TOS: S1E11: “The Corbomite Maneuver”

In which Kirk blows up a screensaver, a new officer is really bad at his job, and a change to a more sustainable schedule causes the episode featuring a flying baby to air on Valentine’s Day.

The Enterprise is now farther out that any human has ever been, and is making star maps. There are doing this by taking photographs. Photographs. I mean, presumably these will be entered into the database for parallax analysis and converted to 3D computer models, but shouldn’t this be a core function of the ship you send on a five-year mission to uncharted territory? Shouldn’t it passively gather stellar positioning data automatically? If not continually, then at least without manual input. This is like systems administration 101, guys. Suddenly! A ship approaches aggressively! We can’t evade!
"It appears to be... a screensaver, sir."

“It appears to be… a screensaver, sir.”

I’ve noticed Uhura switches back and forth between Command Yellow and Operations Red. I assume this is a production order thing and not that Uhura keeps requesting a transfer into and out of command track. Anyone have details on this?

The screensaver ship is tiny – about the size of the bridge. Spock is handling things for the moment while the captain gets his physical, and apparently McCoy is authorized to allow the captain to ignore a Red Alert. I’m not convinced this is good practice, particularly if the captain is just doing reclining leg presses. I mean, maybe if he was incapacitated with some temporal brain-worm, but not for a physical.

Crewman Baily is not having a good day of it. He’s tried mouthing off to both Spock and Kirk and presumed that Kirk wants to just blow up the cube instead of trying to evade it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he finds a red shirt instead of a gold one in his locker tomorrow morning. Was there more

Come to think of it, my cup runneth empty right about now...

Come to think of it, my cup runneth empty right about now…

terrible students in his year than they had red uniforms? The cube ship is spinning really fast, emiting ionizing radiation, and glowing too bright. Which sounds exciting, I know, but don’t let that fool you. It’s just colorful. Apparently the colors are too much for Baily, the buttmonkey of this episode. He’s just bad at obeying orders. We are, however, treated to a touching scene where McCoy calls Kirk out on promoting Baily too fast and then being too harsh with him.

Kirk is a man after my own heart. Brandy at work and horrified revulsion at a salad. This is not food, it’s what food eats. Fortunately for him, an actual ship interrupts his rumination. (Biology joke! Zing!) A sphere with a tractor beam, this time as much larger than the Enterprise as the Enterprise was larger than the cube – about a mile across. Commanded by this Balok person, who decides to eliminate the Enterprise. Trying a little to hard with the whole “ten earth time periods known as minutes” thing, though.

This is acutally a wonderful speech by Kirk. I will therefore quote it verbatim:

Captain to crew. Those of you who have served for long on this vessel have encountered alien lifeforms. You know the greatest danger facing us is ourselves, an irrational fear of the unknown. But there’s no such thing as the unknown, only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood. In most cases we have found that intelligence capable of a civilization is capable of understanding peaceful gestures. Surely a lifeform advanced enough for space travel is advanced enough to eventually understand our motives. All decks stand by. Captain out.

His mouth says 'what do they want from us' but his eyes say 'I should probably not be allowed on the Bridge any more.'

His mouth says ‘what do they want from us’ but his eyes say ‘I should probably not be allowed on the Bridge any more.’

So after this point, Balok shows up on screen as your classic long-faced no-haired slit-eyed Area 51 alien and says, basically, “You have no chance to survive make your time.” This does not go over well with Baily, which does not go over well with Kirk. Do they just pick random people off the street and offer them a place on a starship?

There’s not a whole lot of really interesting non-synopsis hooks in this episode, except that we have the rare chance to see Kirk stressed. The imminent destruction of his ship puts him into that state we see in Quirky Detective shows like Psych or Monk, where all the details come together marinated in adrenaline, and a plan forms. Don’t play poker against Kirk, and don’t try to give him a no-win scenario. These are basically his defining character traits.

Actually, let’s talk about poker for a moment. It’s used in Star Trek as the quintessentially human game. Here, Spock mentions chess as a game of logic, and when the game is over, both parties know. Kirk counters with poker, where a determined player can win on nothing. It is a game bounded by math but illogical. In Next Generation, we get to see a number of different approaches converge. LaForge and Crusher generally play Greek chorus, though they do have their moments. The game tends to be between the instinctual Riker, the emotionally analytic Troi, the numerically analytic Data, and Worf who, despite growing up human, doesn’t really get the game because it clashes with his idea of who he should be. In other words, a human insider, an alien insider, an alien outsider, and a human outsider. Star Trek uses poker like Babylon 5 uses elevators – a metaphor for raw interaction with all the trappings of civilization stripped away. On these terms, don’t play poker with Kirk. He’ll get you to fold a full house against his seven high.

Babies, man. Can't fuckin' trust 'em.

Babies, man. Can’t fuckin’ trust ’em.

 

Especially not if you are a tiny baby man who commands from a couch. This is one of those things the Star Trek original series just does sometimes, and you just gotta roll with it. Like time travel at the end of The Naked Time. Why is Balok a baby? Why is the whole thing a ruse to test the intentions of Starfleet? No reason. Hell with it.

 

 

TOS: S1E10: “Dagger of the Mind”

In which everything is fine on this prison planet, really, we promise, McCoy endangers the Captain’s life out of a petty sense of vengeance, and the implications of personality death are approached before we make a slingshot maneuver and change direction at an alarming and possibly time-travel-y pace. You know, like they did in that episode we talked about? See, it’s a continuity joke? Oh, never mind.

What the hell are Infra-sensory drugs. whatever they are, that’s a lot of them. Presumably, what with the reference to the Scottish Play, this episode will have something to do with hallucinations and coercive murder. Seriously, though, that’s like two drums and a couple of boxes full of some very psychedelic looking stuff. And the redshirt forgets to notify the penal colony they the cargo is coming. Fucking redshirts, amirite? No wonder they keep dying. Then again, Kirk deserves some of the blame leaving him alone with a box that says “CLASSIFIED MATERIAL DO NOT OPEN.” Which contains an escaping prisoner. Excellent to know that a penal colony does routine things like have their cargo transporters issue a warning if people use them. How, exactly, is the Federation even still around by the 24th century?

