Friday, August 31, 2012

My (Random) Thoughts on Star Trek: The Devil in the Dark

I first began posting articles on Star Trek: The Original Series back in August 2010, starting with the second pilot episode, Where No Man Has Gone Before. I originally posted them on my web-site, but in April 2011, it occurred to me that a more appropriate vehicle for my writing would be a blog and this is where I have continued to expound on Star Trek while also transferring over my old articles from my web-site.

Thus, the rather muddled order in which my commentary on Star Trek is presented here.

Given that the last Star Trek article I posted was on The Galileo Seven, you may be excused if you expected my next article in the series to be on The Squire of Gothos. Such is not the case; my article on The Squire of Gothos was the first of my discussions on Star Trek that I posted to this blog and it can be found here.

If you're interested in what I have to say about The Devil in the Dark, just keep on reading.

A hideous monster strikes from the darkness, viciously murdering its victims and leaving behind nothing but badly charred remains. The Enterprise crew arrives at Janus VI, the mining colony terrorized by these attacks, and discovers that the monster feels the same way about the human miners as they do about it; it turns out that the miners have been unknowingly murdering the monster's kindred and what seemed at first to be a series of unprovoked attacks motivated by cruelty and evil was actually part of a desperate campaign of guerilla warfare intended to drive the colonial genociders from the planet's surface.

By then, the monster, a silicon-based life-form which calls itself a Horta, has been badly wounded by phaser fire from Kirk and Spock and is weak to the point that it is now easy prey for the vengeful miners, who somehow manage to overpower, while armed only with sticks and other makeshift clubs, a supposedly elite and armed-to-the-teeth security detail from the Enterprise which stands between them and bloody (?) revenge.

The miners are stopped from beating (!) the Horta to death when Kirk yells out desperately in rebuttal to the miners's statement that the creature has killed fifty of their own that it was only answering in kind for the murder of thousands of its own kind.

A few carefully chosen words from Kirk and a would-be lynch mob turns remorseful...and their priorities shift from vengeance to avarice

At which point, the miners recognize that it was all a big misunderstanding and form a deal with the Horta in which it, and the thousands like it which will soon hatch from the eggs that the miners had been destroying, will help the miners dig for the rich deposits of pergium, gold, platinum, etc. for which Janus VI is famous and everyone lives happily ever after.

I know The Devil in the Dark is a perennial favorite amongst fans of Star Trek: The Original Series but I found it to be perplexing on at least two levels.

If you take the story at face value, the rapid about face in the collective mood of the miners when the rationale behind the Horta's attacks is revealed to them is too unbelievable to take seriously. These miners aren't real people; they're icons of a human race that is capable of more compassion and objective reasonsing than human beings today..because human beings now would have brushed aside Kirk's and Spock's arguments in defense of the Horta and attempted quite gamely to beat the silicon-based creature to death.

The story is also unbelievable when one considers the deal brokered between the (accidentally) genocidal colonists and the Horta – the Horta get to help the colonists get rich by plundering Janus VI's natural resources...and in return, the "inoffensive" Horta get to keep living. It's sort of a bizarre allegory of colonialism where the natives cut short their uprising and decide to accept their lot in life to serve their "betters".

And somehow, we're supposed to buy into the fact that this is a good thing.

The colonial overseer of Janus VI gleefully reports the profits reeped in no small part due to the efforts of the now pacified native population – all the Horta ask for in return for their toil is that they get to keep living

Score one for the good guys.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Where I Discuss Star Trek: The Galileo Seven

This article was first posted on September 27, 2010. It is presented in its entirety with some minor changes.

The Galileo Seven is an odd episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. It's basically a disaster movie. With Spock in the role of the plucky hero who leads everyone to safety. His turn as leader is hindered by the fact that for some unfathomable reason, he has lost all of the emotional sensitivity that he exhibited in the previous episodes. Not only has he lost his emotional sensitivity, he has turned into a Forrest Gump of emotional sensitivity, unintentionally alienating everyone around him. It doesn't help that everyone around him, with the exception of Scotty, seems to have collectively taken leave of their senses.

