Rob Watches Star Trek: Glory, Thy Name is Gorn

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

SERIES: Star Trek
EPISODE: S1.E18 “Arena”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols
WRITERS: Fredric Brown (Story), Gene L. Coon (Teleplay)
DIRECTOR: Joseph Pevney
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: January 19, 1967
SYNOPSIS: Captain Kirk is trapped in a fight for his life against a reptilian creature called a Gorn.

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

I picked a disconcerting point in history to be watching Star Trek for the first time. One of the things that’s so great about this show is it’s tackling of cultural and ethical questions, issues of violence and nonviolence, etc.

Star Trek looks at humanity’s future with a hopeful eye. Kirk, Spock, and the others are by nature very pacifistic. And as we saw a few weeks ago, they’ve long since outgrown issues of race like the ones we see on the news nowadays. In “Arena,” Kirk and another creature called a Gorn are placed in a fight-to-the-death conflict resolution scenario. A powerful alien force deems both races uncivilized. Thus they’re placed in a violent situation befitting such a demeanor. Of course, in the end Kirk proves them wrong. About humans at least. So Star Trek predicts humanity will ultimately rise above its more violent tendencies. Cooler heads will prevail. Logic and compassion will win the day.

Keep in mind, this episode aired in 1967. More than 50 years later, are we any closer to being like Kirk? No. Not really. Certainly not if you take to heart all this COVID craziness, and then the fallout from George Floyd’s death…
Oye. Talk about a sobering train of thought.

Keep in mind, this episode aired in 1967. More than 50 years later, are we any closer to being like Kirk? No. Not really. Certainly not if you take to heart all this COVID craziness, and then the fallout from George Floyd’s death…

Oye. Talk about a sobering train of thought.

MEANWHILE, ON JANUARY 19, 1967: Major Bernard F. Fisher of the United States Air Force becomes the first to win the Air Force Medal of Honor. The prior year, Fisher had landed his plane in South Vietnam to prevent a fellow soldier from being captured by North Vietnamese forces.

Not so sobering? The goddamn Gorn!!!! I absolutely love this friggin’ thing. Not since “The Cage” have I seen Star Trek really embrace that campy, ’60s sci-fi glory. It’s not hard to see why that whole sequence with Kirk and the Gorn is so fondly regarded.

Here’s my question: Would it have been better to just have the Gorn be nude, as opposed to putting it in that weird loin-cloth thing? I understand it’s supposed to be a ship captain. But going with the “its okay for animals to be naked” logic works for characters like Chewbacca. Why can’t it work for the Gorn? (Although I’m guessing far less thought was put into the Gorn.)

Apparently our latest Earth-like planet isn’t the only one in the universe that looks like the deserts of Los Angeles County. Apparently Star Trek shot in this area so much that a prominent rock formation has been affectionately named “Kirk’s Rock.”

Frankly, it deserves that distinction for this episode alone. Are you gonna tell me that entertainment gets any better than this? I don’t think so.

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

Rob Watches Star Trek – The Real Pilot Episode?

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
The same Rob from up top.

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.

George Lucas on Star Wars: Gungans and the Vietnam War

***Think what you will about George Lucas, but in terms of Star Wars, it can all be traced back to him. That’s why I always find it so interesting to listen to him talk about it. His creative process, the reason certain decisions were made, and how these movies became pop cultural staples. This space is dedicated to just that. This is “George Lucas on Star Wars.”***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

The Scene: The Gungan army faces the Trade Federation’s Battle Droids on Naboo.

George Lucas Says (Via the Phantom Menace Commentary Track): “Having grown up in the shadow of the Vietnam War, the issue of a primitive society confronting technologically advanced society has fascinated me. Because that was the main event that was going on during my college years. And the fact that human determination and human spirit could overcome these vastly superior armies, I actually found to be rather inspiring. … [That’s] one of the main themes that has gone through all the Star Wars films.”

I Say: This “primatives vs. the powerful” narrative is something that dates back to some of the early drafts of the original Star Wars. Lucas has said that originally, there was a big battle between Empire and a society of wookies at the end of the movie. Obviously that was changed. But the idea re-emerged in Return of the Jedi, then again in The Phantom Menace, and Lucas finally got his big wookie battle in Revenge of the Sith.

