Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Where No Man Has Gone Before: TOS Season 1 Episode 3

Plot Synopsis

The Enterprise is planning on leaving the galaxy, which is something no one has ever tried before as far as they know. Right before hand they see the wreckage of an old ship the Valiant that went missing 2 centuries ago and they recover it's black box. It turns out the captain use the auto-destruct, which is troubling as it makes them wonder what happened to make him want to go to those extremes. They try to leave the galaxy anyway and they encounter a lot of flashing lights, and in particular something happens to a few of the bridge crew. It also blew out the warp drive.

The guy who got hit was Mitchell, and he immediately has fancy blue glitter eyes, so he is obviously taken to sickbay.

While he is in sickbay he develops some really cool powers, he reads half of the ships library while he's there, he can make himself appear dead for a while, he can read minds, he saved the ship from losing it's impulse drive by reading the engineers mind and seeing that he was careless in his last inspection.

Spock says that as Mitchell gains more power he will become more than human, people will be an annoyance to him and he wouldn't hesitate kill us all if it suits him. His solution is to kill him, or perhaps maroon him on the nearby planet Delta Vega. Kirk is upset as he has been friends with Mitchell for 15 years, but ultimately seems to conclude that this is likely going to be a necessary outcome.

It turns out that there is an abandoned base on Delta Vega. I'm not sure why there is an old base so close to a place no one has ever gone, but it's a good thing it's there, because they can use the facilities to repair their warp engines.While they are there the doctor's powers eventually kick in, and Mitchell's power grows to the point that he breaks out of the cell. The two of them run off into the desolate wilderness. He turns a wasteland into a lush area with water and plants and whatnot.

Kirk feels he is responsible and chases after them, he gets in a fight with Mitchell and the doctor sees the bad side of what could happen so she helps Kirk by sapping some of Mitchell's power away. Then Kirk and Mitchell get into a pretty epic fight which eventually leads to Mitchell's death. In the fight Kirk's shirt gets ripped and he gets to show off his manliness for a while. I don't know why but this really cracked me up.

Notable Quotes

There were three quotes from this episode that I liked, the first two were about Spock's lack of emotions. In the first, Kirk asked Spock if he found something irritating and Spock responded
Irritating? Ahh yes, one of your earth emotions
The other was right after Spock suggested that the most logical course of action was to kill Mitchell before his power was so great that it would be impossible to deal with him, Kirk yelled at him
Try for one moment to feel, or act like you have a heart!
 The last quote was from Mitchell near the end when his powers were God-like. Kirk was trying to reason with him that he shouldn't abuse his power, and he said
Morals are for men, not Gods
Interesting Ideas

One of the things I love about science fiction generally and Star Trek specifically is that they use a specific and fanciful setting to tackle ideas that come up in my different setting in real life. Of course things are taken to ridiculous extremes, but that is part of the fun. In this episode there were three things that stood out to me as interesting ideas that they were playing with, the first is the idea that power corrupts. Mitchell was friends with Kirk, and presumably other people on the enterprise, for a long time. And yet, when he was significantly more powerful than them and his interests were very different he became less concerned with their perspective. I think we all like to think that we would not do this in the same situation, but it's hard to not be self-interested.

The next idea is that you should take care of a difficult problem before it gets worse. Obviously killing Mitchell was a terrible thing to do, and yet if he is likely going to get more powerful and try to kill everyone perhaps it is the right move. It turned out that Spock was right here, even though his course of action was something that we would hate to do, it ultimately would have been the right move.

And on the same topic, what lengths would you go to in order to protect those you care about? Would you do something you found deplorable if it meant you would protect your family (or crew)? Kirk found the price too high, Spock did not. Was it worth the risk if it meant giving Mitchell the chance to be good?

Seat of Their Pant Writing

Something else I was thinking about a lot while watching this episode was how the writing is a bit more loose than the Next Generation writing, which I watched a lot when I was growing up. I think in the Next Gen era they had a lot of details worked out before hand, in this series I think they were focused on the core story and just let the rest of it fall together as was necessary.

This episode started with them leaving the galaxy, obviously from the later series we see that we are restricted to the alpha quadrant, so this wouldn't be possible there, but in this earlier time it was no big deal. There also seems to be no explanation as to what happened to them when they tried to leave the galaxy. If this were a later series I would expect some explanation like there was an alien species who were trying to contain us in our own galaxy or something. Here it is just "this happened, now let's deal with it" rather than telling us why it happened.

Another thing that I found amusing was that they lost there warp engines near the edge of the galaxy, which is a place that as far as they knew no one had ever tried to go that far. And yet there was an old abandoned base on a nearby planet. It seems to me that if there was a base so old it has since been abandoned, they would have explored outside the galaxy while they were there at some point. And if people had tried that and were eventually destroyed (like the Valiant) there should be a record of it. Not that I think that is much of a knock on the series, it just shows that their writing was more focused on the broad ideas instead of the details.

