Star Trek Saturdays #41

It’s time for [at long last]…Star Trek Saturdays #41!!!

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This week’s episode is “I, Mudd” and it is  absolutely hilarious in a way Trek usually isn’t. The return of Harry Mudd, the only other reoccurring TOS villain besides Khan, is most welcome and the whole episode is, even with the danger posed this time around, a romp from start to finish.

Before I go on, let me profusely apologize for not having done this since September. It’s not like I haven’t been writing–I’ve done a ton of news stories over on Another Castle, for instance, and had some other big stuff happen, which I’ll have up here shortly. But this blog and, most especially, this feature, have suffered drastically for all my increased productivity.  I am truly, truly sorry for that.

Also yes, I know posting this the day after the death of the iconic Leonard Nimoy. I’ll post my own tribute to the man shortly, but I hope the way I describe Spock here will articulate just how key Nimoy was, as Alan Sepinwall wrote, to making Trek the institution it is.

Now then.

We open with Spock & McCoy walking down the halls when a new crewman, Norman (Richard Tatro), passes them by and barely says hello. McCoy mentions how irritatingly unemotional he finds Norman; Spock replies that he hadn’t noticed. The whole exchange is golden, but the capper is when Spock, after McCoy mentions Norman still hasn’t shown up for his physical, responds “He’s probably terrified of your beads and rattles.” Spock is so wonderfully wry throughout this episode and it’s great.

Norman enters the auxiliary control deck, knocks out the crewman there and initiates an override. On the bridge, Sulu registers a course change but can’t correct it. Kirk orders security to auxiliary control. Norman heads to engineering, knocks out most of the crew there (including Scotty), and jams the controls.

Norman then makes his way to the bridge and exclaims that he’s in control, with the ship slated to reach its new destination in 4 days at Warp 7; he’s jammed the controls so that if anything deviates from this plan, the ship blows up. When asked why he did this,  he opens a panel in his stomach to reveal he’s an android.

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4 days later (during which time Norman’s been asleep in front of the lift), the ship arrives at an uncharted planet. Norman awakes and tells Kirk that he, Spock, McCoy, Uhura and Chekov must beam down with him to the planet or he’ll destroy the engines. They do so and are ushered into the presence of Lord Mudd the First aka Harcourt Fenton “Harry” Mudd (Roger C. Carmel).

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Mudd, surrounded by androids who are mostly beautiful women–the two in the photo are both named Alice (played by twins Alyce and Rhae Andrece) and are part of a series of 500–explains that Kirk and the others have been brought here to spend the rest of their lives on the planet, which he’s named Mudd.

Even though he ended up in prison at the end of his last appearance, Mudd explains that he escaped and turned to illegally reselling patents. He was caught on the planet Deneb V and sentenced to death, but stole a ship and drifted through space until he found planet Mudd. Of course, he doesn’t outright say this; instead, the truth is revealed through a great bit of banter between Carmel and Shatner that is really funny.

Although he likes having a slew of robot women at his beck and call, and he even has an android replica of his nag of an ex-wife, Stella (Kay Elliot) to yell back at, Mudd says he’s so bored because the androids won’t let him leave. He told them to get a spaceship to find more humans to study and so he could leave; finding Kirk & co was just dumb luck.

The androids take the landing party to a recreation area with quarters, where they explain that every comfort will be provided to them. They reveal at Kirk’s prodding that they were made by a humanoid race in the Andromeda galaxy, meant to serve their masters’ every whim. Eventually, the civilization was destroyed by supernova, leaving just exploratory outposts into other galaxies–including planet Mudd–alive. Spock surmises when the androids leave that the sheer amount of them–over 200,000–and their actions mean they must be controlled by a central operator.

Spock discovers a central control room with Norman in it and asks him about it. Norman replies that he isn’t programmed “to respond in that area.” Meanwhile, Scotty and the rest of the crew are beamed down and replaced by androids on Mudd’s orders.

