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 #40

It’s time for Star Trek Saturdays #40!

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This week’s episode is “The Deadly Years” and it takes a comedic premise and makes it deadly serious, in a good way.

We open with the Enterprise on a routine mission to resupply the experimental colony on Gamma Hydra IV. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Chekov, Scotty and a Lt. Galway beam down to the planet to deliver the supplies. They find no one around, which Kirk finds strange because he had spoken with colony scientist Robert Johnson not a half hour before. Chekov goes into a building to investigate it, finds a dead body and promptly flips out. Screaming, he leads the others back to the body.

This is even more confusing. McCoy says the man died of old age. Spock finds this impossible because there’s not a colony member over 30, according to the records. To complicate things even further, more old people show up and claim to be Robert Johnson–29–and his 27-year old wife, Elaine.

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The party beams them up to the ship, where Elaine dies quickly and so does Robert. Kirk tries to get information out of him before then, but Robert is senile and unresponsive. In the briefing room, Kirk informs the two special guests on the Enterprise, Commodore Stocker (Charles Drake),  who they’re transporting to his new command at Starbase 10 and Dr. Janet Wallace (Sarah Marshall), an expert endocrinologist.

Stocker is anxious to get to Starbase 10, but he agrees to Kirk’s suggestion that the ship remain in orbit around the planet until they’ve sorted out this problem. Wallace agrees and also turns out to be an old flame of Kirk’s. After everyone else leaves, they quietly recall their old life together.

On the bridge, Kirk orders Sulu to maintain orbit. Spock informs him that it turns out a rogue comet passed by the planet some time ago, but it’s uncertain whether it has had any effect. Kirk tells him to look into it anyway. Stocker tries again to convince Kirk to head for Starbase 10, as the instruments there would be more effective. Kirk replies that there’s nothing a starbase can do that a starship can’t and leaves the bridge, again telling Sulu to maintain orbit. Both Sulu and Spock are very confused by this.

Meanwhile, Lt. Galway (Beverly Washburn) visits sickbay complaining of hearing loss. McCoy tells her it’s nothing to worry about. In his quarters, Kirk calls Spock on the bridge and tells him to investigate the comet. Spock replies that he is doing so already per Kirk’s earlier orders, leaving the captain confused. Suddenly, his shoulder begins paining him, so he goes to sickbay.

McCoy examines him and finds that he has arthritis in his shoulder that’s rapidly advancing. Kirk doesn’t believe him and orders that he be examined again. “It would still come up the exact same thing,” McCoy replies. Scotty then calls in, asking if he can meet McCoy. “All you need is vitamins, Mr. Scott, but yes,” McCoy replies.

Scotty comes in and, to the shock of the others, he’s paled, wrinkled and gray-haired.

 

 

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Further investigation reveals that every member of the landing party is aging rapidly, all except Chekov. Why? How did this happen? And how can they stop it before they’re all dead?

This is an episode that, very easily, could’ve been played for comedy (and no doubt it would’ve been on, say, Enterprise). But to episode writer David P. Harmon’s credit, he plays it completely straight. Let’s face it, aging before one’s time would be hurtful for anyone and Harmon sells that. While there’s the occasional melodramatic nod here and there, overall, he gives us a nice thriller that deals with a very existential enemy.

On top of that, while the whole “special lady officer on the Enterprise was of course involved with Kirk” thing can be a little silly, Wallace doesn’t feel that way. While her dress–reportedly made from drapes–is rather silly, the way the character is written hints at an intriguing and interesting backstory.

This is also the first time in a long time that the Romulans return. Unfortunately, it’s through stock footage of Birds of Prey. The main reason the Klingons became the more common TOS foe is that Romulan makeup was very time-consuming and expensive. Not so the Klingons; of curse, that would change following 1979’s The Motion Picture.

Joseph Pevney is in the director’s chair once again and no surprise, he’s great. This is a pretty confined episode, with the action set almost entirely aboard the ship. But Pevney gets great performances out of his actors as he bounces them off against each other.

The acting is top-notch. Every cast member who rapidly ages plays the whole thing through with dignity. They each take care to demonstrate the rigors of aging, from merely forgetting things to walking slower than normal. Combined with the makeup, it works wonders…even if Kirk’s old-man combover is a little severe.

Drake, a well-regarded character actor, is great as the impatient Commodore. When the time comes for him to step up, he really drives home what his character does. As Wallace, Marshall is, I’m fairly certain, the first guest star with a British accent. It adds a nice layer of intrigue to the character and more than makes up for that silly dress.

