September 14, 2016
This episode is called “The Immunity Syndrome,” but frankly this is a missed opportunity to title an episode “Attack of the Giant Space Amoeba,” or to gleefully over-use the word “entropy.”
Because that’s what this episode wants to be about, folks: entropy, and why it’s the enemy.
This is another one of those times when you can just about see the episode that the episode wanted to be, but it never quite made it out into the world.
What this episode wants to be about:
What this episode is actually about:
As so often happens with TOS, the episode you will inevitably write in your head while watching is far superior to what’s on the screen. And maybe sugar up before sitting down to watch, lest the entropy get you, too.
September 7, 2016
So, depending on your point of view, this episode is either a condemnation of accidental colonialism, an apologist screed for colonialism, or is saying something chilling about casual gun violence.
…orrrr it’s a thinly-veiled excuse to have James Kirk cosplay as Al Capone.
About a hundred years ago, we learn in the cold open, the proto-Federation ship Horizon visited Iotia, and may possibly, slightly, just a little bit definitely fucked up their cultural evolution. The visit happened before the introduction of Starfleet’s non-interference directive, which also explains why the mysteriously-vanished Horizon‘s report took so long to reach Earth (we never do learn what happened to the Horizon, either). The Enterprise is just now getting around to checking on Iotia, and they find that “interfered” is not quite strong enough a word for what contact with the Horizon has done to Iotian culture.
Namely: inspired the Iotians to perfectly mimic Hollywood 1920s Chicago, with a heavy emphasis on the mob.
This is mostly a hijinks episode, not unlike The Trouble with Tribbles – and interestingly, is one of two Original Series episodes DS9 writers considered returning to when they were creating Troubles and Tribble-ations. Kirk and Co. are forced to adapt quickly, first appearing utterly alien in both time and place, and then to play along with a farcical situation that eventually has Kirk adopting a movie-Capone role and “taking over” Iotia in the name of the Federation.
How this turned out in the long run is anybody’s guess – canon gives us conflicting reports on the fate of Iotia – but we do know that we’d love to see Kirk’s report on this particular mission.
August 31, 2016
In this week’s episode, our brave (stupid?) crew is once again kidnapped by a race of jerkface omnipotent ascended aliens.
There’s a whole painfully-artificial B-plot that we won’t go into much, but the A-plot is basically that Kirk, Chekov and Uhura are innocently beaming down to a planet for Totally Legitimate Mission Reasons and find themselves, instead, lots of light-years away, being pressed into gladiatorial slavery, for the amusement of giant brains.
Yes, it’s Yet Another Giant Brain/Energy Squid Villain, where the all-powerful alien race in question has subjugated humanoids for reasons that only make sense if you’ve decided to forcibly evolve yourself out of inconvenient glandular concerns like a conscience.
Honestly, I mostly liked this episode. It’s got some great worldbuilding, a couple of it’s-not-their-fault-it’s-the-writing solid lady guest characters, one of whom is multi-tasker extraordinaire Ensign Jana Haines, who is the responsible officer actually responsible for locating the missing away team while Spock, Scotty and Bones are arguing for no reason.
The other two lady guest stars are alien gladiators, and one of them, Shahna, repeatedly kicks Kirk’s ass, which let’s face it, can only be good for him. If only it weren’t for the super-awkward and pretty-inappropriate romantic subplot, I’d give it an extra fifty points.
Shahna also carries most of the episode’s worldbuilding, having been born and raised on Triskelion. We like to imagine that one day, she’s re-introduced to the greater galaxy as Prime Minister Shahna, because god knows she’s earned it.
August 24, 2016
So as a heads-up, we don’t care what anyone thinks (up to and including Gene Roddenberry, who may or may not have despised it): this episode is comedy gold.
In this week’s among-the-most-famous and most universally-beloved episode, the Enterprise is summoned to space station K-7 by a Priority One distress call, but when it arrives, it turns out that the emergency in question was… xenophobia. There’s some strategically-super-important grain being stored on the station, and guess who’s hanging around near the station? Klingons. Apparently the bureaucrat in charge of protecting the wheat got jumpy and, well, jumped the gun, using a distress signal meant for imminent disaster.
Kirk, as you might imagined, is not impressed to discover that he hauled ass for… uh, wheat.
Also hanging around on the station is this guy:
Cyrano Jones is a trader, and today he’s on Station K-7 trading, let’s face it, the cutest animals in the universe: tribbles. They’re soft, they induce feelings of calm and happiness, and even Spock admits that they make “a pleasing sound.” They’re basically guaranteed to take off as the Most Popular Pet for space-faring humanoids – at least, Uhura thinks so, because she acquires one (As a gift, for marketing, because she’s a communicator. Get it? GET IT?) and takes it back to the ship with her.
