Monday, June 7, 2010

The Original Series, Season 2: The Omega Glory

The Original Series, Season 2
"The Omega Glory"
Airdate: March 1, 1968
55 of 80 produced
52 of 80 released
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The Enterprise finds the USS Exeter in orbit of planet Omega IV. The crew, however, is gone. Only empty uniforms and a small amount of crystal residue remain. Beaming down to Omega IV to investigate, the crew finds only Exter's captain Ronald Tracey alive from the crew. He warns of a deadly disease which the Enterpise away team has now contracted the disease that killed the Exeter. However, Captain Tracey is harboring a much more dangerous secret.

I pledge allegiance to story credibility, and to the TV series for which it stands...


Kevin: There are two stories here, no two ways about it. There's the rogue captain gone bad, violating the Prime Directive story. Then there's yet another parallel-Earth story, one that goes spectacularly off the rails. Let's treat them one at a time.

Matthew: I couldn't agree more. The rogue captain story is great. It's got so much going for it. A planet-wide immortality effect (reprised in Star Trek: Insurrection). A rogue captain and the regulation requirements to take him down. A pretty well-fleshed out lesson in the Prime Directive. At its best, this story hits on the themes of TOS that I find most interesting. Who are the people who are placed n command of the fantastic machines and energies of this new, growing galactic civilization? Are they up to the task? Will they make the right calls, and are their philosophical and ethical acumens sufficient? Ron Tracey is a great character for asking these kinds of questions, and for 30 minutes or so, this episode crackles with the contrast of his energy and Kirk's.

Kevin: The first half of this episode is pretty good. The science fiction here is pretty strong. The disease that kills the Exeter crew is creepy and leaves a haunting tableau for the Enterprise to find. As Matt has discussed before, a theme of the entire run of TOS is the role captains play in shaping Starfleet and the Federation, so a Starfleet captain who goes off the deep end is particularly problematic. His motivation for so flagrantly violating the Prime Directive is both credible and really crazy. The discussion of what these people have in terms of longevity and what it cost them is certainly interesting, and also a recurring them in TOS, adding an interesting wrinkle to the parable of mutually assured destruction.

Matthew: Undercutting the very nice aspects of this part of the story is the somewhat problematic aspect of  Kirk violating the Prime Directive, admitting that they are from the stars. Spock's telepathic suggestion at the end was irritating as well, yet another Vulcan ability that serves the plot rather than credibility and coherence. 

Kevin: The second half of this episode was deeply, deeply annoying. The parallel Earth thing has been done before, and while it's never entirely convincing, it's really egregious here. We didn't just get a parallel culture, but a parallel historical development right down to the calligraphy on the Constitution. I can't even begin to say how unsatisfying and, frankly, unentertaining the preachy, jingoistic speechifying was.

Matthew: Yeah, this episode was on its way to being one of the greats, and instead it turns into a trope-tastic wreck. There were even ways that the "American" plot could have been saved. Maybe it really was Earth in an alternate dimension (a la "Mirror, Mirror")? Maybe they had received radio transmissions from our Earth before their war and it influenced their culture? The story even displays some "Planet of the Apes" features, with the savage survivors of an American-style culture. Who knows. While perhaps only a few of these attempts to explain the story would have been satisfying, even more unsatisfying is the fact that NO attempt was made to justify the parallel Earth we're given here. Added to the fact that the parallel Earth was essentially unnecessary, the last 20 minutes of this show are nothing less than disastrous.


Kevin: Everyone who spoke an actual language did really well here. Morgan Woodward makes a second appearance in TOS as Captain Ron Tracey, after another mentally unstable role as Simon Van Gelder in "Dagger of the Mind." He did a good job there, but a better one here. Up until the "burn the witch" speech at the end, he was by turns powerful and dominating then completely batshit crazy.

Matthew: Yeah, Morgan Woodward was great as Ron Tracey. I loved his turn in "Dagger of the Mind," too.  He makes a good case for violating the Prime Directive when he is under the impression that the planet eliminates disease, and  he goes convincingly cuckoo when he discovers that the "fountain of youth" is an impossibility.

Kevin: The main cast all turn in good performances. As always when facing one of their own who has broken the rules, Kirk portrays the conflicting emotions of duty and loyalty well.

Matthew: Agreed on Shatner's turn. Kirk and Tracey were perfect foils, when it comes to showing how a different captain can make all the difference. Special mention must go to Irene Kelly, the Yang wench with the smoking hot body in an extremely short skirt. Kind of reminiscent of the famous Raquel Welch "One Million Years B.C." outfit immortalized in poster form on thousands of teenage boys' walls.
And, because we can, here it is...


Kevin: Omega IV was an okay set. Nothing to detract from it, nothing to really recommend it, either. The one part of the production that I will heap a little praise on is the assignment patch for the Exeter. I found the bar of gold colored squares to be strongly reminiscent of heraldic symbols. Add a few Plantagenet lions and Valois fluer-de-lis and you could easily see Tracey conniving for control of a medeival city-state instead of the galaxy.

Matthew: I want to single out the good stunt work. All of the fights are clearly Shatner himself, sparring with the other principal actors. I didn't detect one stunt performer in the whole mix. This is noteworthy. There were pretty good costumes, too, both on the Yang and Kohm side, and I wonder what they were sourced from. Agreed on the Exeter insignia. It's always fun to see alternate insignia in TOS.


Kevin: The cautionary tale to both men of Kirk's age about the dangers of ambition and the folly of chasing eternal youth combined with the warning to our age about the folly of mutually assured destruction is, at parts, a very powerful and pitch perfect Star Trek story. The absurd and at this point hackneyed parallel Earth plot device drags down an otherwise great effort by all involved. This should get at least a 4, but instead, it gets a 3.

Matthew: Sigh. I'd be willing to say that this episode was heading for 5 territory. The production values were just fine, the performances were above average, and the first half of the story was exceptionally good in terms of idea content. But Kevin, you or I could have easily written a credible last 20 minutes to the story that would have been better than what we got. With a bit of editing and a re-write, the premise could have been one of the best in TOS. I'm going with a 2, because the gap between potential and execution is so great. That gives us a total of a 5.

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