Trek Review: “Who Mourns for Adonais?”

When the topic of Greek mythology came up in high school, I quickly realized that I had been exposed to the subject before.  It was the Greek god Apollo, as depicted by the versatile actor Michael Forrest, in the episode “Who Mourns for Adonais?”

The story is an intriguing idea in its depiction of how Greek gods could just be beings on a higher level of existence instead of a true deity.  My personal beliefs are that deities can be fallible, and Apollo certainly is that.  His constant demands for praise certainly are shortsighted.   A caring individual would certainly realize that the humanity of the 23rd century would have certainly outgrown the need for a being such as himself to give guidance and power.

That alone is not the true driving element of the story.  What drives it is the love interest between Apollo and Lieutenant Carolyn Palamas, played by Leslie Parrish.  She is an historian on the Enterprise, the A&A officer (as McCoy puts it at one point, meaning Archaeology and Anthropology.)  She takes a liking to Apollo and is quite smitten with him.  Kirk forces her to remember her duty of course and she has to poison that love for the betterment of the crew’s survival.  It had to end that way and it is very tragic to watch Apollo be destroyed and fade into oblivion.  Kirk is left to think if a little bit of worship would have been too much to ask.

On screen, that’s where the story ended.  It has been well documented that there was a tag scene on the bridge where we learn that Carolyn was in fact impregnated by Apollo during their time together on Pollux IV.  If you want to read the scene as it was written, go here to Orion Press and scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Of course NBC’s Broadcast Standards would never have allowed that to remain in a TV show in 1967.  It was way too suggestive.  However, it is still a very controversial and storied point in the story.  It has great emotional impact and definitely could have set up a sequel episode dealing with that child and what would happen from that point forward.  If only… if only…

Next week: I. AM. NOMAD.


Trek Review: “Amok Time”

Star Trek barely staved off cancellation, but got renewed. Most TV shows that get a reprieve and see a second season might get retooled and become worse off and then lose their popularity very quickly. In the case of Trek however, thank goodness, it did not.

The cast and crew deserved to have a few weeks off in between the two seasons, and they returned in May 1967 to being filming the second season. When it came time for all of their hard work over the summer to finally be seen on NBC, the powers that be had several excellent episodes to draw from, in my opinion.

Of all of the episodes, I think they picked the best one of the whole lot, “Amok Time,” to open the broadcast schedule on September 15th, 1967.

The story revolves around Spock, betrothed to a Vulcan woman named T’Pring at the age of seven, having to return to his home planet to answer his mating call, known as Pon Farr. He has to fight Captain Kirk to the death in a very memorable combat sequence, known not only for the visuals, but also for Gerald Fried’s awesome music.

This episode embodies just how wonderful the characterization and the concept of Star Trek is so unique in its own regard. I always put myself in Kirk’s place in this show, trying to think of “What would I have done?” In every instance, I wouldn’t change a decision he made. Spock is not only his First Officer, but his friend, and deserves more than to just be brushed off by the service because of some diplomatic mission. It’s not that easy for most people to put their career on the line for the sake of one individual, but Kirk doesn’t care. He shouldn’t care.

One plot element that makes a brief reappearance here is Nurse Chapel, played by Majel Barrett, and her affection for Spock. She tried to give him some Plomeek Soup (a Vulcan delicacy) at a couple of points. I am surprised they never explored that plot point more in future episodes, but then again, as NBC had a long standing disdain for Barrett in the first place, I can see why they didn’t.

The thing about this episode that immortalizes it for me, and for many others, is the aforementioned music score by Gerald Fried. How many TV scores that you know of are quoted in other movies? I am referring of course to the ubiquitous fight music from Act Four. It was quoted in the comedy movie “The Cable Guy” by Jim Carrey during a scene set in a medieval themed restaurant. The guitar-based theme for Spock just embodies the spookiness and logical aspects of his character so, so well. It fits like a glove. I couldn’t imagine this show without that score. Rip it away and you have only half of the story.

As I said before, this was the perfect show to open the season. This episode surely would make me and the rest of the audience feel for 100% certain that the letter writing campaign to save the show earlier in the year was worth every effort.

Next week: Greek salad, or gods, take your pick…


Trek Review: “The Alternative Factor”

Where in the world do I begin to analyze this very confusing mess of an episode?

Any attempt by me to try and describe the plot here would probably confuse you even more and might melt your brain.  Suffice it to say that I don’t think anyone could do any better or worse.  If you are curious, just read the entry at Memory Alpha (the Star Trek wiki.)

