the Enterprise, even though she’s currently onboard, quickly foiling Kirk’s backup plan.
Line of the Episode: “It is not a lie to keep the truth to oneself.”
“The Paradise Syndrome”
Well. That was quite possibly the worst episode of all time. Definitely in the Top 3 for sure. Margaret Armen wrote the screenplay, and Margaret, Margaret. We gotta talk.
This is just . . . stupid, and racist, and stupidly racist. While investigating a strangely advanced obelisk on yet another planet that looks just like Earth, Kirk accidentally manages to fall through a trap door and get zapped by a “memory beam,” giving him amnesia. Spock and Bones can’t find him and are forced to abandon the search because an asteroid, two months away, is hurtling towards the planet, and they only have a 30 minute window to arrive at the correct coordinates to deflect it—which definitely begs the question of what the fuck they were doing dicking around here in the first place, like, Christ, I give myself more time to catch the fucking bus. The Enterprise basically breaks their engines trying to make the deadline, and their initial deflection attempt fails, so Spock decides to try and split the asteroid in half for . . . Reasons? Like, IDK, my dude. Even if that worked, I’m not sure how helpful it would be, considering this asteroid is nearly as big as the fucking MOON. Anyway, the Enterprise is now (very slowly) racing the big space rock back to the planet, and the only hope of saving everyone is if Spock can translate these mysterious symbols he saw on the obelisk and hope they have a miraculous solution.
Meanwhile, what is Amnesiac Kirk doing on this planet for two months? Well. The people who live there are apparently American Indians. Yes, literally. Specifically, they’re people from the Navajo, Mohican, and Delaware tribes, something Spock can apparently tell at a far-off glance, not that anyone makes any attempt to discuss these tribal differences ever again. A few of the American Indians see Kirk emerge from the obelisk as Has Been Foretold, and they immediately assume this random white guy is a god, and—yeah. Yeah. It’s awful, just all of it. The white savior narrative, the brownface. William Shatner’s VO and general overacting, which seems to hit new unprecedented heights in this episode. (Seriously, the pauses have never been this egregious, have they?) It feels icky and gross to watch Kirk almost fetishize this “simple” way of life, especially when the American Indian characters are written to be so incredibly stupid. Also, seeing Kirk in basically all of these costumes, just . . . whew, this is atrocious.
Anyway, Kirk takes the role of medicine chief and marries Miramanee, according to tradition. (Miramanee’s now-ex-fiancee is pissed, which is understandable, but he’s also The Worst, so.) Miramanee gets preggers, which means she has to die. Specifically, she gets stoned to death. See, according to that prophecy, Kirk is supposed to open the obelisk and escort everyone inside during the big storm, but he doesn’t actually know how to do that. Miramanee’s Ex gleefully decides this is the proof he’s been looking for and gathers a mob to stone Kirk for being a false god. Miramanee stands by her man and dies for it. But never fear! Spock, who has since translated most of the alien symbols, returns in time to save Kirk and perform the “Vulcan mind fusion,” restoring his memories. Kirk manages to open the obelisk (the trick to doing so is about as nonsensical as everything else here) and activate it. See, the obelisk is actually a broken asteroid deflector. It was left here forever ago by a super advanced alien species known as the Preservers, who brought the American Indians to this planet in order to save them. ( Hopefully, they agreed to this?) I can only assume the Preservers and the Builders from “Spock’s Brain” are like first cousins. Anyway, everyone lives happily ever after. Except Miramanee, of course, and anyone else who suffered through watching this episode.
Chief Asshat: Oh, Margaret.
MVP: Bones and Spock, mostly because their interactions are the only good things about “The Paradise Syndrome.” I kinda adore Spock’s little rock demonstration of the asteroid problem, and I obviously like when Bones yells at Spock to get some damn sleep. There are a few lovely emotional H/C moments here, and I’m so bummed they’re in this dumpster fire of an episode.
Grade: Technically Pistachio, but if anything deserves Mint Chocolate Chip, it’s this bullshit.
Line of the Episode: “My bairns. My poor bairns.”
I know I usually tackle this show three episodes at a time, but with only four episodes left in Season 2, I thought it’d be best to lump them all together.