For most of The Galileo Seven, we are presented with Spock making what are basically very sound, rational decisions given the situation the eponymous seven Enterprise crewmembers are in, and everyone else, with the exception of Scotty, who spends most of this episode with his head under the hood of the stricken shuttlecraft Galileo, objecting to the choices that he makes, mainly, it seems, out of spite. It's as if being stranded on Taurus II has resulted in everyone binning themselves into one of two categories: Persons principally driven by their id or persons principally driven by their ego...with almost everyone almost gleefully giving themselves over to their id.

Irrationality abounds in this episode. Not only that, but it's trumpeted as something to be proud of, something that makes us human.

Following this strange logic, the residents of the local asylum would be the ideal exemplars of all that is human. I would argue the contrary, that what makes us human is our rationality or at least our capacity for such. In which case Mr. Spock would appear to be the most human of all the characters in this episode. How deliciously ironic that someone who constantly struggles to suppress his humanity turns out to be the most human of them all. A foreshadowing of Kirk's eulogy at the end of The Wrath of Khan?

Or maybe I'm reading too deeply into an episode which is, at the end of the day, basically a disaster movie.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Star Trek: Shore Leave

This article was first posted on September 15, 2010. It is presented in its entirety with some minor changes.

Kirk complains of a sore back and when someone starts giving him an unsolicited back rub, he assumes it's Spock, rather than the scrumptious Yeomen Tonia Barrows, that's giving him relief from his aches and pains.

Kirk confounds Yeomen Barrows's handiwork with Spock's

McCoy sees a giant rabbit, gets "killed" by a medieval knight on horseback and then shows up, alive and well, arm-in-arm with bunnies of a different sort.

McCoy in a heaven of sorts after "dying"

Then there's the sub-plot of how a strange force field emanating from the seemingly idyllic planet that the Enterprise is orbiting is draining its engines; this sub-plot is rather abruptly dropped by episode's end and not satisfactorily concluded.

I'm not saying that Theodore Sturgeon, the writer responsible for Shore Leave, was on drugs when he put pen to paper, but it sure would explain a lot.

And am I the only one who caught on to the fact that every member of the crew that walked on the bridge at the conclusion of the episode got laid? Knowing Kirk, he definitely got it on with the simulacrum of Ruth, the girl from his past. McCoy and Barrows presumably did something to explain the smiles on their faces. And you can't tell me that the swashbuckling Mr. Sulu didn't do anything with the simulacra of the cabaret girls he ended up arm-in-arm with in the final scene on the planet's surface?

Everyone is all smiles after their shore leave

Or am I reading too much in what may be just a bunch of goofy smiles?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Star Trek: Balance of Terror

This article was first posted on September 13, 2010. It is presented in its entirety with some minor changes.

Balance of Terror is like a Chipotle burrito: Sinfully yummy...but so stuffed with ingredients that it's close to bursting open like Kane after his run-in with the facehugger. Not only is Balance of Terror a thinly disguised WWIIU-boat versus destroyer yarn, it's also a cautionary tale about racism. If that weren't enough, there's also a message thrown in about the futility of war: War is bad, mkay?

Romulan Bird-of-Prey, the 23rd century's answer to the U-boat

As in many of the early Star Trek episodes, we're treated to the spectacle of Spock using logic to justify kicking some ass; in this case, he points out that showing weakness in the face of Romulan aggression will only result in interstellar war. Thus, to avoid war, the Enterprise crew must pursue and destroy the Romulan Bird of Prey that has encroached upon Federation space.

Logic dictates, captain, that we open up a can of whoop-ass on the Romulans

After his turn as Mr. Sensitivity in The Conscience of the King, Spock reverts to type as the coldly logical Vulcan, cutting the bigoted Stiles short during his clumsy (and roundabout) attempt at an apology for his earlier racism by pointing out that Spock saving his life was dictated entirely by Stiles's value to the Enterprise's crew as a highly trained navigator. Or maybe Spock being short with Stiles had nothing to do with logic and everything to do with him being peeved by the latter's bigotry.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

My (Random) Thoughts on The Avengers

While waiting for the crowds to die down before going to see The Dark Knight Rises, I thought this would be a good time to discuss this summer's first superhero blockbuster: Joss Whedon's The Avengers.

