Monday, April 13, 2015

Short Treks Season 2.5

“Friday’s Child”
December 1, 1967
Mom Title: “Leonard James Akaar” 

What D.C Fontana did for Spock in the last episode, she does for Bones in this adventure.

The big three beam down alone.

OK, technically they beam down with a Redshirt, who doesn’t make the opening credits after being hit with a throwing knife containing a slide whistle.

In any case, this time around, McCoy is the one with previous contact experience and expertise on the culture.  While the three of them always function as equal part friends and a highly effective military combination, Bones gets most of the awesome moments on Capella.

“I’m a Doctor, that’s how I know.” 
(And he’s also not an escalator.)

To work with this warlike culture, the good Doctor displays the perfect combination of toughness and compassion.  He even managed to succeed in a situation where he thought he failed.  After Eleen bashes him in the head he dejectedly claims,
“I guess I'll forget psychiatry, stick with surgery. I really thought she'd learned to want it.”

What he doesn’t see is her lying when she turns herself in to the new Teer, claiming she had killed them all, and wanted to be taken to her tent to die.  Bones did convince her to love the child, whom she protected according to her cultural mindset by sacrificing herself and leaving the baby in the care of those she knew would care for him.

It must have been a major let down to male audiences when the actress who made a skin tight cat suit famous on another Bat-Channel during that time showed up in highly conservative attire. Considering the microscopic costumes Bill Theiss designed for most female guest stars, it seems like a lost opportunity. 
Since it was Julie Newmar, she was still a knockout in a full cover up gown and pregnancy make up anyway.

The Captain once more displays excellent leadership skills.   Kirk basically taunts McCoy into succeeding at delivering a baby, as well as getting his First Officer to do the impossible…


Spock turns the communicators into a weapon.  It’s highly fortunate they recovered those communicators, following a plan far too complicated to figure out for filming.  Kirk’s own munitions creating capabilities seem to have dropped off a bit, however.
All he can come up with is a bow and arrows - unlike while facing the Gorn, when he built a bazooka.  He may be a magnificent commander, but he’s a horrendous lookout.  Eleen had to have walked right by him. How does any man not notice Julie Newmar?

Still, he makes a much better Klingon than the second representative of that race we meet.  No wonder this captain didn’t make the all-star team with Kor, Koloth and Kang.  He’s lame, unassuming, and sleazy. Heck, Julie Newmar is a better Klingon than Kras.

Yeah, he’s crass alright. Kras doesn’t even earn enough respect to be called anything but “Klingon” until his name is in the closing credits.   He fell down and twisted his ankle walking on a rocky path.  That’s not a ship captain, that’s the victim in a cheap horror movie.

It makes sense that he’s pretty much useless.  The planet has a mineral used for non-combat purposes, and the enemy vessel the Enterprise encounters is a scout ship, not a battle cruiser. If the Empire sent one of their real honorable starship commanders and warriors to Capella, the violent yet noble culture would have signed on in a minute.

Hey, why was the Redshirt able to pull a phaser and Kirk and company able to fight hand to hand with Kras?  The Organians were taking a nap, maybe?    See kids, this is why it’s a bad idea to “magically” prevent all contact with the main antagonists of the series.  Continuity crumbles in the face of storytelling.  Either that or the Organians lied and are part of the vast energy being conspiracy invading from another galaxy.

Up on the ship, we see Scotty prove once more that even the third in command of the Enterprise is a better captain than any Federation ship has that we’ve seen.  Chekov also displays the abilities of a crack science officer.  WHY couldn’t we have had him serving as first officer on the series Captain Sulu’s Excelsior?   It’s not fair.

As for the ending and Spock’s reaction to the reveal of “Leonard James Akaar” -

“I think you're both going to be insufferably pleased with yourselves for at least a month. Sir.”
Oh yeah, Mr. Vulcan Man, you’ve got those emotions completely under control.

Oochie Woochie Coochie Coo indeed.

“The Deadly Years”
Air Date: December 8, 1967
Mom Title: “Old Age”

This little trip to Gamma Hydra IV is a rare one.  The reason for its rareness is that it’s an episode that causes me to say, “I love this one,” that isn’t a comedy.  It’s simply that well done.

