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.”
Well, it’s December. December can encompass many things, of course—holidays, cold weather, bemoaning the inevitable and inexplicable passage of time. Currently, for me, it means isolation and mucus because, yep, Covid-19 finally caught up to me. (Hopefully, I’ll be feeling better by the time I actually post this.) Today, though, is not about sickness but television, specifically, TV Superlatives!
If you read this blog with any regularity, you probably already know that I have two modes of TV Superlatives: Ridiculously Long or just Unnecessarily Long. Today, we’ll be going Unnecessarily Long; in fact, for me, it’s practically brief. This is partly because I’m low on energy and partly because—as is often the case in autumn—I haven’t been watching that much TV lately. But here is a list of everything I have been watching (and in some cases, abandoning) over the past three months:
Star Trek: Lower Decks (Season 3)
Harley Quinn (Season 3, Episodes 8-10)
Running Man (Episodes 76-88 and 619-630)
Only Murders in the Building
The 101 Scariest Horror Movie Moments of All Time
The Zone: Survival Mission
Last Week Tonight (Season 9, Episodes 23-30)
Link: Eat, Love, Kill
Star Trek: TOS (Season 3, Episodes 13-18)
Los Espookys (Season 2)
Floor is Lava (Season 3)
Nailed It! (Season 7)
Young Actors Retreat
Adamas (abandoned, possibly for good)
I’m only going to talk about a handful of these shows today, considering roughly half this list is made up of variety programs and the like. You should be pretty safe on spoilers, too, since I’m too lazy to create a Spoiler Section right now. (Unless you check out the links, that is. Some of the links do have spoilers, so beware!)
With that all said, let’s get to it.
“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.”
Roughly a week and a half after Halloween, Horror Bingo 2022 has finally reached its conclusion, with our last movie being Jordan Peele’s Nope. Which means—
—I won! I mean, Marisa won, really, but in the battle of the St. George Sisters, I PREVAILED. Horror Bingo 2022 Queen for me! I need to get myself a sash and a bottle of champagne immediately. Well. Okay, I’m not that into champagne, but I’d totally take a sash and a bottle of Martinelli’s.
We’ll get to our brief Horror Bingo wrap-up in a little bit, but first let’s discuss our final movie.
This year in Horror Bingo we’ve had—among other things—creepy serial killers, 80’s body horror, horror documentaries, and Japanese kill-or-be-killed stories. Today, however, we’re shifting to vampires. Specifically, queer teen vampire comedies.
Get in, loser. We’re watching Bit.
Listen, I meant what I said however many months ago: I will finish TOS this year. It might not happen until the very last week of 2022—October, undoubtedly, will be swallowed whole by horror movies—but it WILL happen.
So. Let’s dive back in, shall we?
“Elaan of Troyius”
Oh, boy. Okay. The Enterprise is on an escort mission. They’re transporting Elaan, the Dohlman of Elas, to the planet Troyius, where she is to marry their ruler and create peace between their two worlds. Only one problem: Elaan doesn’t want to get married and live on Troyius. She certainly doesn’t want the Troyian ambassador, Petri, to teach her their customs; in fact, when he enters her quarters without permission, she stabs him. (She’s hilariously nonchalant about it, too.) Since Elaan responds (somewhat) better to Kirk, he ends up trying to teach her courtesy and table manners. The lessons go, uh. Well, we’ll come back to that. What’s important here is that Elaan cries on him, which isn’t great because her tears are a biochemical love potion. Meanwhile, Klingons are trying to blow up the Enterprise. Again, not great, as the ship has been sabotaged and needs dilithium crystals to escape. Thankfully, Elaan is wearing dilithium crystals: her necklace is made out of them. Turns out, these crystals are common stones around here, which is why the Klingons are so invested in gaining control of this territory. The Enterprise neutralizes the Klingon threat, Elaan ultimately goes to Troyius, and Kirk conquers his love for Elaan with his love for the Enterprise, or some shit.
“Elaan of Troyius” is basically The Taming of the Shrew in space, and since I hate the ending of that play almost as much as I hate the ending of The Merchant of Venice . . . yeah, this wasn’t my favorite episode. There are some good things, like, the costumes are hysterical. Elaan has kind of a Cleopatra meets Leeloo thing going on, and her guards, well. Just look at these silly ass costumes. And I actually do like Elaan (France Nuyen from The Joy Luck Club). Yes, she’s literally a royal pain in the ass, but she’s also doing her best to get out of an extremely shitty situation where she has to leave not only her home but her entire home world behind to marry her enemy and live in a culture that’s completely antithetical to her own. If this story had a happier ending, Elaan would take off with the Klingons, where she’d obviously thrive; instead, she abruptly makes peace with her situation for no clear reason that I can see and goes off to live a presumably miserable existence with her new husband. I don’t necessarily mind that she does this, like, it’s her duty, it’s for the good of her people, etc. But the story doesn’t bother to present any real turning point in her arc. Elaan just changes her mind because, well. Cause the episode is about to end.