For yours truly, Star Wars has served as a bridge into so many things, whether it’s other areas of pop culture, mythology, or in this case history. When you look at some of the circumstances of the Vietnam War and place them alongside sequence like this, it almost becomes an educational tool.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

A Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #20 Review – Summer of ’69

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #20
AUTHORS: Kyle Higgins, Ryan Ferrier
PENCILLERS: Daniele Di Nicuolo, Bachan. Cover by Jamal Campbell.
PUBLISHER: BOOM! Studios
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: October 25, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

One thing you can’t take away from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #20? It knows how the moon works.

Throughout the show’s history, Power Rangers has had a really weird take on the moon. The most notable example is probably the iconic “Forever Red” episode, where we see 10 years worth of Red Rangers fighting unmorphed on the lunar surface. They can breathe freely, and the gravity is the same as on Earth. The entire sequence looks suspiciously like it takes place in California somewhere…

That’s not the moon we get here. This is the genuine article. How do we know? Because the issue opens with the moon landing in 1969. In true Power Rangers fashion, our astronauts accidentally unleash an alien threat. And so, decades before Jason and the others take up arms against Rita Repulsa, Zordon must choose a team of heroes to protect the Earth. They are Earth’s first Power Rangers, and their story isn’t quite as happy as that of their successors.

I initially frowned upon the idea of Jason’s team not having the distinction of being the “original” Rangers of Earth. But transplanting the Power Rangers concept into the ’60s is too good an idea to pass up. It’s just a shame we don’t have time to flesh it out. Everything gets crammed into this one issue, and certain elements suffer as a result.

Our leader and Red Ranger is Grace Sterling, whose older self we’ve met in previous issues. She’s a secretary at the PR equivalent of NASA, with dreams of going into space. At her side are a British rock musician, a Russian communist, a Vietnam War veteran, and an idealistic youngster. Obviously these characters are written to clash. The problem is making it believable and organic in such a short time. For instance, there’s an exchange between the Pink and Yellow Rangers about whether the war is right or wrong. But they’re on the moon! Plus, because we know so little about these people, and the conflict only lasts about two panels, it’s almost not even worth it. In a perfect world, giving this story three or four issues would have granted it much-needed breathing room.

As this MMPR series has progressed, we’ve seen Kyle Higgins cherry pick elements and ideas from around the Power Rangers timeline. He does that here with the use of Psycho Green, a villain spinning out of the evil Psycho Ranger team from Power Rangers in Space.  I’ve gotten on Higgins’ back for muddying the pre-established continuity, but this is harmless enough. It’s a nice little tribute to PRiS. Interestingly enough, Psycho Green is apparently the right hand to another PRiS villain, Dark Specter.

MMPR: Pink artist Daniele Di Nicuolo is back for this issue, and is also solicited for issue #21. Di Nicuolo does well in the Power Rangers universe. But I was a little caught off guard by how jacked the male Rangers looked in morphed form. It’s fairly consistent with what he gave us in Pink. Maybe the alternate costumes distracted from it?

Either way, Di Nicuolo draws an awesome Psycho Green. The gender swap element in this book is also interesting to look at. Our Red and Black rangers are women, while our Yellow and Pink Rangers are men. That’s a nice little twist on things.

The scene with our five new Rangers in the Command Center is an issue highlight for me. Zordon has been absent for much of this series (the amazing issue #15 notwithstanding), so it’s great to spend a little time with him. It’s also the only time we get to see our unmorphed heroes interact with one another. Di Nicuolo gets to play with facial expressions, body language, etc.

“The Ongoing Misadventures of Squatt and Baboo” continue as well. For whatever reason, I’ve found these a little more palatable than the Bulk and Skull stories we got in earlier issues. Squatt and Baboo fight the Megazord this issue, which goes about as well as you’d imagine.

Considering how much hype MMPR #20 was given, not spending more time with this 1969 team seems like a wasted opportunity. Obviously what we saw here will factor into the coming issues, as Grace continues to interact with the Rangers. So in all fairness, we don’t have the whole story yet. But my immediate reaction is that they could have done so much more with this idea. But I’ll credit the BOOM! Studios crew for at least making it a reality. It’s a nice bit of world-building, in a series that’s already given so much to the Power Rangers mythos.

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