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Sunday, February 8, 2009 11:00 AM
On the Viewer - Star Trek: The Animated Series, Disc Four
 by Fëanor

A while back we finally got around to watching the final disc of ST:TAS, so we've now seen every episode. The quality definitely went downhill as the series went on, but there were some really neat ideas throughout, and some really quality episodes that could stand up next to any episode of any live-action Star Trek series.

This episode was written by David Gerrold, who also wrote for the original series. In fact, this was a script left over from his time on the live-action show, now resurrected as an entry in the animated series. As it opens, an alien observer named Ari Bn Bem is on board the Enterprise, supposedly keeping an eye on what the crew is doing, but mostly just lounging around criticizing everybody. When an away team heads down to a newly discovered planet to check it out, he insists on coming along. He immediately starts out on the wrong foot by programming the transporter incorrectly and beaming Spock and Kirk into a spot in the air right above a shallow lake. They fall down with a splash, and he heads after them, apparently to help them, but actually in order to secretly swap out their phasers and communicators with fake, non-working replicas. Sabotage! Later, when they run into some of the planet's inhabitants - a primitive lizard people - Bem runs off and further endangers the mission by getting himself captured. Kirk and Spock try to save him, but end up getting captured as well. It turns out Bem was just trying to test them, to see if they could overcome a difficult situation without their weapons and communicators. He feels they failed the test, and wanders off, leaving them still trapped in prison. Meanwhile, it turns out a powerful alien entity (voiced by Nichelle Nichols) is overseeing the lizard people, and doesn't like that the crew of the Enterprise is interfering with her "children." After some more wacky misadventures, they finally make peace with the alien entity, who nevertheless asks that no Federation ships return to her planet, so her children can develop without outside influence. Kirk agrees. Meanwhile, Bem feels he's really screwed things up and prepares to commit suicide! Turns out he's a sort of collective organism - many living parts all fitted together to form a whole - and he feels his collective has failed and should break apart and never reform. Kirk and the alien entity manage to talk him out of it, and everybody learns a valuable lesson.

This is a slightly annoying, repetitive, and cheesy episode. Bem just keeps screwing things up and they keep getting captured by the lizard people. And the alien entity is not exactly a fun character, either; she's always making corny speeches of one kind or another. Still, there are some amusing moments. It was pretty funny seeing Kirk and Spock get beamed into the air and fall into the water, and it was also funny seeing Kirk get increasingly frustrated with Bem's antics.

"The Practical Joker"
But if you really want silly comedy, then this is the episode for you! The Enterprise is attacked by three Romulan warbirds, so Kirk orders the ship to escape into a nearby gaseous energy field, despite the fact that he has no idea what it will do to the ship. In fact, in a very unlikely turn of events, the energy field turns the computer into a practical joker. When the senior staff sits down for a leisurely meal, they're amused but upset to discover that all their glasses leak. The jokes just get worse from there; silverware turns to rubber, replicators spit out tons of unwanted food, decks suddenly become covered with ice. At first the crew thinks it's all pretty funny, but eventually the gags begin to get on everyone's nerves, and they all start accusing each other. Luckily, Kirk finally puts two and two together and realizes it's the computer that's playing tricks on them. Before he's able to get the word out, however, McCoy, Uhura, and Sulu decide to take a vacation from all the practical jokes in the Rec Room, which turns out to be an early version of the Holodeck! I was very surprised and excited to see the concept of the Holodeck get introduced in the animated series. I was also very amused when, in the very first episode featuring the Holodeck, the darn thing malfunctions. Was there ever an episode of Star Trek that featured the Holodeck in which it did not malfunction in some way? Maybe it's time for a redesign, or at least a patch.

Anyway, in this case the malfunctioning takes the form of more practical jokes cooked up by the computer. But this time the jokes get pretty dangerous, as Sulu, McCoy, and Uhura suddenly find themselves transported from a sunny forest to a snowy wasteland where they slowly begin freezing to death. Meanwhile, the computer has turned the ship around and pointed it right back at the Romulans! It does not look good for our heroes. Luckily, Kirk figures out how to fix things. He hilariously pretends to be deathly afraid of going back into the gaseous energy field that caused all this. The computer buys it, hook, line, and sinker, and promptly flies them right back into the energy field. But another passage through the field somehow reverses the original effects and turns the computer back to normal. Unfortunately for the Romulans, they decide to follow the Enterprise into the cloud this time, and end up with their own practical joker to deal with. Laughs all around!

