12.31.2016

Star Trek TOS - The Left Behind


This is a companion post to Star Trek TOS - The Desert Island Collection. After I finished getting that one together, I thought I'd sort the ones that didn't make the list in least-to-most order of how I imagine they'd appeal to me while recuperating after being rescued from said shipwreck.

Then I thought, wait a minute now - what the hell kind of convoluted BS is that? That's not proper criteria for a list. How would I even explain which episode is better than another for that purpose? (Who could even relate? The real-life-Castaway/Trekkie demographic?) And besides the Desert Island Collection wasn't even necessarily my fifty favorite episodes; they were chosen for specific (yet very arbitrary) reasons. Some of the ones that didn't make the list (like "The Galileo Seven" or "The Corbomite Maneuver") are ones I like a lot more than some of the ones that did (like "The Alternative Factor".)

So I moved onto other things. Thing is, the Trek completist in me kept sending up messages from my unconscious. "How you going to blog up only two thirds of the series, bro? That ain't cool." So hey. Happy New Year, inner Trek completist. Here's the rest of the series, ranked according to the weird criteria described above. A different way of explaining how these shook out - once you remove the fifty I'd bring with me to some deserted atoll, here are the episodes of TOS I am least-to-most jazzed about finding on Me-TV Saturday nights. 

I somehow managed to cram fifty three into my Desert Island Top Fifty, so that leaves us with twenty-six episodes. I quoted myself from previous Trek entries here and there but for the most part, these are all new remarks. Sounding the deep bottom is:

26.
"Mudd's Women"

What a damn strange episode of Trek. TV altogether, really - I mean, what the hell kind of story is this? But let's keep it in the Trekverse. Where it makes absolutely no sense (at least in the Trekverse as we come to know it) for Harry Mudd to be selling wives to lonely space miners. In fairness to "Mudd's Women," a) many of the Enterprise's missions make little sense, and b) Roddenberry (the episode's writer) was still throwing Trek at the wall to see what was going to stick.

What skews this one is its confusion of message and tone. Compare to "The Man Trap" or "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" Those are vintage TOS explorations, provocative and disturbing to great purpose. This one can't decide what kind of story it wants to tell, and the result is retrograde and kind of rapey. This is the side of Roddenberry that found truer (and equally rapey) expression in Pretty Maids All in a Row.

Plus, God, Harry Mudd. WTF. 

25.
"Court Martial"

This shoehorns Trek into a Perry Mason format that makes little sense for the 23rd century and unlike "Mudd's Women," everyone involved should've known better by this point in the production.

Let me just make one thing clear - I'll take "Mudd's Women" or "Court Martial" over most other things in general. I probably really would (sadly enough) arrange to watch both of these episodes before catching up on 99% of other media if I ever actually did come back from a Robinson Crusoe adventure. TOS is like the Valley of the Kings or something; no matter how familiar you already are with it, no matter how you've previously classified the various tombs, no matter how mundane the discoveries to still be had, it's still the Valley of the Kings for eff's sake.


24.
"Charlie X"

There's a pretty fair review of this one over at Trek Nation. Viewing the story through that reviewer's eyes makes me appreciate this one a tad more than I otherwise do. But since before your sun burned hot in space, I have been cracking on this episode.  This sort of thing, for example:

I've been making "Charlie-face" to indicate "lameness" since at least 1982, usually accompanied with some sort of Professor Frink vocal garbling.

I think, as that review explores, there's a lot to appreciate in the goings-on here, but I suspect if you grew up watching TOS, this was one of the ones you made fun with your other Trek-watching friends. (Your non-Trek-watching friends probably did not appreciate the varying shades of lameness you and your pals did; to them, every TOS episode was "Charlie X.") 

23.
"The Conscience of the King"

Another curiosity from an age before Trek fully streamlined. If it ever truly did. 

Back in 1983, this was the first episode on a VHS tape that had (long play!) 6 or 7 other episodes. I didn't know it, though, and the ones I liked to watch were after it, so I was always fast-forwarding to get to them, stopping too soon, then fast-forwarding too much and having to rewind, whereupon I'd land again somewhere in the end of "Conscience." I became very familiar with the episode's last few scenes as a result of this process: Lenore, the daughter of the dictator Kodos, tries to kill Kirk, but her father steps in front of the blast. Her mind can't handle this, and she recites the Hamlet line that gives the episode its title. ("Shakespeare-style, she hovers over his dead body, monologue-ing on his loss to the world with a Fortinbras speech," as they put it over at the Tor rewatch.)

