Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Menagerie: TOS Season 1 Episode 11 & 12

Plot Synopsis

This is certainly an interesting episode, the original pilot "the cage" was only shown to the television executives. They wanted to repackage that episode and deliver it to the public, so they combined it with another story and made it a two-parter. According to the wikipedia page, with all of their special effects they were having trouble getting things done on time, so this not only kept them from wasting the footage of the original pilot, but it also gave them some breathing room.

We start the episode with the enterprise coming to a starbase, which is apparently an unscheduled visit. Kirk insists that they were called there and the guy in charge of the starbase insists that it didn't happen. Kirk says the only possibility is that Spock lies, which is impossible since he's Vulcan. Of course, he's half human, but that part of him is repressed so it still seems impossible. We soon find out that indeed Spock is behind all of this as he sneaks around and uses recordings of various voices to take control of the Enterprise.

The reasons for doing this are not immediately clear, but we do know that it has something to do with Captain Pike and the forbidden planet Talos 4. Breaking the quarantine is the only thing left that still holds the death penalty. Captain Pike was seriously injured in an accident, he was saving children from a fire, or building collapse, or...something, I forget. The point is, he helped a bunch of people but got really hurt in the process. He is confined to a wheelchair and can only communicate through beeps (one for yes, two for no) but his mind works perfectly.

Shortly after Spock has taken the Enterprise and is en route to Talos 4, Kirk figures out what is going on and follows in a shuttle, he won't be able to catch up, but once he runs out of fuel and is stuck Spock goes back to pick him up and submits for a court marshal. But he has the computer set to autopilot to go to Talos 4, and he somehow tied the engines in with life-support so it can't be canceled. We proceed with the trial in which Spock shows evidence which basically consists of showing The Cage interspersed with scenes of the trial. 

The rest of it was pretty much the same except for the ending. In the Cage, when they let the Enterprise crew go and the girl stayed, a copy of Pike was left there for her to love. In this episode, they seemed to just let the Enterprise crew go and she stayed there, apparently alone. Then they cut back to the ship and Pike was sent down the the planet to be with the Talosians who could give him the illusion of having a body, and effectively escape the confines of his broken body. Then they cut to the same scene with Pike and the girl. I like this ending much better, as the illusion of Pike staying behind always made me a bit uncomfortable.


Spock: This may or may not be the first time we've seen this, but they talked about how Vulcan's can't lie and therefore Spock shouldn't be able to, but he might be able to break this as he's half human. (Episodes 4 and 5 mentioned that he was half human, but I don't think it has mentioned that Vulcans can't lie yet)

Enterprise: Again, not exactly a character, but learning things about the ship sort of fits in the same category. We learn that the events of The Cage happened 13 years ago, but the opening credits say the ship is on a 5 year mission. I never really thought about it before, but I guess the ship had been around longer in the past, and it is just embarking on this particular 5 year mission recently. I had always assumed that the 5 year mission started when the Enterprise was first built, apparently not.



Intense Debate Comments

I've decided to remove intense debate and go back to the default blogger comments. Of course, ID holds your comment threads hostage so you will stay with it, but luckily I don't have too many. I have taken screenshots and edited them into the bottom of their posts so they won't be lost.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Corbomite Maneuver: TOS Season 1 Episode 10

Plot Synopsis

The Enterprise is once again farther out than anyone ever has been before. They were soon blocked by a cube in space. As they tried to move away from it, the cube compensated and stayed in their way. It was also emitting some kind of radiation so they needed to get away from it. When the situation began, Kirk was getting his quarterly physical, so he didn't see the red alert right away. This was great for two reasons, first, it was an excuse to have Kirk with his shirt off again, and two, it allowed Bones to deliver the line "What am I, a doctor or a moon shuttle conductor?" Great stuff

Kirk gets to the bridge and asks for an update. Spock says they are caught in fly-paper, an apt analogy. Given that communications are not being returned they have a few options. They can sit and wait for whoever put them in that trap, but they throw out that idea as it just shows weakness. This leaves them the options of destroying the cube or trying to get away from it. They decide to first try to get away, but it matches their every move and the radiation gets worse so they are forced to eventually destroy it. Kirk is not deterred and continues moving forward. 

