This week I start on Season 2 of the original Star Trek series. The show was obviously a lot more confident by this point, and I think a lot of Trek fans would probably say the second season of the show is its best. This first round of episodes includes: Spock's first Vulcan sex fight, more god-like beings, the introduction of the 'Mirror' universe, and a return visit from everyone's 'favourite' intergalactic rogue Harry Mudd.
"C'mon Spock, you can lift it!"
Episode 1: Amok Time
Spock begins to experience his first 'Pon Farr', a private time in every Vulcan's life where they must mate or die.
- Nurse Chapel has a new hairdo, she now looks a bit more like Janice Rand with her blonde beehive. It's re-established that Chapel still has the hots for Spock.
- This is the start of something special... Star Trek begins looking directly at the cultures of alien species, and this is the first time any significant attention is paid to the Vulcans.
- There's also a new theme tune, one where a lady sings wordlessly. It kind of sucks.
- There's a new character on the bridge: Chekov, a Russian ensign with a dodgy Beatles haircut.
- Spock's room now has a little Vulcan enclave in it, it's covered in opulent red sheets and has religious looking objects in it - making the place seem almost Middle Eastern/East European. Spock is frequently solemn, exhibits a wry sense of humour, observes an ancient philosophy pertaining to his race, and loves to eat bagels - more proof that Vulcans really are the Jews of Star Trek. All the other Vulcans on Spock's world even sound East European... a key facet of Vulcan culture that seems to have been conveniently forgotten in the many years of Star Trek since.
- Spock begins to exhibit some very un-Spock behaviour. At one point he gets so angry he pulverises a computer with his fist as if it were cardboard (probably because it is).
- We see the Vulcan homeworld for the first time, a hot and barren rock planet with red skies and a harsh atmosphere.
- Ruh-roh! Kirk agrees to meet Spock in special one-on-one Vulcan combat, and then finds out that it's to the death! Too late to back out now!
- Perhaps the most surprising moment comes towards the end when Spock is gleefully elated to see that Kirk is still alive, a key moment that begins a long journey for Spock as he travels towards a more human outlook on life.
"Check it out... I am fucking huge"
Episode 2: Who Mourns for Adonais?
A giant green hand in space grabs the Enterprise and holds it stationary. The Ancient Greek god Apollo appears and invites Kirk to come visit him on his planet, where he tells him the Enterprise's crew are now his subjects.
- Scotty puts the moves on a hot young crewmember, asking her to coffee. Get in there Scotty!
- It seems there are still some pretty sexist attitudes towards women with careers in the 23rd century, with Bones and Kirk musing over the trend of female officers leaving whenever they inevitably fall in love!
- Wow, Chekov is so shit. "Am I... seeing things?" Bad lines, bad delivery. And his hair makes him look like a bashful young woman.
- Yawn. Another godlike character holds the Enterprise hostage. How many of these episodes are they gonna do?
- Kirk really is quite stupid sometimes. An all-powerful being literally holds the Enterprise in his grip and Kirk decides to tell him to fuck off. Good move captain!
- Apollo destroys a phaser just by pointing at it, and Kirk looks all amazed and impressed. Seems like a pretty small feat to me when compared to a, oh I dunno, a GIANT FUCKING HAND IN SPACE.
- Scotty gets reprimanded for thinking with his dick, and Kirk calls him a 'thick necked thistlehead'!
- When Carolyn spurns him, Apollo gets so angry that he conjures up a storm that blows her clothes off. Well, maybe I exagerrate, but in my head this was a better TV show and it was going in that direction.
Uhura wondered if the Captain might let her take NOMAD back to her quarters for the evening...
Episode 3: The Changeling
The Enterprise answers a planetary distress call, but when they arrive they find that there are no life signs on the planet whatsoever.
- The Enterprise meets a mysterious alien ship called Nomad, and some time is spent on exploring the difficulties in communication. It's the sort of intelligent sci-fi that makes the Klingons from last season seem like a really bad joke.
- The crew is confronted with a floating robot. "In my opinion that's a machine"... no shit, Scotty! You really earned that job in engineering, huh?
- Nomad's function is to purge the universe of 'biological infestations', a rather creepy concept made all the scarier by the machine's matter-of-fact and unthreatening manner.
- The idea behind this episode would be expanded further for the first Star Trek film.
- When Nomad first starts investigating the Enterprise's crew it's initially drawn to Uhura because she's singing and it doesn't understand what music is. It looks kinda bad though because it initially seems like it's singling her out because she's black!
- Scotty gets killed! And it isn't a trick either. Nomad brings him back to life later on, but little is said about ideas of an afterlife - implying that there's no religion in Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future.
- Uhura has her mind wiped and has to be re-educated from a primary school level up. For some reason her ability to speak an African language isn't taken away, and she gets back to a 'college level' education in just a matter of a few days!
- Predictably, Kirk defeats Nomad by talking it into destroying itself.
- Despite some of the cliches, this is actually a really great episode. The nature of Nomad is pretty interesting, and the tone of its interactions with the crew is an original take on what might've been a simple tale of a computer-gone-mad.
