Thursday, January 29, 2015

Star Trek TOS (Season 1b)



Season 1a - Season 1c

After a couple hiccups in the early episodes here, Star Trek really hits its stride in this stretch of stories:

Episode 8 “Miri”

Summary: The crew discover a duplicate of Earth hundreds of light years away, where people were experimenting with prolonging life, only to die from the treatment some 300 years ago. (In a parallel to Earth’s 1960s.) Only the children survived, but as they mature into adolescents, they suffer the same death that the adults had.

Struggle: Why is there a parallel Earth? How did the kids survive, and for 300 years remain kids? And what in the heck is Kirk doing using his sexual charms on a minor???

Thoughts:

This story is seems to be a preachy, underdeveloped product of its days, where “trust no one over 30” was the mantra. Even so, it seems to offer a counter to that attitude, or it tries to, in showing that all the kids are really potential problems themselves. The aged are not necessarily wrong, just young people who have gotten older and seen things that might make them change their thinking. On the whole, though, this story is pretty bad.

Episode 9 “Dagger of the Mind” 

Summary: A prisoner escapes from a rehabilitation center run by the galaxies premier psychologist. As it turns out, the “prisoner” is actually another doctor who is trying to expose some extremely unethical practices. Meanwhile, Kirk is investigating the situation, placing himself in considerable danger.

Struggle: I find it hard to believe that they have Christmas Parties in the Trek future.

Thoughts: 


This episode has an intriguing concept. What if those in power were able to manipulate us at the core of our being? What if they could change our memories and impulses, and control our basic behavior? Would anybody be safe? Unfortunately, the story here does very little exploring those questions, preferring to concentrate on the suspense and danger aspects. They place Kirk in harm’s way, and add the oh-so-TV-element of a good looking woman and romantic tension.

Episode 10 “The Corbonite Maneuver” 

Summary: Exploring unknown space, the ship encounters an entity with very little patience or understanding for them. When they are threatened with destruction, Kirk has to bluff his way out of trouble. In the end, things are not quite what they seemed.

Struggle: That alien sure looked wooden. Oh, I see why now. Also, this has got to be some of the least engaging footage ever aired in places.

Thoughts:

This seems to be a well-known, oft-commented episode. I don’t understand why. The production is sub-par, the plot bogs down a lot in the middle, and the concept is silly. The reveal at the end is a bit of a let-down as well. For such a supposedly advanced race, this alien’s lesson seems to be: “be mean to everyone in an effort to filter bad people out of your life.” Sad approach to life, in my opinion.

Episodes 11 & 12 “The Menagerie” 

Summary: Spock steals the Enterprise to help the previous Captain under whom he served. That Captain, Pike, has become paralyzed but some Aliens they had encountered on a previous mission could help him have a better life. Problem? That planet has become off-limits to Star Fleet, on penalty of death!

Struggle: I find it hard to believe that aliens with this level of power, including reading minds, could not figure out what a person is supposed to look like when they are repairing horrible injuries.  

Thoughts:

We don’t like the idea of being manipulated—albeit very happy—servants, unless the alternative is a miserable life under terrible circumstances. The Humanist message would be that we all have a need to be our own masters and we all want self-determination. However, the story as told here gives us the alternative answer. If our life circumstances were already terrible, and we were slaves to those circumstances, we might chose the alternative of surrendering to a higher power.

The interesting parallel here for Christians is that we are all slaves to a debilitating condition that robs us of control and fulfillment—our own rebellion against the created order of things. The Gospel story is an invitation to live a fulfilled life under the authority of the creator, a life as we were intended to have lived it. Not so much different from Pike’s choice.

Episode 13 “The Conscience of the King” 

Summary: An old friend of Kirk’s has discovered that a murderous dictator, long thought dead, is in fact alive and traveling the universe as a Shakespearian actor. Kirk is one of just two surviving witnesses who can identify the dictator, and the other in on the Enterprise as well. Kirk brings the troop on the ship to discover the truth.

Struggle: Not much of anything wrong with this episode.

Thoughts: 

This story is a wonderful example of difficult ethical quandaries. Is it alright to kill some to save others? In this case, half a population. Is that question different if it involves killing a few to save many? One to save millions? The understood assumption in this story is, no, it is not. We don’t stop there, however. What do you do to someone who has committed such an act? What is you are the only one who knows the truth, and you yourself can’t be quite sure?

Episode 14 “Balance of Terror” 

Summary: A submarine battle style episode where the Enterprise chases a cloaked Romulan ship near the edge of a neutral zone. An interesting sub-plot involves that the mysterious Romulans seem to be similar to Vulcans, a fact that awakens prejudice and fear in one of the Enterprise crew members.

Struggle: The wedding storyline is pure pointless-to-the-story manipulation.

Thoughts:

The best part of this episode is the suspicion, prejudice, and fear/hatred explored through Lt. Stiles. Unfortunately, the way the story is told the viewer has no question along the way about what is right and what is wrong. We know the right answer and are just waiting for Stiles to get his comeuppance or learn his lesson.

A more intriguing bit is the wedding/interruption/consolation storyline. Kirk mentions “beliefs” during the ceremony but doesn’t elaborate. In the end, he tells Martine regarding the death of the fiancĂ©: "It never makes any sense. We both have to know that there was a reason." Really? Is any of this squared with Roddenberry’s Secular Humanist worldview? Because, as the story is told there is no meaning in Tomlinson’s death. There could have been, and I—as a believer—would have liked to have told that story. But that is an area where SH does not have a satisfactory answer. Ultimately, on an individual level, life is meaningless for them.

Episode 15 “Shore Leave” 

Summary: Exploring a new planet, the crew feels that it would be the perfect place for some much needed shore leave. Soon, however, strange things begin to happen as imaginary characters, people from Kirk’s past, and dangerous animals show up everywhere.

Struggle: Other than the fact that this show feels like something other than Star Trek, it is pretty good. Apparently, though, Kirk and Spock imagine tigers with leashes. Not very threatening.

Thoughts:

This is a silly episode. Fun, but silly.

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