I guess the other question is: what do the penal colonies have that’s Eyes Only? What was supposed to be in that box? Black project research? Is this a Section 31 project? It’s unlikely you’d have prisoners doing intelligence analysis or building weapons, so the only thing I can think of is human experimentation for medical research. All that shiny technology aboard the Enterprise D, do we dare intimate that it has its origins in sinister Mengelian experiments? Is Mengelian a word?

This bit of worldbuilding is a bit clumsy. Honestly, Star Trek is really good at

We got rid of emotions, but kept the bitchin' earrings.

We got rid of emotions, but kept the bitchin’ earrings.

two of the three kinds of worldbuilding – implicit and accidental. Allow me to elaborate. Occasionally, they’ll drop a line which either assumes a cultural context that we no longer have in the 21st century because of the march of technology since the ’60s or the march of culture. So they’ll drop a line that assumes a 1960s context and it’s up to the modern viewer to either ignore it as ‘of the time’ or, more interestingly, to puzzle over how that archaic bit of culture resurfaced in the 23rd century. Because it’s fun. Or they’ll use some bit of technobable or a throwaway line to set the scene and we, the fans, will latch on to it because, again, it’s interesting. But what has not survived the test of time is those moments when they specifically want to tell us something, like about how Vulcans used to have a violent and bloody culture, but they adopted a path of “pure logic” (this is bullshit, but now is not the episode to go into that) and overcame it. That’s why the human space exploration agency is called Starfleet and the Vulcans call theirs the Science Academy. Keep a lookout for others. Spock has to tell this to McCoy because somebody on camera needs to be ignorant so Spock can explain it, and it might as well be the person who’s supposed to be most familiar with the species under his care.

Okay, how much sense does it make to position your guard at the entrance to the bridge facing away from the entrance? Is Starfleet Academy trying to end an overpopulation crisis through poor military training for the bottom quartile of the population? Actually, I really like that, but I await a better explanation.

Seriously. What the hell are you even doing?

Seriously. What the hell are you even doing?

Oh well, at least the prisoner, Simon Van Gelder, escaped prison beause he’s sane, calm, and totally together. Oh no wait, he’s sweating, manaiacal, and twitchy. McCoy doesn’t detect schizophrenia or trauma, but McCoy, as we discovered in “Miri,” is not the best of all the doctors. Every time Gelder tries to convey information he goes into a seizure, which is totally not suspicious at all. He’s trying to say something about being a Director at the penal colony. There’s nothing fishy going on there at all. From an in-universe perspective, do you think they ever have days where something apparently weird happens but it turns out to be simple? Like, a prisoner escapes from a penal colony, but he turns out to be actually just a prisoner who got lucky and everything is on the level? Because just going by the days we see, Kirk should be running around armed at all times and with a secret doppelganger password for every member of the crew.

…Wait a minute, he did have a doppelganger password for Spock in “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” Fair play to you, Kirk.

Really, McCoy? You're sending Kirk, unarmed and unescorted, to a penal colony with a hot nurse? There's no way this will cause problems.

Really, McCoy? You’re sending Kirk, unarmed and unescorted, to a penal colony with a hot nurse? There’s no way this will cause problems.

Anyway, Van Gelder is in the computer banks as staff of the colony, so we’re about to hear some fancy footwork from the disembodied voice at the other end of the comms. McCoy is present to let us know that the story about a ‘rehabilitation ray’ is bullshit, but he can’t explain why. What’s worrying is that the guy at the penal facility, Doctor Adams, is preempting every concern the enterprise has without prompting. So with that successful Diplomacy check, Adams has convinced

"Is that Aerosmith playing?"]

“Is that Aerosmith playing?”]

Kirk to beam down basically alone. Because that’s the best way to visit a penal colony – one psychiatrist in a miniskirt and no guards. Not that the guards are particularly useful people, I guess. And Kirk has even slept with her before. Awesome.

So here’s a question – if you’re potentially going to spend weeks between planets, months between starbases, and years before getting some actual R&R, what are the policies for shipboard romance?

Doctor Adams is friendly and genial, but nothing good is ever in the works when the phrase “The person I was no longer exists” is uttered. The episode is still going, but I’m still going to hazard a guess that Babylon 5 did it better in the episodes “The Quality of Mercy” and “Passing Through Gethsemane.” Of course, Straczynski had this framework to build on, so no judgement. In this case, however, instead of actually submering a violent personality, this one just applies Skinner conditioning to cause pain when the patient/victim remembers it. Which is exactly what Van Gelder is experiencing. This is also a secret from Kirk. Shhh.

Oooh, here comes the Mind Meld! This is a Hidden Personal Thing to the Vulcan People. And while Spock is exploring the mind of a madman to determine what danger Kirk is in, Kirk sits down in the neutralizer chair voluntarily. This seems like a great idea and nothing could possibly go wrong with it. Now that they know it works, Kirk tells his ex to implant an ‘unusual suggestion’ in his head. 

Did she just implant a memory of Kirk committing repeated HR violations with her?

Did she just implant a memory of Kirk committing repeated HR violations with her?

Yeah, that’s not going to come back and bite anyone in the ass. Like when the neuralyzer tech and Doctor Adams take this suggestion farther and start suggesting that Kirk has loved her for years and now she’s dead. Still, a Redshirt wouldn’t have helped.

"That's the problem with these doors - no place to hang a sock."

“That’s the problem with these doors – no place to hang a sock.”

A Thrilling Action Sequence commences, which mostly consists of Noelle creeping around in ducts until she can turn off the power and then kicking someone into a transformer. Which is a nice moment of badass. Now SPock can beam down, although why he switches the brainwipe ray switch back on is anyone’s guess. It’s not like he knew it was the hoist-the-evil-doctor-by-his-own-petard lever. And as Noelle and Kirk meet up again, Kirk gives her a passionate kiss as befits someone who just confessed their love of many years, while Spock just stands in the doorway. Watching.

 

 

TOS: S1E09: “Miri”

In which the Enterprise gets severely lost, a set is constructed using $20 of broken crap from Salvation Army, and the part of Kirk is played by Roman Polanski.

The classiest of Class-M planets.

The classiest of Class-M planets.

