Posted in Movies

Rob Watches Star Trek: It’s Never Goodbye…

***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.”***

TITLE: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Kim Cattrall, Christopher Plummer
DIRECTOR: Nicholas Meyer
WRITERS: Leonard Nimoy, Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, Nicholas Meyer, Denny Martin Flinn
STUDIOS: Paramount Pictures
RATED: PG
RUN-TIME: 110 min
RELEASED: December 6, 1991

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

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

As we reach the final movie to feature the original Star Trek cast in its entirety, I have to take my hat off to everything the franchise had achieved circa 1991. By this point, it had been more than 20 years since the original show ended. Yet these characters and this universe were still able to sustain themselves through six films, not to mention a short-lived animated show, and a hit spin-off in Star Trek: The Next Generation. In the modern era, where Marvel has made expansive cinematic tie-in universes the “it” thing, can there be any doubt that Star Trek was ahead of its time? I think not. (On a side note, I never realized this movie did the whole autographs-on-the-credits thing so many years before Avengers: Endgame.)

I only wish these characters could have gone out on a higher note. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country isn’t a bad movie. But it doesn’t have the same epic feel as The Wrath of Khan, the light-hearted throwback appeal of The Voyage Home, or even the infamous reputation of The Final Frontier. It exists on an awkward level somewhere above mediocre, but below good.

After the destruction of a moon throws their empire into chaos, the notorious Klingon race seeks to make peace with the United Federation of Planets. Much to his dismay, Captain James T. Kirk is chosen to escort Klingon ambassadors to Earth so that peace talks may commence. But when the Enterprise inexplicably fires on the Klingons from out of nowhere, Kirk is framed and imprisoned on a frigid planet with Bones in tow. Now they must survive their new, hostile environment as Spock and the rest of the crew search for the truth.

I can’t even tell you how happy I was to see The Undiscovered Country do something its predecessors all failed to do: Give the proper emotional weight to the death of Kirk’s son David. After some of the things we saw on the show, Kirk has every reason not to trust the Klingons. But remember, David was killed by a Klingon in Star Trek III. As such, Kirk has just cause to flat out hate the Klingons. You’re not likely to find better fuel for drama than that. It’s not explored very much, but at least the film remembered that David existed. Is it a coincidence that it happened in a film that was directed and co-written by Nicholas Meyer, who directed David’s first appearance in The Wrath of Khan? Probably not.

Star Trek VI is full of Shakespearean quotes and Cold War allegories. That’s all well and good. I actually like the them being about how people chose to deal with change. I just don’t know that it made the most of its premise.

For my money, the most interesting part of the movie is Kirk being framed for the murder of the Klingon ambassadors. If I’ve got the keys to Star Trek VI, I make that the core of the movie. We’d be with Kirk at the prison colony has he wrestles with Bones over whether the Klingons deserved to die for all they’d done. Meanwhile, Spock and the others work to solve the mystery of who did attack the ambassadors. They ultimately springing Kirk and Bones from the prison during Kirk’s fight with the big alien brute (Whose genitals are mysteriously on his knees…?). The Enterprise then brings the culprit to the peace talks between the Klingons and the Federation, clearing Kirk’s name. Thus, we have a more exciting and character-driven movie that’s a little more sleek in terms of its story structure.

Incidentally, is that Worf from Star Trek: The Next Generation that we see representing Kirk and Bones at their trial? *Googles it* Ohhhhhh, okay. So it’s Worf’s ancestor…who is also named Worf? Go figure.

So how does Star Trek VI fare as a swan song for Kirk, Spock, and the crew? Meh. Kirk’s quoting of Peter Pan was a nice little moment. But the Earth didn’t exactly move for me. But after more than 20 years, and all that had been done with these characters, how does one even begin to tell a farewell story that does justice to them all? What’s more, a story that definitively and convincingly says farewell? It’s a tall task by anyone’s standards.

