Friday, February 14, 2014

Star Trek: Old School Through New Eyes

I loved fantasy and science fiction as a kid.  Born in 1974, there was some stuff I missed.  Thankfully, regular TV, HBO, and our family VCR helped bridge the gap so I could watch more and more and more!  The original series of Star Trek, however, somehow eluded my viewing.

By the way, my first exposure to Star Trek was The Wrath of Khan.  I must have watched it a couple dozen times in the 80's.  To this day, it's still my favorite Star Trek movie.

I think I tuned into the show once, quite accidentally, halfway during an episode where everyone was dressed like cowboys and walking through a western set.  A couple more such experiences must have soured me on the franchise's origins because I never tried to rent it or catch it on tv.  Then, a few years ago, I found out or maybe accidentally stumbled upon the episode "Space Seed".  For those who don't know, it's like a 50 minute Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan prequel.  Yes, "Space Seed" came first and the events lead up to the movie's premise.  Not only did I like the story - especially finding out it's about the earlier years of Khan - but there was a sexism aspect that I really enjoyed and found refreshingly old school.

Moving on, I purchased the original series on DVD a couple years ago after watching "Space Seed" and just kept putting it off and putting it off until just a couple months ago.  My youngest daughter likes to get up in the middle of the night (usually twice) for breastfeeding.  My wife takes care of that.  Illyria is my responsibility when she gets up around 6:30 or 7 in the morning.  At that point, we go downstairs.  She plays, I'm sitting on the couch five feet away watching, you guessed it, Star Trek: the original series until my eldest daughter wakes up and demands Mickey Mouse or Bubble Guppies or Lala Oopsie, etc.

Having never seen these vintage episodes before, I'm getting a real historical kick out of the scifi vintage that is this show.  An important point - I bought the DVDs with the updated, enhanced special effects.  Not sure if that was the right move, but think I may have been bummed to see 60's FX on a dismal budget.

It seems a little silly to review the original Star Trek show, so this isn't intended to be that.  Below are my snap-shot subjective thoughts on what I've seen so far.  The episodes I will most likely want to see again down the road, maybe when the girls are a bit older.

"The Man Trap"  -  I like the planet's rock formations, ruins, and bizarre colors that seem to be everywhere like a Dario Argento film - scifi Suspiria!  Great looking creature!

"Charlie X"  -  I have to keep reminding myself that what I might find "unoriginal" now might have been ground breaking back then.  Three dimensional chess... cool.  Not sure if I only half understood the ending because of alien exposition and saving the day or one of my kids was screaming about something.

"Where No Man Has Gone Before"  -  Cool eyes and mind powers!  Not bad at all.

"The Naked Time"  -  The beginning reminded me at little of John Carpenter's The Thing.  Sulu without a shirt.  Overall, a little hokey, but not oh well.

"The Enemy Within"  -  Kirk is divided into a virtuous and demonic version of himself.  Both are extremes and neither are able to effectively captain the ship or live within society's confines.

"Mudd's Women"  -  What?!?  I enjoyed the blatant sexy space women angle, but the overall plot kind of bored and confounded me.

"What Little Girls Are Made Of"  -  Speaking of sexy space women (this is going to be a running theme, I guess).  That "research assistant" is one hot ticket.  And wasn't that "large humanoid" the cannibalistic alien dude from that Twilight Zone episode, "To Serve Man"?

"Miri"  -  It's only begun, but I already have the urge to shout, "Stop it!" at the planets that resemble 1960's earth.  Of course, that urge might also come from baby and/or toddler throwing food, slapping or clawing me in the face, and similar behavior.

"Dagger of the Mind"  -  This one seemed to take forever to get going, but I enjoyed the mad scientist / crazy psychological theories angle.  Next time, cut to the chase a little faster, ok?

"The Corbomite Maneuver"  -  Who doesn't want to slap Lt. Bailey - especially when he wants to slap everyone else?  I liked the back and forth of this episode, the unknown, the unwinnable forecast.  Chess versus poker.  Cool.  Wait, who the fuck is that little dude?