Kirk worries that the crew will grow to love their “gilded cage” and he appears to be right. Chekov is delighted when he finds out the Alices are programmed to act exactly like human females (“This place is even better than Leningrad!”); Scott is astonished by the engineering facilities; McCoy marvels at the research labs and Uhura seems taken with the idea of being transferred to an android body.

Can Kirk get his crew to snap out of it? Can he reclaim the Enterprise and stop Mudd leaving? And do the androids merely want just to serve man?

Like I said, this entire episode is pretty much one big laugh riot. Yeah, some of it is definitely dated–the nagging wife bit especially–but it all works thanks to the energy of the cast and the freewheeling attitude of the script.  Although still a scuzz, Mudd is less creepy here. Now, he’s just one big joke. The goofy outfit he’s derived for himself and his loquaciousness help reinforce this. Carmel gives a tremendous performance. His rapport is amazing and it’s a wonder Mudd was never brought back after this outside of The Animated Series (reportedly, there was a plan for Mudd to appear in TNG, but it was never followed through).

The rest of the cast is great too. Like I said, Spock gets a lot of great one-liners and Nimoy proves that one of the ways his unmistakable voice could work was as a dispenser of dry humor. Mild spoiler (but not really if you know how people usually trick robots in fiction), but the crew has to act completely irrationally and bonkers at one point. These scenes are about as funny and surreal as it gets. It’s very Batman ’66-ish in a lot of ways.

Writer Stephen Kandel, who created Mudd, is clearly having a lot of fun here and you get swept along with it. Director Marc Daniels, back after “Mirror Mirror,” doesn’t have a whole lot of flashy tricks here, but he does bring a campy ’60s humor vibe to the whole affair. A little cheesy, sure, but great stuff.

Thanks to Memory Alpha for the pics and episode info and Amazon Instant Video for hosting the series. We’ll see you next time and until then and always, live long and prosper.

Star Trek Saturdays #39

It’s time for Star Trek Saturdays #39!!!

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This week’s episode is “Mirror, Mirror.” It’s one of the most important episodes in Trek history, defining how pop culture views parallel universes as well as being a standout episode all on its own merits.

We open with Kirk, Uhura, McCoy and Scotty on the planet of the Halkans trying to get their leader (Vic Perrin) to let the Federation mine their dilithium as a power source. The chief refuses on the grounds that while the Federation is peaceful now, that could always change in the future. He explains that his people are complete pacifists who are aware of the tremendous power their dilithium crystals have. If even one life is taken, he says, that would end the Halkans’ history of total peace; as a race, they’re willing to do anything to prevent that. Kirk says he can respect those ethics and hopes that he’s able to prove the Federation has similar intent.

Suddenly, Spock calls Kirk to inform him that an ion storm is brewing in orbit and that it’s rather violent and unpredictable. Kirk says that they should prepare to beam the landing party up and plot a wider orbit to avoid the storm. As the party prepares to leave, the chief tells Kirk that he’ll speak to the ruling council, but Kirk shouldn’t expect anything. He also says that given their weapons, the Enterprise could force the Halkans to give up the dilithium. Kirk replies that he can, but he never will. “That should tell you something,” he says.

The landing party is beamed up, but something goes wrong with the transportation beam due to the ion storm. When the group materializes, everything looks different. Most notably, Spock has…a goatee!!!

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Not only that, but the landing party now has more flamboyant uniforms and everyone does the following Nazi-esque salute to Kirk.

Bearded Spock asks for a status report on the mission. Not sure what to do, Kirk simply says nothing changed. Spock asks if the planet has any military capabilities and Kirk says no. Saying it’s regrettable that the Halkans chose to commit suicide, Beard Spock contacts security chief Sulu and tells him to prime the phaser banks to destroy the planet’s cities.