Even though it's quite corny, and the plot is pretty hard to believe, this episode is still fun and amusing, and like I said, it was awesome to see the birth of the holodeck.

The Enterprise arrives at a planet called Dramia to deliver some medical supplies, but as they're getting ready to leave, the authorities arrest Dr. McCoy for mass murder! They claim that about 20 years ago, McCoy visited the neighboring planet of Dramia II and inoculated the inhabitants, but after he left they were struck by a plague and almost all of them died. McCoy isn't sure what to believe, but Kirk is certain he's innocent and takes the ship to Dramia II to see if he can find some witnesses or evidence to prove it. They do find someone willing to speak on McCoy's behalf, but on the way back the entire crew becomes infected by the plague! Spock, as per usual, is not as deeply affected by the sickness as everyone else, so he takes command. Things get so bad he has to invoke General Order #6, which means the ship is set to automatically self-destruct if everyone on board dies, so no other beings can be infected by the plague. That's a good rule to have! Spock also breaks McCoy out of prison so the doctor can try to come up with a cure before all of them die. Working together, Spock and McCoy finally figure out the riddle of the disease, and discover that the plague was not caused by McCoy after all (natch). Everyone is saved, and the people of Dramia end up praising McCoy instead of punishing him.

This one has some interesting ideas, and some surprisingly dark moments, especially when Spock and Kirk beam down to the deserted, ruined surface of the plague-ridden Dramia II. It might have been more interesting if it had turned out that McCoy really was responsible for a terrible plague, but I like the guy too much to want to wish that on him.

"How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth"
This is a very strange episode, and one of various episodes of various Star Trek series to try to explain the origin of the human race, as well as the origin of religion and mythology. We've never seen a Native American crewman on the Enterprise before, but there's one at the helm in this episode, for the simple reason that he has to be there so he can recognize the alien ship that attacks them as looking quite a bit like Kukulkan, an ancient Mayan god. It turns out the ship's inhabitant is Kukulkan, an incredibly powerful alien creature that adopted humanity as its children many ages ago and is now angry that they never answered its call until now. Kukulkan feels humanity has failed him and become a violent and stupid race, so he plans to destroy them all. Eventually Kirk and the others are able to convince him otherwise, after acting bravely in a crisis, and explaining to him that eventually a parent must let his children go their own way.

It's all rather silly. Kukulkan and his story of having raised the human race is a bit ridiculous. He acts almost like an angry mother. "You never call, you never write!" And the way Kirk is able to talk him down in the end is also rather silly. Still, the episode has its moments, and it was cool to see a Native American on the bridge for the first time. It's one of a number of firsts that I thought came later in Star Trek's history, but that I must now attribute to the animated series.

"The Counter-Clock Incident"
The final episode of the animated series is sadly also arguably the most ridiculous, unbelievable, and poorly written. As it opens, Commodore Robert April and his wife Sarah are on board the Enterprise and being transported to Babel. April, it's revealed, was the first captain of the Enterprise. This was news to me; I'd assumed Captain Pike was first, or maybe Jonathan Archer (assuming Enterprise is canon). Anyway, before heading to Babel, they stop to observe a supernova, and are horrified when an alien ship blasts by them, headed straight for it. They try to stop the ship, but only end up getting sucked in as well. Luckily for everyone involved, the supernova doesn't destroy them, but merely transports them into the home universe of the alien vessel - a negative universe where time runs backwards. The woman on the alien ship agrees to help them get back, but things become complicated when the crew realizes they're now aging backward at an incredible rate of speed, and losing their memory in the process, which means they'll soon be too young and ignorant to work the controls of the ship! Luckily Commodore April was old and experienced enough when this all started that he's able to take command and guide the Enterprise safely back home. After they get back, everyone is returned to their former, older versions by a quick trip through the transporter.

