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….

TOS: Pilot: “The Cage”

The primary thing that strikes me, 49 years after the pilot episode of Star Trek, is the galaxy Roddenberry was trying to create. The colonist illusions and the Rigel 7 mindscape paint an Enterprise whose primary duties include going from Slowship colony to Slowship colony, bringing humanity back into a unified whole. After five decades of Star Trek delving into the Federations political and military interactions with other cultures, I’d forgotten how much of the original Star Trek focused on painting this picture.

With what we know from future canon about the Eugenics Wars, Zefram Cochraine’s flight, and the immediate species-wide apprenticeship under the Vulcans, Humanity must have been sending relativity ships to the distant stars for years prior to the final devastation of humanity. The frustration of Archer and the heads of the NX project must have been immense, thinking of all of those colonists stranded out there among the stars, refugees from a dying earth that was saved by First Contact. Ex Astris Scientia, indeed.

Finally, we see right from the start in “The Cage” that Star Trek is going to use the future setting to do varying levels of social commentary. The Talosians present a science fiction take on Television culture. Joyriding in alien experiences, it’s easy to look back and see the foreshadowing of ‘reality’ programming as a dark and terrible thing.

 

Our Chief Weapons are Guardian Spirits: (Epsiode 06)

This is a game about extreme historical inaccuracy. This cannot be stressed enough.

To understand this episode you must know two things. The first is the legend of the Golem. Very roughly recounted, in order to protect the Jews of the ghetto from persecution, expulsion from Prague, and murder, a rabbi built a clay man, imbued it with life through the use of the word Truth carved in its forhead in Hebrew. (EMET). The Golem protected the Jews, but soon, because of Reasons, became a violent and implacable killing machine. The Rabbi managed to remove a letter, changing the word to “Death”, and the Golem was deactivated.

The second thing is that  the authors recorded this on a work night, and oh god we were so exhausted.  I don’t think we got a single fact about Spanish history right – not that being awake .  It was so bad that Adam re-recorded a few sections to make the butchery of Spanish history a little less intense. And we’re going to pretend that’s why this episode is three months late.

 

There is much that is unknown about the darkest days of the Spanish Inquisition. The exact death toll will never be known. Records of lineage have been irrevocably muddied. What is known is a dominican friar named Tomás de Torquemada came into possession of an artifact engraved with the Seal of Solomon and, with it, immense power and influence over the minds of others. With this, he began the pursuit of his vengeance.

The most holy and righteous followers of the faiths of the world have within them the power to conjure manifestations of that faith. Golems, djinni, angels, spirits of the elements, each manifested according to the faith of the conjurer. They do odd jobs, heal injuries and illnesses, and, in dark times, they defend the faithful. And days are upon the world indeed.

Powerful relics have been drifting around Europe – demons gone wild, turned on their creators before being sealed away. These spirits are often quite mad, in every sense of the world – their summoner deviated from the holy path long ago, and their faithful long dead. It takes a powerful will to use the power of a bound demon without being undone by it, and very few who chance upon one will be strong enough…

 

 Systems

Dogs in the vineyard

7th sea

Burning empires

Shock

Fortune’s Fool

Music

Beregovski Freylekhs East Rock Klezmer feat. James Kessler. http://eastrockklezmer.com/music.php

Blood Bronze Wind Magic (Episode 05)

The Isles of Aetherea do not rest upon the ocean.

There is a general lack of curiosity as to why this might be, as it seems obvious to anyone with a mote of common sense that some primordial wizard or god raised the lands high into the sky and set all the people on them to escape the devastating winds below. For most people, the question doesn’t really come up. People live on rocks that float above an unending storm, and that’s the way it’s always been.

Continue reading

Jovian Sleighride (Episode 4)

This is not a game about whales.

Hundreds of years in the future humanity is finally leaving the solar system, sending out long-haul spaceships full of colonists in suspended animation. The inner solar system has been colonized, with bases on the moon and dome-cities on Mars. Eighty billion people are alive at once, and the solar system is a terribly crowded place. But there is one place where a human can go to be alone.

Jupiter is the first stop for a ship after Mars and the last real outpost of civilization in the solar system.  A scant few tens of thousands live and work on the moons Io, Europa, and Ganymede, trading fuel, water, and mineral resources between them.  The moons of Jupiter are incredibly harsh to human life, and Jupiter itself is harder still.  What madness drives humans to live there?

In swirling depths of Jupiter live the Leviathans.   Continue reading

Satan’s Mobile Infantry (Episode 3)

The year is 2287, and Earth has finally succumbed to her wounds. The environmental measures mankind has put in place are finally definitively losing the race against climate change, and humanity must turn to the stars. As  it became certain that the oceans would flood within the century, and populations had to condense into the middle of continents, the nations of Earth built great slowships and sent out colonists to the stars.

It was there that the children of men met Lucifer.  Continue reading

No Episode today, July 8th

Due to the holiday weekend, no episode today. There is, however, a short bit explaining some of the extenuating circumstances…

 

 

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Wuxia Zombies (Episode 2)

400 BCE. Imperial China – The warring States period. The kingdoms of Wei, Shu, and Wu are only a few short years away from their fateful conflict that would change the course of Chinese history, when the stars align and Cynothoglys, the Mortician God, awakens from his slumber. He has been woken by the strife and turmoil of the mortal world, and seeks to bring ecstatic death and the peace of the grave to the world. He has empowered mortals seeking power to raise the dead as fearsome fighters with the knowledge of deadly kung-fu. The lords have shut themselves in their towers, defended only by their most loyal bodyguards and the meager spiritual protection of the stone Foo dogs that line every roof. The nations tremble, awaiting the end of days. Continue reading

Cyberpunk Utopia (Episode 1)

blendersimpleSetting:

It’s twenty minutes into the future.  The geographical region once known as the United States (we used the East Coast of the United States because we’re familiar with it, but pick someplace you’re familiar with, and preferably that you like) has shed the former social structure in favor of a confederation of corporate city-states.  Fear not, though!  The relentless march of technology has allowed a near-perfect flow of information.  There are no secrets that a corporation can keep from the populace, and there’s enough freedom of choice and ubiquitous access to alternatives that the citizenry can in fact police the corporations by voting with their dollar.  This is a laissez-faire capitalist utopia played straight.  The city-states each have their own social order, some are nearly anarchic, some highly hierarchical, but one law is sacrosanct: No citizen can be restrained against their will. Continue reading