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.

Rob Watches Star Trek: Bros in Space

***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.E1 “Amok Time”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley
GUEST-STARRING: Celia Lovsky, Ariene Martel

WRITER: Theodore Sturgeon
DIRECTOR: Joseph Pevney
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: September 15, 1967
SYNOPSIS: Spock returns to his home planet along with Kirk and Bones for a wedding ritual, which ultimately takes a violent twist.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

At the risk of gilding the lily, this episode further reinforces the point I made last week about Spock not being a lifeless robot with no concept of human emotion. Because he damn sure gets his emo on in “Amok Time.”

Come to think of it, maybe Spock’s “Vulcan cut” is simply an early version of an emo haircut. Or later, I suppose. This does takes place in the future.

Here’s one of the brilliant things about the original Star Trek series, at least in my book: It’s a bromance. It’s emotional core is the unlikely friendship between Kirk and Spock. It’s certainly at the core of the season two premiere, “Amok Time.”

But what about Spock and Bones? There’s an argument to be made, at least in my book, that the dynamic between those two is actually more interesting than that of Spock and Kirk.

Think back to the opening scene of “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” As Kirk and Spock play space chess, it’s they’re having fun.  Kirk seems to find Spock’s attempt at emotional detachment endearing. As if he knows Spock can’t ever fully detach from his feelings, and the Vulcan’s efforts are obviously in vain. He doesn’t say anything, however. As it’s not his place to tell someone how to live. Kirk respects Spock, both as a first officer and a comrade.

I’m not sure if it was an unintentional byproduct of how DeForest Kelley played the role, or if the scripts really were written with this in mind. But during season one (or at least the episodes I’ve seen from season one), Bones didn’t seem to fully trust Spock. Whether he was making cracks about his Vulcan blood, or being subtly cautious about potential connections to the Romulans, it seemed like something was always hanging in the air between those two.

I don’t know that Bones flat out disliked Spock. But have you ever been in a new workplace, and come across that one coworker you have to “earn it” with? The person who’s a little apprehensive about this new face, and wants to make sure you’ll contribute to the work being done? To me, that’s Bones. Although based on what we saw in “The Menagerie,” Spock has been on the Enterprise a lot longer than he has…

So I actually found it touching when, in choosing close friends to accompany him to this “pon farr” ceremony, Spock chooses not only Kirk, but Bones. Spock asking and Bones accepting speaks to a mutual respect, and dare I say a budding friendship between the two. And of course, it’s ultimately Bones’ ingenuity that allows both Kirk and Spock to survive their battle.

The whole “groomsmen” angle touched a personal chord with me too. Ever see, or perhaps been a part of, a wedding where the groom struggles to find groomsmen? That was me in my wedding. I was fortunate enough to stand up there with three fine gentlemen, as well as my brother. But I had to put myself out there to get them. Spock did that here. I can tell you from experience that’s not an easy thing to do.

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

Rob Watches Star Trek: Spock and the Liar

***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.E27 “The Alternative Factor”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy
GUEST-STARRING: Robert Brown
WRITER: Don Ingalls
DIRECTOR: Gerd Oswald
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: March 30, 1967
SYNOPSIS: Kirk and the Enterprise encounter an apparent madman whose actions carry implications of a parallel universe.

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

There’s a line in “The Alternative Factor” that I truly loathe.I actually surprised myself with how much I hated it.

It comes shortly after the crew meets Lazarus for the first time. No one’s quite sure what to think of this strange man whose beard is seemingly made of pubes. He’s ranting and raving about an enemy that can end all things. Given the lack of evidence to support his wild claims, Spock draws the “logical,” though ultimately false conclusion that he’s lying. Naturally, Lazarus takes exception.

Spock responds with, “I fail to comprehend your indignation, sir. I have simply made the logical deduction that you are a liar.”

Let’s unpack those two sentences, shall we?

I don’t claim to be a Star Trek expert. There’s a reason it says Trekkie-in-Training up there. But Spock is a Vulcan, right? By all accounts thus far, Vulcans do everything they can to live based on facts and logic. They attempt to purge themselves of all emotion. Certainly not the healthiest approach, but that’s what they do.

But this emotional purge is a matter of will, correct? It’s not like Spock is on space anti-depressants or anything. Plus, he’s unique in that he’s half-human. My point here is that Spock knows what emotions feel like. We even saw him get emotional at one point. He makes judgments about humans and their “Earth emotions.” But he’s not this cold, emotionless robot confused by the complexities of human behavior that he’ll never experience firsthand.

