( WEEK TWENTY-FOUR )
Bond Movies: 100% (23/23)
Saturday Night Live: 10.5% (4/38)
Star Trek Televisual Canon: 22.5% (9/40)
Also, is this really the first episode where the hint Kirk and Alien Babe of the Week did it is anvil-sized? I mean, the fact that Deela was unreachable because she was busy having sex with Kirk is a plot point.
I don’t know if it was because I was a little sun tired, but I really enjoyed this episode. The sci-fi aspect works to examine personal issues, especially Bones and Spock’s relationship; of course, I like anything that focuses on them. They’re downright hypnotizing at times. (“Stop it with the eyebrows!” I asked no one at one point.) And the hopeless situation is handled well, until, of course, it’s time to leap back to status quo with a vengeance and plenty of alcohol. “Does it mix well with scotch?” LUSHES THE LOT OF YOU.
A lovely title. There’s something about revisiting oft-referenced properties that makes for a little displacement. While it has the pat return to status quo every TOS episode requires (more reasons I suspect I’ll be a TNG woman), I really liked seeing Spock react to McCoy’s terminal illness, and how McCoy, discomfited, shrugged it off. In fact, I quite liked Natira and McCoy, especially because Natira is the next in a outlier string of straight-forward women into science officers. I can respect that. Of course, I’m still not sure if she and McCoy are still married or not, or if they ever were…
Despite its reputation, “Spock’s Brain” isn’t that bad. Although it is pretty bad—there’s a lot of plot holes and general illogic, as well as go go boots that are also garters. But we see McCoy, Kirk, and Scotty working together without Spock, and it’s an interesting, old-boys club dynamic with more punching.
As Star Trek teetered on the brink of cancellation (which is probably what inspired Roddenberry and company to take some swipes at television in “Bread & Circuses”), Roddenberry makes this episode essentially a pilot for a new series called Assignment: Earth, which wasn’t picked up. Seven and Roberta are fun—Roberta is erratic but smart and good-hearted, and Seven hangs out with a telepathic cat. That gets a bit undercut when we learn Isis, the cat, is a shapeshifter in a move that feels weirdly like it’s setting up a love triangle, but a quick glance at Memory Beta tells me there was no such love triangle. Of course, the show was never picked up…
All of this is to say that the Star Trek elements feel a bit shoehorned in there. Which they were.
“You bring this network’s ratings down and we’ll do a special on you!”
Star Trek explores a bit of alternate history when the crew encounters a world where the Roman Empire just kept developing. There’s a lot of interesting exploration of the Prime Directive—one of the villains of the episode exploits it brilliantly—and some still timely stuff about television and predicting some aspects of reality television. (I did think The Hunger Games a bit watching this.) Spock and McCoy spend the entire episode snarking at each other until the possibility of imminent death force them to confront their feelings; McCoy, in particular, gets some great lines about Spock and how hard it is for Spock to be, well, Spock. This and “The Ultimate Computer” were particularly strong for me.
An interesting exploration of impotence—firstly, the Federation makes Kirk test out a computer that could replace him; secondly, that computer is created by a man who peaked early in his career. Kirk explores this problem with a little more sensitivity than I expected. Watching Star Trek: The Original Series can be odd because I can sometimes feel I’m getting at pop culture backwards and it can be delightfully dated, but this episode still feels timely. Well, that and I feel like there’s higher production values here.
And there’s a heaping handful of Spock and Bones snarking at each other, which I always appreciate.
What starts out as a rather dark no-win scenario for the Enterprise turns into a crash course on humanity, as the only way to make the aliens give up the ship (and, you know, not kill everybody but Kirk, Spock, Bones, and Scotty) is to make them enjoy being human. This, of course, involves alcohol and Kirk failing to seduce a woman. Oh, that’s a great scene.
“Return to Tomorrow” offers an interesting moral dilemma—the aliens the crew meets want bodies in order to build bodies, but one of them wants to just steal the organic bodies. The transference scenes were fun (Spock laughing! Flirting! Being awful to people!) and the story is actually interesting. As much as I don’t care for procedurals anymore (I’m just so burnt out on them), Star Trek: The Original Series is very much a procedural. Although I do prefer to think of it as a short story anthology.