Monthly Archives: October 2013

Muddy Waters

My Trek Through Trek – Part IV 

What we’re watching: Mudd’s Women Episode 6 of Season 1 TOS (October. 13, 1966)

My Rating Out of 5 Tribbles: 1 Tribble, which thinks that a miner’s kitchen is liberation.

My After Episode Thoughts: “Original Series sexism at it’s best with a space pedophile to boot.”

Pros: Wonderful cinematography, The Venus Drug.

Cons: Harry Mudd, The Space whores, soliloquizing for no reason, just about everything.

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The space whores!

Today my trek takes me to Mudd’s Women, the fourth produced TOS episode and, dear god, what a mess!

Star Trek is famous for its strides in feminism with the inclusion of women in places of power yet judging by this episode you would never know it. The plot concerns a space pimp and his three whores. I use the word whore because that is what these women are. They do not even resemble real women. Somehow these space whores don’t even seem to breathe and, what really grinds my gears, is that they walk the same halls with Uhura and the liberated women of the Federation. It is strange that Uhura appears in the cold open yet disappears from the bridge entirely for the rest of the episode. Are we to believe that she was not needed for the four or so days in which this story takes place? Has she been given an extended vacation because there are now other women on board? I think not. Perhaps, Stephen Kandel and Gene Roddenberry (the writers of this episode) were somehow embarrassed to have her on the same ship with these gross over sexualized caricatures. Perhaps, and more likely, they just plain forgot about her.

Blatant sexism aside there are plenty more faults in this one. The episode veers wildly from tragedy to comedy: one moment I’m (meant) to laugh at a humorous quip from McCoy and the next moment I am (meant) to feel the turmoil of three lost women who are used as a commodity in a transaction for Lithium crystals. Excuse me? One must first be presented humans to empathize with, not gratuitous ‘butt-shots’ with a semblance of emotions.

I am not sure what Shatner is doing with his performance in this episode. I am sure he didn’t even know. At a particularly tense moment of the story Kirk tears Scotty to bits over the Scotsmen’s need to present the facts about orbital time and how long the core has power. Two lines later Kirk inexplicably and easily apologizes. Why was this written into the episode?  Scotty is the ship’s engineer for pete’s sake! It is his job to look out for the ship and therefore the crew inside of it. The majority of Kirk’s motives in this episode are bipolar. One minute he is as cold as a Klingon prison moon and the next he is as warm as a supernova.

Sidebar… I have noticed when the writing becomes particularly bad, like the aforementioned Scotty dress down, Shatner’s iconic choppy melodramatic rhythm becomes prevalent. This must be how he muscles through the writing abortions that sometimes are present in the show. Shatner is not a terrible actor as so many believe, on the contrary, he is one of the very best. He knows how to make terrible writing interesting and bold. The dress down, though it makes no sense, is a piece of damn interesting interaction. Kudos, Shatner, you magnificent bastard!

Lest this post become a bitch fest, I’ll talk about the pros of the episode and there are some. While this episode may be a mess thematically it is shot fantastically. In the cold open there is a brilliant tracking shot that sinks from the science station to Sulu at helm. Magnificent. Worthy of the cinematography of Michael Ballhaus. There are some equally interesting shots throughout the halls and in the prison even though it is capturing an odd soliloquy where Harry expounds his dastardly plans to dupe the Captain. Not to mention this all happens within ear shot of two security guards.

Uh… Harry they can hear you. You may not wish to share your half baked plan in front of two guys that can walk over to the Captain and say “Sir, that space pirate dressed like a Quentin Crisp Australian cowboy fantasy is trying to con you.” 

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The space pimp!

Let’s look at this Harry Mudd. On paper he is interesting. A space pirate who is wanted for fraud who inexplicably gets caught in an asteroid field (wait a minute… Han Solo? Is this your fabulous alter ego?) Alas, interpreted by Roger C. Carmel, this space rogue becomes a jolly joke with a huge Santa Clause belt buckle that evokes more space pedophile then dangerous fraudster. He talks literally like a pirate. No kidding. Carmel borrowed the West Country dialect of Robert Newton to form Mudd’s annoying cadence. Someone should have seen that this episode is all too hokey.

Carmel is at least 50% to blame.

