Category Archives: Star Trek

Also known as TOS (for The Original Series)

“The Enterprise Incident”

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“Whoa. Is this Tranya? Because I am relishing the hell out of it.”

Kirk apparently goes all rogue and takes the Enterprise into Romulan territory without authorization. The Enterprise is quickly surrounded by Romulan ships that have Klingon design and sport new and improved cloaking devices that render ships invisible and (for the first time) hidden from tracking sensors. Kirk and Spock beam over to one of the Romulan ships to face the music and Spock reveals that Kirk has gone nuts and then apparently kills Kirk in a struggle. But it’s all a ploy to get a cloaking device and neutralize the new Romulan threat, and Kirk (alive and well) poses as a Romulan and steals the cloaking device while Spock distracts the Romulan commander (Joanne Linville) by (ahem) throwing her a few curves. The Enterprise barely escapes after Scotty incorporates the cloak on the Enterprise. With the cloaking device in hand, the Federation will be able to negate any new advantage and keep the status quo between the two superpowers.

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“Spock, I just realized that other Romulan commander looked JUST like your dad.”

Why it’s important

It’s the first time since “Balance of Terror” where the Romulans are more than baddies taking potshots at the Enterprise (or, if you prefer, more than Voyager-style aliens of the week). We learn a lot more about the Romulans and how they’re like and unlike Vulcans. The dialog between Kirk and the Romulan commander is important in explaining the relationship between the two enemies and how the galaxy works in the 23rd century. We learn about steps that could and would be taken after territorial incursions — and just how tense the situation is.

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Today is a good day … to use our new Klingon ship models and not really explain how the Romulans got them.

What doesn’t hold up

Well, the conceit that Romulans use Klingon design for their vessels is pretty rich. It’s so hurriedly explained that it clearly wasn’t anything the creators wanted to get into — while the fact that the Bird of Prey first seen in “Balance of Terror” had no warp capabilities (and apparently a very small crew) could have something to do with the choice. Or the creators just really liked the new Klingon design, which was first seen in “Elaan of Troyius” and is pretty badass. There’s also a theory that the Bird of Prey model was lost or damaged, and the Klingon model reused for budgetary reasons. It’s actually kind of funny, because this episode was produced after but originally aired before “Elaan of Troyius,” meaning that the ship first debuted as a Romulan vessel, even though it was first built and filmed as a Klingon vessel.

As good as “The Enterprise Incident” is, one wonders if the Romulans wouldn’t be gearing for war after the events here. Granted, the Federation obtained knowledge of the new cloaking device, negating a tactical advantage. But the Enterprise clearly violated treaty — committing an act of war — and Kirk’s presence on the bridge at the end of the episode should have been enough evidence that Kirk didn’t go nuts/rogue. It would have called everything Spock said to push forward that con into question.

Is the thinking that the Romulans were ashamed that they’d been out-Romulanned, so they tipped their hats and walked away? Or is this just the first example of season three’s anything-goes approach — like the time Spock removes several days worth of memories to prevent Jimbo from having a sad, or the time Spock has brain surgery twice in a few days without any obvious impact on his hair?

Final thoughts

This is one of my favorite episodes of TOS, even acknowledging the logical gaffes. The scenes with Spock and the Romulan commander are, well, fascinating. The writing is taut and the look inside the Romulan ship is, mostly, well done — even if it’s obvious that the corridors from the Enterprise were reused with different lighting.

Apparently, the Romulans started using Klingon ship design because the two powers forged some sort of a pact, perhaps an alliance. It’s never mentioned explicitly, but the sharing of any technology is odd, given how much the Klingons and Romulans are shown to hate each other in TNG and DS9. Like other episodes, it opens a can of worms on when, exactly, the Romulans and the Klingons started hating each other and when the Klingons and Federation became allies. More on the weird love triangle between the Federation, Romulans and Klingons when we review TNG’s “Heart of Glory” and “The Neutral Zone” in a few months.

“The Enterprise Incident” also stands out because of all the really bad episodes that follow it in TOS’ infamous third season. And while Sulu, Chekov and Uhura are restricted to procedural scenes on the bridge, this episode is one of Trek’s better ensemble pieces. It’s worth noting that there really aren’t that many episodes where all seven of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Sulu, Uhura and Chekov appear — partly because Chekov doesn’t show up at all the in the first season and probably also due to budget reasons.

