In which we learn of the Eugenics war, McCoy’s unwillingness to report being attacked by a patient, and the answer to the age-old question: Khan Noonien Singh? Not a note in the whole episode.
In which Sulu wears a hat, cults are roundly denounced, and Kirk shouts a surprisingly sophisticated thesis on the difference between what a society thinks it wants and what’s actually good for it.
In which we examine the continuous relevance of books in an increasingly computerized age, particularly in legal matters where intent is everything: A Time To Kirk, The Devil’s AdvoKirk, and To Kirk A Mockingbird.
In which I open a bottle of BenRiach 12-year, Kiirk gets pornographic malware, and we see the least coherent theory of time travel ever.
We’re opening on a US Airforce base. Since all of those were destroyed in the Eugenics Wars, we can presume this is either one of those ‘duplicated earth’ episodes or this is the payoff from the time travel method we discovered in “The Naked Time.” The Air Force appears to have discovered the Enterprise on their radar. And it appears to be teetering back and forth through the sky like it’s drunk.
I never noticed that in the opening credits there appears to be a hurricane covering most of the northern hemisphere of a desert world. What’s up with that?
The Enterprise seems to have been caught near a “black star” or more probably a black hole and done another slingshot maneuver like in “The Naked Time” (Ha! Called it!) to wind up, in Kirk’s words “here, wherever we are.” Helpfully, as soon as the ship is in good shape Kirk orders starfleet command notified so they can update their maps. Presumably therefore, in the 23rd century they have yet to master sensors that operate at high warp. But when they call Starfleet, all they get is the evening news about the first manned trip to the moon. Extremely topical.
It’s worth noting at this point that anything the Enterprise does that affects the past will be altered by any events which alter Kirk’s life. I’m looking at you, JJ Abrams-universe.
The Temporal Prime Directive doesn’t exist yet, though, so Kirk has the pilot of a US Air Force jet beamed aboard. I suppose it’s better than accidentally
killing someone by tearing their fighter jet to pieces, but still. And the Transporter can apparently reconfigure his bone structure in the matter stream. This is an indicator of some of the next-level transporter magic we’re going to be seeing down the road. Kirk is trying to be all gentle and understanding and the fighter pilot is justifiably terrified and responding as if he expects to be taken prisoner.
On the lift ride to the bridge, Captain James Kirk gets to explain some details about the Federation to the pilot, Captain John Cristopher. There are 12 Constitution-class ships in the fleet and Starfleet is apparently called the United Earth Space Probe Agency. This is not as punchy and I can see why they changed it. There’s a cute moment as they step off the lift, Captain Christopher roundly denouncing the existence of ‘little green men’ and Spock agreeing. We have to remember that Captain Christopher is from a world still waiting to see if the two ‘winners’ of World War II are going to destroy each other. The idea of a United Earth and military service for aliens is exactly the kind of jarring, hopeful note that Star Trek is about. Checkov hasn’t shown up yet, but Uhura and Sulu are prominent bridge officers to constantly remind the viewer that this is a multiethnic crew that represents all of Earth, and beyond.
Spock gives Kirk a brief lesson on temporal paradox, they all meet up in his
quarters, and the Computer starts talking sexy at Kirk in front of company. I’m not even joking. He’s making a log entry and it responds “Computed and recorded, dear” in Majel Barret’s sultriest tones. We can presume this is some kind of malfuction either due to the damage, the time warp, or some sort of high-level ARPA electronic warfare. As a veteran of Next Generation, though, I have to wonder if the computer just gained sentience. Kirk, however, is having none of it.
Nope, I was wrong. Apparently, the last time the Enterprise was in for maintinance, the engineers didn’t think the computer had enough of a personality. Since their entire engineering team was female and Kirk probably tried to bone half of them, this is clearly some form of elaborate revenge. But in the midst of this levity, Kirk breaks the news to Captain Christopher that they can’t let him go home. Not that they have anywhere to go, either. CUE DRAMATIC HORNS AND COMMERCIAL BREA- oh wait, Netflix. Carry on.
Oh well. Good thing they have to return him because he has another son who’ll be instrumental in the space program. I guess they’ll have to send him back, either sworn to secrecy or as a conspirator, and remove all evidence of their presence. Looks like conspirator is going to be the order of the day, so that’s nice and heartwarming, at least. Almost makes up for Kirk and Sulu getting caught erasing the evidence and accidentally kidnapping an MP. This is rapidly turning into one of those plans where they kidnap everyone who notices that they’re kidnapping people. Hey, I saw a clip from this epiosode this morning in a music video I remember from years ago. It’s just a feel-good video.