So I call BS on the notion that Spock is confused by Lazarus’ indignation at being called a liar. His culture may have trained him not to experience such feelings, but he understands what they are and why they occur. At the very least, he should understand that Earth culture deems lying to be morally wrong.

So now that we’ve established that this line sucks, how do we fix it? Can we doctor it to fit Spock’s character without slowing the momentum of the episode?

My problem isn’t that Spock accuses Lazarus of lying. It’s that he “fails to comprehend” why he’s upset. So why not change the line to eliminate that element, but still have Spock try to alleviate the tension? And how about we cut Spock flat out calling Lazarus a liar?”

How about we change the line to, “There is no need to become agitated, sir. But logic indicates you are not speaking the truth.”

Apparently I’m not the only one dissatisfied with “The Alternative Factor.” Decades after its release, it’s been consistently named among the worst episodes of the original series, citing low drama and underdeveloped ideas.

I’m not sure I’d complain about drama, per se. The fate of the friggin’ universe is at stake after all. But I wasn’t a fan of how they developed the multiverse concept. The whole matter vs. anti-matter idea, and the notion that the two universes will cease to exist if two counterparts from different worlds meet, takes a lot of the punch out of the concept.

Instead of this new character we don’t know, and don’t necessarily care about, how about an alt-universe version of Kirk and/or Spock? Have them come on board the Enterprise in pursuit of the universe-hopping fugitive Lazarus. In the process, they meet their counterparts (using body doubles and basic over-the-shoulder camera angles). Then at the end leave us wondering what other alternate universes might be out there to explore…

Hey, sounds like fun to me!

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

Rob Watches Star Trek: Klingons and Gene L. Coon

***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.E26 “Errand of Mercy”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy
GUEST-STARRING: John Colicos, John Abbott

WRITER: Gene L. Coon
DIRECTOR: John Newland
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: March 23, 1967
SYNOPSIS: Kirk and Spock work to convince a peaceful world to fight back against occupation by the war-hungry Klingons.

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

There’s a beautifully hysterical moment in “Errand of Mercy” where the lead Klingon asks Kirk about the Federation Starfleet. Kirk, with the most sarcastically pleasant expression you’ve ever seen, simply says, “Go climb a tree.” (It’s at 29:14 on the Netflix version.)

You just know they wanted to write something like, “Go f#$k yourself.” It’s even got the same number of syllables. But somehow, William Shatner makes “Go climb a tree” work. You might call him a bad actor. But in that moment he was a goddamn genius in my book.

In this episode we meet the Klingons, whose presence in the Star Trek Universe has allowed them to transcend the show and gain a place in the collective pop cultural consciousness. Not bad, considering they started out as dudes covered in bronzer with vaguely racist facial hair. What’s more, based on wardrobe, it looks like they opted to invade a planet that looks a little bit like a Renaissance Fair on Ugg Boot Appreciation Day. But who am I to judge?

When I watched this episode, I noticed a name that’s continued to pop up over the course of “Rob Watches Star Trek”: Gene L. Coon, who has also been known by the pseudonym Lee Cronin. Thus far, we’ve seen him involved in the writing on episodes that brought us the Prime Directive, the famous episode about racism, Khan, the epic piece of camp glory that is the Gorn, and now the Klingons. These are all elements indelibly woven into the fabric of Star Trek. So while Gene Roddenberry may have created the show, Coon played a pivotal role in making it great. Much like an Irvin Kershner or Lawrence Kasdan did for the Star Wars universe.

As it turns out, Coon wasn’t just a writer on the show. He served as the showrunner for the first season and much of the second. He would ultimately leave the show over the direction of an episode called “Bread and Circuses,” which we’ll get to at the end of season two.

As for the Klingons themselves, they were conveniently created as a war-hungry authoritarian culture. One doesn’t need to jump through a lot of plot hoops to put them against Kirk and the Enterprise. I confess it’s somewhat unsettling to see them with, as Coon called them, “oriental” features, i.e. their facial hair. Supposedly they were a metaphor for the Japanese during World War II. Though I don’t think we can discount that the Vietnam War was happening at this time…

There’s a bit of deliciously twisted irony toward the end of this episode. Obviously “Errand of Mercy” is all about violence and war. We’ve got the peaceful Organians who are impossibly placid and neutral, caught in the middle of this war between the Federation and the Klingons.