Plus, one can argue it’s all for naught anyway. While this was indeed the last time the crew was all together, Kirk and a few others were in 1994’s Star Trek Generations. And of course, we’d see Spock many years later in the J.J. Abrams movies. 

That’s the thing about beloved and iconic characters like these. It’s never goodbye. Not really. There’s always another story to tell, and another adventure to go on…

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

Posted in Movies

Rob Watches Star Trek: Back to Basics

***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.”***

TITLE: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei
DIRECTOR: Leonard Nimoy
WRITERS: Harve Bennett (Story), Leonard Nimoy (Story), Steve Meerson, Peter Krikes, Nicholas Meyer
STUDIOS: Paramount Pictures
RATED: PG
RUN-TIME: 122 min
RELEASED: November 26, 1986

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

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

There’s a moment in Star Trek IV where Uhura looks to Kirk and says, “Admiral, I am receiving whale song!” Now that’s just wild and random enough to come from a classic Star Trek episode. And for yours truly, that’s where much of the appeal of Star Trek IV: The Voyage  Home is.

Months after the events of Star Trek III, an alien probe causes catastrophic effects on Earth. The global power grid fails, storms rage, and cloud formation threatens to block out the sun. But what is the probe’s purpose? A clue leads Kirk and the crew back to the year 1986 in pursuit of, believe it or not, humpback whales.

The Voyage Home made me feel like I was watching the original series again. In true original series fashion, they even found a silly way to disguise Spock’s ears. One can certainly argue it’s too derivative, as they did time-travel episodes numerous times on the old show. And of course, Kirk finds a love interest.

Star Trek IV is funnier than its three predecessors, which is frankly refreshing. Shatner is particularly strong when it comes to comedy. The other movies had their funny moments. But by and large they took themselves so seriously. Of course, Star Trek had that epic action and adventure feel when it needed to. But it also wasn’t afraid to have fun. Cast in point, The Trouble With Tribbles. It’s a perennial favorite, while being played almost entirely for laughs.

One major caveat: As someone just seeing these movies for the first time, I continue to be frustrated at the glossing over of the death of David, Kirk’s son. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s obvious they should have either kept him out of the third film, or scrapped the idea of giving Kirk a son altogether. My point from Star Trek III stands here in Star Trek IV: Kirk should be grief-stricken over the loss of David. Perhaps even a little resentful that Spock got to come back to life, but David won’t. Instead, the movie has the Saavik character pop in to mention him out of obligation if nothing else. Not developing or playing with the David character is the biggest missed opportunity I’ve seen in Star Trek thus far.

On the subject of casting, I love that they got Mark Lenard to come back as Spock’s father in both this film and the last one. The exchange he has with Spock toward the end is very satisfying, and feels like a pay-off from the show. As a bonus, we also get Jane Wyatt back this time as Spock’s mother.

In what wound up being an odd twist of fate, Kirk’s love interest Gilian is played by Catherine Hicks, who on 7th Heaven would play opposite Stephen Collins, who played Decker in the first film. Her scenes with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy have a certain quaint charm to them. The fact that Hicks is 20 years younger than Shatner is a bit odd, but not unforgivable.

Not surprisingly, the one crew member who gets in trouble and slows them down is Chekov. I wish I could say I’ve come to like him. On the upside, Kirk, Gilian, and Bones have to rescue him from a hospital. That gives us a chance to see the Enterprise‘s resident doctor in a 20th century medical facility, which is kinda cool.

One thing I enjoyed about Star Trek IV is that almost every member of our crew has something to do, a role to play in the story. Everyone that is, except for Sulu. For whatever reason, after they go back in time, Sulu has a little exchange with a helicopter pilot, and then we don’t see him again until much later in the movie. What gives? Why couldn’t they have left friggin’ Chekov behind?

The story revolving around the acquisition of two Humpback in a time-travel science fiction film is unusual. But it’s that eccentricity that makes it work so well. After seeing the three previous films, you’d never be able to predict the third one being about, of all things, whales. It’s just weird enough to be a perfect fit for a Star Trek story.

