Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Review: Star Trek (1966-1969) [31-43]

We enter Season 2.

"Catspaw" (4/10)
New opening credits! Altered theme! Marginally higher budget! New tricorders! Giant... cat?
-- Look at all the new console crystal-buttons, and the length of the shot that shows them off. Things were lookin' up until the booming Lost Skeleton of Cadavra voice went "Kiiiirk! KIIIRK! Can you hear me? Your ship is cuuuuurrrrsed!" Then I go UGH. Well, the increased budget seems to be helping a little. Instead of a styrofoam set, we get a... better... styrofoam set. Just enough with the psychokinetic aliens already!

"Metamorphosis" (5/10)
More Galileo away mission action... sorta. Insufferable supporting characters to deal with. Silly blob negotiation.
-- Episode takes a bit of a weird turn in the second half, and Kirk's communication with the Companion is somewhat laughable. It barely scrapes by with not being dumb.

"Friday's Child" (4/10)
A potentially interesting political battle turns to schlock. Clever reveal involving pregnant woman. Man, this time they didn't even try to make the Klingon look different, did they?
-- For whatever reason, the acting is really awful in this one. I'm thinking bad dubbing is to blame. It's also pretty stupid generally. Dropping the potential dirty negotiation between Starfleet, Klingons, and the Avatar-ish aliens in favor of a chase through the desert and the pregnant woman ticking clock was what I like to call baaaaaaad butt. The showrunners are content with getting a bunch of the smaller elements to work before they fix things like the damn plot. Why can't they "Balance of Terror" it up again?!

"Who Mourns for Adonais?" (4/10)
"Is that a... giant hand?!" Holy shit that's terrifying! Oh wait, it's just another superpowerful alien who conveniently models his world after Earth history.
-- I'll give that it's a slightly-less-stupid stupid episode; I like it when the crew's all workin together on somethin. And the guy who plays Apollo is good. The part where the woman accidentally ruins Kirk's plan, I thought it was going to turn into that scene in Diamonds Are Forever when Bond calls his female companion a "dunderhead." Ahhh classic.

"Amok Time" (6/10)
Vulcan culture and the Pon Farr, the thing that when turned into a fragrance you can buy, subtlely condones rape.
-- I like how edgy Spock is in this episode. Nimoy was goddamned serious about this role, in spite of reports to the contrary. It's a good episode and all; the thing I didn't like (I mean, aside from the fight scene stunt doubles) was the ease in which Kirk was placed in the position of fighting. They spent time establishing how unusual it was for non-Vulcans to be there in the first place on behalf of one fighter, and merely showing up means you're at risk for fighting against your friend? Yeah, they point it out but a couple more "Hey wait a minute"s would have been appreciated. Spock's smile as he exclaims "Jim!" is fucking sweet. Is that treasonous language? Additional benefit: I now understand the creepy text at the beginning of this.

"The Doomsday Machine" (6/10)
The Enterprise fights a giant space condom. It's like Moby Dick, and the other Starfleet captain acts like a huge one. Are there more penis parallels?
-- Glimpses of other Starfleet ships and personnel are like precious drugs to me at this point. I fiended similarly through the Sonic the Hedgehog comics. "Tell me how this world functions through examples!!" They pushed too far past the Ahab parallel into Decker-is-also-smug territory, made up for it in all of the engineering sequences and a surprisingly competent hallway fight. That's what they should all look like! And does this mean the Galileo is destroyed?

"Wolf in the Fold" (5/10)
Lament: "... completely hedonistic society," followed by long shot of dancing girl. Then some bitches get hardcore stabbed! Then Kirk insists they adhere to the planet's laws even though he had no problem conning the Vulcans in "Amok Time."
-- This is almost "He's dead, Jim," the episode. There are things about it that are dumb, but a few things save it. First: they spend almost 30 minutes in the conference room, talking. Second: they distract the entity with the most famous transcendental number, Pi. Third: they beam that motherfucker into space. I'd probably like it more, but I hate it when the addition of a computer that can tell when someone is lying makes a mystery way too easy to solve. Another reason to hate "Mudd's Women" for introducting that piece of equipment.