This episode has some of the best looks so far. It’s a comedy of errors and whatever else he is, The Shat is very expressive. They’re really getting into the stride of it by this point – over the last five episodes we’ve had a good mix of heavy episodes and silly ones, with most of the teething problems sorted out except McCoy’s obstinate refusal to be anything like a rational person. This interrogation scene makes me really want to skip ahead to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home but I will be good and get through it all. For you, dear reader. All for you.
This episode also marks the first time we see anything resembling a replicator. Presumably it was installed when the Enterprise got the pornographic desktop app installed, because up until now food has only come from the galley and has mostly been gelatinous protein cubes. Now they can make chicken soup in the transporter room. However, it looks like they need to use removable memory cards to load in the replicator pattern.
I’m not sure I follow Spock’s logic that the same thing that sent you back in time will also send you forward, but I guess that’s why he’s the Vulcan and I’m not. As they make a course for home, Captain Christopher, waiting to be transported back to Earth before the entire episode happened, gets to be the first man past Mercury.
In which the Enterprise doesn’t bother to use sensors and nearly loses the entire command staff, we see 23rd century defensive weaponry, and what the hell, I’m watching Star Trek not MacGyver.
In which an uninhabitable planet has a castle, the crew taunt a child by taking away his green plastic army men, and we get a real sense of who Kirk was as a child. Continue reading
In which exploration takes a backseat to humanitarian aid, Spock and Scotty are the only sane people on a shuttlecraft, and I draw entirely the wrong lesson.
Guys, I’m trying really hard not to read the Neflix plot synopses, and I don’t always succeed. This one may get a little ricockulous. Just so you know.
In which Kirk gets kinky, McCoy suffers withdrawal, and one of the writers latched on to a psychological study.
We don’t open with a log entry, so today is not a crisis day, but we do open with
Kirk showing symptoms of prolonged stress and fatigue. I suppose once the captain gets stressed, he gets to make the call to let the crew off for a picnic. Even Spock is commenting on the frailties of humans and the need to let them rest. Meanwhile, McCoy and Sulu are down on the surface of an idylic planet talking about how much everyone needs a picnic. McCoy makes an offhand comment about Alice in Wonderland, and those of you who have any familiarity with Original Series Trek at all know what’s coming next.
This is one of those episodes.
McCoy is not prepared for this sort of anarchy. To be fair, I wouldn’t be either. Even Kirk’s log entry sounds incredulous. McCoy reports this to the captain, who jokingly suggests that Alice was following behind. Yeah. And Spock has tricked Kirk into ordering himself to take shore leave. One of the scouting party looks familiar. I do believe that’s Angela Martine, who in “Balance of Terror” lost her fiancee on the very day of their aborted wedding. She seems remarkably over it. Then again, she does get to breathe fresh air for the first time in months. She’s lucky to be on the scouting party, because Kirk cancels the beam-down when he finds the footprints. Gunshots are heard, and it turns out that Sulu just found an old-style revolver just like the one he’s always wanted.
So Kirk and McCoy are talking, Kirk starts reminiscing about an old bully of his in the Academy, and when Alice’s tracks and the rabbit’s split up, Kirk elects to follow the young blonde girl. C’mon, Jim. This is why you have a Reputation. Good thing he’s about to get distracted by that bully punching him across the jaw. All sorts of strange things are coming out of daydreams and performing increasing levels of assault on the crew. Fortunately, there’s a rational explanation for all this – the brain-scanning antennae that keep popping out of rocks and trees.
This is one of those things where we get to watch the crew figure something out and speculate. The question I have is ‘What happened to the people who built all this?’ They clearly have matter replication, sophisticated androids that can perfectly mimic humans, flocks of birds in flight, and large nonhumanoid animals from scanned memory. Did the previous owners move on, or succumb to the inevitable fate of cultures that invent Better Than Life technology and simply stop bothering to live real life? Or did they transcend and keep maintaining this as kind of a public works project?
The Shore Leave Planet machinery doesn’t seem very adept at giving humans what they want, though it’s pretty decent at giving them what they ask for. Therefore, I don’t thiink it actually says all that much about Kirk that it gives him a knock-down drag-out fight with his Academy rival and a chance to get his tunic ripped.
It appears we can increment our God-Like Beings counter. Fortunately, once all the misunderstandings are sorted out, they actually turned out to be benevolent.
In which we get our first glimpse of the military and political intrigue that makes Star Trek actually worth watching, we see wartime prejudice, and I stop writing these reviews to watch all the WWII submarine movies. All of them.
Some sort of ceremony is being performed in which candlelighting is integral, but what’s this? Several outposts are going dark. This is bad news. The Captain won’t let him stop that from performing this wedding, however. Nor will he let Yeoman Rand’s significant looks phase him. But when the alert comes in, he doesn’t even rattle off a hasty “You’re married, in case one of you gets hospitalized responding to this crisis and need next-of-kin status.” Seems kind of remiss to me.
