Friday 14 September 2012

CAPTAIN'S BLOG: TOS 1.13 - 1.14

TOS 1.13: The Galileo Seven
Mr Spock vs Crew Alienation

The Mission: Get urgently needed medical supplies to Makus III, and engage in research of Murasaki 312 on the way.

Planets visited: Taurus II: Located in the dead centre of the Murasaki 312 effect, it’s a desolate place of rocks and fog (or polystyrene and dry ice, if you’re being realistic).

Future History: A plague has hit the New Paris colonies; the Enterprise isn’t taking medical supplies directly there, but is rendezvousing with another group at Makus III (a courier ship, or an ambulance?)
The Galactic High Commissioner is onboard the ship to oversee the mission. He has the authority to overrule the captain if necessary to ensure the successful delivery of the supplies. He can’t literally be the High Commissioner of the whole Galaxy; presumably this is some overly inflated term for some very high-up civilian minister.

Spatial Effects: The Enterprise diverts to explore the Murasaki 312 “quasar-like effect.” Kirk has standing orders to explore all quasars and quasar-like phenomena. In reality, there’s no possibility of finding any actual quasars within our Galaxy. At the time this episode was written, the nature of quasars was essentially unknown, but they are now understood to be the highly energetic cores of young galaxies - so they are both very, very distant and no longer exist, having long since calmed down into more mature galactic structures. However, there are such things as microquasars, which are similar but much smaller objects that form from a star orbiting a black hole or neutron star. Perhaps Murasaki 312 is one of these. Whatever it  is, Murasaki 312 is a huge, green swirly thing that blocks sensors and transmissions with high levels of ionising radiation. Evidently, planets can exist within its boundaries.

Captain James T: Can’t let a chance to see a “quasar-like object” go by, even when he has another mission coming up in the very near future. The Galactic High Commissioner throws his weight around, but Kirk does everything in his power to delay the mission to Makus III while he tries to find his lost crew. When he can’t delay any longer, he orders Sulu to set course for Makus… at space normal speed. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, let’s just say it’ll take a while.

Green-Blooded Hobgoblin: It’s all about Spock. The events on Taurus II are told largely from his point of view, and his alienation from the human crew is beautifully played. While we sympathise with the shuttle crew’s growing frustration with Spock, we can’t help but be on the Vulcan’s side. He applies logic to everything, and simply can’t understand when the aliens respond in an entirely illogical manner. In the end, he logically decides to act with desperation. Spock comes out of this episode understanding his human side a lot better, and is better prepared for command.

The Real McCoy: Is fiercely loyal to Spock in the face of insubordination, but still voices his disagreements to him.

Personnel Roster: The shuttle crew includes Spock, McCoy, Scotty, this week’s yeoman, two yellowshirts who should really be wearing red, and Lt. Boma, a man of powerful opinions who becomes Spock’s adversary for much of the episode. Led by his emotions, he’s basically Spock’s antithesis.

Alien Life Forms: The Taurus II natives are huge anthropoids with a primitive tribal society. They’re one of the poorest aliens in the whole of the first season - it’s hard to even tell if they are hairy and apelike or just wearing big, shaggy coats. They’re surprisingly successful with their enormous spears, considering that they just seem to throw them willy-nilly about the place.

Remastery: This episode is one of the most effects intensive from the original series, and thus required a lot of work for remastering. The result is stunning, with some excellent visuals of the shuttle and the Murasaki effect. It is also the basis for the second story in IDW’s Star Trek Ongoing series, which imagines classic stories in the 2009 movie’s alternative reality (the first being based on 1.1, ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before.’)

Cliché Count: It’s the first, and most blatant, use of the far-too-frequent ending device that will come to haunt this series. Yes, it’s the shot of all the crew laughing together on the bridge. It’s bad enough on comedy shows, but on Star Trek, it’s painful. Especially in this episode, with all the crew rolling about, Shatner roaring with forced mirth. Men have died, for Christ’s sake.

Verdict: Excellent. One of the very best episodes of the first season, this beautifully highlights the gulf between Spock and the rest of the crew. Nimoy is excellent throughout, but Shatner and Kelly shouldn’t be overlooked.

TOS 1.14: Court Martial
Captain Kirk vs The Set-Up

The Mission: To prove James T. Kirk innocent of the crime of wilful negligence resulting in the death of Lt. Finney.

Planets visited: Starbase 11 is located on the surface of an unnamed planetary body. A ringed gas giant is visible in the sky; it’s likely the object is in fact a moon of this planet.

