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Trek fan
Tue, Nov 21, 2017, 5:28pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S3: The Enterprise Incident

Here we have a great espionage-realpolitik Star Trek episode of the type that utopian TNG will later flirt at doing and DS9 will excel at pulling off. What's not to love? "The Enterprise Incident" has great pacing, suspense, and a terrific guest star as the central Romulan antagonist. I give it 3 1/2 or 4 stars.

The Spock stuff works well here, with the Pon Farr finger-touching a nice bit of continuity from Journey to Babel (we'll see it again on Star Trek III with young Spock and Saavik) and the Vulcan-Romulan relationship an ongoing source of fascination carrying over from Balance of Terror way back in Season One. Yes, "Incident" is a linchpin Trek in many ways, tying together many threads of TOS and establishing many things that will carry over into later series.

Following on the same in Spock's Brain, we also see what will become a distinctive strength of Season Three here: Women in the main guest star roles. Joanna Lumley is great in her interrogation scenes with Kirk and seduction scenes with Spock that later turn out to be not quite what she thinks. Shatner's overacting in yelling "I'll kill you" at Spock in front of the Romulan Commander teeters on the brink of "too much" for me, but gets a pass because Kirk is *supposed* to be insane here, meaning we can allow it even as we give Shatner a bit of side eye for quite how far he goes in the scene.

Another thing I love about Enterprise Incident is the way it develops the ensemble feel of TOS that really started gelling on Season Two: Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov, and Chapel are the main focus in this episode. (And yes, the ubiquitous Lt. Leslie is in this one too, but he's mainly a stand-in like Billy Bones's helmsman/navigator character.) It's nice to see the show coalescing in these last two seasons around its best characters, increasingly abandoning the bland "Yeoman of the Week" and "female lieutenant of the week" approach. And yet Season Three will also give us some classic Kirk-Spock-McCoy shows, another successful formula.

If Season Three suffered from budget cuts in its day, I'm not sure that's a valid critique anymore, as the remastered special effects and picture-sound of the latest Netflix/CBS Video releases negate these issues. Season Three now looks as great as the rest of the show in the remastered episodes. Granted, it looks a bit more pulpy than the earlier two seasons, with more vivid colors (someone said the uniforms switched from velour to polyester?) and a more daringly creative style in the camerawork and angles. And the writers have changed: On balance, we're going more for "fun" than Big Sci-Fi Ideas in this season, although there are still some strong shows of the latter kind and some great episodes that mix the two. Not too many Godlike Aliens or Earthlike Planets in this season, as seemed to be the case in 90% of Season Two, and that's a good thing.

In fact, Season Three gives us some truly new stuff, mixing truly alien-looking aliens (Medusans, etc.) with more human-based DS9-style universe-building dramas (this one, Cloud Minders, Elaan of Troyius, etc.) about interplanetary disputes and politics. And you know what? I like it! I think Season Three is actually really underrated. It's not as deep as Season One, it doesn't have as many ensemble classics as Season Two, but it's consistently daring and fresh as we see in "The Enterprise Incident."
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Trek fan
Mon, Nov 20, 2017, 6:24pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S3: Spock's Brain

To me, old-school Star Trek is like pizza: Even when it's bad, it's still pretty good. And "Spock's Brain" is a fun little slice of B-movie 1950s Sci-Fi pulp that sneaks its way onto the series for an offbeat hour of quirky amusement. As a kid, I actually found this one pretty terrifying, as the brainless remote control Spock left me with a queasy and uncomfortable feeling of terror. Ditto for the surgery scene at the end. I suppose I'd give this one 2 1/2 stars, as it's not nearly as embarrassing as TNG's "Sub Rosa" and many so-horrible-I-wish-I-were-dead shows on Voyager and Enterprise.

John DeLancie ("Q" on TNG) describes "Spock's Brain" with utter seriousness as his favorite TOS because it shows actors at the top of their game doing what actors do best: Trying to sell low-budget material as top-drawer stuff. If some TOS shows like "The Deadly Years" are examples of good concepts suffering from pedestrian execution, "Spock's Brain" is an example of an bargain-basement concept (crew seeks to recover Spock's brain from alien thieves) that gets a wonderfully fun execution. The whole notion of organ thieves terrified me as a kid; it didn't matter to me that a brain doesn't seem ideal for transplant, as I suspended my disbelief to believe anything in the future is possible. Also, this plot is not unlike the Vidians and their Phage on Voyager, where Neelix basically wakes up like Spock in one episode: Missing the vital parts he needs to survive and (like remote-control Spock) temporarily stabilized by Future Medicine, Neelix must wait for the crew to recover his organs. So the basic story setup of intergalactic organ thieves, despite the gloriously silly "brain and brain" line, is believable enough in the Trekverse for me. It's actually pretty terrifying. And the idea of a civilization living off technology it doesn't understand, despite Gene Coon submitting this story under a pseudonym, works for me. So no, I don't think SB is as bad as everyone says! It's not great, but it's GLORIOUS, to quote the great Commander Kor.
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Trek fan
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 7:53pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: Bread and Circuses