The creators made an interesting choice in the remastered version of this episode, making one of the three ships that surround the Enterprise a Bird of Prey from “Balance of Terror”, replacing a third Romulan/Klingon cruiser (as you can see in the photo above). It’s a nod to continuity and almost a wink to the idea that the creators in the ’60s used the Klingon ship model (which is much cooler looking than the Bird of Prey) here.

“Journey to Babel”

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The United Federation of Planets, in a nutshell, circa 2267. Not sure why the Klingons or Romulans were worried.

The Enterprise transports a group of dignitaries to a conference regarding Coridan’s admission to the Federation. We meet the Vulcan representative Sarek, Spock’s father (Mark Lenard) who travels with his human wife and Spock’s mother, Amanda (Jane Wyatt). Spock’s relationship with Sarek and Amanda is strained, an important point when it’s learned that Sarek needs a blood transfusion from Spock to live, as he’s been hiding a heart condition. Meanwhile, a Tellarite dignitary is found dead and Kirk is stabbed by what appears to be an Andorian (really, an Orion agent cosmetically altered). With Kirk in sickbay, Spock refuses to yield command and commence with the transfusion, so a wounded Kirk heads to the bridge to relieve Spock, hoping to fool him into undergoing the procedure. Spock leaves and McCoy begins the operation, while a weakened Kirk must command the Enterprise through a battle with unidentified aliens (who turn out to be Orions with mining interests on Coridan). Kirk’s tactical genius saves the day once again, and McCoy completes the operation, saving Spock and Sarek.

No idea.
The Lollipop Guild was a Federation member, apparently. Also, is that a space bong?

Why it’s important

Well, with a summary like that, you can see where there was a lot of plot and a lot of foundation. We’re introduced to the Tellarites and the Andorians — who, as a result, are later shown to be early members of the Federation — the Orions (beyond the slave girl stuff in “The Cage”) and, of course Spock’s parents. D.C. Fontana’s scripts were often written with continuity in mind as she commonly brought back an earlier enemy and fleshed them out (“Friday’s Child” and “The Enterprise Incident”). The Tellarites’ argumentative tendencies and the Andorians’ warrior traits are first shown here, too, and define both species in “Star Trek: Enterprise.” That relies on the somewhat hoary sci-fi crutch that all members of a race pretty much act the same (not to mention that they look the same and dress the same). But this is one of only three times Andorians appear in TOS and one of two times Tellarites do — and it’s the only episode where they’re not just sort of personality-less background dudes or henchmen.

Meanwhile, Spock’s estrangement from his family is established here. It’s (ahem) a fascinating bit of backstory for one of Star Trek’s cornerstone characters, even though it’s not Earth-shattering (galaxy-shattering, Vulcan-shattering?) in what it means to the rest of the franchise. In other words, Spock’s backstory wouldn’t have, say, changed Federation history or anything. But it is good stuff.

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“Oh, come on, Bones. That female Tellarite was HOT.” “Might be time for a stop at Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet, Jim.”

What doesn’t hold up

Not a lot of issues here. The Tellarite mask is pretty terrible, but whatevs. It is interesting that Spock won’t yield command when lower officers have been left in charge before (e.g. Sulu in “Errand of Mercy” or Scotty in like half of the third season). But that can mostly be explained by Spock’s sense of duty/logic with his pops around. Oh, and I wonder if Spock ever mentioned to Sarek that his identical twin happened to be a Romulan commander? Eh, it’s not their way, I guess.

Now, there was that scene way back in “The Corbomite Maneuver” that made it sound like Spock’s parents (or, at least Amanda) were long-since dead. She WAS a very happy Earth woman, remember? Interestingly enough, the same thing happens with Sisko’s father in DS9. And, of course, there’s that line in “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” where Spock says one of his ancestors was human. I suppose an ancestor could be his mother, but that seems like a stretch.

Final thoughts

This episode really is the only time in TOS when the Federation appears (with visual evidence) to be much more than humans and Vulcans, so it’s extremely important. There’s some dumb-looking background aliens who could have been straight out of “Buck Rogers,” but it’s cool that the Andorians, Tellarites, Coridanites (not seen here) and Orions (not really seen here, either) all pop up later.

This episode isn’t the first time the United Federation of Planets is mentioned. The first reference was in “A Taste of Armageddon,” after a smattering of terms like the United Earth Space Probe Agency, “Space Central” or just mentions of Earth for much of season one.  But “Journey to Babel” is the first time we see the intergalactic community that’s taken shape with humans at or near the center of it. We’ll learn in “Star Trek: Enterprise” just how pivotal Earth was in the founding of the Federation.

