(I'll dispense with the links to full-overviews/ summaries at Memory-Alpha or imdb for this post; y'all know how the internet works.)
PLOT: The Enterprise returns to the planet from TOS "Shore Leave" for some rest and relaxation. Unfortunately, following the death of the planet's Keeper, the computer has run amok. (This seems to be the default setting to which computers revert in the Trekverse.) Uhura is kidnapped, and Kirk and Spock ultimately convince the computer that man and machine can co-exist. Satisfied with their assurance that its creative consciousness is both useful and peaceful, shore leave resumes, and Spock settles in for a long chat with the computer.
|Maybe Kirk (or more likely Mr. Dean Foster himself) just has a thing for Lillian Gish.|
Also, the ending is a nice reversal of the standard Trek trope, i.e. "Convince the computer to self-destruct." Here, Kirk and Spock convince the computer that its consciousness has meaning.
The wiki summary for this episode amusse me: "In this episode, Captain Kirk and First Officer Spock are mysteriously transformed into water-breathers."
There's a bit more to it, of course, but that's the essential set-up, I guess. I like this one fine for what it is, (Armen wrote good Trek. She had a long career in tv, mainly westerns, and passed away at the age of 82 in 2003, so a RIP is in order) but mainly it cracks my personal top ten just for how it expands the storytelling tableau of Trek.
|I don't think the idea of an aquashuttle was revisited until "Thirty Days" in Star Trek: Voyager.|
PLOT: While tussling with some Romulans, the Enterprise passes through a strange cloud that infects the ship's computer. The crew fall victim to a series of practical jokes, always accompanied by the sound of Majel Barrett giggling. Like all great works of fiction, a giant inflatable Enterprise figures into the ending.
LEGACY: This was the first use of the ship's "holodeck" (here called a recreation room) in Trek history.
Chuck Menville had a long career writing primarily-children's entertainment, and here we see that perennial of children's entertainment, the super-powered imp.
I sometimes exaggerate aspects of an actor's performance in memory and am surprised on re-watch when the memory doesn't match up with the actual performance. Here, I remembered this episode as showcasing McCoy's PTSD-esque fury at someone playing practical jokes. I pictured someone from his past, possibly at Starfleet Medical, bullying McCoy with silly pranks and McCoy's never having gotten over it. But he seemed much less irritated on re-watch than I remembered. I was almost disappointed by this; I prefer my invented backstory.
PLOT: Pursued by Klingons, the Enterprise enters an obvious analogue for its Bermuda counterpart, the Delta Triangle. (Technically, Joyce Perry envisioned it as "the Sargasso Sea in space," but the geometric designation makes the connection more explicit to Bermuda.)
|Once inside, they discover they have entered the realm of Elysia, "more aptly described as a pocket in the garment of time." It is ruled by the council seen here, a cross-representation of the various races trapped inside the Triangle.|
Kirk and the gang work with the Klingons to devise an escape route, but the Klingons, naturally, place a bomb aboard the Enterprise, rigged to explode upon the moment of escape. Which Spock discovers and disposes of:
Is it odd that the flagship of the Federation would have an "eject" chute like this?
|Spock's equation for how to break free. It's so simple.|
LEGACY: Commander Kor (the Klingon captain) first appeared in TOS "Errand of Mercy" and later appeared in several episodes of DS9. Although voiced by James Doohan here, he was played by John Colicos in all other appearances.
|Kor has always been my favorite Klingon villain, outside of Christopher Lloyd in STIII: Search for Spock. And Gowron, of course.|
The Bonaventure, one of the ships in the Delta Triangle, is referred to as the first ship to have warp drive. This detail is contradicted, many times, in later Trek incarnations.
PLOT: The Enterprise comes to the aid of a disabled one-man vessel near the Romulan Neutral Zone. The occupant appears to be Carter Winston, a philanthropist missing for five years, whose fiance happens to be a member of the Enterprise's crew. It turns out, however, that Winston is dead, and an alien Vendorian - a race of shapeshifters - assumed his identity.
After some hijinks with the Romulans, Carter helps save the ship (after first putting it in danger), and he (and his fiance, whom he loves as a result of absorbing Carter's emotions) discuss perhaps living together on Earth.
On the face of it, that's not a particularly exciting plot, and shapeshifters are never handled very logically in the Trekverse. (At one point, Carter/the Vendorian assumes the shape of components of the deflector shield. This is... problematic to say the least, but I'll put that aside for now.) But it's an episode full of nice moments (such as when Kirk humanely if not prudently allows Carter's fiance to be his guard detail while he's in the brig) and some great lines, such as this back and forth between McCoy and Spock:
"I'm glad to see him under guard, Jim. If he'd turned into a second Spock, it would've been too much to take."
