Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Original Series, Season 3: For The World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky

Airdate: November 8, 1968
66 of 80 produced
63 of 80 released


When the Enterprise is suddenly and deliberately attacked by space-borne missiles, our intrepid crew discovers a bizarre world-ship hurtling through space. Its backward inhabitants have no idea that they are on such a vessel. Will the Enterprise crew be able to save the planet the ship is hurtling towards, while maintaining the fiction for the natives that they are on a planet of their own?

And will they score some of those swank Yonadan bathrobes?


Matthew: Any story that centers around a civilization encased in an asteroid spaceship has sci-fi credentials. The question becomes, how well is it developed? We end up getting sort of a hodge-podge of previous TOS plotlines, such as the society-controlling computer with its correspondingly regressed society, and the asteroid collision course with an inhabited world (though we're on the other side of the equation here).

Kevin: I have to say that of all the computer-controlled regressed societies we've encountered, I find this to be a more credible one than most. How long would a generational ship remember where they were from and why they were there? How long before even records like video would take on the aura of a distant legend? Couple that with the necessary restrictions a society would need to ensure it survived long enough to find a new home and be a viable society when it gets there, and this world doesn't seem that far-fetched.

Matthew: An extra wrinkle is thrown in with a pseudo-B-story, McCoy's bout with Xenopolycythemia. How believable is this, really? He really has this fatal, but somehow non-communicable, disease, which is only diagnosed at a terminal phase? In my view, this distracts from the hard sci-fi potential of the A story, and sets up some incredible and possibly creepy character situations. Natira's instant affection for McCoy, for instance,  kind of creepy. I had a girlfriend like that once... it ended badly. McCoy's decisions are too abrupt, as well, both to stay on the asteroid and then to leave. Would he really make decisions like that on a snap basis? One would think he was pretty distraught, if so. But where are the scenes of McCoy's distress?

Kevin: The problem is that this plot deserves its own show, or at least it needs to be the A-story, not the B. McCoy clearly has the acting chops to hold that story for an hour, and it's sad we didn't get to see him really flesh it out. I suppose I could see McCoy grasping at the relationship as a bright spot in his dark prognosis that would end when he was cured, but even that idea doesn't get developed well here.

Matthew: In the end, I think having this many balls going at once leads to none of the plotlines being resolved in a particularly satisfying way. Spock has to be able to read Fabrini, a language dead for thousands of years, in order to move the plot along. McCoy gets cured by stored Fabrini wisdom, almost as an afterthought, and suddenly changes his mind about staying. 

Kevin: I agree, and it's really a shame. Like I said, this is one of the few times the regressed society had a wholly logical basis for what has happened to it, and we managed to avoid Kirk using logic to destroy a computer or casually up-end a civilization and leaving them high and dry. With a tighter hand on the reins, this could have been a really stellar episode.


Matthew: Katherine Woodville as Natira was both pretty hot and pretty well-realized as a performance. She projected a regalness, but also a naiveté that fit her people. She had an interesting accent that did not sound fake, which is an accomplishment. I also really liked the (unfortunately) brief performance of Jon Lormer as the village elder. He is a veteran of "Return of the Archons" and "The Cage." His wizened old man was curiously affecting. When he winced, I did too.

Kevin: Setting aside issues of how quickly it happened, Natira's affection for McCoy seemed genuine. I also really liked watching her begin to question the Oracle. She acted it well and really helped keep the story from veering into the traditional territory of Kirk forcing them into changing. It made the resolution a little more organic.

Matthew: Kelly does his best with the McCoy role, selling McCoy's choices as well as he can, but he's not given enough lines to chew on. The part was just underdeveloped. Shatner and Nimoy turn in their usual workmanlike consistency.

Production Values

Matthew: I was impressed by the original special effect on the Yonadan missiles. For the day, it was a complex visual. While most of Yonada looked pretty generic, the oracle room was very cool with lots of moving parts. Natira's chambers also stood out as a real-looking "place," though I wonder if some of it was a re-use from "Plato's Stepchildren." Also, the Yonadan computer looks suspiciously like several engineering consoles.

Kevin: I agree on the missiles. I imagine that they just copied one missile several times, but the effect was pretty well done, even granting that. A little fun factoid: the book in the Oracle room is the same prop used for "Chicago Mobs of the Twenties" from "A Piece of the Action."

Matthew: Clothing-wise, we get some FUNKY outfits on the natives, especially the hats on military personnel. The Yonadans are bedecked in some wild, garish colors, not all of which work. Natira's wardrobe was pretty decent, with a very drapey ancient Greek look.

Kevin: I've spent a great deal of time trying to determine what those hats were, or what they must have been made out of. I can't do it. I can't even come up with a snarky description. They defy even my powers of metaphor.


Matthew: This one is smack in the fat part of the bell curve. It's got a decent if a tad recycled storyline, some pretty good sets and effects, and some pretty good acting. It is held back, however, by some muddy character motivations and actions that don't ring true. So It gets a 3 from me.

Kevin: I agree, this is a solid 3. I think it is one of the better trotting outs of the regressed, computer-run societies. Trying to do too much at once keeps this episode from the 4 or the 5. That makes for a total of 6.