He then turns to the transporter technician, Kyle, and asks him for his “agonizer.” Fervently pleading that he was doing the best he could and that the power beam of the transporter jumped after being hit by the ion storm, Kyle’s pleas fall on deaf ears and Spock shocks him quite violently with his agonizer. The landing party simply stands in shock, terrified by what they’re seeing.

Where have they landed? How did they get here? And, most importantly, how do they get back?

This is the introduction to one of the most enduring concepts in Trek: the mirror universe. Here, Starfleet still exists, but it services the tyrannical Terran Empire, rather than Starfleet. As we see several times throughout this episode, Starfleet officers here are cruel and manipulative, with the accepted way of promotion being assassination of the guy above you.

Dumping people from the prime universe–particularly people as virtuous as McCoy–is a great way to highlight the differences between the two locations. What’s interesting is that writer Jerome Bixby–adapting his own 1953 short story “One Way Street”–uses this conceit highly efficiently. I was expecting several times for Kirk to get the ship’s computer to tell him of this new history he’d found himself dumped into, but that doesn’t happen. Rather, we see the depravity and vileness of things for ourselves. It’s a great tactic, and I wonder if the episodes of Deep Space Nine or Enterprise that went back to the mirror universe did a similar thing.

Complementing Bixby’s script is the smooth, smart direction of Marc Daniels. Working in tandem with the production designers, he creates a world that’s just slightly off enough to be menacing. He also stages some really good fight scenes, particularly one between Spock and the USS Enterprise crew in sickbay.

It’s a bit of a cliche that evil roles are inherently more fun to play for actors, but here, it proves true. Perhaps the best example of this here is evil Sulu. After mostly just hanging around on the bridge, here, George Takei is finally given something to do and it’s great. Mirror Sulu, who’s the security chief of the ISS Enterprise, is a twisted, scheming jerkbag and he ultimately turns out to be the real villain of the episode. It’s a great, showy turn and Takei is obviously having a blast.

The rest of the cast is also exemplary. Nimoy shows the similarities between the two Spocks, even if their dispositions are different. Shatner only gets one scene as evil Kirk, but he’s hilarious. As regular Kirk–“trapped in a world he never made!” as they say–he proves surprisingly adept at blending in with the mirror universe, even showing genuine desire for the “captain’s woman,” Marlena, played to a hilt by Barbara Luna. Nichelle Nichols has a similar blending-in scene at one point and it’s really awesome to see Uhura play devious for a change.

It’s easy to see why this episode changed how we think of parallel universes. It’s fully realized and never slips into cliche. Check it out.

Thanks to Memory Alpha for the pics and episode information, as well as Amazon Instant Video for hosting the show. We’ll see you next time and until then, live long and prosper.

Star Trek Saturdays #25

It’s time for Star Trek Saturdays #25!

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This week’s episode is “This Side of Paradise” and while it’s very much of its time, it also has a poignant message and is a remarkable showcase for Leonard Nimoy.

We open with the Enterprise approaching the planet Omicron Ceta III, the site of an agriculture-minded colony established three years ago. Kirk expects this mission to be a grim one because, as he and Spock establish through dialogue, the planet is constantly bombarded with deadly berthold rays, which wasn’t discovered until after the colonists had left Earth.

Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Sulu, Lt. DeSalle (Michael Barrier–not the animation scholar) and Lt. Kelowitz (Grant Woods)–the last two characters have appeared before–beam down onto the planet–which looks an awful lot like some guy’s ranch in Northern California somewhere–and see nothing, thinking their worst fears are confirmed. A voice tells them otherwise, and it turns out to belong to colony leader Elias Sandoval (Frank Overton). “I may be mistaken, Jim,” McCoy says, “but that man is very much alive.”

Sandoval shows them all into the main indoor hub of the colony, where they encounter botanist Leila Kalomi (Jill Ireland) who was once Spock’s girlfriend on Earth six years ago. Needless to say, this causes some surprise among the others.

