18. Arena. I'm the captain of a whole starship. I don't NEED to close my mouth.Arena asks you to reflect on your feelings about vengeance. Arena asks what justice is worth. Arena asks if you’re a proponent of ironic punishments. Arena asks if you will continue to watch, and genuinely like, an old TV show that features a creature with a truly ridiculous mask, costume, and roar. Arena asks, “Who would win in a fight between a really strong thing that’s super slow, and a relatively weak thing that’s much faster?” Arena asks if you can recognize white powders merely by glancing at them on a monitor. Arena asks if you know the chemical composition of gunpowder. But mostly, Arena is a test of whether or not you will like classic Trek. Universally accessible themes and iconic characters BUT a reliance on special effects that are cheesy but still highlighted as though they are not, highly questionable science (but at least an attempt at it), and lots of fightin’/scrappin’. This is what Trek IS. You like all of those things unironically or you do not like the show.

Me, I LOVE Arena. To me, it’s one of the Three Classic Iconic Episodes of the show, with Amok Time and The Trouble With Tribbles. But I know it’s got some problems. The Gorn is really laughable. The puzzle element to it is terrific, but the “clues” for it are pointless.

My main question about Arena is: does it belong in the category of things that you cannot begin to like as an adult? You either experience them growing up, and earn a soft spot for them, or you don’t, and by the time you’re old you’re not going to be able to appreciate them. I think Monty Python and the Holy Grail and video games are things like this. I suspect Arena is, too.

Killer Spock line: none. But I love when he’s watching Kirk’s battle on the monitor and sees the scattering of white powder, and instantly knows how to win the fight. What? I don’t know a lot about chemistry, but I know there are an awful lot of things that come in the form of white powder. Plus we better gloss over that if everything was a test of ingenuity, Vulcans would completely destroy humanity. Overall: 5 out of 5.

Trek tropes:

  • Anonymous redshirt killed

19. Tomorrow is Yesterday. A memorable time travel-story, and pretty fun, but chock full of logical flaws that derail it. Classic Trek has a way of doing stuff like this that drives me crazy. They acknowledge the moral dilemmas and spend lots of dramatic time debating things, then go right ahead and mess everything up anyway. See: every episode that deals with the prime directive. Also see: this episode, and any discussion related to not letting the 20th-century dudes know about their futures. For instance, Spock, after venting all kinds of concerns about letting Capt. Christopher know anything about the future, goes ahead and lets him know they need to get him back to Earth because he’ll be having a son down the road. Kirk & Co. realize it’d be better to just keep the next guy they accidentally beam up in the transporter room. Eventually they realize they can just Vulcan neck pinch everyone and save themselves a lot of hassle. I don’t even want to get into the crazy getting-back-to-the-present physics. But then again, they have laid the groundwork for how easy it is to accidentally time travel if you have a starship. Killer Spock line–McCoy: “Shouldn’t you be working on your time warp calculations, Mr. Spock?” Spock (apparently just standing around): “I am.” Overall: 3 out of 5.

Trek tropes:

  • Recent Earth history will always be relevant
  • In the future, computers are magic, but still make teletype sounds
  • Highly experimental plan with low probability of success somehow works anyway
  • Lighthearted banter to close episode

20. Court Martial. A very strong entry for Trek: unusually tightly plotted, and a good character piece for most of the principals. Mostly I just have notes for this one.

Fun stuff:

  • The Lawyer (Elisha Cook) is awesome. He goes on this great rant about how great books are, because it’s the only way you can really find anything and computers are terrible. His skill at digging the context and meaning out of books has made him the lawyer he is. I couldn’t agree more*.
  • Kirk has a Starfleet Citation for Conspicuous Gallantry. That is just the best.
  • I like how Spock proves the computer is malfunctioning by defeating it multiple times at space chess. (There’s an editing snafu there, for fun, or which contributes to his victory–he makes two moves in a row.)
  • Uhura takes over piloting the ship during an emergency. This is a pretty huge deal, and it’s too bad they don’t do more with this. I mean, if she’s capable of piloting the ship, that implies that her position as communications officer is a choice, right? All too often they portray Sulu or Spock as being mega awesome and Uhura as a glorified secretary, so this was good to see.

Weird stuff:

  • Everyone’s really upset about the death of some crewman, which is odd because a redshirt dies in like every episode.
  • Kirk has a special button on his Captain’s chair, right where his hand rests, specifically for jettisoning an important pod. Don’t accidentally hit the “jettison pod” button that’s located right at your fingertips! It will lead to a court martial! And sure enough, it sure does cause him some trouble! (This should be the plot for a Red Dwarf episode rather than Trek, I think.)
  • Kirk boasts that the computer can boost audio by “One to the fourth power.” One to the fourth power is, uh, one, Mr. Conspicuous Gallantry.
  • Finney is supposedly Kirk’s classmate but is like 20 years older than Kirk.

I particularly like the Killer Spock Line this time around because they still haven’t established whether Spock is a “Vulcan” or a “Vulcanian”: “I am half Vulcanian. Vulcanians do not speculate. I speak from pure logic. If I let go of a hammer on a planet that has a positive gravity, I need not see it fall to know that it has in fact fallen.” Overall: 4 out of 5.