And Jesus, the casual misogyny and ethnocentric bullshit in this one. Like, Kirk supposedly explaining Troian customs to Elaan by yelling at her about (white, Western) human table manners: using silverware, eating food off the plate, not drinking straight from the bottle, etc. He calls her both an “uncivilized savage” and a “vicious child in a woman’s body.” He threatens to spank her and actually does slap her—which, sure, she slapped him first, but you kind of hope that a Starfleet captain could manage to display authority without resorting to physical violence. Kirk also has these wise words to offer Spock: “The women on your planet are logical. That’s the only planet in this galaxy that can make that claim.”
For real. Fuck this guy.
Chief Asshat: Kirk, no doubt.
MVP: France Nuyen, without question. I really do enjoy her performance here.
Grade: Rocky Road
Line of the Episode: “So, Ambassador Petri is going to recover. That is too bad.”
“Whom Gods Destroy”
Kirk and Spock beam down to an asylum for the criminally and incurably insane on Elba II, a planet with an atmosphere that’s poisonous to humans. They’re bringing medicines that might be able to cure insanity once and for all; unfortunately, one patient, Captain Garth (AKA, Lord Garth), a former Starfleet captain and one of Kirk’s many heroes, has taken over the place, imprisoning the warden (Keye Luke) and quickly capturing Kirk and Spock. Garth almost escapes a few times because he has, er, learned how to shapeshift? Thankfully, though, Scotty isn’t allowed to beam anyone up unless they give the proper chess-themed countersign. (It’s a decent idea, honestly, but it’d make a lot more sense if one, Kirk had actual reason to suspect shapeshifters here, and two, if anyone on this ship had ever thought to use a secret password before—or, presumably, ever again.) Roughly 45 minutes of shenanigans later, Kirk and Garth-Kirk battle it out, Spock finally realizes which is which, and Garth gets the new medicine and seems to regain some lucidity. Uh. Folks? Did Trek just . . . cure all mental illness wholesale?
Honestly, I did have a pretty fun time watching this one. If you enjoy William Shatner’s particular brand of overacting, Garth-Kirk’s temper tantrum alone is well worth the price of admission. But a lot of the dialogue is genuinely funny, too. I enjoy Steve Ihnat as Garth, and I like his girlfriend Marta (Yvonne Craig, AKA, Batgirl), an Orion patient who boldly and hilariously takes credit for Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18.” Marta also attempts to seduce Kirk before quickly trying to stab him, which is frankly something I wish more of Kirk’s ladies would do on this show. (I wonder if Marta and Elaan might get along.) And yes, there’s a sexy dance because of course there’s a sexy dance, but I’m mildly amused that Spock, predictably unmoved, is reminded of a Vulcan children’s dance while watching it. (He does specify the children themselves are not usually so “coordinated.”) There are, I’m sure, a lot of creepy, terrible jokes that can be made here, but I’m genuinely interested in exploring things that are considered obviously sexy by (many) humans, but aren’t considered even remotely sexy by non-humans.
Still, this episode is something of a hot mess. Lots of silly or lazy writing, like the aforementioned password, Garth’s very random shapeshifting abilities, and especially Spock’s inability to tell which Kirk is the real Kirk. Cause one, bullshit, sir. Spock could obviously come up with questions that only Kirk would be able to answer. And two, Spock doesn’t even need to ask questions. He could just stun both dudes, and the problem would immediately be solved. There’s also the subject matter itself, which, admittedly, isn’t nearly as offensive as I’d feared. Garth’s delusional megalomania is played for laughs, but it somehow doesn’t feel as gross as I’d expected, and Kirk does tell Garth that his mental illness isn’t his fault, which is surprisingly progressive. That being said, uh, we’re keeping these people in tiny cells on a planet thats atmosphere is poison; clearly, we’re not that progressive. And while it isn’t Garth’s fault that he’s sick, Kirk also says Garth’s not truly responsible for the terrible things he’s done, and . . . no, that’s not quite how responsibility works. Like, Garth murders Marta here; he is, ultimately, responsible for that. I also feel like Garth’s mental illness would be more compelling if we got a deeper glimpse of past trauma or something that made his disease feel more character-oriented, rather than simply a plot obstacle. (Also? Garth can’t watch He-Man anymore because he says “Master of the Universe” way too often.) And seriously, DID TREK CURE INSANITY? Like, I have so many follow-up questions.