"Perhaps. But then two Doctor McCoys just might bring the level of medical efficiency on this ship up to acceptable levels."
"Perhaps. But then two Doctor McCoys just might bring the level of medical efficiency on this ship up to acceptable levels."
and this line from the Romulan commander to Kirk: "You seem to have a propensity for trespassing in the Neutral Zone, Captain."
All in all, a solid episode and well-paced tale.
PLOT: Responding to a signal transmitted in two-hundred-year-old Earth code, of which the only word decipherable is "Terratin," the Enterprise finds a planet of crystalline structure from which emanates "an undefined ray bombardment." Soon, all organic matter on the ship begins to shrink.
Kirk discovers that using the transporter (naturally; is there anything it can't do?) restores him to his regular size. The ray bombardment (shades of "The Lorelei Signal") was simply an attention-getting gesture on the part of the planet's inhabitants, citizens of a shrunken city threatened by volcanic activity. They are the descendants of a missing scientific expedition (a group of colonizers who founded "Terra Ten," which over time was corrupted to "Terratin") to the planet who, due to exposure to the unique rays on the planet, shrank too small to ever be found again. Kirk agrees to help them, everyone is restored to their original size, and everyone warps away, happy.
This wrap-up skips, unfortunately, most of what makes this episode so endearing, but it's an interesting idea and another that takes full advantage of what can be done in the animation format vs. live-action. That goes for the rest of the episodes to follow in this countdown, as well.
LEGACY: Once CGI got up to speed, this story idea was revisited in DS9 in the episode "One Little Ship." And Paul Schneider helped introduce the Romulans in his script for TOS episode "Balance of Terror."
Oh and - FINALLY! - we learn what Starfleet uniforms are made of: algae-based xenylon. Not unstable molecules, eh?
PLOT: The Enterprise is pulled into an anti-universe where time flows backwards. The crew ages in reverse and become, eventually, much too young to effectively manage the ship. It is left to Commodore Robert April (the first captain of the USS Enterprise, before Pike) and his wife Sarah, on board due to the Enterprise's ferrying them to the Commodore's planned retirement ceremony, to save the ship and restore the crew, which they do. This results in Starfleet's reconsidering the mandatory retirement age, as they - and hopefully the audience/ America, as well - realize the elderly still might have something to contribute.
Allow me to contradict my earlier decision not to link to Memory-Alpha for this one, as this summary of events is only the tip of the iceberg for this episode. It's impressive how much is covered in the span of twenty-two minutes.
It's written by "John Culver," a pen name for Fred Bronson, whose career is ongoing and has been multi-varied, to say the least. (Seriously - the only thing missing from his c.v. is commando-work in Yemen; this guy has done it all.) Bronson is a self-confessed "huge Trek geek," and this episode abounds with references to TOS concepts and stories, among (but not all of) them "All Our Yesterdays," "Journey to Babel," and "The Empath." He wrote a couple of episodes for TNG, as well, "The Game" and "Ménage à Troi." Good on ya, Fred.
This was the series finale to TAS and might even be the second-best finale of any other Trek series. If anyone has this as their favorite ep of TAS, I wouldn't argue.
LEGACY: The name of Robert April comes from Roddenberry's original name for the Enterprise's Captain from his 1964 initial outline/pitch. (Roddenberry also used the name in two episodes he wrote for Have Gun, Will Travel, which, incidentally, is among my favorite tv-titles, ever.) He appears in plenty of non-canon stories, but he's only mentioned again in one of the deleted scenes for the ST:E episode "In a Mirror Darkly, pt. 1," as part of Jonathan Archer's computer-bio. (Note: his role as first captain of the USS Enterprise is not contradicted by the events of ST:E as Jonathan Archer, of course, captains the NX-01, not the USS.)
Here we come to not just one of the strangest episodes of any Trek series but of TV in general. Think I'm exaggerating? Read on.