Just to echo Derek, who was echoing me, this episode is a perfect example of classic TOS chemistry. Many great bits include McCoy's delightful joke about the archangel Gabriel and griping at Spock while fighting for his life; Kirk's self-winking seduction game with the slave girl and decisive leadership; Spock's efforts to make sense of a deeply irrational society; the redemption of Merrick who is ironically a Starfleet dropout unlike the storied captain of "Omega Glory" and other burnouts we've seen; the delightfully suave Roman villain and heroic gladiators/slaves; Uhura's puzzling out of the "son/sun worshipers," etc. Yes, Season 2 is the Paralell Earth season, but it's FUN and thoughtful. And that's all I ask of Star Trek at times: a good time with some thought-provoking ideas, colorful variety of characters/situations, and a main cast that enjoys being with each other. And again, I love the social commentary of the televised gladiator games.
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Trek fan
Thu, Nov 16, 2017, 8:41pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

Astonishly thoughtful, well-paced, and still-fresh: "The Ultimate Computer" is one of the best Star Trek episodes ever made, as Jammer recognizes, and I think the nitpickers here are being irrationally hard on it. Here we have the dilemma of Kirk being threatened with the loss of his ship, the dilemma of the scientist who peaked too young and now cuts corners to maintain his reputation, the Big Three in classic friendship-discussion mode, Starfleet war games, man versus machine, the great William Marshall as guest star Daystrom, and so much more. I give it 4 stars.

The overall theme of man's struggle to find his place in a world that increasingly replaces him with automated technology continues to resonate in our shifting job market today, where thrifty billionaires make bank on intellectual capital while working-class people find their industries drying up. And the story raises the excellent question -- a Sci-Fi staple from Asimov onward that remains to be answered -- of whether any artificial intelligence designed by human beings can somehow replace human beings to the extent of running their instruments of exploration and military defense. In a world of drone warfare, that resonates, as do Kirk's struggle with the possibility of losing his job to a machine. To put it bluntly, this is simply a story that "works" as well today as it did in 1968, and it's a great show. I especially love how the ship being emptied of human personnnel leaves us with our seven main cast regulars: Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Uhura, Chekov, and Sulu. Good stuff to see them all together here. What more can we say? This is just a really well-done show that resonates emotionally with real life in a way that still holds up.
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Trek fan
Wed, Nov 15, 2017, 8:10pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Omega Glory

Yet another cautionary Season 2 tale of a Federation official breaking the Prime Directive, "The Omega Glory" has a gangbusters kitchen sink approach similar to Roddenberry's other writing credit this season in "A Private Little War." The hokey Americanism reveal at the end gets repeated in later Trek series ala TNG's Season 2 outing "The Royale." But the Yankees versus Asian Communists undertone, perhaps not out of place in a post-Korean War/Vietnam-era television landscape, feels a bit cringeworthy for the racial overtones. In any event, this is one of the weaker TOS episodes for me, but not as bad as "Spock's Brain," and I give it 2 or 2 1/2 stars.

On the Asian thing, it's important to note that Sulu (not Scotty) commands the Enterprise during the landing party crisis here, so not all of the Asians in this one are villainous. It's just the patriotic theme and music which feel a bit out of place. The pacing here actually feels very similar to "A Private Little War," with lots of variety in action and moral debate leading up to a frantically paced and fairly abrupt climax.

Captain Ronald Tracey, as played by Morgan Woodward returning from his Dr. Van Gelder turn in Season 1's Dagger of the Mind, makes a good adversary. He's a little too nutball and irrational by the end in his obsession to find a fountain of youth, but he's still a worthy opponent. Incidentally, if you're offended at this episode, check out the movie "Star Trek Insurrection" from 30 years later where the TNG crew defends lily-white Californians from ugly dark people. Now *that* is offensive: At least TOS has the context of its time for an excuse. The white humans versus ugly aliens vibe of later Trek shows hasn't got any excuse at all.

Anyway, it's not a great episode, but not nearly as bad as some people say. The story holds interest and momentum until very late when the wheels come off a bit. Loved the ending as a kid, but a bit harder to watch now, especially as things develop following Kirk's tense fight scene in the jail.
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Trek fan
Sat, Nov 11, 2017, 8:55pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: Return to Tomorrow

This is a classic "deep thought, big idea" Trek show: Non-corporeal aliens wanting to borrow crew bodies to build their own android bodies and revive their species is pretty darn high-concept. Some classic moments here like Kirk's risk speech come in slow-paced story that is heavy on mystical tones but light on logic and tension. Because the stakes never feel very high here, it's easy to doze off, but the stylish direction and thoughtful performances/dialogue make it a 3-star episode for me.

Not much to add here, but one final note: Does anyone else find it ironic that the android bodies in this episode (see when the male android raises its hand while Henoch and Thalassa are examining it) actually look more like today's lifelike robots (see the freaky one in Japan) than Data and anything else we see from TNG forward? Sometimes TOS was really ahead of its time and TNG was really more dated in its vision of the future.
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Trek fan
Sat, Nov 4, 2017, 7:16pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: A Private Little War

In a season full of lightweight adventure and character pieces up to this point, it's refreshing to have a slight return to the Trekkian pacifist ideals of Season One in "A Private Little War." One of Roddenberry's best writing efforts on the series, this episode fleshes out the Prime Directive more clearly and with greater nuance than any show up to this point, and the haunting ambiguous ending lingers more than most TOS episodes of similar content. I give this one 3 or 3 1/2 stars.

