Less concerned with who’s first up against the wall than with how to decorate it

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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.


  1. 5tephe
    November 10, 2013 @ 11:54 am

    Still deeply infatuated with your blog, mate.

    Having not seen this one since I was eleven, I think I might have the preferable experience of it.

    All I can recall is the wonderfully spooky first part, and have absolutely no memory of the resolution.

    And MY, but wasn't it spooky? The release of tension for me when they first come back to Spock et al on the bridge was palpable – only to be replaced by an even greater sense of mystery. The rest of the crew weren't dead and gone, but WHAT THE HELL WAS HAPPENING?

    There's a great tapping in here to childhood fears of being lost in the supermarket, too.


  2. Josh Marsfelder
    November 10, 2013 @ 12:25 pm

    I think that's the virtue of the "images" I was talking about in the context of "The Empath". Stuff like that stays in your mind, remaining hauntingly evocative above and beyond the quality of the original episode. Especially if you saw it at a young age. That's the kind of thing I think makes this kind of show live on so long, far more so than the basic episode-to-episode text.

    Also, that's one of the reasons I get nervous revisiting episodes like "The Empath", and coming up soon, the Animated Series. I'm reasonably confidant the episodes aren't going to live up to the mental landscape they inhabit in my imagination. Thankfully "The Empath" did.

    As I said in the post, I think "The Mark of Gideon" has all the makings of a true classic…for about 35 minutes. But perhaps those 35 minutes were enough.


  3. K. Jones
    November 14, 2013 @ 9:50 am

    The faces in the window terrified me as a kid but now I just laugh at how silly it is.

    I do think I can see a fair critique of white Christian conservatives in the leaders of Gideon, though. I don't recall, did they say in the episode whether or not their society featured war at all? Had they grown bored with it? That seems highly unlikely in any emotional creature still tethered to animal instinct.

    It should have been The Mark of Gwydion, Kirk actually abducted along with a random woman and toyed with on an empty ship by another trickster god. Overpopulation's a mug's game.


  4. K. Jones
    November 14, 2013 @ 9:51 am

    Being fair to 1980s Me, Nimoy's Spock kind of terrified me as well. Why in the world did they do away with his yellow-green tinge? If his blood is green his skin ought to be as well, and so too all Vulcanian-Romulanoids no matter pigment gradient.


  5. Josh Marsfelder
    November 14, 2013 @ 11:58 am

    I don't recall them mentioning war, because the Gideons claim their society is built around happiness and a love of life such that everything and everyone is sacred to them: That's why they're so opposed to contraception and safe sex, because harming a fetus or blastula is tantamount to harming a real person. Which is very fundamentalist Christian.

    "It should have been The Mark of Gwydion, Kirk actually abducted along with a random woman and toyed with on an empty ship by another trickster god. Overpopulation's a mug's game."

    You get no disagreement from me on that one.


  6. Josh Marsfelder
    November 14, 2013 @ 11:59 am

    I can't answer that, though I would guess it would have something to do with a fear over how people would perceive that kind of face paint in later decades.


  7. BerserkRL
    December 21, 2013 @ 5:34 pm

    shifting its approach to science fiction from the pulp and Golden Age tradition to the more fantastic trappings that come to define the genre from here on out

    I wonder whether you may drawing from a narrow range of samples of pulp and Golden Age sf; because when I look at, e.g., Clark Ashton Smith's Captain Volmar stories in the 30s, Heinlein's more surreal work from the 40s, and James Blish's Cities in Flight stories from the 50s, I have a hard time seeing how it falls short of any fantastic bizzarerie that could be in the offing.


  8. BerserkRL
    December 21, 2013 @ 5:47 pm

    Though of course the Gideons (and not the Gwydions) are also an evangelical Christian group that goes around giving away free Bibles, so the name makes a kind of sense.


  9. Josh Marsfelder
    December 21, 2013 @ 7:32 pm

    It's true I'm thinking more in terms of Asimov and Clark here, but as they seem to be considered more or less the definitive voices of the era amongst a certain section of the populace, I feel at least a little justified in making generalizations here (and I tackle Blish in due time, no worries).

    Perhaps I should have been more specific: While it's certainly true that the Golden Age writers had a penchant for evocative imagery (as I mentioned when I talked about the Fesarius and again IRT Foundation and James Blish) the kind of fantasy I'm thinking of here is a far more mystical and Fortean style that the Golden Age writers did tend to shy away from.


  10. Daru
    January 23, 2014 @ 10:57 pm

    Great article again Josh thanks, still enjoying your essays as ever – just catching up to the point where I am in sync with you!

    You know, I think there was a massive opportunity missed here by the show – you make the natural link between UFO and Faerie abductions, and particularly the encapsulation of technology around Faerie lore and life – well you may know of the supposed Faerie abduction of a minister and Gaelic scholar in Aberfoyle, Scotland in the 1700's from the local Faerie hill. His name, Reverend Kirk! He wrote a fabulous little book called The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns & Faeries recording his abduction, their culture and even technology. If the show was flirting (wonderfully) with the Hill's type of experience, they missed a big thematic link by not following it through.


  11. Josh Marsfelder
    January 24, 2014 @ 2:12 am

    Unfortunately, massively missing thematic links and opportunities was sort of a trademark of the Fred Freiberger/Arthur Singer era.

    Loving the connection to Reverend Kirk, though! How wonderful would that have been? Actually, what am I saying? You may have given me a story idea…

    Briefly playing the name game myself here, I find "Kirk" comes from the Old Norse "Kirkja", from a Greek word meaning "church". So, Western, but a name also associated heavily with Northern Europe, especially Ireland and Wales ("Newkirk", etc.).


  12. Daru
    January 27, 2014 @ 2:20 am

    Yeah thanks! Yes from what I have read and half remember there a lot of missed opportunities in this era.

    Great to hear that I have given you a story idea – go for it!

    I was actually going to write about the term 'kirk' in Scotland for churches – an especially nice tie for a Reverend! If you want a good bit of Faerie lore research check out The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries by W.Y. Evans-Wentz. Sometimes skewed but great document of accounts of localised beliefs around Faerie culture.


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