Posted in Television

Rob Watches Star Trek: She Dies???

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek: The Next Generation
TITLE: S1:E23 – “Skin of Evil”
STARRING: Patrick Stewart, Marina Sirtis, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Denise Crosby
GUEST-STARRING: Ron Gans (voice)
WRITER: Joseph Stefano, Hannah Louise Shearer
DIRECTOR:
Joseph L. Scanlan
ORIGINAL AIR DATE:
April 25, 1988
SYNOPSIS:
A mission to rescue Deanna Troi proves deadly for the Enterprise crew.

New Around here? Check out the “Rob Watches Star Trek archive!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Less than a minute into “Skin of Evil,” we get a sweet little exchange between Worf and Tasha. The latter is entering some kind of martial arts tournament on the ship, and Worf tells her he bet on her. In response, Tasha gives him a somewhat embarrassed smile, and has a little twinkle in her eye.

This exchange got me excited. We’d already seen our share of romance on this show. But a human and an alien? A klingon, no less? The frosty Worf and the fiesty Tasha? The possibilities were as intriguing as just about anything this first season of TNG had showed us thus far.

Then, about 10 minutes later, Tasha is killed by a sentient puddle of black goo. It’s not a fake-out, either. The character actually gets killed off. So much for that idea…

Denise Crosby, who played Tasha, would go on to say she left the show due to her character being underdeveloped. She said in a 2012 interview, “I was miserable. I couldn’t wait to get off that show. I was dying. … I didn’t want to spend the next six years going ‘Aye, aye, captain,’ and standing there, in the same uniform, in the same position on the bridge.”

I think at this point, I’m officially comfortable agreeing with the masses who say season one of Star Trek: The Next Generation just isn’t very good. It’s not terrible, and it does do a fine job of setting the table for good television. But even judging by the limited number of episodes I’ve seen, I can tell there’s something missing.

Thinking back on my viewing of the original series, I remember being interested in the characters fairly early. But by comparison Star Trek only had three main characters: Kirk, Spock, and Bones. Everyone else was primarily a background player.

TNG, on the other hand, was more ambitious. Look at all the characters that Tasha says farewell to via hologram at the end of this episode. Picard, Ryker, Worf, Deanna, Geordie, Beverly Crusher and Wesley, Data. Throw Tasha in there, and that’s a whopping nine characters we opened the series with. Ambition is one thing. But maybe they came in a little too ambitious. Couldn’t we have met at least a couple of these characters as the first season progressed?

*sigh* Oh Tasha. We’ll always have “The Naked Now,” won’t we?

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Posted in Television

Rob Watches Star Trek – The Value of Failure

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek: The Next Generation
TITLE: S1:E19. “Coming of Age”
STARRING: Patrick Stewart, Will Wheaton, Jonathan Frakes
GUEST-STARRING: Ward Costello, Robert Schenkkan
WRITER: Sandy Fries
DIRECTOR:
Mike Vejar
ORIGINAL AIR DATE:
March 14, 1988
SYNOPSIS:
As Wesley takes his Starfleet entrance exam, the Enterprise is the subject of a mysterious investigation.

New Around here? Check out the “Rob Watches Star Trek” archive!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I’ll admit, despite insisting that I don’t mind the Wesley character, I did groan a little when I realized this episode was largely about him. Young Will Wheaton did have a very punchable face…

This is another “Mary Sue” episode. That’s a damn shame. As it actually could have been really good if the impetus wasn’t there to make Wesley seem so damn perfect. 

The show sees Wesley attempt to pass the Starfleet entrance exam, and ultimately fail. Though he doesn’t fail due to any fault of his own. At least not as far as the viewer can tell. Over the course of the episode we see him being effortlessly smart, generous, kind, and brave. It largely seems that the only reason Wesley doesn’t pass is because he chose to help another candidate during a crucial moment.

I like stories that take a hard look at failure. Not just because I’ve tried and failed a bunch of times myself, but because failure has a lot of value. Our failures shape who we are every bit as much as our successes. Sometimes more. An episode where this apparent young prodigy gives it his all but ultimately comes up short, thus learning to cope with failure, might have been really compelling. Not to mention make for some nice character development.

