Star Trek Saturdays #40

It’s time for Star Trek Saturdays #40!


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.

Elaine and Robert Johnson.jpg

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.




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 #18

It’s time for Star Trek Saturdays #18!


This week’s episode is “The Squire of Gothos” and if you thought last time’s episode was pretty loopy, this has it beat!

Our story begins with the Enterprise, en route to the Beta IV colony, having to pass through a “star desert,” a region of space where solar systems are uncommon. They unexpectedly encounter a lone planet; Sulu, at the helm, prepares to steer around it when he suddenly vanishes, as does Kirk.

Spock and the bridge crew conduct a sensor sweep to determine where the two are and come to the conclusion that they must be on the planet even though their instruments indicate it is inhospitable.

A landing party led by Spock beams down and, to their surprise, discover a Gothic manor in an Earth-like atmosphere. They enter and discover a room full of bizarre artifacts and Kirk and Sulu, frozen in place. A door slams, a harpsichord starts playing and the party turns to see a man who identifies himself as General Trelane, the Squire of Gothos (William Campbell).


Trelane unfreezes Kirk and Sulu with a wave of his hand and explains that he wishes to befriend the landing party, implying that he’ll only let them leave when he feels like it. Kirk tries to make a break for it, but an enraged Trelane snaps his fingers and teleports them to the surface of the planet away from his house, which is full of poisonous gas. As Kirk falls to the ground, choking, Trelane appears and informs him that he simply cannot leave and must do as he says. But who or what is Trelane and what does he want with the Enterprise?

If certain elements of last time’s episode–if you watched the episode, you know what I mean–remind you, as they did me, of the timeless Q from TNG, then Trelane will too. Key to that is Campbell’s performance, which has just the same egomania and childlike glee that John de Lancie gave to Q decades later. Acting off a charismatic villain like that gives the cast some great material: Shatner demonstrates Kirk’s cunning, Nimoy gives us some more great Spock facial expressions and Takei actually gets something to do for once as Sulu.

To go back to Q for a second, according to Memory Alpha, in a Next Generation novel called Q-Squared, Trelane is revealed to actually be a member of the Q Continuum along with two other beings revealed at the end of this episode in a fashion that reminded me, of all things, of “Where No Fan Has Gone Before” the Futurama episode that paid tribute to Trek. But while that reveal was humorous, this was a little more poignant.

As with any charismatic villain, key to making Trelane work is the script and this one, by Paul Schneider, is a good one, giving Campbell plenty of crackling lines to bite into. Schneider wrote the immortal “Balance of Terror,” and his prowess is just as on display here. The direction, by Don McDougall, is a delight, taking great pains to set up Trelane’s backwards perceptions of Earth culture (he dresses and acts the way he does because he thinks the Earth is still in the 17th Century) and ramping up the conflict between Trelane and Kirk, which results in some wonderfully spooky imagery with some very effective lighting. Overall, this episode is recommended without a doubt.

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.

File:Richard Matheson.jpg

(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.