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.

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”

“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” (Coming Soon)

“Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”

Star Trek: Lower Decks

“Second Contact”

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

Continue reading “Rob Watches Star Trek Archive”

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.

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.

 

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: Meet the Parents

***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.E10 “Journey to Babel”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley
GUEST-STARRING: Mark Lenard, Jane Wyatt
WRITER: D.C. Fontana
DIRECTOR: Joseph Pevney
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: November 17, 1967
SYNOPSIS: As the Enterprise transports planetary delegates to a diplomatic conference, Spock’s father becomes the prime suspect in a murder investigation.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

There’s a moment in this episode that I absolutely love. It’s when we cut to a wide open common area and see all the various aliens that have come together on the Enterprise. We’ve got blue people with antennas, we’ve got pig men, we’ve got little people painted gold (shown below). And of course, we have a Vulcan.

For yours truly, this is a sort of gloriously campy predecessor to what we’d see 10 years later in the cantina scene in Star Wars. For a few brief moments, Star Trek does some world-building simply via the visuals. Those glorious ’60s sci-fi visuals.

The only thing missing was a Gorn. Though that particular alien race seemed, shall we say, less inclined toward diplomacy. And hey, maybe Kirk’s got hard feelings. You can’t blame him, can you?

In addition to a Gorn-less alien convention, we’ve got quite a bit else happening in this episode. A family reunion with Spock’s parents, Marek and Amanda. We then go into a murder investigation after one of the pig men is killed. Next we find out Marek is ill and needs a blood transfusion from his son. This leads to Bones having to perform the procedure as the Enterprise is rocked back and forth in a space battle with the Orion crime syndicate. There are so many plates spinning, and yet it somehow all seems to fit. That’s a credit to the writing.

So Marek is Vulcan and Amanda is human. The Vulcan mindset is that humans are emotional, thus irrational. Vulcans, on the other hand, are strictly logical. The idea, which we see played up in this episode, is that Spock gets his rarely seen emotional side from his mother.

I reject this notion.

MEANWHILE, IN NOVEMBER OF 1967: The satellite ATS-3 transmits the first color image of Earth’s entire disk (nearly all of the western hemisphere).

We’ve heard Spock discuss the Vulcans and their history before. As a race, they were once quite volatile even by human standards. Warfare was commonplace, to the point that it threatened their very existence. Their salvation came via the adoption of a philosophy that cast uncontrolled emotion as the root cause of all problems. Thus, the need to rigidly control all emotion, and conduct one’s self via an ethical and logical code.

So the Vulcan mindset is cultural, as opposed to being somehow biological. They are taught to be as cold and emotion-less as they are. This flies in the face of the show’s implication that Spock’s behavior is genetically influenced by either one of his parents. For all intents and purposes, humans and Vulcans are born with the same blank slate. The difference lays in nurture, not nature.

What I’d love to see is a new and budding romance between a human and a Vulcan. I’m sure the franchise has covered that at some point in its 50-year history. But thus far the closest we’ve seen (or at least the closest I’ve seen) is the strange dynamic between Spock and Nurse Chapel. Not exactly Romeo and Juliet, those two…

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: 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.

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.