I should also note the fascinating Venus Drug. It’s a drug that makes you grow younger or appear younger or uh… act younger (this is confusing as different characters say different things about it.) The way the Venus Drug is used reminds me of the actual way pimps and sex traders use heroin and other drugs to placate their victims into staying in the trade. This is a marvelous observation about the sex trade and were this episode shot in 1996, instead of 66, something would have been made of it. Though they get close. One of the only enrapturing moments occurs when the women first go into withdrawal and realize the hold Mudd has over them. This is a startling moment and shows that this supposedly jolly Mudd is not all he is cracked up to be.

I could go on for pages about what is wrong with this episode. It is certainly bottom of the barrel. I wont. Instead I leave you with a summation that Paula M. Block presents in her and Terry J. Erdman’s massive reference book Star Trek: The Original Series 365 when she addresses the disgusting anti-feminist theme of “How to marry a millionaire” which is prevalent through out the original series:

“Take Eve, the most rational of the three women. After spending most of her life cleaning up after a bunch of unappreciative male siblings, all she wants is the opportunity to connect with a good man. Even after learning that she doesn’t need the Venus drug to appear desirable, Eve can’t foresee a future that doesn’t involve snaring a man. The thought of serving aboard a starship never occurs to her – except perhaps as the captain’s wife. So she consigns herself to life on barren Rigel XII, cleaning up for another unappreciative male (miner Ben Childress) and listening to the winds blow day and night.” (pp. 039, 126)

It is hard to believe that this is the same world that would later give us Captain Janeway.

<— To Part III

—> To Part IV

Bailey, Bones and Balok

 

Bailey, Bones and Balok.

Take a look of Part 3 of My Trek Through Trek!

 

Bailey, Bones and Balok

My Trek Through Trek – Part III

What we’re watching: The Corbomite Maneuver. Episode 11 of Season 1 TOS (Nov. 10, 1966)

My Rating Out of 5 Tribbles: 2 1/2 Tribbles who you think are cool when you first meet them, but turn out to be Clint Howard in a silver poncho.

My After Episode Thoughts: “Brilliant premise ruined by an acid fueled reference to the Wizard of Oz

Pros: Dr. Leonard Fing Bones McCoy is in the house! Kirk’s salad. Spock’s daddy issues. Nuclear Allegory.  Fine early character development.

Cons: Clint Howard. Ensign Bailey. Cheap, easy ending. Did I mention Clint Howard?

Kirk: Captains don't eat no salad. McCoy: They do if they want to fit into their velour.

Kirk: Captains don’t eat no salad.
McCoy: They do if they want to fit into their velour.

In the last Trek Through Trek, I wrote about how a gripping story can be cheapened by a hasty final act. The Corbomite Maneuver once again demonstrates this. If I were to look at this episode based souly on its strides in character development, it is easily a 5 Tribble episode. The iconic crew is finally in place: Sulu takes his seat at the helm, Uhura, in all her sexy revolutionary glory, sits at communications and most importantly, my favourite character of all Star Trek, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy makes his first of many excuses to be on the bridge and not in sickbay. I swear, he is the only doctor who seems to rarely want to practice medicine.

It is a misconception that the original Enterprise crew was held together by the relationship of Spock and Kirk. Some will even claim that it is the interaction of the ensemble that makes this show. I, however, believe it is the trio of Spock, Bones and Kirk that hold this crew together; Spock is coldly logical, Bones is pure empathy and Kirk is the instinctual arbiter. Bones is essential to the original Enterprise. Red blooded Humanity runs through him like green blooded logic streams through Spock. McCoy is the moral centre, always standing up for the little guy. Sometimes advocating so much for him that he allows his emotional nature to get in the way of the mission at hand. He is the connection we as a 20th/21st century audience have with 23rd century issues. His distrust of technology parallels our unease to the storm of technologic advance that we deal with everyday. It is only fitting a that a great Western character actor like DeForest Kelley brings him to life.  Spock is the brain, Bones is the heart and Kirk, well… he has to be the crotch.  The sex, as it were. If one examines each Star Trek crew, one can find this dynamic. Apply this triumvirate to TNG: Data is the brain, Picard the heart and Riker the sex. McCoy’s debut is not the only first in this episode. Just head on over to Memory Alpha if you want to see how many grounds are broken in these 50 minutes. The list is endless. Perhaps, it is all this establishment that hampers the main trajectory of the episode.

