Monday, January 19, 2015

Short Treks Season 1.2

“The Enemy Within”
Air Date: October 6, 1966
Mom Title:  “Good and Bad Kirk”

Yet another early episode with a plot straight out of EC Horror Comics. This one is a particularly disturbing take on the Jekyll and Hyde story, where Jekyll not only has to stand face to face with Hyde, but acknowledge the need for him as well.

Or at least acknowledge the need to the personality type required to command a starship.  I’m guessing that learning that the violent, horny and drunk side is the primary component of Captain Kirk’s effectiveness may be a key reason as to Janice Rand jumping ship.

The first glimpse of Captain’s Log weirdness happens in this story.  Good/Wimpy Kirk records a log indicating that “Unknown at this time” his double beamed aboard.  Well, if it was unknown, how are you logging it?

As the cat and mouse game between Captains goes on, we get another detailed tour through the Enterprise.  Not all the action is aboard ship though. Poor Sulu and company are stuck down on planet Alpha 177.  Apparently all the Shuttlecraft are having an oil change that week, because the transporter malfunction leaves them stranded.  They nearly die because of Starfleet’s, once again, fantastically inadequate preparation protocols.   On a planet where night temperatures reach a hundred and twenty below zero, they only beamed down with divisionally color coded bed sheets in the survival packs.  Sulu continues to show his awesomeness by making jokes about lowering coffee on a long rope, but he spends the rest of the series much happier when he’s in the Helmsman’s chair than a landing party.

A Star Trek mystery is solved here.  “Bad” Kirk covers up the scratches on his face with make-up found in his own cabin.  That explains why the Captain always looks like he’s wearing eye shadow.

“Mudd’s Women”
Air Date: October 13, 1966
Mom Title: “Harry Mudd and, um… his Women”

This is one of the earliest filmed ones; seen through referencing Lithium instead of dilithuim and Vulcanian instead of Vulcan (both of which we’ll let go). Also Uhura is wearing gold (which I’ll have an explanation for in a couple more episodes). Mostly everything else in this episode is normal, and it’s finally a “western in space” complete with prospectors, mail order brides for the frontier, and a snake oil salesman.  Speaking of which, Harry Mudd is awesome.

It’s kind of amazing Harry Mudd is in this series at all. He doesn’t quite fit.  Personally, I think he’s much more like a character from Doctor Who; not the main enemy, just a bit of extra confusion and a foil to cross paths in the tale.

Some general “Hey- cool thing!” moments:
It’s the first time Majel Barrett voices as the computer, which had to confuse first time viewers after seeing and hearing Nurse Chapel two weeks before.

The vampy music for the ladies gets used later for gangsters in “Piece of the Action.”

Speaking of those ladies, Spock’s grin when he brings them to Kirk’s cabin, and pretty much all of his expressions at other crewmen’s flustering over them are priceless.  I guess he can control all his emotions except snarkiness.

It’s kind of a shame Uhura stayed in the background for this one, her reactions to the women would have been even better.  Although, since she was better looking than they were, keeping her out of the story was probably a wise decision.

Those were some impressive placebo pills, weren’t they?  Self-esteem, plus hair styling and make-up all in a capsule form.  Really, women don’t need those things; guys are stupid enough on our own.

Considering what Mudd pulls in this episode and his later appearances, Kirk’s usual reaction would be to kill him, or at least beat the tar out of him.  He doesn’t, because this is the first time we get to see the Captain meet an adversary that’s like himself. Those get treated differently.

Despite all their differences, their combined delivery of a line in the pill reveal scene illustrates their bond. 

"There's only one kind of woman."
 "Or man, for that matter."
 "You either believe in yourself, or you don't."

Jim and Harry are clearly the former.

“What are Little Girls Made Of?”
October 20, 1966
Mom Title: “Robot Kirk and Lurch”

Wow, another double of the Captain story.  Star Trek clumps some times.

The Spock-Uhura romance progresses here.  Once she finishes kidding Chapel about swooning girlie stuff, she casts a long and meaningful look at her pointy eared beau.

The Trek standards start to come into play here. The first red shirt bites it, for one.  Kirk uses a secret previously undefined signal to tip the hand to Spock.  And, of course, the good Captain fools around with a robot.

Amazingly the culture far beyond 24th Century technology couldn’t build androids as good as Data, though they do have the same emotion contradictions the Enterprise D positronic brained crewman has.

I guess the robots were as high tech as possible, considering they were created using 1990’s radio station patch bay technology.  

And the prize for “Scene that would be disturbing in any other context” goes to:
Captain Kirk wielding a giant obscenely shaped Styrofoam stalactite attacking Lurch in a dress right after he spoke in a female voice.

Air Date: October 27, 1966
Mom Title: “Kim Darby and Michael J. Pollard say Bonk Bonk on the Head”

The first time the Enterprise stumbles upon an exact replica of the Earth.  This probably became much less surprising later on.

The Starfleet disease protection protocols still suck, placing the landing party into the medically driven plot problem of the week.  With the antagonists as children (or at least pretending to be children) the predicament is at once stupid and terrifying.

We get a glimpse at Spock’s tortured upbringing when he flashes back to when he was constantly teased as a youth for not being a full Vulcan.  I am basing this on his horrified look at the Onlies chant of, “Nyah Nyah!” 
Perhaps I am looking too deeply into things.

A couple of interesting points about McCoy finding the cure:

The first is that for all his cantankerous complaining that he needed the ship’s computer, he saved the day without it…because he’s awesome.

The second is that Janice Rand is actively working with McCoy on developing the serum, until Kirk sends her away.  Add that to her taking the Helm back in “The Naked Time” and her speech that she always tried to get Kirk to notice her legs, and it certainly makes it look like she goes out of her way to impress the Captain by pretending to be the dumb blonde.

Note that when she talks about it, there’s no indication that Kirk ever noticed her legs, which is a far cry from the reputation he’ll develop. Again, I have a theory about that, which we’ll get to in the next episode.

Kirk continues to make captain’s log “recordings” throughout this one.  That’s a feat considering there are no computers and later on, their communicators were all stolen.  Luckily they showed the planet during those scenes, as seeing Jim wandering around talking to himself may have undermined his appearance as a competent commander.

There is also a more easily acceptable character moment for our favorite Vulcan beyond childhood trauma.  He holds McCoy’s hands after Bones appears to have possibly killed himself testing out the antidote, and smiles when he gets better.  See, they do really like each other.
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