The Vietnam allegory and anti-war message works more strongly here because the payoff isn't easily earned; the idealism here doesn't end in a glib gambit (ala "A Piece of the Action" most recently) but in an anguished decision that Kirk realizes is a compromise of limited potential. Very rare on TOS to see Kirk find something less than the ideal solution, but this episode -- much like "Immunity Syndrome" last week -- presents a Kobayashi Maru no-win scenario that requires some sacrifice.

The kitchen sink approach here makes it a fast and fun episode to watch: We have the Klingon-Federation Cold War wrestling for political influence over a developing planet, much like "Friday's Child" earlier this season but with weightier and stronger plotting, as the Klingons here are actively interfering in the culture's development (rather than merely bargaining for its cooperation) by stoking a proxy war. We have the Mugato, the hill people, and the city dwellers. We have the appealing Tyree and his alluring witch doctor wife. We have Spock's illness with the great Chapel slapping scene, plus the welcome debut of Dr. M'Benga in sickbay. Overall, the stakes feel higher in this one than "Friday's Child," and the moral debate without any obvious solution (Kirk is moved to arm Tyree not merely by affection for his friend: Do we arm the other side or allow them to be slaughtered so the Klingons take over the planet?) lingers in its impact. By the end of the episode, we feel like the whole situation is now a mess, and the crew is powerless to fix it -- the haunting final scene with Tyree hits hard. It's not the best Trek episode ever, but it's quite possibly the most nuanced and thoughtful Prime Directive story on TOS, and combines colorful adventure with anguished moral challenges. Good stuff.
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Trek fan
Fri, Nov 3, 2017, 11:29pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Deadly Years

Okay, I have to take back one thing from my last post: There's no way I can give "Deadly Years" 3 1/2 stars even on a good day. The pacing is just too leaden when everything stops for the competency hearing; the whole thing feels like filler. While I sometimes think 2 1/2 stars for this one, it's probably best for me to stick with a low 3 stars for it, representing how I most often feel about it. I do like the examination of aging and mortality through the lens of Our Heroes, but a realistic episode like TNG's "Relics" or even the final TAS episode with Captain Robert April and his wife do a better job of looking at these diminishment issues. Unlike "Relics," where Scotty proves that wisdom makes old people more useful than we think, "Deadly Years" lands on "old people are useless" and leaves us there by having YOUNG Kirk return to save the day at the end. And despite the clever bit with Kirk appearing to make a mistake in broadcasting over code two, it's not a very satisfying way to end on the whole question of elder rights and value. Here in "Deadly Years," we mostly get superficial entertainments in watching Kirk-McCoy-Spock deteriorate into crotechy old men without any redemptive purpose on the ship. And Kirk's dilemma of losing his ability to command his beloved ship -- while reinforcing a theme that will recur all the way up to his speech to Picard in "Generations" about never giving up the cpatain's chair -- suffers a bit as we watch him humiliate himself in the competency hearing to no purpose. While it's good to see Kirk vulnerable, "Deadly Years" does very little with it, and it's an average-to-good entry rather than a great episode.
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Trek fan
Fri, Nov 3, 2017, 10:42pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Immunity Syndrome

I'm not a fan of "bizarre space phenomena" episodes on Star Trek, but this one (because of its character moments) and TNG's "Where Silence Has Lease" (because of its entertaining unpredictability) are exceptions. For me, "The Immunity Syndrome" is a slow burn that tends to lull me to sleep in the first half's Heart of Darkness-style journey due to the lack of human drama, but the climax redeems it. I give it 3 stars and I think Jammer's review is fair.

It's not terribly entertaining or dramatic to watch the stars disappear and crew members get sick in the first half here, as this episode treats the problem in an extremely cerebral fashion, and the crew sits around and talks about it rather than acting. Watching everyone look sick, depressed, and short-tempered doesn't yield any pleasant viewing moments. But one thread sticks out to me: Spock's lack of answers and eventual scientific need to explore the space amoeba firsthand in a shuttlecraft. Kirk's irritation at Spock lacking answers feels genuine and is somewhat diverting, as he (and we) expect Spock to explain everything we encounter with the info dump theories he's dispensed throughout the series up to this point. His lack of answers prepares us to expect the unexpected.

Indeed, the general outline of this episode feels like Star Trek The Motion Picture without the eye-popping visuals, full of expositional padding: The Enterprise journeys into a great void, discovers an object (an amoeba instead of V'ger here) at the center, and Spock journeys to the center (in a shuttle rather than thruster suit here) with his usual scientific curiosity to get answers firsthand. What sets "Immunity Syndrome" apart is the Spock-McCoy conflict where we realize that beneath the surface of their [urine] contest they are actually willing to die for each other and the crew. Their conversation in the hallway after Kirk decides to send Spock on a possible suicide mission, where McCoy's belated "good luck Spock" makes us realize he's struggling to say goodbye to a friend, is a good moment. Spock's sarcasm toward "Captain" McCoy as he faces his own possible death is also great stuff.