Another cool pay-off the movie gives us from the show is that we actually get to see the “light-speed breakaway factor” alluded to in “Assignment: Earth.” That bit of expository dialogue definitely came back to beniefit them. The light-speed breakaway factor more or less becomes the Star Trek equivalent of the DeLorean from Back to the Future.

In my book, that’s this film’s biggest accomplishment. It took us four tries, but we finally got a movie that feels faithful to the Star Trek TV show. And after watching hours of doom, gloom, and lengthy shots of space vortexes in the previous movies, it’s damn good to have Trek back.

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

Posted in Movies

Rob Watches Star Trek: So Much to Do, So Little Time

TITLE: Star Trek III: The Search For Spock
STARRING: William Shatner, Christopher Lloyd, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei
DIRECTOR: Leonard Nimoy
WRITER: Harve Bennett
STUDIOS: Paramount Pictures
RATED: PG
RUN-TIME: 105 min
RELEASED: June 1, 1984

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I’m in awe that Leonard Nimoy directed not only this movie, but the next one as well. Can you imagine that kind of thing happening today? Say they put Mark Hamill in the director’s chair for a Star Wars movie. Or Tobey Maguire in charge of a Spider-Man flick. They’d be hounded by toxic fans to the point of never wanting to touch the franchise ever again.

Fresh off the events of Star Trek II, Star Trek III brings us the revelation that Spock’s “living spirit” is in limbo, and has found a home in the mind of Bones. Thus, Kirk and the crew set out for Genesis to reunite Spock’s spirit with his body. But they do so against the will of the Federation, and must steal the now decommissioned Enterprise. All the while, the Genesis project has caught the attention of the Klingons, who want its power as their own.

A lot happens in Star Trek III. Like, a lot. Even when you set aside the fact that they’re trying to friggin’ resurrect the dead. Kirk’s son dies. The Enterprise blows up. We have all these big emotional moments between characters as they risk their lives and careers to save Spock. On paper, this movie is just as epic and impactful as The Wrath of Khan. If not more so.

So why is it strictly okay? Why doesn’t it hold up as a successor to The Wrath of Khan?

For my money, it’s the old “10 pounds of stuff in a five pound bag” metaphor. There’s so much going on that these big moments don’t necessarily have the impact they need and deserve. Chief among them is what happens to Kirk’s son David, who we met in The Wrath of Khan. The villain kills him off during the second half of the movie. Naturally, Kirk is grief-stricken. The Search For Spock does it’s best to give it proper weight. But in trying to wrap up all the film’s plot threads, there isn’t enough time. Yes, Kirk is distraught about his son. But this is the death of his child. He should be absolutely destroyed to the point that he needs the entire movie to bring himself to suit back up.

Furthermore, Star Trek III robs the premise of Kirk having a long-lost son of any story potential it may have had. How do father and son adjust to this new connection? What role do they play in each other’s lives? Does David become a liability for Kirk in the field? Granted, David wasn’t the most compelling character in the world. But Star Trek III removes the opportunity to make him compelling.

David’s death might have been more impactful had it come at the hands of a more interesting villain. Kruge, the lead Klingon, comes off as a hollow mustache-twirler. Yes, Christopher Lloyd is fun. But he’s also campy. That’s not what you want to follow The Wrath of Khan with.

Still, the movie isn’t without its fun elements. I love that Spock’s living spirit ended up with Bones. If anything, that should have been explored more. Actually, in hindsight, that should have been an episode of the series. It’s a fantastic way to not only contrast Spock and Bones, but give them insight into one another.

Star Trek III also continues something started in Star Trek II that I find very important: It emphasizes that these people are friends. Not just Kirk, Spock, and Bones, but the entire crew. That’s why they’re willing to risk their careers to steal the Enterprise and go after Spock.

