Monday, July 26, 2010

Who Mourns for Adonais?

Verbose, isn't he?

A Kirk quote from this episode almost inspires me to rename this blog "Olympian Generalities." The following should explain why I was convinced otherwise.

This is a mildly interesting episode whose core argument is weak and biased, covered up by an unflatteringly dated camp that leaves little beyond nostalgia to appreciate. The characters seem unfamiliarly written and strange; the plot, contradictory and muddled.

My instinct tells me this concept could have once been an examination of mythology's place in modern life, or the anachronistic effects of god/religion on modern man. Unfortunately, through whatever misfortunes of the production process -- be they self-censorship or studio inflicted -- little beyond hints remain.

At very least the crew is given the appropriately Trek-related central conceit: optimism. The antagonist is assigned a very jaded, un-optimistic point of view. Unfortunately this conflict is scarcely exploited to its dramatic potential.

Man thinks he's progressed, but he's merely forgotten the things that gave life meaning.

The climatic revelation of Apollo plays on the disappointing surface-level concept of Gods having no place in life, leaving our crew only to ponder the ramifications of loosing the true inspiration for thousands of years of human life. With such a fascinating set up, more universal concepts than were ultimately used suggest themselves to no inclusion or expounding.

Like many Trek ventures, this episode flirts with huge concepts without delivering to the level that the franchise is associated with and revered for. Setting it apart, still, is the fact that such thematic content was attempted in the first place.

We shall not debate, mortal.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Friday's Child

"Analysis, Gentlemen?"

This is quintessential Trek. Klingon agents beat the Enterprise to a planet with which our crew had planned to negotiate a mining agreement. The society they face is one in which the strong violently rule at the expense of the weak, and women are reduced to reproductive necessity.

"Is it not best to have two who bargain for the same goods?"

The leader of this society, predisposed to relations with the Federation, finds opposition among his ranks in an elitist who thusly challenges the leader to combat. This society hold combat "more pleasurable than love." This challenger, Maab, defeats the leader, Akaar, becoming leader himself.

In his total dedication to competition, be it physical in his combat or economical in his negotiations, Maab represents a certain unyielding absolutism. Whereas the previous leader may have been open to dealing with the more honorable group, this man is willing to accept any offer that is most beneficial, even if from the ruthless Klingons.

"He laid his hands on me, it is my right to see him die."

Maab orders the death of Akaar's pregnant widow, Eleen. Kirk's common swooning effect on female guest stars is turned on its head this week, as she orders his death at his slightest touch. In fact, though, the most fascinating and thematically revealing relationship in the episode is that of Eleen and McCoy, who takes her on as an unwilling patient as her delivery approaches.

"You said you were prepared to die, does that mean you prefer to die?"
"To live is always desirable."

On the run from the conflict-ridden township, McCoy attempts to care for Eleen and in doing so touches her pregnant belly. In what is initially a comic scene, she slaps him for doing so. Several times she protests with slaps before McCoy slaps her once back. It is this act that defines her ensuing affection for the good doctor, and evolution as a character.

His slap of violence shows her an equality in HER terms -- that of a society built on violence -- where usually she is subservient. In this demonstration McCoy is quickly able to juxtapose the inherent inequities of her upbringing. An upbringing which cruelly conditions women to have no connection with their progeny and full ownership given to the men after birth.

McCoy treats her as men treat each other in her society, allowing her grow as a character, transcending her previously defeatist expectations. (Wanting the death of her own child in light of her husband's death.)

"How'd you arrange to touch her Bones, give her a happy pill?"
"No, Right Cross."

The business with the societal conflict and Klingon presence are wrapped up nicely in the episode's sufficiently exciting climax. With the ultimate demise of Maab, reign is given to Eleen, who will act as leader until her newborn son (the rightful heir) comes of age. The Enterprise crew (owing most credit to McCoy's contributions on behalf of humanity) restored peace and equality to another self-endangering alien society.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


The superior-being-encounter scenario is dealt with in a most unique fashion in this episode. Much like the previous (and many before) the Enterprise crew encounters a non-corporeal alien who helps to dramatically define aspects of humanity by juxtaposition.

This episode deals with the experiential necessity of humanity in a much more concise and legitimate fashion than "Catspaw" had brushed the subject. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are transporting a disease-stricken female space-commissioner when they are intercepted by a small panetiod emanating a strange energy.

It is revealed that this energy is a being called "The Companion" that has preserved 150 year lost space traveler Zefram Cochrane and captured our crew to keep him company. While Kirk initially attempts to brutally overload this being's energy in order to escape -- a catastrophic failure -- McCoy suggests a more diplomatic approach using a modified universal translator to communicate with the being.

Kirk attempts to reason with the being, telling it that the commissioner will die if it does not let them go. The companion's dedication to Cochrane (and it's female voice) make apparent a love connection between the now century-plus companions.

The thematic interest emerges when Kirk's negotiations with the being continue to fail. Here is a creature that has no body, and has established a relationship with a living man. Knowing only this form of singular existence, "she" does whatever is necessary to preserve the Cochrane's life and happiness.

Our species can only survive if we have obstacles to overcome. You take away all obstacles. Without them to strengthen us, we will weaken and die.

