November 18, 2015
In this episode, in yet another example of early Starfleet’s flagrant disregard for basic biohazard precautions, Kirk, Bones, Spock, Rand and two redshirts beam down to an uncannily Earth-like planet in response to an SOS.
A planet where everyone appears to be dead, and has been dead for hundreds of years.
And creepy childlike singing and ghostly footsteps echo from around corners and beyond shadowed doorways.
…yes. This definitely seems like a safe place to explore.
The planet seems to be abandoned, apart from the aforementioned creepy singing and the pitter-patter of little feet – at least until they meet the episode’s titular character, (13/14-year-old?) Miri, who is hiding in a closet and terrified out of her mind at the sight of strange “grups.” A few minutes in an ancient, abandoned science lab nets the discovery that somewhere around three centuries ago, all the adults suddenly died, leaving only the children (cast largely from the offspring of the cast and crew), who seem to have grown feral in the interim.
Like so much of early Trek, this episode is one of those with a lot of unfulfilled potential and a lot of unfinished conversations, e.g. Is the prospect of an eternal childhood tempting or horrifying? How much of culture is passed down exclusively from adults to children rather than created anew with every generation? What cultural equilibrium can be achieved without biology forcing physical maturity? Is The Lord of the Flies a pack of nonsense that falls apart when not cast entirely with wealthy white males (spoiler: probably, but the episode itself doesn’t give us a lot to go on)?
All in all this is a very small story, an episode without a B-plot where surprisingly little happens, the cast demonstrates a basic misunderstanding of how vaccines work, and there is much debating about the appropriateness of flirting with infatuated 13-year-olds in the interest of saving everybody’s lives.
Sadly these questions are mostly left as loose ends in favour of a quick monster-of-the-week wrap-up, though at least this episode has a low death-count. Even the redshirts survive!
November 13, 2015
Early last week, CBS announced that a new Star Trek television series was in the works, and the Internet subsequently exploded.
Suffice it to say we have mixed feelings. So mixed that the announcement caused no small amount of flailing at NSMTNZ HQ. Some hand-wringing. Some shouting. Some screaming. Possibly some confused weeping.
Rumours abound as to the new series’ contents, though it does involve a couple of pre-reboot alums as well as at least one director with, uh, let us call them successful but mixed credentials.
It’s also possible that this series will be broadcast only on a paywalled (probably region-locked) streaming service, which has a lot of people worried.
In this episode, we ask and sort of answer a lot of questions, including but not limited to:
Seriously though: for the most part we’re cautiously pleased about the prospect of the return of Star Trek to its natural medium, but we do hope that this series heralds a return to the fundamental principles of Trek, as transposed onto our modern television storytelling expectations. More diversity, please, CBS. More wonder. More hope. And above all, more transcending the limitations and trials of our youth as a species to become something more: Per Aspera Ad Astra.
Please be good, new Star Trek. Be better than what came before.
November 11, 2015
This week’s episode asks the (largely-unrelated-to-the-plot-of-the-episode) question: what are little girls made of? Some of you may have you automatically answered “sugar and spice and everything etc.”, but you’re wrong.
It’s robots. The answer is robots. Because spoiler: everyone in this episode is a robot.
We could also call this the “Christine Chapel is pretty fuckin’ great” episode, because it turns out she signed on with a starship, abandoning a high-flying research career, to travel the stars in search of her fiance. Said fiance, the famous space archaeologist Roger Korby, has been missing for five years. Apparently accepting the verdict of two space expeditions to far-flung-ice-hell-planet is for chumps.
To Nurse Chapel’s delight, they approach Planet Exo-3 (aka: Yet Another Wretched Hell Planet, Ice Edition) to hear the sound of Dr. Korby’s voice transmitting from the surface. He asks that only one person beam down – the captain – and then, when he learns that his beloved Christine is aboard, he asks for her to beam down as well. Kirk agrees, because that’s a totally legit request, right?
Fortunately, Christine Chapel aka: Our Queen Majel Barrett is around to save the day, which is a real stroke of luck, because Kirk is really not bringing his A-game to either escaping or hostage-taking.
This episode is a bit slow, being one of the TOS episodes without a B-plot but does contain the seeds of some interesting future Trek conversations about artificial intelligence, the nature of the soul, and what it really means to be human. I mean, somewhere in there. They tried.
November 4, 2015
In this episode the crew of the Enterprise has their first encounter with Leo Walsh, aka: Harry Mudd, aka: Harcourt Fenton Mudd: space pirate, con artist, and… space pimp, apparently?
We meet Harry Mudd at least twice more in later episodes, but in his introduction, he’s escorting a “cargo” of three lovely ladies destined to be the wives of lonely frontier space miners. Evidently they’ve signed on with Mudd in order to escape their lives of lonely toil on their own terrible frontier planets. If you’re thinking that this already sounds resoundingly awful and enough to be getting on with, here’s a bonus: in rescuing Mudd and Mudd’s Women from their exploding ship, the Enterprise has blown out its engines, potentially stranding them in space.
