Polter-Cow (spectralbovine) wrote,

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Star Trek? More Like Bar Dreck!

Over a month and a half ago, I enjoyed Star Trek: Alternate Original Series (is that what we've settled on?) so much that I was inspired to finally watch Star Trek: The Original Series. So using this guide, this list, and your recommendations, I put together a list of thirty some-odd episodes that would give me the optimal Star Trek experience. That's right, for the first time in the history of new show squee, I will be reviewing a series I haven't watched all of.

My impression of the series from the first episode I watched was not that favorable, but it deserved the Pilot Pass. Subsequent episodes were much better, and I found myself really enjoying the series and the characters. There was something comforting in the formula and lack of continuity. In each episode, the crew face some crazy shit, and by the end of the episode, they have prevailed and everything is back to normal. In fact, in another departure from my usual viewing methods, there were a couple episodes I watched out of order! Even though the characters never change, the actors made every single one of them iconic.

Kirk (William Shatner): Captain James T. Kirk is true captain material, except for the part where he disobeys Starfleet command all the goddamn time. But that's because he has a heart, dammit! Kirk is always right, even when he's lying through his teeth, which is frequently. While the Kirk Knows Best philosophy became tiring after a while, I appreciated how idealistic he was. It was so quaint. And I kind of love Shatner's delivery. It just seems so right, somehow. He makes it sound like that is a natural way for Kirk to speak, and it fits with his personality, the way part of the sentence gets thrown out before a short pause introduces the next part with a slightly different inflection. That's how Kirk operates; he rushes headlong into trouble before pausing and taking a different tack when the first one doesn't work.

Spock (Leonard Nimoy): Spock! Half-Vulcan and half-human, he self-identifies as Vulcan and views everything in terms of logic. Nimoy could basically make anything sound awesome; he just has that voice and that carefully precise delivery. As a result, any episode focusing on Spock (with one notable exception that focuses more on, er, his brain) is sure to be gold. He's the most interesting character in the mix because of his background and alien way of life.

McCoy (DeForest Kelley): Bones! Oh man, DeForest Kelley owns. Dr. McCoy is Chief Medical Officer, but more than that, he's Kirk's friend and frequent confidant. He's a curmudgeonly bastard with a wry sense of humor, and he complements Spock by being the voice of humanity and emotion. I love him to bits even though he's kind of totally racist against Vulcans.

Scotty (James Doohan): Man, I can't believe James Doohan is Canadian. He sounds so good Scottish! Most of the time, the Chief Engineering Officer doesn't get much to do besides give the ship more power and pull a bunch of levers and yell technobabble through the intercom, but he's totally lovable while doing all those things. And for some reason the chain of command gives him the ship whenever Kirk and Spock are taken hostage (which is a lot), so he gets to be all awesome and loyal to Kirk in those moments.

Sulu (George Takei): SULU! Oh man, Sulu is the best. He's this happy-go-lucky Japanese dude who...I don't really know what he does, but he plots courses or presses buttons or something. Takei's deep, rich voice sometimes seemed at odds with Sulu's personality, but other times it worked perfectly and you just wanted to hear him speak. Sulu is terribly underused and rarely gets to do anything of import, let alone leave the bridge.

Uhura (Nichelle Nichols): Uhura is even more underused than Sulu. I hardly ever saw her standing up; she was always sitting in her chair and listening to communications or sending them. She's basically a switchboard operator. Occasionally, however, she gets to be fierce. What I found interesting was that the show never ever commented on the fact that she was black and Sulu was Japanese. Their races were treated as non-issues. There's no racism in the future! Except against Vulcans.

Chekov (Walter Koenig): He's Russian! He likes Russian things! He talks about Russia a lot! Chekov, like Sulu, plots courses or presses buttons or something. He seems to be a pretty serious kind of guy for the most part, at least on the ship. He loosens up when he's off the ship.

I had no idea that the show was basically the Kirk/Spock/McCoy show and everyone else was just there. I'm so used to ensemble shows that it's beyond me that you wouldn't take more advantage of your strong supporting cast.

I could attempt to summarize my feelings about the show in general, but I think anything I say has already been said a million times by more intelligent people in the last forty years. A better way to get across my feelings about the show would be to present capsule reviews and letter grades for all the episodes I watched. And, hey, aren't you glad I did that?

