World’s Worst Trekkie: “Requiem for Methuselah,” “The Way to Eden,” and “The Cloud Minders”

Holy shit, only six episodes to go! SIX EPISODES LEFT, PEOPLE.

“Requiem for Methuselah”

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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.

Grade: Pistachio

Line of the Episode: “I am close to experiencing an unaccustomed emotion.”

“The Way to Eden”

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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.

Grade: Pistachio

Line of the Episode: 

“Be incorrect, occasionally.”
“And you be correct.”
“Occasionally.”

“The Cloud Minders”

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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.)

Grade: Vanilla

Line of the Episode: 

“What would Troglytes do here?”
Live. In the sunlight and warmth as everyone should.”

World’s Worst Trekkie: The Omega Glory, The Ultimate Computer, Bread and Circuses, and Assignment: Earth

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.

Grade: Chocolate

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

Grade: Strawberry

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”

“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.

Grade: Vanilla

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.”

World’s Worst Trekkie: Carlie Takes On “The Changeling”

In the middle of working, seeing Hamilton, watching Good Omens, planning for the annual Clarion West Write-a-Thon, and writing “one quick Shadowhunters fanfic” that’s somehow exploded into the size of a goddamn novella, I’m afraid that my blog has fallen a bit by the wayside. Today, however, I have our next TOS recap, in which Kirk invites a killer space probe on board the Enterprise–his options are limited–and things go downhill from there.

Especially for Uhura.

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World’s Worst Trekkie: Carlie Takes On “The Return of the Archons”

You ever play that game where someone writes the first paragraph of a story and hands it to the next person, who writes the second paragraph of the story and hands it to a third person, who–while looking only at the directly preceding section–writes the third paragraph of the story, and so on and so forth? Usually, you get something that only kinda/sorta makes narrative sense, and not just because Janet tried to skew the whole collaboration into a string of alien sex jokes. Don’t try and look innocent, Janet; there were no aliens OR butt stuff anywhere in the six preceding paragraphs!

Well, that’s kinda what this episode reminds me of. Minus Janet and the butt stuff.

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