The episode tries to play that tune. But ironically, it fails. Instead or seeing him struggle, we see Wesley emerge as the likely winner from the start. His only flaw (if any) is that he’s too kind for his own good. Toward the end there’s an attempt at a teachable moment in which Picard tells Wesley he failed at his first attempt at the Starfleet exam as well. But it falls flat. Because Wesley didn’t really fail, did he? He made a sacrifice, thus causing his own failure. It doesn’t add up.

Running parallel with the Wesley plot is a clumsy one about the Enterprise being investigated, which leads to Picard being offered a job as the head of the Starfleet Academy. The only interesting thing that comes out of it is the conversation between Wesley and Picard. The notion of the ultra-strict captain being offered a teaching position seems like a bad fit at first. But the scene where Picard counsels Wesley about failure shows that, despite certain inclinations, he can in fact be a good teacher. That’s an important quality for a leader to have. So it made for some nice insight into Picard.

But overall, this one was a stinker. As is much of season one at large. That’s a big disappointment, as I’m still waiting for this show to live up to all the hype…

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

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Rob Watches Star Trek: When Aging Turns to Caricature

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek: The Next Generation
TITLE: S1.E16. “Too Short a Season”
STARRING: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner
GUEST-STARRING: Clayton Rohner, Marsha Hunt, Michael Pataki
WRITERS: Michael Michaelian, D.C. Fontana
DIRECTOR:
Rob Bowman
ORIGINAL AIR DATE:
February 8, 1988
SYNOPSIS:
The Enterprise hosts an elderly admiral who has taken a drug to reverse the aging process.

New Around here? Check out the “Rob Watches Star Trek” archive!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Early in this episode, the bad guy addresses our main guest character, Admiral Mark Jameson. The first thing he says is: “So, Jameson, I see time has not been kind.”

That could very well be the biggest understatement in the history of Star Trek.

Our premise for this episode is that Jameson, a retired admiral, is brought in to negotiate over a hostage crisis with a old rival Karnas (shown below). Are we to believe that these men are the same age? If so, what in God’s name happened to make Jameson look the way he does by comparison?

From a meta perspective, we know what happened. The story called for this character to age in reverse thanks to a drug, so they wanted to make him look as old as humanly possible from the start. The problem is, unless Jameson was in some kind of toxic chemical accident at some point, what’s happened to him doesn’t look like it’s in the realm of human possibility.

Looking at Jameson (shown above), along with the make-up job they did on DeForest Kelley for Bones’ appearance in “Encounter at Farpoint,” it seems to me like the showrunners were overthinking the extended aging process of the Star Trek universe.

The implication seems to be that medical science has advanced to the point that people can live to be well over 100. So from a production standpoint, you’d want to make it obvious to your audience that this person is very old. Fair enough. But in theory, if medical science can extend human lives, can’t it also allow people to age gracefully to the point they don’t look like monsters?

Why even mess with latex prosthetics to begin with? What’s wrong with a basic white wig and conventional make-up? A character doesn’t have to have flappy jowls or exaggerated liver spots for us to understand they’ve aged.

The moral of this story? Whenever possible, keep it simple. Star Trek is filled with over-the-top ideas and visuals as it is. So there’s no need to go over the top with something as simple as human aging.

Incidentally, Michael Pataki, who plays Karnas, was also in “The Trouble With Tribbles.” Given what we saw in “The Naked Now,” I’m quite surprised we won’t be seeing tribbles this season. Or for that matter, any point during TNG. What, they make an actor look like Freddy Krueger’s cousin, but they can’t invest in little multicolored puff balls for the actors to play with?

Then again, considering how “The Naked Now” turned out, perhaps we should be grateful.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Posted in Television

Rob Watches Star Trek: Mary Sue Crusher

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek: The Next Generation
TITLE: S1.E13. “Datalore”
STARRING: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Will Wheaton
WRITERS: Robert Lewin, Maurice Hurley, Gene Roddenberry
DIRECTOR:
Rob Bowman
ORIGINAL AIR DATE:
January 18, 1988
SYNOPSIS:
The Enterprise visits Data’s home planet, and discovers his lost “brother.”