This show was very troubled at every stage of production.  One of the great blogs out there that I love to read is Star Trek Fact Check by Michael Kmet.  He has done a whole series of articles looking through production documents trying to make some sense of what was going on behind the scenes in the production of this episode.  His blog was started to try and clear up misinformation printed in other books, but on top of that there is lots of great information about what was going on during the development of this disastrous episode.  Here is a link to Part 1 of his look at the production.  He will be writing more on the topic in the future.

It’s well documented that John Drew Barrymore had agreed to guest star in this episode and play Lazarus, only to not show up for work.  Desilu complained to the Screen Actors Guild and he got suspended for 6 months as a result.  Robert Brown had to step in on practically no notice and play this role.  He tried, but I don’t think any actor could have salvaged what was already a watered down, confusing script.

Let’s examine some of the many story points that I have problems with here:

The propensity for Lazarus to continue to fall off of cliffs and ledges is just flooring.  He does this multiple times throughout the episode.

I can understand it happening the first time, but *two* times?  Even the most inexperienced starship Captain would not let him go near a rock formation after the first time.  Maybe Kirk just hated Lazarus.  The galaxy may never know.

The cheapened Engineering set.  A set was already built, why did they go to this crappy setup?

I mean, it’s nothing but a small room with various consoles we’ve seen in previous episodes.  Granted, it was described in earlier drafts as the “Energizing Lab.”  Couldn’t they just have called it the “Dilithium Chamber Room” or something more conducive to it *not* being Engineering?  Another blemishing script detail that was overlooked.

Speaking of which, in that photo, is Lieutenant Masters, played by Janet MacLachlan.  She does as good as she can do here, but her role was to be so much bigger than it actually ended up being.  I refer to of course the fact that Masters and Lazarus #1 (the bad one) was supposed to have some sort of romantic relationship.  As the Fact Check article mentions, “Space Seed” also had a female crew member in love with the antagonist.  One of the stories had to be changed.   As a matter of fact, Stan Robertson, the NBC Standards and Practices representative assigned to Star Trek, suggested that Masters be a civilian instead of a crew member in order to make the plot in this episode make more sense.  That suggestion fell on deaf ears apparently, Gene Coon removed this aspect of the story.  I felt that if Robertson’s idea had been utilized, it might have made the story stronger and more coherent to me.

I get the story.  I get what it was aiming for.  Two beings in parallel universes.  The bad one, the negative one, trying to destroy the positive one and bring down two universes in the process.  Matter and anti-matter.  Like I said, it’s not that I don’t get the story idea at all.  It’s just that the execution of this is very, very sloppy, awful, painful, downright…. I think I’ve ran out of adjectives to describe the debauchery that is going on here.

I don’t think there is an actual soul out there that even likes this episode.  Is it the worst episode of the entire series?  I’m going to go out on a limb and say it very well could be.  If “Spock’s Brain” didn’t exist, I am sure that a lot of people would think that this would be the worst.  If you were to say this was the worst episode of the first season, then you would not be debated for an instant.

Fortunately, next week, we go from what could be the worst, to my absolute favorite episode of the entire Original Series:

Trek Review: “The Devil in the Dark”

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I enjoy this episode.  “The Devil in the Dark” has always been in my top 5 for the entire series.  It possesses all of the elements that make a great episode.

I won’t go into plot details here because that would make this post longer than it should be.

What makes this episode stand out is the acting of Leonard Nimoy when he is mind-melding with the Horta.  To give you a small taste, watch this clip:

“PAAAAINNNN!!!” is what I will always remember.  As many fans know, William Shatner’s father died during the production of this episode, and it’s a long told anecdote of his that when he got back to the set and Nimoy did that bit for him, he said “Somebody get that Vulcan an Aspirin!”  Who knows if that is true or not, but it’s hilarious camaraderie on the set.

The moral questions raised by this episode are great ones.  When it is finally revealed that the miners have inadvertently been killing the Horta’s children, everyone takes the right course of realizing what had gone wrong and are truly sorry.  I always appreciated how everyone, while feeling they had to kill the creature to get the mining facility back up and running, that when they find out you have the last of a kind creature instead… you take a different spin.  The crew realizes that such creature had cause for what was going on.