When I finally sat down to watch all of it, though, I was - and remain - very unsatisfied with how it gets to that ending. It's so determined to deliver the Enterprise onto the altar of Hamlet that it sacrifices way too much sensible-Trek to get there. (I can understand if DNA matching wasn't on the Trek writers' radar/ public consciousness, but... I mean, how about fingerprints? Did fingerprints-technology just disappear by the 23rd century?)  
 
As mentioned at that Tor review, the best you can say about it is that it inspired the name of a great Simpsons character. 

22.
"Elaan of Troyius"

I often forget about this one. Which is odd, as it features both a Klingon attack (not an every-episode-occurrence) as well as a strong guest star, France Nuyen, in the title role. But it's really just a perfunctory retelling of The Taming of the Shrew in space, with some magic potion tears thrown in. I don't understand why they felt the need to make an Iliad allusion with the title/ names, either.

Nuyen and Shatner had previously shared the stage on Broadway for two years in The World of Suzie Wong, amusingly explored here.

It's hard not to compare these proceedings to the TNG episode "The Perfect Mate." Watch that one for a much more successful take on it all. 

21.
"The Deadly Years"

On paper, this one seems like a slam dunk - it brings back both the Romulans and Corbomite, and the central conceit of the cast - especially this cast - aging via wigs and exaggerated Mr. Magoo-isms has to be a win, right?

Well, it could be worse. But it's disappointing. From Chekov's over-the-top terror and panic at episode's beginning * to the undeveloped relationship between Kirk and Dr. Wallace (she left him long ago because she likes older men - and now here they are. Where was Roddenberry on this? Seems perfectly suited for one of his let's-sex-up-the-sex-stuff-here script polishes, if only to make everyone as uncomfortable as possible.) to the final pitched battle with the Romulans, the whole thing needed a little more time in the oven. Chekov's torture at the hands of Dr. McCoy is fun.

* Okay, so it was necessary to explain how his heightened levels of adrenaline spared him the aging sickness that afflicted the rest of the landing party. But it gets things off on a false note that doesn't ring any truer as the story plays out.

20.
"Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"

It would probably take something like coming back from desert island desolation for me to truly appreciate this episode. But, to stay with my conceit, if I truly was being reunited with these TOS episodes after years of not having access to them, I'd likely get a kick out of revisiting "LTBYLB," even if it was only to note the same things I always do when this one comes around. (Namely: it's a mess and worse, it's tedious, etc.)

Bele and Lokai's powers - mentally wresting control of the ship - are problematic, as well. All in all, this is the type of leaky-roof story you get when you start with the symbolic conclusion you want it to reach without building it from the ground up. Measure twice, cut once.  

19.
"The Naked Time"

Ditto for this one, re: I'd probably look forward to revisiting it under the circumstances but otherwise yadda yadda. Fun in spots - who doesn't like Kirk's "Please not again" plea re: Riley's all-ship caterwauling? - but mostly there's a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. 

This is among the least of the crew-goes-crazy or confusion-at-the-counterculture episodes. Or even the Jim-all-going-to-crash episodes, though as a kid that part of it left an impression on me. Nimoy goes all-out with the Vulcan crying, but it's really not one of the better Spock moments for me. Kirk's speech about how he hates being married to the ship is appropriately unhinged.  

18.
"And the Children Shall Lead"

I don't hate this one as much as some, but yeah, screw this episode. I'd definitely stay up nights on the desert island talking to the coconuts and pretend I was the Gorgon, though. Well, "definitely." Who can tell with such things? Seems like something I'd do to amuse myself with fifty thousand hours to kill.

As David Mack mentions in his portion of the Tor rewatch: "It disturbed me greatly to learn this episode was the result of three story outlines and five teleplay drafts over the course of three months. That means the writers  had eight chances to get this episode right, and they bungled all of them." The review pretty much eviscerates all there is to eviscerate in this one. There's a good story in here somewhere that never quite breaks out. 

All that said, I enjoy all the stuff the kids do to the bridge crew. It's all part of the general mess of the script, but just-watching-the-original-cast-wise, it's fun.

17.
"Miri"

Like a lot of Trekkies I've talked to over the years, this episode scared the crap out of me as a kid. Not just the disease (and the diseased kids) but all the adults angrily snapping at each other. Especially Bones. ("Would you like to take a crack at it?!" is what I think of when I see people losing it in the workplace.)

