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….

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.