There are a lot of things in this episode that just don't make any sense. I'm willing to buy the idea of a negative universe that can be accessed by a supernova, and I'm willing to buy that time could run backwards there and that you'd get younger instead of older, because that's a neat idea. But I don't understand why the crew of the Enterprise gets younger so incredibly quickly. Wouldn't they age backwards at the same rate they'd age forwards in our universe? And why do they start to lose their memory, but only certain parts of their memory? If they're going to start forgetting how to use the ship's controls, why don't they forget how they got there at all, or what they're even doing? It just doesn't make any sense. And I really don't like the whole deus ex machina thing with the transporter. They've used that before in this series, and in The Next Generation, and it just doesn't sit well with me. If you can turn back to an earlier version of yourself just by getting beamed in the transporter, why does anyone ever die in the Star Trek universe? If your arm gets chopped off, just beam back the version of yourself with an arm! If you get shot in the heart, just beam back before you were shot!

Like I said, I like the basic idea of the negative universe, and it was pretty funny seeing the crew age back to their younger selves (something that would happen again in Next Generation; and the crew had already aged rapidly in the other direction in an episode of the original series). It was also neat that Robert April got to be young again, and command the Enterprise again. But so much of this episode was so nonsensical and hard to believe that it was pretty difficult to enjoy it.
Tagged (?): Cartoons (Not), On the Viewer (Not), ST:TAS (Not), Star Trek (Not), TV (Not)
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Monday, September 22, 2008 09:08 PM
On the Viewer - Star Trek: The Animated Series, Disc Three
 by Fëanor

We actually watched this DVD a long time ago, but I'm only just now getting around to reviewing it. Such is life! First up on the disc is "The Ambergris Element," which is about Kirk and Spock getting turned into fish people. No really! They land on your standard issue water planet in a cool submersible shuttle craft, and when they're thrown clear of the shuttle into the water, the water-breathing fish-like aliens who live on the planet transform them into webbed, gilled folks like them in order to save them. Kirk and Spock swim down to talk to them and figure out how they can get changed back, and discover that the fish people are a very conservative society, and very mistrustful of outsiders, but the young people are less so, and more willing to break the rules and help the Earthers. Eventually Kirk and Spock manage to get the antidote they need and turn back into regular people. In the process, they also help the fish people to consider moving out onto the land. This isn't a great episode, but I thought the ocean-ready shuttle craft was very cool, and it was pretty fun to see Kirk and Spock get turned into fish people.

Next is a very different kind of Star Trek episode, and it's probably so different because it was written by famous science fiction author Larry Niven, based on his story "The Soft Weapon" (in other words, a regular sci-fi story which he retroactively dropped Star Trek characters into). It's called "The Slaver Weapon," and it opens up with Spock, Uhura, and Sulu cruising around in a shuttle craft with a stasis box, a rare artifact of the ancient, highly advanced, and now-extinct Slaver culture. The boxes contain valuable pieces of Slaver technology, and can detect each other. When their box indicates that another is nearby, Spock and the gang can't help but go check it out, only to discover that it's a trap set by the hostile Kzinti to get their stasis box. It turns out that the box contains a strange multi-purpose weapon with many shapes and functions. Spock and friends have to use what they know about the Kzinti race to get the weapon away from them and escape, or the consequences for the galaxy could be terrible. This is an interesting episode in that it only stars a handful of the Enterprise crew, and focuses strongly on exploring specific alien races and technology that, to my knowledge, never reappear in any other Star Trek episode. The episode also takes the form of a pair of puzzles: how can the three Federation officers escape their captors? And what is the secret of the ancient weapon? Like I said, a very interesting and different episode, and quite fun; the Kzinti are pretty interesting creatures.

The next episode, "The Eye of the Beholder," has a plot that's vaguely similar to that of "The Cage" and "The Menagerie," in that it features highly advanced psychic aliens who capture the Enterprise away team and put them in a zoo. The aliens are so far advanced mentally from humans, that they don't see humanity as anything more than dumb animals, but through careful use of projecting their thoughts, the humans are finally able to convince the aliens that they are at least semi-intelligent and should be allowed to go on their way. This episode is over-long; the story is ultimately a pretty simple one, but we have to sit through lengthy and frustrating sequences of the Enterprise crew thinking really hard at the aliens. Plus, the fact that we've seen this kind of story before in multiple other Star Trek episodes makes it a little dull. Still, it's not all bad, especially when Scotty and the alien baby make friends.