Kirk drops this doozy on her to little avail. It is not until she assumes the body of the dying commissioner (saving her life in the process) that she is able to comprehend the need of the crew. I found this materialization or merging to be the most compelling aspect of the episode, and find myself wishing it had appeared earlier than the third act, so as to be explored with more depth than it was afforded. She allows them to leave, and in a touching moment, Cochrane elects to stay with her.

While this is a fairly compelling piece of character drama, I'm curious as to why this being based on isolated intellect was never dramatically juxtaposed with Spock. It seems like a natural enough connection, considering what Spock has represented in previous Trek outings. Here Spock is rather pushed into the shadows, with Kirk and McCoy in the fore. Perhaps the writer felt that the most beneficial connection to be made was with the most passionate Human characters, and that inclusion of Spock might require further narrative-crippling definition of the Companion creature.

As it stands, the story is quaint and moderately thought provoking, handling the human themes with tremendously more ease than the campier Trek installments like last week's "Catspaw." It expounds on it's own thematic content in the episode's dialog, leaving little implication to extrapolate on the viewer's part. Not to say that is a necessary quality in a Trek episode, but as this is a critical analysis blog, I find it leaves me with little to add beyond a hearty recommendation.

Monday, June 21, 2010


A disembodied message shepherded by the death of a nameless crewmember forebodes a CURSE on the Enterprise.

Kirk beams down -- with Spock and McCoy flanking him in the iconic configuration -- to the planet-of-the-week for the purpose of investigating the disappearance of Scotty and Sulu. They quickly come upon the first of several traditional "Halloween" tropes in the form of three warning witches (ala Macbeth.) The episode to this point seems to take on an almost aimless structure with vague mysteries for the sole purpose of portraying a mood rather than any sort of conceptual complexity.

After being imprisoned in the picturesque dungeon, they come across possessed versions ofScotty and Sulu. Thankfully Kirk wastes no time in acknowleding the illusory nature of his surroundings. He is taken to Korob, the leader of this place, who questions Kirk's insitance on questioning that which is presented to him, rather than simply accepting it.

"You are the different one, Mister Spock. You do not think like the others. There are no colours to your patterns of logic. There's only black and white."

I applaud the writer for peppering a conceptually mediocre episode with insightful bits of dialogue that go beyond any such aspirations of the plot. They help to make palatable that which could have been relegated to a true guilty-pleasure of an episode.

It is revealed that Korob (inexperienced with humans) is testing our intrepid trifecta in some way. The nature of these tests is pushed to the wayside when we are introduced to Korob'ssultry assistant, Sylvia. There is a vain (but understandable) attempt to shroud the pulp nature of this episode's goings-on with references to the equivlent "Magic" in earth's mythology. This is attempt is trasnparent, however, as the actions of the plot never transcend those same instances of "Magic" in our familiar mythology. Calling it their "science" does little to better it.

"You seem to do with your mind what we do with tools."

Spock deduces that Korob has tapped into the subconcious of the crew accidentally in an attempt to create an environment they would accept. A fallout between Slyvia and Korob reveals that they are in fact superior beings new to the realm of sensations. Unfortunatley, her reaction to this new existence is more perverese than her collegue's.

Slyvia wishes to join with Kirk and fill in the gaps of her knowledge on the sensation of Power by combining their minds. She tempts him with her own knowledge of things beyond his wildest dreams. Kirk, in the only measurable act of heroism contained here, uses her for information on the device (a magic wand) that allows them to maintain their corporeal form and hold them captive.

Had this not been the third or forth time the concept of superior-beings-meddling-with-the-silly-humans had been presented, its light brushes with the subject might hold more value. However, the superior and more in-depth handling in previous episodes renders the viewer searching for other points of interest to identify with in the character or plot content.

The only faint idea that could be associated exclusively with this episode is through Sylvia's need for humanity's own dreams and ambition. Her "superior" intellect still knows nothing of true existence, as she lacks the experience of being alive. Also, the revelation of the creature's true forms, rather than the vibrant light orbs of episodes past, are helpless bugs. They die without the control of their illusion when reality is forced upon them by Kirk.

Interpretively, this can be seen as broaching themes of experiential (a posteriori) knowledge vs. inherent (a priori) knowledge. By these terms, Trek comes down firmly on the side of a posteriori knowledge, which of itself doesn't mesh with the more reconciliatory idealogies presented in previous Trek outings. (Not to mention Spock's strictly logical rationalist presence.) Considering the surrounding events of the episode, this interpretation is a strech at best, culled from bits of stray dialogue more likely present to lend credibitlity rather than imply a thematic statement.

Even though this episode's air date was pushed back to coincide with Halloween, it was the first produced of the second season. I find myself wondering if it is mere coincidence that, by production order, the season begins and ends with episodes featuring a black cat with a bejewledcollar and silent intellect. Forgive the aside, but it was such a peculiar observation, I couldn't help but include it. Perhaps also an effort to add weight or connectivity to an episode that is, by most measures, completely disposable.

To that end, this episode also birthed one of my favorite buttons that I wear on my jacket to this day: the image of Spock chained up in the dungeon with the words "Hang In There!" above him is worth only slightly less than the episode itself.