Thursday, August 13, 2015

Star Trek TOS (Season 3a)

Season 2dSeason 3b

 As I work my way through the original series, it is clear that the peak of quality has been reached (late in the first season) and past. The early episodes of season 3 are the worst run of shows thus far. Not necessarily from an entertainment perspective, although I doubt the creators were going for humor at this point. If this series had come later in pop-culture chronology, they would have had McCoy “remote controlling” Spock’s body to jump over a space shark…

Episode 1 “Spock’s Brain” 

This is widely considered for the worst Star Trek has to offer. I would grant that slot to “The Omega Glory” at this point. At least this episode has comedy. The “philosophy” addressed here—sex relations, institutional control, ontology—is all too silly to really amount to anything.

Episode 2 “The Enterprise Incident” 

Shatner gets to wear the Vulcan (or in this case, Romulan) make-up. Nemoy gets to woo the girl (or in this case woman). It feels like an exercise in keeping the actors happy. As for the plot, both elements seem contrived and unconvincing. It is, again, very fun.

Episode 3 “The Paradise Syndrome” 

The thinnest of plot devices allows Kirk to (a) become a Native American and (b) fall in love and marry. But, since this is episodic TV, and since Kirk’s most defining trait is his womanizing, we know this relationship won’t last. More interestingly, this episode explores that pesky problem Secular Humanism (and Star Trek) struggles with: obvious design. The Trek universe has higher beings who initiated, designed, and in some cases care for intelligent beings. They just as a rule have a problem assigning that role to an ultimate creator. Since design and intelligence are apparent in the universe, they assign that to some alien power. Just don’t ask them who designed the designers. They have a real problem with the original mover.

Episode 4 “And the Children Shall Lead” 

Never give sixties TV a child driven plot-line. For that matter, don’t give any TV or movie that curse. It is almost impossible to pull off well. They fail here. And that is too bad because what they wanted here was an interesting story about the truth behind cultic behavior, and the personification of evil.

Episode 5 “Is There in Truth No Beauty” 

This is a pretty good story for this run. We get a being that personifies Ugly, but is also an insight into truths that escape us. This sets up some questions about the nature of reality, and our understanding of beauty. Where it really gets good is in its exploration of interpersonal relationships and jealousy.

Episode 6 “Spectre of the Gun”

One must assume that this is another case of Trek needing to use existing sets. So they inexplicably are forced to reenact the Shoo of the tout at the OK Corral, only from the losing side. It is laughable that people in the distant future would have such a thorough knowledge of the incident, or that that would be the way a (yet another) godlike race would “judge” humanity. In the end, there is an interesting exploration of the way we can be damaged or even killed by the things we believe, even be they lies, but the trappings of this episode make them hard to consider.

Episode 7 “Day of the Dove” 

In an idea that Trek had already done, we get another being that feeds of our emotions, namely our baser drives such as aggression and hatred. The whole crew is paired up with Klingons and pushed into constant fighting. A science fiction take on “the devil made me do it.” Once they see the truth (being so advanced in their sophistication and goodness) they are able to defeat the entity by refusing to give into those emotions. If only it were so easy to be perfect!

Episode 8 “For the World is Hollow, and I Have Touched the Sky” 

The unquestionable highlight of this third of the third season. It explores (again) the ideas about creators or designers, and the institutions we set up once we lose communication (relationship) with said creators. It also allows McCoy to face his mortality and he (yes, he too) marries. It is a warning against placing your faith in deceptive systems, but also tries to balance knowledge with obedience to realities that are set up for our good.

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