Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Menagerie Part 1 & 2

Star Trek, the original series, only two part episode, see Spock steal the Enterprise and his former commanding officer, Captain Christopher Pike, and takes them to the only forbidden planet in Federation space - the mysterious Talos IV. Under Pike's command Spock has visited Talos IV once before, eleven years ago, and after hearing that his former Captain is now confined to a wheelchair and incapable of any independent existence, Spock decides to risk everything in a bid to return Pike to a better life with the Talosians.
Spock works out everything to the finest details with his brilliant and logical mind. But naturally Jim Kirk is not taking the theft of his starship lying down and he follows the Enterprise in a shuttlecraft (which has only limited range). Gambling that Spock will not abandon him, Jim pushes past the shuttlecraft's point of no return. Predictably, Spock rescues the Captain and promptly hands himself over for Court Martial on the grounds of Mutiny (dramatic sting!!!)
Spock demands that the Court Martial takes place immediately and as one of only three Command ranked officers on board, Christopher Pike is part of the trial board. Commodore Mendez (who has accompanied Kirk from Starbase 11) asks Spock why he has stolen the Enterprise and as part of his evidence Spock presents a multitude of video clips of events that happened on Talos IV eleven years previously. Long story short, it is the Talosians who contacted Spock and it is they who are presenting the evidence. This, the Court Martial and even the presence Commodore Mendez are all just an elaborate trick to keep Captain Kirk busy until the Enterprise can arrive at Talos. Kirk is convinced that Chris Pike will be much happier living with Vina and the Talosians in a illusory world than spending the rest of his life trapped in his ruined body.
From a slash point of view there is much in this episode that has to do with the relationship between Kirk and Spock. Spock logically works out the only way to pull off his plan without there being any danger of Kirk being court martialed along with him. There are a number of very tense scenes between the two of them, as Jim has to weigh up his loyalties to Spock and the Enterprise. Spock pleads with Kirk to allow him to explain and present all the evidence. The obvious pain he feels as he pronounces the guilty verdict is palpable.
In the final scene when Spock returns Pike to the surface of Talos IV, the Talosian Keeper says the following to Kirk via telepathy: KEEPER: Captain Kirk, (the screen then shows the healthy young Vina and healthy young Pike hand in hand) KEEPER: Captain Pike has an illusion, and you have reality. May you find your way as pleasant. WE can read from this that the Talosians are telling Kirk that they hope his reality (with Spock) will be as delightful as Vina and Pike's will be together.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Court Martial

This episode is a little difficult for me to review because I love the first two thirds and I find the final third frustrating and annoying. Let's start with the plot. The story opens with Kirk and the Enterprise visiting Starbase 11 for repairs and to report the death of records Officer Ben Finney, who was jettisoned with a pod during an ion-storm (gotta watch out for those ion-storms).

It is revealed that Kirk and Finney have quite a past; once the closest of friends Finney ends up resenting Kirk for an incident years before when Kirk reported a mistake that Finney made, which Finney believes is what has held him back from promotion. The ship's computer records shows that Kirk jettisoned the pod too early for Finney to escape, the action then follows Kirk's Court Martial hearing, his defence (or lack of it) Samuel T. Cogley Attorney at Law; and the kicker of the Prosecution Lawyer, Areel Shaw, being an old flame from Jim's past (four years, seven months, and an odd number of days, but who's counting? Areel obviously...ha ha).
The court martial hearing has one of Shatner's finest performances in all of the original series. His intense and wonderfully underplayed speech defending himself, his actions and expressing his passion for his ship is a marvel to behold and still gives me shivers after forty years viewing.
The prosecution's rests upon the recorded evidence of the Ship's Computer Log; which is damning and shows Kirk jettisoning the pod whilst there was still only a Yellow Alert, meaning in effect that Kirk did not warn Finney about the action. The prosecution's case also puts forward the possibility that Kirk hated Finney and either consciously or unconsciously wanted him dead.
A claim that Kirk denies.
During an adjournment McCoy finds Spock in the Rec room playing chess with the ship's computer and (of course) accuses him of being blasé about the case; but of course Spock has a reason for his seemingly bizarre behaviour. He has beaten the computer 4 times, an impossibility as he himself had programmed the computer and so the best result he could achieve would be a draw, thus proving that the computer had been tampered with. Spock and McCoy rush back to the now concluding hearing (pausing only to change into their dress uniforms...LOL), and provide the necessary information to Cogley just in the nick of time...phew.