It's a good episode. I think the parallel-Earth thing and the indulgent screentime of the kids and all the "Bonk Bonk on the head! NO BLAH BLAH BLAH!" stuff overshadows some of the better (and creepy) subtext. Like "The Man Trap" or "The Immunity Syndrome," this one begs to be read as Freudianly as possible. Fear of puberty and sex externalized and STDs - it's not even below-the-surface on this one; it is the surface. But it doesn't go much further than that.

I watched True Grit a lot as a kid, and I always loved that Kim Darby was also in a Trek episode. That's the sort of overlap that blew my mind when I was six or seven. Like seeing Gene Hackman in "A Taste of Armageddon." (Note: not actually Gene Hackman.) 

16.
"The Doomsday Machine"

I always feel bad when this episode comes up in conversation with fellow Trekkies, as most of them count it among their favorites. I don't hate it - and I've softened considerably on it over the years - only it just never sells me on the drama. I'm not sure why. The script does what it's supposed to do, as does the cast, and more. One of these days it's going to click with me, and then everyone will roll their eyes when I proclaim it to be one of the best TOS eps going.

Until then, here it falls. As Phil Farrand mentions in Nitpickers Guide to Classic Trek, "The inability of Dr. McCoy to certify Decker as unfit for command seems a bit too convenient for this episode." Agreed, as does the planet-killer's improbable weak spot. I mean, who cares and all, just saying. Recuperating-castaway-Bryan would enjoy pointing these things out to the nurse or whomever was checking up on him during his TOS convalescence.  

15.
"I, Mudd"

Man, I used to love this one in 7th grade. And if I squint hard enough, I can still see it from my junior high self's point of view and enjoy it.

Eugene Myers writes: "Though the episode touches on some serious subjects, this is definitely a comedy, allowing the characters to have fun with their roles. The light treatment saves this from being just another story in which Kirk outwits a computer intelligence, in this case, by bombarding it with illogical behavior. (...) Because there’s only the barest suggestion of a plot, there isn’t much more to say about the episode; as meaningful as Star Trek stories can be, sometimes it’s enough just to be entertained. I also appreciated the acknowledgment that Chekov wasn’t on the ship when they first encountered Mudd, since the young ensign asks the captain if they know him." 

I've actually been coming back around to this episode again the last couple of years. I think if I did my Desert Island Trek in 2016 "I, Mudd" might have found its way onto the list.  

14.
"The Ultimate Computer"

Intellectually, this one is pretty interesting. Hence my ranking it this high. Dramatically, this isn't really the most exciting episode of TOS. Which it should be, given everything that happens.

I was always confused why Daystrom couldn't make the M5 work. It seems like the sort of thing someone would have worked out the kinks for by the 23rd century. Even from a '60s perspective. It's just not sufficiently explained or fleshed out for me. Not a dealbreaker, just a distraction. When I want to explore this topic, I prefer Wargames to "The Ultimate Computer." Wouldn't you prefer a nice game of chess? 

13.
"The Trouble with Tribbles"

Easily Trek's most overrated episode. Harmless enough, sure. I probably prefer the DS9 tribute to it (Season 5's "Trials and Tribble-ations") if I had to pick one to watch, but it's an unfair comparison, of course.

The saga of Cyrano Jones continues in "More Tribbles, More Troubles." (A sentence guaranteed to woo even the most disinterested of prospective mates.)

12.
"The Lights of Zetar"

"When a man of Scotty's years falls in love, the loneliness of his life is suddenly revealed to him. His whole heart once throbbed only to the ship's engines. He could talk only to the ship. Now he can see nothing but the woman."

I've mentioned elsewhere the idea of the guy at Starfleet whose job it is to transcribe or otherwise account for the logs he gets from Captain Kirk. I'd love to read a story about that guy - what does he think about the Enterprise? Starfleet itself for that matter? What is the world of the 23rd century like to him? Whatever the answers are to these questions, it's Captain's Log remarks like the above that make the idea worth pursuing. WTF.

11.
"Where No Man Has Gone Before"

Ye Trek fans are in luck - Where No Blog Has Gone Before has begun a start-to-finish watch of TOS. (All Trek eventually, but TOS for now.) I urge you to get in on the ground floor; learn all that is learnable, know all that is knowable and return that knowledge to the creator. You can read some comprehensive and enjoyable remarks about this particular episode here

I actually love this and the next ten episodes, despite their not making the Desert Island Collection. They're all flawed in one way or another, some more mildly than others, but they all capture TOS for me pretty successfully. This one a little less on account of it being the earliest of early days but (as explored much more comprehensively at the link above) many of the TOS-and-subsequent-franchise-tropes make their first appearance here. 