"Hey there big boy"
Episode 4: Mirror Mirror
A magnetic storm causes Kirk, McCoy, Scotty and Uhura to beam into a parallel universe where Earth has a brutal galactic empire.
- This episode is infamous... the 'mirror universe' has featured in further episodes of Star Trek and was also hilariously parodied in a South Park episode.
- You know how we know mirror-Spock is evil? He has a beard. Ooooh, badass. Everyone also does Hitler salutes and the mirror-Enterprise has an awesome emblem that depicts a sword plunged right through the Earth.
- The uniforms in the mirror universe are basically the same with one major difference - snazzy golden sash belts. The intention is to make them look more barbaric, but the effect is more sunday afternoon drag queen.
- The mirror universe is full of sex, violence and intrigue. Kind of makes me wish all of Star Trek had featured in this universe, would've made for a highly interesting TV program! Maybe that's an idea for HBO to develop?
- For the second time in four episodes, Kirk and Spock fight each other. Kirk wins by shattering a skull over Spock's head, but not before a few barrell kicks and body spills.
- Not the smartest episode of Star Trek, but it's certainly a lot of goofy fun with just the right amount of campness.
Oompa loompa doompety dee... If you are wise you'll listen to me...
Episode 5: The Apple
The crew beam down to investigate a paradise planet and make first contact with the inhabitants.
- Chekov claims that the Garden of Eden was just outside Moscow, and seems completely serious about it.
- A redshirt gets killed by a flower within the first two minutes. What a sap!
- I would've thought that making first contact with a species was one of the few duties that SHOULD be carried out by the captain (as opposed to all the gung-ho things that Kirk normally does), but no, Kirk sends off some redshirted nobody to make contact the local villagers as if it's about as honourable as cleaning a toilet.
- Spock takes a 'bullet' for Kirk by jumping into the path of one of the poisonous flowers.
- "Do you know how much Starfleet has invested in you?" Spock answers with an actual figure, about '122 000'.
- Okay so it turns out that this 'paradise' is a bit of a hellhole... poisonous flowers, exploding rocks, freak lightning storms. At first I was wondering if there was a point to this episode or was it just gonna be a bunch of fucked up stuff happening on a nice looking planet?
- The natives speak English, and no one comments on it. Kirk initially asks one, "Do you understand me?", implying that it's not normal for everyone in the whole universe to speak English, and isn't surprised when the guy answers him in the positive. How the fuck can he speak English? Nothing has been mentioned about universal translators in this show yet, and just four episodes previously we heard the Vulcans speaking in their own language.
- The inhabitants are these happy orange dudes with white hair (kinda like a cross between oompa-loompas and polynesians), a small community of just a few people who are forbidden by their snake-like god to make with the sexy sex. They all laugh when Spock tells them his name, and he gets a bit offended by it (Spock also then mentions that he doesn't like the way the women make him feel in his pants... well, maybe he doesn't say it in those words, but that's what he basically says).
- I had to LOL when the natives were talking about the concept of 'love' and Chekov uses the opportunity to sneak his arm around the hot redshirt chick he's been hitting on all episode.
- The orange folk learn how to do sex by watching Chekov get busy with his lady friend. I don't remember Star Trek: The Next Generation ever being like this...
- McCoy expresses frustration that the natives are unable to advance their civilisation and develop like human beings. Spock, being more open-minded about these things, defends their way of existence. Later on, Spock has the final word - quipping that the locals have reached a 'human-like' point when they finally resort to attempted murder.
- So, the stagnated society is controlled by a computer. Didn't they already do this story in the episode 'The Return of the Archons'?
- The episode ends with Kirk joking that Spock looks like Satan. Cue a disheartened look from Spock as he crosses his arms stubbournly.
Decker held all the post-it notes, and that was the way he liked it
Episode 6: The Doomsday Machine
The Enterprise answers a distress signal but finds an entire solar system destroyed when they arrive. They locate the ruined remains of a Starfleet ship at the centre of the destruction, and beam aboard to investigate.
- On board the ship they find a survivor, but he's in a very shoddy condition. When he seems unable to articulate what happened due to shock, Kirk's reaction is to shout at him. Good one Kirk.
- The description of the 'weapon' in this episode is awesome (in the true sense of the word), it's a planet-eating machine from another galaxy.
- The guy who plays Captain Decker really over-eggs it. The actor apparently later admitted that he took a 'cartoon character' approach due to not understanding the Moby Dick subtext in the script.
- The whole conceit behind this episode (that Decker is the senior officer while Kirk's away and can therefore take command) is ridiculous... the guy is clearly nuts yet everyone keeps doing what he says because protocol has to be observed.
- "Vulcans never bluff". Spock's got a mean poker face if they do!
- I love the way they film fight scenes in the Original Series of Star Trek. It's so energetic and passionate, with flips and punches, and the actors throw their whole bodies into it. Fantastic.
- Easily the tensest climax to any of the episodes in the show's run up until this point... that countdown, the shot of the ship kamikaze-ing its way into the Planet-Killer, Kirk daring to let the slightest hints of worry creep into his voice as he repeatedly requests to be beamed aboard. Great stuff.
