Category: Star Trek: The Original Series


Miri

(copyright Paramount)

Hmm, an identical Earth (with no clouds ;-). The repercussions of this find are staggering! How come we never hear about this planet ever again? It’s practically empty, too, so we now have a spare Earth! Colonize the shit of that motherfucker and you don’t have to worry about Borg invasions, our sun going nova or environmental distasters. A SPARE Earth!

We see the first real exterior here, presumably a studio back lot. I was looking for any familiar building that might have appeared in another movie or show, but didn’t see anything I recognized. Still, good to get outside, especially after the underground caverns and penal colonies of the last few episodes.

A spare EARTH!

Sorry, I’m having trouble getting past that…

Yay, Janice Rand is back! So is John Farrell, working communications. So where’s Uhura? Sulu finally gets a cameo by way of the credit still of “The Naked Time,” so at least they acknowledge he still exists. Farrell, by the way, shares his name with the Blue Jays current manager. Good to see him back on the bridge.

Speaking of the end credits stills, I find them interesting, trying to place which episode they came from. I like that they use “The Cage” stills, too. Vina appears in two regularly and I can’t help but wonder if the producers are subtly suggesting that not only did those events happen (I’m working on the premise that they did), but reminding us that she’s still out there, living in her fantasy world, which is sort of sad. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but you know how much I like depth of storytelling and layers. There’s a sense of scope, knowing that the earlier crew of the Enterprise had their own adventures under Captain Pike and we shouldn’t forget what came before.

The two Vina stills I’m referring to are her as an Orion slave girl and the castle matte from “The Cage,” where she’s a teeny tiny spec running to Pike.

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This is another episode where Sulu does not appear. I’m guessing the cast was still in flux at this stage. Funny to think if he’d left now and not returned, he could have been nothing more than a footnote in Star Trek lore, along with any of the other so-far-B-characters. At the same time, it’s apparent that the Trio (Kirk, Spock and McCoy) is easing into the foreground, despite a few recent McCoy-less episodes. The difference between the Sulu-less episodes and the McCoy-less episodes is that the default location for most episodes is the bridge and Sulu tends to be conspicuous in his absence. Even if he didn’t have lines, you’d expect to see him there flying the ship. When you don’t see McCoy, it’s generally because the story had no medical needs for him to serve. As such, it would be weird to see him standing around the bridge with nothing to do.

Helen Noel, huh? Subtle. I suppose naming her “Holly Noel” would have been going too far for a character Kirk fancied at a Christmas party. Speaking of holidays, this is the second mention in recent episodes of Earth holidays, the previous one being Thanksgiving. Assuming this was the American Thanksgiving which is only a month out from Christmas, I guess the two just recently passed. More good, subtle continuity.

First appearance of the mind meld! Coincidentally, I was wondering if they’d come up with that ability yet while the doctor was flipping out in Sick Bay. Then they pulled it out and I was “Hooray for me! I called it!”

(copyright Paramount)

I’ll start with something that leapt out at me at the beginning of the episode. The bride genuflects at the altar. Like, literally, she kneels and says a prayer. Way to sneak some active religion into the show! I was impressed by that. I was raised Catholic and that’s a big part of the services and sacraments. I wonder if the writer was Catholic.

First appearance of the Romulans. They’re such a fixture in the later Treks that it was like seeing an old friend. Fantastic that they’re played more or less the same way (sneaky, aggressive, intelligent) in TNG and beyond. I liked the suspicion Stiles had of Spock. It made perfect sense. I can imagine the original audience wondering the same thing. After all, they’ve only know Spock a few episodes.
It’s also interesting to think ahead to Spock’s later unification efforts and that it’s helping the Romulans that ultimately sends him back in time to about ten years before this point, where we see the alternate Star Trek (2009) movie. For him, it all started here.
Romulus and Remus, by the way, were the mythical founders of Rome. I suppose the writer knew that when he assigned ranks like “Centurion.” I’m not sure that detail carried over to TNG-era Romulans.