Sure there is what looks like some standard failure to think moments, but even these are handled better than most instances.  The top four officers beam down to a planet with no biological protections whatsoever. Since this is an established colony that made contact an hour before, it makes far more sense than when they explore a strange new world like that. Granted it might have been a good idea to institute some sort of quarantine when they came back after finding the colonists dead or aged.  Good thing it wasn’t contagious…again.

An expendable crewmember beams down with them, but she wears blue to buck another trend. 
Chekov comes too, and screams again, but it turns out to be useful this time. It’s still unusual, though.  You’d think even a junior officer on a space exploration mission wouldn’t get that rattled by an old dead guy. It’s also one of the few Second Season outings with both him and Sulu, providing some comic relief in the darker parts of the story. Yay!

Then there’s Stocker. Based on performances of other Commodores and Ambassadors, believing him to be the text book case of the incompetent “chair bound paper-pusher” can be forgiven. 

The thing with Commodore Stocker, however, is he isn’t the typical arrogant butthead who is unworthy of command.  Just about everything he says is correct, and he even out logics Spock to prove his point about Kirk’s declining potential.  He also knows he isn’t worthy of Starship command.  As the only choice, his goal is to take the conn only long enough to get them to Starbase 10 where the suddenly geriatric officers can receive the best treatment.  Kirk’s belief that the solution required them to be near or on Gamma Hydra IV turns out to be wrong anyway.

Granted, every galactic map and Neutral Zone drawing shows the United Federation of Planets as a circle, with the Romulan Empire along the outer perimeter of the right side edge. (Galactic Center up, naturally.)  Even allowing for some wiggliness at the edge, the Starbases are not right at the border, but further in for defensive reasons. This means it is completely impossible to have the quickest route from any point within the Federation to any other point pass through Romulan space.  Stocker is a competent, intelligent and sensible high level officer, but he sucks at planar geometry.

The cast looked to be having a field day playing older.  They all age much worse in this story than they did in real life.  That probably explains why the movies showed a much more positive look at maturing.    This one focuses more on the tragic side.

Scotty, the old engineer, just wants to be left alone to work.

McCoy normally acts old and cranky, but amps that up.  His mind must be slowed down, because he cured almost the same thing in “Miri” when stuck on a planet with minimal tools while threatened by an angry mob.

Spock retains more of his faculties than the others. That’s probably why he’s the one that remembers Chekov left. Of course the cure still requires the three of them working together.  As the least affected, he’s also the only one self-aware enough to realize that he is declining, and therefore could not take command, even when ordered to.  Kirk had it together enough at that point to try to order Spock to take over, but his self-knowledge rapidly fades with his faculties.

Before continuing the sad part of the Captain’s degeneration, a question:  Was his past fling with Doctor Janet Wallace before, after or between Ruth and Carol Marcus.  Cadet Kirk certainly had a thing for blonde scientists, didn’t he?

Kirk still constantly speaks in command tones, even when he can’t remember things.  That is the tragedy of aging and the most depressing part when someone starts to lose it that this story illustrates so well.  The other bridge crew members play the parts of family members having to deal with these issues perfectly.  It starts with their gentle but sad reminder efforts when Kirk Makes mistakes on the bridge. 
Even Spock looks completely crestfallen when the Captain falls asleep in his chair. The culmination comes at Kirk’s hearing where Sulu and Uhura desperately and heartbreakingly come to accept that they can’t defend him anymore and he is no longer the man they can unquestionably follow.

If this episode ended as a tragedy, or even with, “Whew, that was a lucky medical save, good thing nothing bad happened,” it would be far too depressing to rank as a favorite.

However, from the darkest depths of watching a loved one lose who they are and become a shadow of their former selves, “The Deadly Years” rises to one of the most Awesome Trek moments ever. 

Honestly, I’m surprised the attack on the Enterprise didn’t generate enough adrenaline in Kirk to cure him.  That must be why he recovered so rapidly.  When he enters the bridge, despite being hopelessly surrounded by ten Romulan Birds of Prey, one of which gave them a heck of a battle last season, the officers are all grinning like they hit the lottery.

