Yes! Maybe!

Although not now. The last few months have been a little crazy with lots of goings-on and blogging has been pretty much the lowest priority. For now I offer only tantalizing* highlights:

  • I get a new job
  • I waste hours painstakingly developing a new Ticket to Ride map for a user design contest and lose…or did I????**
  • I take a ridiculously intense summer class on statistics that might kill me***
  • I undertake Neal Stephenson’s 2700-page Baroque Cycle, which will finish me off if stats class doesn’t

I’ll try to touch more on all of these in a bit later on when I have more than ten minutes to type stuff on the internet.

*Not really.
**Yep, sure did, barring some sort of ridiculously contrived miracle. (“Josh, this is the President of Days of Wonder. We just discovered your entry under a pile of Alan R. Moon’s laundry. You would not believe the number of frock coats we have had to deal with. Anyway, we are deeply sorry. You win double prize money for this oversight.”)
***I like it though! It’ll be really useful in the new gig. If I survive I’ll take more later.

The visor is a long story. Please try to disregard it.Finally, season 3 comes to a merciful end. I’m glad people look back on this show fondly, but the fact is, losing this version of it was really not anything to get in a huff over. Trek still retains its iconic style and did a lot of things that no other show had ever done, or even thought to do, but somehow all the life had been stripped out of it by this time. With no budget or support, most of the episodes come off as cheap or unoriginal or just plain boring. Below is a discussion of the last batch, then I’ll restart at the beginning and work up to where we started this whole mess. That will include the first season and just a couple of discs from the second.

76. The Cloud Minders. A favorite season three trick to generate suspense is the establishment of  some dramatic deadline right off the bat that will be conveniently employed and/or forgotten as the show progresses. McCoy will say something like, “The entire crew is infected with Space Dandruff.” Kirk asks, “How long do we have?” McCoy says, “No one can know. But things might start getting itchy in three hours unless we find a cure.” Deadline established! Ensue drama! Now the episode can progress within some set confines. The problems is that Kirk will take all kinds of liberties with it. He’ll take a few minutes to flirt with some local, but then things get boring so in the next scene he’s demanding everyone drop what they’re doing and help him because he only has 1.4 hours left. So it gets added and dropped at will. It just provides a convenient ticking clock for when one is needed. The problem with tricks like this is that you never actually need them. If the story has enough interesting components already, it’s just an extra thing to tack on, and why bother? If the story doesn’t, well, this isn’t the way to solve it. “The Cloud Minders” gets right at this idea. There is a lot of rich material here, so there’s no need to toss in some odd, unbelievable deadline to generate pace. The Enterprise arrives at a planet with a vital mineral needed to cure an epidemic elsewhere, and they need to get it fast. Only the internal strife on the planet keeps them from getting it. Kirk doesn’t have time for everyone to sort out their differences, he just needs him some zenite. The story has a lot to say about class systems and prejudices, and while one wouldn’t call it good, and it’s done in a much more effective way than the other recent attempt at Racism Bad (ep. 70, Let That Be Your Last Battlefield). Seems like there could have been more to that story and less to the arbitrary deadline bit. Although there have been episodes just like that, I think in TNG, where a planet wants entry to the Federation but they need to solve their own civil problems first. I think that’s another problem here: that TNG is really just much better at talky sci-fi, and could have done something more with this. TOS tries to work in some fistfights, of course, but why? Killer Spock line: any number of innuendos with this episode’s lead guest actress. That story, too, had lots of untapped potential. Overall: a good episode with a lot going for it, though it sort of misses its own point. 4 out of 5.