But it’s not nearly as surprising as the thing McCoy, performing examinations with his tricorder, discovers: every colonist on the planet is in perfect physical health, to the point where previous injuries had healed. When queried, Sandoval replies that it must be due to the colonists being vegetarian. But the landing party discovers other anomalies, such as a barn with no animals and no vehicles of any kind, which Sandoval says is deliberate.

Spock repeatedly questions Leila as to how on Earth all this is possible and Leila shows him. She takes him to a large plant that sprays spores all over him and Spock’s emotional walls break down. He confesses he loves Leila and kisses her madly. But what are these spores and why do they affect everybody so? And what happens when they start landing on the crew of the Enterprise?

Omicron Ceti III flower

D.C. Fontana is credited with the script and co-writing the story here and this is by far her strongest work yet. In fact, so the story goes, she was handed a draft of this story to fix and complete by Gene Roddenberry, who promised to make her story editor in return. Whether that’s true or not, Fontana brings it all here: a tight central mystery, interesting characters for the crew to bounce off of, a heavy conflict for Kirk to deal with and most importantly, stuff that humanizes Spock.

This is the first time we’ve seen Spock become emotional really since way back in “The Naked Time” and while there, it was sad, here, it’s joyous. This is Nimoy’s episode through and through and he owns it. He shows that even a half-human like Spock can love and lose, same as the rest of us, and gives us complete and utter bliss and sheer happiness that I bet no one must have thought we’d see. It’s terrific.

This episode is directed by Ralph Senesky, who went on to do many more episodes and many, many other TV shows, and he’s terrific here. He takes full advantage of shooting on location, using wide crane shots and sweeping scenery where he can, and his handling of things like the introduction of Leila is simply gorgeous stuff.

While this is Nimoy’s episode, everyone else is fine too. We learn McCoy is apparently Southern; one point, Kelley lapses into a Georgian accent, which is surreal but utterly convincing, making one see why Kelley landed all those Western parts. Sulu gets some good moments too, the other two lieutenants are pretty solid and Shatner gets to explore Kirk’s loneliness and need for Spock as well as show off some impressive anger. Overton–best known for Sheriff Heck Tate in To Kill A Mockingbird–and Jill Ireland–best known for TV roles and being married to Charles Bronson–are both fine too, with Overton selling Sandoval’s scheme and Ireland making Leila’s longing for Spock utterly palpable.

Thanks to Memory Alpha, the official Star Trek wiki for the pics and episode information, as well as Amazon Instant for hosting the show. We’ll see you next Saturday and until then, live long and prosper.

Star Trek Saturdays #10

It’s time for Star Trek Saturdays #10!

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This week’s episode is “Dagger of the Mind” and it’s an interesting twist on an old story: the perfect prison with something sinister going on behind the scenes. This, of course, isn’t something new to fiction in general or even science fiction, but it’s neat to see how Trek took it on.

Our story opens with the Enterprise beaming supplies down to, and receiving a crate from, the Tantalus Penal Colony on the planet  Tantalus V. However, the crate the Enterprise has received has been emptied of its contents and replaced with a stowaway, one Simon Van Gelder.

Van Gelder (Morgan Woodward) subdues several crewmen and storms the bridge, violently declaring that “I won’t go back there!” He’s subdued by Spock with a Vulcan nerve pinch and placed in sickbay; he begins explaining how he was tortured by Dr. Tristan Adams, the head of the colony, but is wracked with pain and unable to continue. Kirk contacts Adams and discovers that Van Gelder is actually a doctor himself and a colleague of Adams who injured himself at work. Kirk, required by Starfleet laws to investigate, beams down with ship’s psychiatrist Helen Noel (Marianna Hill) who has some interesting memories she tries to bring up of Kirk at the science lab Christmas party.

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They beam down, meet up with Adams (James Gregory) who shows them the neural neutralizer, a device that wipes one’s mind and allows select memories to be implanted. He tells them that Van Gelder used the device on himself without supervision and wound up in the severe condition they found him in. But Kirk and Noel aren’t so sure about that…

This episode is distinct in that it’s the introduction of the Vulcan ability of mind melding, although it’s not called that here. Spock has to use it in order to help make Van Gelder more lucid so they can understand what it is he’s trying to tell them.

