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Star Trek – The Alternative Factor (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

Well, here we are. The Alternative Factor. We’ve had weak episodes before. I’ll concede that shows like Court Martial and The Menagerie, Part II wouldn’t rank among my favourites of the season. However, there was always just enough there to make them interesting, if not compelling. There were good ideas, clumsily executed. There was something value to be found in watching these episodes. The Alternative Factor lacks those sorts of redemptive values, and it’s the first time on this re-watch I have actually wondered where my fifty minutes went, and lamented the fact that watching The Alternative Factor inched me ever-closer to death.

The Alternative Factor is – I’d argue – the weakest episode of a remarkably strong first season of Star Trek. While some would consider it one of the worst episodes the show ever produced, I’m reluctant to commit to that sort of certainty. After all, we still have the third season to come, and I’m hesitant to rank The Alternative Factor as that much worse than The Turnabout Intruder or The Way to Eden or And the Children Shall Lead or Spock’s Brain. Yep, there’s a lot to look forward to if I ever get around to finishing the third season of the show.

Still, the fact that The Alternative Factor might possibly not be the worst thing to happen to Star Trek in its nearly fifty years of existence is damning with faint praise. But I’m sure the episode will take whatever it can get.

It hurts!

It hurts!

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Star Trek – Shore Leave (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

When I talk about the surreal sixties energy that really holds quite a bit of Star Trek together, it’s quite possible that it sounds like a back-handed compliment, a cheap and easy gig at a cult television show. However, I mean that sincerely. When I argue that the illogical and somewhat scattershot dynamism of the last act of Court Martial can barely hold the patchwork script together, it’s quite possible that I sound like I’m being sarcastic. However, my affection for the mad-cap mayhem particular to the first iteration of Star Trek is entirely genuine. Although it makes no sense, the climax to Court Martial isn’t the problem. Everything leading up to it is.

I think Shore Leave is pretty much the perfect iteration of this concept. It is, from start to finish, absolutely insane nonsense that threatens to fall apart if one concentrates too hard on any particular detail. However, it’s executed with enough energy and drive that it becomes a compelling and surreal piece of television, and one of the best illustrations of the kind of weirdness that the classic Star Trek could pull off almost effortlessly.

No bunny business...

No bunny business…

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Star Trek – What Are Little Girls Made Of? (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

What Are Little Girls Made Of? is the first episode from a script written by Robert Bloch, perhaps best known as the author of Psycho. Interestingly, it wasn’t the first script Bloch wrote for the show. Apparently Bloch contributed Catspaw first, when the show asked him for a Halloween special, even though it wouldn’t be produced until the series’ second year. And, to be fair, you can sense that What Are Little Girls Made Of? is a bit more comfortable with the Star Trek conventions than Bloch’s other two episodes. An uncredited re-write from Gene Roddenberry probably helped.

With Bloch’s third script, Wolf in the Fold, serving as a loose adaptation of (or spiritual successor to) his celebrated short story Yours Truly, Jack the RipperWhat Are Little Girls Made Of? stands out among Bloch’s contributions to the show. It’s an iconic episode, one that has undoubtedly influenced the way that we remember Star Trek, serving as the source for all manner of Star Trek memes like Kirk overwhelming a hot android with his sexual charisma, and defeating a less physically attractive robot with a logic puzzle. It features some of the most iconic costuming of the original Star Trek show, and also serves as the root of the whole “what constitutes life?” philosophical strand that would find itself embodied by Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

It helps that, like so much of this first season of Star Trek, it is just good pulpy fun.

A cold reception...

A cold reception…

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Star Trek – The Man Trap (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

It really is amazing how busy the Star Trek universe is. Or, well, how busy it was at one point. Although there are plenty of alien civilisations scattered across the vast gulf space, numerous empires vying for power and glory, the first season of Star Trek seems fixated on the notion that the universe is packed with the relics and ruins of long-dead civilisations. The Man Trap is just one example, as Kirk and his crew investigate an archaeological dig on the planet M-113, decorated with “the ruins of an ancient and long-dead civilisation.” Of course, the civilisation isn’t quite dead, but there’s a definite funereal atmosphere about The Man Trap.

That somewhat grim atmosphere makes the show’s fixation on long-dead worlds somewhat fascinating, given how the series is primarily about mankind’s optimistic future. However, it creates a sense – palpable throughout the first year of Star Trek – that the human race is a relatively new arrival on the scene, but emerging following the collapse and decay of countless ancient civilisations. It’s an old universe, but it’s a new dawn.

Suckers!

Suckers!

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Star Trek – The Enemy Within (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

One thing that I don’t think the original Star Trek gets nearly enough credit for is the quality of the writers that Gene Roddenberry recruited to contribute scripts. Television obviously operated under a different model at the time, but there’s an impressive selection of science-fiction literary giants who contributed scripts to the show. More than that, it’s impressive how many of those stories became truly iconic Star Trek stories.

The Enemy Within is the work of author Richard Matheson, best known for stories like I Am Legend or What Dreams May Come. It’s very much a high-concept science-fiction story, but it’s also notable because it establishes two of what would become the show’s favourite tropes: transporter accidents and evil duplicates. Indeed, the two devices would be reunited in the following season’s Mirror, Mirror. These narrative elements even featured in the last season of Star Trek: Enterprise to air, in episodes like Daedalus and In a Mirror, Darkly.

Perhaps it’s a demonstration of how important these outside writers were to the development of Star Trek as a franchise that Matheson would effectively codify two stock narrative devices that would still be in use four decades later.

Mirror, mirror...

Mirror, mirror…

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Star Trek – Crew by John Byrne (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

Majel Barrett Roddenberry was the first lady of the Star Trek franchise, in more ways than one. She was married to Gene Roddenberry and remained a part of the franchise after his death. She guest starred on the shows occasionally, continued to lend her voice to the computers and offered the occasional interview to the press. Although her actual influence on the television shows was relatively minimal (and she was occasionally prone to protesting various plot developments including the Dominion War on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), she did remain involved in Star Trek until she passed away in 2008.

However, she was also involved from the start. She had the recurring role of Christine Chapel throughout the original television show, and appeared in the unaired pilot, The Cage, as Christopher Pike’s first officer. Identified only as “Number One”, this almost made her the literal “first lady” of Star Trek. I’m surprised that Number One hasn’t been used more often as a character, with her appearances in tie-ins generally restricted to her time on board Pike’s Enterprise.

John Byrne’s miniseries might have the title Crew, and feature supporting roles for Christopher Pike and Mister Spock, but it is very much the story of Number One. Published a year after her death, and dedicated to her memory, Crew feels like a fitting farewell to the actress responsible for one of the franchise’s earliest and most intriguing supporting characters.

Fate protects fools, little children... and ships named Enterprise.

Fate protects fools, little children… and ships named Enterprise.

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Watch! New Star Trek: Into Darkness Trailer!

I’m pretty excited for the upcoming Star Trek: Into Darkness, especially since it’s now releasing a week earlier in the UK and Ireland. Anyway, there’s a new trailer released, which continues the trend of telling us absolutely nothing about the film while teasing the sense of fun and character dynamics that we all know and love. Check out the trailer below.