This is important because it means I have to adjust my very scientific ice cream based rating system. I will now be introducing a fourth flavor: mint chocolate chip. And while I know that many of you will be incorrectly thinking yum, mint chocolate chip is, in fact, the worst flavor–yes, even worse than strawberry–because mint is the devil’s food. There is no lower grade on this blog than mint chocolate chip.
“The Omega Glory”
Wow. Wow. I guess I know what’s winning the mint. “The Omega Glory” may very well be the worst Star Trek episode I’ve ever seen, which is saying something. I mean, it’s worse than the Nazi episode. The Nazi episode. It’s almost impressive, how awful this is. The fact that touch telepath Spock mind controls a woman from across the room simply by Intense Staring is the very least of this episode’s problems.
It doesn’t start so bad. The Enterprise discovers that nearly the entire crew of the U.S.S. Exeter were infected with some weird disease which essentially dehydrated them so badly that their bodies collapsed into crystals. Like, yikes. Kirk, Spock, Bones, and Red Shirt, also now infected, beam down to this planet where they’ll be safe so long as they don’t leave. Captain Tracy, sole survivor of the Exeter, pretends to be a good guy for a whole three minutes before vaporizing Red Shirt and holding our heroes hostage. Turns out, the people on Omega IV all live for centuries or longer, and Tracy wants to figure out this Fountain of Youth shit so he can leave the planet and live forever.
Tracy is a weirdly cartoonish bad guy, especially considering how he’s introduced as this legendary Starfleet captain. (It’s almost funny, just how few fucks this dude gives about his entire dead crew.) Of course, Immortality Seeker is a classic villain trope, but it feels bizarrely random here, like they picked it because it was classic, not because it actually makes sense for this character or this story. Still, the aliens are the real problem here: the Yangs (portrayed by white actors) and the Kohms (portrayed by Asian actors). The Kohms are peaceful and “civilized,” while the Yangs are the unreasonable “savages,” something that’s clearly presented as a surprise, like, isn’t it shocking how the brown people are the civilized ones? It’s definitely no accident that Sulu remains onboard for the majority of this racist ass episode.
It turns out that, somehow*, this planet mirrors Earth’s history to a ludicrous degree. Like, the Big Twist is that the Yangs are actually this planet’s equivalent of Yankees, complete with their own version of the U.S. Constitution, the Pledge of the Allegiance, and–I shit you not–a whole ass American flag. Meanwhile, the Kohms are communists, I guess, and unlike Earth (where a war was avoided), the Kohms defeated the Yangs way back when, pushing them out of civilization and taking over their lands. Which is why the Yangs dress, act, and speak the way they do–because they’re also supposed to represent the Native Americans in this world. It’s, whew. It’s real bad.
Honestly, there’s so much gross bullshit here that it’s hard to even know where to begin. Like, how this episode fully embraces several racist Native American stereotypes, or how Cloud William (the Yangs’ leader) speaks in what I guess is meant to be some kinda generic Native American accent? How the Kohms were secretly bad guys all along, kicking the freedom-loving Yangs out of their land, and how the poor white people were just trying to fight for their own home. How incredibly, ludicrously stupid these language parallels are, and how Spock refers to the Kohms as “Asiatics.” Like, dear God. I can’t even get into Kirk’s hypocritical treatment of the Prime Directive here, which is also garbage. I just . . . wow, there really is nothing good to say about this episode. It is appalling. My eyes are weeping blood.
*There are apparently explanations in some tie-in novels, but in the episode itself? Nope.
Chief Asshat: Gene Roddenberry, who actually wrote this shit
MVP: Scotty and Chekov, for having the good sense to not be in this episode
Grade: Mint Chocolate Chip
Line of the Episode:
(about the Vulcan neck pinch)
“Pity you can’t teach me that.”
“I have tried, Captain.”
“The Ultimate Computer”
We’ve already had a ton of supercomputers on TOS, so I may have facepalmed when I saw the name of this episode. Surprisingly, though, I enjoyed “The Ultimate Computer.” The Enterprise is ordered to install the M-5, a system so sophisticated that it only requires a skeleton crew, which very well may put Kirk out of a job. (And you know. Most everyone else on the Enterprise, but nobody really addresses them.) All the job anxiety stuff still feels pretty relevant now, TBH, and I love how the M-5 totally calls Kirk out for assigning himself and Bones to away missions when their presence is definitely not required. Not that this pattern will be changing anytime soon, alas.