After a bit of time goes by, another ship shows up, a gigantic sphere. It gets them in a tractor beam and scans their ship. It is quickly apparent that it is far superior to the Enterprise, it gives them "ten Earth time periods, known as minutes" to get their affairs in order and then it is going to destroy them. Spock compares their situation to a game of chess and they are definitely losing. Kirk instead compares it to a game of poker and performs a pretty epic bluff. He says that starfleet ships all have a secret material in their hull call Corbomite, any attacking ship will get their weapons bounced back to them. No ship has ever been destroyed, instead the attacker always loses. The big ship decides against destroying the enterprise and instead is going to tow them...somewhere, with a smaller ship.

They figure that the small ship must have limited power and the tractor beam must use up a lot of that power, so they slowly turn their engines on to work against the tow and to drain power from the small ship. At some point the little ship is incapacitated and the Enterprise gets away. They are all set to run off, but they realize the little ship is sending out a distress signal and the big ship is too far away to receive it. Some people still want to run away, but Kirk points out that finding new life is their mission, and they beam over to the little ship. It turns out that this whole thing was a test by an alien (who looks like a little kid) to see how they would react. The scan suggested they would pass the test, but those records can be manipulated, he couldn't know until he really did it. Everyone had a good laugh

Does it make sense?

I really like the idea of this episode. A stronger being pretending to be weaker and seeing how we react. It goes a long way to see someone's true nature when they think they have the upper hand. How do they treat people who are in a position of weakness. Of course they will treat you well if they think you can squish them, but if the tables are turned will they squish you or treat you fairly? But I have a few problems with their execution here.

1. The cube. Their initial contact with these people did not leave them with choices. It didn't let them retreat, it refused to communicate, and it almost killed them with radiation forcing them to destroy it. I suppose there was some aspect of a test here that they kept moving forward after they destroyed the cube, but it seems like with that framework much more could have been done. (the cube could have let them retreat, or there could have been a simple message transmitted that would test them in some way.

2. The sphere. What exactly was the test that was being conducted when the enormous sphere was going to kill them all in 10 minutes? Again, he wasn't letting them get away, and the communication was minimal. Presumably Kirk would have failed the test if he had fired on the sphere, but when the timer was almost gone what other choice would he have?

3. The bluff. Did the alien really fall for the bluff, or was that all part of the plan?

It seems to me the ending of "I was testing you" was just added at the end because they didn't know how else to end it. Kind of a bummer and I really was digging the episode up until that point.



Other than the lame twist ending, I thought it was a pretty good episode

Intense Debate Comments

I've decided to remove intense debate and go back to the default blogger comments. Of course, ID holds your comment threads hostage so you will stay with it, but luckily I don't have too many. I have taken screenshots and edited them into the bottom of their posts so they won't be lost.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Dagger of the Mind: TOS Season 1 Episode 9

Plot Synopsis

Right at the start there is a bit of tension between Bones and Kirk as they have different opinions about prison in general. Kirk says he has been very impressed with the new type of prisons "they're more like resort colonies now". Bones responds that "A cage is a cage". Kirk says that Bones is behind the times, but he was having none of it. A little bit later on in the episode Spock has an amusing comment "Interesting, your people glorified organized violence for 40 centuries, but you imprison those who employ it privately". Anyway, they had to beam down some supplies to the penal colony and they brought back some mysterious classified box of stuff that they weren't supposed to look at. But it turned out that a prisoner (Gelder) had snuck aboard in the box and he soon he knocked out the transporter operator and stole his clothing.

