9.02.2013

Captain's Blog pt. 65: Who Mourns for Adonais?

The second episode of Star Trek's 2nd season premiered on 22 September 1967:


Script / story: (7.5 / 7 of 10/10). A story where the Enterprise crew encounters the literal Apollo from Greek mythology and even has dialogue from Kirk about how much of 23rd century culture comes from a worship of such beings could easily collapse under the strain of its own message. "Plato's Stepchildren" and "The Savage Curtain" (as fun as "Curtain" is) are good examples of inelegantly mixing real history with Trek history like that; the results don't quite justify the conceit. But "Adonais" is something different. Grounded in recognizable emotion throughout, it takes a compelling premise ("what if the Greek gods were aliens and whatever happened to them...") and ends up making several subtle points about the relationship of belief, worship, and spiritual evolution.

I'll take it easy on most of these points - you can thank me later - and try and focus mainly on the compelling premise/ fun story. Our evening begins in Peter Seychelles' comfortable study. (The candlelight is just right, the hi-fi is in the background and the wine is delicious.)

This screencap from the remastered release is so Hamburger-Helper-y. Doesn't work for me at all. And while I understand the logic of making all M-class planets look like Earth, I greatly prefer the old day-glo planets.
Much cooler. Anyway.
Apollo.

Gilbert Ralston, according to Koenig's autiobiography, intended it to be a "The bigger they are, the harder they fall" story. Still is, but it was expanded, not unkindly, into the more familiar Trek theme of "we have outgrown the need for gods" by DC Fontana and the Genes. That theme is probably conveyed here as well if not better than anywhere else in TOS (and beyond. It's a fun companion piece to both TAS' "The Magicks of Megas-Tu" and TNG's "Devil's Due.")

Even if they're a little too on-the-nose about it at times.
"Would it have killed us, I wonder, to have gathered a few... laurel leaves?" I wish Bones could have smacked him upside the back of the head for that one. Would've torpedoed the gravitas of the resolution, but man, what I wouldn't give.
Scotty's inability to find romance is addressed for the first time here. It'll return in later episodes like "Wolf in the Fold" and "The Lights of Zetar."
Apollo's infatuation with Lt. Palamas and her surrendering to his charms is the other arc of the episode.
Shades of Horace - and yes, I'm the kind of guy who says stuff like Shades of Horace... - "Conquered Greece took captive her savage conqueror and brought her arts into rustic Latium."

As originally written, Palamas discovers she is pregnant with Apollo's child at episode's end. (Something expanded upon in Peter David's Star Trek: New Frontier.) I'm not sure why that was changed - it's an excellent ending - but a likely explanation is the network censors. No sex with the gods, please; this is NBC. (How they got "A Taste for Armageddon" by them is one for the thwart-the-censors hall of fame.)

Back to life, back to reality.

Title (2.5 of 3). For years I mispronounced "Ad-oh-nay-us" as "Adonis." I was corrected (with a big eye-roll, like I was getting a comeuppance of some kind) by a professor in college. It'd have been nice if someone said Adonais once in this episode, to protect me from such things.

If you have the opportunity, read the Shelley poem which inspires the title of this episode. Mick Jagger read a part of it at Brian Jones' eulogy in Hyde Park, a scene darkly parodied in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 1969:


Guests: (4.5 of 5). I don't read many New Age Spiritual Adventure-type books these days, but for a spell in the 90s (starting when a friend lent me Way of the Peaceful Warrior, a book I really enjoyed back in the day but I either outgrew or one that wasn't very good to begin with) I made my way through quite a few such authors. (I call this phase the "Carlos Castenada phase" of my life, which is kind of a misnomer, since I didn't read much Castaneda at all during it. But the name stuck for my personal "files.")

Among them was Richard Bach, probably best known for Jonathan Livingston Seagull. But my personal favorite was The Bridge Across Forever, which recounts his meeting and falling in love with Lt. Palamas herself. As with Millman's Peaceful Warrior series, I have no idea if it'd appeal to me these days. But I remember it fondly, and as a result, it's become impossible for me not to project the Leslie Parrish of that book onto her performance in this episode. Regardless, she acquits herself well in this role.


 She would wear this famous Bill Theiss dress again in a 1968 episode of Mannix entitled "The Girl in the Frame." 


Michael Forest is one of the all-time great Trek guest stars. His Apollo is appropriately bombastic, arrogant, commanding, and, ultimately, sympathetic. To judge him too harshly - as Kirk realizes - is to judge ourselves.