I should also add that there’re some really funny Chekov lines here. As the only landing party member not afflicted, he’s subjected to all sorts of tests. “If this keeps going on, I’ll run out of samples,” he grouses. It’s really fun.

This is a well-done episode that cogently examines a real fear that people have. On top of that, it’s a great dramatic showcase for all involved. 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 time and until then, 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 #39

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

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This week’s episode is “The Changeling,” which puts Kirk in an interesting position and tests his command, while giving us a much better “menace aboard the story” than, say, “The Man Trap.”

We open with the Enterprise en route to the Malurian star system, responding to a distress signal. Uhura, however, has received no response to her hails on any frequency, even a special wavelength to a transmitter operated by a Federation science team that Kirk reminds her of. Spock’s sensor data reports the unfathomable: although there should be over four million Malurians in the system, there’s no trace of any life whatsoever. Kirk and Spock postulate what could have caused such a genocide, when a large, green bolt of energy comes out of nowhere and abruptly attacks the Enterprise, knocking everyone on the bridge down to the floor.

The ship remains intact thanks to its shields, which Scotty reports are down by 20% and can only survive three more attacks like that. The ship eventually loses its shields to the repeated attacks; they attempt to launch a photon torpedo at the small object emitting the energy, but the torpedo is quickly absorbed. Desperate, Kirk orders Uhura to hail the small object. She does, with Kirk sending a message, and the object responds in an unintelligible pattern that Spock eventually recognizes as very old binary code. The Enterprise‘s science team eventually translates the code, and the object eventually identifies itself as Nomad, saying its mission is non-hostile.

With sensors reporting that Nomad is only a little over a meter tall, Kirk orders it beamed aboard. Scotty protests, but Kirk says it’s better that they can monitor Nomad at close range, rather than have it attack them. He, Spock and McCoy meet it in the transporter room.

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Nomad (voiced by Vic Perrin) addresses Kirk as “Creator” and every other member of the crew as a “biological unit” belonging to the “Creator.” Left to its own devices, Nomad hears Uhura singing on an open channel. Curious, it goes to the bridge and asks Uhura as to what purpose singing serves. When she can’t come up with an answer it deems satisfactory, it extends a probe and emits a weird ray of light around her head, wiping her memory.

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Enraged, Scotty rushes towards Nomad, but it fires a laser at him just as Kirk, Spock and McCoy arrive at the bridge. Scotty is thrown back against a bulkhead and, as McCoy grimly reports, “He’s dead, Jim.”

Furious, Kirk shouts at Nomad, asking it why it would do such a thing, as Uhura and Scotty’s body are carried off to sickbay. Nomad responds that it was only protecting itself, that Uhura was imperfect, and offers to restore Scotty to life, which it does after being fed information on human anatomy and Scotty in particular. Still angry, Kirk and Spock research Nomad in the ship’s historical archives, learning that Nomad is actually an historical Earth probe sent out to discover interstellar life in, according to Memory Alpha, 2002. However, contact was lost when Nomad got caught in a meteor shower, and it was believed to be destroyed. It’s also learned that Nomad was also created by one Dr. Jackson Roykirk; Spock postulates that, with its memory banks damaged as a result of the meteor shower, Nomad believes Kirk to be Roykirk.

Putting Nomad in a holding area guarded by security personnel, Spock, despite the danger, mind melds with Nomad, although the process overwhelms him and Kirk has to force Nomad to disconnect the mind-meld. Spock, exhausted, informs Kirk that after being caught in the meteor shower, Nomad, heavily damaged, came into contact with an alien probe named Tan Ru, which was sent out by an alien civilization to collect and sterilize soil samples from other planets (as prelude to conquest). The two probes repaired and merged with one another, with the memory-impaired Nomad now believing its mission is to seek out new lifeforms and correct all that is imperfect by sterilizing it.

Unfortunately, the mind meld and a slip of the tongue from Kirk makes Nomad realize that its creator is an “imperfect biological unit” and, by its parameters, must be eradicated. It decides to commandeer the ship. Can Kirk and Spock stop it in time…?

This episode is the closest we’ve had to a bottle episode, taking place entirely onboard the ship. Although the notion of a monster stalking the ship is something we’ve seen on Trek before, Nomad is easily the best villain that this sort of story has had yet.

