Thursday, March 31, 2022

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 23 (The Omega Glory)

Looking back on the original Star Trek, it’s amazing how many episodes featured races that were portrayed as being rather simple.  On occasion, as with The Omega Glory, the races were called savages outright.  However, it was odd to find a civilization at least on par with 20th-century humans.

In the case of The Omega Glory, The Enterprise is looking for another Federation ship, the Exeter, commanded by Captain Ron Tracey.  They find the ship in orbit of Omega IV only to discover the crew turned to dust.  When Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the obligatory Red Shirt beam down to the planet, they find Captain Tracey, in uniform, interacting with the local population.

There are two warring groups on the planet:  The Yangs and the Kohms.  (The Yangs look European while the Kohms appear more Asian.)  Kirk finds that Tracey has been helping the Kohms, in direct violation of the Prime Directive.  Why?  They can live for more than a thousand years.  Tracey has found the Fountain of Youth.  As long as the landing party stays on the planet, they’re safe.  If they leave, they’ll turn to dust like the Exeter’s crew.

Kirk agrees to stay, if only to find a cure.  It soon becomes clear that something is up.  The Kohms and the Yangs are actually not all that different from the humans of Earth.  In fact, they have a constitution.  Or, should I say, The United States Constitution.  (As much as I hate to give away the big reveal, I do want to mention this later.)

Omega IV saw a nasty war which caused the aforementioned disease.  This apparently has little to do with anything.  Their longevity and immunity to the disease are little more than how their race developed.  Tracey is denied his magic youth serum and the Omegans are given a new understanding of how freedom works.

This brings me to The Constitution.  I find it incredibly odd that a planet would develop, word for word, a document that we also developed.  Star Trek was good at using allegory, even if it was thinly veiled.  However, this comes off as heavy-handed lecturing.  We even get a speech at the end about how freedom is meaningless unless everyone has it.

It’s a shame because it’s a message that is still relevant today.  Had it been done better, maybe with a reworded document, it could have been a decent episode.  I remember first watching the episode and wondering if Omega IV didn’t have founding fathers, exactly like ours, working out the document.  It would imply that both their world and ours had very similar histories.

I think with a little more thought and nuance, this could have even been a great episode.  There are too many negatives for me to get over, such as the delineation between races.  The episode is a little too blunt to be effective.  I’m used to a more subtle approach with my stories.


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Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 22 (By Any Other Name)

I’ve been watching a lot of the original Star Trek episodes so that I might review them for this blog.  It’s amazing how little I seem to have forgotten about the episodes.  Then again, there are a lot of factors that contribute to that.  I’ve seen most of them numerous times.  I had also reviewed a lot of the episodes when I was writing on Epinions.  One might say that the episodes were well-written, but I suspect that it has more to do with how straightforward the writing was.

Take “By Any Other Name”.  The Enterprise responds to a distress call from an uncharted planet, only to discover several humanoid aliens.  The landing party is quickly captured and told that the aliens, who call themselves the Kelvans, require the ship to return to The Andromeda Galaxy.  (Their ship was destroyed by an energy barrier surrounding The Milky Way.)

It will take approximately 300 years to get back to the Kelvans’ home, which will require a generational ship.  It’s discovered that the Kelvans are actually and advanced species with hundreds of tentacles and the ability to control each independently.  They took human form for convenience and have accepted that the return trip will be generational.  Their mission is to find planets suitable for colonization, as the Kelvins need to conquer.

Because of the Kelvan’s technology, the crew of the Enterprise is easily subdued, but Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty are able to turn the tables and incapacitate the Kelvans.  By taking on human form, the Kelvans have also taken on human weaknesses, which the four officers can exploit.

It’s a bit of an odd episode.  I don’t want to say that it’s simplistic, but it had me asking a lot of questions.  First, the 300-year trip means that the Enterprise would get back at least 600 years after the Kelvans first left.  It would take another 300 years for a colonization ship to return to the Milky Way.

Add to this the fact that the Kelvans didn’t really look around much.  Granted, they have Starfleet’s flagship, which would likely contain more than enough information to get the Kelvan government started, but you’d think they’d want to look around first.  At least check to see how accurate the information is.  It took them three centuries to get here.  They could at least spend a few days to check things out and fill in a few gaps.

Also, as humans, there would likely be ten or so generations of humans.  Even if the Kelvans reproduce as humans, their descendants will have no loyalty to the Kelvan government.  What’s to stop the second or third generation down the line from turning the ship around?  The entire plan doesn’t seem to be that robust.

There are some memorable scenes and the acting is good, but it wasn’t one of the better episodes, in my opinion.  It could have done with some more detail.  I get some of the constraints, like making the Kelvans human.  It would have been difficult to present them as hundred-tentacled creatures.  But you’d think they’d be able to build a faster ship.