So this is where the interest level picks up for me, around the 27-minute mark, but the lack of a personalized adversary (even V'ger communicated through Ilia!) and any guest stars make the show a bit soporific. Watching people look awful and faint puts me to sleep and makes me feel awful too. Yes, this one is a good example of the crew facing a space obstacle together and striving to work together in overcoming it, but I don't care for this one as much as other TOS space adventure plots like "Balance" and "Corbomite" or even "The Changeling" with its TMP overtones. In the end, I think "Immunity" is good, but not great. You really have to fight to stay awake watching people who look tired and sick to make it to the payoffs at the end, and perhaps the show makes viewers work a bit too hard by over-selling the crew's low energy in a way that makes us feel low energy in watching them. Just my two cents.
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Trek fan
Fri, Nov 3, 2017, 9:22pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S1: Into the Fold

This episode is like the dried feces of Neelix reheated and served in a burrito. I might go 2 stars for the enjoyment of Isaac's character and a little stronger plot for Dr. Finn, but it was still an underwhelming letdown. Like most of "The Orville," there's a lack of originality here, as the return of Braga and Bormanis to a shuttle crash plot (I read online that Voyager lost up to 17 shuttles in 7 seasons -- how many did they bring to the Delta Quadrant??) for the purpose of generating artificial drama feels particularly uninspired here.

The stupidity of the kids causing the crash, the undeveloped Zombie apocalypse plot where the crew doesn't give two figs about helping the victims at the end, and the sudden recovery of Finn's son (so the Orville DOES have a cure? Are they not sharing it?) at the climax all feel extremely routine and underdeveloped. I don't dislike the kids, as they feel realistic to me, but I wonder why they suddenly popped up in this episode with no (as I recall) previous mention in the show. Everything on "The Orville" just feels routine to me -- typical "bonding through peril" scenarios, plotting by numbers, sitcom-style character development, etc. I kind of like Isaac's friendly robot being indifferent to "being human," which flies in the face of the oft-cloying Data plotlines from TNG, but it's not enough to save this episode. Incidentally, the struggle between being human and emotionless thing started and hit its peak with the character of Spock, who leaves all Sci-Fi imitators (including Data) in his dust.

Part of the frustration of watching Data is that we know he'll never actually *be* human to achieve his goal, whereas Spock is half-human and can actually grow as a character in how he straddles two worlds. So I'll give MacFarlane this much: I like how he lets Isaac be Isaac, i.e. a robot, albeit one who the human crew members often anthropomorphize. There's a certain edginess to Macfarlane's indifference to the whole "human beings are the most uniquely special creatures in the universe" ethos of TOS/TNG, and that feels a bit refreshing at times. The wicked bit of inspiration where Isaac removed Gordon Malloy's leg a few weeks ago in their practical joke war indicates that Isaac lacks Data's "ethical sub-routines." And that makes him an unpredictable and highly watchable character for me on a ship that otherwise feels made up of Star Trek clones.
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Trek fan
Thu, Nov 2, 2017, 10:37pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad

I just want to add one thing: Star Trek Discovery feels to me like the first Trek series since DS9 that's genuinely committed to trying something new. Voyager and Enterprise tried to be fresh in their initial concepts, and had their moments, but they were largely rehashes of stuff we'd seen before. But a lot of Trek fans now seem to fault Discovery for departing from prior shows too much to do its own thing. My response? If all you want from Star Trek is familiarity and repetition, there are HUNDREDS of old episodes on Netflixa and in TV reruns for you to enjoy. For the rest of us, who expect Trek to be on the leading edge of the Zeitgeist and speak to where we are today, this show is the most promising Trek series I've seen since DS9 and TOS. There's a lot of good stuff happening here and I think it could really gel if people give it a chance. So far, there's been more than enough good stuff to keep me watching, more so than the tired "Orville" that can't quite seem to be its own show. Say what you will about "Discovery," but it's managing to present classic Trekkian elements in a fresh and daring way, giving me a sense of anticipation for what comes next that I haven't had since TOS and DS9. (I don't really count TNG, which for all its charms and eventual distinctiveness has always been essentially the same concept of TOS advanced by two decades in its sensibilities and concepts. And even as a kid, i felt bored by most TNG episodes, as the classic stories there are pretty rare among its 7 languid, self-righteous, and often self-indulgent seasons.)
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Trek fan
Thu, Nov 2, 2017, 9:13pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: A Piece of the Action

Ah yes, Star Trek does gangster movies in "A Piece of the Action," and it's one of the funniest Trek comedies out there -- no small feat coming so soon after "Tribbles" in this same Season Two. It's not quite as effortlessly original and sublimely funny as "Tribbles," but this one is quite entertaining. I give it 3 1/2 or 4 stars.

The scene of Spock fussing at Kirk for his driving gets me in stitches just about every time; it feels so genuine and unforced. The fish-out-of-water comedy of watching the crew muck about Iotia's gangster society is great, but it especially gets funny when Kirk and Spock start playing along as gangsters themselves. The slang, patter, and dialogue (love the use of "Feds" for the Fedaration) are especially good in this show.

Despite all of the silliness, there's a serious kernel to the story, as the crew embarks on a mission to identify and remove cultural contamination left behind by the USS Horizon in violation of the prime directive. That the contamination turns out to be a book on 1920s Chicago gangs is a nifty twist, giving us a society that resembles what the US would have looked like ruled by mafia gangs. The final throwaway moment where McCoy realizes he may have left his tech behind leaves the show on a sober note, as we can only imagine what a culture that treated a "Chicago gangs" book as its holy Bible will do with a communicator, but the sublime chemistry of the whole cast (including great guest roles here for the mobsters, molls, ad other Iotians) is the real scene-stealer here.