Chief Asshat: I mean. Garth did blow Marta up. (And not just with any bomb, mind you, but the most powerful explosive in the universe. Seriously, some silly ass writing in this episode.)
MVP: Marta, poor Marta. I will miss your stolen poetry and attempts at homicide.
Line of the Episode: Oh, this is difficult. There really are several good quotes here. Kirk has a few nicely delivered lines, like when Garth proposes that Kirk serve as a human sacrifice, and he’s like, “No, I wouldn’t enjoy that at all.” Also, Spock being questioned about whether he and Kirk are brothers or not: “Kirk speaks somewhat figuratively and with undue emotion. However, what he says is logical, and I do, in fact, agree with it.” And of course, Garth telling Kirk, “You continue to resist. That was stupid of you.”
Still, I think I’m going to have to give this one to Marta, notorious poet thief:
“You wrote that?!”
“Yesterday, as a matter of fact.”
“It was written by an Earth man named Shakespeare a long time ago!”
“Which does not alter the fact that I wrote it again yesterday!”
“Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”
Oh, no. We’ve hit this episode: TOS takes on racism.
The Enterprise rescues Lokai, a shuttle thief whose skin is black on the left side and white on the right. Then Bele (Frank Gorshin, AKA The Riddler), an alien cop whose skin is white on the left side and black on the right, pops up and demands that Kirk hand over Lokai and fly them back to their home planet. Lokai, himself, demands political asylum, and we quickly discover that Bele’s people once enslaved Lokai’s people, and even now Lokai’s people are still widely oppressed. Bele has apparently been hunting Lokai down for 50,000 years, so he’s pretty obsessed about it; when Kirk won’t do what he wants, Bele psychically takes over the ship and—eventually—gets them back to his world, only to discover that everyone there is dead, having annihilated one another. Despite this, Lokai and Bele are unable to let go of their hatred, so when Lokai escapes to the planet, Bele gives (hilariously pathetic) chase, and the Enterprise leaves them there, presumably to kill each other and/or die of exhaustion.
So. This is not a subtle episode. Subtlety wants absolutely nothing to do with this clunky ass episode. That being said, I like some of it. I enjoy the bridge crew’s quiet reactions when Kirk orders the self-destruct sequence. Frank Gorshin’s performance, for the most part, is really solid throughout—except that chase scene, which I think is supposed to indicate a man on the verge of emotional and physical collapse, but which is really just the silliest and saddest running I’ve ever seen in my life. I like how Spock and Kirk are completely baffled when they discover the cause of this entire racial divide, and Bele is just as baffled (not to mention indignant) to realize that they don’t see any meaningful difference between him and Lokai. And—with serious caveats—the downbeat ending works for me, as I assumed this would be the episode where Star Trek handily solves racism in 50 minutes. I think this works better.
That being said. Some of my problems are plot related, like, why is Bele able to psychically steer the ship but can’t disrupt the self-destruct sequence? That seems silly. Also, 50,000 years? No. That’s ridiculous. That is too much. How long do these guys even live? How often did they think, ‘Hey, it’s been 40,000 years. Maybe I should check in and make sure everyone back home is still alive.’ Also bizarre: our heroes are weirdly startled by Lokai’s two-toned skin, to the point that they decide he must be a genetic mutant; Bones even refers to Lokai as “anyone or anything,” like this guy is the most unfathomable being they’ve ever come across, like this isn’t the crew who met Mother Fucking Horta. Acting like Lokai is some inexplicable creature feels like an off-putting way to begin an episode where all our heroes have long since defeated racism. (Which is hard to swallow, too, like, I genuinely enjoy that Star Trek is an aspirational show. Still, exchanges like this one—There was persecution on Earth once. I remember reading about it in my history class/Yes, but it happened way back in the twentieth century. There’s no such primitive thinking today—are always going to be hard to take seriously, partially because that’s not even true in canon—we’ve definitely had racist crew members—and partially because racism is a thing of the past is how many white people talk right now.)
