Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Original Series, Season 2: Friday's Child

Airdate: December 1, 1967
33 of 80 produced


Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Grant have beamed down to secure a mining agreement with a pre-warp civilization. But alas, the Klingons have already made overtures of their own! Will our heroes be able to secure this vital material for the Federation, while also negotiating and surviving the tricky social mores of a primitive culture? And will they be able to avoid all-out war with the Klingons?


Matthew: In this story, we find a similar tension to Devil In the Dark, in which a rare mineral is needed for the  life support systems of Federation colonies. Instead of a mysterious creature, though, it is the Klingons who seek to thwart a mining agreement. It's not a tremendously science fiction story, all told. We do get a look at an "alien" race, the Capellans, but they're not all that different from several Earth cultures, such as the Spartans, let's say.

Matthew: Although this is another "Cold War Klingon" episode, in which the Klingons are portrayed as an economically expansionistic power that seeks to dominate lesser powers, we do get a proto-Ron Moore characterization of them, in their lack of fear for death and desire to engage in personal combat. It might be a bit of a ruse, here, but it is developed more in later episodes.

Kevin: Neither the Klingons nor the Capellans really jumped off the page for me here. The lack of non-Teer women stretched credibility for me. The best Star Trek races feel like actual people with actual civilizations, and the Capellans don't really achieve that.

Matthew: Kirk mentions the Prime Directive as the Federation's cardinal rule, forbidding them from interfering in the Capellan culture, by comparison with the Klingons. But then, naturally, he goes on to break that rule over and over.  Kirk's compassion forces him to interfere with killing of ex-Teer's wife by a rival Capellan - how is this not interfering? I could see it if he prevented the Klingon commander from acting, but that's not the case here. By the time they leave, we see the rival leader also deposed, and the infant child who was allowed to live by the interference installed as leader with the wife as regent. Not only is this resolution a bit tough to believe, (if Capellan rule is by strength, why would they respect an infant and his mommy?) but it also strains the Prime Directive.

Kevin: The recent string of book authors agree with you. Leonard Akaar is deposed shortly after the Enterprise's departure, and he eventually joins Starfleet, rising to the rank of Admiral and appearing in several books. And I have to say, at this point, Kirk violated the Prime Directive every single time it has been mentioned. I didn't realize how egregious it was until rewatching TOS.

Matthew: The B-story is a cat and mouse game with Klingon vessel, with Scotty left in command, trying to discern the tricky wiles of the Klingon vessel in orbit with them. It's sort of Balance Of Terror Lite, and while it isn't great, it's nice to see some supporting cast members get things to do.

Kevin: The B-plot was fine, it just didn't seem to play into the A plot, which makes the episode weaker as a whole.

Matthew: We get another classic McCoy line: "I'm a Doctor, not an escalator!"


Matthew: Julie Newmar as the Teer's wife Eleen is pretty hot! She always was a babe on Batman, and here she is not encumbered by the catwoman costume. We can see that she is quite an attractive woman. Unfortunately, she is wearing a so-so wig, and it's too bad they stuck her in a pregnant suit. I would have loved to see a classic Theiss Trekbabe ensemble. Her performance is good, and her chemistry with DeForrest Kelly is great. She's actually a pretty good actress.

Matthew: McCoy is kind of the star of this show - he gets a ton of fun moments and laugh lines - especially the part where he bitch-slaps Catwoman.

Kevin: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I agree with your assessment. McCoy and Eleen's chemistry is pretty much the only thing that makes this episode even remotely interesting.

Production Values

Matthew: This episode suffered from some very dark staging that was not conducive to enjoyable picture. Whether you're watching the original or the remaster, this is a pretty drab palette.
In addition to the colors and the contrast levels, the remastered effects are kind of weak, especially since they're only exterior ship shots and one viewscreen shot. They're not up to par with the other remasters, but this was the 15th remaster release, so I guess it was relatively early.

Matthew: The costumes are very weird, with the Capellans resembling some sort of clown-fighters from beyond the moon. The Capellan throwing star looks silly, as well. I find it strange that these people live in tents all the time. It was just a sort of disjointed production that never seemed "real." As far as the set, it's back to Bronson Canyon! We get several odd switches between shots of our stars clearly on a soundstage, while extras are on location.

Kevin: I liked the tents in and of themselves. It felt appropriate for the culture they were portraying. But I agree overall, the production never really came together into a cohesive single work. As for the costumes, I am reminded of the advice of Coco Chanel. Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one item. Never would that advice have been better heeded than by the Capellans. It looks like they took furniture accessories and hot glued them to jumpsuits. The base costume is okay. I liked the shape of the headgear, and even the mane/ponytail dealies, but the chunky tassels were freaking me out.

Matthew: The action was marred by some bad Trek Fu, especially after it's established that these guys are badass warriors. Really? Throwing a pillow at a Capellan guard is enough to disorient him for the one Kirk-punch necessary to render him unconscious?

Kevin: I found the ending where Maab sacrifices himself to laugh-out-loud bad. It's hard to be noble when you look like a screaming idiot.


Matthew: The premise and the execution of the story were weak. Visually, it was uninteresting. McCoy and Eleen had good chemistry. That seems like the classic one-out-of-three scenario that results in a rating of a 2.

Kevin: I am giving this a two as well. Not even the fabulous Miss Julie Newmar can pull this one up to a 3. That makes a total of 4, definitely on the weaker end of the bell curve, but not as bad as some other offerings this season.

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