For the first three acts, Corbomite, has a lot going for it. It is a tale of first contact. The first of many such tales. It points out how fear of the unknown can severely derail future events and relationships. The episode solidifies the adage that first impressions are everything. When that poor greenhorn Ensign Bailey coaxes Kirk into firing phasers at Balok’s Fasarius ship, Kirk sets off a reaction that nearly turns the five year mission into a five minute jaunt.  Events like these have happened in our own history.  For example when Captain Cook first landed on the islands of Hawaii, something he did, left him dead in the sand. Magellan too. Countless explorers have by accident caused war without them knowing why. When the Zulu first saw the tall ship’s sails on the horizon, they mistook the white tapestry for clouds and thereby thought the pasty men, that landed on the their shores, arrived from the skies. This belief caused all sorts of repercussions for the history of Southern Africa.  It is not inconceivable that Balok would think that humans were attempting war when they destroyed his explorer buoy. This is a fascinating idea and it gives the episode real teeth. Until the end, of course.

What must it be like to be Ron Howard’s younger brother? How can one ever find a name for oneself if one’s older brother is such an extraordinary young child actor, writer and

This is how I feel about the fourth act.

This is how I feel about the fourth act.

oscar winning director? It must suck to be Clint Howard. His claim to fame, aside from Austin Powers innuendos, has always been his involvement in Star Trek. He has been involved in three different episodes that span the 60s, 90s and 2000s. Clint’s most iconic moment is probably his portrayal of Balok in this episode. However, I don’t think it is because of his stunning performance. Trekdom’s fascination with Clint is more likely the result the absurdity of his character. Balok is a child, alien, scientist with the voice of a muppet. He might as well have been a puppet like his alter ego. Better yet, if this puppet was the only incarnation we encounter, Balok would be far more fascinating.

Speaking of fascinating, this episode is the first moment when Spock uses this catchphrase.

I really dislike when a story is full of potential and suspense only for it to be undercut by some odd character choice. The whole episode goes to great lengths to set up a brilliant threat to the Enterprise, only to turn it was a master plan coined by an oddly overdubbed child. I understand that the creatives surely wanted to create a “nothing is what it seems” theme, yet, it turns the episode into a farce. This is a reoccurring problem with early Trek. The creatives don’t seem to trust their material. More likely, they don’t yet understand what they can do with Star Trek. Hell! This is only the third episode.

The Corbomite Maneuver has such a gorgeous message but only ends up being undercut by a cooky creature shot and a ‘hip’ sequence.

P.S. Am I to believe that Bailey became an Ambassador for all of humankind? One moment he was an green ensign and then only a few short hours later he is worthy of inter world diplomacy. What a cheap little ‘explain away ending.’ Thank the stars the show gets better!

—> To Part IV

How To Get Into Superhero Comic Books Fast!

Want to get into comics, but don’t know where to begin? R2D2 Cupcake has you covered. Read his wonderful piece about how he began his foray into the world of Superheroes and Heroines! Then follow our series Journey Through Marvel.

R2D2 Cupcake

I previously made a post about how I got into comic books. To sum it up, it was a very long, drawn out process, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With all these awesome movies coming out that are based on comics, it’s tempting to start reading them. It’s also very overwhelming when you find out that the world’s most favorite superheroes have an average of 600+ issues each. You really don’t have to start at volume 1 issue 1 to appreciate comic books. That’s why I’ve written a guide for how to stay current on your comics.

avengers

Step 1: Movie Night!
This is an easy way to get a back story on the superhero comics you want to read, and a good way to find out which superheroes you don’t want to read about. I would suggest watching Avengers first. If you’ve found an Avenger you…

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Step Your Game Up, DC/WB

With the release of the new X-Men film trailer, Marvel and Disney further show their comic film dominance. This article sums up their new strides.

I for one have always wondered why DC is so outmoded when it comes to film. I think this has something to do with the unnatural focus that the world has on Batman. I wonder if  also maybe  it’s DC’s focus on the legend of Superheroes vs. Marvel’s focus on the reality of Superheroes that has something to do with it. Anyway, read on, Extremis Fans.

thenerdsofcolor

In the last week, Marvel Studios released trailers for next year’s slate of superhero fare, and if these teasers are any indication, Warner Bros. is going to have some catching up to do — even if they did manage to shoehorn Batman into the Man of Steel sequel. Still, the only thing interesting about the Batman/Superman movie is that they filmed a football game between Metropolis and Gotham, this time withoutHines Ward. Meanwhile, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (via Disney) and the X-Universe (via Fox) are simultaneously laying down the gauntlet for dope movie trailers (we shall see if the actual movies live up to the promise of the previews).