I wish they could have had more fun with the stealing of the Enterprise. Sort of like a mini heist movie within the movie. Have Kirk, Spock, and Chekov do the grunt work while Scotty and Uhura work remotely. A Star Trek heist movie could have been fun, and a good way to make this story a very different animal from The Wrath of Khan.

But alas, Star Trek III feels like a younger sibling trying to live up to an older sibling’s achievements. It pales in comparison, of course. In hindsight, I wish Nimoy had been given a better script for his directorial debut. Thankfully he’d get another chance with Star Trek IV

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.

Posted in Television

Rob Watches Star Trek: A Tale of Two Cities

***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: S1.E28. “The City on the Edge of Forever”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols
GUEST-STARRING: Joan Collins
WRITERS: Harlan Ellison, D.C. Fontana, Gene L. Coon, Gene Roddenberry
DIRECTOR: Joseph Pevney
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: April 6, 1967
SYNOPSIS: A freak accident sends Bones back to 1930s America, where he inadvertantly destroys the future. Kirk and Spock must restore the future, though at a great personal cost to Kirk.

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

If you’ve been following along, “Rob Watches Star Trek” was covering episodes far beyond this, the penultimate episode of the first season. But as I continue to learn more and more about the Star Trek franchise, I found out I skipped what many consider to be the best episode of the original series. So naturally, I had to backtrack.

Star Trek was bound to tackle time-travel especially. Specifically, time-travel into Earth’s recent history. The temptation to juxtapose these characters from the future with America’s recent past was simply too great. In fact, by this point in the series, the penultimate episode of the first season, they had already been to that well once before. In “Tomorrow is Yesterday,” saw the crew travel back to the 1960s, the same decade the show was made. I would also count “The Return of the Archons” as a time-travel episode. Even though it doesn’t take place on Earth, for all intents and purposes it takes place in our past.

The comic book science in this episode is a little weird, but via a planet that can send time ripples into space, a drugged Bones is sent back to Great Depression era America. By saving the life of a young woman, he accidentally changes the course of history. Naturally, Kirk and Spock have to stop him via a time portal. And of course, darn his luck, Kirk falls in love with the woman in question. Thus, now Kirk must choose between his own heart and what he knows to be the rightful future of humanity.

The episode is indeed one of the best I’ve seen so far. Show creator Gene Roddenberry, William Shatner, and Leonard Nimoy have all cited it among their favorites. But it’s been the subject of much controversy relating to its original writer, renowned science fiction author Harlan Ellison. Due to re-writes and cost prohibits, what wound up on screen was considerably different than what Ellison wrote in numerous drafts over a lengthy amount of time. The changes were a point of contention between Ellison and Roddenberry for decades afterward.

Reportedly, Ellison’s version of “The City on the Edge of Forever” would have introduced a crew member who we learn is involved in an illegal drug trade, and eventually kills another crewman. He’s thus sentenced to die on a nearby world. Said world was to have been the home of nine-foot-tall men, the Guardians of Forever, who are in possession of a time machine. The doomed crewman would steal the time machine and change history, thus necessitating Kirk and Spock’s pursuit. The altered reality would apparently have included an Enterprise manned by renegade space pirates.

But most notably, in Ellison’s version Kirk can’t bring himself to let the Edith Keeler, his love interest played by Joan Collins, die. In the end, Spock makes the choice for him. In the final product, the decision is taken out of both their hands as Edith dies when a truck accidentally runs her down.

This episode underwent re-writes from the likes of D.C. Fontana, Gene L. Coon, and finally Gene Roddenberry himself. I think the ending wound up better for it. Both Ellison and Roddenberry’s endings took the decision out of Kirk’s hands. But the big difference is I think Ellison’s ending makes Spock look needlessly cold. Is he saving a hell of a lot more people than he’s hurting in the process? Yes, absolutely. But intentionally letting someone die is still not a good look for one of your heroes.

In the end, we’re probably better off with the episode we got, as opposed to Ellison’s original vision for it. The only one of his ideas I might have kept in is the one about the space pirates on the Enterprise. But that’s just because I like alternate universe stories. Mechanically, I’m not even sure how you weave that into the episode when it already has so much to accomplish without it.