Overall, great episode. In some ways, it seems like the spiritual predecessor to “Wrath Of Kahn,” in the cat-and-mouse game employed in the battle (yes, I know the actual successor is “Space Seed,” but the parrallels here are uncanny). It, too, makes perfect sense. The starships are ships, not fighter planes, so their combat techniques in both would more resemble seafaring battles than aerial dogfights. Nice to see the aggressive “We have to take them out” attitude supported by Kirk here. I couldn’t help but think of all the times the Romulans violate the Neutral Zone in TNG and Picard is forced to let them go for fear of starting a war. That always bugged me, so here I’m thinking Picard ought to have taken a page out of Kirk’s book (add that to the Picard vs Kirk debate, folks). They violated the treaty, they get a boot to the ass!

On a technical note, there is no ‘up’ in space, so having both ships damaged and adrift portrayed as the exteriors resting askew to the camera was amusing (I know, I know, how else do you show it…). To balance that artistic license, I’ll say that they did correctly portray the comet’s tail. Such a tail does not shoot out of the back of the comet as commonly depicted. It ejects the tail in the direction opposite the star causing it. So here, the tail appeared to shoot out ‘sideways’ to the left as it traveled the same direction as the Enterprise and the Bird Of Prey. Kudos to the effects crew in getting that right. 

Charlie X

(copyright Paramount)

A Star Trek Twilight Zone episode.

I don’t just mean the tone and feel of the show, but there’s a very famous TZ episode about a boy in small town with similar powers who has cut his country town off from the rest of the world (or utterly destroyed the rest of the world) and the townspeople live in constant fear. He can read minds, and destroys what he doesn’t like. He has no discipline or regard for others and cannot understand why he can’t just get what he wants. Now, I’ll give the ST writer some credit that I don’t think he was ripping off TZ, but he reached the same place from another direction.
Great stuff in this episode. Some familiar B characters, aside from Rand, whom we’ll get to in a minute, and some disturbing torments of them by Charlie. I was particularly startled by him removing the woman’s face. Damn, man! Another twenty minutes of this and we’d be in horror movie territory. What a change from the more cerebral sci-fi and action. I hope they do more of this. The final scene was wrenching. You hated Charlie up to this point, but his pleas were hit the right cord of pathos for him. The only other solution the Thasian might have had would be to take his powers away. Was that not an option? I guess not. So, we end on a helpless moment for everyone. It’s a situation gone wrong where the characters are left with the best of the worst outcomes and no one is happy about it.
Grace Lee Whitney, by this episode, seems established as more or less equal with the rest of the cast (aside from top-billed Shatner and Nimoy). Rand is carry significant weight in the last few episodes and it appears the writers viewed her on par (or higher) with Sulu and the others. How different things could have been if she’d remained a part of the core cast.

You'll put someone's eye out with that, Sulu! (copyright Paramount)

Good episode. I had not seen this one, though I’d heard of it by way of the TNG rip-off (as much as I like TNG, seeing this definitely lowers my estimation of their ‘version’). I’m really liking the trend of giving screen time to the B characters, like Riley in engineering. That could easily have been Scotty, if the writer had been lazy, but instead we get the sense that the Enterprise isn’t just a ship full of extras standing behind the main cast. I’m keen to see more of the the crew. The slices of ship’s life is an element handled very differently in the later ST series. Watching these now, with characters like Farrell and Riley and Rand, I could easily see them joining the cast or having recurring parts. This is the second review where I talk about the B characters, but at the moment, they have an admiral presence in the series, which speaks volumes to the character of the show. There’s a sense of ensemble, rather than this being the William Shatner or Leonard Nimoy Show.