Dr. Adams (the guy in charge of the penal colony) tells them that Gelder was very intelligent and dangerous. Which set up an expectation for me that they would have a lot of trouble catching him, but he pretty much went right to Kirk and requested asylum. They knocked him out and took him to sickbay, and intended to return him to the penal colony but Bones thought that something was up and insisted that he keep Gelder aboard to study him. He quickly discovered that Gelder seemed to have fragments of memories, but there was a lot of missing information. He also discovered that Gelder had been a doctor. Something is definitely amiss! When they arrived back at the penal colony Bones remained on board to continue studying Gelder, so he sent Dr. Noel along with Kirk to go down to the planet to check things out. Hilariously, Kirk had previously hit on Dr. Noel at a Christmas party and was annoyed that Bones had sent her. He said she had better be the best choice for the job

When they get down to the planet they meet Dr. Adams and a number of other people who seem to be working for him. Everyone except for Dr. Adams has a blank look on their faces, it seems very strange indeed. Dr. Noel for some reason is very invested in Dr. Adams, because she seems blind to all of the strange stuff that they are seeing. Kirk is asking a lot of questions, and focuses on a strange looking machine which includes a prisoner sitting in a chair getting his mind manipulated. Kirk thinks Adams is being evasive, so he comes back later to investigate with Dr. Noel. He sits in the chair and she uses the machine to implant memories into his mind. She starts making him feel hungry, and then tries something a bit more difficult, she makes him remember that Christmas party with him taking her back to his quarters.

Adams catches them and takes over the controls. We see his real methods as he turns the intensity of the machine up and tells him that if he remembers what really happened here he would be consumed with great pain. Luckily, Dr. Noel was able to get away. In the meantime Spock does a mind meld (the first ever!) with Gelder to find out the horrible things that Adams has been doing. Being afraid of what is happening on the planet with the captain, he prepares to beam down but can't get through while the shields are up. Luckily, on the planet Dr. Noel is turning off the power. In addition to allowing Spock a chance to get down to the planet, it saves Kirk from the chair. Kirk then kicks Adam's ass and he winds up in the room by himself. When the power comes back on Adams is hit with the full force of the machine. His mind is emptied, but there is no one there to fill the void. This kills him. We get another very nice "he's dead captain" from Bones.

Bones says that it is hard to believe that he would be killed from this machine, Kirk responds "not when you've sat in that room"


Spock: We learn about the mind meld. It's pretty cool to see the first instance of something that wound up being so iconic. As the writing in these seems to be pretty "seat of their pants", I imagine it was just thrown in without much thought for the convenience of this episode and it just became a mainstay later.

Kirk: The scene where Kirk first realizes that Dr. Noel was going to accompany him was pretty amusing. He seems like a ladies man as he has clearly at least flirted with her in the past, but he is also somewhat embarrassed by her being there.

Bones: Dr. McCoy was the first to think that something was up with Dr. Adams, and he stuck to his guns even when everyone else seemed to think he was wrong. It was really great to see him stand up to the challenge.

First time

In addition to the mind meld which I mentioned above, they mentioned that they can not beam through shields. It makes me wonder if the very idea of beaming produces some clear writing problems and they decided to make the rule that they can't beam through shields to set limits to transporting.


Obviously the big theme of this episode was prison. Bones was against the very idea of prison, no matter how nice things are. Kirk was more focused on the fact that the prisons are very nice and not the cages the we all imagine as a typical prison. I think Kirk was more focused on the practical implications (we need to do something with criminals) while Bones was being more idealistic.



Very enjoyable, and I love that I got to see the first instance of a few things that became prominent later in the Star Trek universe.

Intense Debate Comments

I've decided to remove intense debate and go back to the default blogger comments. Of course, ID holds your comment threads hostage so you will stay with it, but luckily I don't have too many. I have taken screenshots and edited them into the bottom of their posts so they won't be lost.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Miri: TOS Season 1 Episode 8

Sorry for the late update. Lately I have been busier during the first half of the week than the last half, so I'm going to start pushing these posts live on Sunday instead of Wednesday.

