Monday, April 20, 2015

Short Treks Season 2.6


“Wolf in the Fold”
Air Date: December 22, 1967
Mom Title: “Redjac! Redjac!”



Hey, Lieutenant Leslie is much less dead than he looked last time.  That’s…odd.

We haven’t had a good horror tale in space for a while.  Turning to Robert “”Psycho” Bloch should do the trick.  (OK, maybe it didn’t for “Catspaw” but since he gave us “What are Little Girls Made Of” we’ll leave him in the good column.)

Besides, how many nightmares came from Piglet laughing and drunkenly yelling “Kill you all?”
That had to have screwed up a large number of kids.

Technically, this is mostly a Holmes like murder mystery, if one ignores the “supernatural” culprit at the end. Curse those rotten non corporal energy creatures. 

Y’know, in every other television series, Hengist (Piglet) would have been the prime suspect from the outset.  Within the Federation, he’s just another butthead administrator.

Here we have a culture that doesn’t seem to produce any goods, has banned disagreeing with an industry that is blatantly exploitative and treats women like objects.  For some reason, Captain Kirk is far more respectful of the laws of this “stagnant” society than anywhere else he’s visited. 
I guess otherwise, he might have to leave. It is obvious that Jim knows this place intimately.  McCoy knows it just as well, and is responsible for “prescribing” a jaunt to “Brotheland” for Scotty.  I’d guess the two feathered strumpets that showed up with Bones on the “Shore Leave” planet were from the club he and Kirk reference at the end of this story.

Scotty is one hundred percent engineer, and looks goofier while enjoying the entertainments of Argelius than any other time we see him.  Poor guy, he actually seemed to request and enjoy shore leave before this story. Once he goes through the ringer, he’s content to stay on the Enterprise and read his technical journals.

The methods of ascertaining Scotty’s innocence are a multi leveled, mixed bag of bizarreness.  Once more there have been deaths in a straight line from one planet to another across the Federation that no one has noticed before.  Planar geometry is yet again the bane of Starfleet Command. 

The Argellian method of investigation includes a séance like object reading.  Spock scoffs at the ridiculousness of this idea. 

I’d like to state that last bit again for those not paying attention.  Spock, the pointy eared telepathic alien who’s logical culture is packed full of mysticism and ritual, scoffs at the possibility of a psychic ceremony producing results. 

He doesn’t even apologize when it works.

Then again, their methods also include leaving a suspected murderer alone and unrestrained with an unarmed woman.  Maybe they were trained in safety protocols by the federation.

In this case the Federation methods are much better.

They have a psycho-tricorder! 

A machine that reads minds and plays back memories!

HOLY CRAP! 

Honestly, I’m betting the Captain set that up with his officers as one of his trademark bluffs.  If they really had one, ninety percent of the other episodes would have been five minutes long.  Also they would have used it first when returning to the Enterprise. 
They overly play up the mind reading value of the computer, which turns out to be merely an encephalograph with a voice synthesizer and lights on it.   

While we’re investigating those high tech Enterprise computers, did anyone else notice that the machine has a linguistics bank that has absolutely no connection to any other data bank in the system?  Unless Spock gets bored playing 3D Chess with the computer and switches to Scrabble, I’m not sure how that is at all useful.

Luckily, the mathematical bank does connect to all the other systems. Even though Spock has the A7 computer rating, Kirk is the one who comes up with the “fry it with pi” method of stopping the insane machine…’cause that’s what he does.

It can’t infect anyone except the deceased Piglet, because McCoy has enough tranquilizers to send the entire crew to happy land. 

That’s rather a lot of goofy juice. Why would Bones stock that much? 

Because he’s the kind of Doctor that prescribes brothels, that’s why.

The evil energy being is finally beamed out into space…which technically shouldn’t kill a non corporeal energy being.  Note that this is not the only one we'll meet that feeds off negative emotions, perhaps it comes back.  Considering those energy creatures affect thoughts, this may explain the whole “planet run by outsiders” story they use to explain Hengist’s being there. 
The Prefect, who is a native, looks to be the final authority and guy running the show.  The conspiracy grows

Yes, this episode is never going to win any awards for diversity or feminism.  There is a bit of female retaliation, though, via stenographer Yeoman Tankris.  While she’s taking notes with pen and paper, which may explain the inadequacies of the linguistics bank, Spock comes out with this gem of logical enlightenment:

“Women are more easily and more deeply terrified, generating more sheer horror than the male of the species.”

The young clerk shoots the Vulcan science officer what can only be described as an epic stink eye.



“The Trouble with Tribbles”
Air Date December 29, 1967
Mom Title: Really?

The iconic Star Trek comedy, helped to achieve greatness by some fortunate unavailabilities.

George Takei still filming The Green Berets gave Chekov another center stage moment. The excitable and ethnocentric ensign fits into the story much better.  His initial progress review made more sense for exposition than Sulu’s botany background would have allowed, while his hot blooded nature was a better foil for the Klingon’s antics.  His double take when Scotty switches his drink is a single example of the comic chops he brings to the episode.