But right now, all we have are the trailers, and they’re both pretty spectacular.

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New X-Men: Days of Future Past Trailer

Surely, you’ve seen this already… but the new trailer is out for X-Men and it looks great. However, there seems to be a lot of Wolverine and I am not sure how they tackle the loss of Cyclops (which was a huge misstep for X-Men 3.) It certainly looks entertaining any way. Sit back, grab a drink and Mutate!

Life In Plastic: TOY REVIEW: Thor & Kurse (Thor: The Dark World)

Check out this review of the new Thor: The Dark World toys. They look fun! And my wallet is already burning a hole in my pocket!

Nerditis

DarkWorld-Portcullis

Thor: The Dark World has sneaked up on me. Really, I totally forgot it was coming out! So hey, Thor fights Dark Elves – not D&D Drow, but things based a little more on the original Norse dark elves. That’s about all I know at the moment. Jane Foster may or may not be in danger. I know how it sounds, but I am looking forward to this movie… I just have no spoilers. Oh hey, the toys are already here! I wasn’t able to find the Dark Elf soldiers, and I only snagged one of the Thor variants and Kurse.

DarkWorld-KurseLookToTheSide

Kurse in the comics is an Asgardian trapped in a suit of armor, filled with rage and revenge fantasies against Thor.  He received his armor from The Beyonder, and is trapped in it – it also is garish yellow and gold, and pretty comic-booky.  Kurse in the movie?

DarkWorld-KursePackaged

“This…

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Going Where No Man Has Gone Before

My Trek Through Trek (Part II)

What we’re watching: Where No Man Has Gone Before– Second Pilot. Episode Three of Season 1 (1966)
My Rating out of 5 Tribbles: 3 1/2 Tribbles…… Who can read your mind. OOOOWEEOOOOWOOO!
A Snapshot of my after episode thoughts: “Kneel before Mitchell!”
Pros: Captain Kirk. A quirky villain. Great space sequence. Mysterious. Vulcan Spock. A great sense of humour.
Cons:  A slow and messy 4th act. Self important dialogue. Lack of motivation for Kirk’s revenge.
Every Trekker owes a debt to Lucy!

Every Trekker owes a debt to Lucy!

When I conceived of this journey through Star Trek I debated for a long time, 3 or four hours which is a long time for a guy like me, in what order I would tackle the episodes and movies. There are three different ways one can travel through Trek, canonically,  chronologically by broadcast date and chronologically by production date. Each order poses different problems. If I chose to view canonically, I would have to begin with Enterprise, which would mean I would jump into a fresh series for me as I didn’t watch it when it was on TV. I decided against this because I am not sure if I will like the show and therefore ultimately abandon my project before it has begun. The broadcast order poses its own problems as it confuses the development of the series. Following that order would make  this episode the fourth in succession. This position is incorrect as Where No Man Has Gone Before was intended as a second pilot. I ultimately decided to go ahead and view Trekdom in its production order. This order may not be optimal if I want guidance and illumination into the history of the Federation, but it does offer insight into how this world developed. It’s a far more interesting order for a young director in training like myself.  This will cause a problem when I enter The Next Generation when the episodes loose canon when watched in production order, but we’ll navigate that Nebulae when and if we cross it.

To understand the monumental importance of Where No Man Has Gone Before, one must first ask Lucille Ball. No kidding here. Fricken Wah Wah Lucy. Without Lucille Ball there would be no Star Trek past the Jeffrey Hunter sweater epic that is The Cage. The story is as follows: after the failure of The Cage, Gene Roddenberry continued to shop around his idea for a Sci-Fi epic. No one was buying, until Lucille Ball, a friend of young Gene, somehow saw the pilot and said in passing to the president of NBC that they should greenlight a second pilot and actually air it to get sample of an audience’s  reaction. This testing was not done with The Cage which wasn’t broadcast until 1988. Long story short, NBC did. Gene under NBC guidance overhauled the show, hired a young Canadian actor cutting his teeth on Sci-Fi on shows like The Twilight Zone to replace Jeffrey Hunter who had returned to his career as a matinee idol and the rest is history. Trekkers love Lucy indeed.

All right, boring nerd history aside, let’s talk about pilot deux.