Plot Synopsis

The episode opens with the enterprise getting an "Earth style" distress signal, but there are no colonies or vessels out this far. They get to the planet and the topography is exactly like Earth (it shows Africa and North America). Kirk says "Not our Earth, another Earth. It seems impossible, but there it is." It seems like a really weird choice to me. Why not just say it is a planet with an Earth-like atmosphere? Unless I missed it, they never explained why this planet is so much like Earth. For practical reasons, aliens basically look like humans and it's no big deal, why not just do the same thing and say this planet looks like Earth?

They beam down to the planet and realize the similarities to Earth continue, Kirk estimates that it is equivalent to approximately early 1900's Earth, Spock says he thinks it looks more like the 1960s, except the level of general decay suggests that there have been about 300 years of natural deterioration of anything human made. Again, to suggest that this is happening in this alternate Earth's equivalent decade as when they are filming seems like a peculiar choice. Especially with the decay it could have been any time. Perhaps they are trying to shine a light on the fact that everything looks like Earth and this is just a smirk at the audience.

Anyway, it appears that the planet is deserted, Spock points out that the distress signal is likely automated, but it is too soon to know for sure that there are no people remaining. As they are looking through a pile of junk Bones moves a tricycle and a somewhat disfigured guy runs out of a nearby building. He complains that it is broken and they say they will fix it, then he dies. 

They then search for additional people and come across Miri hiding in a closet. She is very afraid at first, but they eventually convince her that they are not going to hurt her. We soon learn that all of the grown ups (grups) got sick and died, and it seems they went somewhat insane and violent in the end (which is why Miri was so afraid of them at first). It turns out that 300 years ago the people of this planet were creating viruses intended to prolong life, it worked on children (making them age about a month  for every 100 years of real time passing) but it killed any adult. It is guessed that some hormone change in puberty is what makes the virus act differently in adults. Unfortunately, the away team is infected

The away team determines that they have about 7 days to find a cure, so they set up a lab and Bones and Spock work together finding a cure. In addition to the work they were doing on the planet, people on the enterprise were using the computer to help them solve the puzzle, but the kids on the planet distracted them and stole their communicators. Why would they do this? Miri's jealousy! She was very taken by Kirk, and he somewhat took advantage of this to get information from her. But when Janice showed some affection for Kirk, Miri riled up the kids and while they were taking Janice captive they also stole the communicators. All because Kirk was toying with the emotions of a young girl.

What he was saying made this scene creepy
While Kirk is rescuing Janice and convincing the kids that they will eventually grow up and die from the disease as well, Spock and Bones continue working on the cure. They have something that seems like it will work, but without the computer they can't know for sure. Spock says that it could be a vaccine or "death in a beaker". Bones figured they will die anyway if they don't take it so they might as well give it a shot (I'm with him). He takes the medicine and the scabs simply disappear before our eyes. A very star trek style effect, but really stupid looking in this case. Why not peel off the scab to show healthy skin underneath, having them disappear is just silly.

Anyway, now they have cured the disease and are free to beam back up to the enterprise. The episode ends on an amusing little interaction, Janice tells Kirk that Miri really loved him. Kirk responds that he never gets involved with older women.

Unnecessary Shirt Ripping

I don't know why this cracks me up so much, but Kirk's shirt get ripped again in a way that didn't seem necessary at all.

Episode Themes

Insufficient information: I really like the dilemma near the end where they potentially have a cure, but they don't know if it is instead deadly. Logically it is easy, you either take the medicine and potentially die, or don't take the medicine and surely die. But that doesn't mean it would be easy to up-end that thing.

Dangerous Technological Advancement: Obviously the people of this planet tried to extend their lives with Technology and they wound up dying because of it. This is a theme I typically enjoy.


We see more Spock and McCoy sniping at each other, but it has definitely turned into friendly banter rather than what appeared to be disdain the first time this came up. When they first were discovering that they were infected with the disease they discovered that Spock was immune, the following conversation took place
Kirk: Why is Spock immune?
Bones: They must not have an appetite for green blood.
Spock: Being a red blooded human has obvious disadvantages
Janice says she's always trying to get Kirk to look at her legs. She is distraught that he legs are now covered in scabs. This incident is what sets Miri off.



Overall I quite enjoyed this episode