Now we get into the slow and rather boring part of the episode; the hearing is re-convened aboard the Enterprise (after an impassioned speech by Cogley about the rights of the accused to face his accuser - the computer). We then have to go through a drawn out process to discover that Finney is not in fact dead, but hiding on board the ship. Kirk confronts him, only to discover the Enterprises orbit is decaying because Finney has 'tapped out the main energy circuits' they fight, Kirk gets his shirt ripped and Finney is over-powered.

Back on the bridge we get the pleasure of seeing Uhura jump into the Navigation station and save the ship by some handy work at the computer...phew again.
Areel Shaw tells Kirk that Cogley is now going on to defend Finney in his Court Martial and then asks the Captain if he can kiss her whilst they are on the Bridge, he does, she leaves Spock and McCoy don't dare look at him, he tells them "She's a very fine lawyer", Spock responds with a clipped "Obviously"; Bones with "Indeed she is." End of episode.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Galileo Seven

Okay, so I have to admit this is one of my least favourite episodes, so if my review is sub-standard, you will know why.
We have the premise that this is Spock's first Command, which hardly makes sense as he is already an Officer so, anyway, Spock is in command of the Enterprise's shuttle craft, The Galileo; he and his team are off to get a closer look at a quasar-like phenomena. Meanwhile, the Enterprise has an appointment to keep delivering much needed medical supplies to the plague-ridden Markus III - talk about your ticking clock! Well of course the mandatory ion-storm comes along and drags our hapless shuttlenauts down to the surface of a hostile planet...well it's not the planet that is hostile, but the 10 foot tall, spear-throwing ape-men, who have the pleasure of living there.
Well our Spock makes all the logical decisions and still manages to lose two Redhsirts to the natives, luckily he has Scotty there to help repair the shuttle.
Meanwhile Kirk has the very antsy and officious Commissioner Ferris breathing down his neck, insisting that the Enterprise leave the crew of Galileo to their fate and get those medical supplies where they should be. But his Spocky is down there, isn't he? So we know Kirk isn't going to give up that easily.
Spock is faced with more and more decisions, including whether to bury the dead and whether the shuttle craft will even be able to achieve orbit, well they do and it does, but they only have enough fuel to remain in orbit for a very short time.
Kirk waits until the very last moment, stalling for every last second, but has to reluctantly depart...leaving his scanners pointing aft.
In a desperate last act Spock jettisons the shuttle's last remaining fuel and sets it alight, as a distress beacon. The shuttle burns up in the atmosphere, but the crew are beamed aboard the Enterprise in the nick of time.
The final scene is a lovely little bit of slash, with Kirk almost snuggling up to Spock and teasing him unmercilessly about taking a gamble; Spock of course maintains that it was a logical decision and everyone has a laugh about it...end of episode.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Conscience of the King

"The play. The play. The play's the thing, wherein we'll catch the conscience of the king."