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

So Data was found, not built? Huh. That’s interesting. Two decades of The Phantom Menace trained me to believe he’d been built by Wesley…

What we have here is essentially your standard evil twin story. The Enterprise travels to Data’s home planet, finds another robot like him, he turns out to be evil, the other crew members mix them up. Pretty paint-by-numbers stuff.

While Data is our central character, the young Wesley Crusher character is also front and center, and is ultimately responsible for saving the day. And not for the first time.

The term “Mary Sue” gets tossed around a lot in this day and age. In fact, Wesley Crusher is often cited as a textbook Mary Sue. But what the hell is a Mary Sue, anyway?

Urban Dictionary defines “Mary Sue” as, “a character who is so perfect that he or she warps the world around them to display their perfection,” and who “forcibly make the world and people around them defy logic to simply display how amazingly radiant they are.” In other words, a character that is illogically infallible. Go to the Wikipedia page for “Mary Sue,” and the cited characters (in addition to Wesley) include Arya Stark from Game of Thrones and Rey from the Star Wars sequel trilogy.

Fittingly enough, the term dates back to a Star Trek fanzine published in the early ’70s.

Apparently, Gene Roddenberry was the one who pushed for the Wesley character. And as his involvement with the show decreased after season one, so too did Wesley’s relevance on the show. Personally, I don’t hate Wesley. Nor do I mind the inclusion of a younger character in general. It offers a different perspective on the Star Trek Universe that we never had on the old show. It might have even been interesting to watch Wesley grow and mature over the course of the series.

I do, however, find the role young Wesley often plays among the crew to be highly illogical. Indeed, Spock would not approve.

Though he secretly has a heart of gold, Captain Picard is strict to the point of coming off short-tempered. You don’t mess around on this guy’s ship. In “Encounter at Farpoint,” the guy was hard-pressed to even let Wesley set foot on the bridge. And yet now he’s an acting ensign who’s regularly performing duties on that same bridge? What gives?

The “Wesley problem,” as D.C. Fontana once put it, will seemingly be less and less prevalent as we get into subsequent seasons. But I’ll maintain that the character itself, despite becoming a Mary Sue, wasn’t bad from conception.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

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Rob Watches Star Trek: Intergalactic Species Osmosis

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek
EPISODE: S3.E23. “All Our Yesterdays”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley
GUEST-STARRING: Mariette Hartley, Ian Wolfe
WRITER: Jean Lisette Aroeste
DIRECTOR: Marvin Chomsky
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: March 14, 1969
SYNOPSIS: Kirk, Spock, and Bones are trapped in the past on an alien world. Spock finds an unlikely romance.

I’m calling BS on “All Our Yesterdays.” This episode has been cited by some as one of the best for the Spock character. Don’t be fooled. It’s not.

The episode brings Kirk, Spock, and Bones to the planet Sarpeidon. There they find a strange library containing time portals to different points in Sarpeidon’s history. Shenanigans ensue and Kirk more or less winds up in 17th century England. Meanwhile, Spock and Bones are stuck in an arctic wilderness 5,000 years in the past.

It’s there they are rescued by Zarabeth, a woman marooned alone in this time period. A woman Spock suddenly and inexplicably becomes attracted to. We later learn that because they’ve traveled back to a time before the Vulcan race purged themselves of emotion, Spock is reverting to match the Vulcans of this era.

Nope. Sorry. Doesn’t work for me.

Giving Spock a love interest, even for just one episode, isn’t a bad idea. But his stoic demeanor is integrally woven into the fabric of the series. So if you’re going to do that story, you’d better make it good. They didn’t do that here. In addition, the mechanics of it are, as Spock would deem them, most illogical.

So the idea is that Spock is suddenly emotional and amorous because that’s how the other Vulcans in this time period are. But what kinda sense does that make? If I travel to Mars, then hop in a time machine and go 2.5 million years into the past, do I gradually become a caveman by intergalactic species osmosis? Probably not. Hell, the notion wouldn’t have even occurred to Spock if Bones, of all people, hadn’t brought it up.