“Bread and Circuses”

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“Hodgkins Law of what? You never mentioned any blessed such thing on all the other Earth-like planets we’ve visited, Jim!”

The Enterprise finds the remains of the S.S. Beagle, lost for six years, and tracks it to a planet that, based on broadcasts, is “20th-century Rome.” Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down (natch) to look for survivors and are captured by a group of runaway slaves who (apparently) worship the sun. Working around the Prime Directive, which he cares about in the second season, Kirk gets the slaves to take the Big Three to the capitol. Shortly thereafter, the group is taken prisoner, and learns that the Beagle’s Captain Merrick (William Smithers) has violated the Prime Directive in order to survive, even telling the Roman Procounsel Marcus (Logan Ramsey) about the Federation. Kirk refuses to beam down the Enterprise crew to engage in coliseum-style battles and (after — hehe — being thrown a few curves) faces execution. He manages to escape thanks to some unbelievably timely assistance from Scotty on the ship and then frees Spock and McCoy. As the Romans close in on the trio, Merrick — who had been emasculated by the procounsel for much of the episode — tosses a communicator to Kirk allowing the trio to beam out. During the typical postgame wrap-up on the ship, Uhura tells Kirk that the slaves were actually worshiping the son of God, based on broadcasts she’s been monitoring. Kirk expresses wonderment that the planet is about to find Christ in the 20th century … and sets course for the next mission.

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“I’ll just tell Spock and Bones that ‘they threw me a few curves.’ That’ll be funnier and less creepy than saying I banged the procounsel’s slave girl.”

Why it’s important

This is the first episode that really explains the Prime Directive, which is first mentioned, and then promptly ignored by Jimbo, in “Return of the Archons”. It’s also another example of the goofy parallel-Earth trope that TOS made us sit through three to four times a season (clearly, to save money). Also mentioned here is Hodgkins Law of Parallel Planetary Development as a quick (and actually pretty weak) way of justifying why so many planets are Earth-like. More on that in a moment.

Aside from the Prime Directive exploration, it’s probably important to review an episode like “Bread and Circuses” on this site, as finding Earth-like planets was such a big part of TOS. This episode is the one that best explains why such planets keep popping up, which is to say, it provided any explanation at all.

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“Doctor McCoy, do you have any idea when we’ll visit parallel Vulcans?”

Why doesn’t hold up

TOS was just all over the place as far as the Prime Directive. At times — like in this episode — it’s something that Kirk says can’t be bent at all, even if it means his life and his crew are forfeit. At others, Kirk breaks it if his ship or crew is in danger, if he thinks it’s the right thing to do or if he just thinks chicks really dig outlaws. In this episode, as he Spock and McCoy are facing certain death, he refuses to break the order.

I actually don’t take issue with Kirk breaking the Prime Directive in some instances, as doing so is in keeping with his character. But it’s just ridiculous when he goes all Joe Friday about enforcing it in episodes like this. I know that TOS was written with less regard for continuity and that complaining about Prime Directive violations is odd in a series with episodes about brain theft, space hippies and crewmen evolving into lizards after going warp 10 (wait, that last one was Voyager). But still.

It’s also odd that the Prime Directive, in TOS, seems mostly about not interfering with primitive societies. In TNG and DS9, it’s apparently been expanded to keep Starfleet from messing with internal affairs of warp-capable societies, like the Klingons during their civil war. It’s not that hard to believe that the Prime Directive would have been expanded — and, certainly, staying out of sovereign affairs of other species is a pretty good idea. But if Kirk and Co. had been held to the 24th-century standard, the crew would have been mining borite faster than you can say “General Order 1.”

As for this Hodgkin’s Law business, it’s an odd throwaway line (during Kirk’s log entry) in this episode and never really mentioned again, despite other parallel-Earth episodes. Even if you figure it wouldn’t be applicable when outside forces made planets Earth-like (“Patterns of Force,” “A Piece of the Action”, “The Paradise Syndrome”) it’s totally applicable for two of the series’ worst showings in “The Omega Glory” and “Miri”. And yet, it’s only mentioned here.

