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Star Trek – Is There in Truth No Beauty? (Review)

This July and August, we’re celebrating the release of Star Trek Beyond by taking a look back at the third season of the original Star Trek. Check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the latest update.

The third season of Star Trek is very odd. It stands quite apart from the previous two seasons.

There are a lot of reasons for this; a new executive producer, the loss of veterans from the first two seasons, production limitations imposed by a slashed budget. Star Trek was never a lavish show, and it always faced production challenges, but those challenges were never more acute than during the third season. In a lot of cases, that oddness is not a good thing. And the Children Shall Lead and Spock’s Brain are very strange pieces of television, but not in a good way. They are clumsy, cheap, ill-judged and ill-advised.

Healthy green glow.

Healthy green glow.

At the same time, that strange vibe of the third season is not inherently bad. There are a number of episodes produced during the third season (particularly during this stretch of the third season) that feel weird and odd, but also refreshing and exciting. Episodes like Is There in Truth No Beauty?, The Empath and The Tholian Web have an eccentric and ethereal quality to them that feels quite removed from the first two seasons of the show. They are also three of the strongest episodes of the season, feeling adventurous and playful.

After all, for all that the third season is maligned, it is surprisingly influential. The third season of Star Trek contributes a great deal to the language and iconography of the franchise, perhaps as a result of the unusual constraints and production realities that inform it. Is There in Truth No Beauty? is an odd little tale, but it is also a clever and effective metaphor that explores grand ideas in the classic Star Trek tradition.

Jonesing for for some Diane Muldaur.

Jonesing for for some Diane Muldaur.

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Star Trek – The Immunity Syndrome (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

The Immunity Syndrome is an underrated masterpiece, the first genuine classic overseen by producer John Meredyth Lucas.

It is bold, brilliant and more than a little bit weird. This is Star Trek as pure sixties science-fiction. It is a psychedelic ecological tale focused on mankind’s place in the larger universe. It doesn’t just pit the Enterprise against a giant space amoeba, it suggests that the universe itself is a singular gigantic organism, a complex system in which the Enterprise is just one part. The Immunity Syndrome is weird and wonderful, eerie and beautiful in equal measure. It is one of Star Trek‘s most effective encapsulations of the sixties.

Freak out!

Freak out!

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Star Trek – Catspaw (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

Catspaw was the first episode to enter production for that second season of Star Trek. However, it was not the first to air. Amok Time served as the season opener. Instead, Catspaw was produced as something of a rarity – a Star Trek holiday special. Produced in May, it was eventually broadcast during the last week of October. Given the subject matter and trappings of the episode, that seems highly appropriate.

We are, after all, looking at what amounts to a Star Trek Halloween Special.

Bones joins the cast...

Bones joins the cast…

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Realm of Kings (Review/Retrospective)

This is the fifteenth in a series of comic book reviews that will look at the direction of Marvel’s shared universe (particularly their “Avengers” franchise) over the past five or so years, as they’ve been attempting to position the property at the heart of their fictional universe. With The Avengers planned for a cinematic release in 2012, I thought I’d bring myself up to speed by taking a look at Marvel’s tangled web of continuity.

Realm of Kings is a strange little chapter in the cosmic saga that Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have been drafting. It seems to exist not really as a story in its own terms (although it does contain some interesting narratives) but rather as a bridge between War of Kings and The Thanos Imperative. It’s essentially the story of an attempt to find stability in a radically warped universe, one turned upside down by recent events. It feels somewhat smaller in scope than the other events that the pair have produced, not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, it’s nice to see a series exploring the consequences and aftermath of what has occurred, rather than simply pushing on right into the next big thing. While Realm of Kings does focus on “the Fault” opened at the climax of War of Kings that will become a galactic threat in The Thanos Imperative, the three miniseries are at their best when they explore the consequences of the political instability that the intergalactic war has produced.

That's gonna be Thor tomorrow...

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