10.
"The Mark of Gideon"

Why the hell is this one ranked so highly? Beats me. I do enjoy Spock's tedious battle with the Council Leader and the impossible amount of screentime they spend rattling numbers off. And that wonderful shot of all the Gideons peering into the fake Enterprise. But those two things can't account for where this falls. 

Speaking of the fake Enterprise, does it make any sense at all that the Gideons would construct a lifesize replica of the flagship of the Federation for the purposes stated here? Or even have the capability of doing so? About as much sense as Odana's father's whole plan of saving his civilization by deceiving the Captain into falling so utterly in love with his daughter - after laying a dose of Vegan Choriomeningitis on her to kill off some of the population - that he'd gladly stay and provide transfusions for the rest of his days. 

Co-written by Cyrano Jones himself. How about that? I didn't know that until just now looking it up. I'm always pleased to discover something new about TOS at this later hour in my life.  

9.
"Turnabout Intruder" 

Let me make clear that I find this episode as ridiculous as everyone else, but I am just forever amused by the amount of times "mutiny" is said in this episode, particularly the intensity with which Lester-Kirk belts it out at a few points. It's so goddamn awesomely ridiculous. But, I find I break with TOS fans on a few points like this. For me, any episode that hones and showcases such Shatner-ness is instantly (and obviously) more cherishable than ones that don't. (I run into this most often while discussing "Whom Gods Destroy" or "Spock's Brain." I'm always amused when people feel the need to point out that these episodes are "stupid." Yeah, well-spotted. Did you not notice all the Shatner, though? Good grief, people.)

At one point Spock says "No complete entity transfer has ever been accomplished with success anywhere in the galaxy." Uhh, what about "Return to Tomorrow?" What about the whole Vulcan katra transferance ritual? (Granted that one hadn't been invented yet, franchise-wise.) But really, I'm not sure any of the loose threads in this one are any worse or more egregious than any other. It's a mess. (This is mutiny, though!) 

8.
"Obsession"

Not the James M. Cain story. That'd be something, though.

I kind of like this episode more now than I ever did. It only took 50 or 60 rewatches, never meaning to really sit down and figure it out, just a cumulative effect over time.  It's a little like Jaws: the Revenge, sure, in space. Or maybe it's more like Jaws 2, actually.  

Either way, for Trek's bottle episodes, it's perfectly agreeable.

7.
"Patterns of Force"

I mentioned my rationale for leaving this off the Desert Island Collection in my review of "Bread and Circuses:"

"Given their similarity of theme and plot, it was either this one or "Patterns of Force" for my Desert Island Top 50. I chose this one over "Patterns" partly for the reason given elsewhere - I think I'd get more of a kick out of being reunited with Nazi Planet Trek Episode once rescued from said scenario than I would out of Roman Planet Trek Episode - but also because "Bread and Circuses" is more visually unique. I can think of at least a dozen (probably a hundred) non-WW2 shows where there are Third Reich uniforms; how many Romans with sub-machine guns episodes can you name?"

There are two moments worth mentioning: (1) When Kirk and Spock are first posing as Nazis, Shatner says something like "That's one Zeon PIG that won't be fighting us anymore" but he does that trademark Shatner "p" sound for pig, where he split-second pauses before it, really emphasizing the "p" sound. (See also: anytime he says "parallel" but most especially in "Mirror, Mirror.") And (2) McCoy's pretend-inebriation and his half-hearted Nazi salutes always crack me up. 

6.
"The Savage Curtain"

The enduring and endearing insanity of Kirk taking a swing at the guy made of smoldering molten rock always makes me happy. 

At two points in this episode, when Honest Abe mentions "minutes" and "miles", Kirk and Spock allude to "converting" to the ex-President's "old-style measurements." Since when does TOS Enterprise not use minutes and miles? They switch between miles and the metric system a few times in the series, but they use minutes fairly consistently. Maybe they're just showing off for President Lincoln. He is, after all, one of the Captain's heroes. I enjoy that side of this one, how Kirk and Spock are essentially playing cowboys-and-Indians in the backyard with their boyhood heroes. 

5. 
"Is There in Truth No Beauty?"

There's a lot to recommend this episode: some very cool concepts, commendable spirit, Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, great performance (and character, even if she's jerked around pretty hard by the senior staff of the Enterprise) by Diana Muldaur, and a strong sci-fi sensibility. 

Unfortunately, some of the dialogue is a little clunky, and since most of the action that isn't a fish-eye lens of people going nuts (including one of the guest stars whose "LIAR!" screech is among the most memorable of all the audio samples in my head) is people standing around and talking, that makes for a bit of a slog.  