Question: Why not give Bones the love interest? My understanding is the show had done a similar “Spock in love” plot like this before. Whereas the last time we saw Bones have romantic inclinations was way back in “The Man Trap.”

Obviously, they wanted Spock and Bones together in this episode so their conflicting personalities could rub up against each other, even as Spock becomes prone to the human emotion he so often frowns upon in people like Bones. But wouldn’t it work better the other way around? It would certainly seem more natural for Spock to be the cold (no pun intended), emotionless one thinking of ways to get back home, while Bones pines for they’re rescuer. Then in the end, Bones is forced to adhere to Spock’s logical methodology in order to survive.

The episode tries to give the two a poignant moment at the end, where Bones checks on Spock after they’ve returned and left Zarabeth in the past. It doesn’t necessarily work, as Spock has returned to his normal, emotionless self. But if the roles are reversed, Bones would be able to tell Spock he’s not okay. Spock, in a rare moment of human compassion, could then tell Bones he’s sorry for his loss. Thus, creating a special moment between the two.

Sadly, “All Our Yesterdays” is an episode ripe with missed opportunities. Even sadder is the fact that it’s the penultimate episode of the show. I couldn’t help but wonder if by this point, the Star Trek showrunners knew the show was likely to be cancelled and had themselves a case of Senioritis.

In actuality, the last day of filming on season three of Star Trek was January 9, 1969. The show was officially canceled the following month. It had hung on for three seasons. But despite the devotion of its fans, who’d launched numerous letter-writing campaigns in support of the series, Star Trek was finally gone…

Or so they thought.

For more “Rob Watches Star Trek,” check out the archives.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Posted in Television

Rob Watches Star Trek: Kirk as a Horse?

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek
EPISODE: S3.E10. “Plato’s Stepchildren”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols
GUEST-STARRING: Michael Dunn, Liam Sullivan
WRITER: Meyer Dolinsky
DIRECTOR: David Alexander
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: November 1, 1968
SYNOPSIS: Kirk, Spock, and Bones are taken captive by a group with telekinetic abilities, who take inspiration from the Greek philosopher Plato.

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

This episode is, of course, famous for containing television’s first interracial kiss. That moment between William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols is rightfully iconic.

That being said, not only has the kiss been discussed to death, but I’m hardly qualified to talk in depth about it. Plus, while I give it all the respect it deserves, it’s not what I came away from “Plato’s Stepchildren” thinking about.

The episode is about Kirk, Spock, and Bones becoming trapped on a planet that houses a group of very powerful telekinetics. So powerful they can manipulate people’s bodies against their will. When they want Bones to stay on world and be their resident doctor, he refuses. Thus their leader Parmen proceeds to use Kirk and Spock as his personal playthings until Bones acquiesces.

Naturally, this episode calls for Kirk and Spock to perform a bunch of demeaning tasks at the behest of Parmen. Initially, it comes off as the typical brand of camp you’d see from a classic Star Trek episode. Kirk hits himself in the face several times. Parmen forces Spock to laugh and sob uncontrollably. Later, Uhura and Nurse Chapel are brought in and forced to passionately kiss Kirk and Spock respectively. That’s obviously where we get our famous interracial kiss. It’s all territory you’d expect to venture through in a story like this.

But there’s also a moment that I’ll call “the horse sequence.” In the more than 25 episodes of Star Trek I’ve now seen, the horse sequence is the only point I’ve actually been made to feel uncomfortable. And I’m not even sure I should be uncomfortable.

Among the titular “stepchildren” is a little person named Alexander, who lacks the powers his taller brethren have. The horse sequence in question happens when Alexander climbs on Kirk’s back, and as Kirk is on all fours, proceeds to ride him like a horse. Quite literally, as Kirk actually whinnies (shown below).

It’s not that the act in itself is hugely offensive, though I’m sure little people aren’t overjoyed at it. But when I saw it, I went from laughing and enjoying a performance to feeling sorry for the performers.