Where – as you probably guessed – something goes horribly wrong.
The tribbles start breeding out of control and eating everything. By the time the crew realizes that the tribble infestation might have started on the station, it’s too late: the tribbles have gotten into the super-important Space Grain (Quadrotriticale, officially, which comes from Future Canada, heyyyy!). This is bad for… strategy, but gold for comedy, because it gives us this scene:
Honestly, does the rest of it even matter?
August 17, 2016
So this episode is nominally a murder mystery, which honestly, made us give it a whole lot of bonus points right at the outset. Our crew is visiting Argelius, a port world where, well, to give you an idea, the law of the land is literally love. A couple of hundred years ago Argelians decided that work was stupid, fighting was boring, and conflict was the worst, and decided to devote their lives to seeking happiness and pleasure. Honestly, this sounds like a pretty sensible set of ideals on which to base a culture. The shocking thing is how generally gross the representatives of the Enterprise are acting in the first five minutes, sprawled out on cushions around a table leering dramatically at the nice lady dancer who is just trying to do her job, guys.
There’s arguably a plot reason for this, but it’s a stupid one: to manufacture a totally unnecessary motive for Scotty to be cast immediately as the suspect when the unfortunate young lady (Tara) is murdered about ten minutes later: Scotty recently suffered a concussion, which apparently, by insane 1960s space logic, has given him a “total resentment of all women” (yes, what the actual fuck is an excellent question to have here, though it did cross our minds that, if we’d believed it was deliberate, this is in some ways an incredibly modern way of viewing the relationship between brain injury and culpability in violent crime… though we pretty much came down on refusing to award credit on the basis of how stupid it sounds). Fortunately, Ship Pimp James Kirk is here to set him up with Tara, hoping they can bone that nonsensical resentment right out of him.
It’s almost funny how many more times Scotty ends up awkwardly positioned with blood on his hands over yet another murdered woman (three in total, RIP Tara, Lieutenant Karen Tracy, and Sybo), or it would be if this episode didn’t centre on a murderer whose motive is that it simply hates women.
Yes, seriously, this is the explicit motive, for real.
By the virtue of Space Google, they discover that the culprit is, in fact, a deathless, millennia-old misogyny cloud possessing a series of man-shaped shells which was probably the truth behind the legend of Jack the Ripper, but still: this is so bananas that if a woman had written this episode, I would be tempted to think it was trying to be subversive.
As it is, we just have to sit back and admire the skillful use of Agatha Christie red flags in pointing loudly at the murderer in the first ten minutes of the story: out-of-towner, loner, obstructionist, and portrayed jarringly by John Fiedler, voice of Piglet.
Yeah. Let that one settle.
August 10, 2016
This week we reach the midway point in season 2 of TOS (and arguably the halfway point in the series), potentially subtitled “Old Man Kirk Yells at Cloud” (there was some debate about this, given he never actually yells at the cloud).
It’s also probably the first installment in Trek’s long-running love affair with the Moby Dick metaphor. We can’t decide whether this is because of the hubris or the arrogance or just the inescapable naval associations, but Trek does love its sketchy vendettas against impossible monstrous foes. This time, it’s James T. Kirk vs. The Vampiric Sparklecloud Monster, which at some point in his early Starfleet career killed 200 people on board the U.S.S. Farragut, including his mentor, Captain Garrovick. When now-Captain Kirk recognizes the Sparklecloud’s funky smell during an away mission, he embarks on a renewed crazy vendetta which we felt would have been dealt with a lot more efficiently if he’d seen fit to, you know, explain himself to his crew rather than just, like, yelling at everyone.
Probably the most frustrating thing about this story is that for most of it, the narrative seems committed to questioning Kirk’s motives in pursuing the Sparklecloud to the exclusion of all the Enterprise‘s other duties (aka: delivering perishable, time-sensitive vaccines to a Federation colony???): Kirk blames himself for the deaths on the Farragut (though no one else does; the record holds him blameless) and is being dangerously irresponsible in the interest of expiating that guilt. There’s even the added bonus that the son of his former captain is now on board the Enterprise as a security officer/constant reminder of Jim Kirk’s failures. Kirk’s yelling at his subordinates, being evasive, passive-aggressive and confrontational and basically behaving like a jackass. But then, a majority of the way through the episode, the narrative decides to change its mind, pulling a 180-degree turn to show that Kirk was, as it turns out, right all along.
Since this episode falls at what was probably the height of the Shatner Interference Era of TOS, where said actor was engaged in a campaign of note-writing terror to make sure that his character was persistently portrayed as heroic and flawless, we’re willing to put this episode in the rearview and never think about it again. One day, this franchise will learn about Institutional Memory and Character development. We know, because we’ve seen it.