So, at the end, the time travel bit seemed to come out of nowhere. I like pondering the ramifications of time travel, which here seems to indicate that for three days, there were two Enterprises in that system, one orbiting the planet and one sent back escaping it. Assuming they didn’t interfere with their past selves in any way (I’d have sat for three days and enjoyed the time off. To do otherwise risks disruptions and paradoxes), they created a stable time loop. Meaning, when they first arrived in the system, their future selves were already there somewhere, out of sight, having just returned from three days in the future. When they escape the planet and go back three days, they could observe themselves entering the system and doing what they just did. Once their past selves were sent back three days, the future crew then resumes it’s course, having had three days of rest after the ordeal.
Best line: “Get d’Artagnan here to sickbay.” (Again, a Spock line…)
First appearance of Christine Chapel. I wonder if she’s related to Number One… 😉

The Man Trap

(Copyright Paramount)

 

I noticed in the last episode (The Enemy Within), as well as this one, that the writers haven yet discovered that they can be more subtle with Kirk’s Logs. Both times hey sum up the pre-Title teaser (That a duplicate was made, and that they each see the woman differently), but do so before their characters on screen make that discovering. I can hear the writers saying, “If the audience misses the opening, they won’t know what’s going on! Oh no!” As such, both logs seem to suggest they are transcribed by Kirk later. It’s an odd effect. These days, say in the premier of “Breaking Bad,” where Walt is standing pantless with a gun in the desert in the cold-opening, leaving us to wonder what led to this, in these ST episodes, either because the cold-opening convention was not part of the language of episodic TV or it was not the writer’s real intention, the effect seems only partially utilized. The writer in me sees they were close to figuring out a different way of telling a story, but stopped short. It’s not a big thing, but I thought I should comment on it, because it really got me thinking about how different and daring TV would become in recent years, no longer reliant on the straight linear story progression and occasional, clearly-defined flashbacks.

 

 

 

A good continuity nod: Carter is using an old-style laser pistol, as seen in The Cage, which makes sense, that he wouldn’t necessarily have a state-of-the-art Starfleet phaser, being a civilian scientist. Also reinforcing the idea that Not Everyone Is In Starfleet, we have Carter and Kirk arguing over jurisdiction and procedure. Unlike in TNG, I find myself trying to figure out Starfleet and the Enterprise’s role in the galaxy. It’s one thing to be emissaries to newly-discovered planets and civilizations, it’s another to be knocking on the door of established colonies, mining operations and research facilities. What IS Starfleet’s jurisdiction, at this stage? With Mudd, they were clearly enforcing some Federation Law, but the minors had no responsibility to them. Kirk even mentioned having authorization to negotiate with them for the crystals. It really does lend a sense that discovering new lifeforms is one thing, but they’re also trying to tame the “established” territories within the Federation, very much like Old West frontier law. Wagon Train To The Stars, indeed.

 

 

 

This episode specifically had good writing, good character development with McCoy and what for me was a significant thread (not so much a plot point, per se) with Rand and Sulu. If I’m not mistaken, they later serve together on Excelsior in either one of the movies or a Voyager flashback episode (or both, I can’t quite remember). Either way, I like Rand and I like what they’re doing with her. It’s a pity she was never brought to lead status, even in the movies.

 

 

 

Okay, next!


…um…

The attempted rape of Janice Rand was…unnerving. I was seriously uncomfortable with that because it was fucking intense. Sorry for all the swearing, but dude, how did they get that past the NBC execs? Don’t get me wrong, it was effective for all the right reasons, but for a ’60s network prime time drama, damn! I’m glad that since they committed to including it, they didn’t pull any punches (so to speak) and played it totally straight. And her questioning afterwards? Man! I will say I was a bit bothered by Spock’s comment at the end. “Insensitive,” Spock? What are you so bemused about? Rand’s reaction to his comment was spot on, though, you could just see the “Get the fuck away from me, creep!” daggers she fired at him as she walked away.

One of the darkest, most disturbing scenes in any Star Trek! (copyright Paramount)

Also good, Spock and McCoy’s reaction to an increasingly indecisive captain. Good writing in all those scenes. Good Spock character developments too, discussing his ‘halves,’ which makes his comment to Rand at the all the more jarring.
Kudos to getting a few lesser characters some key screen time, such as Farell, Fisher and Wilson. Was Fisher (Ed McCann) meant to be the same geologist in The Cage? (Don’t give me that look, I recognized the actor!). If not, darn. If so, awesome! I like to think it was same guy, because why the fuck not? I hope we see more of these guys. That was one great thing about TNG, a LOT of background actors were recurring (Kellogg, etc.) and some (O’Brien) got elevated to star status. It makes for great continuity and lessens the “characters of the week” feel.
Not criticizing it, but I definitely noticed Kirk’s missing insignia throughout the beginning. Then it magically appeared! On both Kirks!