And yet, that’s what the sequence is designed to do, isn’t it? We’re supposed to be aghast and hate the villain as we feel remorse for our hero. So what is it about this moment that breaks the illusion of the show? It’s tough to put your finger on…

My best guess? They got too silly. This might have looked right on paper. But on screen? Pass.

Here’s my question: Why not have Parmen force Kirk and Spock to fight like a child playing with toys? Yes, we’ve seen them fight before. But there’s a helplessness here that’s obviously very different.

I’ve got to hand it to William Shatner, though. They told him to be a horse, and he went for it. He turned into a by God horse. Maybe that’s why it was so uncomfortable. He believed. So I believed.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Posted in Television

Rob Watches Star Trek: A Broken Triad

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek
EPISODE: S3.E9. “The Tholian Web”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols
WRITERS: Judy Burns, Chet Richards
DIRECTOR: Herb Wallerstein
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: November 15, 1968
SYNOPSIS:
Kirk is presumed dead as an alien race builds a destructive web around the Enterprise.

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

“It’s the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.”

Those are the exact words that came out of my mouth when I saw Kirk, Spock, and the others wearing those space suits in “The Tholian Web” (shown above). And in my head, they came out in Dan Aykroyd’s voice.

I couldn’t help it. It just popped in there.

I jest, but “The Tholian Web” is actually a really good episode. It tells a story that, in hindsight, it’s surprising we didn’t get much sooner. Kirk is presumed dead after slipping through a dimensional rift. Thus, the Enterprise crew must now accept that their captain is gone, while at the same time adjusting to Spock being in command. All the while, the random crew members, including Chekov, are going insane thanks to a condition spread to them from a doomed starship. As if that weren’t enough, the ship is facing hostility from the Tholians, an alien race that lays claim to this region of the galaxy. They are constructing a destructive energy web around the Enterprise. Oh, and by the way, Kirk might just be alive. The stakes are high and the pressure is on. This is good storytelling.

The core of Star Trek lays in the dynamic between Kirk, Spock, and Bones. Kirk is the centerpiece, with the other two essentially acting as conflicting voices in his ear. Spock offers cold, hard logic and facts. While Bones, in many ways, embodies the human emotion that Spock claims to reject. He’s the everyman (despite his impossible ability to reattach a human brain). With Kirk gone, those two voices are left to argue unchecked, and must learn to coexist peacefully.

The episode manages to serve all three characters well. None more so than Kirk, who is absent for most of the episode. Look no further than the scene where Spock and Bones view the recording Kirk left for them in the event of his death. He knows the two will be butt heads in his absence. But he urges them to lean on each other, listen to one another, and seek guidance from one another. 

While “Balance of Terror” showed us the the burden Jim Kirk bears as a starship captain, “The Tholian Web” illustrates the importance of Jim Kirk the human being. Why he is the best person to command the Enterprise.

One character this episode does not serve well? Chekov. Granted, it doesn’t help that I viewed this episode after “Day of the Dove,” another episode where he loses his mind temporarily. But every time I see him on screen, his face seems to get more and more smackable.

Chekov falls into that dreaded category of characters that were added so a show could appeal to a younger audience. Usually kids. Though in this case, teenagers. Legend has it Walter Koenig, who played Chekov, was cast because he looked like Davy Jones of the Monkees. (The resemblance is quite uncanny.) At one point, Gene Roddenberry apparently wrote in a memo that Kirk, Spock, and the others seemed “middle aged” compared to Chekov.

The reason that’s hilarious? Koenig is only about five years younger than William Shatner. As of this writing, Shatner is 89. Koenig is 84, and would have been in his early 30s when this show aired in 1968. Davy Jones, meanwhile, was about 10 years younger than Koenig.

Hey, wait…I’m in my 30s. Does that mean I can still appeal to teen audiences?!?

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Posted in Television

Rob Watches Star Trek: A Brainless Episode?