That’s also the point where I was actually able to appreciate Woodward’s acting the most. For the most part, he plays to the backlights, shouting and raving, in a performance that makes the show feel like the serials it evolved out of rather than the serious drama it was intended to be. He’s not that great. As Helen, Hill not only looks good but is able to hold her own against Kirk as far as bravado goes; definitely a go-getter. Gregory is more of a subtle villain as Adams, a lot more quiet than the villains one usually associates with this sort of story.

Kirk has some nice heroic moments, McCoy and Spock develop their bond further and Nimoy has a couple of instances where a simple facial expression provides a killer comedic beat. Mix all that together with some nice, tense directing by Vincent McEvetty, returning here from “Balance of Terror” and a keen, well-paced script by S. Bar David (real name: Shimon Wincelberg) and you have a nice little episode. Recommended.

Thanks to Memory Alpha, the official Star Trek wiki for the pics and episode information, as well as Amazon Instant for hosting the show. We’ll see you next Saturday and until then, live long and prosper.

Star Trek Saturdays #7

It’s time for Star Trek Saturdays #7!

This week’s episode is “Charlie X” and this is a milestone in Trek history, as it is the first script credited to the legendary Trek writer D.C. Fontana.

Dorothy Catherine Fontana originally started out working as Gene Roddenberry’s secretary but was promoted to writer later on, with this being her first credited episode, working from a story by Roddenberry. Writing under the name D.C. Fontana–as well as various other pseudonyms–she wrote 10 episodes of Trek as well as various other episodes of spinoffs and even cowrote The Enterprise Experiment comic book miniseries, which she considers to be Year Four of the Enterprise’s five-year mission. She’s a bit of legend in Trekkiedom and this episode, despite some problems, shows why.

The plot of “Charlie X” has the crew taking on a castaway, a 17-year old boy named Charlie Evans (Robert Walker Jr., who, like all teenagers on American TV until recently, was 20-something at the time of filming), who was marooned on the desolate planet Thasus at a young age when the spaceship he was on crashed, and was apparently alone, teaching himself to speak using the ship’s resources ala Tarzan, until the Starfleet freighter Antares discovered him. They transfer him to the Enterprise so that they might take him to his only known relatives on  the planet Colony 5.

(Pictured: Charlie)

Charlie at first seems to be a bit of an emotionally stunted kid, not knowing how to properly react to things; he’s completely perplexed at the sight of Yeoman Rand, the first woman he’s ever seen. But he soon begins displaying unusual powers that come hand in hand with emotional outbursts; for example, when Uhura sings to a group of crewmen in a rec room leading Rand to ignore Charlie, he silences Uhura so that Rand will pay attention to him. He also, when a crewman laughs at him, makes him disappear with a simple gesture. Kirk quickly catches on that there’s more to this kid than simple adolescent angst, but it might be already too late to stop him…

A nice thing Fontana does here is give us more than we’ve ever seen of the Enterprise and its crew. The rec room scenes and a scene in the gymnasium show us a whole bunch of extras just hanging out, really making this ship feel populated. That scene of Uhura singing while Spock accompanies her on what’s apparently known as a Vulcan lyre (so says Memory Alpha) is nice too, showing us a side of the two crewmen we haven’t seen before and it shows viewers just WHY Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman hooked those two up in the 2009 film; they have a great chemistry together and Uhura isn’t afraid to make fun of Spock.

Walker Jr. is pretty good here as the tormented Charlie, but he really hits his stride in the last 15 minutes or so, showing us exactly what it would be like to have to deal with all sorts of power at the same time you’re going through the sheer hell of being a teenager (says the kid who turns 20 at the end of the month). Grace Lee Whitney has the chance to bring out even more of the vulnerability of Rand that we saw in “The Enemy Within” and that was nice to see. William Shatner also has some pretty funny, awkward scenes as Kirk is placed in the unenviable position of being Charlie’s father figure, and eventually, his opposing force.