Trek tropes:

  • Highly experimental plan with low probability of success somehow works anyway
  • Violation of Prime Directive
  • Even in interstellar space, the best way to resolve problems is with your fists
  • The Enterprise is the only ship within range

77. The Savage Curtain. Weirdest episode of Star Trek ever? Let’s consider. The Enterprise arrives at an inhospitable planet. Suddenly the planet disappears. It is replaced by a floating entity in space. That entity? Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States. (SPACE LINCOLN!) He assures us, “I really AM Abraham Lincoln.” Which is enough to make Kirk believe. He agrees to have him aboard the ship, and insists everyone don full dress uniforms. Why? Because the crazy space president thinks he is Abraham Lincoln, and who knows what will happen if we don’t go along with it. Maybe Kirk has a point? So what’s really odd here is that from this utterly outrageous premise, the episode actually sways you. No, it’s not Lincoln, of course, but it’s a perfect replica. The planet’s inhabitant, some sort of rock creature that we never learn much about, even cooks up a habitable zone for Kirk, Spock, and Space Lincoln, and has further replicated a bunch of other historical figures. It’s gone from bizarre to intriguing. Then, in true TOS style, it degenerates into a bunch of fighting until time is up. Kirk, Spock, and the replicas all battle (Lincoln successfully beats up Genghis Khan, which I will assume is historically accurate). Then there is a bunch of running around and scrapping. Lincoln and the Vulcan good guy die, but they are fakes anyway, so who cares really. But then the four biggest bad guys in history retreat to regroup and the mysterious rock creature decides that’s good enough, and lets Kirk and Spock go. Then it ends. Wait, what? The range here is something to behold. Act I: Insane. Act II: Somehow Transformed Into High Intrigue. Act III: Snooze-inducing. For such an elaborate setup it’s a spectacular failure. This one was written by Gene Rodenberry himself, but I don’t understand what happened. For all the careful plotting to get them to the planet, there is just a bunch of fighting and absolutely nothing is explained or resolved. It’s a play on “The Arena” (I haven’t reviewed it yet but it’s a memorable classic) only without any rationale whatsoever. Killer Spock line: bleh. Nothing. Overall: 2 out of 5.

Trek tropes:

  • Strange probe president encountered in space
  • Recent Earth history will always be relevant
  • Even in interstellar space, the best way to resolve problems is with your fists

78. All Our Yesterdays. Here is a season 3 thing: take the setup from an earlier season, but instead of resolving the story, mill around for 45 minutes until you run out of time. This episode even steals the “jump through the time time travel portal and become a slo-mo photonegative of yourself” effect. It makes me sad, really, because this episode was about a sort of space librarian and had a time travel thing going. Only it ended up going next to nowhere and put me to sleep. At this point, I have a quick metric for these episodes. Did I sleep? Yes? 3 points max. Did I stay awake? Yes? 3 points minimum. Unless I was too dumbstruck to sleep (e.g., The Way to Eden). So I don’t have a lot more to say about this one. Though it is yet another example of Spock giving in to his humanity and becoming all emotional and gooey. Gross. Killer Spock line: “It should be an equation! There should be a way to solve this problem logically.” Overall: sadly another season three all setup, no payoff whiff. 3 out of 5.

Trek tropes:

  • Recent Earth history will always be relevant
  • Badger alien until you get what you want

79. Turnabout Intruder. I’m sure by this point we can all name our favorite sexist episode of TOS. Certainly “A Private Little War” makes a good case. “The Lights of Zetar.” Maybe “Elaan of Troyius” depending on how you look a that one. Lots of episodes have their moments. I haven’t even gotten to the first season and its frequent instances of Yeoman Rand. And we all have our favorite alternate Kirks. We’ve had milquetoast Kirk and evil Kirk, and he’s been possessed by any number of alien entities. In “Turnabout Intruder” we get a little of both of these things. Kirk meets up with an old flame, who double-crosses him and uses an experimental machine to take over his body, solely so she can gain the power of starship command. Why didn’t she just go to Starfleet Academy and earn a captaincy? Oh goodness no, women can’t be captains, silly. Apparently there’s a rule. Way to wreck up three seasons of progress, Star Trek! Well anyway, TOS-ness aside, Turnabout Intruder ends up being a solid, well-paced, fun episode. It’s not a classic, but it’s a good send-off for the show. And it’s probably a pretty good capsule of the show, or at least season 3, in general. TOS doesn’t have any kind of overarching storyline so there’s nothing left hanging, and you could watch this show first or last, really. Killer Spock line: sadly nothing to send off the third season. Overall: kinda goofy but engaging. 4 out of 5.

Trek tropes:

  • Kirk meets up with an old flame
  • Shatner showcase
  • Only Kirk can truly make command decisions