And if Kirk is really as gung-ho about the Prime Directive as he appears in this episode, his planning abilities are just awful. Why Kirk, Spock and McCoy would beam down to the planet — wearing their uniforms way out in the sticks — as a way to investigate “20th century Rome” is just laughable. Do they think they’ll figure anything out on their hike to the city without being discovered? In other episodes, Kirk and Co. dressed like the locals to fit in. Maybe they really do need a ship’s historian?

Oh, and while I did like Scotty’s idea to cause a power outage as a show of strength, it’s just crazy that the timing works SO well. What if Scotty had turned the lights out while Kirk was being given one last “night as a man” by the procounsel’s slave girl?

Final thoughts

Of course, there’s the big item in this episode, which is the reveal that Christ is coming to 20th-century Rome. TOS had the most instances where some sort of religion was obliquely mentioned — e.g., the “laws of man and god” in “The Ultimate Computer” —  but it’s really pretty overt here, while still leaving a LOT open to interpretation.

I’m not sure how I feel about it, really. The final scene could simply paint Christ as a key philosopher, but not a religious figure, in the eyes of Kirk and Co. Earlier in the episode, Bones does say that they have “many beliefs,” possibly implying that not everybody (or every 23rd-century human) is a Christian.

Or … you can watch the scene and come away feeling as if the idea that Christ was some sort or religious savior is SO obvious to crew of the ship that they DON’T need to explain that they’re all Christians. It’s clever in a way, but so odd that I can’t quite get behind it. As it stands, it’s just a head-scratcher.

“Mirror, Mirror”

I'm going to Tantalus the hell out of that goatee ...
“If Spock gets a goatee, I better get a personal guard and a captain’s woman.”

A transporter accident sends Kirk, McCoy, Scotty and Uhura to a mirror universe where an evil Empire exists in place of the Federation. Our heroes must play the roles of their counterparts — whom our Spock must deal with back home — and search for a way back against a ticking clock and nefarious versions of the normal crew at every turn. Our heroes escape, with the help of evil Spock, who figures out who they are. Then, Jimbo goes all Jimbo and presumes to know what’s best  in a universe he’s spent like 10 minutes in. He tells evil Spock (who’s not that evil, all goatees considered) that the Empire is illogical and that he should start a revolution. Talk about unintended consequences

My mind to your mind, my gym locker combination to your gym locker combination ...
“I need you to tell me what ‘oiling my traps’ means, Doctor.”

Why it’s important

On its own, “Mirror, Mirror” might have ended up in the Hall of Great but not Tapestry-Worthy episodes, like “The City on the Edge of Forever.” But seven episodes of second-generation Trek wouldn’t have happened if not for “Mirror, Mirror,” so, it’s a kind of a big deal. In DS9’s “Crossover”, the events of and after “Mirror, Mirror” are explained — with the transporter accident apparently a well-known piece of history in both universes. In fact, our boy Jimmy pretty much ensured that mirror-universe humans would live their lives as slaves, as evil Spock’s decision to take his advice weakens the Empire to the point where its opponents (a Klingon-Cardassian alliance) defeat it and enslave humanity. The point is never really explicitly addressed, but one wonders if the second-generation Trek producers were tweaking ’60s Trek for its anything-goes mentality (at least, for much of the time) when it came to playing god to other cultures (and universes).

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“Ohhhhhh, my.”

What doesn’t hold up

Of course, the biggest problem has to do with scope. Would things in the mirror universe be so similar to our universe — i.e., the Enterprise’s look, crew members being essentially the same, etc.? It’s the conceit that makes the episode work as it’s fun to see Spock with a goatee, etc. But it’s worth noting because it’s a real stretch. DS9’s mirror episodes incorporated fewer evil versions of the regular characters, but DS9 had such a wide array of guest characters that excluding a few but keeping most wasn’t difficult.

While “Mirror, Mirror,” mostly works with what we see on the DS9 crossover episodes, the “Star Trek: Enterprise” two-parter “In a Mirror, Darkly” creates some inconsistencies. For one thing, Vulcans don’t seem to be subjugated in “Mirror, Mirror” the way they’re later portrayed. Maybe Spock’s human ancestry puts him in a different category than most Vulcans — or maybe the Vulcans even the playing field a century later? Also, if the Empire in the 22nd century recovered a 23rd-century starship, as evil Archer and Co., did — shouldn’t the Enterprise in this episode be much more advanced? Or, are we to believe that evil Kirk is commanding the equivalent of garbage scow? Did evil Bones get his wish about mining borite?