It's a great Kirk-Spock showcase too: From Kirk's "Fizzbin" improv and put-on mob boss persona to Spock's reluctant embrace of a gangster accent, we see the two leads at their most iconic here. McCoy is a bit more along for the ride in this one, and the other regulars (Uhura, Chekov) barely register. But that's okay because the Kirk-Spock chemistry feels so natural, seamless, and entertaining; it's a good bromance story for their friendship.
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Trek fan
Wed, Nov 1, 2017, 10:26pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Gamesters of Triskelion

PS - i have to echo what someone else said earlier in this thread: the shipboard scenes in "Gamesters" are a bit stronger than usual, as Spock actually succeeds in locating the captain through a fairly logical process that we as viewers can follow. It doesn't feel like filler. And I love the little throwaway bit where Spock wags his finger at Scotty and Bones, playfully beckoning them to lean down toward the bridge railing where he invites them to stage a mutiny if they don't like his way of doing things. Scotty's abashed reaction is priceless; even McCoy seems chastened. Anyway, Nimoy and Kelly are clearly having fun in this one; Doohan is more along for the ride in echoing McCoy. But in any event, these shipboard scenes have a certain bite and energy that makes them fun in a way that is lacking from the B-story shipboard filler in many Trek episodes of any series.
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Trek fan
Wed, Nov 1, 2017, 9:19pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Gamesters of Triskelion

I saw a YouTube video of a Trek marathon in California where a diverse group of people watched all of TOS, ranking each episode out of 10 and averaging the scores for each episode to rank them all. And you know what? "Gamesters of Triskelion" got a very high rating. Indeed, this offbeat and unusually pulpy entry in the series recalls the popular camp stereotypes of the series as represented in the Abrams reboots pretty strongly, and I gave it 3 or 3 1/2 stars for its pure enjoyability.

The obedience collars, fighting arena, and disembodied brains betting on gladiatorial fights make "Gamesters" a uniquely memorable outing. All the camp images of Trek are turned up to 11 (ala Abrams) here: The social critique of an absurdly authoritarian slave-based society, the clashes of logical Spock with emotive Bones on rescue strategy, Kirk seducing a green-haired alien babe to facilitate escape, colorful alien barbarians, etc. It's good to see Chekov and Uhura feature in the main story here; Uhura brings defiant attitude and Chekov's look when his manly drill thrall promises the possibility of breeding with him is hysterical. Finally, the scenes in the Triad fight arena remind us that TOS really invented many of the oft-parodied Sci-Fi tropes imitated countless times in the past 50 years leading up to "Hunger Games" and so many other things.

Granted, there are problems here: The story isn't terribly deep or original. If you're not in the mood for something REALLY different from what we've seen earlier on Season Two, this one may catch you in a foul and unforgiving mood. But if you, like many of us, are getting tired of Trek's self-seriousness by this point in the series, you may groove on the glorious absurdities of "Gamesters." It's not a subtle show, but it's a fun one in its weird way, and it's very different from the usual "Kirk-Spock-McCoy beam down to a new planet" episode. If the scene of William Shatner as Kirk gambling the lives of his crew against three colored brains doesn't entertain you, you must be made of ice!
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Trek fan
Tue, Oct 31, 2017, 2:45pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Trouble With Tribbles

Jammer is right on -- "Tribbles" is one of the most whimsical and sublime hours of "Star Trek" ever, launching two sequels (on TAS and DS9) as well as constant callbacks right up to the Tribble on Captain Lorca's desk in the new "Discovery." It's just so fun, charming, and purely entertaining that few Trek comedy efforts (with the possible exception, at least for the TOS cast, of "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home") have ever been able to match. The natural chemistry of the TOS cast here and the delightful David Gerrold story make it a 4-star episode.

It's hard to pick a favorite moment in the episode, but everyone gets a good character-building moment, from Uhura's love of exotic/unique pets to the Chekov-Scotty banter over pride regarding their respective cultures. Scotty's whole arc here is actually much better for the character than "Wolf in the Fold," as his thwarted desire to stay on-board and read technical journals leads to a brawl over his pride in the Enterprise and delightful dressing-down with Kirk. It's a shame Sulu missed this one because of Takei's film commitment, but the Kirk-Spock-McCoy is also delightful in this one.

The Tribbles themselves are one of the simplest, most distinctive, and fun of all Star Trek aliens. And yet we also get a decent spy plot mired in the comedy of an ever-breeding "terminally cute" alien species. This episode manages to continue the Klingon-Federation Cold War in more effective fashion than either "Friday's Child" or "A Private Little War," making "Tribbles" the true "Klingon episode" of Season Two. It's delightful to have William Campbell (the Squire of Gothos) back in a new role as Captain Koloth, as he makes a sufficiently unlikeable enemy buttressed by his nasty first officer in this one. Great that Koloth returns in TAS' "More Tribbles" and DS9's "Way of the Warrior," but also Charlie Brill (Arne Darvin) makes a great return in DS9's "Trials and Tribble-ations." What else is left to say? "Tribbles" is terrific fun.
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Trek fan
Mon, Oct 30, 2017, 5:39pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: Wolf in the Fold

I go back and forth on "Wolf in the Fold." As a kid, I thought (spoilers) the Jack the Ripper reveal in the guise of Piglet was super cool and chilling, but as an adult I find the spiritualism (i.e. the seance scene) a bit hokey. However, I think Jammer's 3 star rating is fair, as there's some good tension here and it's genuinely hard to guess the killer until the big reveal. It's a good Halloween episode.