August 5, 2016
The NSMTNZ crew recently saw the new offering from the Nu!Trek franchise, and wonder of wonders, we enjoyed it! Now if Hollywood can just promise to never let J.J. Abrams touch Star Trek ever ever again, I might one day progress to a place of acceptance where I can physically stop complaining about installments 1 and 2.
Joining us for this recap/reaction is special guest Amy, who has never been on a podcast before! Good times.
Obvious warning: spoilers ahead.
August 3, 2016
Our first bonus episode of two this week, all about the upcoming return of Star Trek to its natural habitat, television. There was a panel full of announcements at SDCC 2016, among them the name of the new ship, also the title of the series: Discovery. We also got a list of new names added to the show’s creative team, including a few new writers (still a little heavy on white guys, but there’s still time) and some directors and producers.
Join us as we pick the trailer apart into many tiny pieces, coming away with a wild mix of impressions and predictions, but your mileage may vary.
If you haven’t seen it yet, have a look! And commence wildly theorizing as we await the next batch of rumours and announcements.
July 27, 2016
This week, our crew comes upon a far-flung pseudo-colony where the members of a scientific expedition have come down with an acute case of The Olds.
Naturally, they quickly discover that they’ve been infected with whatever is killing the expedition members. The medical staff springs into action, trying to cure the away team, but not before most of them (Chekov is mysteriously unaffected) start to descend into old age at an incredible rate… and not before the episode starts to devolve into the James Kirk Is Still Sexy Show. We blame the writing (and maybe Shatner’s ego), but just about everything from the moment he starts to go grey is focused on proving (and disproving) that Kirk is still attractive and virile.
Yeah… we didn’t really care for this one, and I’m not sure what else there is to say about the episode, apart from “I want those 50 minutes of my brief and precious life back.” Kind of like Old!Kirk, I bet.
I definitely want back the 10 minutes 2/3 of the way through the episode where we pull into a narrative truck-stop to hold a competency hearing to re-tell the events of the episode so far.
There are an unprecedented number of lady background-characters in this episode, a great female guest star (Laura Wood) who did the best she could possibly have done with what she was given, and we do, at least, get one secondary lady quasi-redshirt, which is a step in the right direction? I guess?
450% older than most women are allowed to get in modern Hollywood
July 20, 2016
This week, the Enterprise visits Capella, land of shiny rocks, where people stab each other for fun and call it a favour, and women literally belong to their male relatives. Sounds like a super-sweet potential trading partner, right?
Capella, a pre-warp civilization (Prime Directive? What Prime Directive?) whose aesthetic falls somewhere between “Vikings! Rarrr!” and what looks 1960s’ Hollywood’s idea of Mongolia, happens to mine some Very Important Minerals that are crucial to artificial life-support systems. Bones has visited Capella so far, on a sort of semester-abroad deal where he tried to convince the highly-Darwinist Capellans that medicine is a swell idea, and in a supreme waste of effort, does run them through the Capellans’ veritable minefield of murder-worthy taboos before they beam down… so naturally everything goes to hell within about fifteen seconds.
The other part of the episode involves a Capellan civil war precipitated by a Klingon interloper, and a flight through the hills with the very pregnant widow of the usurped Capellan Teer (portrayed by a very committed Julie Newmar), who must now, by the laws of her people, be put to death; something that well-meaning but clueless landing party obviously will not allow.
Somewhere in this episode, deep, deep down, there’s a really clumsy and uncomfortable conversation about cultural relativism and the how everything sucks for women everywhere, always, but most of it is lost in the progression of frankly insulting comments about how said lady – whose name is Eleen, pronounced Ell-ee-enn – has no idea what she’s talking about and doesn’t know what she wants in regards to subjects ranging from her survival to her culture to her pregnancy to her own bodily autonomy.
I mean, it turns around a little – mainly due to Eleen’s intervention on her own behalf once she puts that pesky childbirth business in the rearview. There follow some exciting and hilarious explosions and a series of frankly very silly grappling fights to defeat the Wicked Klingon and end the civil war. Eleen reclaims her life and her child and establishes herself as his regent – essentially the leader of the entire planet, after fifty minutes of being owned, dismissed, threatened, and smacked around by just about every man in the episode, including her doctor, while he is in the process of delivering her child. (And this in a D.C. Fontana episode! We can only assume the intervention of dudes later on in the process.)
It is… jarring, to say the least. Oh, Star Trek. As ever, you give me whiplash.
We can only hope that Eleen, Regent of Capella, teaches her son to know better.