Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Animated Series Season 2: How Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth

The Animated Series, Season 2
"How Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth"
Airdate: October 5, 1974
21 of 22 produced
21 of 22 released


"Captain's Log, Stardate 6063.4. The Enterprise is tracing the origin of a mysterious alien space probe. It approached the Federation home worlds, made a scan of Earth's system and signaled outward into space. Before it could be intercepted, the probe self-destructed. We are following a trail of disrupted matter left by the probe's highly advanced propulsion system. Thus far the trail has not intercepted any inhabited star systems." On this tracking mission, the Enterprise is eventually confronted by a vast starship which projects the image of a lizard god, Kukulkan. This god imprisons the Enterprise in an energy bubble and abducts several crew members, demanding their worship.

Ensign Token Bear, please dispense information on all Native cultures!


Matthew: This is a very derivative story, there are no two ways about it. It fits in the class of "ancient astronaut" tales that were inspired by the Erich Von Daniken. Like "Plato's Stepchildren" and "Who Mourns for Adonais," we have ancient cultures visited by aliens, except this time, Kukulkan visited EVERY ancient culture! Wow! That's... lame. Earth must be the single most-visited world in the history of anywhere. Unlike the aforementioned episodes, we don't really get a ton of human drama or character development, nor do we get a particularly interesting portrayal of the ancient visitor itself.

Kukulkan's only motivation seems to be a desire to be worshipped - unless it turns out to be a desire to keep an interstelllar zoo - or perhaps it is a desire to see someone figure out his Indiana Jones-esque light puzzle (how anyone didn't figure it out is another matter).... are you catching my drift here? Kukulkan's motivations are never quite clear, which makes it rather difficult to give a rat's patootie.

Although having a native American character is a nice addition, Ensign Walking Bear feels a bit forced as an addition, especially because he happens to show up on the one episode in which knowledge of Native American cultures becomes necessary. At least he wasn't called on to expound on his own culture (which would be an even more unbelievable coincidence), and is given the credit of having researched a broader field.

In the end, I wasn't particularly entertained. The story felt tired and strained credulity in several ways. It wasn't an utter disaster, but I'd have to call it a "low" 2.

Kevin: This is definitely the nadir of the "ancient visitor" story. At its best, like TNG's "The Chase," we get an interesting and complicated addition to human history. At its most entertaining, like the above mentioned "Stepchildren" and "Adonais," we get an interesting meditation on how the powers of a god affect the minds of those who wield them. Here, it's just a confusing pastiche of images, both of Earth culture iconography and the animals in his "zoo." At several points, the fast cutting shots gave me the same nauseous feeling I got during "The Blair Witch Project."

Overall, I didn't really care about the characters or the conflict in the episode, and the visuals were surprisingly unpleasant. Still, there's a kernel of a well-used Star Trek idea, so I can't quite give this a one. This is a 2 from me, for a total of four, a sad entry here in the homestretch of the series.


  1. What's with the Times Roman? Ick!

    And somehow I just realized that there was a second season of the Animated Series. For some reason I thought it was just one season!

  2. There, all taken care of. Something weird happened to the formatting. We'll have to run a Level 3 diagnostic.

  3. Or reverse the polarity. That solves everything.