Future History: No captain of a ship has been tried before in the history of Starfleet. Commodore Stone of Starbase 11 tries to sweep these events under the carpet, then makes it clear that he will make an example of Kirk, so Starfleet is capable of being underhand in order to make itself appear reliable.

Cogely refers to “fundamental declarations of the Martian Colonies” and the “Statutes of Alpha III” (Alpha Centauri III?) as vital cornerstones in historic legal practise.

Captain James T: He was a midhsipman at the Academy while Finney was dragging his heels as an instructor. They became friends there, and served together on the USS Republic, and it was there that Kirk dobbed Finney in for not replacing the atomic matter piles and endangering the ship. Before this incident, for which he blamed his non-career, Finney was close enough to Kirk to name his daughter Jamie after him. He previously served in the “Vulcanian Expedition.” Kirk’s list of honours, beginning with the Palm Leaf of Axanar, goes on so long that Shaw objects, and even Cogley eventually cuts it short. He has enormous confidence in himself, refusing to believe that he panicked on the bridge or might be misremembering events

Shritless Kirk Alert: His shirt rips in the fight with Finney, and he continues to show of his pecs as he crawls through shafts fixing machinery.

Green-Blooded Hobgoblin: Describes himself as “Vulcanian.” In spite of his heart having previously been stated to be in his abdomen, McCoy scans for his heartbeat in his chest as he would a human’s. Spock has incredible faith in Kirk, stating that it would be against his nature to act with panic or malice. He uses the example of something falling on a planet with positive gravity as a metaphor, intriguingly indicating he may know of some planet with negative gravity.

The Real McCoy: Is forced to admit that the possibility of mistakes due to strain is medically feasible, but refuses to believe it of Kirk. He lays into Spock when he discovers he’s playing chess while Kirk is on trial, not realising it’s part of his plan to test the computer.

Sexy Trek: Areel Shaw, Starfleet lawyer, has an evident romantic past with Kirk, although she seems a bit older than him (he probably had a thing for older women when he was young, not unlike a certain Jean-Luc Picard). They get a snog on the bridge at the end; Spock and McCoy are so used to this sort of thing that they just ignore it and adamantly refuse to encourage him when he tries to show off. McCoy immediately swoops in to try chatting Shaw up at the bar, but quickly discovers that she’s one of Kirk’s many, many exes.

Trek Stars: Elisha Cook, Jr. plays Samuel T. Cogley, attorney-at-law. It’s a wonderfully eccentric performance, light years away from the stuffed-shirt brass on display around the Starbase. That he’s such an unlikely-looking fellow helps, but his theatricality and old-fashioned attitude make him stick out in this often sterile future. The 24th century series could have done with a character like him.

Future Treknology: The computer records of a starship are believed to be infallible. After thoroughly investigating the systems, Spock confirms that there is no fault, although he eventually realises that they may have been reprogrammed. He plays against his chess programme, beating it five times, proving that the reprogramming has had unintended effects.

Space Bilge: What the hell kind of legal system does Starfleet employ? In the real world, surely some objection would arise from having a former lover of the defendant act as prosecuting counsel. We can perhaps forgive the relocation of the trial to the Enterprise bridge in light of the unusual circumstances, but Commodore Stone allows the trial to continue when Finney is revealed to be alive, then allows Kirk to leave the bridge to go look for him, but doesn’t let Spock go to assist because apparently Finney counts as a witness (to his own death!) and the court is still in session. This is when the ‘victim’ has pulled a phaser on the accused, yet he apparently still has the right to speak out as a witness. Only after Kirk has fought him down and saved the ship from his sabotage does the Commodore think to dismiss the court.
Also, why does the command chair have the very easy-to-press buttons for yellow alert, red alert and pod jettison right next to each other? Kirk may not have made a mistake this time, but it’s amazing no one has done so before.
A celebrated scientific error: Spock amplifies Finney’s heartbeat by “one to the fourth power.” One to the power of anything equals one, thus, no amplification.
Shifting scenes around means that the officers from the court martial are in the bar giving Kirk a hard time before the court martial has been called.
Oh, and why is there a wrench lying around in engineering? Just so Finney has a weapon handy to bludgeon people with?

Verdict: A melodramatic episode that skips along nicely, never dropping pace and finally sketching in some background to Starfleet. Having a black actor playing the highest-ranking officer seen so far would have been significant at the time of broadcast in the US. Shatner puts in one of his most intense performances when put on the stand. However, plot logic fails here and lets the story down somewhat.

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