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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. Adam Riggio
    September 4, 2013 @ 10:59 am

    One of the nice parts about the blog's coverage of season two has been its cold eye on the nature of Star Trek the series. So often, it's viewed with the rose-tinted glasses of idealism and nostalgia that it's hard to get a real handle on its difficulties. Obsession is a key episode in this regard. I'd call it one of the better ones of the whole series, but it probably merits a B+ because of the points you rightly critique.

    But I wonder what on Earth your take on season three will be. I'm kinder to the series than you are, so I see a few bright points in the insanity, but given what I've seen of your perspective, that whole season amounts to an ocean of shittiness. You'll have to get pretty creative in your posts to slog through it in a way that at least offers the readers some enlightenment.


  2. Josh Marsfelder
    September 4, 2013 @ 11:09 am

    It's not that I see the entirety of season three as a write-off as much I recognise that it is the end result of some deeply-rooted problems the show's been struggling with since its inception. There are, in point of fact, several highlights to the third season ("Day of the Dove", "The Tholian Web" and "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" come immediately to mind, not to mention scenes scattered throughout several episodes that cement Kirk's and Spock's pop culture legacy, which will be a major theme in my analysis of season three), but it has systemic problems that spring from Star Trek's personal demons, and it is quite possible to read 1968-9 as the year when they finally catch up with the show.

    Thing is, and I'll touch on this a bit in "Assignment: Earth" as well as the inevitable Bjo Trimble entry, Star Trek's renewal wasn't quite a renewal, for a great many reasons.


  3. K. Jones
    September 4, 2013 @ 8:25 pm

    Season 3's an odd story to be sure, quality-wise more sporadic, though I find a fairly even ratio between 'passable' episodes and outright bad ones. But keeping on topic … I can't get down on Season 2 just yet. The highs haven't ended; after Obsession we enter into a triad of notable (fun) episodes and the season hits its peak before closing out with some low points. There's at least seven passing grades (three quite good, but it's the usual suspects writing them) before we find another F.

    Obsession is an episode that doesn't sit well with me. There's nothing particularly wrong with it, in fact there's a great deal right. But despite interesting enough material for our top three to work with, and an actually substantial guest spot for a lower decks crewman, it's not mesmerizing.

    It never struck me as 'too alike Doomsday Machine' that Kirk had his own personal white whale out there – all these pulp hero types who've had long careers as heroes have their monsters. While the Doomsday Machine felt jarring and powerful because it just inserts itself at random into the Galaxy, a true intruder (more next post!), the Dikironium entity slithers through space. It's not an unstoppable juggernaut, deflecting all weapons. It's a wraith. A literal ghost in space, haunting Kirk, marked by an acute increase in his human senses – particularly his sense of smell, a sense that we humans really just don't use all that often. (We see an eerily similar entity in Crystalline Form some time later, of course, and somebody actually finally questions the ethics of exterminating a cosmic creature that's only trying to feed and procreate, and whether or not self-preservation justifies pest-control. More on that in about 100 episodes.)

    Ghosts of Kirk's past come to life all over this episode, as space-time is caught in a bit of Jungian synchronicity and history repeats itself. Another ghost of his past, Garrovick, is doomed to repeat Kirk's mistake because of a mistake he's making in the present. And it all ends back where it started, on Tycho, like an oroboros, with a titanic circle drawn in the sands of that wasted hemisphere – a seal placed over the grave of a demon to trap it forever in the past.

    This episode, a cosmic monster rearing its head from Kirk's past, was inevitable.


  4. Adam Riggio
    September 5, 2013 @ 5:12 am


    I will say that I also have a soft spot for For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky, mostly for its epic title that can never not be fun to say and its showcase for McCoy. The rest of the story is a fairly standard waking-a-population-up-to-their-own-enslavement-by-a-computer-or-whatever plot, but somewhat interesting because Kirk and crew does so for the sake of preventing a catastrophe that would destroy two worlds. I'm interested in what you'll eventually have to say about that one too.


  5. Josh Marsfelder
    September 5, 2013 @ 8:08 am

    While I do feel the season (and the series, frankly) has already peaked, I do have quite a few nice things to say about several of the episodes coming up at the tail end of the year. I was pleasantly surprised by a lot of them.


  6. Josh Marsfelder
    September 5, 2013 @ 8:16 am

    "For The World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky" is one of the most wonderfully overblown and pretentious titles in the history of the franchise.

    My personal, half-serious theory is that it laid the groundwork for the similarly admirably overstuffed titles of Ron Moore and Ira Behr's version of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine such as "…Nor The Battle Too Strong…", "Let He Who Is Without Sin…", "The Darkness And The Light", "Ties of Blood and Water" "Wrongs Darker Than Death Or Night", "In The Pale Moonlight" and "Treachery, Faith and the Great River".


  7. BerserkRL
    December 14, 2013 @ 9:54 pm

    But none of those titles is even remotely as good as "For The World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky."


  8. BerserkRL
    December 14, 2013 @ 9:54 pm

    Any time you mention Moby Dick I'm going to ask about C.L. R. James ….


  9. Josh Marsfelder
    December 15, 2013 @ 2:23 pm

    Given Ron Moore and Ira Behr's fixation on the Original Series, I'll just say that statement may well prove to be very telling and symbolic.


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