But, defy him we must. Come at me, bro!

Here's a little section I like to call: 

I WILL NOT BE MOCKED!
      
These last two are kind of suggestive.
Hey, don't shoot the messenger.
Kirk and the Gang: (25 of 10).

Welcome aboard, Mr. Chekov.
Koenig had to wear this goofy wig for his first few episodes until his hair grew out.


It's undeniably sentimental for me to see a young Koenig (though not as young as Chekov's supposed to be) mugging for the camera in this wig. Was there even an inkling that he'd be reprising this role (increasingly bewigged) for seven motion pictures and countless conventions over the next five decades? Does he think the same thing when he sees this episode now? Or Our Town?

In light of their hooking up in the new movies, it amuses me to read the Spock and Uhura scenes a little differently when I watch TOS now. i.e. To project onto them, I guess I mean. In case such things amuse you, it's fun to project naughtiness on this little exchange re: Uhura's "exceptional oral sensitivity."

"Speed is essential, lieutenant."
"It's very delicate work, sir."
"I can think of no one better equipped to handle it. Please proceed."

And lest we forget:


Visual Design: (2.5 of 3). I've showcased the costumes, but the Greek ruins/planet surface stuff is also quite striking. It was all filmed in the studio. Production Assistants shook the trees to make them look like they swayed in an imaginary breeze. Ah, show biz.

 

Memorability: (3 of 3). Foolish mortal! A god cannot survive as a memory.

Internal Logic (2.25 of 3). I find it a little weird that Scotty refers to Apollo as a "bloodthirsty Saracen," but hey. Scotty.

Total Points Awarded : 54.25

7 comments:

  1. Trek asserting that the Greek gods existed, and actually having a showdown with Apollo, is both fun and ballsy. This is especially true because they didn't cop out and make him some "faux" Apollo drawn from their collective cultural memories or some-such malarkey. It's too bad that the concept wasn't explored a bit more in-depth, but that wouldn't have fit too well into the format of the show, both time-wise and thematically.

    It would have been interesting to see NextGen or maybe Enterprise deal with the Annunaki.

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  2. This episode is my earliest Star Trek memory -- long before I became a fan of the show. I remember it from about 1971 or so, when I'd have been about five years old.

    There is little bad to say about this episode. The script is strong. The cast does a nice job from beginning to end. The sets and costumes are magnificent.

    However, it's just not that exciting nor cerebral. I does not rank in my favorite episodes for that reason. I like a Star Trek episode because it has great action, great character development, or a hidden message to ponder. This episode seems to lack those qualities.

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  3. Look, I'm going to just say what we're all thinking here: Scotty is not good enough for Lt. Palamas. Dude has NO shot. He's just fooling himself.

    "I can think of no one better equipped to handle it. Please proceed." That's pretty great.

    I'd never heard that Palamas was originally supposed to end the episode pregnant. Imagine the possibilities of that! She could have given birth to some sort of Hercules-type superhuman, or who knows what. The series undoubtedly would have failed to follow up on the development, but it's fun to consider.

    I had a fascination with Greek (and Norse) mythology when I was a child, and I wish I could remember whether that predated me seeing this episode, or vice versa. But I can't. That must mean that I saw the episode first; otherwise, I'm sure I would have memorably flipped out to see a character from one of my obsessions cross over into a second obsession. And THAT makes me wonder if my love for Greek mythology might have been a result of this episode. Time to get hypnotized and find out! M-O-O-N, that spells hypnotized!

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    1. You've got me wondering, myself... did I get into Greek mythology from this episode or was it Jason or the Argonauts? Or Clash of the Titans? I think it was probably one of the latter. I used to play a bit of Dungeons and Dragons, though, and I read the crap out of that Deities and Demigods book. Probably a dash of all the above and then "Adonais" was the kicker.

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  4. I know artist George Perez loves him,but I always felt,if there was one Star Trek guy,that deserved a big kick me sign it was Apollo.I remember watching this back in the 1970's with my Kelley MacKloskey making fun of this ass

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  5. He is the only original Star Trek character needing a kick me sign on his back

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    1. Alternate ending:

      "Would it have killed us, I wonder, to have gathered a few laurel leaves?"
      (pause)
      "Someone tag that 'Kick Me' sign as evidence. Let's beam back to the ship."

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