Though they’re bound and determined to destroy one another, the two sides do end up coming together for a common cause: When the Organians use mysticism to prevent them from fighting, Kirk and the Klingon Governor Kor both insist they have the right to wage war on each other. Think about that. They’re standing up for their right to kill each other.

C’mon, Kirk. I’d have expected that from a Klingon. But you? Captain, I’m surprised at you. You’re better than that.

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

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.

Rob Watches Star Trek: Khan!!!

***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
EPISODES:
S1.E22 “Space Seed
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols
GUEST-STARRING: Ricardo Montalban, Madlyn Rhue
WRITER: Corey Wilber, Gene L. Coon (Additional Teleplay)
DIRECTOR: Marc Daniels
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: February 16, 1967
SYNOPSIS: The Enterprise encounters a ship containing selectively bred super-people from the 1990s. Among them is the villainous Khan.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

So this is the famous Khan, eh? As in The Wrath of Khan. I knew what older, white-haired,movie Khan looked like via pop culture osmosis. But I never knew there was a dashing younger model.

The theme of “Space Seed,” as I see it, is about the question of just how far man has evolved. How far have we come from the era of the savage beast toward the peaceful society of our dreams?

Try not to chuckle, or even look out the window as you ponder that.

There’s also a poignant kind of double-irony at play here. Khan tells Kirk that man hasn’t evolved much since his time. But in the end, it’s Khan that ends up trying to take the Enterprise by force. Kirk is the one who ends up showing him mercy, even gives his people their own world to inhabit. So while still not perfect, Kirk, Spock, and the others suggest that humans have in fact become that higher-functioning society.

On the flip side, “Space Seed” clearly knows there’s a good chance this move will come back to bite Kirk. And indeed it would, in movie form..

That was also a hell of a fight between Kirk and Khan. Very reminiscent of…wait for it, because you know I had to mention it…Batman ’66. But this has a great one-on-one factor going for it. Whereas the Batman fights were usually with a bunch of henchmen. Khan himself is pretty formidable. The way that red-shirt sold the shot for him after he pried the door open? Very epic in a campy, ’60s sort of way.

Not a great episode for the ladies, per se. We’ve got Lieutenant McGivers being seduced by the obviously abusive Khan. He uses her feelings to emotionally blackmail her into betraying, for all intents and purposes, her own people. Then we’ve got Uhura getting smacked across the face by a henchman. I can’t say that was easy to watch. But that’s why they’re the bad guys, I suppose.

One person it was a great episode for? Bones. Star Trek, or at least what I’ve seen of Star Trek, hasn’t really been high on “bad ass” moments. That’s not really what the original series was about. But Bones sure as hell gets one when Khan emerges from hyper-sleep in the med bay.

“Either choke me or cut my throat.” God damn. He even tells the guy HOW to cut his throat! No lie, Bones might be my new favorite after that.

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

Rob Watches Star Trek: War and Peace

***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:
S1.21, “Return of the Archons”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei
GUEST-STARRING: Charles Macaulay, Harry Townes, Torin Thatcher
WRITERS: Gene Roddenberry (Story), Boris Sobelman (Teleplay)
DIRECTOR: Joseph Pevney
ORIGINAL AIR DATES: February 6, 1967
SYNOPSIS: The Enterprise discovers a planet on which all beings have been “absorbed” into the mind of a single ruler: Landru.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

What are the odds that an episode where Kirk, Spock, Bones, and Sulu get to dress up in 19th century outfits is actually about free will and humanity’s propensity for war?

Actually, on this show the odds are quite good.

Unfortunately, this is an episode where you have to work a little harder to get past the initial silliness. At first I thought we might have been introducing a new villain in Landru. Maybe a character that keeps trying to create hive mind societies based on “simpler times.” In theory, that’d be a great way to save money by recycling costumes from other productions. You could have Kirk and Spock in Victorian times, the Stone Age, or even the present (the ’60s). Frankly I’m surprised they didn’t go all out for this episode and have them just be cowboys.

Yet strangely this odd world they find themselves on isn’t Earth. Rather, an “Earth-like planet.” Pfft. Yeah, okay…

What we have is a story about a planet where individual minds have been absorbed into a single consciousness, otherwise known as “the Body.” The mind allegedly belongs to a man known only as Landru. But, SPOILER ALERT: We later find out Landru is a machine. This strange place is a computer’s logical, soulless idea of what an optimal human society should be.