A human distress signal farther than any known ships or colonies. We should all be glad that Spock is here to tell us that an M-class planet is spherical. I might never have guessed otherwise. But a lot of those statistics are sounding familiar. Apparently, someone duplicated Earth, or really broke the navigational computer. Or possibly there’s just another Earth out there for no adequately explained reason. But if that were the case, surely at least life would look different, because there’s no way evolution would happen in exact parallel. That’s just dumb.

Or possibly, even the cities look the same, except a lot more desolate. Complete with abandoned cars, 55-gallon drums. Just like they were in 1960. Hyuk hyuk hyuk. Much later, the Enterprise will travel back to the ’80s because that’s when they filmed that movie. Gotta love a shoestring budget. McCoy is playing with a tricycle when he gets attacked by Woody Harrelson’s character from the Hunger Games, but with leprosy. And with the mind of a child. This must be the one where all the adults die and everything is Lord of the Flies. Why is this on Earth? Did they run out of styrofoam blocks to shape into huts and rocks? You couldn’t even have had someone make a globe that wasn’t literally a globe of Earth and justified it as a slowship colony from way back? Just handwave it. “It’s earth. Don’t worry about it.”

And Kirk is hitting on her. Good god, man. Have some self-control.

And Kirk is hitting on her. Good god, man. Have some self-control.

So, quick summary of the background – all the grown ups or “grups” got sick, panicked, rioted, and died. All the children – “onlies” –  hid.  while the adults died. The pathogen is clearly still around because of that raving dead dude we just saw, and this Miri girl is tugging on our heartstrings so if I were here I wouldn’t start any long books. Yes, I am cheating. I remember this one, vaguely.

So all the animals are dead. All the adults are dead. The only food left must be vegetables, which means the children have nothing to eat. Before Kirk can turn that into a sex joke, he gets the plague and McCoy gets to work. It’s not encouraging that McCoy refers to pathogens as “little bugs or whatever they are” and when asked why Spock isn’t infected, doesn’t immediately respond with some rounded statistics about plagues generally not crossing species barriers, let alone to a completely alien biology. Spock doesn’t even have hemoglobin – his blood chemistry is based on copper, but that’s not the first thing out of McCoy’s mouth? Where exactly did you get your medical license?

"I'm going to need to pull in my colleague, Doctor Zoidberg. He's a much better doctor than I am."

“I’m going to need to pull in my colleague, Doctor Zoidberg. He’s a much better doctor than I am.”

More anti-transhumanism. This plague happened because someone was working on anti-agapics and didn’t keep the samples in a clean room. Clearly, therefore, humanity should never bother trying to improve themselves through medicine. Getting real sick of your shit, Roddenberry.

Kirk has just asked Miri if she'd like to go someplace with him, in full-on Kirk voice. McCoy and Rand are now seriously wondering if their captain is a pedophile.

Kirk has just asked Miri if she’d like to go someplace with him, in full-on Kirk voice. McCoy and Rand are now seriously wondering if their captain is a pedophile.

At least Spock is asking the obvious question – if it’s been 300 years since the end of civilization on this planet and the children die upon reaching physical maturity, why are there still children? The anti-aging virus affects the children at a rate of 1 biological month per century. So they stay children for hundreds of years. The argument here is that, given hundreds of years in a fourteen-year-old body, you would behave as if you’ve only been alive for fourteen years. Gotta love the 1960s approach to cognitive sciences.

The children of the city are in some terrifying little gang of anklebiting immortal child soldiers, which sounds like a Highlander season filmed in Uganda. It’s worth mentioning that despite my complaining above about the philosophical agenda and the completely arbitrary duplication of Earth in this episode, this is a good episode overall. Mostly because Gene Roddenberry isn’t writing about gender politics. Man, those just don’t hold up at all.

Anyway, Rand has a nervious breakdown because she’s finally showing symptoms, Kirk tries to comfort her, Miri is jealous and defects to the children, who prepare for war. I’m reminded of an internet test – “How many five-year-olds could you take in a fight.” Pro tip: they’re light enough you can use ’em as weapons. If that thought shocks some of you, wait until you hear the incessant chanting. It’ll get easier. Would it help if I said one of them tried to club Kirk while his back is turned? Come on, Jim! Roundhouse kick at head height!

Wait a minute, where did the redshirts go? Did they get ambushed by the children and I missed it? Surely Kirk and a redshirt could’ve just stunned all the Onlies and found the communicators. Nope, there’s a redshirt. Kirk went alone. That’s just dumb. And ultimately pointless, since they made the vaccine right the first time. Well, on the upside, Starfleet Command (or “Space Central” as it is apparently known in the 23rd century) is sending teachers. Good thing we don’t know about the Prime Directive yet, or that would seem an awful lot like interfering in the development of a sovereign culture.

And no, they never explain why there’s another exact duplicate of Earth just hanging out somewhere in space.

TOS: S1E08: “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”

In which Lurch is a terrible butler, Kirk shows us why he deserves to be captain, and we see how many times I can use the phrase ‘sex-bot.’ It’s 10, by the way, including this first one. 

Definitely remastered. Call me shallow, but that helps. So far, Star Trek has basically been the opposite of Babylon 5 - remastered for high-def but just abysmal writing.

Definitely remastered. Call me shallow, but that helps. So far, Star Trek has basically been the opposite of Babylon 5 – remastered for high-def but just abysmal writing.

We’ve gotten to episodes that I no longer recognize by name, so maybe we’ve also gotten past that awful patch near the beginning. Any of you like long odds? Incidentally, I’m doing this as a stream-of-consciousness kind of thing and not looking at the synopses whenever possible, and only going back to write the synopsis and correct typos. So if my rantings seem disjointed in any of the episodes I don’t know by heart, that’s why. It’s an integrity thing. Totally not a laziness thing.

We open on a blue planet, and nurse Chapel waits on the bridge, anxious for news of oh no she’s pining for a dude.She apparently gave up an illustrious career in biomedical research so she could get on a starship so she could try to find her man. Damn it. Double damn it.

What the fuck is Archaeological Medicine, exactly? Digging up alien cures in the ruins of lost civilizations? Apparently the Enterprise will succeed where two other expeditions to find Chapel’s beau failed. And he’s hailing them by name despite them never sending out a hail.

