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: Waiting For Greatness

***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.E7. “Lonely Among Us”
STARRING: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn
WRITERS: Michael Halperin (Story), D.C. Fontana (Script)
DIRECTOR:
Cliff Bole
ORIGINAL AIR DATE:
November 2, 1987
SYNOPSIS:
An alien entity takes possession of several crew members, as the Enterprise is assigned to escort delegates from feuding alien races to peace talks.

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

These first few episodes of TNG that I’ve watched are interesting, in that they’re, quite frankly, uninteresting. And in the case of this episode, rather stupid at times. (I’m specifically looking at Data doing his Sherlock Holmes impression.)

“Lonely Among Us” has a story that might have been plucked out of the original series. Various crew members are possessed by an invisible alien entity, all the while two feuding alien factions are on board the ship. In many ways, it’s textbook Star Trek. It may also be a microcosm for what’s been wrong with the show (at least what I’ve seen) thus far.

On paper it makes sense. Especially with 30 years of hindsight. You want to make a new Star Trek show two decades after the first one. What do you do? You look at what worked on the old show, and try to at least partially fit that mold. Ergo, you get episodes like “The Naked Now” and “Lonely Among Us,” which feel like dressed up episodes of the ’60s show.

It’s not an accident that this happened during a season in which several writers from the original show were brought in. In addition to Gene Roddenberry’s involvement with the show, D.C. Fontana became both a writer and an associate producer.

It all makes sense. These people know Star Trek because they created Star Trek. They’re the keepers of the flame. You’d be silly not to involve them on some level. But, to use an example from the same era, there’s a reason that Batman: The Animated Series didn’t have the same kind of stories the ’60s Batman show did. It was a tonal mismatch, of course. But it also didn’t fit with what the new show needed to be in order to succeed.

Even all these years later, as someone just discovering these shows for the first time, this first season of TNG very much lives in the shadow of the original series. How could it not? The way you fight that is to allow this new show to pave its own way and establish its own identity. You can’t do that while mimicking the old show.

More than 30 years later, Star Trek: The Next Generation is still looked at with love and reverence. But I, as a newbie, am still patiently waiting for greatness…

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

Posted in Movies

Rob Watches Star Trek: Kirk the Jerk?

***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: The Motion Picture
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Stephen Collins, Persis Khambatta
DIRECTOR: Robert Wise
WRITERS: Alan Dean Foster (Story), Harold Livingston (Screenplay)
STUDIOS: Paramount Pictures, Century Associates
RATED: G
RUN-TIME: 132 min
RELEASED: December 7, 1979

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

I came into Star Trek: The Motion Picture ready to be bored. This is, after all, the film infamously called the “Slow Motion Picture.”

But boring isn’t what I got out of it. There are slow portions, obviously. But I wasn’t bored at any point. To yours truly, the story of Star Trek: The Motion Picture is one of a charmingly odd sci-fi flick that missed out on some of its potential.

Eighteen months after the end of the five-year mission, Kirk has been promoted to admiral. But when a mysterious and destructive energy cloud is discovered to be on a collision course with Earth, Kirk takes it upon himself to investigate the mysterious entity aboard a refitted Enterprise. But while there are many familiar faces aboard, this is not the Enterprise Kirk remembers, and he hasn’t been a starship captain in quite some time. Meanwhile, Spock feels a telepathic connection with the entity that will serve to guide the Enterprise on its mission.

Watching the film for the first time in 2020 means there’s a giant elephant in the room whenever Stephen Collins is on screen as Decker. Not because of 7th Heaven, but because of what we’d later learn about him. Years ago, I made the mistake of listening to the recording that came out of him talking about what he’d done. I now desperately wish I hadn’t.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture reportedly had a very rushed production schedule. So much so that director Robert Wise once said he felt the final film was only a rough cut of the one he wanted to make. I can only assumed this rush to the finish line is the reason much of the movie seems to be not very well thought out.

For instance, the main thing I took away from the movie was just how wrong Kirk is. When he decides to investigate what we later learn is the V’Ger entity, he uses his authority as an admiral to forcefully replace Decker as captain of the Enterprise. The two then proceed to clash over how to advance the mission, with Decker ultimately being vindicated. We see that, despite his noble intentions, Kirk is out of practice when it comes to captaining a starship.