Where No Man Has Gone Before - Decent pilot, but it just throws you into the mix with no explanation. And then there are psychic powers and issues of morality. C+/B-

The Naked Time - The granddaddy of all Characters Are Affected by Something and Act Nutty episodes. Sulu takes his shirt off and fences everywhere. KIRK AND SPOCK HAVE A SLAPFIGHT. And then the side effect of saving the Enterprise from destruction is awesomely non sequitur. Good times. A

The Enemy Within - The granddaddy of all Character Is Split into Good Twin and Evil Twin episodes. It's an insightful look at the duality of man whose entertainment value is heightened by Shatner's wildly evil grin, crazy eyes, and histrionics as Evil Kirk. Also, there's an evil dog. B+

Mudd's Women - I only watched this one because I was recommended "I, Mudd," which I believe is supposed to be a better showcase for the Harry Mudd character. Mudd is sort of amusing in that over-the-top, boisterously oily con-man kind of way, but this episode is one of those horribly sexist ones I was supposed to avoid. There are beautiful ladies that make everyone horny! But all is not what it seems, ho ho! C

The Corbomite Maneuver - The Enterprise encounters a floating cube that won't get out of its way, and it just gets worse from there as Kirk has to convince an unknown alien not to blow them up. Nice little episode that gets tenser and tenser with good character moments for Kirk and McCoy. And then there's tranya. B+

The Menagerie, Parts 1 and 2 - Gene Roddenberry Spock hijacks the show the Enterprise so he can show us the original pilot, "The Cage," with Captain Christopher Pike. I'll admit, it is a pretty brilliant framing device that cleverly makes use of the old episode to justify its own existence. The problem is that while a lot of the two-parter is tense and interesting (mostly before we start watching "The Cage"), a lot—especially "The Cage" itself—is pretty boring and a little tedious. Also, Number One and the cute redhead should totally have been a part of the regular crew. B/B+

Balance of Terror - The first Romulan episode! Kirk faces off against an enemy he can't see in what is essentially a sub battle in spaaaaace. Lots of cool tactical maneuvers, but the most interesting aspect of the episode is the similarities between the Romulan commander and Kirk and Spock. While not as successful at building tension as "The Corbomite Maneuver," there's a lot more going on this episode, so it gets bonus points. B+

Shore Leave - The crew take a little shore leave on a planet where their thoughts come to life. So cracktastic and fun! Plus, it's shot on location, so the trees look like trees and the rocks look like rocks. Great Bones episode. A-

The Galileo Seven - Spock and six others (including McCoy and Scotty) crash on a planet inhabited by hostile furry monsters, and Kirk has a deadline to rescue them. Spock must act as a leader, and it becomes a fascinating exploration of what it's really like to live logically. And how other people react to such a lifestyle! Usually, Spock's "logical vs. illogical" bullshit is an amusing character quirk, but here you see it's truly a fundamental part of his being. Should all decisions be made with logic, or is a little emotion sometimes a valuable asset? Oh, Leonard Nimoy. I see why we all love you now. A+

Arena - MY FIRST REDSHIRT!! AND HE TOTALLY DIED WITHIN LIKE FIVE GODDAMN SECONDS! This is the one where Kirk fights a dude in a green rubber lizard suit. It is basically the worst fight ever, and Kirk has to MacGyver random bits of nature like he's playing an adventure game. And then he learns a Very Important Lesson. Oh, aliens. Always teaching us silly, savage humans a Very Important Lesson. B/B+

Space Seed - The introduction of KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN! The character, not the exclamation. I had no idea he came from the nineties! Which was when the sixties predicted we'd have a Eugenics War, it seems. Khan is the most effective antagonist I've seen on the show so far; it's the first time I've really thought the Enterprise was in deep shit and wondered how they'd get themselves out of this mess. Kirk and Khan have a pretty awesome fight, even though the end is kind of lame. Now I really need to rewatch The Wrath of Khan. A-

A Taste of Armageddon - Two planets engage in THE MOST FUCKED-UP WAR EVER. Oh my God, it's awesomely horrific...and yet, as Spock notes, scientifically logical. It's a really interesting look at the price of war and humanity's "barbaric" nature. Scotty gets a chance to shine, and Kirk is at his best when he gets his bluff on. A

This Side of Paradise - The crew get infected with soma spores, and Spock hooks up with a blonde chick. The highlight is getting to see Pod!Spock let loose and be a person, but as a bonus, Pod!McCoy is a delight. (Tellingly, Pod!Sulu is...just like regular Sulu.) Anyway, everyone is perfectly happy and content, so obviously Kirk has to ruin everything. And then he makes a grand statement about human nature, as is his wont. B+/A-

