Thursday, February 26, 2015

Star Trek TOS (Season 1c)

Season 1bSeason 1d

Trek has really hit its stride, and even the weaker episodes here tend to be entertaining, if not always intelligent or thought provoking.

Episode 16 “The Galileo Seven”

Summary: Spock leads a shuttle crew that crashes on a planet where giant men in fur dresses throw spears at them. Meanwhile, Kirk is pressured to abandon the search and rescue to deliver some medicine.

Struggle: Production values really hurt this episode, especially the “monsters.” That said, the writing is still pretty bad. They didn’t quite have Spock figured out as a character yet.


This episode feels like a misstep. It seems wrong that Spock’s first command would be a minor, shuttlecraft mission, especially since he is second in command for a starship. Also, they were clearly struggling to find the correct level of logic for Spock’s character. It seems that Spock would have had a lot of experience and a better command of using pure logic in real-world situations. Because as much as one would like, the world does not operate on a purely logical level. People simply aren’t that rational, and giant hairy monsters seem to be even less so.

Episode 17 “The Squire of Gothos”

Summary: The Enterprise is harassed by a childish, godlike, alien who is as obsessed with as he is misinformed about Earth.

Struggle: This one seems to hold up pretty well.


This basic premise has been done enough since this show that it seems like rather a trope to today’s audience. I feel certain that this episode did not initiate the idea, at least in all of fiction. That said, it is done well in spite of the way the trappings are rather dated. The sexism is uncomfortable, but that is a reoccurring problem in the original Trek. Less an analysis of divinity, this is a premise that causes us to evaluate our role in creation. Are we as advanced and smart as we think we are, or are we just a bunch of children in the grand scheme of things?

Episode 18 “Arena”

Summary: Even more “all-powerful-aliens” interfere with the Enterprise. This time, they stop a interstellar battle and force Kirk and an alien captain to fight to the death in order to see with race will be allowed to survive.

Struggle: This one is iconic, but saying the alien is less than agile is an understatement. Also, Kirk’s canon and his ability to make gunpowder is a little much to swallow.


Once again, Trek—the show written to promote Secular Humanist ideals—invents god-like beings for the crew to encounter. Humanists are very comfortable with divinity, as long as it is symbolic and not truly omnipotent, just on a higher level than humanity. And, once again, the ideals being promoted are quite Biblical in their ethics. It is easy to understand why humanists want to reject much of the religious history of humanity. It has been abused and has misled people into evil action far too frequently. However, the rejection of an ultimate higher power on any level is hard to understand.

Episode 19 “Tomorrow is Yesterday”

Summary: The Enterprise just happens to travel to modern day (for the time) Earth. They must find a way to return to their present and also return a couple 1960s humans back to their lives without any memory of what has occurred.

Struggle: Time travel is always tricky, and this is one of the worst handlings of the concept in all of Trek.


This episode is a clear stunt, and not particularly inspiring.

Episode 20 “Court Martial”

Summary: An officer on the ship is killed in an accident, and the computer evidence makes it clear that Kirk had a hand in the man’s death. Could Kirk be a murderer?

Struggle: This is a good one, but to nit-pick: the daughter’s change of mind comes out of nowhere.


This is a wonderful story about truth, and the search for demonstrable reality. In the future of Trek, there is an assumption of a knowable truth through technology. It is a great idea of this story to remind people to question the perspective of the establishment. Computers are not neutral, they are programmed by people. It is always a good idea to question perspectives, and to carefully test assumptions.

Episode 21 “The Return of the Archons”

Summary: The Enterprise explores a planet that is controlled by a religious cult run by a mind-controlling leader.

Struggle: The sets and wardrobe are a big let-down. Is this supposed to be set in an apocalyptic western setting?


This story is a wonderfully creepy look at the way institutional power is used to control culture. In today’s context it feels relevant as a commentary of cults or certain controlling religions like Islamist ideologies. At the time (and still today) it served to warn against the power of the Media and the State to influence and control the populace.

Episode 22 “Space Seed”

Summary: The Enterprise encounters a ship of suspended animated people from the 1990s. Turns out they are genetically manipulated “supermen” from the Eugenic Wars. Their leader quickly overtakes the ship and prepares to take over the Federation.

Struggle: This is a very good episode, but it is pretty bad in its depiction of the woman historian character.


The warnings against eugenics are still relevant today as a warning against all movements that put too much power into science. Science is a wonderful tool, but tendencies have always leaned toward giving science too much power. Scientism today tries to grant science the place that philosophy and theology have. It is better to keep things like ethics and politics independent from science and vice-verse.

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