Eventually, coexistence wins out.  That allegory still could teach everyone in this modern world, 50 years later.  A lot of people could learn from the other and coexist together.  At the danger of sounding political, that lesson is still very, very relevant today.

All in all, this is a top tier story of any Star Trek series.

No show next week, as Star Trek was preempted for an NBC special, so we’ll see you back in two weeks for the introduction of some people you might recognize!

Trek Review: “Space Seed”

This episode.  This one right here.  The definition of a true classic.  I can say that up front with certainty because that’s what “Space Seed” is.

Khan Noonien Singh is the quintessential Star Trek villain.  He’s formidable, he’s smart, he’s strong.  It also helps that he’s been genetically engineered too.  It’s a gripping tale that is quite frightening for someone watching in 1967 to think that the 1990’s might hold such catastrophic events as predicted by this episode here.  Of course, in hindsight now, the 1990s was two decades ago, and there wasn’t a World War then, nor were there genetic supermen ruling the world.  However, to put yourself in the context of when this first aired, it still is very frightening and very unsurprising all at the same time.

When you think about where humanity has been and where we are going, maybe the suggestion of the events in this episode isn’t too far off, just the timing is wrong.  Look at what’s happening in the world now.  Things are happening in many facets of life that we never would have considered before, yet they are happening around us.  That’s what happened in the back story of “Space Seed.”  It’s a cautionary tale for sure.

Ricardo Montalban just proves how much he’s an awesome actor.  Whenever I see something he’s starred in, I am just drawn to him.  His presence,  his charisma, it’s so powerful.  He was one of a kind.

Even though the big fight at the end of the episode, which is the second fight in as many episodes to take place in Engineering, is obviously handled by stunt doubles, it is still very tense and dramatic.  You think I’m kidding?  Look at these screenshots:

Please, leave your disbelief properly suspended at the door!

Oh, and one more thing.  This episode has always been significant on another level for me.  Way back in 1992, this episode was one of the first VHS tapes I ever bought with my own money.  I still have that VHS:

That sucker cost $14.95 at Wal-Mart in Big Stone Gap, VA.  VHS was expensive, even then.  Just look at the adjustment for inflation!

I only got 2 or 3 of those at that price, and not all at the same time.  Imagine buying 80 of those to collect the whole series.  Before tax, that is $1,196. I think anyone’s parents would laugh while saying no to that idea.

Next week, let’s voluntarily step into a disintegration chamber!

Trek Review: “Court Martial”

Oh me, oh my, where do I begin with this episode?  As you can tell by the tone of that introductory statement, “Court Martial” has never been one of my favorite episodes.  It’s not that the concept of the story was bad, but the execution was very, very lacking.

I’m sure you know the story, Kirk’s old friend dies under his watch… the computer has been altered to make the evidence damning against him, etc.  Herein lies a problem:  how that evidence was damning.  Observe this screenshot from the playback of the visual log:

As suggested in the story, Captain Kirk pressed the jettison button himself.  Why in all creation would he have that button conveniently on his panel?  And for that matter, the Yellow Alert and Red Alert?  And just how can a visual log be that detailed anyway?  A lot of plot contrivance in my opinion.

Also, at the end of the episode, they use a “white sound device” to try and isolate Finney’s heartbeat and establish that he isn’t actually dead.  Dr. McCoy has to go through the process of eliminating everyone else’s heartbeats.  It has been established in previous episodes that the Enterprise can scan and find people on planets, but why in the world can’t they scan their own ship and find a nefarious crewman that has gone rogue?  Very confusing.

There is a good story in there, but I don’t think it was presented to its fullest potential.  Not one of the better episodes of the first season.  I can see why the powers that be wanted to hold it back for telecast at the end of the season.

Next week: Landru!

Trek Review: “Tomorrow is Yesterday”

If you will recall, at the end of “The Naked Time,” the Enterprise traveled back in time 71 hours escaping the situation that they were in.  That was not the original way that episode was supposed to end, however.  As has been documented in countless books and documentaries, the original ending was for our heroes to end up in 1969 instead.  Well, that part two didn’t happen there, but the idea of it didn’t go away.  It was made later in the season and became Star Trek’s first foray into the past, which is almost the present, in the all-time classic “Tomorrow is Yesterday.”

Roger Perry plays Captain Christopher, an Air Force pilot who ends up on the Enterprise, which has been placed in 1969 by way of an accident after trying to escape the pull of a black hole.