"The Changeling" (5/10)
Kirk convinces another supercomputer that existence is futile. See what I did there? Actually, this episode has nothing to do with the Borg so take back your congrabulations.
-- It's good to see the show taking some risks in the story department, filling in gaps with harder science. I doubt the rest of the show is going to catch up in time for it to get cancelled, but hey, maybe. And uhhh... and what happened to Uhura exactly?

"The Apple" (3/10)
"A crew member was killed by a poisonous plant." "I hear it's nice down there, Captain." "It IS nice." No more CONCERN? No further precautions at least? How about communicating with the creature who is following you, instead of marching about with phasers drawn? How about administering medicine as quickly with the extra crewman as you do with Spock after he gets shot with plant barbs? Yeah don't you feel sad about it now.
-- A lot of redshirts die horribly in this one, no redskirts though. A good version of this episode would be more time devoted to what is in the last fifteen minutes: discussion of Prime Directive and how their mere presence is interfering with this pre-warp culture. This episode is another reason why the Prime Directive, at this point in history, is clunky and counterintuitive to exploration. But say the Enterprise crew were brought there by accident and unable to leave. That would make for a good episode that explains why the Prime Directive is GOOD if what ensues is a destruction of a (granted) fascist system that in turn destroys the planet in some way. Put the damn focus on Freedom VS Safety. None o dat though. Just boring, vague moral aggrandizing and an inexplicable villain. Other than the scene where the natives are told how to murder the fuck out of people, it's as excrutiating as a Charlie Rose interview.

"Mirror, Mirror" (6/10)
The goatie episode! Bearded Spock, scarred Sulu, ambitious-cutthroat Chekov! Uhura sexual tension! Captain's Woman!
-- I'm impressed; they made A LOT of shit work for a somewhat silly concept. And in spite of Kirk yet again violating the Prime Directive and fucking up an alternate universe.

"The Deadly Years" (4/10)
Shatner-acting hits a maximum and crew members begin to age.
-- Aspects of this episode are cool, for instance the reappearance of the Romulans and the Corbomite bluff, and the relentlessly depressing way in which they portray ye olde age. Too much blah blah blah to make it a good one though.

"I, Mudd" (4/10)
Goofy bullshit with some funny stuff towards the end.
-- Uhura really had me worried for a second. Kirk yet again demonstrates his skill of presenting a set theory paradox (somewhat inefficiently); it's probably time to get into different methods of machine dispatch, I feel this method has reached its zenith in the Portal 2 instructional posters. "If AI threatens you, scream: This sentence is false!" Graduate to the Russell Paradox? Actually, maybe that's the same thing...

"The Trouble with Tribbles" (6/10)
Wacky phun happens.
-- I liked it. I'm tired, leave me alone.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review: Star Trek (1966-1969) [21-30]

"The Alternative Factor" (4/10)
A thing happens and the Enterprise is out of fuel. Said thing involves an MPD psycho or something. Cue near incomprehensibility.
-- Takes its time and slogs its way through patented late 60's sci-fi trippiness to get to its plot, which is actually kinda cool and the ending is totally neato. A good example of how a show's aesthetic can ruin a script.

"Tomorrow is Yesterday" (4/10)
The Enterprise is (presumably) unlucky enough to get thrown back in time to one that can be conveniently emulated with previously built sets and stock footage.
-- I'm a sucker for a fish out of water given a tour of a magical place, their eyes sparkling with bespeckled wonder, so there's that. This is one of those times when the time travel rules in this make no goddamned sense! Enough so you can't reconcile what the hell happens in the end. Phuck.

"The Return of the Archons" (3/10)
Planetwide contentment and sketchy behavior fail to spread into the real world, where I'm watching it. Zombies don't quite happen. Kirk annoys a computer to death.
-- It would be "The Man Trap" or this one that takes Worst Episode So Far. Stupid VS Boring: A Never Ending Battle.

"A Taste of Armageddon" (5/10)
Two computers from the movie WarGames decide the fate of their respective nations' citizens. Man, WarGames was awesome!
-- The sorta classic sci-fi concept I like, and there's enough action to keep the pace from being another 'I wonder if a supercomputer is behind all this' episode. Kirk really is shirking the set-theory shortcut. Impressive, I guess?

