Rob Watches Star Trek: “Shatner Moments” and Nancy Kovack

***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.E19. “A Private Little War”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley
GUEST-STARRING: Nancy Kovack, Michael Witney
WRITERS: Jud Crucis (Story), Gene Roddenberry (Teleplay)
DIRECTOR: Marc Daniels
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: February 2, 1968
SYNOPSIS: Kirk and Bones reluctantly become involved in an arms race among primitives on a once peaceful planet.

There’s a scene in “A Private Little War” where Kirk gets bitten and thus poisoned by a gloriously cheesy-looking monster. The scene calls for him to suffer and shiver as he struggles to tell Bones on how to save him. Given how William Shatner performs the scene, I felt compelled to type “chewing the scenery” into Urban Dictionary.

Fittingly enough, part of the definition you get is, “In reference to actors (William Shatner comes immediately to mind) …”

What I’ve found in watching these select episodes of Star Trek is the longer the series goes, the more of those infamous “Shatner Moments” we see. And having seen clips of the first two Trek movies, I know there are more to come.

I talked about this not long ago, but it bears repeating: I don’t think he was or is a bad performer. Heck, the he’s a trained Shakespearean actor. Does he have his “Shatner Moments?” Sure. But what he turned in works well in service of the show. “Rob Watches Star Trek” has brought me a newfound respect for him. Not just for what he turned in with Star Trek, but what he went through after Star Trek. He went from being a bona fide television star to losing his home and living in a trailer after the show was cancelled. And yet now, at the age of 89, he’s still chugging away. Imagine the life this guy has lead.

At the very least, Shatner’s performances as Kirk are still memorable after 50 years. There’s something to be said for that. Hell, you fight the Gorn and see what you turn in.

A Private Little War is a great episode, all the atrocious wigs notwithstanding. Nancy Kovack’s smoldering performance as Nona (shown below) is almost worth the price of admission on its own…

The only thing I found a little bit disappointing was that Bones didn’t get the spotlight I thought he would. He’s a perpetual fish-out-of-water. He’s constantly going on these field missions which, in theory, he’s not supposed to be on. That’s why one of his famous catchphrases from the show is, “Damn it, man! I’m a doctor, not a [whatever they’re asking him to be in that episode]!”

So when Kirk gets poisoned, Bones goes back to the encampment with the natives. Kirk is unconscious, and Spock is injured on the Enterprise. The big conflict in the episode is whether or not to give these primitives guns to combat an opposing tribe armed thusly. Instead of waking Kirk up, why not have Bones be the moral center of it all? As a healer, he’s obviously against the idea of introducing firearms even as a defensive response. Maybe some of the carnage he sees causes him to switch sides? But alas, instead we go back to Kirk.

That’s another thing about Shatner. We love the guy, but he tends to pull focus.

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

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.

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, and the like.

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.

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.

Rob Watches Star Trek: Lower Decks

***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
: Lower Decks
EPISODE: S1.E1. “Second Contact”
WITH THE VOICE TALENTS OF: Tawny Newsome, Jack Quaid, Noel Wells, Eugene Cordero, Dawnn Lewis

WRITER: Mike McMahan
DIRECTOR: Barry J. Kelly
PREMIERE DATE: August 6, 2020
SYNOPSIS: Ensign Brad Boimler is asked to keep an eye on the antics of Ensign Beckett Mariner aboard the on the U.S.S. Cerritos.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I’m not old, am I? My father, who’s [age redacted], assured me the other day that 30-something is not old. So I can’t be old, right….? Right?!?

The reason I ask is because Star Trek: Lower Decks made me feel really, really old. Because I found myself saying things like, “Slow down!” and “You’re giving me a headache?” At least they weren’t walking on my lawn…

Lower Decks isn’t a bad idea. An animated series about a few low-ranking crew members and their adventures on the U.S.S. not-the-Enterprise. Our main characters are Beckett Bariner, an irreverent rule-breaker with an attitude, and the straight-laced Brad Boimler, who has eyes on becoming a captain one day. So far, so good, right?

The problem, however, is evident from the very first scene: The Beckett character is annoying. Her attempts at humor are loud and obnoxious, and she largely ruins the episode.

I understand the rules for character-building can be a little bit different in a comedy. But I still need something to latch on to, someone to care about, something to emotionally anchor the story. We kick off the episode with Brad fantasizing about being a captain. That’s a pretty good starting point. We’ve got a character with a dream and a goal. Most of us can relate to that, right?