The Devil in the Dark - Kirk and Spock investigate a creature who's been killing dozens of miners. It starts out like an episode of The X-Files, but this is the most optimistic sci-fi show ever, which means it will actually consider the possibility that the creature is NOT a maliciously evil alien being. All in all, a very solid episode that builds and becomes more complex from act to act. Plus, there's a lot of hilarity at the end about Spock's ears. A

Errand of Mercy - The first Klingon episode! Klingons occupy a planet of annoyingly peaceful doormats, and Kirk yells about how awesome war is. This episode is like a bizarre mirror of "A Taste of Armageddon," except it's sort of boring and kind of a mess. But I enjoyed the performance of the Klingon commander, Kor. B

The City on the Edge of Forever - THE BEST EPISODE EVER! Or so everyone says. I still don't think it's phenomenal, but I'm conditioned to consider it fairly superior. I do love time travel hijinks, and this episode has Kirk and Spock in 1930 trying to keep McCoy from changing history, which hinges on the fate of one woman, Edith Keeler. So of course Kirk falls in love with her. In other news, UHURA ACTUALLY GETS TO GET OFF THE SHIP AND WALK AROUND AND SHIT. Even though she doesn't do anything. It's a solid episode and very well done, but I still feel like it was lacking something. A

Amok Time - The infamous pon farr episode, in which Spock must participate in a Vulcan mating ritual...OR DIE. For reals. It's a great episode for showing the bond of friendship between Kirk and Spock and McCoy (and yay for DeForest Kelley getting added to the credits!). Unfortunately, it has the same problem a lot of episodes do, which is that it has a great build and then fizzles out at the very end. It's a small flaw, though, and you haven't lived till you've seen Spock throw soup. A-/A

Mirror, Mirror - Kirk, Scotty, McCoy, and Uhura end up in a parallel universe. Evil Spock! Evil Sulu! Evil Chekov! Spock's evil goatee was not as evil as I expected, sadly, but Evil Scarface Sulu was pretty awesome. And Marlena was pretty hot. Oh, and Uhura got to be badass! A-

The Doomsday Machine - The Enterprise faces off against a giant space penis that consumes planets, a kind of Robo-Galactus. It's kind of ridiculous because, well, the thing eats planets. If it really wanted to destroy the ship, it could do it in one glomp, but it just...shoots a laser beam at it or something. Anyway, is every Commodore on this show a raving dickhead? Because seriously. The episode is kinda boring, and Robo-Galactus doesn't seem to present any real threat. And it has a horribly anvilicious anti-nuke message. But it has its moments. B

I, Mudd - In a rare display of continuity, the show brings back Mudd, who's now ruling a planet of androids. He kidnaps the crew of the Enterprise to trap them there, but, of course, it turns into a battle of human vs. android. It's an episode that's funny on purpose! There's quite a bit of genuine hilarity in the latter half. But holy God, I may scream if I hear the words "logical" or "illogical" again. WE GET IT. B

Journey to Babel - The one with Spock's parents! Turns out Spock has Daddy Issues. Ambassador Sarek is one of many ambassadors being transported to a controversial conference, and tensions run high until violence finally erupts. Plus, there's an unidentified, uncommunicative alien ship menacingly following the Enterprise. There's a lot of stuff going on in this great episode, and, as with "The Galileo Seven," we see the costs of having to live by logic, but, more importantly, we get a rare glimpse into Spock's childhood and upbringing. A+

The Trouble with Tribbles - Who hasn't heard of this one? The Enterprise gets infested with cute, furry creatures that multiply at an alarming rate. Meanwhile, Klingons hurl insults, Earthers hurl punches, and Kirk hurls at authority figures. A light romp that didn't go quite as far as I expected (I thought the ship would be COMPLETELY OVERRUN with Tribbles by the end, like they would be swimming in them), but it goes far enough. *trills* A-/A

A Piece of the Action - Our Heroes visit a planet that has modeled its society after 1920s Chicago, gangsters and all. The idea is awesomely stupid, but the episode is HILARIOUS. There's a hilarious card game, hilarious disguises, hilarious driving, and best of all, William Shatner's HILARIOUSLY AMAZING gangster impression. Everyone gets into it. YOU GUYS I HAD TO REWIND TO CONFIRM THAT SPOCK DID INDEED SAY "YOUSE." The episode even has a PUNCHLINE. The basic concept still makes no sense, but it's the funniest episode I've seen. A