Emotions erase logic. Good thing Spock can only be suckered in by lazy writing. Also, for some reason, there's a dude in a bathrobe just hanging out on the bridge.

Emotions erase logic. Good thing Spock can only be suckered in by lazy writing. Also, for some reason, there’s a dude in a bathrobe just hanging out on the bridge.

So why are there so many ruins out in the galaxy? The M113 ruins and this planet, and this one apparently hides discoveries of such an earth-shattering magnitude that Roger Corby requests Captain’s Eyes Only, but couldn’t be bothered to talk to either of the other two expeditions sent to find him. I mention this again because it seems like the kind of little detail that hints at the dark secret which hides just beneath the surface of this blue marble, and therefore will be glossed over completely by the emotional scene when Christine Chapel is united with her onetime fiance.

Those miniskirts. I mean, I can’t say I’m particularly sad about Nichelle Nichols underbutt, in this context it’s still just weird. Corby hasn’t shown up to meet Kirk, so Kirk, sensing a trap, calls for some ablative armor. And tells one of them to stay there,

Ablative armor. Note the red shirts.

Ablative armor. Note the red shirts.

alone and easily picked off. To be fair, their reputation for being utterly and completely expendable hasn’t been cemented yet, but even the people reading this just to watch one man’s journey into the heart of madness know what it means to be a Redshirt. Ask anyone on the street what happens to Ensign Ricky when he, Kirk,and McCoy beam down to a planet. And there he goes – an offscreen scream and some Lurch-looking motherfucker in a collar up to his head creeping away. Nobody seems particularly bothered.

Corby’s assistant is definitely not right in the head.I might know what’s coming at this point. I’m guessing malevolent murder-bots. Kirk, meanwhile, tells the other redshirt that his bunkmate just died, so of course he turns his back on the giant creepy hallway. And Corby’s assistant tells us that Christine Chapel was Corby’s student before she was his fiance. Oh good, that’s not creepy. These hold up so incredibly poorly to modern sensibilities. These costumes. My god. Did light just work differently prior to the ’70s, or did people experience that color as vomit green and actually enjoy it?

Although I think I've seen that dress in "9 Fast 9 Furious - The Enfuriousening"

I think I’ve seen that dress in “9 Fast 9 Furious – The Enfuriousening”

Oh good, here comes the conflict. The best way to gain the trust of a starship captain is to pull a gun on him, and then give him a hostage. Kirk shoots Douchebag Assistant Guy and oh hey. Malevolent murder-bot. Thus beginneth our case studies in the Federation’s hate-on for Artificial Intelligence. I guess it came up in Mudd’s Women, when Mudd calls the shipboard computer a soulless machine, but we could assume that was Mudd just throwing prejudices at the wall to try to get out of jail time. Here we’re going to get a whole episode on the dangers of AI.

The Lurch Robot (whose name is Ruk) is doing impressions, and Kirk manages to use Corby’s feelings for Christine to program in “Chapel gets to order the murder-bot around.” So that was a fun episode, good thing the problem is solved now.

I think that actor may actually be Lurch. It’s comforting, though, that at least he can disobey orders and lose track of time. It’s really good to know that murderbots can go insane. Corby’s been on this planet for five years and convinced Ruk to make some assistant robots. Well, one assistant and one sex-bot. Chrisitne even gets it, and Corby isn’t making it better. You will not convince Christine that you didn’t make a sex-bot by having your sex-bot sex-bot at the captain.

Corby takes Kirk to the Murderbot lab. Apparently you make an android by sticking a play-doh man on a turntable with a naked dude and spinning them around really fast. This kind of begs the question – Where did the sex-bot template come from? It’s concenient, at least, that the transition from ballistics-gel-mannequin-covered-in-shaving-cream to RealDoll only happens when they’re moving too fast for the camera to have to capture a terrible effect. No seriously, where did the Andrea sex-bot template come from.

Kirk is really pretty clever. When he hears the android is going to be a mental duplicate, he tries to overwrite his throught patterns with ones that will distinguish the android from himself. This makes, like, the third plan he’s come up with to break the androids. Kirk gets a bad rep as a bit of a cowboy, but we should not forget that this is the same guy who beat the Kobyashi Maru by fighting the test, not the simulation.

Enough with the heavy philosophy. Here's Kirk holding a big knobbly dildo.

Enough with the heavy philosophy. Here’s Kirk holding a big knobbly dildo.

Andrea is “now programmed to please you also.” But she’s totally not a sex-bot. Chapel is now sitting down to dinner with Kirk. I think I’m supposed to be surprised when it turns out that this is the android. GASP. Okay, so the endgame here is that Corby wants to give humans immortality in a robot shell. Sign me up, except that part of the package is that you let someone else program your mind. Here again is Star Trek preaching anti-transhumanism by bundling in very legitimate nightmares with the dreams. I’m not going to sit here and defend Corby and his methods, but we’re going to see a lot of this whole ‘humans flaws are their greatest virtues’ crap as the show goes on, and it behooves us to try and decide whether that’s actually a valid approach.

Payoff #3 - the Captain gets a Happy Ending from the sex-bot.

Payoff #3 – the Captain gets a Happy Ending from the sex-bot.

Okay, payoff for Kirk Victory Plan #1: Chapel ordered Ruk not to harm Kirk, and beause Corby ordered Ruk to obey Chapel, Kirk is not thrown off a cliff.

Payoff #2: Kirk’s sabotaging of the mental transfer has alerted Spock to something going wrong.

So apparently Kirk’s final plan is to emote the androids to death. I will say this – an AI you don’t properly align with your values is inimical to human life. It’s a valid concern. I don’t know who originally said it, but “the machines do not hate humanity. They do not love humanity. But humanity is made of matter that the machines could be using for something else.”

One more with the dildo.

One more with the dildo, because Kirk needs a souvenir.

Oh my goodness Corby was an android this whole time. I am so shocked that operation “Tile the universe in robots” was not the plan of the original. We can hope, at least, that the original Corby would have come up with a plan that involved more safety measures.

Also, there was never a good place to work it in, but Kirk totally molested the sex-bot into falling in love with him. Thanks, Star Trek. That’s exactly how that works. Well done.