While I am a fan of Firefly, I am not a fan of Joss Whedon due to what I see as his tendency to try a little bit too hard to make the dialogue he writes witty and amusing. So, despite all the positive press that it has received, it was with some trepidation that I went to see The Avengers.

The Avengers, assembled

I'm glad to say that I was proven wrong; the dialogue in The Avengers was witty and amusing but it didn't come off as being forced. The Avengers had just the right mix of action and humor and every one of the ensemble cast got a chance to shine, even the two relatively normal members of The Avengers, Black Widow and Hawkeye. And in a bit of film-making legerdemain, Joss Whedon managed to use all the resources at his disposal, namely the above mentioned action and humor blended with some good pacing, to distract the audience (or at least this viewer) from the film's 143 minute length and a major plot-hole. At the movie's end, I walked out of the theater surprised at how long it had been and I wasn't even aware of the plot-hole until someone else pointed it out to me.

Hawkeye and Black Widow, normal people with freakish skill sets

The plot-hole in question is the unexplained transition of the Hulk from out-of-control rage monster to in-control rage monster. This is a pretty big plot-hole since out-of-control Hulk ends up being as much a danger to the other Avengers as the film's villain, Loki, and wreaks considerable havoc on board S.H.I.E.L.D.'s flying aircraft carrier halfway through the film while in-control Hulk plays an important role in foiling Loki's attempt at conquering the world. One gets the feeling that a pivotal scene ended up on the cutting room floor, perhaps to prevent the film from being overlong.

Out-of-control Hulk smashes expensive government property

In-control Hulk smashes extraterrestrial invader

The absence of any explanation of this change in the Hulk's character is all the more suprising considering an embarrassingly clumsy and completely unnecessary bit of exposition which occurs early in the film when Loki appears at a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility. Dr. Selvig, the mentor of Thor's love interest in the filmbearing his name, upon seeing Loki, blurts out, "Loki – brother of Thor!", presumably for the benefit of anyone who hasn't seen Kenneth Branagh's contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What's particularly puzzling is that throughout the film, Thor, through his words and actions, repeatedly explains his relationship to Loki, rendering this clunky bit of dialogue moot. It's so bad that I suspect it may have been thrown in there as some kind of joke, especially considering that Joss Whedon is very adept at exposition, the one exception that comes to mind being the first few minutes of Firefly's The Train Job.

Loki, brother of Thor

Plotholes and clumsy exposition aside, my only real quibble about The Avengers is the question it raises of what will the Avengers do next? The villain for the next film to feature this superpowered team was revealed after the credits, so we know who the Avengers will be battling next. However, what villainy will the individual heroes attempt to foil in their own films? After all, Iron Man 3 is currently in production and sequels to Captain America and Thor are reported to be in the works. After having stopped an attempted invasion of Earth by extraterrestrials, battling more "mundane" threats such as Russian arms dealers or other miscreants seeking monetary gain would seem a bit beneath them.

Black Widow, moments away from taking down some Russian arms dealers – it's difficult to imagine her going back to her day job after having helped thwart an extraterrestrial invasion

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Where I Discuss Anna Karenina

This article was first posted on September 12, 2010. It is presented in its entirety with some minor changes.

Somehow, director Clarence Brown managed to stuff the essence of Leo Tolstoy's 900 page novel into this 95 minute movie. What is surprising is that the film doesn't feel rushed at all except during the transition when the eponymous heroine of Anna Karenina suddenly reverses herself and declares her love for Count Vronsky. Had a few more scenes (and minutes) been spent on this transition, the film would have been perfect.

