Thursday, June 18, 2015

Star Trek TOS (Season 2c)

Season 2bSeason 2d

At the peak of the show’s run we get some iconic… and frankly silly episodes. These are solid, but solidly ensconced in their time…

Episode 15 “The Trouble with Tribbles” 

Summary: In one of the most recognized episodes of the series, the ship is overrun with adorable, furry, living versions of the pet rock. They eat everything in sight and give rabbits a run for their money on the reproduction front. Fortunately, they also hate Klingons, which helps the Enterprise avoid an interstellar disaster.

Struggle: The biology of Tribbles is hard to get a grip on. So, they basically reproduce the way other species eliminate waste?

Thoughts:

Perhaps one of the better loved episodes because it is so simple and doesn’t try to preach too much. A fun, even silly story where the know-it-all bureaucrat gets his comeuppance, which is something that audiences love to see. (And, Star Trek loves to show incompetent authority figures.)

Episode 16 “The Gamesters of Triskellion” 

Summary: Kirk and Co. are kidnapped by yet another god-like alien (did TOS ever conceive of any other kind?) and forced to entertain them in gladiatorial games.

Struggle: While “The Outer Limits” seems to have done this trope first on TV, Star Trek loves the gladiator games. This is the second of three times that TOS will use this idea.

Thoughts:

Star Trek tends to set up straw gods that it can easily knock down. Here we get the very human yet god-like aliens who are bored and obsessed with violence. That is likely more a commentary on society than religion. Gladiatorial stories tend to be a warning about our obsession with violence as entertainment. Here, there is a feeble attempt to introduce compassion and love into the mix, but Kirk just uses that until he can gain the upper hand and then… violence comes back into play. Thankfully, our heroes are better fighters than the trained gladiators, otherwise they would be stuck on this planet forever.

Episode 17 “A Piece of the Action” 

Summary: The Enterprise is investigating the fate of a ship lost 100 years before, and the planet where they last were is somehow Chicago-style gangland. Kirk and Spock must out mafia the mafia.

Struggle: The premise is interesting, but handled in a very 1960’s TV style.

Thoughts: 

This is another fun episode playing with a good premise. Whether they pull it off successfully or not is up to the viewer.

Episode 18 “The Immunity Syndrome” 

Summary: An area of space seems to be disappearing, along with a Vulcan ship. Sent to investigate, the crew has to fight a solar-system-sized, single-celled organism.

Struggle: The episode really struggles (ineffectively) to communicate the concept of the threat, especially early on. An area of space that is “empty” should really be quite normal. The way Trek “fills” space with stars and life is not very “hard SciFi.”

Thoughts:

Again, an interesting premise if only by 1960s standards. Only catch is that this episode is not playful or silly, but is supposed to be serious. The contrast between the concept and attempted atmosphere leave one scoffing just a little bit.

Episode 19 “A Private Little War” 

Summary: Kirk returns to an “uncontacted” planet where he spent time in an earlier assignment, only to discover that the Klingons have supplied his friend’s enemies with advanced weapons.

Struggle: The monster is both wonderful and terrible at once. And poisoned Kirk is quite fun.

Thoughts:

This episode is pretty up-front in its commentary on the Vietnam War that was the current, and therefore off-limits, topic. Whether it really has anything substantial to say on that front can be argued. Add to that the cool (but ultimately silly) creatures attacking our heroes, and the “MacBethian” sexual politics, and you have a pretty good story.

Episode 20 “Return to Tomorrow” 

Summary: More god-like aliens who have been preserved as mere consciousness need human bodies to inhabit while they build themselves new robot bodies. Only, one of the aliens has other, more permanent plans in mind.

Struggle: Not much.

Thoughts:

When Secular Humanists imagine the eventual progression of humanity, this is likely what they dream about. Noble, god-like intelligence with enough nobility to die out rather than harm others. It is a pretty lame view of divinity once again. Star Trek’s “gods” are best compared with Greek and Roman pantheons, with all of their commentary and obsession with what it means to be human, and little to know serious contemplation on what true divinity could be like.

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