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Star Trek – For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky (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.

Well, at least it has a great title.

For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky is one of the great Star Trek titles, at once lyrical and pretension, poetic and absurd. It is a turn of phrase that nobody would ever use in conversation, but which so beautifully evokes the science-fiction concept that drives the episode. It is certainly a lot more memorable and compelling than the stock “The [noun]” naming convention employed all too readily in television production. (The Changeling, The EmpathThe SurvivorThe Battle, The Enemy, The Forsaken. And so on.)

Shockingly bad.

Shockingly bad.

Indeed, For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky seems to be the gold-standard of Star Trek naming. Earlier episodes like The Conscience of the King or Dagger of the Mind had quoted from Shakespeare, while Is There in Truth No Beauty? alluded to the work of Keats. However, it seemed like every subsequent Star Trek title would stand in the shadow of this third season instalment. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine would make a valiant effort with titles like … Nor the Battle to the Strong or Let He Who Is Without Sin…

Unfortunately, the title is very much best thing about For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky. Outside of that, the episode is a rather generic and conventional stew of old Star Trek standards thrown together with a bunch of half-hearted soap opera clichés. It is all rather hollow.

"I will love you forever. Or until the end of the episode. Whichever is sooner."

“I will love you forever. Or until the end of the episode. Whichever is sooner.”

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Star Trek – A Private Little War (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.

Star Trek is a pop culture relic of the sixties. It’s possible to see the decade reflected in just about every facet of the production. The show’s costume and set design speak to the decade, as do the series’ sexual politics. The Cold War colours a significant portion of the series, reflected in the Klingons and elsewhere. The Second World War is treated as the beginning of the future, while much emphasis is put on mankind’s expansion to the stars.

Even outside of these general parallels, there are episodes that speak to particular facets of the sixties. The Naked Time, This Side of Paradise and The Way to Eden all play with the idea of social liberation. The Ultimate Computer, Return of the Archons, The Apple and The Changeling all speak to concerns and insecurities about the rapid advance of technology and the people left behind. Journey to Babel touches on the gap felt between conservative parents and liberal children ready to embrace life’s possibilities.

Make war, not love...

Make war, not love…

And then there’s the Vietnam episodes. Shows like Errand of Mercy and A Taste of Armageddon reflect the conflict in a number of ways that were not possible in the scripted dramas of the time. However, A Private Little War is perhaps the definitive Vietnam episode. Part of this is due to the script and the production, which makes explicit reference to “the twentieth century brush wars on the Asian continent.” With the Klingons and the Federation meddling directly in the conflict on a small backwater planet, comparisons invite themselves.

However, there were factors at play outside the control of the production team. A Private Little War was produced in late 1967. It aired on February 2, 1968. However, North Vietnamese forces had launched the Tet Offensive only a few days earlier – the campaign would land through the end of March. The Tet Offensive would end with the North Vietnamese suffering heavier losses than the American or South Vietnamese forces, but the attacks would have a devastating affect on public opinion.

"Got your nose! And, soon, your planet!"

“Got your nose! And, soon, your planet!”

A Private Little War is placed terribly. It is a reluctant justification of the Vietnam War, presenting interference in a foreign war as a terrible (but necessary) burden weighing on Kirk’s conscience. The episode closes with Kirk committing to arm the natives, even if the show doesn’t have the courage of its conviction to follow the idea to its logical consequences. For all that Star Trek is described as a liberal and pacifistic vision of the future, A Private Little War endorses American interference in Vietnam.

The broadcast of A Private Little War only a couple of days following the turning point of the public perception of the war is an absolutely fascinating pop cultural synergy – a demonstration of how Star Trek was inevitably and inexorably of its time in a way that even a few months delay between filming and broadcast could change the context of the episode so dramatically.

I wouldn't look so happy with myself...

I wouldn’t look so happy with myself…

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Star Trek – Bread and Circuses (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.

Bread and Circuses is not subtle. Then again, that is the point.

There’s a lot of interesting stuff happening in Bread and Circuses, the fourteenth episode produced for the second season, but the last to air. There’s the idea of a world dominated by “a twentieth century Rome”, a rogue captain, a Prime Directive dilemma and a scathing indictment of modern television. Not only is it one of the last episodes with a “produced by Gene L. Coon” credit, it is also an episode co-written by Roddenberry and Coon. It is also the episode of Star Trek that endorses Christianity most explicitly and heavily.

"Wait, we're only getting it in black and white?"

“Wait, we’re only getting it in black and white?”

Bread and Circuses is a bold and audacious piece of television, full of venom and righteous anger, rich in satire and cynicism. It’s a plot so ridiculously over-stuffed with good ideas that viewers are liable to forgive the show’s somewhat cop-out ending where Kirk and his away team beam back to the Enterprise and continue on their merry way as though little has actually happened. Bread and Circuses feels like it uses every minute of its fifty-minute runtime wisely, balancing character with world-building.

It is probably a little bit too messy and disjointed to be labelled a dyed-in-the-wool classic, particularly when compared to the shows produced around it. Nevertheless, it is a decidedly ambitious piece of work, and one that demonstrates what Star Trek could do when it sets its mind to something.

When in Rome...

When in Rome…

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Star Trek – Friday’s Child (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.