But maybe my biggest problem with this episode is that it’s framed as a “both sides” racism story. Like I said, the metaphor isn’t exactly subtle here: Bele’s people are white people and Lokai’s people are Black. Bele’s people are in the wrong—because when it comes to slavery and brutal systematic oppression—white people are in the wrong. Like, pretty unequivocally. But TOS doesn’t explore that; what it does, instead, is present Lokai and Bele as equally irrational people consumed by hatred. Consider the scene where Lokai is explaining his behavior and the current living situation of his people. You’d think this would be a moving speech, emotional; instead, the scene has a weirdly sinister edge. We barely see Lokai as he speaks; mostly, he’s depicted as a shadowy presence. The scene is primarily from Spock’s POV, actually, as he eavesdrops outside. We even get, like, danger, Will Robinson, danger music, as if Lokai is a serious threat who might brainwash the crew and/or incite them into mutiny and rebellion. (Also, and this is neither here nor there, but why does Lokai know that racist persecution apparently ended on Earth in the 20th century. Honest to God.) It’s also insinuated that Lokai lets people die for him, rather than face danger himself—a theory of which we’ve seen literally zero evidence for. And the whole ending where Kirk urges Lokai and Bele to give up their hate, as if their hate is equal, as if they both have genuine cause to despise one other and will only be free once they let go of their rage . . . like, this is a totally solid ending for some other episode about prejudice, but for one that’s so clearly about white and Black people in 1960’s America? Yeah, I’m not so convinced on that.
Chief Asshat: Bele, obviously
MVP: Frank Gorshin, continuing the winning streak of Batman alums.
Line of the Episode:
“All that matters to them is their hate.”
“Do you suppose that’s all they ever had, sir?”
“No . . . but that’s all they have left.”
It’s that time again! Over summer, I watched a fair bit of television, definitely more than I managed during spring. Here’s a list of everything I’ve been watching, including the few shows I heartlessly abandoned for other things:
Floor is Lava (Season 2)
Last Week Tonight (Season 9, Episodes 13- 22)
Running Man (Episodes 63-75 and 606-618)
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
Stranger Things (Season 4, Volumes 1 and 2)
Evil (Season 3)
Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?
The Great Shaman Ga Doo Shim
Harley Quinn (Season 3, Episodes 1-7)
Adamas (Episodes 1-10)
Baking Impossible (abandoned)
Resident Evil (abandoned)
A quick reminder for how these work: superlatives may be bestowed upon any show I’m watching, no matter whether said show is currently airing or not. This summer, I’m splitting my superlatives in half, so Part I is generally spoiler free; however, I may discuss events from past seasons. For example, I won’t spoil Season 4 of Stranger Things, but any major revelations from Seasons 1, 2, or 3 are totally fair game. Also, I allow ties. Get used to ties because there are gonna be a LOT of them.
Let’s begin, shall we?
LOL, I started writing up reviews for these movies ages ago, and then got sidetracked with other projects, travel, etc., and just sorta . . . forgot about them? Whoops.
Anyway, here are some movies I watched, like, probably back in May or something!
Green For Danger
Director: Sidney Gilliat
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Streaming Service – ScreenPix
Spoilers: Not really, no
Before I cancelled my free trial ScreenPix subscription—because dudes, I have way too many channels as it is—I wanted to check out this 1946 British whodunit. I’m glad I did, too, because it’s an awful lot of fun. Green For Danger is apparently based on a novel of the same name by Christianna Brand, and it’s set at an English hospital during World War II. A patient mysteriously dies on the operating table, and when the person who claims it was murder is also very quickly murdered, Inspector Cockrill is sent to investigate.
The basic setup is a lot of fun because we’re told a few things right from the start: there are six people at the scene of the first murder, two of those six will die, and one of those six is the killer. And I mean. You’ve already got me right there because I just adore this kind of shit, trying to guess which of our suspects will die, who is the killer, etc. I really enjoy the hospital setting, and the script is an awful lot of fun, too, particularly if you, like me, also love that dry and snappy British humor. The banter back and forth between Inspector Cockrill and Mr. Eden, for instance, or Mr. Eden and Nurse Woods is just fantastic.
The solution to the mystery is fine—not awful, not great, just sort of there. There are fun suspects to choose from and shadiness which abounds, but probably not any twists or developments that are gonna break your brain with OMG. That being said, there is at least one surprise at the very end that I rarely see pop up in detective stories. Also, the cast is spectacular, particularly Leo Genn as Mr. Eden (wait, surgeons are referred to as Mr. and not Dr. in England? That’s so weird) and Alastair Sim as Inspector Cockrill. Some great detectives are known for their fastidiousness, others for their aloof nature; Cockrill’s defining quality appears to be that he’s an impish little shit who loves riling his suspects up and watching the drama unfold. At one point, he all but eats popcorn as he watches two doctors come to blows, and it’s hysterical. In fact, I happily would’ve watched a whole series with this guy, and I’m a little disappointed that this is the only adaptation we got. Still, even on its own, Green For Danger was an awfully good time.
