Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Animated Series, Season 1: The Magicks of Megas-Tu

The Animated Series, Season 1
"The Magicks of Megas-Tu"
Airdate: October 27, 1973
9 of 22 produced
8 of 22 aired


Travelling through a dimensional portal at the center of the galaxy, the Enterprise find a universe where thoughts manifest themselves as if magic. They encounter a powerful race of beings who put humanity on trial for its past sins. Can Kirk convince them of how far humanity has come?
After only one week of wearing these orthopedic fur shorts, just look how ripped I've become! (Results not typical.)


Kevin: Quick disclaimer. I hate, I mean seriously hate any spelling of the word magic with a 'k.' Like fingernails on the chalkboard of my soul. Now that that's out of the way...

This episode is a mixed bag. On the one hand, some of the science fiction is less than stellar. I'm not sure how it may have sounded to a 70s audience, but the idea that there is a font of new matter in the center of the galaxy seems really implausible even for science fiction standards, especially since the current theory is that there is in fact a massive black hole in the center of the galaxy. I also have gotten a little over the whole "use of a massive scientific phenomenon to travel between dimensions" thing. It's a cheat.

On the other hand, there is a reuse, but an interesting one on the aliens judging humanity's progress. Like "Who Mourns for Adonais?," and "Plato's Stepchildren" among others, we have aliens visiting ancient Earth whose appears or powers forms the basis for religious iconography. What makes this one so interesting is use of an alien consciously meant to invoke the Devil. It's definitely the most aggressive attack on mainstream religious ideology the franchise has made to date. They're pretty much saying there is no devil, just the the advanced alien the narrow-minded among you choose to willfully misunderstand. We'll get a better and ultimately more satisfying exploration of putting humanity on trial with Q in TNG, but this certainly has some interesting meat on its bones. We'll also revisit the idea of thoughts shaping the universe in "Where No One Has Gone Before."

If nothing else, I really felt like the episode has a pacing problem. It's not that it moved slowly, it's that it moved too much without a sense of going anywhere in particular.

From a production side, I found Lucien a little too on the nose, both in terms of design and voice. Vocally, his bombast wore thin pretty quickly, and making him a satyr was just a bit much. I think it makes Asmodeus' reveal less impactful as you can't help but have already come to that conclusion. I have this problem elsewhere in TAS, but a lot of their attempts at chaotic space phenomenon come off the wrong way. It looks like colored pencils dragging across the screen, and it pulls me out of the moment.

Matthew: Your mentions of TOS plots are dead-on. I could not get those stories out of my mind while watching this show. We also do indeed get a preview of not only "Farpoint," but also "Where No One Has Gone Before" and "Devil's Due." I liked very much the notion of alien visitors having inspired fantastic mythological figures in Earth history. The whole idea of "magick," on the other hand, kind of repels me. They almost made it palatable by representing it as a science that was transferred from one dimension to another, but when Kirk and crew started using it, and it was used as an explanation of sorts for the galactic "matter fountain," I was just bugged, for the most part. Pains need to be taken to not tie such a magical idea to the Trek universe we know and love. "Where No One" succeeded in this respect. "Magicks" failed.

On the production side, I want to note some good voice work. Doohan was good as Lucien, Takei was good as the voice of the planet's population, and guest star Ed Bishop as Asmodeus especially warrants mention. It always helps the show to feel "real" when an outside voice is brought in. I agree on some of the art - Kirk fighting the disco rainbow wind was especially silly looking.


Kevin: In the end, this is between a 2 and a 3, and I am, sadly going with the 2. I think there is some great ideas under the other stuff, but in the balance, I had one too many "...the hell am I watching?" moments for me to put this in the fat part of the bell curve. The ideas are good, but TNG will give them a much better outing.

Matthew: Yup. Once Kirk started shooting rays out of his hands, this episode settled into 2 territory for me, never to escape. That gives us a 4 total.

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