Right at the top one can tell that this is a different beast then the terrible first pilot. It does not overwhelm with the pretension of Jeffrey Hunter and Martian Spock. Instead we are greeted with a comedic battle of wits between the colder more logical Spock and a charismatic Kirk. Snide jokes are being traded back and forth between two friends. Friendship is the core of this episode and indeed every good Star Trek episode hence forth.

From this point forward, the vision of the future is very different. It is cleaner, more sleek and spartan. This is reflected in the redesign or, perhaps, clean of up of the Enterprise set. As the episode progresses it becomes well understood that this is not a cluttered claustrophobic war vessel but a visionary bastion of human exploration.

You may recall, if you read the last entry, that I in my ineloquent manner, made a big storm of the inefficient women on the bridge. I put the blame in no small manner on psychedelic sexualization of every skirt. The women of this episode’s Enterprise are night and day (as far as can be under the moral lens of the 60s). Dr. Elizabeth Dehner is a woman of wry humour, with a constant upturned grin that seems to suggest that she is secure with her womanhood and her life. When Gary Mitchell throws some 60s style degradation at her, she easily makes mince meat of the crass helmsmen. However, you can still see the 60s female role peep through this episode though. When the Enterprise crosses the forcefield, a sleek and suspenseful sequence that evokes thoughts of ancient mariners falling over the edge of the Earth, the young blonde clad Yeoman raises her hand inexplicably to hold onto the strength of a male courageous limb.  Even the damsel in distress exists on the bridge of the Enterprise.

The bridge is populated by many other firsts. George Takei makes his first appearance as Sulu, but is curiously in charge of physics, Jimmy Doohan sits at the helm in his Pseudo-Scottish presence as Scotty and there is even an unnamed man of colour sitting there pushing buttons. Spock stands for the first time in his mainstay location just to camera right of the Captain’s chair. His performance bares more similarities to iconic Spock, yet at one point he yells in a very un-Spock-like manner. (Un-Nimoy-Spock-like, for Quinto is all over the place vocally.)  It is clear that Nimoy and perhaps Trek itself is still unclear as to the role that this character will play.

What the creatives of Star Trek are sure of is: the role discussion will play in this world. All the characters clearly parse out the issue of sudden powers in a human and this conflict

"You cannot kill me, so, let's discuss why."

“You cannot kill me, so, let’s discuss why.”

is not one centered on the destruction of a threat, but rather the ramifications of evolving before our time. Gary Mitchell is a human who is suddenly given the ability to grasp all the information that his brain can handle and then some. This occurrence demonstrates what may happen if humans were suddenly offered a surplus of information. Can we handle too much information? A timely question for us now that we have all the thoughts of human kind at the touch of our finger tips. It’s obvious Gary cannot handle this as his mind explodes in a myriad of godlike powers conveyed in some cheesy yet surprisingly effective effects sequences, most noticeably in  the really good and probably simple telekinetic sequences.

Where No Man Has Gone Before is not without its flaws. The final act is hampered by self important dialogue that seems to slow the conflict between Kirk, Mitchell and Dehner into a staring contest (at least we get great views of the expensive contact lenses). The final standoff plays as a thought experiment of the evils of an imperfect god, a debate upon the illogic of praying to deities that ask for obedience for no reason and are perhaps political allegories of deflection of human inadequacy on their creations.  A common anti-religious theme that pops up many times later, even in the feature films. This “climax” takes the teeth out of an otherwise fascinating episode, but manages to satisfyingly convey a timely criticism of human development.

Flaws in an unfocused climax aside, Where No Man Has Gone Before is a grand episode that makes it obvious why this show was able to greenlight a full first season. What can be said is the greatest element that adds to the future success of Star Trek, is the addition of William Shatner’s Kirk. Say what you will about the man but he is willing to go for it. Throwing himself convulsing when he wishes and essentially oozing charisma, where Jeffry Hunter oozed nothing but an eel like aura. Certainly Hunter would not throw himself to the floor in flailing turmoil. The Trek trek is on!

Spock_and_Kirk_(2265)

“I don’t get, green blooded humour.”

Is Batman an Altruist?

Take a look at this article about the altruistic nature of everybody’s favourite caped crusader.

http://www.quora.com/Batman-comics-movie-and-creative-franchise/Why-doesnt-Batman-just-kill-The-Joker#ans2873072

The Story of Batman’s Secret Creator

An interesting story. Told by an extraordinary man.

Ian Daniel Stewart

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