For those curious, the original teleplay for the episode is available on Amazon. Like City itself, it serves as a nice little peek into what might have been…

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

Posted in Television

Rob Watches Star Trek: Tremendous Yet Terrible Tribbles

***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.E15. “The Trouble with Tribbles”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, James Doohan
GUEST-STARRING: Stanley Adams, William Schallert, William Campbell
WRITER: David Gerrold
DIRECTOR: Joseph Pevney
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: December 29, 1967
SYNOPSIS: The Enterprise is overrun by small, fuzzy creatures called Tribbles.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I’ve been waiting to do this episode for awhile, largely because a friend got my daughter and I a Little Golden Book based on the episode. Too Many Tribbles (cover shown below) by Frank Berrios and illustrated by Ethen Beavers. By God, it’s as good a children’s book based on an episode of a ’60s TV show that you’ll ever find.

The episode is suitably cute. Though to me the funniest thing is that the episode expects us to care about a dispute over space grain when the stars of the episode are clearly the tribbles. It’s almost insulting to the actors, as the tribbles are little more than inanimate multi-colored puff balls with an accompanying purring sound effect. As Spock says, there’s no practical use for them. Yet they’re the spiritual successors to minions, porgs, etc.

Also hilarious? The tribbles came closer to conquering the Enterprise than the Orion Crime Syndicate. Maybe the little puff balls should consider organized crime…

“The Trouble With Tribbles,” however, does realize it’s a comedy. In what I’ve seen of Star Trek thus far, this is the first episode I’ve seen played for laughs like this. William Shatner steals the episode. The entire scene in which Scotty tells him about how he started a fight with the klingons not in defense of Kirk’s honor, but the Enterprise, is absolute gold. Shatner’s reactions to the tribbles slowly taking over his ship are great too. His acting on this show has been mocked for decades. And while I will call it unusual at times, I don’t have it in me to call it bad. It works well in service of the show.

I continue to be fascinated by the relationship between Spock and Bones. After what we saw at Spock’s attempted wedding, I can’t not see them as friends. But as we see in “Tribbles,” they have an antagonistic relationship that’s fun to watch. Bones says he likes the tribbles better than he likes Spock, and Spock pointedly says he appreciates that the tribbles don’t talk too much. They’re not enemies. They just have a weird friendship. They were “frienemies” before that was a thing.

Spock also makes an interesting reference in that same scene…

“[Tribbles] remind me of the lilies of the field. ‘They toil not, neither do they spin.'”

Upon research, this is actually a biblical reference from both Matthew 6:28, Luke 12:27, and a portion of the Sermon on the Mount. The text from Matthew reads: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:” How and why Spock is familiar with a religious text from Earth is a mystery. I suppose we can chalk it up to, “It’s Spock. He knows stuff.”

But to an extent it also works on another level. Stanley Adams, who plays the peddler that gives Uhura the first Tribble, starred in the 1963 film, Lilies of the Field. The reference must be unintentional. But low and behold, it’s there.

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

Posted in Television

Rob Watches Star Trek: Bones Slaps Catwoman!

***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.E11 “Friday’s Child”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols
GUEST-STARRING: Julie Newmar
WRITER: D.C. Fontana
DIRECTOR: Joseph Pevney
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: December 1, 1967
SYNOPSIS: Kirk, Spock, and Bones are caught in the middle of a tribal dispute on Capella IV, and face a moral dilemma when a woman does not want her unborn child.

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

As someone who grew up with the ’60s Batman show, it’s difficult in reviewing these old Star Trek episodes to not draw comparisons between the two. As they were made around the same time, they already look and sound quite similar.