This tension between Kirk and Decker is there by design, and is the most interesting part of the movie. The problem I have with it is that it only gets a half-hearted resolution about midway through the film. We don’t really get to savor the meat of the issue. It eventually becomes a moot point. But beforehand, why not throw in some kind of sequence where Kirk admits to Decker that he was wrong and restores his rank, only to have Decker turn him down? That way, we get a satisfactory conclusion to the arc, and Kirk doesn’t look like such a jerk…

If you’d asked me to guess before hand who would get the film’s best entrance, my guess wouldn’t have been Bones. But low and behold, there he is. Beamed in with his space disco suit and medallion, griping about how he’s been drafted back into service. Moments later, he’s part of get of the best character moments in the film when Kirk, in a moment of vulnerability, tells Bones he needs him. In that moment Bones’ demeanor changes, and albeit still somewhat begrudgingly, he once again becomes the Enterprise‘s resident doctor.

The character who undergoes the biggest, and yet surprisingly understated, transformation is Spock. At the start of the movie, he’s on Vulcan taking part in a ceremony signifying the purging of all emotion. When he returns to the Enterprise, he’s as cold and stoic as ever. But after journeying into space and mind-melding with the V’Ger entity, he’s a changed man. In an exchange with Kirk in sick bay, Spock says…

“…with all its pure logic, V’Ger is barren. Cold. No mystery. No Beauty. Should’ve known. … [Spock takes Kirk’s hand.] This simple feeling is beyond V’Ger’s comprehension. No meaning. No hope. Jim, no answers. It’s asking questions. ‘Is this all that I am? Is there nothing more?'”

In asking those questions, the V’Ger entity thereby prompts Spock to ask himself those very same questions. Thus, to an extent, his character arc is complete. He realizes the value of emotion and feeling as opposed to pure logic. I like this. I just wish it had been given a little more emphasis outside of that one scene. After all, Spock’s relationship with his own feelings is one of the tentpole subjects the original series revolved around.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture was developed from what was to have been an episode of a new series, Star Trek: Phase II. Complete with new characters Decker and Ilia. If you look at the plot without the elements needed to put Kirk, Spock, and the gang back together, it does indeed look like something they’d have done on the original series. The Enterprise comes into contact with a mysterious entity in space, it possesses Ilia, hijinks ensue and things are back to business as usual at the end.

But while the movie does feel reminiscent of the show in that sense, something on this scale that’s meant for both Star Trek fans and general audiences would likely have benefited from a conventional villain. Obviously, The Wrath of Khan would go on to justify that sentiment. That’s not to say Kirk needed a bad guy to punch. But a big sentient energy cloud isn’t necessarily who I’d have picked to match up against the Enterprise crew in their cinematic debut.

What’s more, the interior of the Enterprise doesn’t look or feel as fun as it did on the TV show. All the bright colors, campy as they were, are missed. The “refitted” Enterprise looks more like a refurbished dentist’s office.

Imagine my surprise at hearing what I thought was the Star Trek: The Next Generation theme. Star Trek: The Motion Picture marked the first time that classic score by Jerry Goldsmith was heard. Apparently, Goldsmith was Gene Roddenberry’s first choice as composer for the original Star Trek pilot. How fitting that he came back to create what to this day is the franchise’s most recognizable theme.

There’s a famous klunker of a line in this movie that I’d hoped wasn’t as bad as legend tells. Sadly, it’s everything I’d heard it was. During Ilia’s introduction, out of the clear blue sky, she says, “My oath of celibacy is on record, captain.” The movie seems to try and justify this line by having Sulu and Chekov gawk at her when she walks on to the bridge. But it clearly wasn’t enough. Over 40 years later, it still comes off creepy and weird.

But for my money, an even bigger klunker comes from Kirk about midway through the film. His line is, “Stop competing with me, Decker.” But for whatever reason it comes out, “Stop…….com…petingwithmeDecker.”

In some circles, Star Trek: The Motion Picture is considered the worst of the six films based on the original series. Perhaps the worst in the franchise overall. Certainly the film is deeply flawed, and perhaps even ill-conceived. But even as someone fairly new to Star Trek, I still found it enjoyable. It’s not worthy of being the franchise’s big-screen debut. But it has its merits. Mostly in the smaller, quieter moments between the characters we know and love from the show.

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: A Broken Triad

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

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

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

“It’s the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Television

Rob Watches Star Trek Archive

The following represents the full archives of “Rob Watches <i>Star Trek</i>,” thus far, presented in the order the episodes originally aired….