Director: Shawn Levy
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Streaming Service – Disney Plus
Spoilers: Some, yes
I didn’t know much about this film going in, other than that Ryan Reynolds plays a video game NPC who becomes self-aware, but I’m really glad my sister convinced me to check it out. Free Guy is an awful lot of fun. It’s very Stranger Than Fiction meets The Lego Movie (not a bad combination), with a pretty delightful and charming cast who really pull the whole thing together. Ryan Reynolds is kinda tailor-made for Guy, of course, excelling in both quick-witted, breaking the fourth wall humor and being able to surprise you with sudden Feels. But I also really enjoy Jodie Comer, Taika Waititi, Lil Rel Howery, and Joe Keery. (NGL: Joe Keery is at least 70% of the reason I watched the fourth season of Stranger Things; that, and I really thought it was the final season of Stranger Things. Goddamn it, show.)
Honestly, I’m not sure how much I have to say about this one. I know there were a bunch of moments that made me laugh, but fuck, I don’t remember them now. (Actually, I do remember one: “They don’t have thumbs, Phyllis. No thumbs!”) I really like that our designers acknowledge that they’ve created the first A.I. because I thought that was a neat development. I like that Guy doesn’t just wake up and become self aware because he sees, you know, some random attractive girl; it’s because Keys coded his love story into the game. I’m happy that a certain character survives. I enjoyed the surprise cameos. (Though Alex Trebek was a bit sad. Threw me for a minute, too, since he passed back in 2020.) I honestly don’t have too much to complain about here.
Although I am mad about one thing: Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy.” It is played a LOT during this movie, which is a serious problem. Not for other people, mind, but definitely for me because that song always gets stuck in my head, Jesus Christ. It’s playing in my head now just because I typed the song title. (See also Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You.” FFS, Mariah. Release my brain, I beg of you.)
The Lost City
Director: Aaron Nee & Adam Nee
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Streaming Service: Paramount Plus
This is pretty cute, for the most part, although the romance between Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum doesn’t totally work for me. I want to be into it. They’re both very funny actors, and I’m 100% here for a grumpy/sweet romance with an older lady/younger dude. I genuinely like, too, that Alan is just totally into Loretta right from the start. He’s earnest and enthusiastic and not terribly bright; basically, Alan is the textbook definition of a himbo, and I think that’s neat. The thing is, Loretta is in a depressed funk at the beginning of this film. She’s still mourning her late husband and is extremely bitter about how her life has turned out, all of which is super valid. Actually, I quite like her whole arc. My problem is that Loretta takes her bitterness out on Alan a lot in this story, and since Alan is basically a golden retriever personified, their supposedly cute banter mostly comes across as Loretta kicking a puppy for half the movie. It does improve for me in the second half of the film (when Alan gets a bit more backbone, not to mention slightly cleverer and quippier dialogue), but by then, the damage is kinda done, at least for me.
Still, The Lost City is a pretty fun story with some solid LOL moments. I am, per usual, entirely charmed by Daniel Radcliffe. (Actually, the whole press tour has been pretty charming. I’ve watched way too many interviews with Radcliffe and Sandra Bullock riffing off one another.) Comedic villain is a good fit on him; I should really rewatch Now You See Me 2 at some point because I seem to remember both roles having a very similar energy. I also enjoyed Brad Pitt’s small role in this film, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph made me laugh a lot, too, although I’m still not entirely sure if Beth is Loretta’s. . . editor? Publicist? Agent? Beth totally deserved her own B- romance storyline, I think. At the very least, she deserves so many drinks after going above and beyond to rescue Loretta. (I think she does get one, but still. ALL THE DRINKS.)
Someone oughta write another “romance novelist adventure romcom” so we can have a spiritual trilogy with this and Romancing the Stone. (I’m trying to think of who I want to cast. Ooh, maybe Ashley Nicole Black could write and star. She’s hilarious.) Also, I know I haven’t hit the novelist stage of my writing career yet, but something tells me that when I get there, this movie will not be an accurate representation of how it works. Alas. No sequins for Carlie.
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.”