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.

Posted in Television

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: The Return of Q

***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.E10. “Hide and Q”
STARRING: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Levar Burton, Brent Spiner, Michael Dorn
GUEST-STARRING: John de Lancie
WRITERS: C.J. Holland, Gene Roddenberry
DIRECTOR:
Cliff Bole
ORIGINAL AIR DATE:
November 23, 1987
SYNOPSIS:
Q returns to tempt Riker with powers much like his own.

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

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

I wouldn’t call “Hide and Q” a great episode. Maybe not even a good one. But it does have one thing going for it: It feels like an episode done in the spirit of classic Star Trek, as opposed to mimicking it.

The show is play on, and even directly references, the old proverb “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Q, who we last saw in “Encounter at Farpoint,” endows Riker with powers like his own. Naturally, our villain’s expectation is that Riker will succumb to temptation and want to keep the power permanently.

The climactic sequence of the episode sees everybody on the Enterprise bridge, with Riker offering to grant them their heart’s desire. Ultimately they all turn it down, as they don’t want it to be tainted by Q. But one person is conspicuous by her absence from the bridge, and the episode at large: Deanna Troi.

It’s been fairly obvious from the get-go that Riker and Troi are going to be linked romantically. was it always so obvious these people were standing in front of a green screen? So why not have Troi be a part of Riker’s big gift giving sequence at the end? Swap her in for, say, Tasha. She could be the one to convince him to reject Q’s powers once and for all, thus drawing them that much closer together.

I’unno. Seems obvious to me. Granted, 30 years of hindsight…

Not only did this feel more like Star Trek on a thematic level, but on a visual one as well. That planet set was very reminiscent of the way many otherworldly locations looked on the old show. Incidentally, was it as obvious back in the ’80s as it is now when the actors were standing in front of green screens? Perhaps it’s easier to tell on high-definition TVs. But at times it feels like it’s beating you over the head.

I imagine Picard gets a little less prickly as the series progresses. Obviously, Riker is forgiven in the end. But before that happens Riker admits his mistake to Picard, adding that he feels like an idiot. Picard respones: “Quite right. So you should,” Easy there, Cap. The man was trying to grant everyone their heart’s desire, not rule the universe…

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

Posted in Television

Rob Watches Star Trek: Data is a Sex Robot?

***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.E3. “The Naked Now”
STARRING: Patrick Stewart, Denise Crosby, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton
WRITERS: John D.F. Black, D.C. Fontana (Pseudonym: J. Michael Bingham)
DIRECTOR:
Paul Lynch
ORIGINAL AIR DATE:
October 5, 1987
SYNOPSIS:
Members of the crew find their inhibitions lowered after contracting a mysterious (but not unfamiliar) infection.

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

Okay…wait a minute here….

So this is the sequel to the original series episode “The Naked Time.” As with its predecessor, “The Naked Now” sees characters infected with a strange disease that lowers their inhibitions. In essence, they all get drunk and sweaty.

One of the first characters infected is Tasha Yar, security chief aboard the Enterprise. Evidently Tasha is a horny drunk, as she abruptly becomes hypersexual. She’s eventually found by Data, the ship’s chief operations officer. More importantly, he’s a synthetic android. Their verbal exchange ends this way…

Tasha: “You are fully functional, aren’t you?”
Data: “Of course, but…”
T: “How fully?”
D: “In every way, of course. I am programmed in multiple techniques, a broad variety of pleasuring.”
T: “Oh, you jewel! That’s exactly what I hoped!”

They have sex. Human-robot sex. I have questions. Very awkward questions…

So Data is “fully functional.” I’ll assume that means he can do virtually anything a human can do. He’s got synthetic, man-made organs, tissue, etc. In the Marvel Universe he’d be called a “synthezoid” like Vision. So he can have human-robot sex if he chooses to.

But how does that work? Like, physically? Physiologically? My understanding of Data is that he doesn’t experience emotions the way humans do. So, in theory, he wouldn’t register arousal. So when it’s time for intercourse, does his CPU have to give a command that it’s time for a robot erection?

Because that’s not awkward enough, let me ask: Does synthetic sperm exist? Does it…”present itself” during robot ejaculation? Is there robot ejaculation? Or in that moment, is Data’s primary function to provide pleasure to his human partner?

The question of Data’s “primary function” brings up an odd issue. Assuming he’s principally programmed to serve humans, is there a question of consent? Could Data have said no to Tasha? If not, does that mean any synthezoid can theoretically become a sex robot at any given moment? Never underestimate the power and prevalence of human perversion, folks…

The big question, ironically, is posed by Tasha herself: How fully functional is Data?

See, these are the questions you’ve got to answer if you’re going to have human-robot sex in your show. (This is how you know you’re becoming too invested in a TV show.)

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

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: 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.