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.