Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Return of the Archons: TOS Season 1 Episode 21

Plot Summary

We start with Sulu and O'neil on a planet being chased, O'neil runs off but Sulu waits for transport. Sulu gets hit with some mind-altering attack right before he beams up and is clearly acting strange when we gets back to Enterprise. So Kirk and a handful of other guys beam down to try to figure out what is going on, when they get there everyone seems pleasant and ask if the away team is here for the festival. They say yes as it is good cover, but quickly it turns out that the festival largely consists of chaos in the street.

It seems that most everyone is being mind controlled (are you of the body?), but the away team finds a few guys who are not and seem to want to gain freedom for themselves and everyone. Some guards come to them and ask for them to come see Landrew (who is apparently in charge here), they say 'no' and the guards don't seem to know what to do. Spock takes a weapon from one of them, but it turns out to simply be a pipe, it must just be a focusing object for a powerful weapon being emitted elsewhere. Very interesting indeed.

They also talk to the Enterprise and it turns out that some sustained attack is being levied against the ship. They are having to spend all of their energy on shields, and their orbit is decaying. Their time is severely limited.

The away team finds Landrew and talks to him, ultimately they are knocked out and thrown in jail. They eventually break out of jail and Kirk wants to go to confront Landrew about what is going on. After some argument, they are led to Landrew, who was previously a holographic projection on a wall, they shoot the wall and it is revealed that Landrew is actually a computer. This society is how a computer would view perfection, but people are not free even to think for themselves. They convince the computer that what he has done is not in line with the intention of his programming and the computer self-destructs. Then everyone who was brainwashed is set free. Kirk left some people on the planet to help them rebuild their society.

Is Spock Like a Computer?

When they were in prison, Spock and Kirk had an amusing conversation about how the guards responded to them

Spock: Their reaction to your defiance was remarkably similar to the reaction of a computer when fed insufficient or contradictory data

Kirk: Are you suggesting the law giver's a mere computer?

Spock: Simply that all the facts are not yet in.

I found this hilarious, as Spock is saying that not knowing how to react to insufficient data is computer like, then in his next line he does just that. Spock is acting like a computer in exactly the way he is observing the guards. Even more hilarious, right at the end of the episode Kirk tells Spock he would make a good computer, to which Spock replied "thank you".

Part of why this is so amusing is that Spock is apparently a man who aspires to become a machine, where Data in Next Gen is exactly the opposite. I guess that must have been the point when they were initially writing data, turn the premise on it's head.


This same thing happened last episode, but the Enterprise apparently requires power just to maintain orbit. I don't know why this bugs me so much, but there's no reason for that. If they put themselves in orbit properly they would stay that way without power.

Prime Directive

I think this was the first time they mentioned the prime directive. When they were talking about destroying Landrew Spock mentioned the prime directive of non-interference. I was thinking that they had interfered in the past, but mostly they haven't had contact with primitive societies. I suppose Miri is the only episode where it really seems like it might have applied. They also referred to the prime directive of Landrew, that being to destroy evil.


When they were getting ready to go confront Landrew and the men from the surface were scared to do it Kirk said
It's time you learn freedom is never a gift, it has to be earned.
Damn good line. Although it did occur to me that it isn't really true, even in this situation. For everyone who was currently a zombie of Landrew, freedom would be a gift. Nevertheless, the point still stands, freedom needs to be fought for and earned whenever there is someone trying to take it away.



Sunday, August 4, 2013

Court Martial: TOS Season 1 Episode 20

Plot Synopsis

The Enterprise took some damage from an ion storm and the only fatality was Ben Finney. We quickly learn that Kirk and Finney had a history, early on in his career Kirk filed a report that showed Finney in a bad light and it played a part in his slow career advancement. The allegation was that Kirk had something against Finney and the bad report was maliciously, and that perhaps Finney's recent death was intentional. If charges come against Kirk it will be a court martial, the first time it has happened to a captain of a starship. The admiral Kirk talks to tells him to just slink away and they would sweep it under the rug, but Kirk insists he's innocent and demands the court martial!

So a trial ensues, it turns out that in the ion storm they were in yellow alert. At some point when the danger was particularly high Kirk went to red alert, which told Finney that he had to act quickly, he failed to do that and Kirk had to take action which killed Finney but saved the rest of the ship. The prosecution claims that Kirk took that action before going to red alert, never giving Finney the chance to save himself. Kirk insists that this is not the way it happened, but they had damning evidence, video of Kirk pushing the "jettison pod" button with only the yellow alert light blinking

It seems that all is lost, whether intentional or accidental, this seems to be Kirk's fault. He makes some vague statement to Spock about chess as the court is adjourning. Spock goes and plays chess against the computer and wins several games in a row. This should be impossible as he programmed the computer with his own chess skill, he should be coming to a stalemate. It appears that someone has been messing with the computer. Perhaps Finney isn't even really dead, but just trying to frame Kirk.

They evacuate the ship of almost everyone and then have the computer listen to any noise through the whole ship. It can detect everyone's heartbeat, they filter out everyone that is known to be on the ship and there is one heartbeat remaining. They isolate where he is and Kirk goes to confront him. They fight, but ultimately Finney has sabotaged the ship and is ready to die along with anyone else remaining in the ship, Kirk the reveals that he beamed up Finney's daughter. With this information, Finney tells Kirk how the ship was sabotaged and the damage is able to be undone.


In the scene where the admiral was trying to get Kirk to simply slink away quietly, to just go away and avoid his court martial, the admiral was primarily interested in appearance. He didn't really seem to care about what had happened, in fact, it's quite possible he believed Kirk guilty. But he didn't want a stain on starfleet put there by a captain being put through a court martial, he wanted to sweep the whole thing under the rug. Kirk was interested in justice, he didn't care how it looked, he wanted the truth to come out. Great stuff.


There were two things in this episode that from a scientific standpoint caught my attention. The first was a silly little throw-away line from Spock while he was testifying in court. He was arguing that even though he didn't watch Kirk push those buttons, he knew that Kirk had done things in the right order because he knows the man. He said it is no different from dropping a hammer on a planet with positive gravity, he knows it will fall without looking. I love the idea that there could be a planet without positive gravity. Perhaps there is a planet with some exotic substance where gravity doesn't work in our normal sense. Seems a bit silly, but sometimes science fiction is about exploring silly ideas. I liked it, and again, it was just a throwaway line.

The other thing did really bug me though. Near the end they cut power to the enterprise and in a very short period of time they were going to fall out of orbit. This seems to misunderstand what orbit is. It takes power to put yourself in orbit, but once your there you should stay in orbit without the need for power. Sure, over a long period of time a "stable" orbit can decay, but this was a very short period of time, on the order of hours. A similar thing happened in the recent movie, and that bugged the crap out of me too.

Spock and McCoy

Some more banter between Spock and McCoy that caught my attention. When Spock was playing chess, bones found him and was upset that he was doing that, not realizing he was helping the captain with this action.

Bones: Mr. Spock, you're the most cold blooded man I've ever known
Spock: why, thank you doctor.

Love it!

Ripped Shirt

During the fight near the end between Kirk and Finney, at some point Kirk's shirt gets ripped open. I think Kirk needs to stop getting uniforms made out of tissue paper.

Side note here, my wife say me write down the time stamp here and asked what I was doing. She thought it was hilarious that I am keeping track of this. I don't know why it amuses me so much, but I just can't stop laughing when their shirts get ripped.



Overall an enjoyable episode.