4.
"Journey to Babel"

"Humans smile with so little provocation."

At first glance, the central idea of this episode - the Enterprise is hosting an all-important space-UN pow-wow - is undermined by some of the basic silliness on display. Such as: Kirk didn't do even the most cursory research on the ambassadors or various conflicts? Spock withholds a potentially logical detail for, what, dramatic effect? (Parents, ugh!) And he's willing to let a very important ambassador die rather than, I don't know, give Scotty the com for an hour or two? (Whether or not the medical procedure described truly would tax the resources of 23rd medical technology is a whole other question.)

Yet, each of these things seems consistent with the Kirk and Spock we see elsewhere, no? Is it really so unbelievable that Kirk wouldn't bother to even read Mr. Spock's personnel file, inquire why his parental info was missing, or read up on who was coming aboard for this conference? Not at all. And look, as awesome as Spock is, he really does make some very dramatic decisions, doesn't he? Especially when charged with command? At least in TOS. Eugene Myers nails the real weakness of the goings-on:

"It’s generally advisable to raise the stakes and introduce conflict and complications for maximum dramatic effect, but D.C. Fontana might have pushed too far. Not only is Sarek a murder suspect, but he needs emergency heart surgery! Not only is Spock the only person who can donate blood, but he can’t because Captain Kirk is abruptly incapacitated at the worst possible time. There’s a spy on board transmitting secret communiques, and the ship’s under attack! Spock figures out what the enemy ship’s unusual power utilization curve means, but before he can tell everyone the secret to life, the universe, and everything, Nurse Chapel drugs him unconscious.

Any one of these plotlines could easily fill out an hour - and they have - but put them all together and the episode is crammed full of story but drained of meaning. I would have liked a quieter focus with Spock earning his father’s respect, which seemed to be the gist of it."
 
 


3.
"The Empath"

Only "Spectre of the Gun" manages a more poetic use of Season 3's re-use-existing-sets-or-else budgetary directive. The sparseness of the set design is the episode's main strength. I wish the score was a bit less swirling to match it.

You'd figure Scotty's weirdness with this smile and wave would have clued at least Spock in to it all being a deception.

Two blink-and-you'll-miss-em references have always intrigued me: (1) the sand bats of Manark IV, which appear as inanimate rock crystals until the attack, and (2) the planet of mutes on Gamma Vertis II. Both are the sort of loony-as-an-Alturian-dogbird allusions that give breadth and history to the Trekverse 

2.
"The Corbomite Maneuver"

Great episode. Prototypical Trek. ("ANY TIME YOU CAN BLUFF ME, DOCTOR!") Left off the Desert Island Trek because "Balance of Terror" and "Arena" explore similar terrain, and I prefer those episodes. But that's not to knock this one.

"And now... the tranya.

1.
"The Galileo Seven"

Some people consider this the very best episode of TOS altogether. I don't agree, but is it a notable and very emblematic-of-the-firm story? Absolutely. Obviously, I guess, given its taking the Left Behind top spot. And perhaps it should have been selected for the Desert Island Collection - who knows. One thing that ends with 2016 is my ever referring again to Desert Island Trek Collections or My Rationale for the Non-Desert-Islands Ones. The deed is done, the record sealed. I'm cured, praise God.

The basic scenario of this one (away party in crisis, Enterprise crew harried by Federation official to get on with it) was better expressed in "A Taste of Armageddon," but "Galileo" has the Spock's First Command sort of deal. And Spock is a complete disaster. As a kid I always felt bad for him, but these days I can't help shaking my head at the chain of incompetence. It's like an instructional video. 

We're meant to see his reckless jettisoning of the fuel and igniting it at the end as his redemption, his finally embracing his human side and thus saving the day by sending up a signal flare that Mr. Sulu is able to pick up on the Enterprise. But, it's only the last of a series of bad decisions and blind luck that it worked. None of the assumptions Spock makes - about his crewmates, about the giants - are logical at all, despite his frequent confusion about "following the logical course." Maybe Shatner was working behind-the-scenes to sandbag Nimoy.

While we're here, the Galileo's mission was to observe quasar phenomena. Why is Bones along for this? I know this is the sort of thing that we're not meant to ask about TOS - once you admit that one away mission has some wonky personnel choices, you have to admit all of them. But seriously - why do the ship's chief medical officer and chief engineer go along on this? 


All that said, would I save this one for last in my TOS re-acclimation to civilization? You bet I would.  
 
~
Happy New Year, Friends and Neighbors!

