Eruditorum Press

Watery tarts distributing hammers and sickles

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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.

8 Comments

  1. Cleofis
    August 7, 2013 @ 10:00 am

    Wow, nothing much to add here. Our opinions are identical on this one; one of the earliest Trek episodes I remember seeing, and one that left a real impression on me, and to this day my favorite of TOS. For all that Windom played his character as a cartoon, his performance was greatly unsettling to me as a kid, and the finale was my first brush with what I would later learn is called "Lovecraftian horror."

    Actually, come to that, I find it hard in retrospect to not think of this episode in Lovecraftian terms, as the Machine is easily the truest eldrtich horror Trek ever produced, albeit not the first and not an official invocation as such; to this day when I think of Lovecraftian terror, of what it would look or be like to stare something old and unknowable and unreasonable and terrible in the face and lose, I think of Decker heading into the maw of the Machine.

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  2. Josh Marsfelder
    August 7, 2013 @ 11:13 am

    This could also tie in with a theme In introduced in the "Who Mourns for Adonais?" post (and will return to on Friday): The evil humans do is just as frightening and terrible as the most horrific Eldritch Abominations. The planet killer may be a Lovecraftian monster, but it was originally built by a kind of people, after all.

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  3. Adam Riggio
    August 8, 2013 @ 9:55 am

    Part of what I think is cool about this blog is that it considers what would have been the experience of watching this show one episode at a time, once each week, in a set broadcast order, not knowing anything about them beforehand. Because I don't know if this has ever been how anyone for a long time has experienced TOS. With DVDs, the internet, and syndicated reruns, we watch the episodes in a variety of orders, and we usually do that with choice. I can't remember the last time I've just found an episode of Star Trek playing on TV and not been able to identify which one it was within five minutes (maybe not remembering the episode title, but definitely by the name of "the one with—").

    It makes for a productively weird collision with your larger subject for the blog, because you write as if you already know where the franchise is going in its far future, though still only discovering TOS as a phenomenon episode by episode.

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  4. Josh Marsfelder
    August 8, 2013 @ 12:08 pm

    "It makes for a productively weird collision with your larger subject for the blog, because you write as if you already know where the franchise is going in its far future, though still only discovering TOS as a phenomenon episode by episode."

    This was rather the point-I'm glad people are beginning to take notice 🙂

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  5. K. Jones
    August 12, 2013 @ 11:50 am

    I was under the perhaps flawed assumption that "Doomsday Machine" was well-liked. I've always loved it. It's impossible to ever call Star Trek episodes "good ensemble episodes" because Uhura, Sulu and Chekov are used so sparingly in deference to the three "Western" white men and the Vulcan at the top of the command structure. But this was an example of good usage of Scotty, and those episodes that split the "three man dynamic" off into pairs, with Kirk interacting with Scott and Spock left to handle Bones, or Kirk off bromancing with Spock while Bones bears witness to how deft and shrewd Scotty is in command; or the rare and effective "Kirk and Bones in danger, Spock and Scotty have to team up to make insane repairs." These are typically stronger elements when contrasted with the usual power trio dynamic.

    If I'm not mistaken, the Constellation in this episode marks the first time another Constitution-class starship was ever seen, and Decker might be the first "corrupted Captain" archetype we ever got as well. The "Dark Captain" has always been an important mirror to hold up to Kirk, and far more effective than say, splitting him into magical good and evil halves.

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  6. Josh Marsfelder
    August 12, 2013 @ 2:38 pm

    "But this was an example of good usage of Scotty, and those episodes that split the "three man dynamic" off into pairs, with Kirk interacting with Scott and Spock left to handle Bones, or Kirk off bromancing with Spock while Bones bears witness to how deft and shrewd Scotty is in command; or the rare and effective "Kirk and Bones in danger, Spock and Scotty have to team up to make insane repairs." These are typically stronger elements when contrasted with the usual power trio dynamic."

    Very much agreed!

    "If I'm not mistaken, the Constellation in this episode marks the first time another Constitution-class starship was ever seen"

    It was, and it was also built out of an AMT USS Enterprise model kit, the first example of "kitbash" special effects in Star Trek (and hence the Constellation's 1017 registration number).

    "The "Dark Captain" has always been an important mirror to hold up to Kirk, and far more effective than say, splitting him into magical good and evil halves."

    I may quibble over your use of the term "magical", but yes, pretty much this.

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  7. BerserkRL
    December 14, 2013 @ 8:10 pm

    When you get to Wrath of Khan will you discuss CLR James' take on Moby-Dick?

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  8. Josh Marsfelder
    December 15, 2013 @ 2:16 pm

    Possibly. I do quite like James' reading of the story, but it'll depend on how much I find it gels with Nicholas Meyer's interpretation of both it and Star Trek. I still haven't decided quite how to tackle The Wrath of Khan yet.

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