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 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
Ah, a classic. Of course it is in my nature to be a contrarian and as this episode is beloved by almost everyone I should find a reason to hate it, but I don’t. This episode puts a big smile on my face every time. I love the story, I love the Klingons, I love the big bar fight started by Scotty; there is nothing in this episode that does not make me happy.
I could talk about the paranoia of the 70’s and how the Klingons were clearly the Russians, but honestly I have always had another question. At one point Kirk goes to the rec room to get dinner and his meal comes out of the replicator covered with Tribbles who had eaten his food. The question is this: did the replicator replicate some live Tribbles? Is the TOS replicator different from the TNG? Is it just a very high speed food processor? If so how did the Tribbles survive being microwaved or whatever process was used to heat up the food? Shouldn’t Kirk have gotten a meal of fried Tribble? Crazy Delicious image courtesy of the Star Trek t shirt collection.
Another thing I love about this episode is that is for the first time ever showed Kirk beaten down and at his wits end. The scene where he is walking slowly around the bridge picking up Tribbles pretty much says everything possible about what was going on. When he finally freaks out it the timing and tone is perfect. I also like how he started the episode not taking the grain or Tribbles at all seriously but eventually had to. Kudos to the great director Joseph Pevney.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to throw a shout out to my friend Miles, the Tribble Guy. I have seen him at every Star Trek convention we have set a booth up at and he is a good dude. He and I usually sit around bitching about the assorted conventions we do. He is not hard to spot as he drives a panel truck with giant Tribbles on it. He sells Tribbles of the highest quality, not to mention stuffed germs that are hilarious. You can find them at his site Tribble Toys.
“the Infamous” Dave Inman
My apologies for not posting anything recently but things are super busy. I did see Draft Day the other night and have some funny thoughts on it but I am scrambling to pack shirts for the amazing Wondercon in Anaheim, California. If you are going to be there stop by our booth (1541) and say hi (or at least talk to some of the girls I hired to work the booth).
When I get back I’m going to throw myself into blogging big time, at least until the next big show creeps up on me. I have about 8 hours of driving to do today and that’s the easy part. Tons of movies to see coming up so look for more reviews shortly, plus my fascinating recap of all the Star Trek episodes, like this gem Space Seed. I pulled this shirt from our Star Trek t shirt collection and plan to wear it at the show. I just wish I had more time for cosplay as I have a couple of really good ideas.
Seriously if you are a reader and are going to be at Wondercon stop by. I would love to speak with you and find out if what I am writing is hitting anyone or if I am tilting at windmills. Have a great week and speak to you soon.
This is another one that is at the same time great and stupid. I liked it a lot because it showed the bonds of friendship between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy as well as showed Mr. Spock at his logical best. However, the solution they came up with is dumb. Spock mentions antibodies and that makes Kirk think of antimatter? Why not antitrust? Or antiserum? One thing that always bugs me about TOS episodes is how often they rely on random coincidences on words from a language spoken on one part of one tiny planet in the universe (Yangs=Yankees, Son=Sun, etc).
Also Spocks data makes Kirk think of creating an antimatter bomb and dropping in on the nucleus of the giant space amoeba? Excuse me but how is that different from carpet bombing the nucleus with photon torpedoes? If I had the ability to create an antimatter bomb that would be the third thing I tried after phasers and photon torpedoes failed, not the last thing after sending my best friend to his death. If you are going to get sucked into a giant space amoeba anyway why not rush in while you still have power and drop every weapon you have that’s stronger than a fart inside the creature? Hell I’d be beaming red shirts out armed with phasers set on overload if nothing else (sorry, but you signed up for Starfleet and put on a red shirt. You knew what you were getting into. Red shirt image courtesy of the Star Trek t shirt category).
Also, if the space amoeba was capable of destroying the universe once it divided what happened to the thousands of other amoebas that it must have spawned from? Shouldn’t this one be the first of a huge wave of giant space amoebas?
However, take all that out of the equation and you have a pretty good episode. Not great but very decent in my opinion.
Some Star Trek episodes are more subtle than others. This is not one of those. This episode was so clearly an allegory about Vietnam that they might as well called the villagers the Viet Cong and the Klingons the Chinese (although in truth the Viet Cong was getting a lot more help from the Russians than the Chinese).
This episode was also an example of the thin veil of racism that Star Trek labored under in spite of Gene Roddenberry’s best intentions. It really, really wasn’t his intension but when writing and casting this episode it just made sense to the producers that the villagers be Asian and the friendly Hill People be white. In this day and age such a thing would probably not go by unremarked but back in 1968 it seemed so obvious that no one even questioned it.
All that aside this is a great episode for one simple reason: mugato. Yes, the furry poisoned fanged spike backed white super gorilla. Awesome. It also showed more accurately what alien exploration is probably going to be like. You see, for every intelligent creature you might encounter out there there are probably millions of dangerous animals who would think nothing of tearing your face off. If aliens had landed on Earth a few hundred years ago tried running around North America odds are they would get chomped on by a grizzly or bitten by a rattlesnake long before running into a Native American tribe. If you want to see what I’m talking about check out the book Expendable by James Alan Gardener. In it the guys who hit dirt assume every creature in sight wants to kill them and for the most part they are correct.
Episode image courtesy of the Star Trek T Shirt category, BTW.
This is an episode that seemed really cool back in the 70’s but if someone tried to make it today they would be keel hauled. Damn political correctness anyway. John Gill’s choice to use Nazi Germany as a model for saving the Ekos economy could probably be classified under the “Seemed like a good idea at the time” heading (incidentally that is exactly what I want on my tombstone. No joke) but even as a political move it is a step towards disaster. Any time you ostracize or alienate an outside culture it is almost inevitable that humans (or human-like aliens) will take it to the odious extreme.
However I do appreciate the fact that this and A Piece of the Action are two episodes that did not try to convince us that an alien culture could so exactly parallel Earth that they get the exact same uniforms and names. At least John Gill would have had some inkling what an SS uniform was supposed to look like, although if I were him I might have used some of the principals behind the rejuvenation of Germany without using, say, swastikas, SS, or the name Nazi. Might look better at your inevitable trial.
The best part of this episode is the head Nazi talking about how racially inferior Spock is and how his skull indicates low intellect. If only he knew. Of course Kirk had already told Spock how he looks like a great Nazi. Not sure how I would take that if I were Leonard Nimoy. This new image of the main three I just uploaded to the Star Trek T Shirt category.
Interestingly enough this was the only episode banned in Germany until 1995. Some people have no sense of humor whatsoever. It has been my experience when speaking to Germans that they all like to pretend the years 1936-1945 never happened so that makes sense. This episode also drove home the importance of the Prime Directive. In the recent movies the Prime Directive has more or less turned into the Prime If It’s At All Convenient but if I start off on that this blog will go another 10,000 words.