It’s even more difficult when familiar faces pop up. Julie Newmar, who for a time played Catwoman, has a central role in “Friday’s Child.” It’s also shockingly physical, given her character is pregnant…

If you’re ever looking for a Star Trek episode that holds up to today’s “woke” culture about as well as a wet paper towel, it’s this one. Look no further than when Bones, in trying to examine Newmar’s character, places his hand on her pregnant belly. Eleen tells him not to “touch me in that manner.”

Bones responds with, “Now you listen to me, young woman. I’ll touch you in any way or manner that my professional judgment indicates.”

An unnerving line by today’s standards. But not so bad when you consider he threw in the bit about professional judgment. He is a doctor, after all.

Far less excusable is, after she slaps him across the face twice, Bones responds with a slap of his own to the heavily pregnant Eleen. Not a good look for the good doctor. Even if his patient is Catwoman.

Then again, maybe Bones had the right idea. Mere moments after the slap, Eleen seems to come around. She later insists that only McCoy is allowed to touch her. As the culture on this alien world is very male-dominated, maybe the slap earned Bones some form of respect from her? Or maybe you just had to be there…

Kirk later proceeds to give the whole thing a borderline rapey vibe by asking, “How’d you arrange to touch her, Bones? Give her a happy pill?”

Bones’ cringe-worthy response?  “No, a right cross.”

None of this is meant to be offensive, of course. The episode even seems to understand that the slap was a big deal. So I credit it for that, while also taking into account when this was written. But that’s not an excuse. Even with the benefit of hindsight, this is bad writing.

So how do you fix it? How do you write this scene by today’s standards? Let’s assume you have to have some version of it in there. Some scene where Bones convinces Eleen that he has to physically examine her…

It’s only a short time later that Eleen actually gives birth. As this was written by a man, I think we can safely assume he wasn’t cognizant of the excruciating pain involved in childbirth. So maybe have Bones offer to see to her, but she only accepts his offer once she’s really in pain?

Of course, they could have avoided a lot of trouble by taking out the whole “men can’t touch Eleen” part of the story. But that’s a separate issue.

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

Posted in Television

Rob Watches Star Trek: Uhura, MLK, and the Power of Storytelling

***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.E4 “Mirror, Mirror”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan
GUEST-STARRING: BarBara Luna
WRITER: Jerome Bixby
DIRECTOR: Marc Daniels
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: October 6, 1967
SYNOPSIS: A transporter malfunction sends Kirk, Bones, Uhura, and Scotty to a parallel universe. There, they meet twisted and evil versions of the crew.

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

Hindsight being 20/20 (50 years of it, no less), this should have been the episode to introduce the concept of alternate realities into the Star Trek universe. It has a hell of a lot more fun with it than “The Alternative Factor” did.

In that review, I’d pitched having Kirk and the crew meet alternate universe versions of themselves using body doubles and basic over-the-shoulder camera work. As it turned out, they simply had Kirk, Bones, Uhura, and Scotty switch places with their alt-universe counterparts. They didn’t even need to bother with  body doubles.

What I came away from this episode thinking about, outside of Spock’s beard of course, was Uhura. And not just because of her Mirror Universe uniform. That thing can’t be regulation, can it? Then again, it’s not like that leggy uniform she wears in the proper timeline is much better…

I’ve continuously been surprised at how physical Nichelle Nichols has been as Uhura. Whether she’s getting smacked across the face in “Space Seed,” or getting mixed up in the climactic fight in this episode, it’s jarring to see her physically combative with the male characters. Mind you, that’s coming from a 2020 perspective. I can’t imagine how it looked in 1968.

Still, she was a black woman standing her ground against a cast of white male characters. That counts for something. Let that serve as yet another example of the historical significance of the Uhura role. A role that, by her own admission, Nichelle Nichols wanted to leave during the show’s first year.

According to various interviews, Nichols originally had her heart set on broadway. Star Trek was simply meant to pad her resume. Thus, after the first season, Nichols told Star Trek  creator and producer Gene Roddenberry she wanted to leave the show.

Two nights later at an NAACP fundraiser, Nichols was introduced to someone identified to her as a big fan of the show: Martin Luther King Jr.