Like I said earlier, there are some problems with this episode. The pacing doesn’t really pick up for about the first 20 minutes or so and the fact that Charlie is played by a 20-something rather than an ACTUAL 17-year old somewhat robs the character of his potency and poignancy. Maybe if Abrams and co. incorporate this episode in a movie several years down the line, they can cast Pierce Gagnon as Charlie…

That aside, this is a pretty well-done episode. Well worth it.

Thanks to Memory Alpha, the official Star Trek wiki for the pics and episode information, as well as Amazon Instant for hosting the show. We’ll see you next Saturday and until then, live long and prosper.

Star Trek Saturdays #6

It’s time for Star Trek Saturdays #6!

This week’s episode is “The Naked Time”and a combination of a killer premise, dynamite scripting and camerawork and a bravura breakdown from Leonard Nimoy make this a brilliant counter to last week’s terrible episode.

We open to find the Enterprise orbiting the frozen wasteland of Psi 2000,a planet Spock says at one point was much like Earth in its distant pas before its sun went dark, but is now set to implode due to age. Spock and Lieutenant Joe Tormolen (Stewart Moss) beam down to the planet to discover that a scientific team stationed there are all dead in bizarre fashion: a woman has been strangled to death and one of the men has frozen to death in a shower with all his clothes on. Tormolen removes the glove of his contamination suit (which looks like a hazmat suit was covered in bubble wrap) to scratch his nose, and a small blood-like substance on the ice moves forward and jumps inside of his hand. Unknowing, Tormolen takes the substance back to the ship and it leaps from there to infect Lieutenant Sulu and Lieutenant Kevin Riley (Bruce Hyde), who is the ship’s current navigator.

So what does this substance do? Well, specifically it causes the infected to lose their inhibitions and let their emotions run unchecked. So, in short order we have Tormolen rave hysterically about how mankind shouldn’t be in space and try to kill himself, Riley become maniacal and hole himself up in Engineering giving himself complete control over the ship’s engines and Sulu does…this…

(Really, this happens.)

He runs around hysterically with a fencing foil acting like one of the Three Musketeers. It’s both awesome and a little scary how unhinged Sulu gets here, but it fits the episode well. Riley, in a fit of madness, disables the ship’s engines, plunging the Enterprise straight toward the imploding planet. It’s a race against time as Kirk and the rest try to figure out what’s going on and how to stop it…

This episode is GREAT. John D.F. Black’s script is a treasure, with a killer hook, a great villain in Riley and some wonderful narrative tension. Marc Daniels’ direction is brilliant too, perfectly capturing a ship full of professional spacemen quickly turn into a madhouse. He also gets the cameras up close and personal for an absolutely great scene.

Slight spoilers here, but eventually Spock contacts the strange substance. Given that, as a half-human/half Vulcan, he’s constantly battling between full emotion and cold logical reason, he’s understandably afraid that he’ll break down as a result. Isolating himself in the briefing room, he attempts to calm himself down, but breaks down completely as Daniels’ camera gets up close. Filmed in a documentary-esque manner, there’s no doubt we’re witnessing this highly rational man have a complete emotional breakdown. According to the Memory Alpha page for this episode, this scene was shot on the last day of filming and completely improvised by Leonard Nimoy; if that’s true, then holy crap have we underrated Nimoy as an actor. Seriously, this 2 1/2 minute sequence makes the whole episode worthwhile.

What that scene reminds me of is a later episode in The Next Generation called “Sarek.” The titular character, Spock’s father and a legendary diplomat, comes aboard the Enterprise-D to negotiate a treaty. It turns out that he is succumbing to Bendii Syndrome, which causes 200+ year old Vulcans to lose emotional control. In order to go through with the negotiations, Picard agrees to mind meld with Sarek so he can experience all of his emotional anguish while Sarek does his job. This culminates in a similarly harrowing breakdown scene courtesy of Sir Patrick Stewart. Undoubtedly, whoever scripted that episode had this scene in mind.