I remember as a kid not liking Harry Mudd.

My reaction to him was probably much like Kirk’s “Oh, for the love of–!…this fucking guy!” Imagine my surprise now watching this episode (which I’m not sure I’d seen before) and just giggling as Mudd chewed up the scenery. THAT is how you make an impression on an audience. Lots of energy, humor and good character interaction. Seeing Kirk frustrated to no end by Mudd was just awesome. I’m sure he’d give his left nut to get rid of him. He was sort of the Q to Picard (if you’ll allow the comparison). When the protagonist can’t do much to fight back against a non-violent shit disturber, it’s downright hilarious.

Also good stuff was the miners. Human and clearly independent of Starfleet, I liked that it wasn’t the Enterprise asking for new crystals and just getting them. I never bought into Gene Roddenberry’s philosophy of “no money in space” (or however he put it). As much as the characters say “We don’t use money,” there seems to be nothing stopping the rest of the galaxy from establishing commerce. This trend of seeming contradiction remains in TNG and beyond, too, as latinum seems to be the currency of choice outside Starfleet vessels by the time of TNG. I think Gene had a nice idea (no need for money), but it doesn’t quite address that not everyone has it good on a starship. The very existence of a character like Mudd (cheat, scoundrel, smuggler) and the miners shows the rest of the galaxy is made up of working stiffs. Someone has to do the grunt labour and the dirty work. It adds a a lot of dimension to the show.
Good stuff and moving on to the next one!

The Corbomite Maneuver (1994 VHS) I had this single Star Trek episode video cassette on my shelf until university. It vanished after that.

The first regular series episode produced after the two pilot episodes. It did not air first, being set aside for the more action episodes to come before it. As noted in a previous post, TOS episodes were produced in one order and aired in the other as the series tried to gain a foothold with its audience. If viewed in air date order, details like uniforms seem to jump around between the early designs seen in the pilots and the later regular uniforms.

The Enterprise herself noticably shifts between shoots recorded for the the pilots, with the early model that features a larger radar dish and vents on the back of the warp nacelles, and the upgraded model with the smaller dish and the bulbs on the back of the nacelles. If I remember correctly, subsequent episodes use shots of both models, at which a more nitpicky person could cry “continuity!” However, let’s be fair. The editors used all the shots at their disposal because the series had a tight budget and honestly could not afford to be so selective. I can forgive these details because they came out of necessity rather than a screw up. If it meant spending that money on a better looking alien or a better script, it was the correct choice, in my opinion.

Oddly enough, I had this on original VHS in my teens. I forget where and when I got it, but it was probably either a gift or found at a yard sale, one of those things my dad probably found and thought, “Pat likes Star Trek,” and bought it cheap. Anyway, I think I’d watched it like once or twice and it sat on the shelf. I don’t know what ever happened to it after that. So, like The Cage, I was a bit familiar with it, but not in context.