"Space Seed" (5/10)
The Crew comes across a ship adrift and filled to the brim with evil motherfuckers, and they don't blow it up. Women succumb to their horniness way too easily.
-- Khan's origins! Although, after his match with Kirk, he seems rather content to remain on the harsh planet. Something has to happen between here and the second movie to warrant two hours worth of revenge. More later, nigg'h!

"This Side of Paradise" (4/10)
Flowers cause a buncharuckus and things once again get really close to the wire, to the point where the solution seems a little farfetched.
-- It's hard for me to determine how bad I think this one is, especially when I liked certain things about the ending and the part where Kirk is thinking about being alone and it's a poignant moment and all... and then a flower spurts on him. Damn these things being almost almost good sometimes!

"The Devil in the Dark" (4/10)
Kirk and Spock are misappropriated for a job involving dead miners. They then can't escape a lesson on tolerance and forgiveness.
-- Completely goes off the rails near the end. The mind meld scene reminded me way too much of the Cookie Wizard. And fuck that fiery blob thing, it killed my workers!

"Errand of Mercy" (4/10)
The Klingon Empire and the Federation lock heads (sorta) in a battle (sorta) to end all battles (ssssssssorta). Okay, fuck it, it's supposed to be Vietnam.
-- Ugh, another "Balance of Terror" plot ruined by an all-powerful mediator. Fuck off you assholes! Let us fight! Tryin to wage some warfare here! Additionally, there's the constant "does not compute" going on in my brain because of the fu-manchu Klingons. I hear tell that it gets explained later... or earlier, depending on your viewpoint... I can't see how the explanation is going to be satisfying.

"The City on the Edge of Forever" (6/10)
The most sue-happy person in the world gets fucked over, I hear tell, and a generally well-liked, critically acclaimed episode is born. Time travel makes more sense here!
-- I wonder what happened to this strange stargate after the Enterprise left. Do we ever come back to it? Did Kirk tell anybody about his wonderful and not at all depressing adventure? Bunch of fun dialogue and an interesting problem our heroes need to fix. Plus, pacifism is the problem! Intriguing! "My friend is obviously Chinese..." Oop, don't tell Jeremy Lin! There, is that more current for you?

"Operation -- Annihilate!" (5/10)
Tiny gross things try to take over. Spock puts on his cowboy pants and saves the goddammned day.
-- Not a bad one, I suppose. It's one of those that's simple plotwise, interesting enough and paced well, and besides the "inner eyelid" explanation out of left field at the end, nothing too offensive. Vulcans are cats now, it's canon!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review: Star Trek (1966-1969) [11-20]

"Dagger of the Mind" (4/10)
Kirk heads to a critically lauded criminal facility, so of course there's something evil about it. Where that South Park episode comes from. Is this for criminal rehabilitation or against it?
-- Kirk sure has a lot of old flames running around, and they all seem to be indirectly related to something nefarious. Pfft. SPACE WOMEN, am I right? So, this one is almost almost okay, just... I dunno... stagnant.

"Miri" (4/10)
Kids run a planet -- does this thought really scare people anymore? Why does this place look like Earth again? Poor Yeoman Rand.
-- Next time scan for germs or go down in some damn contagion suits. I'm impressed; usually, children are worse actors but they really convinced me that they wanted to squeeze Kirk's balls like grapes. Or whatever was actually going on in between my "Get on with it!" screams.

"The Conscience of the King" (4/10)
A murder amidst that horrible time before the invention of the holodeck. We may or may not be in Brazil.
-- I remember the Voyager equivalent being a little more Manhattan Project than Final Solution. Both are like "I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO" and such. Couldn't tell you how this one compares to it other than Kirk doesn't move his ass on the seduction or keep the other witness under closer watch. Eh, fuck it, he wasn't a main character anyway. Little does Kirk know, he will be forced many times in the future to kill people for the sake of some larger cause. Wacky!

"The Galileo Seven" (4/10)
Spock is in charge of a stranded crew and mostly makes a mess of things. Giants for some reason.
-- "C'mon, how serious can this medical emergency be? My fucking crew members are going to be torn apart by giants if we don't help them. You heard me right, GIANTS. Go fuck yourself into the brig, asshole." Yeah, that's what I'da said. That, and "Oh, so we do have a shuttlecraft."