Trek tropes:

  • Anonymous redshirt killed
  • Kirk meets up with an old flame
  • In the future, computers are magic, but still make teletype sounds
  • Enemy allowed easy access to highly sensitive area of the ship
  • Even in interstellar space, the best way to resolve problems is with your fists
  • Lighthearted banter to close episode

21. The Return of the Archons.

I briefly got K to watch Trek with me a few years ago, but she inevitably fell asleep whenever we watched. (60s TV pacing: she is no fan.) I have fallen asleep to my share of these, but “The Return of the Archons” did the trick quicker than usual. All I remember is that the crew runs around this Earth-like place just about forever trying to get a meeting with the alien leader. I was sort of dreading getting back to this episode, knowing it was pretty boring. So I’m not going to bother, and I’m moving on. Deal with it, Return of the Archons.

*Maybe relevant: I’m a professional librarian.

As much as we enjoyed the first Delicious Science, we wanted to test a set of beers that were part of the same class, so as to do more of a traditional taste test rather than an opportunity to stick it to the Macrobrewers of America. We like all the major varieties to some degree, so it was just a matter of picking what to try next. We went with brown ales.

The six contendersBrown ales have a lot going for them. They’re tasty. There are a lot of  good local, national, and specialty varieties. They are generally variations on a theme, so we expected they’d be interesting to compare.

The Contenders

We went with three locals:

And three others:

I was sad to omit a Moose Drool from Big Sky Brewery, one of my Montana favorites, but I live a few thousand miles too far from its point of origin these days.

The test would again be done by me, the lovely K, and her brother M.


Unlike the lager test, I really had no idea what to expect. All of these are good! This would not be a confirmation that good beers are good and bad beers are…less good. This would be tough. I wasn’t sure I would even be able to identify any of the drinks except probably the Newcastle. I figured I would know that one, and like it the least, but I was genuinely prepared to be surprised. M and K had similar feelings, though M thought he’d be able to identify both Newcastle and Turbodog, which he cited as favorites.

The System

I won’t rehash the Setup, you can get a detailed explanation in Delicious Science I. But we did the same thing this time.

The Testing


K samples her drinks while the doomed snacks await their fate.

We pretty quickly realized we were going to need some snacks to keep our palettes cleansed between tastings. On the first pass, I was flummoxed trying to differentiate them.

The snacks helped, but we all spent several minutes carefully trying everything and making notes and generally shrugging a lot about trying to make any kind of guess about which beer was which. The colors were even hard to differentiate.

It was tough, as predicted. I felt pretty sure I knew which was the Newcastle, which I liked but definitively less than others, but wasn’t sure at all about what the others were. I had a definite favorite, though, and guessed it was Dogfish Head. The other four were tough to tell apart. After lots of tasting and palette-cleansing, I picked one as my second-favorite, but still struggled to decide between the other three.

The Results

The lager results were interesting but we largely knew what they all were, with just a few twists. This time, the reveal was a lot more informative.

K and I agreed completely on the order (we are pretty much beer twins, it seems, which is odd considering the differences in our non-beer palettes). There was a clear favorite and second favorite, both were hoppy and flavorful. Then three grouped so close that did didn’t really matter (I ordered them, but it was nearly arbitrary), then a last. Like the last test, M didn’t like the hoppier entries, so he thought the two we liked best were the worst. He succeeded in ordering the others and said he felt pretty good about his placements.

Per K and I, the winner was Dogfish Head. It had an extra dimension that we liked a lot, making it more rich and malty than any of the others. We also agreed that Duck Rabbit was the second best. I managed to guess the brands correctly, with a fair degree of certainty about the DH, but getting the Duck Rabbit right was admittedly more of a guess. Having particularly fond feelings towards it, K had guessed that Sweet Josie might have been the favorite, and Dogfish Head the second favorite.

K didn’t order the next three because she felt they were so similar. I went ahead and ordered them, and they turned out to be: Sweet Josie, Bad Penny, Turbodog. But I didn’t feel strongly about that at all. If I tried them again right now, It might go in any other order.

Newcastle was the least-favorite. We both correctly guessed its identity. It’s a fine beer, but definitely distinguishable and not in the same league as the others.

M had an entirely different order. He rated Bad Penny the best, to his surprise. He went in feeling confident about Newcastle and Turbodog, both that he’d be able to pick them out and that he’d like them the best. They did place second and third, but he wasn’t able to identify them from among the others. Sweet Josie took fourth. He put Dogfish Head and Duck Rabbit fifth and sixth, and did not especially like their extra hoppy flavor.

LessonsFer shootin or rock throwin'-at

  • Brown ale is good, particularly Dogfish Head. Yes, have some. But you can’t really go wrong with any of these.
  • I was certain I’d be able to pick out Newcastle strictly by color. I thought it was a lot lighter. Nope. It comes in a clear bottle, and the rest come in brown. That’s probably all there is to it. They are all even more similar in color than they are in flavor.
  • K found a new respect for Duck Rabbit, which she hadn’t thought about much before. If you’re in The NC, give it a try.
  • Per my taste, if I have the option between Sweet Josie, Bad Penny, and Turbodog, I should pick the cheapest. Or bail on Turbodog and support the local guys. If you’re not in The NC, and you are curious what Bad Penny or Sweet Josie taste like, just have a Turbodog.

Next: we might do wheat beers if we get around to another test during the summer.