Credit for this goes to John Meredyth Lucas’s script, which gives every spotlighted crew member a bone to pick with Nomad and makes the probe a formidable adversary. In particular, the final gambit Kirk undertakes–which plays out like a Batman Gambit— against Nomad is breathtaking in its audacity and highlights just how heroic the captain is.

Having to work largely with pre-existing sets, Marc Daniels turns in some remarkable work, exploring every facet of the ship and making it feel like a real, breathing space. He also gives what happens to Scotty and Uhura some real heft, rather than just random incidents.

The cast is what sells it, though. In particular, Vic Perrin–returning after having previously voiced the Metron in “Arena”–is a standout as the voice of Nomad. Although this film was a year away when this episode aired, I saw bits of HAL 9000 in his performance, as a being governed by logic going to horrifying extremes to stick by it. William Shatner is dynamite as Kirk, showing the wily captain at the very height of his cunning. Nichelle Nichols actually gets something to do as Uhura, for a change; the naivete with which she has to imbue the memory-wiped Uhura is marvelously done, even if Uhura’s ultimate fate is kinda glossed over. Jim Doohan gives Scotty some great heroic feeling, and it’s not hard to see, watching his selflessness towards Uhura here, why, in the ’80s, it was decided to flesh out the relationship between Scotty and Uhura more.

Despite no alien threats, this is still a great episode because it pits the crew up against something they can’t even begin to understand. Check it out.

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 time and until then, live long and prosper.

Star Trek Saturdays #38

It’s time for Star Trek Saturdays #38!

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This week’s episode is “Wolf in the Fold” and it’s an intriguing murder mystery that sweeps these characters up in its grand sense of intrigue.

We open with Kirk, McCoy and Scotty in a cafe on the planet Argelius II, watching a belly dancer perform. We learn through dialogue that they’re there because Scotty is on medically mandated shore leave after a female crew member’s error caused a bulkhead explosion that dealt Scotty a severe blow to the head. McCoy believes that Argelius II, with its hedonistic and extremely sexually permissive culture, will help cure Scotty of his “total resentment towards women.”

The belly dancer, Kara (Tania Lemani), finishes her performance and comes over to their table, per Kirk’s invitation and to Scotty’s enthusiastic delight. Waxing poetic about the rolling fog over the moors of Scotland, Scotty invites Kara for a walk and she accepts.

Kirk and McCoy, feeling like the world’s best wingmen, head over to another club with similarly attractive women, but out in the street, they hear Kara scream. They rush towards the noise, finding her murdered and, a little farther away, Scotty, standing back against a wall in a haze, holding a bloody knife.

Scotty is interrogated by the city’s chief administrator, Mr. Hengist (John Fiedler). Scotty confesses that he can’t remember anything beyond  him and Kara in the fog, with him up ahead trying to lead the way, when suddenly he heard her screaming. Kirk angrily badgers Scott to remember, and McCoy tells him to back off, considering the emotional trauma Scotty’s going through.

However, Kirk testily informs McCoy that he’s facing a diplomatic crisis. The crime, he points out, happened under Argelian jurisdiction. If the Argelians want to place him under arrest, try, and convict him of murder, Kirk, by diplomatic laws, has to go along with it.

Notably, Hengist is not an Argelian. Rather, he’s from Rigel IV. He works here because, as he says to the others, the Argelians are so peaceful and pleasure-focused that they’re not up to the task of bureaucratic administration, hence their hiring of outsiders for these purposes.

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Hengist points out that Scotty’s fingerprints are all over the murder weapon. Kirk counters that there were many other people in the cafe; Hengist replies that they’re looking for these people to try and question them. Kirk asks what the law in this case is, and the Argelian prefect Jaris (Charles Macauley) and his wife Sybo (Pilar Seurat) enter and tell Kirk that the law is love.

What that means, Jaris tells them, is that they can ascertain the truth through conducting an Argelian empathic contact that Sybo can intiate, a sort of seance. Despite Hengist’s objections, as Jaris is the ultimate authority, they defer to him. While Sybo gets things ready for the contact, Kirk orders Spock (who is in command on the ship) to send down a medical technician to conduct a psychotricorder examination on Scotty, which will enable them to see the last 24 hours of Scotty’s memory.

Lieutenant Karen Tracy (Virginia Alridge) beams down, and takes Scotty to a room downstairs to begin the examination. Sybo, having prepared for the ceremony, comes back to ask for the murder weapon, as she can get psychic impressions from inanimate objects. They look around and notice the knife is missing, just as a scream emerges from downstairs. They rush down and find Lt. Tracy dead, having been repeatedly stabbed to death, and Scotty unconscious, holding the bloody knife in his hands.