Besides Anna's rather jarring admission to Vronsky, the only other complaint I have about the film is its rather sentimental ending, with the camera lingering on a photograph of the MILFalicious Greta Garbo as Anna Karenina, while Vronsky and Yashvin discuss Anna's death at the business end of a train and how it might have been (or might not have been) averted had Vronsky just been less of a cad.

As I mentioned before, there's a lot in this film. Not only is the basic structure of the story as told in the novel sumptuously brought to the screen, but the hypocrisy inherent in how society judges lapses in morality differently depending on the sex of the offender is given significant screen time; Vronsky, whom the film portrays as being the instigator of his doomed affair with Anna, barely suffers at all as a result of their adulterous liaison; the affair and its consequences end up being nothing more than minor speed bumps in the path his life happens to be taking. Anna, in contrast, has her life irrevocably ruined. I'd like to say that much has changed since the 1870's, when the novel was written, but that'd be naive of me.

Particularly bizarre and almost discomfiting to this viewer were the over-the-top displays of physical love shared by Anna and her adolescent son, Sergei; at the film's conclusion, I half expected Sergei to pluck out his eyes after Anna took her own life. What made these displays even more strange were that Anna seemed to show more passion in the kisses she lavished on her son than to the ones she bestowed upon Vronsky.


Also worthy of mention is BasilRathbone's rather creepy portrayal of Anna's husband, Alexei Karenin; barely showing any emotion and husbanding his movements to the extreme, he reminded this viewer of an ambush predator lying in wait for its prey. This impression was given even more weight due to Basil Rathbone's uncanny resemblance to a praying mantis. However, instead of literally seizing Anna and biting her head off, BasilRathbone's Karenin only bit off her head spiritually.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Castiglione Discusses Star Trek: The Conscience of the King

This article was first posted on September 8, 2010. It is presented in its entirety with some minor changes.

More police procedural than science fiction, The Conscience of the King also presents another side to the brash Captain Kirk, a side which was explored (albeit under extraordinary conditions) in The Enemy Within. Here, we're presented with Captain Kirk as Hamlet, indecisive and hesitant, when confronted with the fact that a mass-murderer from his past is not dead as was thought but alive and on the Enterprise. Maybe the fact that he has developed feelings for the mass-murderer's pretty, young daughter, Lenore, has something to do with his reluctance to act on the evidence that he has gathered? Or maybe the captain realizes that human memory is fallible and if one is to accuse a man of having ordered the executions of over 4,000 men, women and children, one had better be certain that he has the right man.

Eugenics-inspired mass-murderer? Or itinerant stage actor? Or both? After 20 years, it's difficult to be certain...

The Conscience of the King is one of the better of the early episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series, due in no small part to the development of Captain Kirk's character as well as the relationship between Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy. Also of particular interest in this episode are:
  1. Mr. Spock's concern for Lt. Kevin Riley's emotional well-being when the latter is "demoted" back to engineering and
  2. The 33-year old Captain Kirk's obviously carnal interest in the 19-year old Lenore.
The 33-year old James. T. Kirk tongue fences with the 19-year old Lenore

The first point is interesting since the logical Vulcan in Mr. Spock shouldn't even have considered the possibility of Lt. Riley being upset at his transfer as being significant; I guess his human half isn't quite as suppressed as Mr.Spock would like to believe. The second point is interesting because of how it illustrates a point I've brought up before: Science fiction tends to reflect the mores of the era in which it was written. Now, I wasn't alive back in the 60's but I'm guessing a man in his 30's pursuing a 19-year old girl as aggressively as Kirk was pursuing Lenore wasn't considered inappropriate back then; if this episode were written nowadays, I would speculate that the screen-writers would opt to age Lenore a few years in order to minimize the ick factor or have Kirk limit his interactions with her to the occasional avuncular pat on the head followed by a lollipop or an ice-cream cone.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Star Trek: The Menagerie

This article was first posted on September 7, 2010. It is presented in its entirety with some minor changes.