"Court Martial" (5/10)
Kirk is out of his element. A young Aaron Sorkin has an orgasm.
-- In spite of not explaining how hacking the computer messed up the chess program, the mystery was solid and clever. It loses points in the end for clumsy story cleanup with a voice-over and possibly the worst obvious-stuntman-in-a-fight I've ever seen. Shame.

"The Menagerie, Part I" (4/10)
Aw hell, we have to make use of that other Pilot we shot.
-- Started off strong, love the idea of a crippled, fffffffucked up Captain Pike even if he isn't played by the same actor. Once Spock's intentions become clear, interest levels drop sharply, and his court martial is largely "The Cage" presented as evidence. But like... the fact that it's beaming to the Enterprise from the planet seems evidence enough. Do we really have to watch the whole thing? This isn't the clitoris episode of Seinfeld, after all. How's that for an outdated legal reference?

"The Menagerie, Part II" (3/10)
Further adventures of the Inexplicable Clip Show. Fuck it, change the ending.
-- Even more of "The Cage," with a stupid conclusion. The guy that accompanied Kirk wasn't real the whole time... WHAT? Watching and hating this really uncovers how biased I am towards that first pilot. I hope marginalizing the cost effectiveness was worth this diversion into nonsense. IE it wasn't.

"Shore Leave" (4/10)
Kirk learns the value of punching out one's problems. I wonder if that ominous antennae in the foreground is responsible for all this?
-- A strange and goofy one, probably a better benign all-powerful being episode, and I enjoyed the Kirk fistfight... still... It's a whole lotta hullabalufft for what turns out to be nothing in the end. Eh, maybe it'll grow on me.

"The Squire of Gothos" (3/10)
What happens when a fauntleroy gets unlimited powers? Things get tedious is what.
-- I'll retract some misgivings about the previous episode; at least it wasn't THIS. And I really thought we were graced with getting out of the situation early, but no. NO. Trial. Swordfight. Soooo, is his power derived from the technology, or does it amplifiy it? Space parents intervene, just like last time, and we all learn a valuable lesson about absolute power and blah blah blah.

"Arena" (4/10)
Kirk tries to get that snitch while no one wants to point out the ensuing irony once the story takes a weird turn.
-- I looked forward to getting to this, because it was more well-known and also famous for the awful fistfight. What initially looked like it was going in a "Balance of Terror" type direction turned into all-powerful-hypocritical-being-acts-as-mediator ballstits. These beings don't see their flexing of power as aggressive and they're trying to teach US peace?! Fuck em! And fuck you too for good measure! Sorry. But I! Sorry.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Review: Star Trek (1966-1969) [01-10]

[Blogger Kernunrex started a Star Trek marathon a long time ago. I don't know if he ever had time to finish it, but I'll dedicate this to his ongoing efforts to review things every Halloween; plus the whole "screencap of title card" is his idea.]

"The Cage" (5/10)
Captain Pike and his crew of intrepids run afoul of superbraniacs bent on collecting races around the universe in search of a cure. Y'know, like Dark City.
--In this "pilot" we are given an oddly (even brilliantly) specific glimpse into the design and vision of a show set in outer space. There are things in this episode I wish had carried over into the actual show, like the way the crew works together in a tight and efficient manner (Number One is a badass). I even like Captain Pike's direct and cold methods of command. It drags in places, the plot is a bit lacking, but overall it's not bad.

"Where No Man Has Gone Before" (4/10)
Captain Kirk and his crew run afoul of an edgespace that embues only two crew members with superpowers. Human psychics are common? ... Midichlorians?
--The "real pilot" with an adventure involving really painful contact lenses and my least favorite plot device ever: psychic abilities. Psionic abilities, whatever. Not as tight of a vision as "The Cage," and there are some weird attempts to make the characters relatable. In between there is much world-building that I really appreciate, and roles are clearly defined. Even the matte paintings are kinda incredible. It's a shame the story ends up where it does: a stupid fight scene, and two characters with great recurrence potential (Gary Mitchell and Elizabeth Dehner) are killed.