TOS: S1E07: “Mudd’s Women”

In which we meet an old enemy for the first time, we learn a little bit about how the Enterprise actually works, and it is revealed that a little placebo effect can replace an entire costume and makeup department.

Today, we sing the praises of the great Harcourt Fenton Mudd, man’s man and entrepreneur’s entrepreneur (and you won’t believe how many times I tried to spell that before giving up) back in a time before the Federation has caught up with the lawless wilds of the colonial galaxy and met its nearest political neighbors. Uhura is now in command yellows, by the way. I thought you might want to know that.

I believe pickup artists refer to this as 'peacocking.'

I believe pickup artists refer to this as ‘peacocking.’

It’s interesting that the deflector screens appear to be a different subsystem from the regular shields and burn out much more NOPE WE’RE TALKING ABOUT THAT OUTFIT NOW, THANKS.  And that accent. ‘Leo Walsh’ is dressed like a space pimp, and it’s not long until we find out why. The future will be filled with sparkly gowns and twisty mustaches. Sigh. It’s going to be a rough job finding screenshots of this episode that – oh dear. I don’t know if it was written that way but this just came off as an episode that’s actually about human trafficking instead of just an allegory.

Nope, it was definitely written that way. Suuuuuuper awkward. I’m not sure why, but what’s creepy in an oddly charming way in Mad Men just comes off as creepy in Trek.

Sulu is, of course, impervious to the charms of Mudd's women.

Sulu is, of course, impervious to the charms of Mudd’s women.

Scotty is more concerned with the ship than the ladies, which is the privelege of engineers everywhere. Fortunately for ‘Leo’ Harry ‘Walsh,’ those security guards do not share Montgomery Scott’s devotion to duty, and are too busy eyeing gowns covered in the herpes of the art world to hear ‘Leo Walsh’ coaching his ‘cargo.’ I’m going to run out of scare quotes by the end of this episode.

This is Harry Mudd's police record. Nice of them to let him wax his mustache before the mugshot.

This is Harry Mudd’s police record. Nice of them to let him wax his mustache before the mugshot.

So, Harry Mudd is recruiting mail-order brides for colonial settlers, which is slightly less creepy that the setup. If we are to believe Harry Mudd (and we should because the computer didn’t call him out on it, it’s not as if he’s a pathological liar or anything) they’re volunteers from planets without romantic prospects. This is actually a very good bit of worldbuilding – it gives us an image of a very very sparsely populated human corner of the galaxy. They’ve been building this image for a while, but it really comes into focus here, where you have mentions of farming planets run by automation. This also gives us insight into how the Federation can go to a mostly moneyless economy in just a century – money is only a way of rationing scarcity and if robots are doing most of or all of the basic food production needed to keep all the settled worlds going, why bother chasing bits of paper. Kirk’s Enterprise is literally laying the foundations of the actual utopia that Picard will preserve through diplomacy and Sisko will defend.

I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Star Trek, no matter how dated it gets, but this episode was really better when Firefly did it. Of course, Saffron didn’t make electronics flicker when she got agitated. Something so powerful that it can make a medical scanner activate when it’s off.

So, replicators haven’t been invented yet, because Harry is talking about diamonds and gold as if they’re actually worth something. Base carbon arranged in a simple lattice structure? What one has to wonder is how the Federation made the transition to a mostly moneyless economy. The lithium miners (the episode does not actually mention dilithium at all) are getting paid handsomely for their work. Presumably, since the Federation is actually a utopia instead of a dystopia, they’d get compensated for their work even if money was abolished tomorrow.

Of course, the miners are looking to barter engine crystals for chattel, and it’s 50-50 whether Kirk standing up to them is just Kirk not wanting to be bullied or him making a principled stand against chattel slavery. This is where the scotch comes in handy, unfortunately. There are some good episodes ahead. I promise.

"How about we make small talk like I'm not horse trading for you with your pimp and you and your two friends aren't about to double the population of this mine?"

“How about we make small talk like I’m not horse trading for you with your pimp and you and your two friends aren’t about to double the population of this mine?”

Given the tone of this episode so far, I’m a little surprised that when the miner found his errant bride-to-be and brought her back to his rock hovel,he was content to sleep on the bench. We were pretty much at the nadir of humanity when suddenly, a hope spot. And then, just as suddenly, Star Trek teaches us that women are just naturally better at cooking and dishwashing. Way to go, the late ’60s. Way to go. The miner keeps mentioning he didn’t take advantage of the woman like we’re supposed to give him a medal for not being a rapist.

This is really hard to watch. They’re trying really, really hard to come up with some moral about the value of people being more than superficiality, and that anyone can be whoever and whatever they want to, but what it comes off as is “even if you’re an ugly woman, you can be

"This is what you want, Childers. The great taste of Berry Blast Space Snax!"

“This is what you want, Childers. The great taste of Berry Blast Space Snax!”

pretty if you really try, plus you can cook and clean so you have value as a person.”

There are some good ones on the way. I promise. It’s going to be almost as rough before Riker and Sisko grow their beards, too…

 

TOS: S1E06: “The Enemy Within”

In which we briefly consider the nature of philosophical zombies before getting drunk and sidetracked, William Shatner chews the scenery, and Spock and McCoy confuse the captain merely by being in the same room with each other.

It has come to my attention that my numbering scheme for the first season is off, because I counted the pilot and maybe I shouldn’t have. There, I have addressed it, so if anyone was going to complain about it, don’t.

"I can sort of understand dressing up your pets, but who would use EPOXY, Captain?

“I can sort of understand dressing up your pets, but who would use EPOXY, Captain?

Styrofoam rocks,beach blankets, and a unicorn dog. We are off to a strong start. Again, we’re on a planet because of the human desire to go to terrible places and know things, and in so doing we expose ourselves to danger. During the beam-up process, something sad happens but Scotty is pretty awesome, and compensates for it. And like a good technician he’s double-checking his work before he lets the highest-ranking human in local space go through a human-dsassembler. And if this is the episode I think it is, today we’ll be talking about P-zombies. Oh look at that. A second Kirk has beamed up rotated 180 degrees and is giving the camera an Look. I was right.