For a while, things go great. Then the M-5, having difficulty distinguishing between a real threat and a false alarm, obliterates an empty freighter. That’s enough for Kirk to call the whole thing off; unfortunately, as he insists on saying this out loud, it’s no real surprise when the M-5 easily locks them out of control before killing a dude who gets in the way and then starts attacking Federation vessels for good measure. Bunches of people die. The M-5 is desperately trying to protect itself because its whole purpose is to keep people from dying in space; when Kirk points out the obvious logical inconsistency, the M-5 self-destructs–a logic bomb that works better than others, I think, because it’s actually written as the M-5’s decision, rather than an inability to compute some paradox it would totally be able to compute. Then Kirk saves the day by relying on human intuition, and everything ends happily . . . except for Dr. Richard Daystrum, that is, who created the M-5 and has a full breakdown.
Some things I enjoy: the M-5 was created with human engrams and is, for all intents and purposes, an AI, which is kind of neat. And Daystrum (who will be referenced in multiple other Trek shows), is played by William Marshall, AKA, Blacula. Marshall was a very, very tall man and had a rather nice voice, so I just like listening to him talk–usually to insult Kirk. He has a few moments here I enjoy: his whole “men no longer need die in space” monologue and when he’s trying to reason with the M-5. Also, I think we see a space station for possibly the first time? Oh, and when Kirk is feeling low, Spock tells him, “A starship also runs on loyalty to one man, and nothing can replace it or him.” Which is obviously Vulcan for, “Dude, I love you, and I’ll follow you anywhere.”
My only real problem here is that I’m not wild about how Daystrum’s motivation goes from “saving people” to “no one thought I was relevant and cool anymore, so I made this (ultimately terrible) thing.” It’s not that the latter motivation can’t work (or that Daystrum couldn’t feel both simultaneously), but the bitter childhood prodigy angle felt a bit forced to me, a bit too late in the game for my liking. I’m much more interested in Daystrum as this tragic figure who simply tried his best to help people and failed. Still, overall, this is a pretty solid episode.
Chief Asshat: Oh, Commodore Wesley, no doubt. He needles Kirk by calling him “Captain Dunsel,” essentially saying Kirk serves no useful purpose anymore, and then immediately assumes Kirk is responsible for the attack when it makes way more sense for it to be an M-5 malfunction.
MVP: William Marshall. Could listen to that man all day.
Line of the Episode:
“Please, Spock, do me a favor and don’t say it’s fascinating.”
“No, but it is . . . interesting.”
“Bread and Circuses”
“Bread and Circuses” makes a lot of Top 10 Worst TOS Episodes lists, and I get why: it’s pretty dumb, and it’s dumb in a lot of the same ways that “The Omega Glory” is. This is yet another world that’s basically just alternate Earth, only here we have 1960’s tech in a world where Rome never fell . . . which means we get gladiator fights on reality TV. Honestly, that part was great; I laughed out loud when they pulled back to reveal the Hollywood set. Unfortunately, it also means that we have to learn about Hodgkin’s Bullshit Law of Parallel Planet Development to explain
budget problems, ethnocentrism, a criminal lack of imagination how these people could possibly speak English, amongst other nonsense. I guess that’s better than not explaining it at all?
Despite this, “Bread and Circuses” is considerably less offensive than “The Omega Glory” and far more fun to watch. For one, Kirk isn’t the guy engaging in (seemingly unending) fisticuffs! Bones and Spock get that honor this time, facing off against a pair of gladiators, and it’s delightful. Spock gets a new undercover beanie, too; this one is tan and, per usual, he loses it almost immediately. Let’s see . . . I immediately and correctly predicted Evil Roman Dude would stab Last Minute Redemptive Bad Guy in the back, so yay, me. And there’s a really interesting scene between Bones and Spock, where Bones tries to thank Spock for saving his life and ends up accusing him of being afraid to live. I don’t know if the whole scene works for me, exactly–I don’t think it has quite enough space to breathe–but it is, well, fascinating.