PLOT: The Enterprise is at the center of the Milky Way galaxy investigating nothing less than the origin of creation itself. It is quickly caught in an energy-matter whirlwind and transported to an alternate universe where magic works and science is whimsical. They are immediately contacted by "Lucien."
|He was supposed to be red-skinned, but Hal Sutherland's color-blindness, apparently, strikes again.|
Lucien seems quite familiar with humanity and treats the crew with much affection. He warns them about being discovered, as his fellow Megas-Tu inhabitants ("the Megans") are xenophobic. But, after Sulu (rather amusingly) uses magic to create a beautiful woman, they are indeed discovered, and the bridge crew is put in stocks and on trial, as well as Lucien for exposing them to evil.
It is revealed that the Megans once traveled to Earth in search of companionship, but, after being persecuted as "witches" in Salem, Massachusetts, they quit Earth forever in 1691 and returned to the stars, eventually making their way back to the Megas-Tu dimension. Kirk comes to the defense of Lucien and uses magic to get his point across to the lead prosecutor, one Mr. Asmodeus. They are convinced of humanity's having grown past its need to drive out that which is different from themselves, and the Enterprise is allowed to leave in peace.
Larry Brody's original idea was for the crew to penetrate the barrier and meet God himself, a concept of which Roddenberry (see last blog) enthusiastically approved. This was nixed by the suits. He explains further:
"'The NBC 'daytime boys' had nixed that as quickly as their prime time counterparts would've. But writing about Kirk and Spock and McCoy and the rest of the crew meeting the Devil in outer space was just fine. So that's what I did.' Brody likened the situation to his experience of having served as producer of the NBC series Police Story, during which he found that the network did not approve of showing a married policeman engage in sexual activity with his wife but did conditionally accept the series showing sex between a cop and a mistress. 'If you can show immoral sex instead of moral sex on TV," said Brody, "you can also show Satan instead of God on Star Trek, I guess.'"
Brody also expresses disappointment that his original script was rewritten so extensively by Roddenberry, a sentiment shared by many TAS writers.
I'm frankly amazed that this sympathetic depiction of the devil didn't cause more of an outcry. I mean, this was a Saturday morning cartoon, for Christ's sake. (Pun intended) The implications all around are fascinating. Trek is sometimes a bit clumsy or heavy-handed when dealing with theological stuff (TOS "Bread and Circuses" and TNG's "Who Watches the Watchers" come to mind) but when it isn't (such as here or in TNG "Devil's Due") it deserves a tip of the cap not just for "going there" but for doing it in such a compelling way that (one would hope) doesn't alienate the viewer, regardless of his/her beliefs. (I'm sure Pat Robertson was or remains offended, of course.)
LEGACY: I'll get into this more when I cover the films, but Star Trek V: The Final Frontier revisits the general concept, i.e. break through the center of the galaxy, meet God/ the devil, discover God/ the devil is not who God/the devil is believed to be. It is dealt with far more intelligently here in TAS.
PLOT: The Enterprise follows a trail of disrupted matter left by a probe that suddenly appeared, scanned Earth, and self-destructed.
|They find themselves suddenly encased in an energy field...|
|...whereupon the alien shape appears in the form of a large feathered serpent, which Ensign Dawson Walking Bear, a Comanche, recognizes as Kukulkan. (More on him below)|
Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, and Walking Bear are transported inside Kukulkan, where a huge puzzle-city must be decoded.
Once they do, Kukulkan reveals that he visited Earth long ago and is upset that his Earth children have forgotten him. Kirk et al discover a menagerie of other alien beings, whom Kukulkan also refers to as his children. Kukulkan is eventually persuaded to give everyone their freedom. As he and the Captain ruminate on events, McCoy quotes the Shakespeare of the title, and the Enterprise warps away.
Russell Bates has this to say about Kukulkan:
"As we worked, I realized that the same legends are more well known as being the winged dragon-like beings of the Aztecs, Toltecs, and the Mayans... There were three likely candidates: Varicocha of the Peruvian Incas, Quetzalcoatl of the Toltecs and Aztecs, and Kukulkan of the Mayas. We picked the latter because Kukulkan had that hard 'k' ring to it and my tribe, the Kiowas, were discovered to be related to the Mayas."
Despite the hard 'k' ring, Shatner still had trouble pronouncing it correctly, so, as in "Return of the Archons" with "Landru," the rest of the cast pronounces the deity one way while Shatner goes his own way. (The reason for this - besides Shatner's propensity for such behavior - was that he recorded his audio after the rest of the cast, and in isolation, as he was in New York for the initial cast recording session.)
LEGACY: This episode, Bates notes, was a personal tribute to Gene L. Coon, who had recently passed away. Coon wrote one of Bates' favorite TAS episodes, "Who Mourns for Adonais," a story with similar plot points. David Wise, it should be mentioned, has many other credits to his name, including one of my favorite episodes of Batman: the Animated Series.