The Immunity Syndrome - "A giant space amoeba threatens the entire galaxy." That sounds kind of awesomely stupid too, right? Well, too bad, because half the episode is boring as shit as they do the old "What is it? WHAT IS IT? Let's pull some levers and see what happens!" crap. And then most of the rest is still just "Blah blah blah, reverse the polarity." The redeeming factor, however, is the stuff between Spock and McCoy, as they battle over who gets to go on the suicide mission of scientific discovery. There's also a key Vulcan trait that's relevant to the new movie revealed in the teaser. B-

The Ultimate Computer - The Enterprise is fitted with a supercomputer meant to replace human captains and personnel. Naturally, it goes nuts and kills people and we all learn a lesson about the difference between man and machine. It's a solid episode of this type, especially for all the endearing character moments. Because we love this crew and don't want them to be replaced, you know? B/B+

Spock's Brain - A woman beams aboard the ship...and STEALS SPOCK'S BRAIN. And they go IN SEARCH OF SPOCK'S BRAIN. With Spock walking around WITHOUT A FUCKING BRAIN. And then they TALK TO SPOCK'S BRAIN ON THE COMMUNICATOR. And then SPOCK TALKS MCCOY THROUGH HIS OWN BRAIN SURGERY. This episode is beyond ridiculous, and it's not even entertaining enough to make up for it. Also, Scotty's new hair is terrible. F+

The Enterprise Incident - Kirk goes off the rails and takes the Enterprise into Romulan territory, where they get captured yet again. Luckily, the Romulan commander totally has a thing for Spock, and they end up handfucking. I swear, in the episodes I have seen, I think Spock gets more action than Kirk. This is a good episode full of intrigue. Watch out for that Vulcan Death Grip, man. B+

Day of the Dove - A floating ball of flashing colored lights pits the Enterprise crew against the Klingons. THERE ARE SWORDFIGHTS. It's a decent episode. B/B+

For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky - McCoy has a terminal disease. There are still terminal diseases in the future? Lame! He and Kirk and Spock beam aboard a spaceship disguised as an asteroid where everyone wears bathrobes and thinks they're on a planet, completely unaware that they're on a collision course with an actual planet. And then, McCoy falls in love because it is a requirement for a cast member to randomly fall in love with a woman in every episode. B/B+

The Way to Eden - The Enterprise picks up some annoying space hippies. Seriously, they are the most irritating characters I have ever seen on this show. They call Kirk Herbert three dozen times and sing a bunch of stupid songs, the saving grace being that Spock plays Vulcan space guitar on one of them. Also, Chekov gets a Russian hippie girlfriend. I think I fell asleep during the episode, which was a blessing. Give me "The Cave of Two Lovers" any day. C-

Turnabout Intruder - Kirk's old flame at the Academy was pissed that women weren't allowed to be captains of starships, so she did the proper feminist thing and spoke up for women's rights, petitioning the higher-ups and making a sound case for why a woman was just as good as a man. No, wait, this is Star Trek, so she bodyswaps with Kirk and takes over the Enterprise. Watching Shatner play a woman isn't nearly as fun as it should be since he really only plays "Janice Lester" in a couple scenes; he mostly just plays Evil Kirk...except when he FILES HIS NAILS. And the woman playing Lester doesn't try to sound like Kirk either. Bodyswap episodes were new; I guess I should cut them some slack. In any case, the resolution is totally lame. It's a poor series finale, unintended though it was. C

The best thing about new show squeeing right now is that I am posting about how much I love the show...and there is still more show for me to watch! (Plus movies!) I plan to watch the episodes I skipped in syndication (or CBS.com) so I can continue to get my Star Trek fix, even though I've seen most of the best episodes, which means I have a lot of bad episodes to look forward to. And Star Trek gave me a whole new perspective on bad television. But it also gave me a whole new perspective on good television. It's easy to see why the show is a classic, and its influence on all sci-fi television following it is undeniable. I was interested in it as a cultural text, but I wound up enjoying it as a television show.
Tags: making the grade, new show squee, pimpings, star trek: the original series, tv

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  • Pandemic Panic

    And so the Beforetimes came to an end and I decided to throw myself into watching a shitload of movies. So many theme weeks, starting with a week of…

  • Pre-Pandemic Panic

    Time has no meaning, so I can pretend I posted the batch of movies I watched before time stopped having meaning. Prince of Darkness: I've wanted…

  • Mistletoe Movie Marathon, Part III

    The Mistletoe Movie Marathon continues to continue! Shin Godzilla: I had heard some hype about Shin Godzilla but became super interested once I…