The Menagerie gives us a tantalizing glimpse of what Star Trek might have been, had the first pilot, The Cage, been accepted by NBC; instead of the brash James T. Kirk, the Enterprise is commanded by an intense, almost grim (and definitely humorless) Christopher Pike, the first officer is a woman, Mr. Spock is still the science officer but is embarrassingly (by Vulcan standards) emotional and the ship's doctor is one half country doctor a la Leonard McCoy and one half Mentat. Had The Cage been given the green-light, Star Trek, as we know it, would have been quite different.

Christopher Pike displaying a very un-Kirk-like mien

As a means of showcasing the story of Captain Pike and his crew, The Menagerie adequately performs the task at hand. As an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series in its own right, it doesn't quite gel; most of the dialogue is exposition leading up to yet another segment of the story of Captain Pike's encounter with the Talosians and too much of the story jury-rigged around The Cage doesn't make any sense: Why were the Talosians willing to help Christopher Pike given the outcome of their first encounter with the captain? Why did Mr. Spock have to do what he did when the Talosians, who were evidently able to project their illusions as far as Starbase 11, could have, by their own machinations, brought Christopher Pike to Talos IV? Why did Christopher Pike keep signaling "No" in response to Spock's actions but then reverse himself when the Enterprise finally settled into orbit around Talos IV? All these problems in The Menagerie betray its origins as nothing more than a vehicle for presenting the footage filmed for The Cage.

Who watches the watchers? The crew of the USS Enterprise from The Menagerie watches the crew of the USS Enterprise from The Cage. Meanwhile, the Talosians (off-screen) are watching everyone. And we, the audience, are watching them all

On a positive note, The Menagerie further develops Mr. Spock's character as well as his relationship with Dr. McCoy; we are treated to Mr. Spock braving the death penalty so that his former commander can live out his days unfettered by his broken body and it is Dr. McCoy who vigorously defends Mr. Spock when Captain Kirk voices doubts about his honesty concerning recent events.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Star Trek: The Carbomite Maneuver

This article was first posted on September 3, 2010. It is presented in its entirety with some minor changes.

The Enterprise's crew encounters the flagship of the "First Federation" that is crewed by an alien being, Balok, who falls prey to possibly the worst bluff in the history of bad bluffs. To escape certain death, Captain Kirk claims that the Enteprise has incorporated into it something called Carbomite, which he describes as being both a material and a device which guarantees mutually assured destruction should anyone attack them.


Just what is this supposed to mean?

And just how did this bluff work on anyone possessing more than two neurons to rub together?

It's a good thing that Harry Mudd wasn't along for this voyage of the USS Enterprise, otherwise, he probably would have introduced the people of the "FirstFederation" to poker and cleaned those suckers out and touched off an interstellar incident.

The Carbomite Maneuver is noteworthy for something else besides Captain Kirk saving the day through the use of a bluff so unbelievably that it might as well be classified as a deus ex machina. For one thing, it's one of the few episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series where the Enterprise's crew actually venture off to where no man has gone before.

It also posits that an alien civilization that is advanced enough to be capable of space-flight must also be capable of understanding and appreciating the Enterprise's mission of peace.

In light of the Enterprise crew's later run-ins with the Romulans and Klingons, not to mention the Gorn, this seems like a pretty naive position to take.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Star Trek: Dagger of the Mind

This article was first posted on September 1, 2010. It is presented in its entirety with some minor changes.

I have a problem with this episode. Just what motive did Dr. Adams have for doing what he did? Was it megalomania? Was he trying to make a better world (or universe, in this case)? Was it hubris? Was he convinced that he had arrived at the method of rehabilitating criminal minds? Was he just bat-shit crazy? We, the viewers, aren't given an inkling of what motivated him to build the neural neutralizer and begin turning it on whoever happened to draw his ire.

Dr. Adams, villain of the week. What's his motivation for the evil acts he perpetrates in this episode? Did his parents not buy him a puppy to love and to hold when he was a boy? Is he just bat-shit crazy? Inquiring minds want to know!

