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Sci-Fi Saturday #15


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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I'm finally nearly done with Season 1 of ST:TOS and it feels good, man. This week I watched episodes 23 through 26, leaving me with two remaining episodes for the season (technically three, but I've seen "The City on the Edge of Forever"). My goal is to finish seasons 2 and 3 by May (50 episodes total, so about 3-4 episodes per week), and to spend the summer moving on to the films and other series in my downtime. So stay tuned for more reviews!

Episode 23: "A Taste of Armageddon"

In this episode, Kirk and a small crew from the Enterprise beam down to planet Eminiar VII, where they learn that the civilization there has been warring with another nearby planet for over 500 years. The crew is perplexed, as their readings show no damage to the planet, no evidence of radiation, and a highly advanced, technological, and resource-rich society. They soon discover that the "warring" is all theoretical, carried out by computer programs. The algorithm works out how many civilians in a given area were affected by any given attack, and then those people are ordered to disintegration chambers to 'fulfill their civic duty' of being casualties in the ongoing war. Kirk is shocked that any person would willingly go to their own death, and so decides to intervene by destroying the computer console that records attacks - this necessitates a choice: 'real' war and all of the messiness that comes with it, or a truce with the enemy. The episode ends with the Eminiarians agreeing to peace talks with their enemies, and the outlook is said to be 'hopeful'.

Serving up philosophical quandaries AND hot ~lewks~

I really enjoyed this episode, and particularly Kirk's speeches about how making war clean and efficient has caused the leaders of Eminiar VII to lose sight of how truly horrifying and pointless it is. The critique of citizens who willingly line up for their own immolation in order to maintain a culture of war-making is also pretty pointed. In an era of drone warfare and easy dismissals of violence happening 'elsewhere', episodes like this haven't lost their potency. If anything, "A Taste of Armageddon" is even more relevant now than it was in 1967 when it first aired. 9/10.

Episode 24: "This Side of Paradise"

As Fry would say, this is the episode where Spock "got high on spores and smacked Kirk around." And really, that's about the only part of the episode I found worthwhile. The overall plot is pretty standard: crew leaves ship to explore planet, finds funky shit that prevents them from going back to ship, ship may or may not be abandoned/destroyed, Kirk is somehow immune to funky shit or finds a loophole and then saves the day. In this case, the funky shit is a plant that emits spores - spores that, upon contact with a human, cause that human to not give a single hickory-smoked fuck about anything other than chillin' out, maxin', and relaxin' all cool. THEY MAKE SPOCK SMILE, FFS.

Bones is 1000% over your shit, bruh

Smiling Spock is a disturbing sight, to say the least. Anyway, Kirk figures out that the way to counteract the spores sedating effect is to just get, like, really pissed off. So he goes out, baits Spock into a fight (rude), and fixes things up right quick. Although watching Spock and Kirk duke it out is pretty fun, the rest of this episode (including the melodramatic subplot with Spock's lost love) is pretty forgettable. 6/10.

THIS MAKES ME UNCOMFORTABLE.

Episode 25: "The Devil in the Dark"

An overcooked pizza OR A STONE-COLD KILLER?!?!?

An unknown creature is killing miners at a pergium colony and the Enterprise crew are called in to help. Using a combination of Kirk's quick thinking and exploratory skills, Spock's Vulcan mind-melding abilities, and Bones' surly but effective doctoring, the crew discovers the source of the killings, the motive behind them, and leads the miners and the creature to an unexpected truce.

As it turns out, the mine is home to the Horta, a highly intelligent and evolved silica-based life form. The miners, without even realizing it, had been killing the Horta's eggs. She responded by attacking, only to protect her unborn children. When the miners and the Enterprise crew realize this, they help save the wounded Horta and broker a peace deal between the Horta (who are naturally burrowing creatures) and the miners (who can use those tunnels to more efficiently run the pergium mine).

I really loved this episode for a few reasons: firstly, none of the violence in the episode was truly malicious, but a product of misunderstanding and difficulties communicating between different life forms; secondly, Spock's mind meld with the Horta is a beautiful bit of acting from Nimoy; thirdly, the Horta is a genuinely interesting alien creature - the first of the series, in my opinion. I think this episode is particularly interesting from a Human-Animal Studies (HAS) perspective, because it acknowledges that inability to communicate between species doesn't indicate that non-human animals are lesser than - the Horta, in truth, is as evolved as the miners it works alongside. The end relationship between the Horta and miners is symbiotic, rather than parasitic, showing that harmony between people, animals, and environments is at least possible. 10/10.

Episode 26: "Errand of Mercy"

We've got Klingons! This is the first episode of the series that features Klingons, and I'm going to be honest with you - I think the Romulans are a more interesting foe. Although the Klingon governor, Kor (played by John Colicos), is well-acted and fairly menacing, the plotting of this episode seemed particularly slow, and the reveal - that the seemingly primitive Organians are truly super-advanced and powerful beings - was pretty obvious early on. Also, and I know times have changed, but man if Kor doesn't look like he's in some straight-up blackface/yellowface. Big yikes there. 6/10.

I promise, the make-up looks even worse on an HDTV

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