Once Scotty comes around, he says that all he remembers is Lt. Tracy taking the readings and then nothing else after that. Hengist returns with two men who were in the cafe: Tark (), Kara’s father and the musician who she’d performed with since she was a child, and Morla (), her fiance. Tark accuses Morla of jealous, angry behavior and Morla admits to it, saying he went home out of anger. Kirk points out that jealousy has often been a motive for murder, but Hengist points out that it was Scotty found holding the murder weapon.

Sybo ushers the others in and prepares to begin the empathic contact ceremony, with Kirk ordering the room sealed so no one can get out or in. Scotty is upset about risking his neck over some “spooky mumbo jumbo,” while Spock contacts Kirk and insists that Scott be brought back to the Enterprise so their computers can cross-examine him. Kirk shoots them both down, saying that they have to abide by Argelian law because while they’re on the planet, they are subject to the law.

The ceremony begins and Sybo closes her eyes. Immediately, she begins sensing a sinister presence, stating it is a monstrous terrible evil, hater of all things, hater of women, and repeatedly chants the word Redjac. Suddenly, the room plunges into darkness and Sybo screams in agony. Light is restored and the group sees Scotty and Sybo standing up, with a knife in Sybo’s back and blood on Scotty’s hand.

Is Scotty really guilty of murder? If so, then why? If not, who is framing him? And who, or what, is Redjac?

This is a fantastic little mystery of an episode, and it all comes down to Robert Bloch’s script. It’s  a lean thing, which deftly blends penny-dreadful horror with alien intrigue. On top of that, you have some interesting characters who get shaded out as the story progresses, with some serving as red herrings as to the identity of the true murderer.

Joseph Pevney once again returns to direct, and like every other time, he’s stellar. Using the confined sets to his advantage, he manages to make things seem shadowy and sinister. He also uses suspenseful camera angles to get the most paranoia out of his cast and setting. Stellar stuff.

The cast is great as usual and James Doohan gets some wonderful notes to play Scotty; the fear and desperation is present in him throughout. Of the guest stars, it’s Fiedler that surprises the most. Best known for being the original voice of Piglet in Disney’s Winnie-the-Pooh cartoons as well as the meek 2nd juror in the 1957 Sidney Lumet version of 12 Angry Men, he’s usually a milquetoast, but here, he’s remarkably assertive and straightforward as Hergist, and gets some cool notes to play as the story progresses.

This is a really fun, tense episode that stands right up there with any other crime drama of its era or since. Check it out.

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 time and until then, live long and prosper.

 

Star Trek Saturdays #37

It’s time for…Star Trek Saturdays #37!

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This week’s episode is “The Doomsday Machine,” and it’s a showcase not only for a powerful guest star, but also demonstrates why the remastered versions of the original episodes–which are the ones I’m watching if you don’t remember or are new to this feature–are worth watching.

We open with the Enterprise receiving a faint starship disaster beacon, the only word of which they can make out is the word “Constellation.” At the same time, they encounter heavy subspace interference. Proceeding to star system L-370, they find that all planets have been destroyed, which is odd because they only surveyed htis system last year with all the planets intact. Proceeding to star system L-374, they find the same thing, except two inner planets are still remaining.

They also find the drifting, powerless husk of the Enterprise‘s sister ship, the Constellation. Assuming at once that they were attacked, Kirk brings the Enterprise to red alert.

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Subspace interference is still present, but the sensors are able to tell that the Constellation‘s bridge is uninhabitable, the ship’s power plants are dead, and it is running with minimal life support. Detecting no other ships in the area, Kirk brings his ship down to yellow alert and, leaving Spock in command, has himself, McCoy, Scotty and a damage control team beamed over.

Arriving there,  they find the warp engines exhausted and the phaser banks depleted, signs that the ship fought a huge battle and lost. Kirk wonders if the crew couldn’t have beamed down to one of the two surviving planets, but Scotty informs him that’s impossible: the first planet has a surface temperature akin to the boiling point of lead and the second’s atmosphere is too toxic to support human life. Kirk and McCoy journey through the rest of the ship, finding no survivors or bodies until, hunched over in the auxiliary control room in a fugue state, they find the ship’s commander, Commodore Matt Decker (William Windom).