Star Trek, Season One
Series Pilot: “The Cage”
“The Man Trap”
“Where No Man Has Gone Before”
“The Naked Time”
“Dagger of the Mind”
“The Menagerie”
“Balance of Terror”
“The Galileo Seven”
“Arena”
“Return of the Archons”
“Space Seed”
“Errand of Mercy”
“The Alternative Factor”
“The City on the Edge of Forever”

Star Trek, Season Two
“Amok Time”
“Mirror, Mirror”
“Journey to Babel”
“Friday’s Child”
“The Trouble With Tribbles”
“Private Little War”
“Bread and Circuses”
“Assignment: Earth”

Star Trek, Season Three
“Spock’s Brain”
“The Enterprise Incident”
“Day of the Dove”
“The Tholian Web”
“Plato’s Stepchildren”
“Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”
“All Our Yesterdays”

Star Trek Movies:
Star Trek The Motion Picture
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Star Trek III: The Search For Spock
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season One
“Encounter at Farpoint”
“The Naked Now”
“Lonely Among Us”

“Hide and Q”
“Datalore” 
“Too Short A Season”
“Coming of Age”

Star Trek: Lower Decks, Season One
“Second Contact”

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

Posted in Television

Rob Watches Star Trek: The Devotion of Leonard Nimoy

***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.E2. “The Enterprise Incident”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley
GUEST-STARRING: Joanne Linville
WRITER: D.C. Fontana
DIRECTOR: John Meredyth Lucas
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: September 20, 1968
SYNOPSIS: Kirk and Spock embark on a secret mission to steal a Romulan cloaking device.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

One of the plotlines in “The Enterprise Incident” involves a female Romulan commander trying to seduce Spock. Both over to the side of the Romulans, and on a more…personal basis. It seems to nearly work, as passions erupt between the two.

Supposedly, Gene Roddenberry had added a moment to D.C. Fontana’s original script where Spock takes the commander in his arms and is “raining kisses on every square inch above the shoulder.” At the insistence of Leonard Nimoy and his guest co-star Joanne Linville, this was changed to something more befitting of the Spock character. At the presumed moment where the “raining” would have began, the two instead touch hands, with Spock’s fingers caressing hers. Subsequently, their fingers gently trace each other. His index and middle finger hover near her lips, as her left hand ventures around his right shoulder. Their dialogue, meanwhile, maintains they are indeed in some form of intimate embrace.

The more I see Nimoy perform as Spock, and the more I hear of how much he respected the Spock character, the more I come to respect him as an actor. Realistically, he didn’t have to put that kind of care into his performance. He could have simply followed the script. It was a Roddenberry addition after all. Instead, he pushed back, and even wrote Roddenberry a long letter of complaint.

I was soon delighted to find this was hardly Leonard Nimoy’s only creative contribution to the character, and by extension the Star Trek Universe at large. I went on something of a Nimoy kick after seeing this episode. I even sought out For The Love of Spock, the documentary produced by his son Adam Nimoy, which is available on Netflix.

A similar character-related assertion by Nimoy resulted in the creation of the Vulcan nerve pinch. In the early season one episode, “The Enemy Within,” Spock was to have punched out a evil version of Captain Kirk. Feeling that would be too violent for a Vulcan, Nimoy instead suggested the nerve pinch, attributing it to a combination of telepathic powers and the Vulcans’ knowledge of human physiology. He would credit William Shatner for “selling” the maneuver exactly as he wanted.

Nimoy is also responsible for the iconic Vulcan hand salute, which first appeared in “Amok Time.” Nimoy, who was Jewish, was inspired by a gesture he’d seen performed during priestly blessing in a Synagogue. In 1968, Nimoy told the New York Times the Vulcans were a “hand-oriented people.” A notion that certainly lines up with what we see in “The Enterprise Incident.”

As icing on this very Nimoy-flavored episode, we get to see Kirk made up with Spock-like features (shown above) to infiltrate the Romulans. Hilariously, they actually have Bones perform plastic surgery on Kirk to give him the pointy ears. That ship doctor position is pretty all-encompassing, isn’t it? Last week, the man literally had to reattach Spock’s brain. This week? The captain needs cosmetic surgery. No wonder DeForest Kelley was added to the opening title sequence…

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

Posted in Television

Rob Watches Star Trek – Throw a Hat on Him!

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

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

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Uhhh…throw a hat on him!”

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

Posted in Television

Rob Watches Star Trek: A Tale of Two Cities

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

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

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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