14 comments:

  1. "Then I thought, wait a minute now - what the hell kind of convoluted BS is that?" -- Your first LOL of 2017 from this commenter. The nonsensicality of that thought process makes perfect sense to me, by the way.

    "Mudd's Women" -- I watched this episode just last night as phase one of my prep work for an eventual post about it. Which, God help me, is going to be a chore to write. I don't like this episode one bit. I'll take "Spock's Brain" any day of the week. I did have the epiphany that if Mudd were to appear in modern Trek, I'd want him to be played by Jemaine Clement. Except I hope never to see a rebooted Harry Mudd.

    "Court Martial" -- My memory is that I like some of the acting, and the direction, but that the plot doesn't really make any sense. That isolate-the-heartbeat thing at the end (was it a heartbeat?) seemed very cool to me as a kid, though.

    "Charlie X" -- I like this one more than you do, but God almighty, do those "Charlie-face" screencaps crack me up. I'm going to make some similarly nauseating Mudd's-women-face screencaps soon, by the way.

    "The Conscience of the King" -- Another one I like better than you. But I can't defend it. It's pretty lame, to be honest. It seems to have jumpstarted the odd Trekian obsession with Shakespeare, and I've got a theory about that: it gives nerds an excuse to think Trek is high art. And the thing is, Trek IS high art, at least at its best; it needs no excuses to be made for it. This is similar to how a certain type of Stephen King fan loves to say that "he's the modern Charles Dickens" or some such rubbish. It's just nerds trying to come to terms with their nerdery.

    "Elaan of Troyius" -- Oh my GOD that photo of France Nuyen outside of Trek...! What a babe! Which is odd, because I've never been attracted to her as Elaan. That's an episode that's never worked all that well for me, though, so maybe I'm letting a bit of bias against the episode prevent my manly urges.

    "The Deadly Years" -- This is one of the ones I always forget about. It's not awful, but I agree that it somehow just fails to gel.

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    1. I'm one of those "King is the 20th century Dickens" people! Or at least I've posited such a thing in the past. I think he has more in common with Rudyard Kipling, actually, except Dickens was more rags-to-riches, like King, vs. Kipling.

      But, I know what you mean. (For what it's worth, tho, I do see some legit parallels outside of trying to put a positive spin on my nerdery.)

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    2. Oh, I think it's a perfectly valid analysis/opinion. But I've seen some variant of it from many a poser, and I think they saw somebody else say it and then seized on it because it made their love for King feel more justifiable. When, in fact, it need never have been justified!

      This all makes sense in my head, I swear.

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  2. "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" -- I think you are right on the money in saying this one was a victim of putting the message before the story. And maybe, in the long run, that's okay. I'm feeling more generous about that sort of thing these days. Even shittily-executed messages of goodness are preferable to some of the other messages in the world. I don't hate this episode, or even dislike it, but it has always struck me as being a bit silly and overrated.

    "The Naked Time" -- It was too early in the show's run to do this episode, I think. Which makes it even weirder that when they did a TNG remake, it was just as early in that show's run. Bless your heart for mentioning that this is not one of your favorite Spock moments -- I've secretly thought Nimoy was awful in this episode for years, and now feel I've been given permission to say it. Such a relief!

    "I'd definitely stay up nights on the desert island talking to the coconuts and pretend I was the Gorgon, though." -- 2017 LOL #2. You're off to a hell of a start! This one ranks very close to my bottom-of-the-Trek-pile list, not merely of TOS, but among all Treks.

    "Miri" -- I never saw "True Grit" until I was in college, and I was thrilled to see the "Miri" girl in it. I don't care for the "grups" lingo -- did the Stephen King of "Lisey's Story" somehow get his hands on this screenplay?!? -- but otherwise, I think this is a solid episode.

    "The Doomsday Machine" -- I think you are right about the shortcomings, but this is a case of the way it's all put together working for me so well that I forgive it whatever its sins are. I'm not sure it's in my top ten or anything, but I do love it.

    "I, Mudd" -- I literally just now got that the title is an "I, Robot" joke. Good lord, what a dunce I am! Ugh. Anyways, as much as I loathe Harry Mudd, I do kind of enjoy this episode, which is so daffy that it feels like Mudd belongs in it; which was not the case with "Mudd's Women." The episode's existence is justified just for that screencap on the right.

    "The Ultimate Computer" -- Solid episode, but nothing special.

    "The Tribble With Troubles" -- I like that typo. Leaving it. I enjoy the episode well enough, but I agree that it's massively overrated. And I don't know what to say about an episode that has a bootleg ripoff of Harry Mudd in it. Cyrano Jones is maybe a bit less objectionable, but that's a rickety "maybe."