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek
EPISODE: S3.E1. “Spock’s Brain”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan
GUEST-STARRING: Marj Dusay
WRITER: Gene L. Coon (as Lee Cronin)
DIRECTOR: Marc Daniels
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: September 20, 1968
SYNOPSIS: A mysterious alien woman beams aboard the Enterprise and surgically removes Spock’s brain.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

We now move into troubled waters with the third season of Star Trek

Star Trek consistently struggled with declining ratings, and was reportedly on the chopping block numerous times at NBC. To make matters worse, beginning with this episode, NBC began airing Star Trek Fridays at 10 p.m. Most certainly an undesirable time slot, particularly for the show’s younger fans. Fridays are a famously difficult night for television. Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry would tell the Toledo Blade in 1968, “People who watch our show don’t stay home on Friday nights. They’re out to ball games and the like.”

Roddenberry would scale back his involvement in the day-to-day production of Star Trek as a result.  He added that if the network wanted to kill Star Trek, “it couldn’t make a better move.”

An unfavorable time slot, along with a significantly reduced budget, put a significant damper on the show, both in terms of writing and general production. This cutback on quality is, for many, exemplified with “Spock’s Brain.” Generally, it is considered one of the worst, if not the worst episode of the original series.

“Spock’s Brain” wasn’t originally on my list of episodes for “Rob Watches Star Trek.” But when I saw the title and synopsis, I couldn’t help myself. It sounded like the stuff of B movie glory. Something I could love in the same vein as Kirk’s fight with the Gorn. And indeed, I got excited early on when Bones starts saying things like, “Jim, where are you going to look in this whole galaxy? Where are you going to look for Spock’s brain?”

Then the episode progressed, and I got it. “Spock’s Brain” feels spread thin in a way that previous episodes don’t. There’s a decent amount of padding, along with dialogue that’s often repetitive and stupid. That initial exchange between our heroes and the women of Sigma Draconis, for instance, made me wish someone would surgically remove my brain.

As if that weren’t enough, the episode has so many plotholes it may as well be Swiss cheese. We also have plot conveniences that are almost laughable. Cast in point, a magic device (shown below) that can teach anyone how to remove, then later restore, a brain with no lasting damage to the individual. Then at the episode’s climax, Spock is suddenly and magically able to talk Bones through said restoration process.

In another, better written episode? All this might have worked. But in this one? Nope. Not even close.

Still, the episode has some guilty pleasure moments. Our genius machine that can apparently teach a child how to safely detach a human brain? It’s essentially a big fish bowl with needles sticking out of it, and I love it. William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, and James Doohan all seem to know they’re in a bad B movie, as they’re chewing the hell out of the scenery. Shatner especially. We even get to see Sulu take command of the Enterprise for a bit! Can’t say I expected that.

So does “Spock’s Brain” deserve the hate it gets? Does it deserve to be looked back on as one of the worst episodes of Star Trek? Yeah. It kinda does. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed for the sheer over-the-top lunacy that it is. When even your bad episodes are enjoyable. That’s truly how you know you’ve made something that will endure.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

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Rob Watches Star Trek – Throw a Hat on Him!

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek
EPISODE: S2.E26. “Assignment: Earth”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley
GUEST-STARRING: Robert Lansing
WRITERS: Art Wallace, Gene Roddeberry
DIRECTOR: Marc Daniels
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: March 29, 1968
SYNOPSIS: The Enterprise travels back to the year 1968 and encounters a mysterious interstellar agent.

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

Less than two minutes into “Assignment: Earth,” a man beams aboard the Enterprise without warning or authorization. He’s a dapper man and a business suit, who also happens to be carrying a cat.

I haven’t even been watching Star Trek that long. But even I know that’s one of the most Star Trek things that could possibly happen. Bravo to this episode for sheer campy brilliance.

Apparently this concept of Gary Seven, interstellar secret agent, was meant to be turned into its own TV series. One way or another it didn’t happen, but I’d say things worked out. Obviously, people still are still talking about “Assignment: Earth” more than 50 years later. In contrast, there’s a chance Agent Seven’s show could have come and gone with barely a notice.

Mere seconds into the episode, “Assignment: Earth” asks us to take a pretty big leap even by Star Trek standards. We’re told the Enterprise has traveled back in time to observe Earth in the year 1968 via something called the “Light-Speed Breakaway Factor.” We aren’t told what that is, or how it works. We simply start the episode in 1968, and it’s given to us as a bit of exposition.