In a 2010 interview, Nicholls recalled that after mentioning her impending departure from Star Trek to King, he said, “Star Trek was the only show that he and his wife Coretta would allow their three little children to stay up and watch, because while they were marching, every night you could see people who looked like me being hosed down with a fire hose and dogs jumping on them because they wanted to eat in a restaurant. The civil rights marches were going on, and here I was playing an astronaut in the 23rd century.”

King added, “‘You’re part of history, and this is your responsibility, even though it might not be your career choice.’”

Nichols recalled when she told Roddenberry what King had said, he had tears in his eyes.

“I told him if he still wanted me, I would stay,” Nicholls said. “He took out my resignation, and it was all torn up where I had given it to him. And he put it in the drawer. I stayed, and I’ve never looked back. I’m glad I did.”

People have a tendency to overlook the great power characters and storytelling have in any medium. They shouldn’t. Stories can unite us in ways that few other things can. Now, more than ever, we need to remember that.

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

Posted in Television

Rob Watches Star Trek: Glory, Thy Name is Gorn

***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: S1.E18 “Arena”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols
WRITERS: Fredric Brown (Story), Gene L. Coon (Teleplay)
DIRECTOR: Joseph Pevney
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: January 19, 1967
SYNOPSIS: Captain Kirk is trapped in a fight for his life against a reptilian creature called a Gorn.

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

I picked a disconcerting point in history to be watching Star Trek for the first time. One of the things that’s so great about this show is it’s tackling of cultural and ethical questions, issues of violence and nonviolence, etc.

Star Trek looks at humanity’s future with a hopeful eye. Kirk, Spock, and the others are by nature very pacifistic. And as we saw a few weeks ago, they’ve long since outgrown issues of race like the ones we see on the news nowadays. In “Arena,” Kirk and another creature called a Gorn are placed in a fight-to-the-death conflict resolution scenario. A powerful alien force deems both races uncivilized. Thus they’re placed in a violent situation befitting such a demeanor. Of course, in the end Kirk proves them wrong. About humans at least. So Star Trek predicts humanity will ultimately rise above its more violent tendencies. Cooler heads will prevail. Logic and compassion will win the day.

Keep in mind, this episode aired in 1967. More than 50 years later, are we any closer to being like Kirk? No. Not really. Certainly not if you take to heart all this COVID craziness, and then the fallout from George Floyd’s death…
Oye. Talk about a sobering train of thought.

Keep in mind, this episode aired in 1967. More than 50 years later, are we any closer to being like Kirk? No. Not really. Certainly not if you take to heart all this COVID craziness, and then the fallout from George Floyd’s death…

Oye. Talk about a sobering train of thought.

MEANWHILE, ON JANUARY 19, 1967: Major Bernard F. Fisher of the United States Air Force becomes the first to win the Air Force Medal of Honor. The prior year, Fisher had landed his plane in South Vietnam to prevent a fellow soldier from being captured by North Vietnamese forces.

Not so sobering? The goddamn Gorn!!!! I absolutely love this friggin’ thing. Not since “The Cage” have I seen Star Trek really embrace that campy, ’60s sci-fi glory. It’s not hard to see why that whole sequence with Kirk and the Gorn is so fondly regarded.

Here’s my question: Would it have been better to just have the Gorn be nude, as opposed to putting it in that weird loin-cloth thing? I understand it’s supposed to be a ship captain. But going with the “its okay for animals to be naked” logic works for characters like Chewbacca. Why can’t it work for the Gorn? (Although I’m guessing far less thought was put into the Gorn.)

Apparently our latest Earth-like planet isn’t the only one in the universe that looks like the deserts of Los Angeles County. Apparently Star Trek shot in this area so much that a prominent rock formation has been affectionately named “Kirk’s Rock.”

Frankly, it deserves that distinction for this episode alone. Are you gonna tell me that entertainment gets any better than this? I don’t think so.

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