    "The Lights of Zetar" -- Scotty creeps me out in this one.

    "Where No Man Has Gone Before" -- Thanks for the plug! You couched it within a V'Ger reference, too, so bonus points aplenty.

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    1. I like "The Tribble with Troubles," too. Not that I want them to make any more Tribbles sequels, but if they do, they should use that title for one of them.

      I'll take "LTBYLB" over most things, but it's not Trek at its best.

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    2. Having watched "The Naked Time" again tonight, I think I may have overstated the awfulness of Nimoy's performance. He's actually pretty great in moments here and there. The problem with the crying scene is that it feels a bit forced and unnatural. A determined retconner could probably make it work.

      I enjoyed the episode more than I expected to. I think the next movie ought to involve Riley holding the ship hostage and singing Irish bar-songs to the crew. Gotta save on that budget somewhere.

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    3. I'm glad to hear Nimoy came off a little better on rewatch. I'm happy to chalk up the off-ness of that scene to any of the other factors impeding that episode.

      I'd be tickled pink if they found a way to get Riley back into things. Or even if they did a full-on reboot of "Conscience of the King" for the next Trek. I'd rather they take an episode like that, which didn't quite work, and make it great. That'd be my ideal Kelvin-Trek next outing.

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    4. Nimoy's "crying" is weak, but I think he's good enough in the scene where Kirk confronts him that it makes up for it. Same goes for the scene with Chapel. I always kind of forget about those scenes being in this episode; but the crying scene is burned in there. And this time, I didn't find that to be as shabby as I remembered it.

      I'm not sure there will even be another Kelvinverse movie. Maybe in ten years or so, when they think people have gotten nostalgic for it. "Beyond" tanked pretty hard. In general, it feels like the tide of opinion has sort of turned against those movies. I'm not sure it's an earned sentiment ... but I'm not sure it's entirely unearned, either.

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    5. I've got my issues with "Beyond." It wasn't the movie that the Kelvin franchise needed. Idris Elba was weak. They blew up the goddamn Enterprise again. A dozen other things I could mention. But: I agree, I'm not sure it's the fairest peg to hang the non-realization of the rebooted franchise on. It seems like they experienced a crisis of identity fairly early on and squandered the momentum. From what I've read, it doesn't seem to be exclusively anyone's fault, more of a Too Many Cooks situation. Too bad.

      It's a big topic, but I really wonder what will happen with Trek. I've been watching random episodes of VOYAGER lately and enjoying it, and I wonder if we're ever going to see something like the Berman/Braga/Piller factory again.

      I'm sure the new show will be a hit, in its fashion. I can't see anything Trek-related not finding at least a sustainable portion of the Trek-watching audience. The trick seems to be forging a relationship between the cast(s) and said audience, and I think people feel like they're being taken for granted.

      But, who knows.

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    6. There is a scenario in which we could theoretically return to something akin to the Berman/Piller factory system. The new show is launching on CBS All Access, but will only be 10-13 episodes. I'm absolutely going to subscribe for it ... but only for those few weeks. Once the new episodes end, I'm out, because that's money I don't need to spend. I suspect a great many people will do the same thing, which means that the day after the season finale airs, CBS is going to see a tremendous drop in subscribers.

      There's an obvious solution to that problem. Begin creating new Trek series. You can work in multiple time periods, and use multiple creative teams, so it's not like you'd necessarily be overtaxing the creatives. So we could theoretically end up with, say, "Discovery," plus new seasons of "Enterprise" and "Deep Space Nine," plus a series post a hundred years after TNG featuring the Enterprise-J, or something like that.

      I don't think that's out of the realm of possibility at all. And let's be honest: culturally, the time is VERY right for Trek to come back to television and do what it is famed for doing. I'm not going to bet money on any of these things happening, but neither am I going to bet against it. (I'm real non-committal today, apparently.)

      I loved "Beyond" when I watched it, but that may just be because it was in IMAX and I was in a good mood. It hasn't sat well in my memory, partially because it is indeed a shockingly poor use of Elba. I gave the destruction of the Enterprise a pass because it was well-rendered, but that truly is an idea that should not have been allowed out of the pitch stage. Paramount should have just pushed the project back and taken the time to properly develop it.

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  3. "The Mark of Gideon" -- This episode is nonsense, but it's well-made nonsense, and I'll forgive a decent amount of nonsense if it's got a shiny-enough ribbon on it.