Of course, it’s not all fun fight scenes and antagonistic heart-to-hearts. I can forgive the bad guy, I guess, who doesn’t exactly have a firm grasp on the concept of “incentives.” (“Beam your whole crew down so that most of them can die, or else I’ll . . . kill only these two officers?”) The Prime Directive stuff here, too, is pretty ridiculous, and I’m not sure why we’re only clearly defining it now, anyway, at the very end of the second season.
But the worst bits are definitely these: A) it’s heavily implied that Kirk sleeps with the pretty sex slave who, while apparently “willing,” definitely cannot give actual consent, and B) our heroes save the day by . . . running away, leaving behind the last few survivors they actually came to rescue. They don’t defeat the bad guy or end slavery or any of that good jazz, but it’s okay, see, because it turns out that the rising rebellion of Sun worshippers are actually Son worshippers, which means we don’t have to feel bad for abandoning the planet because Christianity is coming to save everyone.
Chief Asshat: Kirk, no question
MVP: Scotty, who basically saves the day by interpreting Kirk’s orders as guidelines
Line of the Episode: Ooh, difficult. There’s Bones taking the time to yell at Spock, even as he’s poorly defending himself in the gladiator fight. There’s also Spock dryly agreeing with Kirk that the people shooting at them do, indeed, seem to mean it. But I think I have to go with Bones’s somewhat relatable anti-Prime Directive wish:
“Once, just once, I’d like to be able to land someplace and say, ‘Behold! I am the archangel Gabriel!”
“Assignment: Earth” is the season finale of S2 and kind of an odd episode all around. For one thing, our heroes have intentionally time-traveled back to Earth 1968 for, I guess, historical research? Which is just not how time travel usually works in Trek. (It also remains unclear how they were gonna conduct said research, as Kirk and Spock make it seem like the initial plan was not to leave the ship, which seems . . . counterintuitive?) More importantly, however, our heroes are largely absent for half the episode and mostly just manage to fuck things up when they are around. (Spock insists they actually helped history play out as it was supposed to, but he’s just trying to save face. Kirk absolutely almost gets everyone killed.) Instead, the action mostly focuses on this mysterious dude, Gary Seven, and his pet cat, Isis, who have come to stop a missile launch that will doom everyone. The setup is so strange that the whole episode almost feels like a backdoor pilot, except did they even have backdoor pilots in the late 1960’s?
Apparently, yes. They did because that’s exactly what “Assignment: Earth” is, a backdoor pilot for a show that nobody picked up. It’s unfortunate, too, because although the pacing of this one is a bit off, I actually really enjoyed Gary Seven and Isis. Seven is sort of an understated character, but he has a dry sense of humor that appeals to me, and I had fun watching him deal with his delightfully snotty computer, the Beta 5, and communicate with his cat. (Isis has a human form too, of course, but we only briefly see it at the end of the episode.) All of Isis’s cat attacks are hilarious. Also in one scene, Seven clambers up to the missile to sabotage it, while Isis helpfully hangs out on his back. It’s fantastic. I’d have watched the holy hell out of this show.
Teri Garr is fun in this, too. She’s playing Roberta, the secretary who accidentally gets wrapped up in all these secret agent/time travel shenanigans, and she feels like the rare female character in TOS who, by God, actually gets to be funny. The new characters all click here; it’s mostly that the action, itself, isn’t terribly interesting, particularly in the second half. Plus, yeah, the characters you actually showed up for are kinda twiddling their thumbs a lot. Still, I had a decent time watching this episode.
Chief Asshat: I mean. Kirk doubting Seven totally makes sense, but it also nearly starts World War III, so . . .
MVP: The Gary Seven, Isis, and Beta 5 trio.
Line of the Episode: “That’s why some of my generation are kind of crazy and rebels, you know? We wonder if we’re gonna be alive when we’re thirty.”
There’s a lot to discuss today. Big, glowing balls. Weird speeches. Leonard Nimoy smiling. Whiskey as a resistance strategy. Tonal inconsistencies. Logic problems. And unfortunately, Literal Space Nazis.
Let’s twist this.
There will be SPOILERS for these three episodes and probably also the Star Trek franchise in general. You’ve been warned.