"Ohhh I feel so BAD. I'm just the baddest, evilest... hey, who wrote this script, anyway?"

“Ohhh I feel so BAD. I’m just the baddest, evilest… hey, who wrote this script, anyway?”

While the credits roll, P-zombies are a thought experiment in which you exactly duplicate a person except for the ‘soul’ or whatever buzzword you choose to use. They don’t experience pain, but they act like they experience pain. Go look it up on wikipedia, I won’t do it justice.

Kirk’s log-taking style is interesting. He gives it like an after-action report, so we have his normal dispassionate voice while his clone is molesting a transporter console. Also, when he beamed up, he didn’t have an insignia on. Some subtle statement about him not being whole,I’m sure. Nice Kirk doesn’t flirt with Yeoman Rand. Evil Kirk goes into medbay and orders a brandy, which is an interesting setpiece about the state of medicine in the 23rd century. It very much says ‘frontier’ medicine without saying it. Consider: Picard’s enterprise doesn’t even have alcohol unless you’re good friends with Guinan, but on Kirk’s enterprise the brandy is right there in medbay. They don’t have a designer drug yet for every possible ailment, nor beeping bits of technology that send numbing EM pulses through your achey bits. The doctor sedates you with brandy, presumably because it has fewer side effects and contraindications than most of the drugs they have. This is helpful when the entire purpose of your mission is filling the computer banks with every unknown thing you can find.

We also don’t spend long before being presented with the problem of the week. Nine minutes in and Scotty straight-up tells us that the transporter is creating docile and aggressive duplicates. This knowledge will not help Yeoman Rand, who is about to be molested for what promises to be a long and illustrious career of being molested. It sucks to be Yeoman Rand. What is nice though is that she really does not seem inclined to put up with anyone’s shit. She threatened to break various of Charlie Evans’ appendages, and you get the sense that the only reason she’s not doing the same here is because Kirk is the captain. This is very Not Cool and she should’ve punched him in lots of places, but these things are difficult in the military, and the Constitution-class is very much ordered like a military ship.  This is actually really uncomfortable. She scratched Evil Kirk’s face and is giving her deposition in front of Nice Kirk which is the absolute worst way to get the statement of a rape victim. On top of that, the unscratched Nice Kirk is making her doubt her sanity.

"Epoxy! My god, Sulu was right! What kind of monster would do such a thing?"

“Epoxy! My god, Sulu was right! What kind of monster would do such a thing?”

Here’s where we learn that phasers have multiple settings and that they can be set to stun. Here’s also where we start to be shown that Nice Kirk is not an effective decision maker. Here’s also where we learn the true acting range of The Shat, as he shouts “I’m Captain Kirk” repeatedly in a crazed madman’s voice before calmly applying foundation cream.

What exactly happens if you split a space heater into ‘good’ and ‘evil’ halves? Or ‘calm’ and ‘willful’ or however you want to designate the duplicates? What, here, is being separated out, and by what criteria? This phenomenon really needs to be studied. Sulu asks for coffee or rice wine. What, exactly, would happen if you beamed them? They need to take a sample of that ore back to Starfleet command and set it up with a transporter setup.

I’m so excited for how they handle the faceoff between the two Kirks. Oh no wait. They’re just using extreme close-ups and a not-very-good body double. That’s really sad. What’s really interesting here is that Spock, a Vulcan, is arguing that an effective leader needs to have emotional and hostile undercurrents. Also a functioning liver, though, so Scotty better fix those damn transporters right quick. Also, Kirk is hugging himself and making statements that can be taken out of context pretty hilariously. If Evil Kirk takes Nice Kirk in a manly fashion, is that masturbation?

"He's a thoughtless brutal animal and I need him inside me."

“He’s a thoughtless brutal animal and I need him inside me.”

I’m really not certain how patching the transporters through the sublight thrusters is supposed to fix them. Over the years, the Treknobabble did get somewhat better. It does help that several real-world particles were actually named after things from Star Trek, ready for use by The Next Generation. And here we have the first instance of those famous words, “He’s Dead, Jim” uttered over a dogicorn.

Spock’s choice of words is interesting here. “I have a human half and an alien half.” Perhaps it’s because he’s talking to McCoy, or because Starfleet is still primarily a humans-only club, but the implication, by death-of-the-author, is that Spock has habitually had to think of himself as a member of the majority culture, that is part outsider. It’s not likely to help much that Vulcans are the best friends Humans have out there in the black – not being able to accept your heritage is Uncool. Not like Sulu who, down there on the frozen planet, is very cool. Frosty, even. I digress. Spock’s word choice is telling, and I think we all learned a valuable lesson here. 

"I've wanted to do this literally all my life."

“I’ve wanted to do this literally all my life.”

 

Always use the shuttlecraft.

TOS: S1E05: “The Naked Time”

In which Enseign Joey goes to Science Hell, the crew gets drunk on sweat, and, for no reason whatsoever, time travel. Also, I open a bottle of Glen Garioch Founders Reserve. 

Yeah, no research base gets that covered in frost if the researchers are still alive. We’re dropped into the middle of a mystery – all the researchers are dead and this redshirt just took off a hazmat glove to scratch his nose. He deserves whatever he gets, and what he gets is a mysterious goo on his hand that he immediately scratches his nose with. Spock tells us it’s like nothing we’ve dealt with before, primarily because up until now we’ve only dealt with psychic powers.

You are the worst at science. No wonder they made you wear red.

You are the worst at science. No wonder they made you wear red.

So it’s pretty clear at this point that there’s some malicious infection that’s going to kill this dumbass redshirt and everyone aboard the Enterprise unless the crew can stop it. Good thing the decontamination procedures in the transporter room and a full-body sweep in medbay didn’t detect anything. I almost hope there isn’t any kind of excuse for this – one of the things that strikes me about The Original Series as opposed to later Star Treks is that so far everyone has been extremely out of their depth, which is wonderful. That’s something that started to get lost in TNG and DS9, and then they had to remake Lost In Space to recapture the feeling. Voyager still fell prey to power creep, the inevitable result of continually having to up the ante for ratings.

"Boop."

“Boop.”

Joey the Dumbass, who I mistakenly thought was a redshirt but is actually wearing Sciences Blue and therefore has no excuse for breaking contamination, goes nuts and tries to kill sulu and then himself.