As for the "sexism' accusations, I would just point out that the episode combines the slasher film genre (of which Robert Bloch is a master, coming from his work on "Psycho") and the sailors-on-leave setting in a sci-fi cocktail, and both of those genres depend on gender stereotypes. Anyone who watches a slasher film, even in recent years, knows their dependence on "women in terror" tropes. Not that I'm a huge fan myself, but that's the genre. And I don't understand why so many readers are shocked that the Enterprise officers taking shore leave on a pleasure planet act like, well, sailors on shore leave. That's because they ARE essentially sailors on shore leave, 23rd century space setting aside, and their behavior differs little from that of the TNG/DS9/etc. crews on Risa in the later shows. Personally, I find the "sexism" claims toward TOS to be self-righteous and anachronistic.

Having said that, the murder mystery here remains compelling and intriguing, including the spiritualist aspects of the story and the culminating reveal. John Fiedler is a strong guest star and the plotting unfolds with good pacing beats. But it's not a terribly rewatchable episode once you've seen it; the story depends on the viewer not knowing where it's going. As such, like many slasher stories/murder mysteries, it weakens on further scrutiny and re-watches. It's a good show, and good to see Scotty featured in a story as James Doohan does a nice job of conveying befuddled anguish, but it's not one on my top ten list. I like Robert Bloch's work on Trek, but I tend to like his other episodes a little better than "Wolf in the Fold."
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Mon, Oct 30, 2017, 1:21pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad

Wow, good episode once again: When you drop Harry Mudd from TOS into the middle of "Cause and Effect" from TNG, you get a crazy good time. But this one also kept me guessing right up until the end, as it was never quite clear how they'd get out of it. There was a bit of a leap in logic on the bridge right at the end that didn't explain a lot, but the pacing had to remain strong to keep the show from getting bogged down in repetitive scenes of people explaining the time loop to each other. An entertaining and unpredictable ride here, this one manages to do the time loop thing in a fresh way without feeling recycled, like the many other time loop episodes from the post-TNG/pre-DIS shows that nobody remembers. This one is maybe 3 or 3 1/2 stars for me.
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Sun, Oct 29, 2017, 8:50am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S3: Second Skin

Thank you Jammer for mentioning the music. TNG's was boring and unrelated to the story line. As much as I loved the show, I disliked the music and thought it one of the show's weakest links.
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Sat, Oct 28, 2017, 9:18pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S1: Majority Rule

Wow, now this is more like it: This is the first "Orville" episode where I feel the Star Treak homage is being used to create a wholly original piece of social commentary and critique of our current zeitgeist. Here they take the "parallel earth" trope of TOS and take it in a direction I've never seen before: Government by social media. It's not deep, but neither is social media culture, and the opening scene where the girl casually "dislikes" two guys while chatting on the phone rings true in a disturbing way -- as does the scene at the end where the barista casually tells Isaac all of the manufactured images that will win them over to LaMarr.

I also like how the episode generally eschewed ridiculously out of place humor, which has been hit or miss on this series. This one felt more serious minded and used the humor of the situation for social satire rather than puerility. The one exception is LaMarr, who acts *really* stupid on the planet both before and after his arrest, belying what is obviously a life-threatening situatuion for him. The casual way he acts out with the statue and later with the authorities seems more like the deeds of a madman than a seasoned explorer. And it's not really clear why they need the navigator on the "landing team," a phrase that is itself a blatant amalgamation of "landing party" (TOS) and "away team" (TNG). Anyway, it wasn't enough to spoil my pleasant surprise that the "Orville" used its Trek formula for a fresh story this time, but LaMarr was really hit-or-miss here: I really wanted to identify with him and root for him, but his behavior was repeatedly cringe-worthy in a way that made no sense.

I think Jammer's review is fair: 3 stars for me
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Sat, Oct 28, 2017, 7:30pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Deadly Years

Star Trek does old age as only Star Trek can do, bringing home the fears and anxieties it entails by infecting our most virile young characters with a rapid aging disease. Good stuff to watch the crew grapple with the diminishment of aging in their own ways, but the subplots are also fairly engaging, and it's great to see the Romulans return albeit as something of an incidental threat. I give "Deadly Years" 3 or maybe even (on a REALLY good day) 3 1/2 stars.

The aging seems to hit Kirk hardest, as his youthful bravado and glibness are checked by a disease that threatens to wrest away his sense of command, hitting him where he's most vulnerable. Scotty just seems sad; Spock seems distracted as he struggles to hang onto his logic and McCoy just acts slightly more crotchety than usual as he strives to stay focused on a cure. It's really Kirk who ages most distressingly here, embarrassing himself by repeating things and feeling a loss of potency around the lady guest star. Kirk's clear dependence on his job for a sense of identity and his stubborn refusal to accept his growing limitations are both poignant (on one hand he's fighting to stay alive and potent) and saddening to watch; the show gets a bit "real" here in playing off Shatner's own ego to show up Kirk's limits.