“Return to Tomorrow”
Hey, this is one of the TOS episodes with Diana Muldaur in it! Hi, Young Pulaski!
I enjoyed watching this one, although I’m itching to tweak a few things, particularly the ending. Let’s begin with Sargon, Thalassa, and Henoch, three super advanced beings made up of pure energy who’ve survived half a million years in these big glowing balls. They want to temporarily possess three people (specifically, Kirk, Spock, and Mulhall, our Pretty Woman of the Week) so they can build themselves android bodies and roam around freely. Sargon seems pretty shifty at first, but ultimately, everyone agrees to the plan, in part because of Kirk’s, uh, impassioned speech, which TBH, would only have convinced me that he’d been brainwashed during the earlier Spirit Swap Demo, like, that monologue is so overacted it passes over “passionate” and skips straight to “alarming.” (Also: the Spirit Swap Demo? Funny as hell.)
Quickly, it becomes clear that Sargon actually isn’t a shifty motherfucker; unfortunately, Henoch, possessing Spock, absolutely is. Possessed Spock smiles a lot. He’s a flirty, evil little shit, and it’s delightful. These scenes absolutely make the whole episode for me. Henoch wants to keep Spock’s body, of course, and temporarily sways Thalassa (Sargon’s wife) to the Dark Side; however, she feels guilty after torturing Bones a little and decides possessing a living body is too great a temptation. Meanwhile, Sargon and Spock briefly seem to die, but they’re both fine, as the former escapes into the Enterprise itself, while the latter escapes into Nurse Chapel’s body.
Conceptually, this is totally awesome. In execution, definitely a letdown. Spock-as-Christine is disappointing because Majel Barrett never gets the opportunity to act as Spock, which is a huge missed opportunity. Meanwhile, it’s not that I expected Sargon to permanently become the Enterprise (although that would have been, in a word, fascinating), but it could’ve been really interesting to see him and Thalassa living as other ships–or they could’ve gone with the robot plan, whatever, maybe worked to create androids that would’ve been able to experience sensory pleasure. Anything, really, would’ve been preferable to Let’s Disperse Into Oblivion Together. It’s the most obvious possible ending, emphasizing all the usual morals: it’s wrong to live past your time, your humanity will be lost if you try, death is how it’s meant to be, etc. I get why it’s a popular SFF trope, immortality not actually being in the cards for any of us losers, but I still find it dull and predictable, particularly here where it feels like Sargon and Thalassa suddenly agreed to doom themselves just because Henoch is a big jerk.
Chief Asshat: Henoch. I mean, you can’t just be brainwashing Christine; that’s rude.
MVP: . . . but also Henoch, or really Leonard Nimoy, because he’s a lot of fun here.
Line of the Episode: Oh, I can’t choose. It’s either this surprisingly good line in the otherwise terrible monologue: “Risk is our business. That’s what this starship is all about.” Or it’s, ah: “Your captain has an excellent body, Dr. McCoy. I compliment you both on the condition in which you maintained it.” I mean, what in the fanfiction hell?
“Patterns of Force”
Oh, boy. So, this is Nazis in space, literally, and it’s just about as bad as that sounds. There are, admittedly, a few bright spots. Like, we get the (very brief) return of Spock’s undercover beanie. There’s some dude who kinda reminds me of a 1960’s Tom Holland. At one point, Kirk and Spock are flogged, and their “blood” is pretty clearly just red and green paint. (Which I have to admit, I do so love the juxtaposition.) And at one point, Spock has to stand on Kirk’s back, which ends up being amusingly difficult for Kirk. I now desperately want to read a 5+1 fanfic where Kirk and Spock have to boost the other up, er, platonically. (The +1, of course, is less platonic.)
Unfortunately, the rest of the episode is kind of a mess, and not just because Kirk pronounces Nazi like he’s Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds. The reason we’ve found literal Nazis halfway across the galaxy is because, while observing the people of Ekos, revered historian John Gill became disturbed by how fragmented and divided the planet was. The only way to save everyone, he decided, was to bring in some fascism, but like, nice fascism, I guess. You know, they’re the good Nazis.