The other odd and unique episode on this disc, besides "The Slaver Weapon," is "The Jihad." In this episode, Kirk and Spock are called in as two members of an intergalactic A-Team (or really, D&D party) that's been assembled to traverse a dangerous planet and recover a holy artifact known as the "Soul of the Skorr." If the artifact is not found and returned soon, it could ignite a holy war that would engulf the entire galaxy in bloodshed and destruction. Also on the team, besides Spock and Kirk, is a winged warrior prince of the Skorr (sort of a druid?); a big, tough, reptilian guy (the tank/fighter); a tiny, cowardly lockpick (the thief/rogue); and a tough, fast-talking tracker named Lara (the ranger). Together they have to fight their way past various obstacles, making use of the team's various strengths to overcome them. The obstacles are sometimes rather ridiculous, and it seems as if there should be much easier ways to avoid them than the overly complex plans the team comes up with. And Lara's slang-filled dialogue is painfully silly, especially when she's coming on to Kirk (which she is from the very beginning - the man has mighty, interspecies pheromones!).
In the end, it turns out one member of the team is a traitor, and there's some political intrigue involved. And when they do succeed, everybody's minds get wiped by the super-powerful aliens who set this all up, and nobody remembers what they really achieved. It's all pretty weird, but I did enjoy the D&D-type team-up, and the silly quest format of the episode.

Last on the disc is "The Pirates of Orion," which opens up with the Enterprise's crew just getting over an epidemic. Unfortunately, somehow Dr. McCoy was unaware that this particular virus was fatal to Vulcans (!!) until Spock contracts it and collapses on the job. To save him, the Enterprise has to hurry to rendezvous with a ship that happens to be carrying a shipment of the cure, but when they get there, the shipment has already been stolen by pirates. A desperate chase ensues with Spock's life in the balance, and in the end it's necessary for Kirk to use all his guile to save Spock and the rest of the crew. This is a pretty tense and exciting episode with some clever moments at the end where Kirk has to outsmart the aliens. I did find it a little ridiculous that McCoy didn't do his research, and didn't think to maybe quarantine Spock during the epidemic.

I still think the first disc in this collection is the best, but this one had some fun episodes, too, and I'm looking forward to checking out the last disc.
Tagged (?): On the Viewer (Not), ST:TAS (Not), Star Trek (Not), TV (Not)
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Sunday, August 10, 2008 09:25 AM
On the Viewer - Star Trek: The Animated Series, Disc Two
 by Fëanor

(Read my review of disc one of this series here.)

Disc two of the DVD collection of this wonderfully entertaining TV show opens up with a very strange episode called "The Infinite Vulcan." It was written by Walter Koenig, which was kind of a surprise, as he's one of the only cast members who did not return to provide the voice of his character in the series. I guess he was okay with writing, though. Anyway, the crew is exploring a newly discovered planet when Sulu rather unwisely picks up a cute walking plant, which then poisons him. It's a fast-acting poison and Dr. McCoy has no time to analyze it to determine an antidote - Sulu is almost certainly going to die. But then some plant-like aliens approach and offer to help. Some of the others are reluctant to let them touch Sulu at first, but they're clearly his only hope for survival, and their administrations do indeed save his life. It turns out they were nearly wiped out by a plague brought to their planet by a Terran scientist named Dr. Starros Keniclius, who left Earth hundreds of years ago during the genetic wars (of which Khan was a part) to wander the galaxy in search of the perfect genetic specimen, whom he hoped to clone and turn into a galactic peacemaker. It turns out Keniclius is still alive on the planet - or at least, a fifth generation version of him is. He's cloned himself each time he was about to die, so he could carry on his work. For no particular reason, the clone is also gigantic. Upon meeting Spock, he becomes convinced he's finally found his long sought-after perfect specimen, so he kidnaps him. Unfortunately, the cloning process requires the original to die. Will everybody's favorite Vulcan be killed so his giant copy can roam the galaxy, stopping wars wherever they start??

It sounds insane... because it is! Of course, eventually things work out and the group convinces Keniclius Five to use his science and abilities to cure diseases instead of to build an army of giant Spocks, because after all, there's already peace in the Federation, so the army wouldn't even be all that useful. And also, WTF?

Definitely not my favorite episode of the series, but certainly amusing. It's not very often you get to see a giant Spock roaming around, after all.

Next up is an episode nearly as insane called "The Magics of Megas-Tu." While exploring the center of the galaxy, the Enterprise is caught in some kind of anomaly that busts all the ship's systems and leaves them entirely crippled, while also apparently transporting them to some other universe. A jovial fellow named Lucien who looks rather like a faun shows up, fixes everything, and transports the major characters on the bridge to his own planet, Megas-Tu. In this universe, and on this planet, magic is commonplace. All you have to do is will a thing to happen, and it will happen. In fact, the Megans once came to Earth and tried to help humans, but were persecuted as witches, and so returned to their own universe in disgust and horror. Lucien is inclined to forgive them, but the other Megans are pissed and when they find out Terrans have invaded their universe, decide to put them on trial for the crimes of humanity.