Decker is still blindly panicking about whatever his ship faced until McCoy gives him an injection. He begins to come around, eventually recognizing Kirk.  Scott manages to restore communications on the ship and finds and begins to play back Decker’s captain’s log, which reveals that the Constellation initially entered the system to investigate readings showing one of the planets breaking up. Kirk orders the Constellation‘s sensor tapes beamed back to the Enterprise for analysis.

Beginning to recall what happened, Decker horrifically recounts how his ship was attacked and disabled and, unable to request assistance due to subspace interference, he was forced to beam his entire crew down to the third planet in the system. The ship was then attacked again with its transporters disabled, leaving Decker stranded. Then the planet was destroyed by “something right out of hell,” with Decker helpless to do anything but listen to his crew scream for help as they were destroyed and he collapses in grief.

Recovering, he says that the attacker was “miles long, with a maw that could swallow a dozen starships.” He says it uses a pure antiproton beam to carve planets up into rubble. He further says that he couldn’t tell if it was a ship or a living organism.

Spock reports from the Enterprise, saying that the sensor tapes indicate the “planet killer” is some sort of automated weapon created to destroy planets and then digest the matter for fuel. He says that he and Sulu have mapped out that the creature is from outside the galaxy and will continue to ravage planets as long as they are there for it to destroy.

Kirk theorizes to McCoy that the killer must be some sort of doomsday weapon created by a far-distant race and has now outlived the conflict for which it was created. McCoy, concerned about Decker’s mental state, wants to get him back to sickbay; Decker refuses to leave his ship, but agrees to do so when Kirk offers to tow the Constellation. McCoy and Decker beam back over to the Enterprise while Kirk and Scott stay on the other ship to prepare her for towing.

McCoy and Decker materialize in the transport room to find the red alert sounding and, rushing to the bridge, they find that the planet killer has returned, and has set its sights on the Enterprise.

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Kirk orders that he and the rest be beamed back to the Enterprise, but the planet killer attacks and damages the ship’s transporters and communications before it can do so, leaving Kirk, Scott and the rest stranded on the Constellation with no way of moving.

The Enterprise, meanwhile, outruns the planet killer and Spock announces his intention to swing around the monster, pick up Kirk and the rest, and then, evading the planet killer’s subspace field which has been the cause of all the interference, connect with Starfleet. But Decker, saying that their primary duty is to defend the rest of the Federation, invokes regulation and uses his superior rank to take over, ordering the Enterprise to attack.

What will Decker do? And what will Kirk do, stranded far from his own ship?

There are three things this episode is a showcase for: 1. The performance of William Windom, who is absolutely captivating, giving us a portrayal of a man stricken and enraged by grief enough to attempt the impossible. 2. The music, which is incredible, full of tension and excitement. 3. The talents of the remastering effects team, who go all out in depicting the wreck of the Constellation, as well as the ferocity of the planet killer.

Besides Windom, the cast is stellar, although, oddly, Uhura isn’t present for this episode. Spock, strangely enough, in the course of his actions, demonstrates some parallels to Kirk in the 2009 Trek reboot; at least that’s how I see it.

This episode has been called “Moby Dick in space,” and even more so than The Wrath of Khan, the comparison is very apt, with the unfeeling planet killer a perfect stand-in for the white whale. Clearly, that’s the comparison script writer Norman Spinrod wanted to make, and he succeeds with some solid writing that gives us some very big stakes in an apocalyptic scenario. Marc Daniels returns to direct, and he amps up that tension with every shot, and nicely frames Windom so that he is the center of everything every time he appears on screen. This episode is tense, exciting and heartbreaking all at once, and you can see its shadow extend throughout the franchise.

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 in two Saturday’s time and until then, live long and prosper.

Star Trek Saturdays #36

It’s time for….Star Trek Saturdays #36!

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Important note: starting today, this feature will be going biweekly so I don’t miss an update.

This week’s episode is “Amok Time” and it is stellar from start to finish, giving us our first glimpse into Vulcan culture, the first Vulcan salute, and real, honest insight into the relationship between Kirk and Spock.

We open with McCoy informing Kirk that Spock has grown restless, stopped eating and is altogether not like himself. Kirk brushes them off, but when they see Nurse Chapel bringing Spock some Vulcan soup, only to have him (offscreen) throw it and yell at her, he becomes concerned. He rushes to Spock’s quarters where Spock, refusing to tell him why he’s acting this way, asks for a leave of absence so that he can journey to his home planet of Vulcan.