This is a very dense episode; one that could even have been a two-parter if they had so desired. The story revolves around unmasking 'Kodos the Executioner' the man who killed 4000 colonists on Tarsus IV. Both Jim Kirk and Kevin Riley ( a communications officer aboard the Enterprise) were two of the nine people who witnessed the massacre 20 years ago. The other seven have all died in mysterious circumstances. The latest Dr. Tom Leighton, had called Kirk to Planet Q in the hope that Jim would back him up in exposing travelling thespian Anton Karidian as Kodos. Jim is unsure, but become suspicious when Tom is murdered whilst Karidian and his players are visiting. Thus begins a powerful and complicated tale with a performance of 'Hamlet' as the backdrop. There are two main plots. The first Jim's seduction of Lenore Karidian; the 19 year old daughter of Karidian; the second Spock's desperate struggle to get Jim to realize that he is the murderer's next target.
Firstly let's look at Jim and Lenore; what a complicated game of chess these two are playing with each other. Who is playing who? What are each one's motives and who will get hurt along the way? It seems that Jim has a game plan to seduce Lenore as a way of gaining information about her suspect father, but it seems that he is almost instantly besotted by her, or is he? It is almost impossible to tell; and we all know what a master Chess player Jim is. And he's not too bad at Poker either; he is playing his cards very close to his chest...I don't think he even knows what he is feeling. Jim manipulates circumstances so that the travelling players end up aboard the Enterprise, giving him the opportunity to investigate Karidian, and continue to seduce Lenore. Which he does masterfully, but Lenore is playing him like a Stradivaris as well. They both have ulterior motives and yet they are both falling in love with each quote the Bard "Oh what a tangled web we weave."
Now let's look at Spock; and as a result, his relationship with Jim. Spock immediately becomes concerned when Lenore boards the Enterprise to beg a lift to their next engagement (a situation that Jim has set up). He is almost distraught that Jim is paying attention to this beautiful girl and that he is bucking regulations in the process. Kirk will not confide in Spock about his reasons for diverting the ship, nor his reasons for effectively demoting Kevin Riley (Jim moves Riley 'down' to engineering in a vain attempt to keep him safe from the possibility of being the next target). When Spock questions Jim's orders he is met with uncharacteristic shortness from his Captain. Now remember at this point he and Spock have become lovers and yet in this episode Jim blows Spock off for someone else. And the tension shows. My own explanation is that it seems that Jim is questioning whether he really wants to be exclusively tied to a man (Spock) and that Lenore beguiles him and makes him question his feelings about his homosexual relationship with Spock. Jim has been a ladies man all his life (well with the possible exception of Gary Mitchell) and is confronted with a very beautiful woman who returns his affection. When he falls, Jim does tend to fall head over heels in love (let's see: Edith, Miramanee, Rayna, yep head over heels for all of them).
Spock and McCoy have a long conversation about Jim's motivations, and Spock's reactions to events. We get an insight into a couple of things with the following dialogue:
MCCOY: Illogical? Did you get a look at that Juliet? That's a pretty exciting creature. Of course your, personal chemistry would prevent you from seeing that. Did it ever occur to you that he simply might like the girl?
SPOCK: It occurred. I dismissed it.
MCCOY: You would.
This little interchange tells me two things:
1. McCoy is clueless that Kirk and Spock have become lovers.
2. McCoy is fully aware that Spock is not interested in females all that much.
Spock goes through all the available records and discovers what is going on, and easily surmises that Karidian is Kodos and that Jim's life is in peril. Spock engages McCoy's assistance in confronting Kirk. Normally Jim would have spoken to both Spock and McCoy about his suspicions, so why has he not done it this time? The answer is Lenore and his feelings for her. He literally tells Spock to butt out and mind his own business, but Spock and McCoy both remind him that it is their business when the Enterprise is involved.
Jim is deeply conflicted for two reason, firstly as discussed above he has strong feelings for Lenore and secondly he needs to be 100% certain that Karidian is Kodos and certain that his motivation is one of desiring justice, not just vengeance.
Finally Jim confronts Anton Karidian and demands that he take a voice test to prove his guilt or innocence. Lenore is devastated that Jim would accuse her father of this heinous crime and she terminates their relationship with this bitter exchange:
LENORE: There's a stain of cruelty on your shining armour, Captain. You could have spared him, and me. You talked of using tools. I was a tool, wasn't l? A tool to use against my father. KIRK: In the beginning perhaps. But later, I wanted it to be more than that.
LENORE: Later. Everything's always later. Later. Latest. Too late. Too late, Captain. You are like your ship, powerful, and not human. There is no mercy in you.
KIRK: If he is Kodos, then I've shown him more mercy than he deserves. And if he isn't, then we'll let you off at Benecia, and no harm done.
LENORE: Captain Kirk. Who are you to say what harm was done?
KIRK: Who do I have to be?
Jim and Spock compare the voice recordings and confirm that Karidian is Kodos; meanwhile Riley who has been in Sick Bay recovering from the attempt on his life, discovers that Karidian is Kodos and takes a phaser to kill the man. Karidian and Lenore are performing 'Hamlet' when Riley makes his attempt; Kirk manages to stop him, but at the end of the play Lenore admits to her father that is was she who had killed all the surviving witnesses. Karidian is horrified and realizes that the blood of his deeds now stained his daughter as well. In her desire to kill Kirk she accidentally shoots and kills her father and suffers a complete emotional meltdown. She is completely insane and thus ends the sorry tale.
In the epilogue McCoy asks Jim about his feelings for Lenore and Jim will not answer...Curtain!
This episode is an emotional roller coaster for everyone involved; a brilliantly constructed story and brilliantly performed. As I said at the being it could easily have made a double episode, there was just so much ground to be covered. And we are treated to a number of wonderful quotations from Shakespeare. Just wonderful.