Errand of Mercy was a highlight of the first season. A wry script from producer Gene L. Coon introduced the Klingons as an antagonist for the Federation. Made up to look like space!Mongols, the Klingon Empire was presented as an imperial force hell-bent on expanding its sphere of influence. In case the parallels were a little too subtle, they were locked in a Cold War with the Federation. As such, they were the perfect stand-ins for Communist aggressors trying to undermine American foreign policy.

Of course, Errand of Mercy was brutally cynical in its depiction of the Federation. The episode suggested quite heavily that the Federation was just as imperialist and adversarial as the Klingons. They might couch their foreign policy in friendly language and polite overtures, but their end goals are quite similar. Smaller political entities are nothing but pieces shuffled around a board in a deadly game of chess. Errand of Mercy was not flattering in its portrayal of Kirk, presenting him as little more than a warmonger.

"Damn dirty Klingon!"

“Damn dirty Klingon!”

Errand of Mercy was a massive success. It remains a fan favourite to this day. In some respects, that is due to the introduction of the Klingons, but it is also an exceptional hour of scripted science fiction. So it makes sense that the show would return to the Klingons when it was renewed for a second season. Friday’s Child was the third episode produced during the second season, and returns to quite a few themes hit on by Errand of Mercy. Those themes would recur.

Friday’s Child demonstrates the obvious risks of an episode like Errand of Mercy. It’s an episode that essentially takes the “Klingons as space!Communists” seriously.

We come in peace...

We come in peace…

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Star Trek – Metamorphosis (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.

Gene L. Coon’s last solo script for Star Trek, Metamorphosis is an intriguing episode that seems trapped between two extremes.

A love story operating within the unique confines of the Star Trek universe, it is nominally a story about how love can take just about any form. Here, it’s a story between a lonely old man and sentient cloud of sparkles. However, at the same time, Metamorphosis is aggressively and actively heteronormative – suggesting that while it may be acceptable for a man to fall in love with a non-corporeal entity, that alien has to be female.

All your Cochranes are belong to us...

That “in love” glow…

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Star Trek – Shadows on the Sun by Michael Jan Friedman (Review)

This August, to celebrate the upcoming release of Star Trek: Into Darkness on DVD and blu ray, we’re taking a look at the Star Trek movies featuring the original cast. Movie reviews are every Tuesday and Thursday.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the movies with tie-ins around (and related to) the films. We’ll be doing one of these every week day. This is one such article.

It almost feels like sacrilege to fill in the gap left at the end of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The film was such a perfect send-off that picking up a novel directly after the end credits role feels like it might undermine the perfect farewell story for the veteran crew. After all, director Nicholas Meyer suggested that the film was an attempt to capture the spirit of Fukuyama’s “end of history”, representing the “end of history” for the original crew.

Except, of course, it wasn’t the end. In terms of internal Star Trek chronology, episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation had picked up on the later adventures of Scotty and Spock. Star Trek: Voyager would flashback to a Sulu story unfolding concurrently with The Undiscovered Country. Scotty and Chekov would appear in Star Trek: Generations, which would also serve as a disappointing farewell to one James Tiberius Kirk. It seems bitterly appropriate (if far from fair) that Uhura should remain the only major player whose story actually ends with The
Undiscovered Country
.

Still, despite his passing of the torch appearance in Encounter at Farpoint, you could make an argument that The Undiscovered Country was the end of the line for Leonard McCoy more than Kirk or Spock. And, as such, Michael Jan Friedman’s Shadows on the Sun serves as an effective (if flawed) reflection on the way that McCoy’s presence sort of faded from the 24th century spin-offs. startrek-shadowsonthesun

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Star Trek – Leonard McCoy, Frontier Doctor by John Byrne (Review)

The August, to celebrate the upcoming release of Star Trek: Into Darkness on DVD and blu ray, we’re taking a look at the Star Trek movies featuring the original cast. Movie reviews are every Tuesday and Thursday.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the movies with tie-ins around (and related to) the films. We’ll be doing one of these every week day. This is one such article.

It’s fascinating how few stories take place around Star Trek: The Motion Picture. There’s a rake of tie-in material that exists to flesh-out the Enterprise’s five-year mission, and a large volume of material set during the period from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan straight through to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. However, the space around The Motion Picture has been somewhat overlooked by writers delving into the expanded world of Star Trek tie-in fiction.

To be fair, there are reasons for this. Although it was a box office success, looked stunning for the time, had a rake of big ideas and welcomed the crew to the screen, The Motion Picture isn’t generally considered to be one of the high points of the franchise. As such, it seems reasonable that it garners less attention, the affection shown by a few writers aside. There’s also the fact that The Motion Picture opens with the crew of the Enterprise broken up, scattered amongst the cosmos.

The Motion Picture sees Kirk putting the band back together after the universe seems to have forgotten about them, pulling them out of mothballs. Any story set in the lead-up to The Motion Picture would have to feature the ensemble all separated and going about their own thing. This limits the kind of stories that can be told in the setting, and makes it less appealing than other settings in Star Trek continuity.

John Byrne’s Leonard McCoy, Frontier Doctor gives us a glimpse of what a project set between the end of the Enterprise’s mission and the start of The Motion Picture might look like. It’s essentially a solo adventure series focusing on one member of the cast, and it’s absolutely fascinating.

These are the voyages of the Starship... Yorktown...

These are the voyages of the Starship… Yorktown…

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