This is a great episode that shows just how much tension can get into this show, even without an external villain. George Takei shows some bravura chops as an unhinged Sulu. Moss is wonderful as the tormented Tarmolen and Hyde is great fun as the loopy, hysterical Riley. This episode also marks the debut of Gene Roddenberry’s wife Majel Barrett as Nurse Christine Chapel; she’ll come back here, and also on TNG as the voice of the ship’s computer and the outrageous Lwaxana Troi.  Definitely recommended.

Thanks to Memory Alpha, the official Star Trek wiki for the pics and episode information, as well as Amazon Instant for hosting the show. We’ll see you next Saturday and until then, live long and prosper.

Star Trek Saturdays #4

It’s time for Star Trek Saturdays #4!

This week’s episode, “The Enemy Within,” is an episode of glorious firsts. It’s the first episode to not open with a shot of the crew aboard the ship, it’s the first time we see George Takei’s Lt. Hikaru Sulu actually have some action and some good lines, the first use of the phrase “He’s dead, Jim” by Doctor McCoy, the first use of the Vulcan nerve pinch, and most importantly, this is the first of the series’ iconic episodes and the first one written by a major writer, Richard Matheson.

If that name sounds familiar to you, then yes, it’s that Richard Matheson.

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(Credit: Wikipedia)

Matheson has written a variety of things in his long and storied career, but is probably best known for I Am Legend, The Incredible Shrinking Man and the Twilight Zone episode  “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” AKA that one where William Shatner sees a gremlin on the wing of an airplane and no one believes him, as well as a variety of short stories. He’s an icon of genre fiction and his script here shows why.

The plot begins with the Enterprise in orbit around the planet Alfa 117 and a landing party down on the surface, including Kirk & Sulu, cataloging animals and so forth. When Fisher (Ed Madden), a geological technician, injures himself, he’s beamed back up onto the ship. But his uniform is covered in a strange yellow magnetic ore which messes with the transporter after he is beamed aboard. Kirk beams up a few minutes later, but right after everyone’s left the room, another Kirk materializes, but this one is EVIL.

Strictly speaking, he’s the manifestation of Kirk’s aggressive, decisive side, but for all intents and purposes, he’s evil. The real Kirk, meanwhile, is left a weak shadow of his former self. Evil Kirk takes some brandy from sickbay, gets drunk, then hides in Yeoman Rand (Grace Lee Whitney)’s quarters and when she enters, assaults her, nearly raping her before she drives him off. That whole scene, courtesy of both highly charged performances and some bravura directing by Leo Penn, is highly uncomfortable and I suspect that’s the point. It’s a gripping, chilling moment, and I’m confident it won’t be the last Trek throws at me.

Rand accuses the real Kirk of this and it’s then that Spock deduces that there is an imposter aboard.  What follows is a race against time as the crew struggles to contain Evil Kirk, somehow remerge him with Good Kirk, who has lost his confidence and decision-making abilities, repair the transporter and save Sulu and the rest of the landing party, who are trapped as the planet’s temperature drops to 120 degrees below zero.

This is, somehow, more tense than “The Corbomite Maneuver.” But this is far more terrifying because, at heart, it comes down to Kirk vs. himself. Shatner is straight up terrific here and the primitive split-screen technology and use of doubles underscores it really well. He really brings out the best in both Kirks and he brings the key question of Matheson’s script–how does a man reconcile his intelligence against his basest, most natural impulses–to vivid life. Truly a wonderful outing.

Thanks to Memory Alpha, the official Star Trek wiki for the pics and episode information, as well as Amazon Instant for hosting the show. We’ll see you next Saturday and until then, live long and prosper.