All of the drama and a little hilarity that ensues is top notch Trek.  I always loved the scenes on Earth in the Air Force base.  Especially, the “What was that?”, “What was what?” (which was coyly brought up again in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home during a similar situation.)

One minor thing however, is during all of the attempt at the end of the episode to get back to their present time is that if you’re not paying attention, you probably will get lost.  There are a lot of moving parts and pieces to what’s going on, what with having to go back in time, then forward in time involving the magnetic pull of the sun.  It’s actually interesting to me, and I wonder if the theory would actually be true, or is it truly science fiction?  I probably won’t be alive if we ever achieve any level of star flight to be able to test that theory, but still, I wonder…

This episode has always been one of my top 10 favorites. That will never change.

If only it was that Part Two… if only….

Next week, Kirk is in trouble, and there is a few plot holes here and there to boot…

Trek Review: “Arena”

This is undoubtedly one of the most well known episodes of not just Star Trek, but of any TV show.  Everyone out there at one time or another has seen the Gorn, even if they don’t know a Gorn by name.  Just mention that creepy lizard-like alien, and they’ll remember this episode.

This episode has always held a special place in my heart.  I just love its scope and its depth.  Most of all, I love the planet location, Vasquez Rocks.

I love this location so much, that me and Greg went there back in March 2008 on our second trip out to Los Angeles.

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When we were there that day, there were lots of high wind warnings around.  The sand was being blown all over the park, which made it impossible to really see anything.  If it wasn’t so windy, I would have climbed up to the top of the famous rock face and pretended I was Kirk rolling down that giant foam boulder. 😛

I am sure that everyone watching this episode back in 1967 were pleasantly thrilled for the entire hour.  I find it interesting that Kirk is taking such a stance of “the aliens must be destroyed” and Spock trying to change his mind.  It makes me wonder why McCoy wasn’t there to try to interject his opinions more.  That will always remain a mystery as to why Gene Coon didn’t write it that way.  It doesn’t make the episode any less enjoyable for me anyway.

Next week, we go back in time… to not quite the present:

Trek Review: “The Squire of Gothos”

Greeting and felicitations!  With those words, Trek fans were introduced to one of the most interesting, dynamic characters of the Original Series.

Trelane, the lonely Squire of Gothos, who in reality is a very superior being.  Except for one thing, he’s a very young child, or at least what we would consider a child.

When I first saw this episode, I honestly did not have any idea until the reveal at the end of the episode that Trelane was, in fact, a child.  I thought he was just what was he was being presented to be up to that point, a very omnipotent being with no regard for what he was doing.  That’s exactly what they wanted us to think!  I have to give a clever tip of the cap to the production team, they had me fooled.

William Campbell’s portrayal of Trelane is very exquisite.  I still chuckle every time when, in the “hunt” with Kirk, he exclaims to him “YOU BROKE MY SWORD!”

What would the audience of 1967 have thought?  Probably the same as I did, that they would have been left guessing for the whole hour just who this Trelane fellow really was, and then the realization at the end hits, “Aha!”

Something of note that has always interested me about the character of Trelane:  there was a novel written by Peter David called “Q Squared” in which he suggests that Trelane is a member of the Q Continuum.  I could buy that, even though the novels are considered non-canonical.  It still is an interesting theory.

Next week, one of the most remembered alien encounters that is often quoted in pop culture…

Trek Review: “The Galileo Seven”

Welcome to 1967!  As Trek begins the new year, it tells a tale of test and survival on a mysterious planetoid.  It’s the episode that introduces the shuttlecraft to Trek lore, “The Galileo Seven.

While I want to like this episode 100%, I have always had this nagging feeling that there was something amiss in this storyline.  Time and time again I have tried to realize what that thought was.  Every time I watch it, I’m just so pulled in by the story that I don’t stop to analyze that nagging feeling I keep having.

I guess the problem I have is that Spock has this crew with him and most of them have to constantly question his methods and his lack of emotion.  Shouldn’t they already know that about Spock?  Any intelligent being should know and respect the differences in one another.  I realize of course that it has to be this way in order for the plot to work.  That’s why it doesn’t detract too much for me to not be able to enjoy the episode.

I like the conflict between Kirk and High Commissioner Ferris a lot, it adds an interesting dynamic to the desperate search that is ongoing to find the missing shuttle crew.

All around, another great story and a great episode to open 1967 for Trek.

Next week, we meet one of the most interesting foes in all of Trek lore, with comparisons to some later omnipotent beings: