Supernatural isn’t a perfect show, but then again, nothing is ever perfect and if it were, would we as a viewing audience still tune in? The Walking Dead is massively flawed, but sometimes I get the impression that people tune in just to try to parse out what they might have done differently as writers/ producers or even actors. Back to Supernatural, and to shows that do well, specifically within a certain demographic: What do shows such as Supernatural, Doctor Who, Sherlock, Once Upon a Time and even the original series of Star Trek all have in common? Well, they are or were all wildly popular and successful, especially among women ages 18-35, though still appealed to the “target demographic” of straight (ostensibly white, cis-gendered) men of the same or even broader ages.
(image from one of the many Star Trek novelty t shirts in our collection)
Science Fiction and to some extent, fantasy has always been a man’s world. The writers are men, the show’s producers are men, the showrunners and the majority of the lead actors and characters are all usually male. But so many of the fans are female, and straight females who are either tuning in with hopes of seeing two men in an intimate relationship with each other, or creating works of fan-fiction, better known as “Slash” in which their own fantastical, sexy projections and/ or interpretations of characters and events can finally manifest. (Star Trek T Shirt “Shoot that Thing!” because Kirk/ Spock was the original Slash.)
This was an episode that didn’t really excite me as a kid but now as an adult I love it. The entire concept was fascinating; an Earth remote probe meets up with an alien probe and the two of them merge into a super monster with a bizarre twisted mission to find perfection and sterilize anything found less then perfect. If you are a fan of the Berserker series by Fred Saberhagen this might resonate with you.
Plus any episode where Spock gets to use his mind meld is plus for me. Of course in later series’s any time a Vulcan showed up on the screen you know it’s only a matter of time before they trot out the old mind meld again. Sometimes it’s ok to come up with something original instead of milking the old cow for the stuff the fan boys crave.
You know, that makes me wonder a lot about mind melds. Can all Vulcans do it? Seems like so. Spock is only half Vulcan, so does that mean Tuvok is twice as good, or is it a training thing? If a Vulcan truly mind melds with someone does that mean the person they are melding with also gets into the Vulcans head? They sure implied that when the Horta learned how to write after merging with Spock in the Devil in the Dark. If so whenever a high ranking Star Fleet officer uses mind meld to gain information from an enemy isn’t there a huge chance that the enemy might get some kind of top secret from him or her? You know, things like access codes, deflector shield frequencies, or Captain Kirks favorite space condom color. You never know when these things can screw you up.
Also, if a Vulcan can mind meld with a giant lava monster in like five minutes doesn’t that mean that two Vulcans should be able to meld in like three seconds? If so why do they even bother with speaking? Seems like if you wanted to get a PhD in Xenobiology you could just brain suck the most advanced Vulcan Xenobiologist and learn all he or she knew (while he or she would gain your knowledge of 15th century bardiches). Since Spock managed to copy his entire personality and download it into McCoy at the end of TWOK it seems like a pretty reasonable thing to do. Why aren’t all Vulcans masters of everything?
Anyway, I do now really enjoy this episode. I love the scene were Kirk convinces Nomad he made a mistake. One scene where Shatners overacting really, really worked. Spock is not the only crew member capable of logical thought. The image I pulled from the Star Trek t-shirt category. Talk to you soon.
the Infamous Dave Inman
This is one of those episodes that I both love and hate. I love it for being a brilliant episode with a cool story and Spock with a beard. Plus Uhura in a skimpy outfit and Terra kicking ass like I wish they would. I love seeing evil Spock and all his logical glory.
On the other hand I hate this episode for being the standard go-to inspiration for every single series. In any of the following series when things get slow and uninspired at the writing desk they just take a trip to the Mirror universe. TNG, DS9, and Enterprise all did it. Voyager managed to avoid it (I think) but honestly how would the Borg of the Mirror universe differ from the ours? Perhaps they assimilate with flowers and religious pamphlets?
The other part that bugs about the fact that every show has to visit the Mirror universe is that if there is one parallel universe logic tells us that there have to be literally billions, and finding that one specific universe is nearly impossible. Also, what is the deal with Mirror universe having to be evil? It’s like when Kirk got split in two in The Enemy Within. How did he split into good and evil halves? Couldn’t he just split into gay and straight, or the half that is OK telling the world about his toupee and the half that wants to keep it hidden? Does the Mirror universe have to be the evil reflection of our universe, or could it be the version where the Smurfs had a massive resurgence in popularity in 2173 and now everyone takes descriptive names like Brainy or Hefty (or in the case of most red shirts Deadsy. Odds are Kirk would have gone for Sexy although he might have been cool with Papa).
The Infamous Dave Inman
(Good Spock/Evil Spock one of my favorite Star Trek novelty t shirts, BTW. I wear it all the time)
This is one that nearly made my top 10 best episodes and on the right day definitely would. I love this one. It has everything a great Star Trek episode should have: honor, sacrifice, courage, duty, friendship, and the struggle to defeat a clear cut enemy with dire aims on masses of helpless people. This is one of those special episodes that is everything that makes Star Trek great refined into a fine wine.
This is also one of those episodes that got them a lot of heat back in the early 70’s. You don’t have to have a masters degree in literature to figure out that the Doomsday Machine was a less-than-subtle allegory for the a-bomb and the madness of a policy of mutually assured destruction. Back then there were some people who found that kind of criticism unpleasant.
In reflecting on this episode I suddenly realized something that distinguishes my favorite episodes from the ones I only really enjoy. I think I really like it when Kirk is in trouble. By that I mean he is so cool and in command at all times, but when circumstances force him out of his comfort bubble he is at his most awesome. When he has set the Constellation on it’s death plunge into the Doomsday Machine and the Enterprise transporter starts to fail he sounds honestly worried. Think about some other great episodes. Arena, Amok Time, City on the Edge of Forever; in all of these he is getting his ass kicked either physically or emotionally (sometimes both). Great drama comes from characters we care about overcoming adversity and there aren’t many characters I care about more than Kirk, Spock, and McCoy (and yet ironically I couldn’t care less if the new three were sucked into a Black Hole in the next JJ Abrams travesty. Read into that what you will).
the Infamous Dave Inman
Note-the image on this Star Trek t-hirt for once has the Episode numbers actually match. This one was both production #35 and release #35.
This is one of the episodes that as a kid I found kind of confusing and as such have a less than fond feeling for. I couldn’t figure out who all these aliens were and why they were on the Enterprise. I liked Sarek and thought the Andorians were cool, but then one of them turned out to be a spy and I thought the fake antennae kind of gross. Also I never liked the Tellarite. Sorry but pig+man=/=great alien in my book.
(Episode image courtesy of the Star Trek T Shirt category)
As an adult I get more from it. I appreciate the sacrifice Spock is willing to make for his duty and the effort Kirk put into getting Spock down to sick bay. I’m still not sure how Thelev knew how to perform Tal-Shaya when he killed the Tellarite. Was he a surgically modified Vulcan? Did he receive training in Vulcan martial arts, like when we study Kung Fu or Krav Maga? Given the differences in alien physiology how did Spock even know that Tal-Shaya was used? If someone were to kill a Horta with Tal-Shaya would it be instantly obvious to another Vulcan? Maybe Tellerites just have naturally weak necks and Gav snapped it when he tripped on his shoelace. What if Thelev just hit Gav in the neck with a big spanner and it looked like Tal-Shaya?
Also I’d like to point out that the trick of shutting down all internal systems to suck in an enemy ship closer had already been used in Balance of Terror. This episode was in the middle of Season 2, so really they should not have been recycling stuff quite so soon. Still, some great entertainment to be had here. If you are clever you can see the changes they made to the Andorian costume from this episode and the one in Enterprise.
“the Infamous” Dave Inman
Another one of my favorite episodes. I like to think that a lot of space horror ideas were sparked here. Alien, for example. Also, this is a good example of how Captain Kirk will always be a better captain than Picard. Remember the TNG episode where the crystalline entity was literally sucking up millions of sentient beings and Picard wanted to find a way to talk to it? This gas cloud kills a couple red shirts (oh, yeah. Also half of the Farragut’s crew) and Kirk is willing to drop an antimatter bomb on it. My kind of captain. The one thing any hapless red shirt could count on is after his or her horrible death if there was someone or something that could be made to bleed for it Kirk would find a way. Good luck with that on the NCC-1701-D. I hope your family receives a copy of the strongly worded letter of protest Picard sent to whatever alien monster snacked on your bone marrow to go with your folded Federation flag.
(Red shirt image courtesy of the Star Trek T-Shirt category)
I also liked Ensign Garrovick. There was a series of cool named red shirts who later just disappeared (Riley, for one). I wonder if Shatner ever felt threatened by them and had them axed. I wouldn’t put it past him. I am a massive Shatner fan and Kirk will always be my captain but I freely acknowledge that in general he was a total jerk.
“the Infamous” Dave Inman
Yes I’m back on this. In fact I need to stay on it in order to actually finish this project. I have an idea following this for TNG next.
So A Piece of the Action. I quite liked this episode. The story of how the Sigma Iotians became all 20’s gangster actually made sense, as opposed to “they just evolved into an exact replica of a Paramount backlot”. Sorry but the whole Yang thing from Omega Glory always bugged me (not to mention the Roman Empire from Bread and Circuses).
The other part about this that rocked is it really shows the importance of the Prime Directive. The book Chicago Mobs of the Twenties was left pretty much by accident by the Horizon and rewrote the entire direction of the culture of the Sigma Iotians. Would that JJ Abrams had watched this episode before creating his last abomination (actually, would that JJ Abrams had ever watched a single episode before signing up to direct the Star Trek reboot).
As an aside I recently learned that Star Trek fans at the Vegas Con voted Star Trek Into Darkness the worst movie of the series. Kudos to you all. This is why I love Trek fans and am proud to count myself among your number. Of course the TNG Fanboys voted First Contact the number two best movie in a lame homage to the Borg but as long at TWOK is number one I have no real complaint (although if we were to sit down together I could tell you in excruciating detail why First Contact also sucks. Am I too hardcore in my Star Trek purity? Mabye). I might do a blog about that list some time in the future. It puts a smile on my face.
The episode image comes from the TV Show t shirt category. Yes, I know it has the wrong number on it. I go by release order while my printer goes by production number. It is a bone of contention.
“The Infamous Dave” Inman
Star Trek has long been sited as the herald of most of our current technology. Cell phones, tablets, video streaming, virtual reality, even modern computers were first presented to Americans thanks to this show. In this episode we see the first stab at Artificial Intelligence (AI).
However what I love about this episode is not the presentation of M-5 as the future of computing but rather how brilliantly a space battle can be presented even without the benefits of CGI or even a special effects budget. You really feel the action of M-5 crushing the Lexington and the Excalibur from the bridge without needing to see the actual ships in action. I honestly think this was best done in Balance of Terror, but still very well done here.
(Image courtesy of the Star Trek T-Shirt category)
One thing however that I have always found annoying about Star Trek space battles is the image of crew members being thrown around the bridge and bulkheads. I know they stole that from Run Silent Run Deep and every other submarine movie but the fact is at the relative speeds they were running at anything capable of overcoming whatever the Enterprise used as inertial dampeners wouldn’t have thrown them across the room; it would have left a thin red smear on the bulkhead. Sorry Star Trek. I still love you but this has always bugged me.
This episode has always been something of a mystery to me. Think about it. The studio was planning on getting ready to cancel Star Trek (and only the timely intervention of Nichelle Nichols and thousands of loyal fans saved it for one more season) yet thought it worthy of launching a spin off. Of course the failure of Gary Seven to inspire mass fan loyalty might have been the final straw that broke the studios love of Trek in the first place.
Gary Seven himself is a big mystery too. He was a human raised by aliens to do something (?) on Earth. He is supposed to be undercover but has the last name of Seven (? Could it be the aliens who raised him were the Borg??? Borg logo courtesy of the Star Trek T-Shirts category BTW), not exactly a normal name. Also was his technology more advanced or less advanced that the Enterprise? Why when the Enterprise returned to its own time did they not say “Umm, we found evidence that advanced aliens were screwing with human society at the end of the 20th century. It’s possible they may still be around.”? Wouldn’t that be worthy of the slightest investigation? For that matter why didn’t Gary Seven go screaming back to his alien superiors about a human ship from 300 years in the future mucking about?
Really, everything about this episode is total ass. It had already been established in City on the Edge of Forever and Tomorrow is Yesterday that the slightest change in the past could completely destroy the future from whence the time travelers came back yet they risk destroying their entire reality in the interest of…historical research? I had no idea that historical accuracy would be such a priority in the future. I guess the United Federation of Planets was founded by Wikipedia.
Also, this episode is completely recycled from like eight other episodes. Tomorrow is Yesterday is the obvious one, but an intelligent black cat who turns into a hot brunette woman? Catspaw, anyone? It’s clear that the other time travel episodes had garnered enough praise to make them try one more time. Too bad this one fell on it’s face. This episode also had a very Doctor Who feel to it, so I give it an F+ for originality.
In all things there is a low point. The bottom level, the dregs, the rock bottom, the nadir, the Phantom Menace. Being alive is about making relative value judgements and as soon as you start doing that there always ends up a low man on the totem pole. For Star Trek that low point will always be Spock’s Brain.
Where to start? The bad direction, the misogamy, the slavery, the line “Brain and brain, what is brain?”. Ironic that this would be the first episode of the dreaded third season. Talk about setting a tone. The great Leonard Nimoy put it best “Frankly during the entire shooting of that episode, I was embarrassed.” We fans are embarrassed with you.
The image of McCoy getting his brain reprogrammed comes from our Star Trek t-shirt category BTW.
The weird thing is as a kid I thought it was pretty cool. I mean, I was smart enough to recognize “Balance of Terror” and “City on the Edge of Forever” as the zenith of sci fi entertainment, but being a preteen watching this in the mid ’70s it didn’t seem so off. The idea that women were beautiful dummies who stole from men and controlled them with pain seemed a reasonable premise to me (thanks for that, Dad, and I guess I just had a major revelation as to the difficulties I face in my current dating life). If nothing else I like to think that my changed attitude towards this episode is a microcosm of my own evolution into the open minded, balanced supporter of feminism and equality you see before you.
I’ll have to remember that line when I’m telling my future (and very hypothetical) girlfriend to run out the kitchen and make me a sandwich. Of course when speaking of future and hypothetical girlfriends the terms “cyborg”, “virtual”, “android”, and “elfin” tend to creep into my thought process. God I’m a nerd.
Anyway, bad episode but the good news is I am now done with season 3 and can move on to the much better season 2. What was the last episode from season 2 for me to cast my fond memories over? Assignment Earth??? Why God why???