Kor, from “Errand of Mercy,” was supposed to come back, but John Colicos couldn’t, giving us the highly entertaining William Campbell as Koloth.  Kor was far too evil a character to be able to shift into the playfulness and banter required for this story.  
Michael Pataki imbued Korax; Koloth’s second in command, with enough rancor and bile to keep up the species reputation. However, by not being the one fully in charge, allowed the light tone to remain.  Koloth, though far goofier than most of his race, still shows a tough and resourceful side when challenged. In deference to Kor, however, all Klingons now sport facial hair.

The initial warning from Admiral Fitzpatrick at the outset concerning Kirk taking responsibility for Station K-7 and the Quadrotriticale meant despite the zaniness, real drama was connected to the outcome of the mission.

Nils Barris is, of course, the greatest horse’s patootie out of a large collection of Federation administrative horse’s patooties.  He also highlights the failures of Starfleet background checks spectacularly with his hiring of Klingon agent Arne Darvin.  It is only Mr. Spock’s excellent emotional control, over both himself, and his Captain, that keeps the Undersecretary from being decked immediately in his opening scene.  Kirk still ends up needing a drink.

In the beginning, at least, this could have easily been a much more serious episode, if it wasn’t for William Shatner clearly having the time of his life.

Though once the brilliant and hysterical bar fight and its aftermath come up, any hopes of seriousness are happily vaporized.

The greatest part about those scenes is that they are completely in character for everyone involved.  Scotty is no longer thrilled about shore leave, due to his recent experiences on Argelius. He’s a typical, old engineer, who just wants to be left alone with his technical data and his drink…until his work gets insulted.  Interestingly, the Organians completely ignore yet another physical confrontation with the Klingons.  Unless Koloth really is Trelane in disguise screwing with his old playmates, the Organians don’t seem to care about their peace treaty at all.

As the farce builds, everyone takes it up a notch; the verbal sparring between Bones and Spock reaches new heights, with the Vulcan first officer actually tossing in an ear joke by the end. By this point in the series, they’d all worked together long enough to develop perfect comic timing. 
And…Lieutenant Leslie is still back at security, and still far less dead than he appeared a couple stories ago.  Maybe he grew new blood?


Everyone gets moments in this one.  A rare sighting of Uhura away from the bridge is highlighted with much toughness by the lady herself as she acidly reminds the captain,
“And how often do I get shore leave?”
Do not mess with the Communications Officer.

Her moment away ends directly after the tribble purchase scene, where Nichelle Nichols amazing acting ability convinced the entire world a dyed cotton ball is loveable and adorable. Immediately thereafter, she and Chekov are back on the bridge to note the arrival of Koloth’s D-7 battle cruiser.
(Which can now be seen, thank you remastering!) That has to be the shortest shore leave in history. 

Cyrano Jones is much more of an opportunist than a schemer like Harry Mudd, but he’s still far more of a Doctor Who character than a Trek one.  Amazing, that Federation money only shows up when scoundrels and thieves are about.  Money may be the root of all evil, but it looks to remain a necessary one into the 23rd century If Harry, Cyrano and the Bartender are any indication.

Starfleet protocols continue to be top notch.  No one thinks to do anything about the Tribbles until they have taken over the entire ship.  Perhaps they were waiting for Kirk’s controlled, yet gut busting delivery of,
"My chicken sandwich and coffee. This is my chicken sandwich and coffee," with appropriate slow burn.

Bill was clearly having way too much fun.  You can see the glee coming from both the actor and the character using Tribbles as a Klingon Detector.  I wonder if “Tribble Boarding” is outlawed by the Federation equivalent of the Geneva Convention.

The finale tidies up the entire story, and reflects the tone as well. It also may be the only episode where the bridge full of mirth as the credits roll is everyone laughing together, rather than at the expense of one of their shipmates.

It missed qualifying as my favorite, most likely due to the fact that it’s everyone’s favorite, and I’m kind of a jerk about things like that.
I do find it well deserving being used as the 30th Anniversary celebration episode.   It’s also probably the adventure I most often quote in my everyday life.

Most episodes have a line or two I used as topic sentences in high school essays, such as "Too much of anything… even love, isn't necessarily a good thing."

There are two different quotes from this one, however, that have wormed far deeper into my personal and professional lives.

I’ve used Spock’s shooting down of his protégés humor often enough that non geek relatives had no idea where thy came from. 

A crowning personal moment was when I used Chekov’s description of an attempt at humor that “I was making a little joke,” was answered by my cousin with,
“Extremely little.”

Let it be known that she is decidedly anti Sci-Fi; in fact she’s NEVER SEEN Star Wars
Yes, I know it’s a family embarrassment.

The other quote was a rare occasion of working a Star Trek line into an actual professional business situation.  An uppity and overly self-absorbed and self-important marketing product manager was displeased with my attempting to bring lightness to a meeting addressing critical technical issues in order to keep the team’s confidence up.  I am quite proud to state that I was able to address his accusations without missing a step using:

"On the contrary, sir. I think of this project as very important. It is you I take lightly."

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