Viewing posts tagged TOS Season 1

“Exterminate! Annihilate! Destroy!”: Operation -- Annihilate!

"I'm so sorry."

Really, it's a bit unrealistic to expect Star Trek to come up with something to top “The City on the Edge of Forever” for its first season finale. Even if you, like me, grant that last episode was ultimately a morally bankrupt nightmare on every possible level, the sheer gravity it exerts upon the series, and the larger franchise, is undeniable. For those enraptured and left starry-eyed by the events of last week, it's tough to see how anything, let alone a story about flying parasitic space pancakes, could possibly live up to their expectations, and for those with the perhaps more applicable response of being deeply disturbed and unsettled by the fallout from “The City on the Edge of Forever” (and maybe the last few months on the whole) it's tough to get excited or optimistic about anything Star Trek does at this point.

But this is being a bit unfair to “Operation -- Annihilate!”. The concept of the season finale as we know it was not one that was as entrenched in pop consciousness as an indelible part of television literacy the way it is today. That didn't begin to happen ...

“Watch...your future's end.": The City on the Edge of Forever

“I am my own beginning. And my own ending.”

“So. You've found the courage to speak to me face to face at last, have you? I must congratulate you on finally discovering your spine, however some thinkers far wiser than I might say there exists a very thin line between courage and stupidity.”

“I've not come for bravado-filled threats, I've come in the hope that together we might be able to negotiate an end to all of this. The damage can be repaired.”

“You people never fail to disappoint me, though your unwavering stubbornness is to be commended, I suppose. Have you nothing more or better to say to me than that?”

“Withdraw your troops from the 22nd Century. The damage can be repaired, and I'd hoped to make you remember the fundamental importance and worth of the Temporal Accords.”

“Please spare me your impassioned appeal to regulations and rules of order. I've lived far, far too long and much too hard to be swayed by your vapid platitudes, Agent.”

“Your quarrel isn't with these people in this time! It's with us!”

“Isn't it? Tell me, do you know why my ships ...

“Work for peace at any price, except the price of liberty.”: Errand of Mercy

"Tell me, Jim: Why do you fight?"

“Errand of Mercy” is the moment where all the themes and motifs Gene Coon has been working with since the beginning of his tenure finally coalesce into a cohesive, articulate message. It's a stinging indictment of what Star Trek is at this point, but what saves it from the nihilism of “A Taste of Armageddon” and “Space Seed” is that it's paired with a slightly more hopeful outlook gleaned from the other scripts Coon is the sole author of. It's not perfect, even by the standards the show's laid out for itself by this point, but it's a sufficiently effective statement of where the show is placing its ethics now. Also, it's the debut of the Klingon Empire, which is somewhat self-evidently important, so I guess I'd better deal with that.

There are few things more immediately recognisable as undeniably Star Trek than the Klingons. In terms of ubiquity within the pop consciousness, they're on par with Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise. They're so well-known and beloved that fans who own replica Klingon uniforms, headpieces and weapons and speak Klingonese fluently are seen to ...

“I hope to live to hear that good communication corrects bad manners.”: The Devil in the Dark

This is the weirdest orgy I've ever been to...

“The Devil in the Dark” is one of the most beloved episodes of the Original Series to fans and at the top of both William Shatner's and Leonard Nimoy's list of favourite episodes they worked on. It's deservedly a classic Star Trek episode and undeniably a highlight of the season-While it might not quite unseat “Balance of Terror” as the year's high-water mark, it's certainly one of the best episodes the show's put out yet and absolutely the sort of thing we needed after the last month, which was just about enough to suck the will to live from anyone.

The fundamental thing that makes “The Devil in the Dark” so successful is that it's just about everything “The Man Trap” was trying to do except done right. Once again, we have an unknown, dangerous alien lurking in the shadows and picking people off one by one who turns out to be a highly sophisticated and unique being and an intellectual equal to the crew, but here the justification for the creature's actions is far clearer and far more defensible. Also, delightfully ...

