Friday, June 4, 2010

The Original Series, Season 2: By Any Other Name

Airdate: November 10, 1967
51 of 80 produced
51 of 80 aired

Introduction

The Enterprise responds to a mysterious distress call, only to discover that it was sent by a race of strange, alien invaders from beyond our galaxy. Will their plans for galactic domination proceed undisturbed, or will our heroes be able to thwart both their paralyzing device and their ambitions?

Umm, can I apologize to her next?


Writing

Matthew: We get a heady concept with generational ships, the vast distances implied by intergalactic travel, and an extragalactic invasion forces. There are truly the makings of an epic story here. There are, however, some logical questions. Can we really reach the edge of the galaxy so quickly? Are the Kelvans the ONLY civilization in the entire Andromeda galaxy? Would Kirk's Trek-Fu really incapacitate a simulacrum/android/whatever-it-is shell, no matter how hot she is?

Kevin: On the one hand, I appreciate the idea that the invaders are from outside the galaxy. It lends immediate scope to their power and, for a moment makes the Federation seem really, really small. The radiation excuse seems a little hokey. Radiation is already everywhere is vast quantities. There isn't one planet with a sufficiently powerful magnetosphere to protect life? Still, that's a nitpick.

Matthew: The killing of Yeoman Thompson (spoiler alert!) was both grisly and surprising, especially since the viewer's natural inclination, especially in the 1960's, is that the black guy in the red shirt is going to get it. In general, the whole "turning the crew into cuboctohedral solids" notion was a very neat and even kind of creepy solution to what was surely a budget problem. It led to a nice "deserted ship" feel which I always welcome for purposes of drama and eerie contrast with a normally populous vessel.

Kevin: The cuboctohedrals could have easily come off as hokey, but like you say, were surprisingly effective. I think what made it for me was the way it pulverized, not just broken or crushed. The cascade of powder in addition to broken chunks gave it a great physicality, and one that is particularly effective when set against the more usual and antiseptic vaporization of a phaser. I also like Kirk reassuring her just before she bites it. That's just cold.

Matthew: There are some fun comic moments, mainly when the crew attempts to aggravate the Kelvans in various ways. Especially fun is Scotty's "It's green" drinking binge. We will see this line revisited in "Relics."

Matthew: There is an interesting Platonic principle at work in this episode, that the Kelvans are a species that has abstracted themselves away form the "distractions" of he senses as far as is possible, and that being exposed to them again is somehow fundamentally disturbing. While this concept is interesting, it does unfortunately serve as the slightly too pat solution to their quandary. Sure, we'll turn back from our thousand year mission, because it's HARD being human!

Matthew: Nerd Notes - Food synthesizers have a limited capacity over time. Do they need refueling? More primary matter to shape into things? Clearly they are not replicators. Also, McCoy has at least 4 doctors and nurses, as established in dialogue.


Acting

Matthew: While is is very likely that the cube-octo-hedro-fying of the whole crew was done in order to save on extras and shooting schedules, it nonetheless does a good job of focusing our attention on "the big 4" (including Scotty). And these actors deliver. There are loads of good acting moments, especially for Doohan. 

Kevin: 'Drunk' is one of the hardest things to act well. It's very easy to go too far and let it slip into charicature, so James Doohan deserves praise for pulling off realistically and not sloppily.

Matthew: Kelinda=HOT. Barbara Bouchet is totally smoking in this episode. I may need to go back and amend my "Trek's Hottest Women" post. Wow. Wow. And not only is she a babe, and decked out in a revealing jumpsuit, but she is a pretty good actress, and she is doing the Trek thing of "teach me how to love." Boi-oi-oing!!!

Kevin: I have nothing to add to that cogent analysis. :)


Production Values

Matthew: This is a bottle show for the most part, but I felt it worked out really well. We get extended looks at the rec room, as well as Scotty's quarters, which were also dressed interestingly. He had framed tools, ancient armor, a kilt, bagpipes, and funky liquor bottles. What more does a Scot need?

Kevin: I enjoy that when doing a bottle show, they really milked it for all its worth. We had scenes on the bridge, engineering, the rec room, Scotty's quarters, sick bay...it really gave a sense of size and reality to the Enterprise.

Matthew: I love the image of the Enterprise barrelling towards Andromeda. It's really the only effects shot in the show, and it was good in both the original and remastered effects. 

Matthew: The styrofoam shapes were eerily effective. Eerily ineffective, however, were the Kelvans' jumpsuits.

Kevin: I have to wonder what led them to cuboctohedrals. It's too specific and defined a shape to be an accident, and seems like they would take a lot of effort to create. The effect was great though.

Conclusion

Matthew: This one has grown on me. It has a strong-ish sci-fi story that is only undercut by the tired trope that was its solution. The guest stars were effective, and the performances by the principals were also engaging. It gets a 4 from me.

Kevin:  I liked this one as well. The too easy ending keeps it from a five, but great acting, and production design that really drives home the creepiness and severity of the threat raise this episode to a 4. That makes a total of 8.

2 comments:

  1. I didn't really get the alien's motivation/plot, and that made it a bit hard for me to get into the episode. But even I was pretty distracted by how insanely hot Kalinda is, and those moments you mentioned with the cuboctohedrals (the black guy lives after the pretty white girl talks about not wanting to die, and the hallway full of crew-cubes) were visceral enough that I was scared and excited to find out what the crew would do. Ending was kind of a let-down, but what's really weird is I can't remember exactly what happened. My memory is kind of just "oh, whatever. I think Kirk talked them out of it." That's the sign of a lame ending, I think.

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