"The Menagerie, Part I"  -  I was sorry to find out that this is the series' only two-parter.  A shame because it's quite awesome.  And for the really, really good stories, this is my preferred format.  Pike looks so bad.  Jeez!  Spock is betraying Kirk!  No!  Why is Talos IV forbidden?  How are those images possible?  What's going on?

"The Menagerie, Part II"  -  Wow, Vina might be the single best part of this season!  My first glimpse of the green skinned Star Trek girls I've heard about.  Doesn't disappoint.  Those large headed aliens look really cool.  I kind of wish they would've only used their minds to speak, instead of quickly switching to the regular mouth talking we're used to.  Can't say I expected the ending.  Is the hottness that was Vina still there?  Can Pike run around in his imagination?  Is this the matrix?  What exactly is going on?

"The Conscience of the King"  -  This reminds me of a Blake's 7 episode.  A couple different ones, actually.

"Balance of Terror"  -  Yes!  Finally, there's some ship to ship combat, tactical maneuvering, and general fighting aliens awesomeness!  Wait, doesn't that Romulan look awfully familiar, even for someone who's never really seen the show before?  Why was that guy picking on Spock?  Ok, I enjoy the fact that there's some species/racial connectivity between Romulans and Vulcans.  Didn't know that.  Cool.

"Shore Leave"  -  No!  We go from one of the best episodes of Season 1 to one of the worst.  Alice in Wonderland, seriously?  I'd almost rather be playing Disney Princess tea party than pay close attention to this one.

"The Galileo Seven"  -  I'm not sure about this episode.  On one hand, it reminds me of Lost in Space (which is both good and bad, but mostly bad in the serious scifi sense).  On the other, it's an interesting entry in the Star Trek canon.  Am I glad that I didn't get to see much of those giants, like their faces?  Probably.  Why is everyone hating on Spock, god damn it?!?  Ok, he's logical and emotionless, but the man's (so to speak) doing his best to keep everyone alive.  Back off, Lieutenant Boma!

"The Squire of Gothos"  -  Dear god, why me?  Why should I be subjected to this poppycock!?!

"Arena"  -  I vaguely remember seeing bits and pieces of this one in my youth.  Hmm, not sure if I really liked it that much.  The reptile alien was cool, I suppose.

"Tomorrow is Yesterday"  -  This one reminded me of Twilight Zone, Land of the Lost, and Doctor Who.  It was done alright.  Time travel can be tricky business.

"Court Martial"  -  This episode was really good.  Unexpected!  Didn't have any cool star ship battles or aliens or bizarre scifi concepts, just a solid mystery fueled by quirky human behavior.  More 3D chess!

"The Return of the Archons"  -  For Landru's sake!  I understand the studio didn't actually give you any money for alien world sets and whatnot, but come on.  Overall, this wasn't too bad, but it started off so slow.  Pick up the pace a little, guys.

"Space Seed"  -  I remember this so well, I skipped it because I want to watch it with either my wife or a couple of friends and then see Wrath of Khan right after.  Awesome episode!

"A Taste of Armageddon"  -  Great story.  This episode would be original even in 2014.  I want to punch the idiots on that planet almost as much as Kirk.  Also, there's a darkness to it.  It creeps me out a little bit to think of people voluntarily walking into a disintegration booth just because the planet's computer lost a game of Battleship.

"This Side of Paradise"  -  This reminded me of Invasion of the Body Snatchers from the 70's.  Wait a minute, Leonard Nimoy was in that movie!  Last ditch save at the end.  Not sure if I like how the story panned out.  This episode made Spock sad.  >:(

"The Devil in the Dark"  -  There's got to be half a dozen vintage Doctor Who episodes that fit this basic description.  All the overweight, middle aged, average looking men at the beginning seem out of place - maybe that's because it actually seems plausible.  Oh my god, my reality has just been altered by some alien plant disease curse doppelganger hideous monster thing... no!