This is probably one of the weaker of the early Star Trek: The Original Series episodes. The villain is nothing more than a two-dimensional caricature, doing evil simply for the sake of being evil. Its one saving grace is Marianna Hill, who plays the ridiculously beautiful Dr. Helen Noel, whom Dr. McCoy mischievously assigns as Kirk's assistant, knowing the two had "met" at a Christmas party. Even the stoic Mr. Spock seems to check her out when he and Kirk meet up with her in the Enterprise's transporterroom.

Dr. Helen Noel, eye candy of the week

I can't say that I blame him.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Alien: The Director's Cut

This article was first posted on August 30, 2010. It is presented in its entirety with some minor changes.

I have mixed feelings about Alien: TheDirector's Cut. On one hand, the insertion of never before seen footage provides us with a perspective on the life cycle of the Alien different from the Alien as social insect analogue used in Aliens. On the other hand, the insertion of the footage interferes with the taut pacing of the original, especially when one considers when in the sequence of events leading up to the film's climax Ripley discovers the Alien's nest in the Nostromo; the atmosphere is one of urgency after Ripley finds Parker's and Lambert's mutilated bodies and subsequently initiates the Nostromo's self-destruct sequence and it is during her almost frenzied rush to the Nostromo's lifeboat/shuttle that she discovers the nest and spends valuable minutes that she can ill afford to lose (given the self-destruct mechanism's ten minute timer) exploring the nest and euthanizing, for lack of a better word, Dallas and Brett, who she finds cocooned and slowly metamorphosing into Alien eggs. Had she found the nest prior to initiating the Nostromo's self-destruct sequence, the inclusion of this scene may have worked. In its present place, it detracts from the urgency of Ripley's plight.

Be that as it may, details of the Alien life cycle presented in this scene give us a tantalizing glimpse of what may have been had this footage not been excised in the original theatrical release. The first sequel, Aliens, would have certainly been different, since there wouldn't have been an Alien queen to act as Ripley's foil. Speaking of Aliens, the more I've watched Alien (either the original theatrical release or the director's cut), the more dissatisfied I've grown with its sequel. My primary gripe is on differences in the way the Alien was portrayed in the two films; in the first film, the Alien is an ambush predator that establishes a perch from which it slowly and stealthily approaches its victims before seizing them and dragging them to its lair where they can be cocooned; in the second film, the ambush predator is no more and we are treated to the Alien as a target amongst many in a shooting gallery, which, to be fair, is probably consistent with the vision of the Alien as social insect presented in the film.

Frankly, I prefer the vision of the Alien presented in the original film. To quote the android, Ash: [The Alien is a] perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility. [It is] a survivor... unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.

This vision of the Alien didn't survive the transition from the original film to the sequel and, frankly, I think it's a pity.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Where I Discuss Serenity

This article was first posted on August 29, 2010. It is presented in its entirety with some minor changes.

I wasn't a big fan of Serenity when I first saw it, and I'm afraid I'm still not a fan. Watching Serenity (the Firefly pilot) and Serenity (the Firefly movie) back to back merely served to highlight all the gripes I had about Serenity (the Firefly movie). The television pilot (and series) featured an ensemble cast and while the movie started off that way, it eventually turned into Buffy the Vampire Slayer (or, in this case, River the Reaver Slayer) and a bunch of people who she magnanimously puts up with. It didn't help that Malcolm Reynolds, the only other strong character in the movie, seemed to have undergone a complete personality shift somewhere in between Objectsin Space (the last episode in the series) and Serenity (the Firefly movie). In fact, I found Mal's personality shift so jarring that I almost felt I wasn't watching the original Firefly cast but their Mirror Universe counterparts.