Most of the instruments look terribly antiquated by the standards of later Star Trek, but they somehow have a wireless respirator. Given that replicators haven’t been shown to exist yet and draw an immense amount of power, it must have a small suction motor and an O2 filter, but that’s still pretty impressive.

"Why don't you and me go back to the helm. You can sit on my lap and we can talk about the first thing to pop up."

“Why don’t you and me go back to the helm. You can sit on my lap and we can talk about the first thing to pop up.”

Okay, seriously, this has gotten to the point where it demands an in-universe explanation. Crewman O’Reilly, even drunk and under the influence, is way too aware of Womens Sufferage. What cataclysm happened to make the idea of a woman taking over the helm worth mentioning as an oddity? It’s not just that O’Reilly is a closeted misogynist, the whole of gender relations in the 23rd century is right out of the 60s.

Yes, I know. Shut up.

Well, it's Naked Time for SOME of the crew, anyway...

Well, it’s Naked Time for SOME of the crew, anyway…

For some reason, the intership PA system is set up like a switchboard and Engineering has control, rather than Uhura. One is reminded of the reboot of Battlestar Galactica, where the hardwiring and manual design of the ship proved an asset against information warfare. What enemy did the Federation fight to make them route communications all the way through the other side of the ship as a matter of course, and require manual addressing?

Spock is very uncomfortable trying to let a virus-drunk Nurse Chapel down easy.This is really the first hint we see of Spock’s nature, as well. In an earlier episode, he mentioned one of his ancestors was human, and we don’t yet know that this was his mother, but we see Spock “is that one of your human ’emotions'” breaking down and hanging on to his control by the tips of his ears. Since the pathogen turns out to be a conversion of water to something akin to ethanol, we’re basically seeing Spock drunk.

No joke here. T this is actually a fairly powerful moment for... okay, fine. He's pooping. It's a poop joke. I hope you're happy.

No joke here. T this is actually a fairly powerful moment for… okay, fine. He’s pooping. It’s a poop joke. I hope you’re happy.

We know now that the engines run on matter/antimatter reactions and that they need to warm up. Nobody has ever started the engines cold before, but drunken Spock has the answer to a question that, if the decimal point is dropped, will blow up the ship and quite possibly the planet below. Remember, kids – always trust a drunk Vulcan to blow things up the exact right amount. They’re now hurtling back in time, which will come in handy if the crew ever needs to, say, travel back to pick up an extinct species in order to save the Earth from a vengeful eco-terrorist from another galaxy.

Today’s installment of Things That Were  A Big Deal Back In The Day But Now Who Gives A Shit: George Takei has been Out since 2005 and with his partner for something around 20 years. He has been a bastion of awesome and fully embraces who he is. Anyone who can be half as true to themselves as George Takei is fortunate indeed. 

TOS: S1E04: “Where No Man Has Gone Before”

In which the Enterprise reaches the edge of the galaxy and is not the first ship to do so, nobody questions or navigates around a mysterious ribbon of purple energy, and Kirk has a fight with Edward Taserhands.

You'd think he'd have learned something when Charlie Evans melted all his pieces, but nooooooo...

“On Vulcan, the only emotion we have is smug.”

Kirk and Spock like to play chess while they watch briefings. Spock is wholly engrossed in the game and Kirk is more focused on the briefing, so apparently Spock takes this as his cue to be snarky and condescending to his captain. If Kirk only knew that he would be remembered as the captain that punches his problems until they become solutions, he’d be popping Spock one from day one. In that sense, the Chris Pine Kirk does a very capable job of encapsulating the essence of William Shatner.

Oh good, we’re getting specifically introduced to several female crew members. Given the precedent set in Charlie X, I’d be willing to lay good odds that they are not going to have a good time over the next hour, even if I wasn’t vaguely familiar with what’s about to happen.

Funnily enough, the new Doctor Dehner tells us that ESP is a recognized and proven phenomenon in Federation science, and to the best of my knowledge this is never mentioned again. Granted, she tells us that this is always quite a limited faculty and mentions it in a rather derogatory fashion, but this is a thread that nobody really ran with.

Has this been remastered? The effects as the Enterprise is threading its way through the intergalactic barrier are actually quite good. Well, on the outside of the ship, anyway. The question we should really be considering, though, is whether this barrier is natural or artificial, and if the latter, who put it there? This is addressed in some TNG novels featuring Q. Q is excellent.

Gary Mitchel has diamonds for eyes. ESP is, apparently, really well cataloged in humans at this point, but apart from having the information available in medical records, nothing much seems to be done about it. Compare and contrast to the planned breeding program that the Psi Corps of Babylon 5 got up to.

With all due apologies to Nietzche.

He who fights with petulant god-beings should look to it that he himself does not become a petulant god-being. And when you gaze long into a television the television also gazes into you.

So it seems we’re going to be treated to another episode about a person getting powers they’re not ready to handle and everyone suffering for it. Specter of the Cold War looming over everything, I suppose. It’s just getting monotonous – can we have some political intrigue soon? Only ten more seasons until the Deep Space 9…

I’m not sure what to make of the fact that Gary Mitchell is referencing a poet from another planet in 1996. Even a slowship launched in 1968 would have had a difficult time making it to a nearby colonial prospect by 1996 without breaking the light barrier. Maybe an alien? Regardless, he’s concerning enough that Spock decides to be genre-savvy – maybe he remembers dealing with Charlie and doesn’t particularly want to repeat the experience. Regardless, there’s only one way to deal with someone who finger-tasers your first officer, and that’s to give them the old kidney-elbow. I need to start doing that more in daily life  – static electricty? KIDNEY SHOT.

Also, the phaser rifle of the 23rd century looks like it's made mainly of Dalek parts.

Those mirrored contact lenses are clearly not helping her follow Shatner around the set.

So apparently, protocol when dealing with budding god-beings is to strand them on a barren planet and bathe them with ionizing radiation until their DNA unwinds. This seems like a rather terrifying capability for a starship to just be carrying around.  “Mr Sulu, reconfigure the phasers to ‘acute radiation sickness’ just doesn’t fit the kind of Federation we want to believe in.

