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Sci-Fi Saturday #10


Welcome to Sci-Fi Saturday, a column that is devoted to all things science fiction: film, television, comics, novels, video games, and local Metro Detroit events. If there is a topic you'd like to see covered in an upcoming column,

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This week I watched 4 episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series season 1, putting me at a little over halfway through the season overall. Since I've been writing these columns bi-weekly, I really *should* have enough time to binge more episodes, yet here we are. Anyway, this week's fare was a pretty mixed bag:

Episode 15, "Shore Leave," was - in a single word - bizarre. In serious need of some R&R, the Enterprise crew finds an uninhabited, Earth-like planet on which to have their titular "shore leave." Of course things quickly go awry when the members of the landing party start to see inexplicable story tale creatures and characters populating the supposedly unpopulated planet. Bones sees the White Rabbit, pursued by Alice. Sulu is chased by a mad samurai. Yeoman Barrows is attacked by Don Juan. Eventually it is revealed that the planet has powerful industrial equipment below ground level that can produce lifelike versions of anything you imagine (quite literally - it somehow picks up thoughts and makes them into realities). This episode has the distinction of introducing the most annoying Star Trek character so far - Finnegan, Captain Kirk's bully/rival from his days at the academy. For real, I hate this guy. Just look at this infinitely punchable face:

Also, having Kirk's adolescent bully portrayed as a turd whose only discernible qualities are tallness and annoyingness makes Kirk look like the kinda guy who gets beaten up by a tall, annoying turd. Not a good look, James. Overall, this episode needs 30% more Spock, 40% less misogyny (Kirk chastising Barrows when she's acting "hysterical"), and 1000000% less Finnegan. Seriously, fuck that guy. 4/10.

"The Galileo Seven" is marginally better than "Shore Leave," mainly because it features Spock at maximum IDGAF-itude. When a research shuttle is sent out to study a quasar, the Enterprise loses contact with them as their instruments are impacted by the quasar's radiation (or magnetic properties or some hand-wavey sciencey crap). Spock, Bones, Scotty, and four other crew members end up stranded on a planet with no fuel, no way of contacting the Enterprise, and very little hope of being rescued. The episode suffers a bit from some unnecessary obstacles - there is an annoying commissioner aboard the Enterprise that continually reminds Kirk that they cannot stay to search for the missing "Galileo Seven" as their other mission takes priority. There are also giant creatures on the planet where Spock & co. are stranded, providing another level of threat. The episode does have a great moment where, in total desperation, Spock decides to burn up all of the crew's remaining fuel as a form of flare, even though he knows there is little to no chance that anyone will see it and rescue them. Overall, though, the episode mainly annoyed me because everyone keeps talking about how to jettison enough weight from the shuttle to maintain orbit and NO ONE EVER MENTIONS GETTING RID OF THOSE POINTLESS CHAIRS. SERIOUSLY, JUST TOSS THE DAMN CHAIRS OUT GUYS. THEY AREN'T EVEN BEING USED. 6/10.

"The Squire of Gothos" introduces yet another annoyingly 'eccentric' character (although nowhere near as grating as Finnegan), this time in the form of a powerful alien named Trelane who is obsessed with warlike Earth cultures of the past (particularly Napoleon). Trelane treats Kirk and the Enterprise crew like playthings, trapping them on "Gothos" (his planet), and demanding that they take part in his "games." In the end it is revealed that, even though he appears to be an adult human male, Trelane is actually an alien child whose unruly behavior is curtailed by his parents (who appear to save Kirk in the nick of time). Although I wasn't a huge fan of the episode, I now better appreciate the references made in the "Where No Fan Has Gone Before" episode of Futurama (Season 4, Episode 11), so that's something. Among childish aliens, I have to admit I prefer Melllvar (with three Ls) to Trelane. 4/10.

The last episode I watched was "Arena" which is probably most famous for introducing the Gorn, a humanoid reptile race that spars with the Enterprise crew. While investigating the destruction of the Cestus III colony, the landing crew is attacked by a hostile, but invisible, force. When the alien force retreats to their ship, Kirk and company beam back up to the Enterprise and give chase, following the alien ship into uncharted space. Suddenly, both the Enterprise and the alien ship lose power - the aliens in this sector of space (called Metrons) are angered by the war these ships have brought to their proverbial doorstep. The Metrons beam Kirk and the leader of the alien ship (who is only ever called "Gorn") to an uninhabited planet to fight to the death. The loser's ship will be destroyed (killing everyone on board) and the winner's will be sent on its way. This is supposedly because the Metrons are a civilized people who don't believe in warfare...? Whatever, just go with it. The rest of the episode includes Kirk grappling with Gorn, being physically outmatched, somehow building a cannon that shoots diamonds (ok???), and then eventually refusing to kill Gorn, even though he has the opportunity to do so. At one point, it is revealed that the Cestus III colony was actually built on Gorn territory, so they were protecting their own land from invaders (and not the other way around, as the Enterprise crew initially believed). This is probably the most interesting philosophical question the episode poses, although I'll admit I'm mainly just a fan of it because the physically fighting between Kirk and Gorn is 15% ridiculous, 20% stilted, and 65% homoerotic.

"Hold me close and never let me go" - Kirk to Gorn, probably.

9/10 for the softcore gorn-ography, 7/10 for everything else.

[Where I share upcoming and ongoing SF-centric events in the Metro Detroit area]

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