One final thing that amused me, the Valiant went missing 2 centuries before, but I think the original series only happened about 3 centuries in the future. I suppose that could be optimism on Gene Roddenberry's part that we would be at the edge of the galaxy in 100 years, but I'm guessing it is more than the actual date that this is supposed to happen was not decided on at the time. In fact, I bet that's why they used star dates. "What year did this happen?" "I don't know, really far into the future, so we can do whatever we want, just make up a fake dating system". While I'm on that, at one point in the episode Kirk said it was stardate 1312.9, perhaps this was supposed to be thirteen hundred years after starfleet was founded or something. Who knows.


Something that really stood out to me was that the doctor wasn't McCoy. I think that perhaps the only true main characters at this point are Kirk and Spock. There are several other characters that recur, but those 2 are the only ones that always seem to be there. I wonder if they are trying to give the impression that it is a big ship with rotating crews for different times. It makes sense that there would be multiple people in every important role. On the other hand, the doctor had to die, so maybe that is why there was a new person there.

Spock: We see more attention given to the fact that he is logical and not emotional. He's cold and calculating, will to do the lesser of two evils which would make most of us at least hesitate.

Kirk: He demonstrates his good character. He wants to give Mitchell every chance to do the right thing, but ultimately takes responsibility for not acting sooner.



Do you agree with my rating or any of my analysis? Let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Charlie X: TOS Season 1 Episode 2

Plot synopsis:

The episode starts with the enterprise bringing aboard a child (Charlie) from another ship, the Antares. Apparently they found him alone on a planet. 14 years ago there was a crash and he was the only survivor, he was 3 years old at the time. Obviously this means that he will be socially a little bit off, since he grew up alone. Two members of the crew from the Antares beam over with Charlie and talk with Kirk in the transporter room before they leave in somewhat of a hurry. It seems like they are going to tell Kirk something about Charlie, but he uses his mysterious power and they just say how great he is or something like that. 

At one point Charlie interrupts the conversation of the others and Kirk tells him that it is not the way people act. Kirk wasn't mean to the kid, but he does make it clear he doesn't take shit from anyone. Kirk asks Yeoman Janice to take him to his quarters and he asks if she is a woman. This is the second episode in a row where she had to deal with a creepy guy, I think that might be her purpose in this show.

We later see Charlie getting checked out by Dr. McCoy, he is in good health. He then tells the doctor that he  wants people to like him. I'm sure anyone who can remember being 17 can relate. The then runs into Janice in the hall and has a short conversation with her, as he walks away he slaps her on the ass. Anyone who can remember being a 17 year old boy can certainly understand the impulse.

There is an argument between Spock and McCoy as to whether it was possible that Charlie was really all alone on the planet. Spock doesn't think it was possible, as the ships stores of food would have ran out after a year or so, McCoy says he could have started eating food from the planet but Spock doesn't think that seems likely. 

The next scene was great, it was in a mess hall or cafeteria or something. Spock was playing some type of futuristic stringed instrument, my guess is it is a take on a lute. Anyway, he's playing and Uhura starts singing along with him. It was a fun little scene, and everyone was enjoying the music. But then Charlie came into the room and tried to talk to Janice, she nodded at him but then motioned for him to be quiet and enjoy the music. He then used his power to break the instrument and mess up Uhura's voice, he then got Janice's attention and showed her some pretty impressive card tricks. Like, turning an ace into a picture of Janice.

In the next scene we see Kirk talking to the ships cook telling him that for thanksgiving the crew would eat meatloaf, but it better taste like turkey. I found this scene hilarious, partly because I just love the idea of passing meatloaf off as turkey, and partly because it is amusing to think the captain of the ship would be dealing with this. It is also interesting that they celebrate thanksgiving, apparently the united federation of planets is american (not that they've mentioned the federation yet, for all I know in Gene Roddenberry's head at this point the ship is an american ship, although I'd guess he just didn't think about this point much if at all). Charlie overheard this conversation, and later we find out that the meatloaf that got put into the ovens actually turned into turkeys.

From there Charlie follows Kirk onto the bridge where they are having trouble contacting the Antares, Charlie seems to know something is wrong with the ship before anyone else, we find out later that he actually caused the ship to blow up, of course he claims it would have happened anyway. He never seemed concerned that he had killed 20 people, just that those people had made him feel bad. Teenagers with super powers is a really bad idea.

After that Charlie has a few more failed social interactions. He loses to 3D chess with Spock, after which Spock leaves and Charlie melts his pieces. Janice tries to introduce him to someone his age but he's not interested. Then he tries to learn to fight from Kirk but expects to be perfect the first time out and of course that doesn't go well. Another guy in the rec room laughs at him and his makes him disappear, the extent of his powers are now evident and the fun and games are over. Kirk calls in security and Charlie makes their phaser disappear, we later learn that all phasers on the whole ship are gone. 

Kirk tells him to go to his quarters, but he doesn't listen and pretty much has control of the whole ship. He goes to Janice's quarters and gives her a flower, she's not interested and he gets upset and makes her disappear. He roams the ship a bit getting into some more mischief, for instance, making some poor girl's face disappear.