The guest doctor and commodore are clearly just passengers, as the Enterprise is wont to carry. There's a line about the doctor assisting McCoy with research. It's refreshing to see the commodore presented realistically: Stocker wears red here, the color that most base commanders (see "Court Martial") wear in TOS, and it's an administrative/security branch of the service.

So Commodore Stocker is not a command officer wearing gold (like "Menagerie" guy, Bob Wesley, and Matt Decker) and it's consistent that such a person would not be trained to command a flagship. The man is an administrator/base commander, not a ship captain. Only in TNG do we start getting the "perfect human being" syndrome where every Starfleet officer seems trained in every single thing on the ship: Crusher can take command, Troi can run the helm, etc. Excuse me, but even the future isn't so perfect. When Commodore Stocker takes over the Enterprise in "Deadly Years," it's more by necessity of rank than anything else, since the top command officers -- Kirk, Spock, Scotty, and McCoy -- are out of operation and the young lieutenants seem unable to command.

Other stuff I like: Chekov's griping about the checkups, the "Corbomite Maneuver" callback (although it's a bit pat), the doomed science division lieutenant from the landing party seeing herself in the mirror, and the menacing Romulan armada attack where the Romulans remain true to sneaky form by refusing visual or audio communications. It's good to see the Romulans again even if we never see them onscreen; they pack a stronger punch at this point in the series than the Klingons, who were strong in "Errand" and a bit weaker in "Friday's Child." In any event, "Balance of Terror" was probably a better debut for the Romulans than the Klingons in "Errand," and I always thought the Romulans were a little cooler/more complex in TOS than the Klingons.

I will admit the competency hearing goes on a bit too long without advancing the plot or characters very strongly; there's not much drama here since so little seems to be at stake. I'm not sure this scene really "interrupts" the search for a cure and puts the crew at risk as some people suggest. Nurse Chapel and the medical staff are undoubtedly still working on it during the hearing. But it's a bit anti-dramatic and the show only really picks up some energy when Stocker takes over and totally freezes up as the Romulan armada starts blasting the hell out of the NCC-1701: It's a moment when we really wonder how the heck they are going to get out of it. There's just a bit of saggy pacing to endure before we get to this more exciting climax.
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Fri, Oct 27, 2017, 9:47pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: Friday's Child

Ah, "Friday's Child," a classic TOS military adventure show in the mold that later became popular on DS9. Much like "A Private Little War" later this season, but perhaps not as good, we find the Federation and Klingons fighting their Cold War by proxy here as they compete for influence over strategic planets. This one is memorable for the colorfully violent Capellan giants and their boomerang weapons, some great dialogue, and a good showcase for McCoy in his relationship with the queen played by the legendary Julie Newmar. I give it 3 or 3 1/2 stars, not quite 4 since the Klingon agent makes a weak foil, but it's still entertainingly alien.

I also like the shipboard scenes in this one: Rather than repetitive cuts to the ship searching for the landing party, as often happens on these two-tiered TOS stories, we get Scotty leading the ship (good bits for Chekov, Sulu, and Uhura here as well) against a Klingon battle cruiser making threatening maneuvers to bait them. The whole Klingon thing seems a bit underwritten here, as a reference back to the Organian peace treaty (see "Tribbles" for that) would have been a helpful reminder that the two sides cannot engage in open warfare. And the unnamed Klingon agent isn't a strong villain in the mold of the classic Kor, Koloth, and Kang trinity who set the mold for great TOS Klingons. But the military posturing of the two sides works here and the Klingon is clearly a spy-provocateur in the mold of Soviet KGB agents, whichmakes sense to me as I'm sure even the Klingons (at least on TOS) have their version of a secret police.

And I have to say the McCoy stuff with the equally irascible/stubborn queen and her baby is fun. Newmar and Kelley create a believable chemistry in the picturesque (and rare for Trek) outdoor location scenes; when McCoy slaps her back, Kelley manages the delicate balance of playing the scene humorously (with a self-satisfied little smirk to match her own) rather than abusively, giving it a tough love feeling. The reaction of Spock and Kirk to this budding relationship is priceless.

Finally, I love the Western-style adventure pursuit through the canyons (neat bit with the communicator avalanche) and the final fight scene where the Capellan leader shouts defiantly at the Klingon to meet him in battle manfully right after he gives the queen her life back. This Klingon agent is particularly devious and sneaky, perhaps even "dishonorable" to a later Trek sensibility, but he does serve his "boo hiss" function well and we are happy to see him go at the end. Again, I don't mind him one bit, as I think the stereotypes on Trek (every person we see from an alien species must act the same from TNG onward) get too rigid at times. There's also a certain inconsistency or even hypocrisy to the Klingon honor thing: They like to claim great ideals (i.e. "Klingons don't take prisoners") that we constantly see Klingons breaking when convenient to serve their thirst for glory and victory. This inconsistency in the half-baked Trek ideology for the Klingon ethos, exposed in this episode, isn't so much inappropriate as jarringly honest.
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Thu, Oct 26, 2017, 5:33pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: Journey to Babel

This episode is AMAZING, one of the all-time great TOS and Trek episodes in general, setting the mold for dozens of weaker imitators across the franchise. Here we get the A-B story format with an objective peril (espionage attempts to foil a peace conference) and human drama (Spock's family) embedded in it, a style that later becomes de rigeur from TNG onward. There's so much fun world building stuff here for Spock, the Federation, and Trek in general, but we also get two great characters in Spock and Amanda -- including the universally appealing father-son tension -- as well as great character interplay between the regulars as Kirk works to save Spock and his ship at the same time. It's easily 4 stars.