Unclear what that even means? Me, too. But TOS isn’t gonna bother with specifics here. Instead, we discover that everything went swimmingly until this one Bad Guy decided to make the Nazi party evil again, drugging John Gill to, heh, the gills, and secretly taking over. With his dying breath, Gill confesses that he was wrong, that non-interference is the only way, but bitch, non-interference isn’t even the problem here! You could have introduced any political philosophy to try and stabilize this shit, and you chose the Nazi party?! Sure, Spock agrees that Nazi Germany was the “most efficient state Earth ever knew” (uh, really? In ALL of human history?) and suggests that Gill must’ve assumed “such a state, run benignly, could accomplish its efficiency without sadism.” But seriously, what the fuck does it even mean to be a Nazi without sadism? Cruelty is a feature, not a bug. Nazis didn’t solve divisions between people; they widened them, preying on existing prejudices and fears to make a convenient scapegoat out of an entire ethnoreligious group, and then–and this is key–murdered about six million of those people. Not to mention that, so far as I can tell, the conditions which led to the Nazis’s rise to power bears no resemblance to anything happening here, so this whole “plan” makes no sense on either a logical or ethical level.
It’s also just very strange to watch Kirk and Spock go undercover as Nazis when William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy are, and were, both Jewish. Of course, I have no idea how they felt about this episode, and perhaps they didn’t have a problem participating in it. Honestly, I hope that’s the case. But even if it is? “Patterns of Force” is poorly written and just all around ill-conceived.
Chief Asshat: Holy shit, John Gill. WTF, my dude?
MVP: Um. Spock’s beanie?
Line of the Episode: “To the logical mind, the outlook is somewhat gloomy.”
“By Any Other Name”
When I saw the title of this episode, I tried to prepare myself for some tragic nonsense between Kirk and The Pretty Woman of the Week, but we go a different way here. The Enterprise responds to a distress call; unfortunately, it’s a trap, and the ship is easily (too fucking easily) captured by four Kelvans. The Kelvans are these super advanced aliens from the far-far-away Andromeda galaxy, and they need the Enterprise to get back home. (It’ll take 300 years, which means only their descendants will actually make it.) In their original bodies, the Kelvans are gargantuan, with “a hundred limbs which resemble tentacles.” (I can only assume this means they’re secretly Old Ones.) But to survive in this galaxy, they’ve taken on human form, which means they’ve begun reacting like humans: enjoying physical sensations, feeling emotions, etc. Thus to retake the ship, our heroes have to exploit these weaknesses. Which means:
Bones keeps giving one guy Irritation Hypos.
Scotty eventually drinks one dude under the table (before quickly passing out himself).
Kirk (sigh) seduces the Alien Girl. (Who, BTW, is a dead ringer for Sansa Stark.)
Spock manipulates the Alien Leader’s jealousy of Kirk and Alien Girl.
Scotty’s scenes are probably the funniest, considering just how much alcohol he has to sacrifice to, er, complete the mission. (TNG will later pay homage to this scene in the episode “Relics.”) Kirk’s part is predictably the worst, especially because Alien Girl doesn’t even seem all that seduced at first–it’s pretty great, TBH–before having a sudden and inevitable change of heart. All in all, though, the episode ends on a relatively light note: the bad guys aren’t killed or imprisoned; instead, they decide to stay in this galaxy, having fun in their new human forms, which is all well and good until you remember Yeoman Thompson.
See, the Kelvans like to turn people into porous rocks; they do this to literally everyone on board (except our four previously mentioned heroes). After a failed escape attempt, Yeoman Thompson and Lt. Shea are the first to be transformed. To discourage further resistance, Alien Leader crushes one of the rocks, and I admit, I was very surprised when we discover that it’s Lt. Shea who survived, as I definitely assumed the writers would kill off the one Black man and save the one white woman. It’s a good surprise, honestly, but it does rather feel like poor Thompson’s murder is completely forgotten about in the second half of the show, when the tone noticeably shifts from “suspense” into “wacky hijinks.” This is especially true of the ending, considering the Kelvans experience absolutely no consequences of any kind for their terrible actions.
You know what I’d like to see? A spinoff show where a bunch of unjustly murdered Starfleet officers come together to haunt their respective captains. It could be bloody. It could be animated. We could call it . . . Star Vengeance.