Here’s our first real anti-transhumanism debate. Kirk makes a valid point – that humans aren’t ready to handle power thrust upon them, but nobody seems willing to make the suggestion that Mitchell just use his power to eliminate his ‘human frailty.’ Surely the message here can’t be that humanity will never be ready for the big leagues, can it? Maybe it just didn’t cross their minds, so I’ll say it for the rest of you.

If you’re granted the powers of the god, the first thing you should do is grant yourself the wisdom to use them properly. That way, nobody will shoot an avalanche onto your head.

God-like Beings That Are Really Petulant Children With Too Much Power Count: 2

TOS: S1E03: “Charlie X”

In which L’enfant terrible Charlie Evans writes a primer on stalking and temper tantrums, and the viewer is invited to meditate on just how molest-y the late 60s were.

WHY WOULD YOU WEAR THIS?!

Literally the first shot of the episode about rape.

I vaguely remember what this episode is about, and wanted to start off with some false indignation about more psychic powers, but I cannot, in good conscience, do so. That would be cheating. Instead, there’s this fun fact. It’s been said you can tell how far into a seasons it was by Kirk’s gut. William Shatner tried very hard to stay in shape, but the shooting schedules were hell on him, so he’s always trim in the early seasons, and, well, less so later on. Two Kirk-episodes in, and he’s still wearing that green blouse with the plunging neckline. Oh, Shatner. Never change. Anyway, back to the introduction I wanted to give:

Come on, really? Another episode about a psychic terrorizing humanity? Humanity really gets the short end of the stick out in space, don’t we? Less than a minute in and we get the hints of terrible things in the works. Give them this – they did not believe in fucking around and slow-rolling the viewer back in the day.

Today, we get the first real look at life aboard the Enterprise when there isn’t a crisis going on. As I mentioned in “The Man Trap,” the Constitution-class is a military ship with limited space, so unlike her successors, she doesn’t have specialized rooms for space-squash or plays. There’s a rec room with a table and a chess board, and off-duty time is spent in the company of everyone else who’s off-duty or in solitude.

Charlie thinks it’s cute to magically produce glamour shots of the woman he’s stalking and magic cards into her bra. Listen, Charlie, there’s no right way to hit a woman. Gee, Kirk, we’re making leaps and strides for equality in the workplace today, aren’t we?

"But there's no WRONG way to eat a Reese's."

“Then again, there’s no WRONG way to eat a Reese’s.”

We’re all so concerned about things being awkward for the new unsocialized boy that we get to have a nice dramatic close-up of Janice Rand afraid she’s going to have to hurt her stalker to keep him from making unwelcome advances. We’re going to be making fun of Picard a bit for how he acts around children, but Kirk is singularly awful at giving the Father-Son talk to a half-feral psychic god-child. Picard would’ve laid down the law and at least had a straightforward crisis to handle. Sisko would’ve decked him from harassing his crew.

"I AM YOUR CAPTAIN AND YOU WILL LOOK AT MY JUNK!"

“What a piece of work is man. How noble in shirtlessness, how infinite in spandex pants.”

Charlie has now shown his true power and lack of control, and Kirk gets to be dramatic and serious without a shirt. Plus, the best way to deal with an out-of-control living weapon who can vanish you at the drop of a hat is to threaten him with physical violence, apparently. I’m pretty sure  that “Charlie X” isn’t actually a metaphor for humanity playing around with nuclear weaponry, but it works well enough for me for now. Impulsive, believing that might makes right. I’m not sure where the whole turning-a-girl-into-an-iguana part comes in, though.

God-like Beings That Are Really Petulant Children With Too Much Power Count: 1

TOS: S1E02: “The Man Trap”

In which Kirk, McCoy, and Crewman E. X. Pendable beam down to a planet to have a chat with an archaeologist and McCoy’s ex girlfriend, who turns out to just suck the life right out of people. Meanwhile,aboard the Enterprise, the female crew have traded in their sensible duty pants and sensible haircuts for miniskirts and beehives, and Sulu thinks they look fabulous!

 

We don’t have the greatest sample size in the galaxy yet, but so far the Alpha Quadrant is chock-full of telepathy. It’s just everywhere. With the exception of a certain young Scrappy Doo in a later series, humanity hasn’t gotten any of the occasional legs up that’s customary in later sci-fi franchises.

This gives me a platform to stage my discussion of transhumanism. I didn’t realize I’d be able to do so this early.

Star Trek is not transhumanism-friendly. It’s not terribly surprising that Star Trek doesn’t exactly expound transhumanism, since it was an extremely recent idea, but a lot of the ideals in Trek stand opposed. There will be much more on this if I make it to “Space Seed,” but for now I’ll merely mention that in “The Cage” we saw Chris Pike triumph over the Talosians by appealing to his bases human emotions, and –

 

"Asking too many quesions."

“Um, Sulu? Why is one of the enlisted crewmen hiding behind a table pretending to be a plant?”

That plant is very clearly a pink frilly glove. You’re not fooling anyone, costuming and props department.

Um. Where was I. Ah yes – Star Trek is going to do a lot of showing us how humans can live up to the best of their potential, but actively avoid and stigmatize any attempt by humanity to be more than it is.

 

One of the most fun things about Star Trek, or really about any world-building, is taking the little things and extrapolating from them. For instance? Why are those comm panels so high on the walls? They’re making everyone look really, really short. Along with the handles in the turbolifts, there are some strange design decisions that cry out for explanation. The Constitution-class is a military and exploration ship, so we must assume that the inconvenience of these little details is outweighed by some vital factor. We have only the barest hints so far.

Today begins the first installment of a segment I’m going to call Things That Were A Big Deal At The Time But Now Who Gives A Shit?

Today’s installment: Uhura. She’s a snarky senior officer, in a high-profile job, and the voice the Enterprise sends out to the stars. She’s a great character. She’s something else that completely bypassed me when I was watching TOS as a child. I glossed right over it because it didn’t seem significant in any way.

She’s black.

"Not yet. Soon now..."

“IS IT TIME FOR THE AESOP STICK YET?”

More on this when I get to “Plato’s Stepchildren.” In the meantime, let’s all just bask in how silly it is to –

 

Oh goddamnit, Gene….