The dialogue is great in this one. And I love the mutual stubbornness of Spock and Sarek, who both agree it's more logical to let Sarek die than risk the ship by taking Spock off the bridge during a crisis while Kirk is incapacitated. That's hardcore stuff, but it fits the characters so perfectly. Amanda gives us a solid human foil to the whole affair, played by the legendary Jane Wyatt, and her insights into Spock's shame over being human and his childhood teasing for it tell us a lot about him. The characters love each other and work for the common good, but always within the limits of their characters, presented so sharply.Just great stuff all around.
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Wed, Oct 25, 2017, 10:57pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: Lethe

@Jammer the holodeck actually made its first appearance on Star Trek The Animated Series, I think in "The Practical Joker" episode. The TOS Enterprise NCC-1701 has a holodeck in this episode. Once you review TAS on this website, which should totally happen soon considering that there are only about 22 half-hour episodes and they're all on Netflix, that will become clearer. We can argue all day about whether TAS is "canonical," but the reality is that the holodeck concept -- like SO many other things on TNG -- originated with the original Enterprise crew. I point this out because I know way too many TNG fans who think TNG invented all of the major Trek universe-building pieces. In fact, TNG mostly took existing fabric and dressed it up. Very little of anything on TNG, VOY, and ENT is new to Trek. I think DS9 is a bit different because it really does have an original concept and characters.
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Wed, Oct 25, 2017, 8:12pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: Metamorphosis

One of the all-time great TOS episodes, "Metamorphosis" is Michael and Denise Okuda's favorite TOS episode, and it's a great boundary-breaking romance story told by analogy as only Star Trek can do. What appears initially to be a simple Shuttlecraft Crash Episode (TM) turns out to be a fascinating look at inter-species romance, enhancing the Zefrem Cochrane character as well. I give it 3 1/2 or 4 stars.

Some great lines and discussions here, including Spock's humorously matter-of-fact surprise at Cochrane's "parochial attitude" in refusing love simply because the lover is non-corporeal and alien. The "so what" attitude of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy (and Kirk has experience) at having an alien lover seems like the embodiment of 1960s free love to me. And there's something charming about that.

The episode does represent the 1950s attitude that men only find their fulfillment in the right woman, and vice versa, but that's an attitude that continues in romcoms to this day -- so we can hardly fault the story for following romance movie tropes which are still used. If you watch a movie like "Love Actually" or just about any Disney princess story today, you find these attitudes are still very much in vogue, not a relic of the 1960s at all. And there's a certain haunting, mystical charm to the Companion-Cochrane symbiosis joining scenes. Their relationship based on total union, physical and emotional and spiritual, comes across as deeply moving by the end.

Far from being a travesty, the fusing of the Companion and Hedford is actually Trek's first look at a symbiotic life form, to be toyed with later on TNG and fully realized in the Dax character on DS9. While the selfishness of the Companion in drawing the shuttle off-course can be explained by the selfishness all lovers experience in sacrificing everything to please their beloved, it also tries to make up for it by merging with Hedford at the end. Are the Companion's motives in merging mixed? Absolutely: It wants to be with Cochrane physically as much as it wants to help Hedford. But to be honest, Hedford had no other choice at this point, and we can't fault the characters for "sacrificing" her as if it were a moral choice to kill her. Hedford's dilemma is indeed disturbing, but the notion that the Companion also sacrifices her own immortality for her lover is also super romantic, and this show is definitely one of the better "chick flick" TOS episodes -- much more so than, say, the testosterone-dripping "Doomsday Machine" or the "the woman I love must die to save humanity" story (see if you can find a worse Trek episode for a date night, I dare you) of "City on the Edge of Forever." Anyway, I love this one for its originality.
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Mon, Oct 23, 2017, 7:01pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: I, Mudd

This is a really fun episode, perhaps a bit drunken in its humor but undeniably winning in the cast's willingness to go for broke. I love episodes that showcase the main regulars (including Uhura, Chekov, Scotty) by letting them cut loose as part of the landing party -- and this one, like many Season Two episodes, does a great job of that chemistry building we see throughout the ensemble pieces of this season. It also brings back Harry Mudd, an enduring human scoundrel (rare on Trek) who was referenced in "Into Darkness" and now recurring as a guest on "Discovery." I give "I Mudd" 3 or 3 1/2 stars.

What more can I say? This is an episode that depends on the audience liking the characters enough to go with the flow. It's not as effortlessly comedic as the sublime "Tribbles" or even "A Piece of the Action" later this season, but it's a fun little ride that gives us lots of classic character moments. The Cossack dance and imaginary phaser scenes are part of a surreal sequence that only works here because of the go-for-break execution by the cast. I for one dig it. And I don't understand, as an earlier commenter remarked, how anyone could think this episode is sexist when Mudd -- the source of all the sexism of the android society -- is so clearly a figure of ridicule not to be taken seriously. If you want to see *real* sexism, presented without any irony or humor, watch the gender relations on "Game of Thrones." But perhaps we tend to excuse our own generation too readily; the 1960s were far less reactionary in many ways than what we see on TV in "historical drama guise" today.
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