The galactic political base still has yet to be defined at this point, I see. The Federation (not the First Federation), quadrants and Starfleet are not mentioned. Instead, it’s “Earth ship Enterprise,” “Earth base,” etc. Looking at it in-universe, it might be that such details are aren’t yet defined by the Federation, the way that the United States of America in its early years still strictly represented its states as individual countries, loosely connected by trade and commerce. The USA as a single country (rather than a collection of little countries) is a fairly recent idea. So, yeah, since Earth is part of the Federation, the ships of the fleet might still be viewed as originating primarily from the planet of their construction (stealing a bit from the alternate timeline created in Star Trek [2009], where we see the Enterprise built on Earth). Likewise, Earth may have set up its own bases long before the Federation was formalized, thereby allowing that common parlance to refer to some as “Earth bases” and not “Star bases”. There were probably re-designated at some point later. In a way, then, these details don’t seem so much like inconsistencies resulting from creative growing pains, but rather, if taken literally, allow us to see the continuing growth and shifting of their political situation.
Bailey was awesome. It’s so rare to see a Starfleet officer completely lose his cool like that. Nice headbutting between McCoy and Kirk regarding him too. Spock and Kirk are on a first name basis, so it seems they’ve been working together for a while by now. McCoy, less so, which fits since he only arrived sometime after the Gary Mitchell incident. It’s a nice dynamic and different from the later friendship the three share. First appearance of the red uniforms and gone are the sweater-style ones.
We’re getting closer to the familiar series dynamic.
What follows is my collection of thoughts on Star Trek’s second pilot, the one that broke them through with the executives at NBC and got the series on the air. As fans will know, this episode did air first because the powers-that-be thought it was still a bit too cerebral and wanted to rope the audience in with action. In their defense, they may not have been wrong in that approach. Say what you will about the show COPS, it does have a successful formula in how it presents its segments. The first is usually action-oriented (a car chase, a foot chase or a fist fight), the second is often the human interest story (a lost child, or a domestic assault) with a police helping people, and the third is usually really dramatic (lots of parties involved in a conflict, with a take-down and people yelling). Rock concerts usually want to rev the crowd up with the first few songs, to get them in the mood, and will save slower song for the middle, when people are into it.
So, yes, kicking off a series with action and adventure may have been a wise thing to do.
Anyway, here are my initial thoughts on the second Star Trek pilot:  “Where No Man Has Gone Before”
***
I forgot Sally Kellerman was in it.
I forgot DeForest Kelly was not in it.
(Hmm, I guess there wasn’t enough room for that many ‘Kells’)
More action = Good. Obviously this was the better balance of ideas and action that Trek would become known for. I don’t think action negates ‘pure sci-fi concepts’ or cheapens them. In order to create drama, a show has to have conflict, something for the protagonist to struggle against. Ideas are great and if you just want to talk about them on TV, make a documentary. The struggle can internal as well as external, or passive or aggressive, but one is not more legit than the other.
What the fuck was up with Spock’s eyebrows! Holy shit!
Closing thoughts: it’s fun to see where a familiar story started, what was there at the beginning and what sort of contradicts later developments. It’s also fun to mentally shoehorn later ideas into what’s on screen (like thanks a Peter David ST book, I kept thinking about Q as Mitchell gained powers).
Looking forward to more space western adventures!
***
Roddenberry pretty much recast the entire crew of the Enterprise with the second pilot. The events of the first pilot are considered canon mainly because they served as the meat of the later two-parter “The Menagerie.” “The Cage,” finally, aired in its entirety years later, but what I want to touch on here is that the events between these two pilots is largely unaccounted for. It’s said that Roddenberry didn’t want to tie the series down to fixed dates, at least in the early stages, so we only get the occasional references to what the Enterprise and her crew were doing during those lost years. Pike turned his command over to Kirk at some point. Number One (played by Majel Barett) and many of the crew were replaced with the familiar faces we see here. Dr. McCoy has yet to arrive. Spock is the only character retained here from the first pilot, which serves as a nice bit of continuity. What else happened during this period between pilots is a source of fascination for me is all I can say.
I should also point out that as I venture back into the original Star Trek, I obviously do so with knowledge of later series such as The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager (I only ever saw two episodes of Enterprise: the pilot and the Borg episode, so I know next to nothing about that series, for better or worse). I’ll compare and contrast details between the various series as I go. What I hope to see is that the continuity between series outnumbers the changes in style and direction. Most importantly, I’m going in with an open mind. I’ll let the episodes happen and let the series develop its own identity and I’ll ponder best I can on that.
Aside from Star Trek, I do plan to discuss other topics, so hopefully I can find enough to fill these pages. Not that a dedicated Star Trek blog is a bad thing, but I do have other interesting things in my life. The Star Trek blogs are at least going to be regular because I plan to comment on all the classic episodes.
Beyond that, we’ll just have to see, won’t we?