Chief Asshat: Probably the Alien Leader. He’s the one who murders Yeoman Thompson, and also, jealousy is just not a good look on anyone.
MVP: Scotty, for his out-of-the-box thinking.
Line of the Episode:
Alien Dude (about the bottle of alcohol Scotty is holding): “What is it?”
Scotty (drunk off his ass): “It’s, um . . . It’s green.”
All right. I have a sinus infection. I’m running on caffeine, antibiotics, Ibuprofen, and not nearly enough sleep, and we’ve got roughly three hours of Star Trek to discuss. Let’s just dive into it, shall we?
There will be SPOILERS for these three episodes and probably also the Star Trek franchise in general. You’ve been warned.
“A Piece of the Action”
Oh, God. Folks. Fellow humans. I can’t with this episode. I was so bored.
“A Piece of the Action” is about Kirk, Spock, and Bones beaming down to 1920’s Mobster World, and I know it’s supposed to be funny, but good lord, it’s like a ten-minute gag that’s stretched, kicking and screaming, into a full episode. I’d watch it again, maybe, but only as a drinking game. The first and second rules are obvious: 1) drink whenever Kirk, Bones, or Spock get the drop on any of the gangsters, and 2) drink whenever any gangster gets the drop on Kirk, Bones, or Spock. I cannot emphasize enough how often this happens, and if that sounds somehow exciting or action-packed, let me assure you that it is not. This episode is like watching someone playing Hot Potato with a Tommy gun, only somehow boring. There is simply a limit to how many times one can get and lose the upper hand before any sense of tension or stakes are annihilated; this episode surpasses that limit by a wide and wild margin.
Another rule: drink whenever Kirk shows off all the noir slang he’s picked up. You will be drinking non-stop for the last 10 minutes straight.
Here are a few things I did enjoy: the origin of fizzbin. How absurdly large The Book (AKA, Chicago Mobs of the Twenties) actually is. It’s basically a giant Bible, like, it’s gotta be the size of Kirk’s whole torso at least. I also enjoy Kirk and Spock in their respective suits, and the irrefutable fact that, in the Prime timeline, Kirk absolutely cannot drive. (Obviously, he learned how to do this at a very young age in the Kelvin verse. These are the important canon divergences to analyze, people.)
Unfortunately, that’s about all I really enjoyed here. The whole concept of this episode–an alien society so imitative that they rewrote their entire culture just to mimic one (ridiculously gigantic) book–is ludicrous, of course, but ludicrous can be entertaining. This, however, mostly struck me as tiresome and grating, particularly the slang, (which I found too cartoonish to be convincing) and the constant Tommy gun Hot Potato.
Chief Asshat: All the mob bosses, mostly for the crime of being annoying.
MVP: The kid who briefly teams up with Kirk and Spock, I guess.
Line of the Episode:
“But the odds of getting a Royal Fizzbin are astro–Spock, what are the odds in getting a Royal Fizzbin?”
“I’ve never computed them, Captain.”
“Well, they’re astronomical, believe me.”
*Spock silently mouths astronomical and looks away, resigned*
“The Immunity Syndrome”
“The Immunity Syndrome” is unlikely to make it to my personal Top Ten, but it’s not a bad episode. The stars disappear at some point, which is always creepy. There is a giant amoeba (and not a “giant glowy space fish with one eye,” which was my immediate impression). Kirk has to decide whether to send Spock (Friend/Lover #1) or Bones (Friend/Lover #2) on what’s almost certainly a suicide mission. (He picks Spock, and I desperately hope that there’s fanfic about all of this.) And Spock essentially senses a great disturbance in the Force when 400 Vulcans die, because his touch telepathy will forever and always be dependent upon what the plot requires. (I now find myself wanting to see Spock in Star Trek 2009 psychically reeling from the collective death of basically everyone on Vulcan, which would admittedly be a lot on top of killing his mom. But since Winona Ryder played the only version of Amanda Grayson I’ve ever liked . . . yeah, let’s save her and do this scene instead.)