“One morn a Peri at the gate/Of Eden stood disconsolate”: This Side of Paradise

Oh, I give up.

“This Side of Paradise” is a story about how dangerous idealized societies are. It's also about how the pursuit of simple, communal living and an exploration of love are inhuman temptations and how it's far better and more proper to focus on duty, responsibility, modernist, technoscientific notions of progress and suffering. At its best it's a crass indictment of collectivist lifestyles as being “lazy”, “stagnant” and “counterproductive” and at its worst it's the exact same goddamn story as “The Return of the Archons” from three bloody weeks ago. It's also written by the same guy who penned “The Corbomite Maneuver”.

So yeah heads up there's no way in hell there was ever the remotest chance of me liking this one. Just so I get it all out in the open right away: I think “This Side of Paradise” is utterly immoral and I have no intention whatsoever of mustering up a redemptive reading for it. I've also just about lost patience completely with this season, as this is the fourth story in a row with a rock-bottom cynical, nihilistic and actually downright mean-spirited attitude about it and at this ...

“Marooned for all eternity in the center of a dead planet.”: Space Seed

Shame I already used "I got your gun".

I suspect if there's one episode of the original Star Trek that my readers will expect me to come up with some mad, overblown stream-of-consciousness, recursive mess of a writeup for it would probably be this one. I hate to disappoint expectations, but that's not going to be the case here. There was a fairly unbroken streak of episodes starting midway through the season that all seemed to call out for that kind of interpretation, hence a number of the last few blog posts have been in that style, and there's at least one more coming up that will more likely than not warrant it as well, so my abandoning that structure is certainly not something to worry about for the short term. However, “Space Seed” calls for a different approach.

The elephant in the room is naturally that this episode provides the subject matter for the consensus-best Star Trek movie, which is at once a kind of revisit and reimagining of the events of “Space Seed” and also the debut of Nicholas Meyer's unique, and much loved, interpretation of the franchise. Whether or not I feel Star ...

“A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”: A Taste of Armageddon

Jimmy wants big boom.

What's most immediately interesting, to start with, is that we seem to have encountered a temporal event of our own and skipped several episodes. The Federation was established in “Arena”, and Starfleet way back in “Court Martial” but we haven't seen much of either of them since and it didn't seem to alter the status quo of the show in any meaningful way. The Enterprise still putted about on routine patrol for the most part. “The Alternative Factor” and “Tomorrow is Yesterday” gave us some sweeping, dramatic shakeups, but both of those seemed like special exceptions: Not quite narrative collapses, but definitely temporary crises in the way things worked. Still, nothing we didn't really think we wouldn't come back from. The only indication things might be changing at all was in, ironically enough, Gene Roddenberry's own “The Return of the Archons”. In “A Taste of Armageddon”, however, the Federation now has the full name of the United Federation of Planets (implying a structure larger than just Earth and its colonies) and the Enterprise is now escorting its ambassadors on a mission to open up friendly negotiations with civilizations around the ...

“You Will Be Assimilated”: The Return of the Archons

Kirk sees no reason why he can't have both a frock *and* a gun.

Let's take care of the obvious first, shall we? We've got Gene Roddenberry writing again this week. By this point we should know what this means: Terrible pacing, ham-fisted, confused ethics, a disturbingly capricious attitude towards the personhood of women, screamingly vast logic lapses and a truly amazing ability to craft a cartoonish 16-ton safe of a moral and somehow still manage to miss the point entirely. With that squared away, let's take a look at the less obvious: “The Return of the Archons” is final, conclusive evidence Roddenberry's original concept of Star Trek wasn't a utopia and is the first appearance of the Prime Directive (and thus also the first deconstruction of the Prime Directive).

The Prime Directive is a very interesting concept unique to Star Trek, and by this I mean I don't like it very much. I never have: Traditionally doing a Prime Directive story is the quickest way short of doing an “evil clone frames the hero” plot or having a woman strut onto the bridge in a miniskirt to get me to shut the ...

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