Monday, August 9, 2010

The Original Series, Season 3: That Which Survives

Airdate: January 24, 1969
70 of 80 produced
72 of 80 released


The Enterprise investigates a mysterious "young" planet whose characteristics seem to be way out of line with its age and the surrounding space geology. When they beam down, however, they find that they are being attacked by an enigmatic woman who seems dead-set on preventing them from uncovering its secrets. Will our crew be able to unravel the mystery, and how many of them will die along the way?

I canna take much more of this new set, captain!


Matthew: Reviewing this episode is a tale of the big things and a tale of the little things. First, the big things. As stories go, it is pretty middle-of-the-road. It turns out that the mysterious she-assassins are leftovers from an advanced civilization that was wiped out (A concept revisited rather shamelessly in TNG's "The Last Outpost"). That's all well and good as a science fiction story, but it isn't really developed in any interesting way. So much time is spent on the "mystery" that we get precious little resolution and backstory.

Kevin: I agree. The explanation for why this technology keeps attacking us is's been programmed to attack us. Yep. The specific method of the killing was at least a little more interesting than most. I don't quite understand why the Losiras were victim specific. "Cellular disruption" sounds like a pretty universal assault. It added some dramatic tension of three on the planet trying to duck and weave, but it doesn't quite make sense.

Matthew: Things that didn't quite gel for me in this story were how and why the Kalandans created this false planet that killed them, and how that would spread to such an apparently vast and advanced empire. I wanted to know much more about the Kalandans beyond their interesting fashion sense. The logic of how synthesizing Losira would result in replicants with her personality was a little odd - so the real Losira wouldn't have a problem with killing one person at a time, but would question her role as a whole? The pacing was a little slow, but not fatally so.

Kevin: I think these problems could have been resolved by finding the tunnels sooner and giving Kirk and company more time to explore and understand the Kalandans, maybe even find the real Losira alive or in stasis. A more unsolvable problem is that it doesn't quite make sense that the empathetic, nice lady in the recording would necessarily make a fatal defense program. Also, the crew only found the computer room because they were able to scan the source of power used to create the Losiras and hurtle the Enterprise so far away. Had she done nothing, they probably would have left after finding a novel, but otherwise really, really boring rock.

Matthew: There was a lot of sarcasm in the dialogue, especially on the ship with Spock, but also on the planet between Kirk and the others. I didn't mind it so much - it reminds me of real people, not super heroes. In the end, the theme was a little elusive. It seemed to be a competition between "beauty is transitory" and "beauty survives," with Kirk stating in the end that it survives. But I have a difficult time seeing how a murderous she-wench simulacrum really demonstrates this theme. We know nothing of the Kalandans as a people, what beauty they might have created. We just get a purple hussy who kills you with a touch.

Kevin: That one line at the end was the weakest in the show, in my opinion. It felt like their struggle to create a theme with a one-liner. It was really inorganic.

Matthew: The little things, however, exist in abundance and are almost uniformly pleasing. There was a nice scienc-ey feel to the whole story. People sought to escape or triumph in situations by analyzing stuff, using the automatic distress settings on their tricorders, finding food and water, fixing machinery. It was a nice change from "punch the villain" or "trap the evil computer in a logic puzzle." There are lots of extras, including the reappearance of Dr. M'Benga, the apparently Indian helmswoman Lt. Radha, and Geologist D'Amato (a rare blue-shirt, so to speak). There is a good mix of dialogue between the supporting cast and main three. In one such exchange, Sulu makes a continuity reference to the rock creatures of Janus VI from "Devil In The Dark" all the way back in Season One! He also mentions the Tunguska Event, which was really cool. I loved how Scotty says the ship "feels wrong," and the new set he gets to play around in was great. The discussion of how far they were thrown from the planet was fun, even if the distance/time relationship doesn't gibe with later Trek. I always appreciate when early sci-fi takes pains to mention that space is BIG.

Kevin: Like Tholian Web, this is another great example of Spock in command and its accompanying tensions feeling organic and dramatically satisfying. The final scene with Scotty in the Jeffries tube was pitch perfect. I loved the line "If I wanted a Russian history lesson, I would have brought Chekov." Whatever other flaws exist, I think this episode, particularly because of the Enterprise scenes, the episode is throughly entertaining.


Matthew: Losira was pretty hot, and the actress imbued her with a mysterious, almost ethereal quality. She played the "I don't have that information" type of character very well. And do you know who the actress was? None other than Lee Meriwether, a former Miss America and the second of three 1960's Catwomen to appear in TOS (and also my personal favorite, both in terms of beauty and acting ability).

Holy heartbreak!

Kevin: She did a great job of looking sad, even as she was committed to acting. When she first appears and tells them to wait, it sounds like she knows that if they don't beam down, she won't have to kill.

Matthew: This episode was very Sulu-heavy and Scotty-heavy, and it benefits from this. Now, I'm not saying George Takei is a "Great Actor," but I just enjoy watching him. He's cool. Doohan is always fun, and gets a lot to do. The main triad actor who gets the juiciest stuff here is Nimoy. He fiddles with his calculator and has a sly sarcasm throughout the episode which is pleasing, though perhaps a tiny bit out of place.

Kevin: The abundance of secondary main and guest characters really made the episode. I enjoy the depth it gives the Enterprise to see it staffed top to bottom with competent crew.

Production Values

Matthew: Losira had some pretty wild make-up, and a wacky outfit. But you know what, it kind of worked. Lee Meriwether is definitely hot babe enough to pull it off (figuratively, alas).

Kevin: I think the same person who did the eye make-up for Losira did the make-up for Mara in Day of the Dove. Nothing says sexy like painting on eye shadow with a trowel.

Matthew: On the planet, I was relatively impressed by the sparkly rocks, the difficulty they had digging a grave with phasers, and the backdrop. We are introduced to a rumble stage, which actually moves the stage on hydraulics to simulate an earthquake. It looked a little silly, but I appreciate the effort. We got a lot of nice phaser effects, and Losira's disappearance effect was very sixties and mod.

Kevin: The disappearance effect was pretty neat. It had the virtue of being novel for the series, and it gave my eye somewhere to go during the transition, so any artifacts of the effect weren't as obvious. The earthquake effect did look a little hokey, but I think that could have been fixed by shaking the camera a little. 

Matthew: Engineering got a lot of screen time, with an auxiliary control room that had a lot of nifty computer gewgaws. The brand new crawlway set was very cool! There was also a great blue "electro" effect. Also, it appears Scotty is using some sort of Sonic Screwdriver.


Matthew: Had the "little things" not been there, this episode would probably be a 2 on the strength of the "big things." But in a show like Star Trek, you can get a long way by appealing to a nerd's sense of verisimilitude and propriety. This episode did that. It elevates to at least a 3, and I was toying with the idea of a 4. So much of this episode felt right. In the end, though, I have to say it's a 3, because it doesn't delve deeply into the ideas behind the story, nor does it really tell us anything new about our heroes. But it's a solid 3, and gets my kudos for "getting the little things right."

Kevin: I agree with the 3, for a total of 6, and for much the reasons you stated. If you can entertain me for the hour and make sure I don't really start finding plotholes until later, you've still, to some extent, done your job. The ingredients were there to make this a higher rated episode, but they didn't develop them enough to do so.

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