If this sounds familiar, you're probably thinking of "Encounter at Farpoint," the first episode of ST:TNG. I wonder if they were mining the animated series for plot ideas, and that's how they came up with Q and so forth? Anyways, the whole concept of a universe based on magic, while kind of cool, is a bit silly, as is the way it's handled here. But it's still a fun episode with some neat ideas, and it involves Captain Kirk getting into a giant magical duel versus a race of wizards with the life of Lucifer in the balance, which is undeniably awesome.

Third on the disc is "Once Upon a Planet," wherein the Enterprise returns to the pleasure planet from "Shore Leave" to have some... shore leave. Now they think they know how the planet works and that everything will be fine and dandy, but little do they know the Keeper of the planet has since died, and the computer that controls everything has decided it doesn't want to just bring pleasure to visitors anymore - it wants to kick ass and go on a joyride around the galaxy! The first step in its plan? Kidnap Uhura!

It was cool to revisit the "Shore Leave" planet and get a follow-up on that story, while also getting a closer look at how the planet works. Again, not the best episode ever, as the dangerous self-aware computer bit is a pretty old sci-fi trope, but fun enough, especially that ending shot of Dr. McCoy and (I think) Sulu having a picnic with Alice and a dragon.

But the most outrageously fun episode is yet to come, in the form of "Mudd's Passion!" Yes, here we get another returning character: the slimy, conniving Harry Mudd; the actor who played him is also back, as is the writer of both original Harry Mudd episodes. We last left Harry trapped on a planet full of robots in the episode "I, Mudd," but since then he's managed to steal a ship and escape, and now the Enterprise crew have tracked him to a mining planet where he's trying to sell love crystals to the populace. They expose his fraud and throw him in the brig. The plan is to take him back to civilization where he'll go on trial for his crimes, but Mudd sees Nurse Chapel's sad longing for Mr. Spock and manages to talk her into trying his love crystals on the Vulcan. It's all part of his plan to escape, but it leads to him and Chapel stranded on a planet threatened by giant alien rock monsters, while the crew of the ship are falling all over themselves in a daze of love, thanks to the fact that some of Mudd's love crystals got into the air vents. Yep, they actually work!

This was another great revisitation of an old storyline. The plot is clever and entertaining, Mudd is a wonderful character, and it was hilarious to see Spock ardently charging after his lady love, not to mention all the other characters acting in similarly goofy ways. Probably one of my favorites on the disc.

Next up is "The Terratin Incident," which opens with the Enterprise performing scientific observations of a dead star - a pretty boring mission for them. So when they get a mysterious transmission, in a code hundreds of years old, from a nearby system - a transmission which includes the baffling word "Terratin" repeated twice - Kirk is quick to go check it out, despite the fact that McCoy thinks it's all a waste of time. (I do love how well they've nailed down all the characters.) As they arrive, Spock notices an odd energy wave emanating from the planet, and suggests they hang back while he analyzes its effect, but everything seems to be working fine and nobody seems hurt, so Kirk orders them to enter orbit. But then they're struck full force by the energy wave, which fries their dilithium crystals, and leads to an even stranger phenomenon - the ship is expanding! Or is it instead that everyone inside of it is getting smaller?

This is another story it would have been impossibly difficult and expensive to do in the live-action show (how do you believably make it appear as if your entire cast has shrunk?), but which is easily and entertainingly told through animation. As in other episodes, the transporter is used as the slightly disappointing, deus ex machina solution, and the ultimate explanation of the mystery, with the race of tiny people and their shrinking ray, is a little silly. But there are some great character moments, some cool ideas, and the episode is packed with wonderful visuals involving the crew clambering over their suddenly gigantic buttons and instruments.