Romulus and Remus have not yet been mentioned on-camera before, but now we know a state of very careful diplomacy exists between them and the Federation, in the form of a Neutral Zone between the two political entities. Several outposts on the border are going dark. In as much of a vacuum as
possible, let’s consider what we know already just from his log entry and what we’ve seen so far. Fact: when faced with an existential memetic threat to the entire Federation, Starfleet enforced a quarantine of its own citizens against Talos IV, rather than take the potentially more expedient measure of glassing the planet. From this we determine that the Federation would prefer not to wage war even when it has the possibility of winning decisively. So it seems likely that the Romulan Star Empire is hostile to the Federation but weaker, or at least more poorly positioned, and thus can’t run roughshod over a few dozen colonies of a few thousand people each. Furthermore, from the map it looks like the Federation did much better than the Romulans in the conflict between the two. Perhaps only “better” if that red dot is Earth, but I don’t think it is. Spock fills us in on a few details. The Romulans and the Federation clashed back in the 2200s when both ships were using atomic weaponry and unsophisticated ships. No side has ever seen the other because video transmission didn’t exist, apparently. Apparently we’ve exchanged codecs with them lately.
The Stupid Crewman of the week will be Stiles, whose family fought in the Earth/Romulus war. It would seem prudent, at this point, to ask the loudmouth with a family grudge to vacate the tactical console, but I guess they don’t have the crew to spare on spur-of-the-moment shift exchanges. But at least now we know that the Romulans paint their ships like birds. I’m not entirely sure why – it’s not like any species that makes it to space is going to be afraid of a bird, and any planetary culture they try to subjugate will be more afraid of a bird than of a spaceship appearing out of nowhere to spit plasma that can melt through a mile of solid iron.
So Stiles and Sulu believe there’s a spy on board for some reason that is not adequately explained, and fortunately we get to intercept their transmissions home just in time to see that Romulans look like Vulcans. And we get to see a little internal view of the Romulan ship. Highly militarized, which isn’t actually surprising, given the budget of a spacecraft. But more militarized than the Constitution-class. And from some of the dialogue, the society is big on cronyism, to the point where a crewman who broke radio silence while in enemy territory and reduced in rank for it is likely to have his powerful friends cause problems for the Romulan captain.
Apparently, the Romulans have superior weaponry and they have cloaking technology, but only sublight speeds. I’m going to be harping on the “Where No Man Has Gone Before” plan of bombarding a planet with the cancer-beam plan for a while, so shouldn’t it be possible to bait the Romulans into sending a huge fleet, at which point the Federation could flank them and bombard the planet, if it came to total war. The Romulan commander doesn’t appear to be a monster, though, so it’s hopeful it won’t come to that, and we won’t see the Federation have to resort to that until late in Deep Space 9.
The Romulan ship appears and the Enterprise goes to warp in reverse. They must have caught the plasma ball in the warp field because the alternative – that it’s gaining on them when they’re going superluminal speeds, is not consistent with anything we know about how warp works. Clearly, this weapons is more powerful than phasers, or Kirk wouldn’t be shocked at its destructive power. Then again, ship-to-ship phasers would have hit already, instead of ranging out. The Enterprise phasers hold up better over range. Plus, if they’re trading weapons blasts, at least the crew of the Enterprise has chairs.
The Romulans are ejecting chaff. Including corpses. I think it’s time to watch Operation Petticoat again. Kind of a hilarious movie, if I recall. And also full of sexist attitudes, which I should really watch while I’m still inured to them from TOS. We’ve switched into a submarine movie anyway, with both ships running silent. Maybe I’ll watch The Hunt for Red October instead. Sean Connery as a soviet sub commander with a scottish accent. Also, Spock is being kind of a fuckup this episode. This is actually a very good submarine movie wrapped up in half an episode, and is the first real fight the Enterprise has been in. It’s an excellent establisher for the military capabilities of the Constitution-class, which include shrugging off a nuclear device at a hundred meters. This, in turn, gives us (that is to say, people who are good at physics, which is not me) an idea of the kind of energy output needed to actually penetrate the Enterprise’ defenses, and makes warfare in the 23rd century that much more terrifying.
In which we try to puzzle out the difference between mass murder and lifeboat ethics, McCoy knows literally nothing about anything, and Kirk sticks his dick in crazy.
This appears to be a production of MacBeth, despite the title being a reference to Hamlet. Hooray, I was right! Thus begins a long tradition of Starfleet officers performing plays for each other. A lot of people don’t like “Frame of Mind” but I remember it fondly. Only 7 full seasons at 37 episodes to go… This is being performed by Arkturians, and apparently one of them, the actor for MacBeth, is Kodos, who has earned himself a pretty bad-ass appellation. How do I get people to call me “The Executioner?” I’m sure it can’t be too horrible if actors can do it.
