Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Star Trek TOS (Season 1d)


Season 1cSeason 2a

Things continue along wonderfully, especially for the time and limitations the series faced. Thoughtful episodes come with regularity at this point.

Episode 23 “A Taste of Armageddon”

Summary: In this brilliant story idea, a culture has solved the problem and barbarity of war by automating the fighting and the casualties. People willingly allow themselves to be killed in order to avoid the inconvenience and devastation of actual war. They think they are so refined and civilized. It takes the outsiders on the Enterprise to open their eyes to just how atrocious their system is. Peace is truly worth the fighting and negotiating required to obtain.

Struggle: The concept is a solid, interesting idea, but the execution is a bit flimsy. One struggles to believe that a culture would subsist like this for 500 years.

Thoughts:

In a day where America was at war, this show had the audacity to critique the concept. That was culturally appropriate and popular at the time, but that a television company allowed it is a testament to how subversive and sneaky the genre can be. In this story, we hear the argument that war is necessary, and should be done as cleanly and conveniently as possible. Peace at tremendous sacrifice. The Enterprise and crew argue that, considering the cost, peace is something for which everyone should instead sacrifice and compromise. Human life is too important to trade for economic prosperity.

Episode 24 “This Side of Paradise”

Summary: The Enterprise is sent to rescue a colony that should be dying of radiation exposure. Instead they find a paradise where everyone is happy and all needs are met. It turns out that this is all thanks to a chemical, so Kirk decides it is a bad thing and he fights to wake everyone out of their drug-induced paradise.

Struggle: The flowers that “control” the colony border on silly, and the one that eventually gets Kirk comes out of nowhere.

Thoughts:

This story wants to argue that an existence without struggle and effort is actually a hellish one. Star Trek is very big on the idea that toil and suffering are essential qualities of human life, and happiness and provision should always be mistrusted. I don’t know that they really thought things through in this instance. Just because suffering is unavoidable does not make it a good or essential thing.

Episode 25 “The Devil in the Dark”

Summary: A mining colony is being attacked by a creature and the Enterprise is summoned to deal with the threat. It turns out that they have disturbed the nest of a subterranean species, and once the misunderstanding is resolved a powerful cooperation is established.

Struggle: Nimoy’s mind-meld is a bit silly by today’s standards.

Thoughts:

This is a great story about the fear of the unknown or different. From both sides of the situation. Misunderstanding and fear lead to death and escalating warfare, but when communication is established, everyone discovers that they are really suited to help each other.

Episode 26 “Errand of Mercy”

Summary: The Enterprise is dispatched to a helpless planet of primitives to protect them from the threat of the Klingons. Kirk is mad when the ignorant pacifists there won’t let him protect them. It turns out, those pacifists are a lot more advanced than anyone thought, and the Klingons and Starfleet are the primitive ones.

Struggle: Star Trek will never get preachier.

Thoughts:

Another story that comes very close to commenting on the context in which the show was made. Star Fleet and the Klingons are so condescending to the “helpless” beings that live on the planet they are fighting over. Kirk is so busy being “morally superior” to his enemy that he has failed to see they are actually the same.

Episode 27 “The Alternative Factor”

Summary: In this mind-boggling episode, the crew contend with a man and his antimatter counterpart who are endangering the universe by encountering each other, battling for supremacy.

Struggle: This whole thing is a mess. One wonders if the writers ever wrapped their heads around their concept.

Thoughts:

This one tries to be too clever and manages to end up dumb.

Episode 28 “City on the Edge of Forever”

Summary: McCoy blunders into the past under the influence of a mind-altering drug and Kirk and Spock have to retrieve him. At the same time, they have to set right something that McCoy changed in the past that has wiped their present out of existence. Turns out, that correction involves making sure a good woman (and a Kirk Love-interest) dies as she originally did.

Struggle: Not much. This is one of Star Trek’s best moments ever.

Thoughts:

Time travel stories are tricky, and this one does not avoid the paradoxes. That does not matter in the end because this is a story about coming to terms with the regret we live with in a world where mistakes are universal. This is not a redemption story either, but more of a recognition of the tragedies we face. The need for redemption is highlighted, but we leave things at that.

Episode 29 “Operation Annihilate”

Summary: Kirk’s brother and family are on a planet that is in a system of planets that are slowly going crazy. Turns out that they are being invaded by pancake-like creatures that possess humanoids and drive them mad. Kirk’s brother and sister-in-law are too far gone to save, but when Spock is infected, they must find a cure.

Struggle: Pancakes hardly appear menacing.

Thoughts:

In a story very similar to “The Body Snatchers” we don’t really get the potential social commentary, just the action.

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