But then Beckett comes in with clumsy, babbling, rapid-fire attempts at humor. She says something about being drunk on Romulan whisky, and then swings a Klingon weapon around for no real reason.

I recently watched the classic original series episode, “The Trouble With Tribbles.” I was inclined to compare the Tribbles to the Ewoks of Star Wars fame, given their cutesy nature. Whether that’s a justified comparison or not, if the Tribbles are the Star Trek equivalent to Ewoks, then Beckett just might be the  Star Trek equivalent to Jar Jar Binks.

The super fast-paced, fill-all-the-silence dialogue is what hurts the episode more than anything. Lower Decks simply won’t shut up. In the following scene, for instance, where Beckett and Brad meet new crew member D’Vana Tendi (the green-skinned girl pictured above), it’s like somebody pressed the fast-forward button. We don’t have time to breathe or digest anything, so nothing lands.

What might have helped this episode is a slightly tighter focus. We have three main characters in Beckett, Brad, and D’Vana, plus a few supporting characters. Instead of trying to cram so much into 20-some minutes, keep things zoomed in on Brad and Beckett. D’Vana is seemingly supposed to be Brad’s love interest, so maybe do a brief intro at the end where we establish that he thinks she’s cute. But that’s all we needed.

Beckett’s execution is a problem, so she definitely needs to be toned down. But how about a little heart? Why is she so boisterous? Does she have trouble making friends? We find out late in the episode that she’s related to someone high in the ship’s pecking order. Does that have anything to do with it?

Give me something human to latch on to. Then we can talk about Romulan whisky and slimy tentacle monsters.

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

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: 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: The Real Pilot?

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decides 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.E3. “Where No Man Has Gone Before”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy
GUEST-STARRING: Gary Lockwood, Sally Kellerman
WRITER: Samuel A. Peeples
DIRECTOR: James Goldstone
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: September 22, 1966
SYNOPSIS: After passing through a mysterious force field in space, two crew members gain Extra Sensory Perception (ESP). They subsequently go mad with power. Kirk and the rest of the crew must save the ship from them.

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

While it aired as the third episode of the series, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” is in fact the episode that got Star Trek green-lit by NBC. It was the second pilot filmed after the first one, “The Cage,” was rejected.

Remember, “The Cage” was deemed too intellectual, too slow, and without enough action. By those standards, it’s easy to see why this pilot got picked up and the other did not. This one’s got a handsome bad guy with ESP, and a big fight with Kirk at the end of the episode.

That’s not to say the episode is dumbed down, per se. My impression of Star Trek has always been that it not only puts the “science” in science fiction, but it’s here to ask us important questions. It’s among the apex of a “thinking man’s” TV shows. This episode shows us that even in the early going, that was the case.

After passing through a mysterious force field in space, various individuals on the Enterprise with a predisposition for ESP are effected. None more so than Helmsman Gary Mitchell, an old friend of Kirk’s. His eyes even begin to emit a strange glow (shown above).

Also along for the ride is Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, a psychiatrist there to study crew members’ reactions to emergency situations. But the more time she spends with Mitchell the more fascinated, and possibly enamored, she becomes with him. As Mitchell continues to develop powers, so does she.

But unlike Dehner, Mitchell’s personality changes drastically as he becomes more powerful. He even develops a hokey 1960s version of Emperor Palpatine’s Force-lightning powers. As he continues to wreak havoc on the ship, Kirk is faced with a dilemma. Kill his old friend, or maroon him on the nearby planet of Delta Vega. Kirk ultimately tries to do the latter. But a fight breaks out that forces a dramatic conclusion.

MEANWHILE, IN SEPTEMBER OF 1966: The U.S. Department of Defense announces 49,200 men will be drafted into the Vietnam War. This would go down as the highest draft call of the war, and the largest overall since the Korean War.

From a writing standpoint, one thing that impressed me was how, right off the bat, we established the dynamic between our two main characters, Kirk and Spock. Or perhaps it’s the difference between Spock and everyone else. They’re playing a game of…multi-level space chess? (Shown above.) Kirk tells Spock he plays an irritating game of chess. Spock pauses, then realizes he’s talking about “one of your Earth emotions.” This is our first of several indications in this episode that Spock lives logically, with as little emotion as possible. Of course, this would come to be a trademark of his alien species, the Vulcans.

Kirk then checkmates him, defying Spock’s logical approach, and after a beat or two asks, “Are you sure you don’t know what irritation is?”