Yeah, see, all he did was kill 4,000 people horribly and dye this guy’s Phantom of the Opera mask black. Kirk doesn’t seem to want to believe this actor is Kodos, but we all know this wouldn’t be an episode if one war-scarred refugee had an episode of PTSD triggered by someone who looked like space-mini-Hitler. And it turns out that the actor didn’t seem to exist before Kodos’ death. But let’s not spoil the mood – Kirk beams down to a party where a trumpet with heavy muting is doing a slow jazz version of the opening titles. I kind of want that. It makes a perfect place for Kirk to flirt with space-mini-Hitler’s daughter who plays Lady MacBeth to space-mini-Hitler’s MacBeth. So far we have Hamlet, MacBeth, the Holocaust and Electra all piled into one episode. That’s one way to subvert tropes – make it impossible to tell which classic you’re cribbing off of. Seriously though, Kirk. Try not to stick it in Hitler’s daughter.
Let’s take a moment on that, actually. this is another bit of the kind of implicit world-building that Star Trek is actually pretty good at. Kodos gets the sobriquet “The Executioner” because he killed 4,000 people on a colony that he was governor of. I’m actually struggling to think of anyone in contemporary history that killed 4,000 people. I had to go to Wikipedia’s list of genocides by death toll (link here for those who want to be depressed) and I’d be willing to bet good money that most people haven’t even heard of any of the genocides of fewer than half a million. But this Kodos guy is essentially a direct parallel to Hitler, right down to his corpse being burnt to unrecognizability, but with a death count five orders of magnitude lower. It’d suck to be on that planet, but if that’s the caliber of mass murderer the future can come up with, sign me up. I like them odds.
Kirk’s friend with the half a balaclava is dead, which lends some credence to the whole conspiracy theory. Kirk asks the ship that was going to transport he actors to let him do it, and beams up. And is being a very sly fox about it when he ‘reluctantly’ agrees to take the company to their next stop, despite ‘regulations.’ Lenore, who is the daughter of space-Ratko Mladic (Did you read that list? No? Then you don’t get to complain when I don’t introduce historical referents.)
There are 9 (well, 8, now) living people who have actually seen Kodos, and one of them aside from Kirk works on the Enterprise. Kirk makes some duty shifts which are likely to result in the untimely death of the poor officer in question, and Spock is concerned. I’d be pretty concerned too if the CEO of a 500-person company started making staffing decisions on the operational level. McCoy makes an offhand remark about Spock’s father’s race being
conquered. Excuse me, what now? I don’t recall anything like that happening, except in the mirror universe. Is this just more of McCoy being basically the worst at everything, or is there something here? By contrast, the upcoming dialogue about simulating day and night conditions aboard the Enterprise is pretty mundane. Mostly.
Ugh, let’s just skip past the ’60s dialogue. I don’t want it. Go away. It’s not as bad as “Mudd’s Women” because nothing will ever be, but it’s still pretty bad. Let’s instead skip to Spock’s detective work and explanation to McCoy (who is the worst at everything including history, let’s remember) that Kodos was the governer of Tarsus during an episode of extreme famine. Declared martial law, performed triage on the population and started murdering 50% of the population as quickly and painlessly as possible. Also, all the rest of the eyewitnesses except for Kirk and that drunken Riley douchebag from “The Naked Time” are dead. Well, for now. Riley is all alone in the engine room. Way to go, Kirk. Someone put laundry detergent in Riley’s milk and it’s all your fault.
Soneone put a phaser on overload in Kirk’s quarters. This apparently merits “double red alert.” Gee, it sure would be nice if someone could lock onto the energy signature and and transport it a thousand kilometers into space. Instead, Kirk has to find it and throw it down the garbage chute, which makes it safe, somehow.
We get an excerpt from Kodos’ old speeches, which are remarkably similar to some of the lifeboat ethics that British officers used to be (and maybe still
are) trained in. If you’re twenty days from shore with only enough supplies for 8 people to make it for 15 days, is it wrong to try to make as many survivors as possible? If you’re in command and you do the math, 6 people can last for the 20 days. Kirk has the benefit of looking back and knowing that the supply ships arrived earlier than they were expected to, but Kodos had no such assurances. Kirk has the benefit of a life outlook that doesn’t bow to no-win scenarios, but how exactly does he think he would have handled that situation, if he were governor? Let 8,000 people die of starvation, so long as his finger wasn’t the one on the trigger? That smells like bullshit to me.
Riley hears McCoy logging that Karidian might be Kodos, so here comes some conduct unbecoming an officer. But on a lighter note, the ship actually does have a dedicated theater. For some reason. And the daughter is the one who was doing all the murdering. Which at least explains how that phaser got into his quarters. Womp womp. she’s a little crazypants. So is the moral here “murder runs in families” or “actors… go figure.”