World’s Worst Trekkie: The Mark of Gideon, That Which Survives, and The Lights of Zetar

“The Mark of Gideon”

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(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”

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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.

Grade: Vanilla

Line of the Episode: 

“Question is, why are you alive?”
“Captain, I’m happy the way it turned out.”

“The Lights of Zetar”

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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.”

World’s Worst Trekkie: Day of the Dove, For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky, and The Tholian Web

“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.)

Grade: Chocolate

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.”

Grade: Pistachio

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”

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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.

Grade: Vanilla

Line of the Episode: 

“The renowned Tholian punctuality.”

World’s Worst Trekkie: Carlie Takes On “Space Seed”

Mekaela and I have been binging Brooklyn Nine-Nine pretty much nonstop (seriously, it’s INSANE how fast we’ve gone through four seasons), so Star Trek has kinda fallen by the wayside lately. Recently, however, we did watch one episode that I’ve been looking forward to checking out since we started this TOS-watch.

Buckle up, kids: it’s the KHAN EPISODE.

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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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