"The Corbomite Manuever" (4/10)
A spinning thing that emits danger music whenever it is onscreen won't leave the Enterprise alone. A mutually assured destruction bluff ensues, spoiler alert. God hates a c(lint)(h)oward, spoiler alert.
--If they had moved some money into making the enemy less dumb looking, this would have served as a better pilot episode than "Where No Man Has Gone Before." I prefer an intense space battle over exploring a strange planet and getting infected with a germ or meeting a psychic or getting infected by a psychic germ that you meet... but what do I know? A little... a little is the answer...

"Mudd's Women" (3/10)
The most annoying fatman in the Universe does some sneaky things and isn't stopped for an excruciating amount of time. And- dammit, does this episode not have a title card?
--An attempt to build the larger world and drive a harder Western-in-space comparison falls flat on its... space... horse. I guess it's about old school wife traffiking to deep territory settlers. The hell it focuses on that, though. The music would have you believe that this is a "funny" episode -- hence why the Enterprise crew is acting so stupidly around so-so women, but especially the guards tasked with watching Mudd, I mean, shouldn't they report half of the things he is loudly proclaiming?! I don't like it and you can't make me.

"The Enemy Within" (5/10)
Kirk is split into good and evil parts, inspiring countless books, movies, videogame shadow bosses, and at least five episodes of Family Matters.
--Transporter accident! "How often do these things happen?" I also wonder. If Bones is ever in an administrative position, you can bet your ass he'll outlaw these goddamned things. Does the ship not have a shuttle craft at this point? This ticking clock element gets awfully close to the wire. Situations like these double-troubles highlight a need for some sort of backup plan. A keyphrase you can repeat to loved ones, so that they know it is you. If it's a case where the evil version already knows it, you have to constantly mutiliate yourself for identification. Or print out some colored bracelets, like at the local fair. What a hassle.

"The Man Trap" (3/10)
A salt vampire grows impatient and kills unimportant people without an apparent strategy. Why not beeline for the salt storage? And Bones didn't learn his lesson from Mudd's Women.
--A big time WHATTHEFUCK episode grown from, I suspect, drugs or childish optimism. Like a horror film, minor people die, a main character acts foolishly, a bunch of things happen and then it's over. Not so much a reflection of a real fear, unless the shapeshifter represents Communism? Uhhhhhh... they'll have to BUY my salt? No, that doesn't work.

"The Naked Time" (5/10)
A highly contagious supergerm infects the crew after someone is stupid enough to remove their glove in a room clearly housing something infectious and weird. Moderately dangerous wackiness ensues.
--A lot of fuss is made over getting drunk. Yeah, I know it's like a hyperdrunkedness but jesus. Well, I'll give it a pass because it results in some surprisingly heavy character material. And... time travel? Sure, time travel. In terms of the show reaching its potential quality, we aren't quite there yet, but it's a good sign of what territory it is capable of traversing.

"Charlie X" (4/10)
A punk-ass uses mental powers for everything except learning how to interact with other people. The close-ups and the extreme facial expressions don't help the crew realize that he's evil early on.
--So, another psychic thing. Psionic thing, fuck you. Can't say I blame this little bastard for hitting on Yeoman Rand so hard... there's something about her... something HOT but anyhow, the actors are really beginning to like each other, character interactions are getting much more fluid... for better or worse. A mostly disposable episode given the weak theme of fatherhood (?) and a resolution outside of the Enterprise's control. No tragic lamentation here. Good riddance.

"Balance of Terror" (6/10)
An uncrossable neutral zone. A cloaked ship off the port bow. A mysterious unseen race of people. And then shit really takes off. HOOOOOOOOO YES.
--A history buff wrote this episode. You know how I know? There is very little moral posturing. Sure, there's a heavy-handed racism subplot, but the main plot is all turn-based battle badassery between two captains and their ships, with only slightly mismatched skills in intuition. I hope it's not the case, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is the best episode of the Original Series.

"What Are Little Girls Made Of?" (3/10)
A madman makes robots way too advanced for the setting of the show. Kirk demonstrates a time-tested robot killing ability rivaled only by Megaman. The nurse gets to do something.
--Another episode written by someone on a weird drug trip. And another instance where a keyphrase would have helped differentiate between the real Kirk and the one who is acting suspicious. It could be something as simple as "This sentence is false," the ultimate self-destruct command. Starfleet should really keep these geniuses under surveillance, they succumb to madness so easily.