I could have forgiven the inconsistencies in Mal's characterization in the movie as opposed to the series (after all, a bit of time was supposed to have passed and people do change) but I really found the resolution of River's story arc to be really difficult to stomach. I may be in the minority here but I find the concept of omnipotent and omniscient heroes to be, well, boring. During the series, while it was obvious that River had some unique and powerful abilities, the fact that she was off in la-la land half the time prevented her from being too obtrusive. Once she was "cured" of her psychological ailments, she became...boring. And obtrusive. And speaking of how she was "cured", it was simply too neat and tidy: River sees a holographic recording of Ms. Exposition describe how an entire planetful of people just decided to lay down and die, how the Reavers came to be and after witnessing the bloody climax of the recording (Ms. Exposition getting raped and eaten alive by a Reaver), River purges her demons by vomiting against a nearby wall after which she declares: "I'm alright...I'm alright". Huh? What? This was most unsatisfying considering everything that she and Simon went through during the course of Firefly's fourteen episodes.

Yeah, we get it. She's cured. And a total badass now

Personally, I think the movie would have been much more satisfying had River died; if she had simply closed the blast doors, tossed Simon's medical kit through the doors before they closed and then gotten killed by the Reavers, the movie would have been much better. We would have been spared the rather difficult to swallow scenes of her wading through the Reavers and piling their corpses up like cordwood and River sacrificing herself to save her brother and the others would have been very poignant, on par with Spock sacrificing himself to save the Enterprise and her crew in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Her dying to save her brother would also have lent thematic symmetry to their story arc. And more important of all, we would have been spared the exchange between River and Mal at the film's end where we realize that she can essentially do everything that everyone on the crew can (and probably do a better job of it) which leaves us with the question of what purpose they serve now.

Spock saves the Enterprise and its crew in a selfless act of heroism

Of course, having River die in Serenity probably would not have sat well with many Firefly fans, especially since almost a third of the original cast ended up getting killed off in the film. River dying probably would have resulted in grief-stricken Firefly fans converging upon JossWhedon's home with torches and pitchforks in hand and bloody vengeance in their hearts. However, I find nothing wrong with the idea of the hero dying in a story. I thought the Star Trek moviefranchise would have been much better had Spock stayed dead in the aftermath of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (if anything, it could have opened up some interesting story-lines about how Kirk and the rest of the crew dealt with their grief and eventually got on with their lives) and I thought Lethal Weapon 2 would have been a much better movie had Riggs died in Murtaugh's arms. There's nothing wrong with the hero dying, either in the act of saving the lives of others or avenging a loved one.

If anything, it's heroic.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Star Trek: Miri

This article was first posted on August 24, 2010. It is presented in its entirety with some minor changes.

If science fiction captures the concerns and fears prevalent in the era in which it was written, I can only come to the conclusion that people in the mid-60's were scared shitless of children.

In Miri, they are everywhere. And these aren't just normal children.

Think children raised by wolves are bad? Think again. Children raised by children are even scarier. At least, I assume that's how people felt in the 60's. Or at least that's what the writers felt. I can only assume that they were parents.

Frankly, if children were anything like how they were portrayed in Miri, I'd be scared of children, too. The children in Miri are not just obnoxiously disobedient, they even have a penchant for violence and murder.

What's that?

The children didn't kill anyone in this episode?

Apparently, denial isn't just a riverin Egypt. You can't tell me that they learned that bonking someone on the head with an object with some heft to it (like, say, a hammer) is an efficacious means of depriving them of life just by reading it in a book. For one thing, I doubt those little savages could read. No, rest assured, they learned all that through experience.

300 years of murderous experience.

Bonk bonk on the head! Bonk bonk! Bonk bonk! The head being bonked is Kirk's

Besides the interesting views on children that must have been held by this episode's writers, Miri is notable for being the first of the "another Earth" episodes. However, this angle isn't used to its full potential and it really wouldn't make any difference to the story if it were expunged. Also of interest is the continuing evolution of the Kirk-Spock-McCoy triumvirate; Spock and McCoy go at it like an old married couple but I'm not sure if their catty exchanges really count since McCoy was going mad due to the effects of an alien plague. Spock continues to display emotion and a dry sense of humor. And Janice Rand reveals to Kirk that she's been trying to get him to check out her gams for quite some time. I bet she's embarrassed she let that slip out. I guess the take-home lesson of all this is, if you're going to contract a killer virus that makes you go mad and causes you to reveal your embarrassing secret longings, avoid hanging around people about whom you have those embarrassing secret longings.