The final episode on this disc is "The Time Trap," which at first seems like it's going to be a retread of "The Lorelei Signal" from the first disc, as it opens in almost exactly the same way, with the Enterprise exploring a sector of space where many starships have disappeared over the years. But this time they find themselves facing off against their old enemy, the Klingon commander Kor. A battle begins, but ends nearly as quickly, as Kor's ship, the Klothos, vanishes. But two more Klingon ships remain and seem ready to carry on the fight, so the Enterprise follows the Klothos into the space-time warp. There they find a strange Sargasso Sea of lost ships. In this place time passes very slowly, and dilithium crystals are quickly drained of energy. The crewmembers of the various ships have over time resigned themselves to their fate and developed a nearly perfect society where there is no violence. Kirk, however, is not one to resign himself to his fate, and so mobilizes everyone on board to discover a way to escape, despite the fact that no ship ever has. After watching the Klingons attempt to get out, Spock comes up with an idea, but it will require the Klingons and humans to work together. Can the Klingons be trusted? And why is Spock acting so strangely all the sudden?

I really enjoy the title of this episode because for some reason it really seems to hearken back to the original series for me. The idea of a starship Sargasso Sea is also quite neat, and it's cool how the council of aliens includes members of almost every alien species we've seen in the Star Trek universe - including a hot green dancing girl from Orion! Plus Commander Kor is back, Spock gets to act goofy again, and it's a classic Federation vs. Klingons plot. Good times.

I think there were probably some better episodes on the first disc, but this disc is still extremely fun and entertaining. Looking forward to the next one!
Tagged (?): On the Viewer (Not), ST:TAS (Not), Star Trek (Not), TV (Not)
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Saturday, July 5, 2008 09:36 AM
(Last updated on Sunday, August 10, 2008 07:52 AM)
On the Viewer - Star Trek: The Animated Series, Disc 1
 by Fëanor

Although I'm a pretty big Trekker, and I've watched many episodes of nearly every Star Trek television series, and seen every movie, I'd actually never seen even one episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series before. This series came out in 1973, and picked up essentially right where the original series had left off, with many of the same writers and creators returning, and pretty much all of the main cast coming back to provide the voices of their characters. When I heard it had finally come out on DVD, I was excited to give it a try. I thought it would be fun, but I was not at all prepared for how good it is. Any random episode on this disc can be compared favorably to any random episode of the live-action original series. The writing is top quality, the stories are really creative and interesting, the characters are spot on. If anything, this is even better than the original series, because with the magic of animation, things that would have been impossible or far too expensive to do in live action are as simple to achieve as the stroke of a pencil. The special effects budget is unlimited! This means they're able to include alien crew members far crazier-looking than the suspiciously humanoid Spock. Of course, sometimes the animation is a bit jerky and repetitive, but overall it's quite good. And anyway, the stories are awesome.

Up first is "Beyond the Farthest Star," a legitimately creepy episode that sees the Enterprise investigating an anomaly (which, let's face it, is pretty much the premise of every Star Trek episode) and coming upon the remains of an incredibly ancient and beautiful space vessel in orbit around a planet. It seems to be a dead ship until they investigate further and discover there is somehow something still alive there - a terrible presence imprisoned there for millenia, and if they don't figure out how to subdue it, it could take control of the Enterprise and threaten the entire galaxy.

This is one of my favorite episodes on the disc. It has a really eerie atmosphere, lots of cool ideas, and it features the crew coolly contemplating self-destructing the Enterprise to save the galaxy - and not for the last time, either! In the first three episodes, they consider activating the self-destruct twice! Good old Star Trek.

The next episode is another great one, and the first on the disc that's a direct sequel to an episode in the original series. It's called "Yesteryear," and it opens up with Kirk and Spock emerging together from the time gateway from "City on the Edge of Forever," where they've been doing some routine research in the past. But when they come back to the present, they discover that no one remembers Spock any longer. It seems the timeline has been changed such that Spock died in his childhood, never joined Starfleet, and never became first officer of the Enterprise. Spock realizes that he must go back into the past and save the childhood version of himself from dying. Can he do so without altering the timeline even further?

Some interesting things to contemplate: the crew of the Enterprise, by allowing Spock to go back in time, are essentially allowing him to attempt to obliterate the only universe they've ever known. The Andorian who is the first officer in this reality accepts Spock's act as an honorable one, made by a man who wishes to protect his family. But that's some pretty deep stuff. Once Spock gets back into the past, there's some really interesting character development, as we get a look into Spock's childhood, his dysfunctional family, and the warring cultural influences on him as a youth. Spock learns things about himself, as well, and even perhaps changes himself and his family for the better in subtle ways. It's a pretty powerful episode, with some brutal lessons to be learned about life and death and finding oneself.

