Friday, May 22, 2015

Star Trek TOS (Season 2b)


Season 2aSeason 2c

Now reaching the middle of the series’ run, these episodes are all good-not-great.

Episode 8 “I, Mudd”

Summary: The ship is hijacked by an android and taken to a planet of androids run by Harry Mudd. His plan is to use the Enterprise and strand the crew, but the androids have other ideas. Kirk must use his patented logic fighting to take out computers yet again.

Struggle: The “illogical” behavior used by the crew is supremely silly.

Thoughts:

This feels like a bit of rehashing. Not only is Mudd back, but also the idea of androids and that idea that Trek loves: humanity without struggles, problems, and error is bad. This idea of Secular Humanism is perplexing. They want to improve humanity, but since we are ultimately flawed, those flaws must somehow be a part of our essential goodness. Where biblical faith sees sin as a problem in need of a solution, humanism sees only imperfections that are somehow a part of our beauty. And yet, they want to solve all the specific “sins” that one can mention: greed, sloth, hatred, etc.

Episode 9 “Metamorphosis”

Summary: The command crew is again taken hostage and to a planet inhabited by a single man, for the second week in a row. This time they are intended to be companions for the man who is sad on his own. He should have died over a century ago, but is maintained and even rejuvenated by an incorporeal—yet female—being who is in love with him. Conveniently, a female character who happens to be dying is there to provide the being with a body the man can love.

Struggle: Trek’s early sexism is on full display in this episode.

Thoughts:


The sexual dynamics are interesting here. Not only is the female guest-star a literal throw-away character, Cochrane is disgusted by the idea of “love” with a non-human. However, the show is careful to point out that the entity is female. Today, in our current climate of define-your-own-kink sexual chaos, this would not have been an issue. I for one don’t see that “development” as a good thing, but this old Trek feels quant and naïve all the same. People today are offended at Cochrane’s repulsion, saying that everyone should define their own sexual pleasure. One wonders how far that line will be allowed to be defined in the future.

Episode 10 “Journey to Babel”

Summary: Tensions mount as the Enterprise transports differing factions to a diplomatic event, and Spock’s alienated father as well. Political intrigue and medical crisis drive the plot forward.

Struggle: This is a fun episode with a lot of aliens and action, but the story is a bit weak.

Thoughts:

Spock’s conflict with his father is heightened in a contrived manner in this episode. We see later that multiple members of the senior crew are quite capable of commanding the ship in difficult circumstances. Not to mention, we have already seen that Spock is not all that experienced in command. So, his reluctance to help his dad is probably more personal than professional. For all of that, their conflict is subdued. If one wishes to explain the lack of emotional intensity between a father and son with that much resentment as a Vulcan quality, that raises the question: Is their conflict at all logical?

Episode 11 “Friday’s Child”

Summary: Trek was always supposed to be a western in space. This week, the crew meet space Indians, and have to navigate cultural challenges while locking horns with Klingons. Somewhere along the way, a baby is delivered.

Struggle: The parallel to “cowboys and Indians” is unavoidable and uncomfortably out of place. The score really highlights this as it sounds like the stereotypical “indian” musical cue from any western. And, once again the sexism is pretty bad. Want a woman to respect you and maybe even like you? Sock her in the face! Wow.

Thoughts:

Not much to say here outside of all the problems already mentioned.

Episode 12 “The Deadly Years”

Summary: An ailment is causing Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Scotty to age rapidly. When Kirk’s mental capacity is affected, an inexplicably incompetent Commodore takes command of the ship and nearly gets everyone killed.

Struggle: Trek fans are used to the last-minute-super-quick-solution. That doesn’t make it a good thing.

Thoughts:

If you ever see a Commodore in Trek, rest assured that he is incompetent. Only Kirk can be trusted to come through under pressure. There are some opportunities here to explore aging in our culture, but they mostly give way to the plot where Kirk has to save the ship from the incompetence mentioned above.

Episode 13 “Obsession”

Summary: Kirk encounters something from his past and becomes obsessed with correcting a mistake he made on his first mission.

Struggle: Nothing worth mentioning.

Thoughts:

Once again, two weeks in a row we encounter similar issues. Here we have Kirk behaving like so many incompetent commodores the ship has dealt with in the past. Why should we trust him while we were directed to despise the other authority figures? Only because he is the hero. The crew are as mystified with and questioning of his commands as they have been with any other flawed leaders. In this case, the flaw is Kirk’s though, and it is something we all struggle with: self-doubt and guilt regarding things outside of our control. Kirk’s redeeming grace here is realizing his mistake and helping others to avoid it. We all make enough mistakes; there is no need creating more through guilt for the things we have not done.

Episode 14 “Wolf in the Fold”

Summary: Scotty is suspected of a murdering spree but he can’t remember what happened. Yes, that old chestnut. Of course in this case he is even caught red-handed. As it turns out though, an alien intelligence is responsible, and they solve a few other unsolved mysteries along the way!

Struggle: Go all the way into space and alien cultures and end up with belly dancing and séances? And, one could question the wisdom of taking a man struggling with resentment toward women to a brothel for a cure.

Thoughts:

We all like the idea that people are not responsible for the evil that they do. The entity in this story is a good picture of what some think the devil is like. Without an omnipresent capacity, the evil here is limited to what a single person can accomplish. Unlimited demonic hordes would be a way of explaining all the evil that men do, but the sad truth is we are responsible for our actions. That does not deny the interesting fact that cultures across the world and throughout history all have a concept of possession. And the Bible allows for that concept as well. Maybe there are entities that “feed” off our fear and worship, but most of the time. “the devil made me do it” is just a cop-out.

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