MEANWHILE, IN FEBRUARY 1967: Operation Junction City is initiated by US forces in Vietnam on February 22. At 82 days, and it becomes the longest airborne operation conducted by American forces since Operation Market Garden during World War II. It is also the only major airborne operation of the Vietnam War.

As he conveniently tends to do, Kirk hits the nail on the head with these lines to a pair of rebels, who are suddenly too frightened to stand against Landru:

“You said you wanted freedom. It’s time you learned that freedom is never a gift. It has to be earned.”

It kind of makes you wonder, in a depressing sort of way, what Kirk and Spock would think of the world in 2020. Racially charged riots and protests. A pandemic. A president that is…well, what he is.

Not to mention the idea of how appealing such a hive mind might be to said president if he could be in the Landru role. And how humiliating would it be to be represented by him.

But hey! This episode is the first mention of the Prime Directive! So that’s something in the positive column, right?

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

Toy Chest Theater: The Vulcan Cut

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

You don’t necessarily see a lot of Star Trek in the toy photography community. At least I don’t. So when I stumbled across “The Vulcan Cut” from Chris, a.k.a. thecreativechip, it was practically a no-brainer.

In watching the original series for the first time for “Rob Watches Star Trek,” I’ve learned a lot about the Trek universe in a fairly short period of time. So with that in mind, I ask this: What was it about the bowl cut that the Vulcans found to be the most logical haircut? I mean, this is sci-fi. So any species that doesn’t look like an average human has to all have the same haircut, right? So why the bowl cut? Does that ever get answered?

In any event, I’d encourage any toy photography enthusiasts to check out this behind-the-scenes video. It looks like Chris actually made Spock’s black haircut smock. That makes sense, I suppose. If it came with the toy, that would truly defy logic…

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

Rob Watches Star Trek: The Racism 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
EPISODES:
S3.E15 “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols
GUEST-STARRING: Frank Gorshin, Lou Antonio
WRITER: Oliver Crawford, based on a story by Lee Cronin
DIRECTOR: Jud Taylor
ORIGINAL AIR DATES: January 10, 1969
SYNOPSIS: Captain Kirk and the Enterprise are caught in the middle of a racially charged conflict between a planet’s government and a race subservient beings.

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

We weren’t supposed to get to this episode for several more months. But in light of recent events it seems rather apropos.

My understanding is this is generally regarded as the “racism episode” of the original Star Trek series. Obviously it’s a little heavy-handed, as you might guess from the half-black and half-white look of the aliens. Nonetheless its message is noble. In the wake of George Floyd’s death and the subsequent racially charged protests, it’s one we need now more than we have in a long time.

“Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” introduces is to Lokai of the planet Cheron, the leader of a planetary rebellion seeking to liberate his race of over 100,000 beings. Soon, the Enterprise is joined by Commissioner Bele (pronounced like “real”), who refers to Lokai as a political prisoner.

Instead of summarizing the events of the episode, I’ll refer you to dialogue in a specific scene that perfectly encapsulates the conflict.

The following takes place while Captain Kirk and Bele are all in sick bay checking on the condition of Lokai. Bele wants to take Lokai back to Cheron, as he’s considered a political prisoner. Naturally, Lokai wants nothing to do with him…

Lokai: “He raided our homes, tore us from our families, herded us together like cattle,  and then sold us as slaves!
Bele: “They were savages, Captain. We took them into our hearts,  our homes, we educated them.”
L: “Yes. Just education enough to serve the master race!”
B: “You were the product of our love. And you repaid us with murder.”
L:
“Why should a slave show mercy to the enslaver?”
B:
“Slaves? That was changed thousands of years ago. You were freed.”
L:
“Freed? Were we free to be men? Free to be husbands and fathers? Free to live our lives in equality and dignity?”
B: “Yes you were free. If you knew how to use your freedom. You were free enough to slaughter and to burn all the things that had been built!”
L: [To Kirk] “I tried to break the chains of a hundred million people. My only crime is that I failed. …”
B: There is an order in things. He asks for utopia in a day. It can’t be done.
L: “… To you we are a loathsome breed who will never be ready. Genocide for my people is the plan for your utopia!”
B: “You insane, filthy little plotter of ruin! You vicious subverter of every decent thought. …”

Later, Spock asks Bele about the nature of the conflict. He responds with, “It is obvious to the most simple-minded that Lokai is of an inferior breed. … Are you blind, Commander Spock? … I am black on the right side. Lokai is white on the right side. All of his people are white on the right side.”