Although the Enterprise is headed to the planet Altair IV to be present at the king’s coronation ceremony on behalf of the Federation, Kirk orders a course set for Vulcan, seeing as how the planet is not that far out of our way. However, after receiving a message from Starfleet Command that the ceremony has been moved up a week early, they are forced to revert to their original course. Kirk, wanting to help his friend, later asks Chekov how late they’d be if they diverted to Vulcan.

Surprised, Chekov tells him that they’re already on course for Vulcan, per a course Spock laid out. When asked about this, Spock claims no memory of doing this, but states that if  Chekov says he did, then he must have. Kirk orders Spock to sickbay, where, after a battery of tests, an anguished McCoy tells Kirk that Spock is suffering from such high levels of adrenaline that, within eight days, he’ll be dead from the stress.

Kirk presses Spock to tell him what’s going on, and eventually Spock relents, explaining that his agitation is caused by “Vulcan biology;” in other words, the Vulcan reproductive cycle, or pon farr, has begun. Spock explains that Vulcans enter this state once every seven years and that they must return to Vulcan to mate just as salmon must go to their original stream to spawn. He explains that it is very painful for the Vulcans, such a logical race, to regress to such urges and that they cloak the whole affair in ritual out of embarrassment.

Kirk promises to help and, defying all orders, steers the Enterprise at full speed towards Vulcan. Once there, they make contact and a beautiful Vulcan woman (Arlene Martel) appears onscreen, exchanging greetings with Spock.

“She’s beautiful,” Nurse Chapel says. “Who is she?”

“She,” Spock says, “is T’Pring. My wife.”

After explaining that he and T’Pring were betrothed to each other at the age of 7, Spock beams down for pon farr, but asks that Kirk, as his friend, goes along, as well as McCoy; he is entitled to this right, he says. And they head down to the planet.

This is where it pays off to watch the remastered version, as here, we see completely digital inserts of the surface of Vulcan, which look absolutely stunning.

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Arriving at an arena atop a high, desolate peak that Spock says has belonged to his family for eons, a procession enters, bearing not only T’Pring, but also the legendary Vulcan T’Pau (Celia Lovsky), who Kirk recalls as an iconic diplomat, and the only person to ever turn down a seat on the Federation High Council.

After reaffirming Spock’s commitment to T’Pring, T’Pau says that the ceremony–the koon-ut-kal-if-fee–can now begin. But during the ceremony, T’Pring interrupts by shouting, “Kal-if-fee,” invoking her right to have Spock– who, at this point, is subsumed with his feelings–fight for her. Kirk and McCoy speculate that a male Vulcan in T’Pring’s entourage will be made to fight her, but, to their surprise, she chooses Kirk!

Given that the kal-if-fee is a fight to the death, will Spock give in to his feelings and do away with Kirk? How will Kirk survive? And why did T’Pring choose him?

This is an astonishing episode, and it should be of no surprise to anyone that Joseph Pevney is in the director’s chair again. He’s quite simply the finest director Trek had, and his mastery is in every frame. No shot is wasted, no setup is too silly. Everything fits the story and the tension is palpable throughout. The episode’s score is by Gerard Fried, and Pevney and his editor perfectly tie its lush themes to every scene.

Theodore Sturgeon’s script is utterly fascinating, giving us a glimpse of what Vulcans are underneath all their logic, as well as giving us our first glimpse into Vulcan society at large, including the first ever performance of the Vulcan salute ( between Spock and T’Pau) as well as the first utterance of the Vulcan language.

The cast takes this ball and runs with it. Shatner gives great depth to Kirk’s loyalty, and DeForest Kelley has some typically great zingers, as well as genuine concern for Spock that shines through. Martel doesn’t have much to do outside of standing and looking pretty, but she’s good at that, and also projects an air of icy imperialness quite well. Lovsky does most of the heavy lifting as T’Pau, using her natural Viennese accent to give her a sense of alienness and ancient authority. You may not always understand her words, but they’re riveting.

But obviously, this is Nimoy’s show through and through. He’s incredible, showing just how frightening it can be when the calmest person in the room flies off the handle. He also deftly portrays Spock’s grappling with his desires, which are difficult enough for him to subsume as a half-Vulcan, but at this time, it’s damn near impossible. It’s an exhilarating trip he takes viewers on and I heartily recommend this episode. It was nominated for a Hugo, along with four other Trek episodes (with “The City On The Edge of Forever” ultimately winning) and it’s easy to see why.