But that’s not all. These ladies aren’t just lovely, they’re impossibly attractive, to the extent that every (presumably straight) man who lays eyes on them, including the well-trained male contingent of the Enterprise crew, are immediately reduced to drooling animals.
A number of questions arise, including:
What follows is a hot mess of confused messages: the importance of agency, the perils of vanity, a very uncertain treatise on the objectification of women, and a minute or two of the 1960s version of OMG TRICKED BY MAKEUP. The true message of this episode is difficult to extract, but it’s definitely very preoccupied with the importance of a woman’s appearance over all other qualities, which is probably why we spent so much time dissecting everybody’s outfits.
October 28, 2015
Okay, pop quiz: your only method of transit between your giant starship and the surface of nearby Crappy Frozen Hell-Planet-of-the-Adorable-Unicorn-Dogs is an occasionally-dodgy matter-transport device which, if malfunctioning, stands a not-inconsiderable chance of scattering your component atoms across time and space. One day, the transporter starts acting weird. Do you:
If you answered B, you might not want to pursue a career in starship engineering. Maybe Ship’s Counsellor! God knows they could use one.
In an episode based on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (which drives home last week’s Always Follow Biohazard Protocols lesson), we see Captain Kirk accidentally duplicated in a freak transporter accident, split into Good! and Evil! Kirks. I’m sure it surprises no one that Evil gets better lighting.
Trigger warning for discussion of sexual assault (an attempted sexual assault is contained within the Trek episode itself).
October 21, 2015
It’s hard to explain this episode, despite it having a surprisingly simple plot: our fair ship is in a perilous, risky situation where survival depends on quick reaction times and the crew keeping their heads… so, naturally, everybody gets space-drunk. *rattlesnake noise*
But there’s so much more going on with this episode, to the point that we felt like we, too, were growing more and more space-drunk as the story progressed. (Which is actually a pretty good metaphor for the whole experience.) If you’re me and Kim, and your affections for this episode were already firmly secured by nostalgia and the TNG companion episode of very similar name, you’ll love this one. If you’re Corene and insist on silly things like “plot” and “sense,” you’ll probably spend a lot of the 50 minutes screaming. To each their own.
Lesson for this week, and we cannot stress this enough: Always. Follow. Biohazard. Protocols. (We’re looking at you, Joey.)
October 14, 2015
In the episode originally written as the second series pilot, we join the U.S.S. (that’s United Space Ship) Enterprise as she attempts to cross the Galactic Barrier. Why? Who cares? SCIENCE. Except as it turns out, this miiiiiiiiight not be the best plan ever conceived. A flight recorder found near the barrier tells them that the last ship to attempt the crossing was lost. But hey, what can possibly go wrong, right?
Where No Man Has Gone Before – and if that line sounds familiar, it’s because it’s basically the motto of the entire Star Trek franchise (later updated to “Where No One Has Gone Before”) – features just about the only time in Star Trek continuity that we see mention of human telepathy, and believe me, we can go on about that alone for hours. It also asks the question: when is a morally acceptable juncture at which to leave someone to die on a barren planet light-years from home or help? Is it when they start referring to you as “ants” and start murdering your crew left and right with their creepy godlike superpowers?
…well, yes, as it turns out. Down to the minute.
October 7, 2015
This week’s episode is Charlie X, in which we learn important lessons on culture shock, the importance of consent, and why being an aggressively entitled manbaby is that much worse when the entitled manbaby in question has, uh, you know, reality-warping evil superpowers.
I don’t care what anybody says, the Jim Kirk Explains Consent scene makes everything else about this episode worthwhile, though maybe Starfleet should look into some kind of standard codewords for situations involving telepathic alien duress and/or body-swapping. I’m just saying, it could come in handy.
September 30, 2015
Officially the first-aired episode of TOS, though not the first in continuity (Apparently we’re going by air date. I was outvoted.), we join the Enterprise (no bloody A, B, C, OR D) on a routine mission to give a pair of Federation archaeologists on an isolated dig their mandated medical check-up. Dr. Suspicious Behaviour is less than pleased to see them, and while his lovely wife (an old flame of Dr. McCoy’s) is a lot more polite, she’s also possibly a little bit evil.
Not unrelated: this episode includes the first redshirts of Star Trek, though not all of them are actually wearing red. Also features a salt-hungry octopus monster with deeply-uncomfortable-illusion powers, a tortured metaphor involving buffalo, and lots of people “thinking with their glands” (…okay, 1960s euphemisms, if you say so).
September 23, 2015
In our first episode, we start from the beginning with the
probably-should-have-remained unaired Original Series Pilot: The Cage, staring Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike.
Note: this is probably the only time we will all agree on an episode.