GREAT LINE: "Vulcan was visited by such beings. They left much wiser." - Spock, on similar early alien intervention on his homeworld.
PLOT: While searching for a missing science team, Kirk, McCoy, and Spock are captured by the Lactrans, a telepathic giant-slug race who place them in a zoo. After one of their offspring is beamed aboard the Enterprise, the Lactrans realize that humans are sentient beings and don't belong in their zoo. They send a final parting message to Spock: "Humans may return in 20 or 30 of their centuries."
This episode doesn't have the greatest reputation for some reason, but it could easily (if the sets/ costumes/ make-up could have accommodated it, that is) be an episode of TOS. I may like it more than most for the humans-in-alien-zoo concept, something I've always found entertaining in The Twilight Zone, Slaugherhouse Five, or in TOS itself ("The Cage.") I think it's one of those fundamental-to-sci-fi concepts that never gets old. But beyond my affection for that, this is an intelligently written tale, and the moments between Scotty and the baby Lactran in particular are quite fun.
"I find them... strangely attractive." - Spock on their alien captors.
Shatner's voice-acting for TAS has been described as "somnambulant." He does seem to be fairly subdued in his line deliveries; we're a long way from the "They've! Transformed! The! Whole! CREW!" of TOS. But a very-much-appreciated glimpse of the old Shatner is heard here when the Lactrans pierce his mind to try and find out what happened to their child.
"What... happened! TO! ... THE BABY!!? They're destroying me! Tearing my mind to... to... to..."
PLOT: The Enterprise returns to the time-guardian planet from "City on the Edge of Forever," where Kirk, Spock and historian Erickson have used the Guardian to observe the birth of the Orion civilization, while McCoy and two other historians conduct similar research on Vulcan's past. Upon Kirk and Spock's return, however, no one aboard the Enterprise has any memory of Mister Spock except for themselves (and Erickson). The first officer of the ship is now an Andorian, Commander Thelin.
Through investigation, it is discovered that Spock's (and his mother's) existence was nullified when Vulcan history was given a brief glance through the Guardian. Spock recalls that his life was saved as child by his cousin Selek, whom he never saw again. Assuming Selek's identity, he returns to the Vulcan past to similarly intervene and restore himself to history/ the main timeline. The timeline changes once Spock arrives, as he quickly realizes, and when Young Spock goes into the desert for his kahs-wan ritual, ("The personal ordeal upon which I embarked was meant to determine the course my life would take") followed by his pet sehlat, I-Chiya, I-Chiya is mortally wounded. He delivers a nerve pinch to ease the sehlat's suffering and remarks: "This did not happen before. My life decision was made without the sacrifice of yours, old friend."
|Side note: perhaps this is the timeline that Sybok comes from?|
A healer arrives but too late to save I-Chiya, and Young Spock makes the painful decision to put him down. The timeline is restored, and Spock returns to duty.
"One small thing was changed this time. A pet died."
"A pet? But that wouldn't mean much to the course of time."
"It might... to some."
To say this episode is a bit on the heart-wrenching side is an understatement. Its writer explains further:
"The euthanizing of I-Chaya embodied a theme that Dorothy Fontana was eager to teach youngsters about. 'I actually wanted to do a story that dealt with death,' she admitted. 'It just seemed to me that so many times children are not aware of death and then, when a pet dies, the child is devastated by it. The parents find it's difficult to explain the situation. And I wanted to touch on a way to deal with the subject...[I] felt strongly about dealing with the death of a pet. It was a very serious thing for kids. We were trying to put across a lesson to children, that when it comes time for an animal to die, if he must go, it should be with dignity.' Fearing that children would be "upset" by the depiction of euthanasia, NBC executives wanted the ending of this episode changed, but Dorothy Fontana refused and Gene Roddenberry supported her decision."
Is there no concept that NBC executives want to change? It seems to be the common denominator of every behind-the-scenes TV story I've ever heard. Thankfully, here, the story came through over their ass-brained objections. It's an episode with a long shadow, to be sure; it (or some aspect of it) is referenced in each of the subsequent series, and Spock's school training and being bullied by the three other Vulcans even appears in the 2009 Star Trek.
|Released on the view-master as "Mr. Spock's Time Trek."|
As Mark Altman wrote in Trek Navigator: "a superbly moving story and a compelling Trek adventure."
We jump both forward and backward in time to overview Star Trek: Enterprise