I absolutely love that. And William Shatner delivers that last line perfectly.

In the heat of the Mitchell conflict, Spock’s logic would butt heads with Dehner’s emotion as she implores Kirk to show the helmsman compassion. I honestly couldn’t tell if Dehner had a thing for Mitchell or if she was just passionate about the argument.

They all should have known Mitchell was going to die. His name is Gary. Ain’t nobody in space named Gary…

At this point in the creative process Kirk and Spock were seemingly the only fully formed characters on the show. But two familiar faces do appear as background players: Scotty, played by James Doohan, and Sulu, played by the one and only George Takei. They don’t say much. But they’re there.

The uniforms still have a bit of that sweater look they had in “The Cage.” In “The Man Trap,” the first episode to actually air, they have the look most of us are familiar with.

“The Man Trap,” huh? This episode was pretty light on that token 1960s sexism. But something tells me we won’t be as lucky when we look at that one next week.

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

A Review of The Flash S2E6 – Zoom Ends Barry’s Run?

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This was a big episode. How do you know? Because they didn’t have any time for that plot thread with Iris’ mom. I’m hoping that has something to do with something at one point. Otherwise, what the hell was the point?

But again, no time for that crap this week. Things are goin’ straight to hell…

Jesse QuickPonderings From The Flash, S2E6:

Wells: “You’re my joy, Jesse Quick.” Ahhhh, how about that? Wells’ daughter is Jesse Quick. There’s something to look forward to.

In the old DC Universe, Jesse Quick was a supporting player in the Flash comic book. The daughter of Golden Age hero Johnny Quick, Jesse became one of Wally West’s partners before changing her hero identity to Liberty Belle.

I can only assume Jesse knows about her powers, if only because Zoom came looking for her. Given how that fight between Zoom and Barry went (more on that later), they may need her sooner than later.

Obviously, the “Arrowverse” is expanding. With Legends of Tomorrow on the horizon, and The Flash still going strong, that’s a good thing.

The team enlists Linda Park’s help in setting a trap for Zoom. This was a bad idea, and even the heroes knew it. You never intentionally put innocents in jeopardy. That’s got to be in the first chapter of the superhero rule book.

Linda Park, Malese JowOn the plus side, it’s nice to see the Linda Park character fleshed out a little more. This as the first episode where I really took the time to study how Malese Jow portrays her. She now seems like she has her own distinct personality, as opposed to just being somebody in the background.

She also had two really good lines this week: “I’ve made out with The Flash,” and in reference to Zoom, “You can’t fight that thing. It’s a monster.”

Also, now she knows Barry is The Flash. Barry’s got a lot of strings attached at this point. That could come back to bite him, specifically when it comes to his adopted father…

Barry admits to Joe that he’s been having trouble being happy since he failed to save his mother from the Reverse-Flash. Joe tells him to do his best to be happy here and now. Grant Gustin and Jesse L. Martin have become really good at these father/son scenes. And it led to an awesome moment between Barry and Patty. Scenes like this make me wonder if Joe’s going to get killed off at some point. His death would be so impactful for all the heroes, Barry and Iris especially.

The Flash, Season 2, ZoomThe Flash faces off with Zoom for the first time. Obviously Zoom has a scary quality to him. A little less scary when you realize they’re sort of channeling Cobra Commander and Shredder with his voice. But still, he’s a very effective big bad for the season.

This fight reminded me of the Luke Skywalker/Darth Vader fight from The Empire Strikes Back. The good guy has the heart and the will, but the bad guy simply has too much power and experience. As such, The Flash got his ass kicked, and he was humiliated in front of his allies. I’m not sure how much Zoom knows about Barry’s life, but having Zoom drag Barry in front of his father would have been a nice cap-off to that sequence.

When Zoom stabbed Barry, originally I thought the wound was in his heart. Needless to say, that would have complicated things. But as we’d soon learn, the wound was in his spine. So what does The Flash do when you take away his legs? In the comics, we’ve seen a version of Barry on a motorcycle. But I doubt they take that route here. I’ve got a feeling Barry gets his legs back next week via super healing or something like that.

Robert Queen is the Arrow of Earth-2. During a flashback scene on Earth-2, Harrison Wells hears that Robert Queen, Oliver Queen’s father on Arrow, was the one who donned the hood on that world. That was a really cool little Easter egg.

Image 1 from nerdist.com. Image 2 from ibtimes.com. Image 3 from ign.com.

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