    "Turnabout Intruder" -- You are now up to LOL #3, via "I'm always amused when people feel the need to point out that these episodes are "stupid." Yeah, well-spotted." So true! And the thing is ... shit, I mean, is it THAT stupider an episode than three or four dozen others? I think not. In some ways, it's no stupider than "Court Martial." Don't get me wrong, this one isn't high on my list, either; but ever since you sung its praises in one of your other posts, I've been looking forward to revisiting it.

    "Obsession" -- I like this one okay, but Kirk's titular obsession has always seemed a bit forced on a screenplay level. Not a deal-breaker, though.

    "Patterns of Force" -- In no way should this episode work. And yet, it more or less does. But I agree that if the choice is between this and "Bread and Circuses," the choice is clear.

    "The Savage Curtain" -- Well, they're in space, so I think they have to use space-minutes. Which, for our benefit, they refer to as "minutes" when the topic arises. So, like, Abraham Lincoln is talking about ACTUAL minutes, and they don't know what the eff that is. I think that's how to explain all that. I'm always surprised by how un-campy and utterly sincere this episode is. It sounds ridiculous; but it really kind of isn't. Fascinating!

    "Is There In Truth No Beauty?" -- I'm going to make another #TrekConfession. I prefer Pulaski to Crusher. And it's not a contest; not remotely. As a result of that, even if this (or her other TOS episode) were Trek's worst episode, I'd love it on account of it containing hot young Diana Muldaur. And she really is quite good, apart from considerations of that nature.

    "Journey to Babel" -- This would be another of my candidates for most-overrated-episode status. I don't dislike it; I just don't think it's crucial in any way, except for the performances by Spock's parents.

    "The Empath" -- I dig this episode. I have a very strong memory of the first time I ever saw it. I was at my Aunt's house, and it just riveted me in a way only a few Trek episodes had ever done before. My reactions have tempered somewhat over the years since, but that first viewing has always stuck with me.

    "The Corbomite Maneuver" -- A few mildly wonky moments here and there (and a few not-so-mildly wonky ones), but otherwise, this one is an all-time classic for me. Seems better every time I see it, if anything. That screencap of Uhura is fantastic!

    Holy christ, I'd never seen that grown-up-Balok thing. I may vomit. Not sure if it's from glee or horror.

    "The Galileo Seven" -- You make a great point about Spock's final act of desperation being a bad decision. It works, sure; but that's just because the screenwriters decided it worked. I like this episode a lot, though. Those giant natives creep me out.

    You make a good point about McCoy and Scotty being on the trip. I'm not sure Spock himself would have gone; in "real" life, he'd likely have had a subordinate officer who took that trip. No way the first officer goes on missions like that. But I can live with that; conventions of television and all.

    Welcome back from the desert island! Sorry to hear about Wilson...

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    1. Thank you! The experience at least afforded me the opportunity to finally sort out my feelings on TOS and put them out there for the world. Something I've wanted to do, really, since the 80s. For better or for worse, the deed is done!

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    2. re: "Turnabout Intruder" / pointing out eps are dumb. JM DeMatteis recently ranked his TOS eps and I mentioned my enduring love of "Spock's Brain" and he did the same. ("I watched it again, and it really is lousy.") I felt like replying that to him, "Good job, dude - you really nailed the important thing to observe, there!" But that would have been a) unforgivably rude and uncalled for, and b) an overreaction on my part. Buy Jaysis - no flippin' crap "Spock's Brain" and "Turnabout Intruder" are stupid; that ain't no kind of an answer...

      I like Crusher over Polaski, but Diana Muldaur was gorgeous, no doubt, and she's a cool character (and totally dissed by Kirk and Spck! Unforgivably) in "ITITNB."

      I had a similar experience with "The Empath." That really blew my mind when I saw it, and it took me forever to get back around to it for some reason. That was a "Saturday afternoon Trek" - I tend to group TOS eps into how I first saw them. (There are weeknight-Treks, Saturday-afternoon-Treks, Treks-I-had-on-VHS-in-Germany, and then later-Treks-with-Klum-in-Dayton.) Anyway, if you'd asked, say, 1988 Bryan which Trek was the best, he probably would've had "The Empath" all the way up in his top 10. It's still a good episode and all, just yeah, some of the "strings" are showing, so to speak. Great ambience, though.

      Thank you as always for the detailed remarks and Happy New Year to you!

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    3. Same to you!

      Interesting that we had similar experiences with "The Empath." I wonder if that means it's secretly got a huge contingency of silent fans among Trekkies. I'm going to pretend that's the case even if it isn't.

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