The biggest shame is that we never find out what happened to The Kelvans.  Those that took human form are left on that original planet.  They present as perfect humans, but it’s still a limited population.  Also, a probe is launched back to Andromeda.  It will take 300 years, presumably, so we’ll never know what becomes of those waiting for the would-be invasion party.  Perhaps with all the new Star Trek series on Paramount+, we’ll get some answers.


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Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 21 (Patterns of Force)

The episode begins with The Enterprise visiting the planet Ekos to check in on a former history professor of Kirks, John Gill, only to be greeted by a nuclear weapon.  Neither Ekos nor its neighboring planet, Zeon, should have that level of technology.  The only possible theory is that Gill somehow contaminated the planet’s progression, which is unlikely, given the Prime Directive.  Even as an observer, Gill would have been bound not to interfere with either planet’s development.

When Kirk and Spock beam down, they find Ekosians in full Nazi gear.  You wouldn’t think that fascism would be a good form of government.  Even if you removed any malice or ill intent, that kind of rigidity doesn’t usually end well.  But, there it is.  In fact, there are a lot of uncanny parallels, like Ekos subjugating Zeon as a lesser culture.  They even salute each other and have an eerily familiar flag.

Kirk and Spock eventually find out that Gill is the Führer.  When they do find Gill, they find him in a heavily sedated state; Deputy Führer Melakon is really giving the orders.  Kirk, Spock and McCoy are able to bring down the government and save the day, leaving the planets to rebuild their society.

There is an apparent simplification to the episode.  It’s odd that so much would be similar, even if Gill only borrowed the basic government.  His thinking was that the German Nazi state was the most efficient one Earth ever knew.  And it actually worked until Melakon gained control.  You’d think that Gill wouldn’t have mentioned the flag or the salute, but the Ekosians developed them anyway.

I’d imagine that this was done to leave nothing to the imagination, which is unusual for several reasons.  First, science fiction can usually create effective metaphors for things like this.  It doesn’t have to be Russia versus America.  It could be the Klingons versus The Federation.  To be so direct isn’t necessary.  In fact, it could be problematic, as displaying swastikas in Germany is illegal.  I doubt this episode would have gone over well in the European market.  I would have thought that at least the flag, if not the salute, would have been changed.

I’m not sure what the process was on developing this episode.  Given that the episode aired in 1968, a lot of Americans would probably still remember World War II.  I would think it would be a sensitive subject for people.  Even though it’s direct, I did find it to be an interesting episode on a lot of levels.  In fact, my only real complaint about the episode was that it was too obvious.  It was also a little too long, with Kirk and Spock having to escape from prison several times.

The shame of it is that the episode doesn’t really go into too much detail.  It’s not clear exactly what Gill was thinking.  Yes, it was an efficient state and all forms of government can be corrupted, but why even interfere in the first place?  What did Gill gain from it?  It’s not really explored why fascism would necessarily go downhill so quickly.  True, it only takes the one bad apple, but was Melakon a bad apple to begin with or was he corrupted by power and opportunity?  I feel like a bit of the nuance was lost in this episode, but it’s still a watchable episode.


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Sunday, March 27, 2022

The Twiligh Zone -- Season 2 Episode 17 (Twenty Two)

There were some episodes of The Twilight Zone that seemed to pack a lot in.  They seemed like feature-length movies condensed to fit into a half-hour time slot.  Others seemed to drag on.  It stands to reason that not every episode would be a winner.  There were 156 of them.  Still, it seemed like Twenty Two could have done a little better.

The episode is about a woman named Liz Powell, who is recuperating in a hospital.  She keeps having these weird dreams where she finds herself in the morgue.  The woman there says, “Room for one more, honey.”  She’s not hurt in any of the dreams, nor does she seem to be in any danger.  It still freaks her out.

Her doctor tries to reassure her by introducing Liz to the morgue’s night nurse, who isn’t the same woman as in Liz’s dream.  Liz is still uneasy, but is eventually released.  It’s not until Liz tries to board Flight 22.  When she sees a flight attendant who matches the woman from her dream, Liz runs back to the terminal.  It’s a good thing, too, as the plane explodes.

It’s a rather simple episode by Twilight Zone standards.  Yes, we get the twist ending and all, but there didn’t seem to be as much buildup.  Part of the problem for me is that I’ve seen many of the episodes more than a few times.  Even if I don’t remember the episodes in their entirety, I usually have some sense of what’s going to happen.

Therein lies the problem.  This is one of the episodes that has little replay value.  It’s not particularly entertaining.  It also doesn’t have much of an ironic twist.  It’s more like an urban legend that was acted out.  It’s safe enough in terms of violence and language that it would be safe for most middle-school students.  This is basically going to be one of those free-period things a teacher might have on standby.  Maybe show it to your kid to waste a half an hour.  However, there’s a reason that I don’t normally think of this episode first when it comes to The Twilight Zone.


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