Saturday, July 02, 2011

Star Trek, Season Three

Can you believe it's been an entire year?

Last summer, Becca and I started doing a rewatch of Star Trek (Season One, Season Two), because I had never actually seen every single episode of the original series. We loved the first two seasons, but got hung up in the third with some pretty terrible, pretty boring episodes. We decided to take a brief break to watch some other things and go back to it, and that was pretty much last August. So, since Netflix started streaming the series yesterday, we got back on track and, as of this very day, I have finally seen every episode of Star Trek.

It's a mixed blessing.

1. Spock's Brain (my rating 2/5)
This tremendously stupid episode is the first clear signal that this season is going to go light on science fiction and just do whatever the hell it feels like. Watching Spock tromp about with his brain gone is just saddening. Here we go. And a lot of what comes up later in the season is even worse.

2. The Enterprise Incident (3/5)
God bless her, DC Fontana tries with this episode. She gives us another interesting female character in the Romulan commander, but it's disheartening that they can't even bother to name her. Also, Kirk as a Romulan is just silly. I like the scenes between Spock and the Romulan Commander; I notice it's the women writers who are more interested in exploring Spock's dual natures. Any time they really go into that territory, I'm fascinated.

3. The Paradise Syndrome (1/5)
Ugh. Kirk among the natives. A deeply, deeply stupid riff on The Man Who Would Be King, with a little of James Michener's Hawaii thrown in. Someone--I forget who now--asks perhaps the dumbest question of any Trek episode. Remarking on the similarities of the planet to Earth, someone asks what the odds are of a world so parallel to Earth developing out in the galaxy? Uh, on THIS show? Seems like 1 in 3. And Shatner is really off his leash in this one, overacting like mad.

4. And the Children Shall Lead (1/5)
Because creepy kids = science fiction, apparently.

5. Is There in Truth No Beauty? (4/5)
A very good Spock episode, and the establishment of one of my favorite concepts in all of Star Trek, the Vulcan IDIC. I know it was really only created so Gene Roddenberry could sell some more merchandise, but aside from that mercenary aspect, it's quite a nice philosophy.

6. Spectre of the Gun (1/5)
I was just waiting for Melvarrr to show up in this one. Pretty lame.

7. Day of the Dove (4/5)
I like the Klingons in this episode; as I've said before, my enjoyment of them is rather mixed, but Michael Ansara makes a great Klingon, and watching the two crews battle it out is pretty dramatic. Walter Koenig needs to rein it in a little in this one, but he's nowhere near as annoying this season as in the second.

8. For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky (2/5)
There's a great science fiction idea in here with the potential (literal) collision of two civilizations, but I don't think the episode pulls it off.

9. The Tholian Web (3/5)
Another day, another abandoned derelict... not a bad episode, actually, but the plotlines are starting to feel pretty recycled. I know that's because of budget cuts in anticipation of cancellation, but it also doesn't feel like they're really doing they best they can with what they have left.

10. Plato's Stepchildren (3/5)
There's a really good episode here that gets a little too bogged down in silliness and Shatner's overacting. There's so much here that's strong--particularly the performance of Michael Dunn as Alexander, the only Platonian without telekinesis--that it's a shame so damn much of the episode is devoted to the weird, uncomfortable, psychosexual torture and humiliation of the cast.

11. Wink of an Eye (1/5)
And this is the point where the bad episodes start to get tedious. Also, Nimoy is snippy. What's been going on behind the scenes, exactly? He seems to hate his lines and sharing the screen with Shatner. And Shatner, for his part, has been out of control with his overacting.

12. The Empath (1/5)
Predictable, tedious, and poorly acted. All of those close-ups of Gem, the empath, were really irritating after a while. And the score, though pretty at first, is relentless.

13. Elaan of Troyius (3/5)
Quite good for the first half; Elaan is a character we haven't seen on Trek before--imperious, even bratty, and very sure of herself. She's an interesting antidote to the usual Trek babe. But then Kirk gets especially crazy about disciplining her, and he kind of breaks all ethics to bring this girl under his heel. They obviously wanted to do a Taming of the Shrew-in-space episode, but Kirk really goes out of his way to just do whatever the fuck he wants instead of acting like a captain. This episode is pretty racist, too--the Asian dragon lady becomes the Asian submissive to the white man--but I don't think that's a conscious decision. Elaan could be played by an actress of any race and the episode would still be as incredibly sexist as it already is. France Nuyen is electric in the role, though, and I really liked Jay Robinson.

14. Whom Gods Destroy (2/5)
Well, I like Yvonne Craig as an Orion girl. She's really good on this episode. She's the only one whose crazy overacting works. The rest is a battle between Shatner and Steve Ihnat to see who can overact the loudest. Shatner needs a freaking leash.

