Monday, September 21, 2020

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 16 (The Gamesters of Triskelion)

I often look at old movies and wonder how they got away with such low standards.  I realize that times change.  I also realize that budgets were often limited.  Star Trek was no exception to this.  They had censors to worry about and a network that wasn’t too fond of spending money on the show.  This led to some rather unusual episodes, at least by today’s standards.

The Gamesters of Triskelion was one of the odder episodes, looking back.  To start, Kirk, Chekov and Uhura are kidnapped while beaming down to a planet.  They find themselves on a planet where similarly abducted people are forced to compete against each other while unseen masters bet on who will win.

Meanwhile, Spock is able to quickly deduce which planet the landing party was taken to.  He debates with McCoy as to the validity of his conclusions, but sure enough, Spock is correct.  Kirk bets the fate of his crew against his freedom in a battle and wins.  It’s a bold move, to be sure, but there are still a bunch of episodes left and they’re not going to be on Triskelion.

My big complaint is that it seems way too easy.  Yeah, there’s something about an ion trail and it makes sense that there might be a cloaked ship, but that could mean anything.  It also seems unlikely that a captain would risk his crew’s freedom like that or that he’d even be given the opportunity.

It’s also said that the remaining captives will be allowed to form their own society.  There’s no talk of maybe returning the people to their home planets.  Some, like Shahna, were apparently born and raised there.  I suppose some of the population wouldn’t know where they came from.  Even if they did, they might not have anyone that knows them.  However, there might be a few.  There was at least on Andorian.  It’s conceivable that there would be some Federation citizens on the planet.

My big question is why they would abduct three bridge officers?  If some lowly ensign went missing, no one would notice.  The series killed off enough security officers.  But to take three people that the Enterprise is certain to come after?  And to make sure that someone notices?  That seems very bold, indeed.  It seems like it would be wiser to wait until the landing party was on the planet’s surface.

This is one of those episodes where, as bad is it was, it might have been nice to see what becomes of them.  It might be nice to have an episode of Star Trek: Picard or Star Trek: Discovery where someone is from Triskelion.  Then again, I’d probably be just as happy forgetting about it.
 

IMDb page

 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 15 (The Trouble with Tribbles)

Klingons pose a danger to the Federation.  While there was no open declaration of war, Klingons were hostile towards Federation colonies and Starfleet ships.  Tribbles are more of a menace.  Yes, they’re dangerous, but they’re cute and fuzzy.  Menace doesn’t sound so bad, but tribbles do two things:  Eat and make more tribbles.  And boy, do they make more tribbles.

Both tribbles and Klingons come to a head on Space Station K7.  The Enterprise has been called to protect a grain bound for Sherman's Planet, which the Federation wants to colonize.  The Klingons would rather colonize the planet themselves.  That alone would be a problem, except that one Cyrano Jones has brought a few tribbles to K7, which leads to a lot more tribbles.

The tribbles pose two problems.  The first is that they like to eat and grain is a good food source for them.  The other is that tribbles don’t like Klingons.  Tribbles are like space cats.  They’re cute and they purr.  Klingons are a warrior race.  You can see where the two parties wouldn’t like each other.

Most of the episode is Kirk being annoyed at having to guard the grain.  Once again, he has to do the bidding of some Federation undersecretary of something.  He’s got better things to do.  I always wonder if an actual military ship would be called to do this and, if so, how argumentative the captain of the ship would be.  I suppose it would be in Kirk’s job description to help the government once in a while.

There is a certain cleverness to the episode, in that the tribbles are used to expose a pair of problems.  All of the major components play well off of each other.  Everyone seems to dislike everyone else to some degree.  Even the tribbles, which are friendly, do pose a problem.

It’s definitely one of the more memorable episodes.  It was used for the basis of Deep Space Nine’s The Trouble with Tribbles and for the short trek, The Trouble with Edward.  If I had to pick a few episodes to get you started, this would be one of them.  I don’t know if it would be on everyone’s favorite list, as it is a little goofy.  Despite the seriousness, Star Trek had a very heavy camp element to it.  However, tribbles have become a point of reference within the Trek universe. 

 


Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991)

I was hoping to see Bill and Ted Face the Music in theaters.  I even went and rented Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.  Alas, theaters in my area are closed and I’m not paying $24.99 for on-demand, so I’m going to have to wait for the DVD release.  However, that’s no reason not to review Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.

A few years have passed since the first installment and the Wyld Stallyns haven’t yet saved the world.  They are, however, entered into the San Dimas Battle of the Bands, which should start them on their way.  Enter Chuck De Nomolos, former gym teacher.  He doesn’t like the utopian future of 2691.  So, he steals the time machine from Rufus with the intent of killing Bill and Ted.  Just to rub it in, De Nomolos creates two robot doppelgangers to replace them.  The ghosts of Bill and Ted have to find a way to get back and still win the battle while repairing their relationships with their respective would-be-brides-to-be.

You might think that it would be difficult enough to win the Battle of the Bands, future or no future.  Coming back to life should be even harder.  They do end up escaping hell and besting  Death in several games.  (Traditionally, you only have to beat Death at one game to get your life back, but he’s kind of a sore loser.)

So, with Death’s help, Bill and Ted put together a team and win the battle.  In fact, De Nomolos’s intervention is exactly what they need to launch their careers and attain world fame.  So, we have a causal loop.  The future is saved and everyone has a most excellent life.

There are a lot of things about this movie that I’ve come to view differently over the years.  I had always assumed that Bill and Ted were really good at games.  They’re slackers, so they’d undoubtedly want to have as much fun as possible.  It never occurred to me that Death might have been bad at games.  Sure, he’s probably had to play those games before as part of a challenge, but it’s not his main function.

I also don’t recall noticing the causal loop.  There are a few jokes about time travel, like how the use of time machines tends to benefit the good guys.  They also use it to get more time to learn how to play since they’re still horrible musicians.

The one thing that got me was the name of the character Station.  It turns out that it was actually an artifact from a script revision.  There was a deleted scene from a police station that wasn’t properly deleted.  All that was left was the word Station, which became the two alien characters.  I spent the entire movie wondering if station was some sort of slang term from the 90s that I forgot about.  (Notice how no one uses bogus any more to refer to something unbelievable.)

It’s not a great movie.  For a sequel, it’s pretty good, though.  Like the first movie, there are parts that are there mostly to move the story along.  Bill and Ted can possess people because why not?  They get sent to Hell by a layperson condemning them because Hell is where they need to be to take things seriously.  They also get to deal with their own demons.

It’s not the same movie as the first, but I wouldn’t want it to be.  It does seem like a natural continuation of the first movie, which makes me want to see the third even more.  It’s not going to be for everyone, but I do find that this movie is a little better than the average movie from that era.  The pacing is full throttle and keeps your attention all the way through.  Here’s to hoping I can get the new movie on DVD quickly.

 

IMDb page