Star Trek TOS s01e03 Where No Man Has Gone Before

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The second pilot, and first episode filmed featuring William Shatner as “James R. Kirk”, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” very nearly captures all the elements that make up Star Trek.  Noticeably absent from the mix, and to the detriment of the show’s chemistry, is Dr. Leonard McCoy whose brash demeanor and unabashed emotional displays serve to counterbalance Spock’s otherworldy logical exterior. Not to say the episode is without merit, far from it. There are some great performances and it’s far more cohesive than the first pilot under Jeffrey Hunter‘s Christopher Pike. But the episode feels incomplete. The chief medical officer in this episode is Mark Piper played by Mark Fix, a veteran of Westerns and Frontier movies. His inclusion is demonstrative of the original pitch of Star Trek as “Wagon Train” in space. His performance comes across as a ‘wise old man’ there to dish out advice to the young adventuring protagonist, but without being integral to the action, the way McCoy would prove to be time and again. He is calm and grandfatherly, much like Dr. Boyce in the first pilot. This doesn’t work on two levels. The Enterprise is on a mission of exploration. It is dangerous and they are equipped for war. Pitting this doctor as the human side of Kirk’s moral compass would be like seating a social worker next to the Captain’s chair. (No disrespect to Mirina Sirtis. Some of my best friends are social workers)

The "R." stands for "Retcon".

The “R.” stands for “Retcon”.

There’s a lot In this episode that comes across as clunky. It is obvious from the start that they were still finding their feet. Yet the episode remains a favourite for many with some iconic moments and a truly memorable villain in Gary Mitchell. While they had not yet found their feet, the foundation on which they stood was solid and they were clearly poised to create magic.

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Star Trek TOS s01e02 Charlie X

Charlie X is regarded by many to be a seminal episode of the original series. I have heard, on more than one occasion, friends state that this was their favourite episode. Upon viewing it again, I can certainly see why. The episode has a great mix of humour, suspense, and mystery, all woven around the awkwardly relatable title character who is suffering the pangs of teenage angst, hormonal urges, unconstrained omnipotence.

Most of us have been teenagers at one point, and some of us even remember our teenage years. Often fondly, through rose tinted glasses, putting aside the hardships and agony we endured in order to store up a few nostalgic memories. (Notice to teenagers: Don’t let anybody tell you it’s just a phase.)

"He's a boy in a man's body, trying to be an adult with the adolescence in him getting in the way." - Kirk

“He’s a boy in a man’s body, trying to be an adult with the adolescence in him getting in the way.” – Kirk

Being a teenager sucks. And it’s amazing. There is so much that we experience for the first time, so much to learn about the world that we don’t understand, and so much that we understand implicitly in spite of the adult world telling us that we don’t. It is a point in our lives where we stop being shaped and start to choose how to shape our own idendity. We begin to choose what lesson we learn and who we learn them from. Teenagehood is complicated and painful, and this is something D.C. Fontana and Gene Roddenberry conveyed on a profound level.
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Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Here are my thoughts on Star Trek Into Darkness which I just saw this afternoon. (I know, I’m late to the party)

I predicted that I’d enjoy it but that I’d find parts problematic. This is exactly what happened.

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There are some aspects of J.J. Abrams interpretation that can only be described as “masterful”. There are areas where he entirely captured what Star Trek is. Beyond the look and feel, which were utterly flawless, the parts that captured the essence and spirit of Star Trek were fleeting. And some areas, entirely missed.

Needless to say…

{SPOILERS AHEAD}

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Star Trek TOS s01e01 The Man Trap

Let me first start off by saying that anybody who claimed the romance between Spock and Uhura that was presented to us in J.J. Abrams‘ feature film adaptation of the series was far fetched and unfitting of the characters need only watch the first twelve minutes of the first episode of the first season to see Uhura flirting shamelessly with Spock.

“Why don’t you tell me I’m an attractive young lady, or ask me if I’ve ever been in love?”

Got it? It’s pretty obvious. It wasn’t made up. It’s there. It’s been there from the beginning. Now we can move on.

I suppose it goes without saying that when I first watched these shows as a six year old, it probably went over my head exactly how sexually charged the series was. Especially this episode. There is no way the prepubescent mind would ever grasp the implications of what goes on at “Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet” nor why comparing McCoy’s old flame Nancy Crater to a woman he left behind there would earn Darnell a scolding and a time-out for inappropriateness. The youthful image that Crater —  being some kind of psychic shapeshifter —  projects to Darnell gyrates and rolls her shoulders in a way that exudes sexuality and eroticism. Then she struts away beckoning Darnell to follow. Darnell, of course, follows… to his untimely death. Oh. So that’s why this episode is called The Man Trap.

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Star Trek TOS s01e00 The Cage (Pilot)

Probably the most remarkable thing about watching the original pilot that spawned what is undoubtedly the most recognizable and important franchise in science fiction history is not what is different from the series that ensued, but what was already in place.

With some exceptions to the costuming, and a few subtle differences on the bridge, nearly everything about the look and feel of Star Trek was in place from the get-go. From the costumes, to the insignias, the sound effects, and general sense of awe and wonder at space travel, The Cage immerses you in a world which would eventually become familiar.

That said, the differences are fascinating, and we’ll address those shortly.

Probably the first thing I noticed watching The Cage was the quality of the writing. This was something new. There was no analogue to it in its day, other than Wagon Train, but in space. This was the pilot, and therefore a pitch, so the writers pulled out all the stops to immerse you and captivate you right from the start. The opening scene is rife with tension. The bridge crew are on the edge of their seats, on a collision course for… something.

That ‘something’ turns out to be a radio wave. What better way to convey exactly how far in the future the setting is than by presenting the prevalent bastion of communication technology that had reshaped and defined mass media over the previous half-century as being such an obsolete relic that it nearly defies recognition.

That radio wave happens to be a distress signal, which Captain Christopher Pike chooses to ignore.

“Let’s continue on to the Vega colony and take care of our own sick and injured first.”

For an impassioned Star Trek viewer, this move was shocking. It seems to bridge crew would agree, as they exchanged knowing glances. Since when does a Captain of the Enterprise not investigate a distress signal, when there could be survivors? This is perhaps the most un-Star Trek like moment in the episode. It becomes clear very quickly that Christopher Pike is not James T. Kirk.

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