Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Original Series, Season 2: The Immunity Syndrome

The Original Series, Season 2
"The Immunity Syndrome"
Airdate: January 19, 1968
49 of 80 produced
47 of 80 aired
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The Enterprise is scheduled for some well-deserved R&R, but is diverted when Spock is telepathically struck with news that the Vulcan crew of the USS Intrepid, more than 400 people, have died. The Enterprise must determine what killed them and stop the latest threat to the Federation.
Good thing everyone on this Enterprise actually graduated from the Academy, with their full biology credits...


Kevin: This is as science fiction as science fiction gets unless your name is Bradbury, Clarke, or Asimov. Giant, single-celled organisms are pretty trippy.

Matthew: Speaking of Asimov, the notion of a galaxy-sized super-organism is mentioned in his later Foundation novels. I'm not saying it is really explored here, beyond a line or two of dialogue. But it's nice when a TV show even mentions high-minded SF stuff like this.

Kevin: They used the annoying trope of "laws of physics don't apply" which deeply, deeply annoys me. There is also no reason that forward thrust should result in reverse. They never really explain or develop that idea. It's just shorthand to indicate they are in a weird place.

Matthew: I didn't find it quite as annoying. I agree, the notion that thrust, a physical phenomenon based on particle motion, would somehow work in reverse, is dumb. But it's a minor point in the episode, and it could just as well have been cut. A gigantic space amoeba is interesting enough.

Kevin: The much stronger plot thread is the human one. Kirk having to choose between his friends was genuinely affecting. Both McCoy and Spock volunteering and presenting credible cases to go was well done for both the characters and the plot. Also somewhat trope-y, but sweet nonetheless is touching here was both Kirk and Spock commending each other and the crew as their final acts.

Matthew: The human drama was tremendously good in this episode. The number of complex emotions given to the main triad of characters in this script was truly wonderful, and definitely stands out as a superior treatment, in the upper realms of TOS. Kirk's dilemma, McCoy's professional pride, Spock's inscrutable Vulcan veneer. Scotty got some juicy scenes, here, too, questioning the Captain's hunch about "anti-power" and going into the creature. An interesting writing note, this is the first and only episode in TOS in which personal logs make an appearance. It's too bad, because it was a great source of drama and emotion.

Kevin: Overall, the episode has some pacing problems. Both Spock and the Enterprise separately making attempts to resolve the conflict create two climaxes, neither of which is entirely satisfying. The idea of a unique, but deadly creature has been mined before. "Man Trap" immediately springs to mind. I felt in the balance, this was only a so-so treatment.


Kevin: No one does a bad job, certainly. The strongest moments are the ones between the main three deciding who should risk their lives. As discussed above, Kirk and Spock praising the crew is fairly rote at this point, but the actors bring their A-game to it and keep it from feeling as hackneyed as it may.

Matthew: This was a solid A all around. The only thing keeping it from an A+ for me were Kirk's smarmy log entries about "enjoying some rest on some lovely... planet" (as he leered at his yeomen). This one stands out as a particularly good Nimoy acting job for me. This script was a lot more interesting than his usual - it really highlighted the difference between Vulcans (or half-Vulcans) and humans. Spock was almost abrasive here, and I liked it.


Kevin: The shuttlecraft gets another trotting out, and as both Matt and I have said before, it's not our favorite. It's boxy and films oddly. It lacks both the cleanliness and grandeur of other Starfleet design and because of the overly square lines of the space, doesn't feel like a real, contained space on screen.

Matthew: Although the shuttle is not my favorite, I actually did kind of like it here. I love it when we see the shuttle bay, its double door, the airlock pressure meter, all that science-ey stuff that they didn't need to include but made the effort to. They also found some reasonably interesting angles to film the cabin from.

Kevin: The amoeba itself is certainly interesting. Whatever film techniques they used to achieve certainly creating a colorful, chaotic environment that emphasized the foreign nature of the creature. My one complaint would be that even in long, establishing shots, it looks very two-dimensional. It doesn't feel like an object. That all being said, the production team deserves credit for trying something new and largely succeeding.

Matthew: They did redo  the amoeba in the remaster, preserving the aesthetic of the long shots and really improving the close ups while they were inside. All of the ship shots were upgraded to a fabulous extent. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is one of the finer remaster efforts. Part of this is due to the interesting and colorful lighting schemes utilized throughout. There were a lot of dramatic and interesting compositions, both in the original film on the characters, as well as in the remaster effects shots of the ship. The facial detail in the 1080p transfer was terrific, among the best in the Blu-Ray sets. That says something about the original direction and production of the episode.


Kevin: I am going to give this one a 3. The idea is solid, but executed only adequately. Some nice riffs on the human side of the story are certainly nice, but not enough to elevate it to one of the great stories. The acting is certainly as good as we've come to expect, but not more than that. The production values are certainly the highlight, but in the end, I liked, but didn't love the episode.

Matthew: I find myself disagreeing with you. I felt that both the acting and the production were above average. The remaster was spectacular, as well, but I'm not going to bump a rating up for something like that, which is inherently after the fact. This is a high 4 for me, and I was this close to awarding it a 5. The pacing issues you mentioned were probably what held it back for me. I think that maybe one more scene, perhaps a boardroom discussion in which they debate the pros and cons of sacrificing themselves for the greater good of the galaxy, would have punched this up. Maybe following up a bit on Kirk's use of stimulants would have been good, too. So, our ratings give us a combined 7, which is probably fair.

1 comment:

  1. I've always thought of this episode as the height of the 'scientific danger' plots, or episodes where there's tension and danger that has to do with how well you do or don't understand the universe and little or nothing to do with people sporting fancy make-up. Which is why I was kind of shocked that I wasn't that into it. I loved the visuals, but the fact that I was totally unconvinced Spock was going to die took me out of the episode and made the dramatic farewell speeches eyerollers.