15. Let That Be Your Last Battlefield (4/5)
How was Frank Gorshin not on every show ever? Every time I see him in something, I'm impressed by how good he is. One of the few very good episodes this season, willing to go bleak, though an invisible spaceship figuring in the plot is a clear indicator of how low the budget is now.

16. The Mark of Gideon (2/5)
Everything going on here with Captain Kirk is pure tedium, but it bumps up a point for all of the verbal back-and-forth negotiating between Spock and the Gideon High Council.

17. That Which Survives (1/5)
18. The Lights of Zetar (1/5)
Tedious. TEDIOUS. And hammy. By this point it feels like no one really gives a shit about making a decent show anymore. They're just running out the clock.

19. Requiem for Methuselah (2/5)
This one starts out really interesting and then sort of loses itself in more pabulum about Kirk falling in love with yet another girl in space. Only this time he basically loves her to death, which is odd and mildly offensive.

20. The Way to Eden (2/5)
The space hippies feel gimmicky, and I couldn't care less about Chekov's romance, but this goes up an extra point for Charles Napier. I love that man.

21. The Cloud Minders (2/5)
Another one that starts out strong and gets tedious. And I agree with what David Gerrold said about this episode being ethically sketchy; it's basically about making the less privileged workers happy but, importantly, keeping them workers. Humoring the labor, I guess. So much potential wasted, and I really liked both of the women here, and the stuff with Spock.

22. The Savage Curtain (3/5)
The loopiest thing I've ever seen on Star Trek: Abraham Lincoln floating on an easy chair in space. Sure, why not? I liked some bits of this episode, especially Surak. And even Lincoln is kind of cool, despite the actor's makeup getting progressively worse. The Excalbian alien is neat, too. A really solid try.

23. All Our Yesterdays (5/5)
I loved this one. This is the real standout from Season Three. I'd never seen this one before today, and I really loved the romance between Spock and Mariette Hartley, and the exploration of the character dynamic between Spock and McCoy. This is really sensitively-written, character-driven science fiction. It made sitting through this trial of a season worth it.

24. Turnabout Intruder (1/5)
Ugh. Show got canceled one episode too late. An offensive episode, too, about "the indignity of being a woman." Watching Shatner ham it up with what he thinks is a feminine performance... what a spectacle of awfulness.

And there it is. Not a winner by any means, but some good stuff in there. And now I've finally seen every episode of the original series, and it's on to The Next Generation!


Semaj said...

Ah, the season GR left the series. I still don't know why he departed the show after the fans saved the series with their letter writing campaign.

Day of the Dove is great: Check out that second season Klingon episode on DS9 to see what happens to the Klingon Captain as he partners with Kor.

The Enterprise Incident: this episode is the model for Romulans all the way up to "reboot" series. I love this episode and the model work is pretty good.

I didn't care for the rest of the season.

Kal said...

but but...'brain and brain and brain' is the greatest line ever in a Star Trek episode.

Good luck with the first season of Next Generation - it's pretty aweful

Tallulah Morehead said...

Yes, season three was mostly pretty awful. Thank you, Fred Frieburger. It's been 4 decades since I finished seeing all of Classic STAR TREK. There was way too much reliance on what were already a list of STAR TREK plot cliches: parallel earths (One I would accept if they came up with a really good reason why random geologic forces created THE EXACT SAME CONTINENTS ON ANOTHER PLANET but not six or seven, each halted at a particular point in EARTH'S history. And the idea that another planet would not only have the United States Constitution word-for-word the same, but WRITTEN IN THE SAME HANDWRITING went beyond mere implausability.) Kirk falls in love (if Kirk was just in love last week, then McCoy, Scotty or Spock could fall in love.), and of course, Spock gets emotional. Yawn.

SPOCK'S BRAIN without doubt one of the absolute low points. Horrifcally stupid.

SPECTRE OF THE GUN. Anytime a sci-fi show does a western, it's trouble. If it's The Gunfight at the OK Corral, we're in really big trouble. On Doctor Who "The Gunfighters" which mixed The Doctor with the Gunfight at the OK Corral was the worst Doctor Who episode ever, and here's the Enterprise crew with Wyatt Earp and the Clantons, and it may well be the worst Star Trek episode ever (and only a year or two after Doctor Who did it, though this season provided a lot of competition.

Wink of an Eye Despite the overacting of Shatner (I was pretty much innured against it by this time. One simply accepted that Shatner was an over-the-top ham and got on with it.), the IDEA of this episode was fascinating.