From a story mechanics standpoint, I understand this. “Assignment: Earth” is less a time-travel story, and more about exposing us to Agent Seven and his world. But it all seems so abrupt. In two seasons it had never been established that the Enterprise was capable of time-travel. That certainly would have been a helpful detail in, say, “The City on the Edge of Forever.”

Apparently in the Star Trek Universe, all you need to do in order to time travel is pick up enough speed to artificially create a time warp. You also need to be moving toward a large enough gravitational body, such as a star, so that its pull serves to help you pick up enough speed.

So it’s that classic sci-fi theory: “If I drive fast enough and have fancy technology, I can travel through time.” Sure, why not? I just wish they’d have taken an extra minute or two to explain that in the episode.

I’ve consistently found it amusing how, when necessary, they always throw a big hat on Spock to hide his ears. These characters have technology that allows them to bend the laws of space and time to their will. But making a Vulcan look human?

“Uhhh…throw a hat on him!”

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

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Rob Watches Star Trek: What We Forgive

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek


EPISODE: S2.E25. “Bread and Circuses”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley


GUEST-STARRING: William Smithers, Logan Ramsey
WRITERS: Gene Roddenberry, Gene L. Coon


DIRECTOR: Ralph Senesky
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: March 15, 1968

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

It’s always interesting to see what we forgive for a good story.

“Bread and Circuses” is an episode that wonders what lengths humanity might go to in the name of entertainment. It does this by presenting us with what is essentially an alternate Earth where the Roman Empire never ended, and now has the all benefits of 20th century tech.

But what we’re presented doesn’t look much like a modernized version of ancient Rome. We’ve got a handful of costumes from what must have been a production set in that time frame. We’ve got a few sets that look very vaguely like what they’re supposed to be. And the peaceful faction of slaves that our heroes fall in with? They’re wearing gray sweatsuits. Which means before long, that’s what our heroes are wearing as well.

This is about as clear an example as you’ll find of sci-fi on a budget. Objectively, “Bread and Circuses” just doesn’t look very good…

And yet, it works. “Bread and Circuses” is better than a lot of sci-fi flicks made 50 years later with state-of-the-art CGI. Why is that?

Because everything starts with story, and “Bread and Circuses” is a good story. It’s a little weird, and perhaps even a bit contrived. But at its core, it’s an editorial about television and entertainment that asks viewers important questions that are still relevant after all this time. And because it’s such a good story, we’re willing to forgive the tacky packaging it’s delivered in. That theory doesn’t work in reverse.

Case in point, the Star Wars prequels. When they came out, they were filled with top-line CGI depicting some amazingly creative environments. We had a big robot factory complete with big smelting pots, a planet that was also a giant city, and a humongous hive filled with space bugs, just to name a few. But the story was largely hollow. So all the special effects were hollow as well.

I’m a huge Star Wars geek. But I don’t have a problem saying “Bread and Circuses” is better than any of the three Star Wars prequels. It’s better than Rogue One, that’s for damn sure…

The episode explains the existence of an alternate 20th Century Earth on another world across the galaxy with something called “Hodgkin’s Law of Parallel Planet Development.” That sounds precisely like the kind of BS a writer would make up off the top of their head. Yet it’s such wildly fantastical BS that it feels like it just has to be true. And in the end, isn’t that the best kind of BS?

Not according to Gene L. Coon. Reportedly, a disagreement with Gene Roddenberry over the tone of this episode was what led to Coon’s departure as the Star Trek showrunner. (Though he would submit scripts for season three under the pseudonym Lee Cronin.) Apparently Coon wanted the episode to have more of a comedic touch, while Roddenberry wanted a more serious tone. Ultimately, however, we’re better off for what we got.

The best thing in the entire episode? The exchange in the jail cell between Spock and Bones. After dancing around it for two seasons, Bones finally starts to shoot straight with Spock. It’s clear the two are opposites in almost every sense of the word, and would not be friends outside the bounds of the Enterprise. But they’re united two things: Their sense of duty, and their loyalty to Kirk in particular.

And of course, we love them for it.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.