There are a couple fantastic moments when the Captain starts transmitting about Corbomite over the broken Code II.  He and Spock lock eyes, and the first officer gives an approving nod. Meanwhile, over at the helm and navigation station, Sulu’s grin gets impossibly bigger, and he shoots the newly arrived Chekov an undeniable, “Watch this!” look.  Yes, this is further proof that all explanations for Khan knowing Chekov don’t work, but it’s cool so it’s OK.

Kirk orders the Enterprise back into Federation space at Warp 8!  Maximum safe speed for short periods, says the Starfleet Technical Manual geek.  At this point, Kirk is truly back to his old self as he is blatantly showing off for both Commodore Stocker and Doctor Janet Wallace.  It was established that Birds of Prey only have sub-light impulse engines.  Once they weren’t surrounded by ten plasma torpedo armed vessels, they could have left them in the dust at Warp 2.  

Air Date: December 15, 1967
Mom Title: “Vampire Cloud”

For the second time in a row, Spock and Bones talk about relieving Kirk of command.  This time it isn’t because he’s losing his faculties, but because he seems to be acting like Commodore Decker did recently.  The big difference here is Captain Kirk is both correct and awesome.   In other words, this time during, “Moby Dick in Space,” Ahab wins.

This episode has a little bit of everything that makes Second Season Trek great:  planet side scenes, The Enterprise chasing an enemy through space, the Big Three leaning on each other to pull through a crisis, character moments  for the other command crew members, and a parade of Redshirts getting mowed down.

Poor Lieutenant Leslie is one of those Redshirts, what a shame, after all the adventures he made it through so far.  Oddly so is composer Basil Poledouris long before he’d write the greatest orchestral score in history: Conan the Barbarian.

Watching the Big Three at odds illustrates the workings of their relationship.  When the Captain shuts himself off from the valuable input of the other two, he doesn’t function properly. Similarly, they are far less effective without him acting as a mediator. Instead of directly asking for McCoy’s advice, Spock pretends he “doesn’t understand human emotion.” Meanwhile, the Vulcan went to talk to Garrovick on his own, showing he understands emotion just fine.  

Bones has the opposite of one of Spock’s “Jim Moments” during the Captains antics.  Calling Kirk, “Commander” illustrates he’s speaking as the Chief Medical Officer of a military vessel, and not as a friend at that point.

Kirk pulls himself back together using his normal methods. Besides the “Captain’s Log” he’s also maintaining a “Personal Log.”   Basically, “Dear Diary, Am I crazy?”

Usually asking the question means no, but pushing the Enterprise to above Warp 8 made it questionable.  Dropping it back to Maximum Safe Cruising Speed (Warp 6, for those that haven’t memorized the ship’s stats…for shame.) before Scotty has an aneurysm tipped the needle back to the sane side. 
The Enterprise being directly threatened by the cloud fully snapped the Captain back to being his normal supreme commander and father figure.

Once they all synch up again, the Big Three work properly. Spock’s explanation why an idea was impossible gave Kirk the plan of how to defeat it.  Of course the Captain wasn’t going to sacrifice himself to blow up the cloud, he doesn’t believe in the “No Win Scenario.”
He apparently also doesn’t believe in the “No Drama Scenario.”  Why didn’t they beam the bait down to the planet and detonate it from orbit? The sensors could find the cloud by that point.  I know they said it was out of time synch when they shot at it, but it looked a great deal more like the cloud made a hole for the phaser to pass through.

Interesting Character Notes:

While Kirk is more lenient towards enemies that are like him, he is far more critical of underlings who share his traits.  Garrovick has the same headstrong nature, fueled by caring about the safety of the other crew men. Also, though he is security, the 3D Chess set in his room illustrates he is more than dumb muscle.

Nurse Chapel’s trick to get the sulking ensign to eat proves you don’t mess with ANY member of the Enterprise crew when their duty relates to the well-being of other members.  She also shows that Kirk isn’t the only one with devastating bluffing abilities.

Final question:  Is there really ANY situation, including an invading vampire space cloud, where flushing radioactive waste through the air conditioning system would be a good idea?  The Federation Office of Health and Safety must have been defunded in favor of exploration long ago.

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