Whom Gods Destroy Bear in mind, I was 18 when this episode was broadcast for the first time, and even at 18 I could not believe that they were taking the ancient wheeze of a cliche expression "The inmates are running the asylum" and used it for a show premise. I remember thinking that I now knew what "hackneyed cliche" meant. In the words of Castallan on Gallifrey: "Not the Mind Probe!!!"

Let This Be Your Last Battlefield I hated this epsiode. The idea of the split-color race struck me as beyond stupid and utterly impossible. If these two races hated each other over the issue of which side was white (A concept Jonathon Swift could have used, he of the war over which end of the egg to open.), why didn't they both get together to REALLY hate these aliens who were only one color each? "Hey Monohue, what's the matter? Couldn't come up with a second color?" This is what happens when The Lesson For Today overwhelms actual drama.

The Savage Curtain This is what happens when you write a sci-fi show while on acid. I had a drink in a bar with "Surak," aka Barry Atwater, once.

I understand what is sexist and wrong about Turnabout Intruder (The title acknowledges Thorne Smith's, author of Topper, wonderful novel Turnabout in which a married couple wakes up in each other's bodies and experience a day or two of how the other half lives, a riotously funny book made into a mildly funny movie by Hal Roach - the book was far too, well, bawdy for a 1930s movie. They did, after all, basically steal Smith's premise.), I just enjoy the hell out of Shatner's campy performance. He seems not to have become a woman so much as an effeminate homosexual stereotype. Solid comedy.

Roger Owen Green said...

I had the mad crush on Mariette Hartley, which got stronger during those silly commercals with James Garner.

Drake said...

Freddie Frieberger thought Trek would work if it were more like Lost in Space and written for 3rd graders, this mentality also doomed Space 1999 when he took over that show.

Freddie was the kiss of death for SF shows.

SamuraiFrog said...

Semaj: Roddenberry left as a sort of protest against the terrible time slot they gave the show (late Friday nights).

For some reason, Netflix doesn't start streaming DS9 until October, but we plan on watching that series, as well. Until then, we're most likely going to skip Voyager completely and do Enterprise.

I can't see the model work on "The Enterprise Incident" because Netflix only has the remastered episodes, now! As a kid I was always fascinated by the design of the Romulan ships, with the feathering painted underneath. I had a model set that included the Enterprise, a Romulan ship, and a Klingon cruiser.

Kal: We're about halfway through it now and, yeah, it's reminding me of why I stopped watching the show when it was originally on.

Tallulah: I tended to hate it, too, when The Twilight Zone would do Western episodes. Not always, but too often it was a variation on someone from modern day getting stuck in the past.

The idea of "Wink on an Eye" is fascinating. I wish they'd pulled it off better.

Not only was "Whom Gods Destroy" cliched, but they'd done it already in the first season in "Dagger of the Mind," and without the imbecilities of this episode.

You made me rethink "Battlefield." Excellent point.

I was reading about the novel "Turnabout," and I'd very much like to read it. And you're exactly right about Shatner. Watching him nearly start crying when no one is listening to him... I wonder if it's better or worse (or rather, funnier) that the comedy isn't intentional...

Roger: She's so beautiful. I see her all the time on commercials for window treatments, but I can't remember the name of the company off the top of my head.

Drake: After killing Star Trek, it's hard to believe someone would put him on another SF series. Ouch.

Tallulah Morehead said...

Well, Daggar of the Mind was at least about the THEATUH!, and had lots of juicy Shakespeare, and a murder mystery, even if it was pretty obvious who the killer was, namely the girl from Ironside. (At the time we had Ironside with Raymond Burr as a detective in a wheelchair who solves murders without - ah - "legwork", and Longstreet about James Franciscus as a detective who was blind, and I guess sniffed out clues, or licked them, anyway, he didn't own a Sherlock Holmes-type magnifying glass. My then-writing partner Jim Diederich wrote a parody called Ironlung about a detective who was deaf, dumb, blind, and paralyzed from the neck down.)

Well you can't have my copy of Turnabout. TCM runs the movie once in a while, and apart from the disastrous decision to have the actors dub their voices over the other person, so when the husband was the wife, the husband's voice came out of her and vice versa, it's a fairly funny movie, and Franklin Pangborn steals every scene he's in, as usual, but the movie was too tame, and no Topper. The book (which is available in a very cheap paperback from Amazon) is a lot funnier and raunchier. (Smith could be very raunchy.)

I hope Shatner's performance was intentional, but who can tell at this late date?

Fred Frieburger gave us one thing worth having: The Beast From20,000 Fathoms.

I wouldn't skip over ST:Voyager, especially not for Enterprise. Voyager at least tells a complete story, with a beginning, a LOT of middle, and a terrific ending. I may be prejudiced, as I had a good friend who was pivital in the creation of the show's look and effects, as one of the designers of the Starship Voyager herself.