Yeoman Rand finally gets Kirk to notice her, although not under the best of circumstances

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Star Trek: What Are Little Girls Made Of?

This article was first posted on August 18, 2010. It is presented in its entirety with some minor changes.

Star Trek: The Original Series begins to hit its stride with What Are Little Girls Made Of? Here are almost all the elements of what became synonymous with Star Trek: Plenty of action and Kirk being willing to jump into bed with just about anyone or anything in order to save the Enterprise, all wrapped up in a thought provoking science-fiction wrapper. The only thing missing is the spirited bickering between Spock and McCoy; for some reason, McCoy is completely absent in this episode.

Phaser fight! What more could you ask for in a Star Trek episode?

Unfortunately, What Are Little GirlsMade Of? also features something that was over-used in Star Trek: The Original Series: Kirk using rather simplistic logic to discombobulate supposedly sophisticated artificial intelligences. One has to wonder if the original programmers of all these computerized villains that Kirk dealt with during Star Trek's three seasons ever passed Computer Science 101; when Kirk started pushing their buttons, the artificial intelligences that the Enterprise's crew encountered usually ended up revealing themselves to be just about as sophisticated as Joseph Weizenbaum's Eliza.

What are little girls made of? I'd certainly like to know since I'd like to make me some of this! I'm referring, of course, to the naughty looking brunette with the barely there outfit, not the Lurch look-alike with the shaved head

What's particularly annoying in this episode are the contradictions inherent in what ultimately causes Roger Korby, Nurse Chapel's fiance and the episode's villain, to immolate himself and his delicious little fembot assistant, Andrea, at phaser-point; Kirk manages to manipulate Andrea and Ruk, Korby's hulking brute of an android bodyguard, into acting in emotional, almost human, ways and he even points this out to Korby to refute the latter's claim that an android society would be free of human foibles and the mayhem that often accompanies them. However, Korby's stated reason for killing himself and Andrea is that neither of them is human, Andrea because she is simply an android (albeit an incredibly sexy one) and himself because the human Korby died a long time ago, leaving behind a robotic copy that ostensibly carries his soul. Given that what triggers Korby's act of murder-suicide is Andrea throwing herself at him offering him her love (a decidedly human act), it's difficult to understand his reasoning.

But maybe that's the point.

After all, murder-suicide is hardly the act of a rational man and maybe Roger Korby's irrational reasoning was intentional.


Kirk prepares to open up a can of whoopass on a homocidal android using a...giant stone dildo?!?! How the hell did this make it past the censors?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Star Trek: Mudd's Women

This article was first posted on August 17, 2010. It is presented in its entirety with some minor changes.

Like The Enemy Within, Mudd's Women reflects the mores of the era in which it was written. In this case, the mores in question deal with the characteristics of the ideal wife; apparently, back in the 1960's, the ideal wife was someone who looked as if they could have been cast from the same mold as Marilyn Monroe or Mamie Van Doren with the ability to cook and sew being desirable perks.

I'm not making this up!

Besides the rather quaint image of the perfect wife presented by this episode, it seems that not only have values come full circle (or come many circles) from the 1960's to the 23rd century, but the business of providing of mail order brides to wealthy and desperately lonely men seems to be alive and well in the world of Star Trek. Women are bought and sold or, in this case, traded for dilithium crystals, and no one seems to bat an eye. Kirk seems more upset that the owners of the dilithium crystals are striking a hard bargain rather than the fact that what they're bargaining for is the right to marry the eponymous Mudd's women.

"Harry" Mudd, 23rd century matchmaker...or 23rd century human trafficker

As with many of the earlier episodes, Spock, displays a scandalous (for a Vulcan) amount of emotion, smirking mischievously as he observes the effect that Mudd's women have on the Enterprise's crew; because of the Venus Drug that the women have ingested, every male member of the Enterprise crew ends up being so hypnotized by their ass-ets that they practically need to be hosed down with cold water to break the spell the women have on them.

Mudd's women showing off their assets