We cut to the bridge, Kirk notices that no one has disappeared since the kid has taken over the ship (he either didn't know about Janice, or I got the order of things slightly wrong). Kirk decides that they will overwhelm him by turning on everything on the ship "every light". I found this absolutely hilarious, as if the displays are what matter, presumably all of these functions on the ship still need to be going on in the background whether there is a display on the bridge or not. Anyway, Charlie comes on the bridge and McCoy and Spock turn on all the displays. It seemed to be working that he was overwhelmed, but it didn't matter, a Thasian ship showed up. They are energy being who had taken care of Charlie as a kid, they gave him powers so that he could survive. Kirk tries to say they could teach him to not use his powers, but they said it was impossible for him to not use his powers (ask Riker about that) and want to take him back. Charlie complains as they are immaterial and he can't feel them like he can feel people on the Enterprise, but he is ultimately taken by the Thasians and all of their people who were disappeared were given back. It actually wound up being a fairly sad ending, Charlie got totally screwed.


Yeoman Janice: So far she seems to be a lightning rod of sorts for creepy guys. I wonder how long she'll be part of the show, I don't remember ever seeing her in the movies.

Kirk: We see that he cares greatly for people, but he also runs a tight ship and won't take crap from anyone.

Spock: We see Spock playing his lute-like instrument, which is cool. My mental picture of his is the epitome of cold hard logic, but he is clearly having fun here. He is also very involved in solving mysteries of the ship.

Dr. McCoy: He seems to be around more than I would expect. I would think the doctor would be in sickbay more often, but he seems to be on the bridge a lot, for example the discussion with Spock over whether Charlie was really alone on the planet. Nothing wrong with this, just surprised be a bit.



I had a lot of trouble rating this one. There were certainly some enjoyable moments. And I feel like I'm getting to know the bridge crew a bit which is great. On the other hand, Charlie's powers and the story line around him was a bit goofy. I certainly felt sorry for him, he had to deal with the terribleness of being a teenager pushed to the extreme. It would have been nice if there was some payoff at the end, maybe the Thasians could have taken his powers away and he could go on to starbase to try to live a normal life, him just being taken away was a pretty big bummer. I think that is what made me decide between a 6 and a 7.

Please feel free to tell me what rating you would have given this episode in the comments

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Man Trap: TOS Season 1 Episode 1

Plot Synopsis:

The Enterprise has come to a planet which is only inhabited by a researcher and his wife Nancy. Kirk, Dr. McCoy, and another person (who isn't mentioned in the voice over, hint hint) beam down to check on the researcher and give them supplies they have asked for, salt. It turns out that Nancy is an old love of Dr. McCoy. When they beam down, they meet up with Nancy first, they don't realize that they each see her as a different person. The third crewman sees her as a beautiful woman he had seen on some pleasure planet so he of course makes some rude comments and is told to wait outside. At some point she went out, ostensibly to tell him she wasn't offended, and she "finds him" dead with red marks on his face.

blue shirt, Why not red shirt?
They go back up to the ship to figure out how their crewman died and eventually discover that there is no salt left in his body. Obviously they notice the connection with the people on the ground whose only request is salt, but they don't know what to make of it yet. They beam down again with a few extra people (wearing blue and gold shirts, again, no red shirt deaths) to try to figure out what is going on. They split up to look for Nancy and the two extra crewmen wind up dead. The creature who is pretending to be Nancy takes the form of one of the dead crewmen and meets back up with the others, they beam up to the ship. He's now searching around the ship looking for salt, he sees a woman bringing a tray of food to Sulu and he follows her as there is a salt shaker on the tray. He creeps her out and winds up having to run off.

Mmm salt
He roams around and kills some more people, and then pretends to be Nancy again and convinces the doctor to go to sleep, then he impersonates him and meets up with the bridge crew. We find out from the researcher on the planet that this species used to thrive on the planet, but this is the last one, they make comparisons to buffalo. Kirk mentions that they have salt traps all over the ship but so far the creature hasn't tripped any of the traps. Dr. McCoy (who is really the monster) says they should just give him salt, Kirk says he would potentially be willing to do something like that except that it has killed a number of his crew.

So that's where those red circles came from
After the meeting, the monster goes back to McCoy and Kirk and Spock wind up in there with them. There is a fight and eventually the monster gets killed by McCoy, who didn't want to kill it because it looked like Nancy. And then it's over, a fairly unsatisfying ending in my opinion.

Notable quotes:

Kirk to McCoy about Nancy "Stop thinking with your glands"

Yomen carrying the food to the creepy follower "Why don't you go chase an asteroid?"



To me, this episode is really on the low end of acceptable. There was very little exploration about the monster's past or what happened to it's society, that would have been interesting. And a more satisfying ending could have made it a lot better as well, it was just like "this is the last of his species, aaaaaand dead. Welp, let's fly off to our next mission." Not really any character development for any of the main characters either, so it's not like this was a backdrop of sorts so that we would have much of a chance to get to know the bridge crew or the enterprise. Please let me know how you would rate it in the comments.