In a truly wonderful moment of television, Kirk and Spock tell Bele they see no significant difference between the two “breeds.”

MEANWHILE, IN JANUARY 1969: Richard Nixon is sworn in as the 37th President of the United States on January 20.

Near the end of the episode, the Enterprise discovers the entire population of Cheron has been wiped out from war. Lokai and Bele, now the last of their kind, beam themselves back down to the planet to continue waging war on one another. Their hate is all they have left.

While admittedly hokey-looking and filled with expository dialogue, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” is a picture-perfect example of how you can still make great television on a slim budget. They didn’t need fancy alien costumes or elaborate special effects to make this work. All they needed was some simple face paint and two gray bodysuits.

In hindsight, I wonder what happened when Lokai and his people started to rise up. How much did it look like what we’re seeing on the news right now? Were there riots? Looting? Were there any who looked like Bele that stood by the rebels?

To think, until a week or so ago I only knew this episode as “the one with Frank Gorshin.” Gorshin, of course, played the Riddler on the 1960s Batman show.

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

Rob Watches Star Trek: Deja Vu, Parts I and II

***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
EPISODES: S1.E11 and S1.E12, “The Menagerie,” Parts I and II
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy
GUEST-STARRING: Jeffrey Hunter, Malachi Throne, Susan Oliver
WRITER: Gene Roddenberry
DIRECTORS: Marc Daniels (Part I), Robert Butler (Part II)
ORIGINAL AIR DATES: November 17 and 24, 1966
SYNOPSIS: Spock abducts Christopher Pike, former captain of the Enterprise, over events that transpired 13 years ago on the forbidden planet of Talos IV. In Spock’s subsequent trial, Kirk must decide if his friend is still trustworthy.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

What the hell is a menagerie, anyway? I’ve heard that word before. But it’s not used often in common speak…

These two episodes have a unique distinction. Not do they make up what’s basically a two-part clip show, but they’re a clip show that’s not really a clip show.

By this point in the show, the financial requirements for Star Trek’s special effects were starting to take their toll. Thus, the decision was made to take the footage from the show’s unaired pilot “The Cage,” and use them in what ended up being a sort of “found footage” format. Thus they not only saved money and time, but created some nice continuity for the show.

Despite taking considerably less time to make than a standard single episode of Trek, “The Menagerie” is generally regarded as one of the best stories to come from the original series. I don’t know that I agree in that regard. But as someone who got to watch the original pilot beforehand, I admit my opinion may be slanted. But I can certainly appreciate that they didn’t discard “The Cage” altogether. They put it to good use and grew Spock’s backstory in the process.

If it’s not obvious, the guy that plays present-day catatonic Pike is not the guy who plays flashback Pike. Jeffrey Hunter, who was the lead in the pilot, did not come back for “The Menagerie.” Tragically, in 1969 he passed away due to a brain hemorrhage at the age of 42. A damn shame. Clearly he was a talented actor with a great “old Hollywood” sort of look. Also, given what Star Trek became, you’ve got to believe he would have reprised the Pike role at some point.

On the subject of actors, Malachi Throne plays Commodore Jose Mendez. But he also provided the voice for the Keeper, i.e. the lead alien whose head looks like a nut sack. So they used him to tie the “Cage” footage with the new footage. Incidentally, Throne also played False Face on the Adam West Batman show. His first appearance on the show was in March of 1966. Over 30 years later he’d do some voiceover work for The New Batman Adventures and Batman Beyond.

MEANWHILE IN NOVEMBER 1966: On November 8, Edward R. Brooke becomes the first African American to be popularly elected to the U.S. Senate.

I haven’t had a lot of story critique for Star Trek at this point. But the end of this episode feels like a missed opportunity.

So at the end of the episode we see the Keeper on the communications screen (using recycled footage from “The Cage,” of course) wishing Kirk well. They don’t have to change the central idea. But instead of simply saying goodbye, why not have Keeper say something like, “You’re always welcome here, Captain Kirk.” Then close with a pause and a close-up on Kirk. Yes, I understand Talos IV was portrayed as a good place for Pike to end up. But a line like that plants a seed for a future story as opposed to simply ending one.

Alright, Dictionary.com refers to a menagerie as “a collection of wild or unusual animals, especially for exhibition.” I’d say that checks out for our purposes.

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