DeSalle prepared to enter the more attractive of the two ladies...
Episode 7: Catspaw
Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down to a mysterious planet after the last survivor of a landing crew beams back dead, carrying a message that threatens the entire ship with a curse.
- Oh-oh, Chekov's lady wig is back! I also can't get over Spock's little manbag (some sort of scanning device, but it looks like a handbag).
- Shades of Macbeth here, with Kirk confronted by three ghostly witches who know his name, and then our heroes discover a medieval castle shrouded in mist.
- Who's this redshirted nobody they have commanding the deck in Kirk and Spock's absence?
- Boring... another godlike being with powers to conjure objects out of the air. Another episode where the characters have to act amazed that someone could be so powerful - despite having come across similar scenarios at least four or five times in previous episodes.
- Kirk tries to defeat the female alien by using his powers of seduction. The alien tries to seduce him in turn by parading in a variety of stupid-looking costumes, including one that looks like a big pastel mattress. Good on Kirk for playing to his strength though, I'll give him a bite of the Captain's Chocolate Log for that.
- This episode is all about the subconscious and the fears hidden in it, but it isn't particularly terrifying. There's a dangerous super cat, but we only see its shadow at first and then when it's revealed it's just a normal cat made to look big through use of a scaled model version of the set. Lame!
- McCoy and Kirk have to fight towards the end of the episode, but it's pretty poor stuff (hardly on par with the Kirk-Spock battles we've seen in other episodes). I feel sorry for DeForest Kelley, more than anyone else he seems to be a dignified actor made to do a lot of undignified things.
- WTF? The true form of the aliens is bizarre... they look like bits of pipe-cleaner and fluff.
McCoy and Scotty took paper-scissors-rock very seriously
Episode 8: I, Mudd
A new crewmember takes control of the Enterprise on behalf of an unknown party, revealing himself to be a robot.
- It's nice to have a scene where Spock and McCoy are just hanging out together. I don't think there's ever been such a scene up until this point.
- The unknown party turns out to be the intergalactic con artist Harry Mudd. He now has his own planet, and has surrounded himself with 500 robo-babes (who all look exactly the same). It's implied that Mudd sleeps with these robots. Ewwww.
- As this is a decidedly more 'comedic' episode than usual, Shatner hams it up by putting on robot voices and smirking a lot.
- Mudd attempts to take the Enterprise by bringing its crew down to a 'gilded cage' where all there dreams come true. Both Mudd and the Enterprise crew end up getting trapped there together though, and have to team up.
- For a second there I thought that Uhura really was betraying her captain in exchange for immortality. Nichelle Nichols is quite an interesting actress when she's given a chance, it's just a shame that she isn't really given all that many chances to shine.
- More routine humiliation for DeForest Kelley as he has to dance around like a pratt with Scotty, Uhura and Chekov.
- Major LOLz @ Spock having to be illogical in order to defeat the logical robots. Just hearing those words coming out of Leonard Nimoy's mouth is entertainment enough, but his delivery of these lines make them all that more special.
- This would have to be the third time that Kirk defeats an artificial intelligence by confusing it. The conceit is played entirely for laughs this time around, and whilst it's fun to see the cast letting their hair down a bit to play some theatre sports, it does tend to go on quite a bit.
- I must be in the minority, but I just don't find Mudd amusing.
The clothesline was much too high for Nancy to reach
Episode 9: Metamorphosis
Kirk, Spock and McCoy are shuttling a woman with a rare disease back to the Enterprise when they crashland on a planetoid where they meet Zefram Cochrane, the inventor of the warp drive.
- Cochrane is an important figure in Star Trek mythology, so it's odd to see him here as a regular guy (and not at all like the version seen in the film Star Trek: First Contact).
- This episode has an interesting set up, striking a survivalist tone with Kirk and co. racing against the clock to get their sickly passenger back to the Enterprise, and with Cochrane initially coming across as a bit of Robinson Crusoe figure.
- Cochrane's youthful appearance is actually part of the plot, he was 'rejuvenated' by an electrical entity he calls the 'Companion'. This is an interesting development for someone like me (who is only familiar with the character from post-'90s Star Trek)
- So, Cochrane has been sitting on this rock by himself, and it took him all of 150 years to get to a point where he was lonely? Something doesn't add up!
- Kirk learns a valuable lesson about peruasion, with McCoy telling him "Maybe you're a soldier so often that you forget you're also trained to be a diplomat. Why not try a carrot instead of a stick?"
- First Star Trek episode to explore the idea of inter-species love (though it's more of an abstract concept here, it's not like Cochrane can actually bang the Companion). This includes ideas relating to morality and disgust at inter-species relations.
- It's all a bit emo, but it's a fairly good episode. Interesting concepts, a bit of Trek mythology, no excessive silliness. Good effort!
- The actress who plays Nancy (the sickly woman) actually had pneumonia at the time of filming, and lost ten pounds during the course of the episode.
- After all the sensitivity of the episode, it's a little jarring for it to end with Kirk delivering a reprehensibly sexist line about the Federation being able to find 'another woman, somewhere' to take Nancy's place in preventing an interplanetary war.