Next up is "One of Our Planets Is Missing," and it's pretty freaking sweet, too. Again the Enterprise finds itself investigating an anomaly; this time it's a gigantic cloud (like, bigger than Jupiter and Saturn and a couple other planets put together) that's heading right for a solar system that includes a Federation colony world. It quickly becomes clear that the cloud eats planets, and something has to be done immediately to save the colony. But what makes things even more interesting is when the Enterprise enters the cloud and the crew realizes it's also alive. Even though it is a living being, they may be forced to kill it if they can't dissuade it from eating the Federation colony planet. There's a really cool and tense sequence in which they've got the self-destruct armed and ready, they're seconds away from the planet, and Spock is desperately mind melding with the cloud, trying to make it understand what it's doing. This story reminded me just a little bit of that of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, what with the whole traveling inside a living cloud thing. It's powerful, dramatic stuff, with some neat ideas, and a pretty brutal scene with the governor of the colony having to make some hard choices about who to evacuate and who to leave behind.

The next episode, "The Lorelei Signal," is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it's a little ridiculous and hard to believe, but on the other, it gives the women crew members a chance to be seriously competent and bad-ass. Also, it's pretty hilarious. It opens with the Enterprise in a sort of Bermuda's Triangle-type area of the galaxy, where a starship has disappeared every 27 years for as long as anyone can remember. They're there right on the 27 year mark to see what will happen. Doesn't sound like a good idea to me, but whatever! They receive a weird signal from a nearby system that has a strange effect on the men. They start having waking dreams about beautiful women, and they get all bemused and goofy, and heedless of any possible danger. They all agree they should follow the signal to its source immediately. The women are confused and worried, but the Enterprise proceeds to the planet and an all-male away team beams down to find themselves greeted by a race of beautiful women, who dance for them, but then begin sucking their lifeforce away. Can the women crew members arrive in time to help the men recover and escape? Or are they doomed to meet the fate of the crews of the vanished starships that came before them?

There are lots of very funny scenes of the male crew members doing very silly things in this episode, and then some awesome scenes of Uhura totally taking over and kicking ass. There's also a really insane and unlikely use of beaming technology at the end of the episode that reminds me of the crazy things they've done with that in ST:TNG episodes. The explanation for what's going on, and the ultimate resolution, is a bit hard to believe, as is the way they all just forgive the man-eating alien women and let them go free. But overall it's quite fun.

The next episode is the second one on the disc that's a direct sequel to an original series episode, and I think you'll guess which one when I tell you the title: it's called "More Tribbles, More Troubles." In some ways, it's sort of a rehash and reimagining of "The Trouble with Tribbles," as it brings back a lot of the elements from that episode and just recombines them in slightly different ways. The Klingons are here again causing trouble, as is Cyrano Jones, lots of hungry tribbles, and an important new grain (Quintrotriticale this time) that's needed for the starving people of Sherman's planet. Again the tension rises quickly towards violence between the humans and the Klingons; again Cyrano Jones is in large part to blame; again the tribbles get out of control and get into the grain; again there's a lot of silly comedy; again there's a scene where Kirk gets buried under a pile of tribbles. Still, despite the fact that it's not particularly imaginative, it's still a very fun episode with a relatively clever story and some very funny moments. There's even a couple of space battles, and a Klingon secret weapon!

The last episode on the disc is sadly the worst. It's called "The Survivor," and opens with the Enterprise coming upon a damaged one-man vessel near the Romulan neutral zone. They beam aboard the survivor, and it appears to be a famous, and long thought lost, philanthropist named Carter Wilson, whose fiance just happens to be a security officer on board the Enterprise. But is it really him? And if it's not, what mischief does he intend for the Enterprise?

The security officer character in this episode is really annoying and weak, and there's just a lot of seriously corny, melodramatic dialogue thrown about. There are some neat moments, but overall it's just so cheesy, with so many eye-rolling scenes, that it's not even really worth watching.

Despite that final disappointing episode, this is a really entertaining disc of really great television, and it's a fantastic continuation of one of my favorite shows of all time. I'd call it required viewing for any Star Trek fan, and I definitely intend to rent and watch the other discs as soon as I can.
Tagged (?): On the Viewer (Not), ST:TAS (Not), Star Trek (Not), TV (Not)
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