There are things that don’t totally work for me here. Spock’s idea that the dead Vulcans could not have conceived of their doom because Vulcans, as a species, have never been conquered feels like incredibly sketch logic. (Also, it’s a retcon, at least if Bones in “Conscience of the King” is to be believed–which, to be fair, I never really did.) I don’t know if I entirely buy Bones actively campaigning to go on the suicide mission for the sake of Science, either. I can absolutely see him sacrificing his life to save others, but that’s not quite how this is framed. Like, I bought Bones helpfully interrupting to say “I recommend survival” (without any suggestions as to how, natch), much more than Bones asking Spock, “Do you think that I intend to pass up the greatest living laboratory . . .” when the cost of going is near-certain death. I also wish someone at least brought up the possibility of trying to save the giant amoeba, too.
I remain amused, also, about A) how quickly Bones resorts to just drugging everyone with stimulants–space cocaine definitely feels like a solid medical treatment–and B) how both Bones and a nurse personally come to the Bridge to administer, like, six adrenaline shots, when 2/3 of the ship have also been affected and are waiting on treatment, goddamnit. All this aside, “The Immunity Syndrome” is a totally decent episode, and much better than what came before . . . or what’s coming next.
Chief Asshat: Actually, no one’s really terrible here, but I’m giving this to Kirk anyway, for not slamming those breaks early.
MVP: Spock, maybe, for verbally bitchslapping human history.
Line of the Episode:
“Shut up, Spock, we’re rescuing you!”
“Why, thank you, Captain McCoy.”
“A Private Little War”
If you look very, very carefully, you might be able to find a good episode hiding somewhere in the depths of this one, but boy, it would be a long and arduous excavation. I do have some suggestions, of course. Buying better wigs is probably not the most important one, but holy Jesus, these wigs are awful–not to mention that the subtle symbolism of Good Blond Aliens vs. Evil Brunette Aliens leaves something to be desired.
A bigger problem is Nona. The Good Blond Aliens are led by Pacifist Tyree, who is Kirk’s friend; Nona is his duplicitous brunette witch wife who drugs men with aphrodisiacs and heals them with plants, blood, and sexy writhing. I hate literally everything I just wrote. Nona potentially could be interesting, if you altered her ridiculous healing process and straight-up cut the gross non-con behavior. See, this planet used to be a very peaceful one, but a Klingon spy is giving the Evil Brunette Aliens superior weapons, and Nona wants Kirk to give the Good Blond Aliens the same weapons (or even better ones) to defend themselves with/wipe out their enemies.
This is a perfect setup for a morally ambiguous character who advocates for terrible things but for pretty understandable reasons, which is so much more interesting than Sexy Evil Chick who tries to sell out her husband’s people and inevitably gets killed for it. A better episode, IMO, would still have Nona knock out Kirk and steal his phaser, but this time she’d die after successfully assassinating the Evil Brunette Leader. It would be a much more satisfying/badass death for her personally, but would still be tragic overall–because while Nona would die thinking she sacrificed her life to save Good Blond Aliens, the audience would see how her death actually served as a catalyst for Pacifist Tyree’s transformation into Vengeful Tyree, thereby only extending the war.
You see how bad this episode is? I’m basically just pleading for this show to fridge women better. And I haven’t even gotten into how this episode is also somehow a mangled Vietnam War allegory, or the whole side plot where Spock gets shot and must literally be slapped in the face, like, twenty times to properly heal. (Okay, this is hysterical, actually, but I can’t help but feel that Plot A and Plot B have been horribly mismatched here.) Or how the Klingon spy is is basically just dropped from the story–and why was this guy getting involved, anyway? These people are unlikely to be a big asset to the Klingon empire. And yeah, that whole serpent of Eden metaphor, too. Ugh, guys, enough is enough. Please leave Eden alone, I am so tired of it.
Oh well. At least we got the introductions of M’Benga and this dude, I guess.
Chief Asshat: Kirk, who continues to be an asshole about Klingons, snaps at Uhura, Scotty, and Chekov, and justifies giving the Good Blond Aliens rifles with some pretty shaky logic. But M’Benga is also a candidate, as he’s a bit of a condescending dick to Nurse Chapel when she asks for some pretty reasonable clarification.
MVP: Definitely the mugato.
Line of the Episode: “This man believes the same thing we believe in, that killing is stupid and useless.” (A great quote from Bones, but I’d hardly call it a consistent TOS philosophy.)