"Errand of Mercy"  -  Mostly awesome!  We get to see Klingons for the very first time!  Even though there's no ridged forehead stuff going on, the main one (that has more than just brown shoe polish rubbed into his pores) is pretty badass!  But who couldn't have guessed the natives of that planet didn't have some kind of ultimate doomsday weapon or were actually godlike beings just pretending to be human or were actually holograms or something?  Duh!  Still, the moral of the story was an interesting one.  Do civilized species/races have the right to wage war on each other when there are "grownup" aliens around?

"The Alternative Factor"  -  I just didn't know what to make of this one.  That dude's beard, for starters!  The last few minutes were the best.  A corridor between universes sounds pretty neat.

"The City on the Edge of Forever"  -  Isn't there a Blake's 7 episode of the same name?  Hang on, I've gotta look this up... ok, that one is called "City at the Edge of the World".  Anyways, this one started off really cool, but then 1930's earth.  Yawn.  Joan Collins?  Spock is building what with vacuum tubes and bottle caps?  Can pacifism ever be a bad thing?  Guess so.  Sorry, Hitler.  Joan Collins isn't going to lull baby America to sleep just yet.  "Let's get the hell out of here."  Indeed.  Wait, what?  No, that alien world time guardian thing is awesome.  It was the great depression era that made the episode suck.  Come back, Kirk!

"Operation: Annihilate!"  -  I didn't care for this one, either.  Kind of a poor ending to a pretty decent first season.  But wait, there's more...

"Amok Time"  -  Spock needs some time off... personal reasons.  I must have heard about "pon farr" before, but most recently a youtube series of videos called Barely Political / Key of Awesome did a parody thing about just that.  Just when I was starting to get bored with the back and forth shenanigans between Spock, Kirk, and Kirk's commanding officer telling him not to take a pit stop on the planet Vulcan, things started to get interesting.  This definitely could have been a two-parter.  I like the planet, rituals, Vulcans, fight to the death, Vulcan princesses' clever plan, and Bones' ingenuity.  That Vulcan who almost fought with Spock looked a lot like Leonard Nimoy, didn't he?  Uncanny.  And Spock smiles big at the end.  Nice.

"Who Mourns for Adonias?"  -  Jesus!  I have a feeling that this is why I never got into Star Trek as a kid.  A minute of this poorly done Bewitched meets I Dream of Jeanie bullshit is one minute too long, let alone 50 of them in a fucking row!!!

"The Changeling"  -  Even though Kirk tried to explain it, I have no idea what this episode has to do with changelings.  This is a common scifi tv trope.  I've seen it done in Lost in Space, Doctor Who, and probably a dozen other shows.  Not bad.  Nomad reminded me of IG88, which was nice.

"Mirror, Mirror"  -  Awesome!  This is more of what I'm talking about.  Spock with a goatee, Sulu a facial scar... where's the eye patch?  Assassination is a reasonable avenue to promotion!  Who knew?  Definitely enjoyed watching "the Captain's woman".  That dagger coming down into the world stencil really says it all.  Is evil Spock even more awesome than his usual self?  I think so.  He's still as logical and calculating as before.  Loved it when he said this to the scheming Sulu, "Many of my agents are Vulcans."  I can't believe we didn't get to see the evil landing party initially interact with the good enterprise crew.  Did the writer fall asleep?  This could have been another grand two-part episode.

That's all I've seen so far.  Will probably take me a couple months before I'm through season 3.  Hopefully, no one is offended by my sort of snide or snarky comments.  Just trying to add a little humor to the process.  If you have a comment, want to chat about an aspect of the show or something that happened in an episode, go right ahead.  Even though these episodes are fresh in my head, I'm no expert.  Find a Trekkie for all your esoteric trivia needs.

I'm starting see what all the fuss was about, up to and including Big Bang Theory.  Sheldon Cooper as Spock?  Only if he keeps the goatee...


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