Also, did Spock have the evil landing party stand on the transporter pads for several hours — just waiting for good Kirk and Co. to beam back? And, if he did, how did he know when to energize on his end? Did he do all the work Scotty and McCoy did to prepare for the inter-universe transport? It’s not as if there’s dialog indicating evil Kirk and Co. were sent back separately, and good Kirk and Co., end up back in their original clothes. It’s not a huge deal, but it would have been kind of cool to see Kirk look over the evil landing party and have Spock send them back where they belong. And it would have made more sense.

Final thoughts

“Mirror, Mirror” is one of the high-concept episodes of TOS that really works. It has the corny TOS trope of the good guys figuring out a problem with nothing more than extemporaneous dialog — “Something … parallel. A parallel universe!” — and it’s not really clear how else they would have made the discovery (especially without Spock there to help). OTOH, this episode might be TOS’s best ensemble piece, and each actor who has much dialog as an evil counterpart — McCoy, Scotty and Uhura’s duplicates don’t do much more than yell — really shines in dual roles. Nimoy appropriately gets a lot of love, but Shatner’s scene as evil Kirk is awesome (“Where’s my personal guard?!”). George Takei, too often relegated to exposition on the bridge, gets a good chance to stretch here as evil Sulu.

There are a lot of other, smaller points that make this episode strong — Kirk’s consort Marlena Moreau (BarBara Luna) in the mirror universe is an interesting character, and her line about “oiling” her traps is probably one of the most awesome/ridiculous things ever to sneak by the censors.

But this is an episode that’s just vintage Trek, especially vintage ’60s Trek. It’s a cool concept made to work with good acting, great music (the Spock/McCoy mild-meld scenes especially stands out) some moral righteousness and even a bit of naivete. A lot of the best TOS could be described as such.

“Metamorphosis”

I do not have a totally parochial attitude. I do not have a totally parochial attitude ...
“I do not have a totally parochial attitude. I do not have a totally parochial attitude …”

Kirk, Spock, Bones and Federation Commissioner/Fun Chick at Parties Nancy Hedford (Elinor Donahue) crash a shuttle on a planet inhabited by a mysterious human who turns out to be long-lost creator of warp drive, Zefram Cochrane (Glenn Corbett). Cochrane, who has the appearance of the vice president of rotary club, has lived on the planet for 150 years, thanks to a mysterious entity/energy field he calls “the Companion,” which also brought the shuttle to the planet to keep him from dying of loneliness. After Hedford goes to that big negotiating table in the sky — Kirk and Co. were taking her to get medical attention for some ailment or something — the Companion merges within her body, creating a human woman, complete with an echo-ey voice! After initially feeling used by the Companion when it’s discovered to have female characteristics, Cochrane decides to live with it on the planet and Kirk and Co. hit the old dusty trail. The Big Three, as they leave, promise to keep the happy couple’s existence secret.

Can this shuttle take me to an island full of naked women?
“Can this shuttle take me to an island full of naked women?”

Why it’s important

The Cochrane backstory explains much of how humans were able to leave Earth’s solar system, though without a lot of details. The character is hugely important in “Star Trek: First Contact” and his existence is one of the linchpins of “Star Trek: Enterprise.” Meanwhile, Kirk’s dialog with Cochrane (“We’re at 1,000 planets, and spreading out”) is a key moment for the franchise and for TOS. After a first season that made Starfleet sound Earth-centric, this is an episode that opened things up. It also adds scope in that it shows that the Enterprise isn’t just some ship that randomly gets into adventures. It’s part of something MUCH larger.

We’re also shown the Metron recording device — I mean, universal translator. While I stay away from technological developments (e.g., which episode the dilithium articulation chamber debuts in), this is an instance where technology is worth mentioning. Without the UT and its Sunny D Mom properties (magic!) Star Trek would be very, very different — and far less digestible. This also is one of the few times we see the UT as an actual device.

Cochrane's bachelor pad. He can even offer you a hot bath.
Cochrane’s bachelor pad. He can even offer you a hot bath.

What doesn’t hold up

Well, for starters, Cochrane here looks nothing like Cochrane in “Star Trek: First Contact,” when he’s played by James Cromwell. There’s some speculation that the movie Cochrane was affected by radiation, which is why he looks rougher and less like a Fox News anchor in the 1996 film, and then “rejuvenated” after landing on the Companion’s little rock of love. OK, fine — I’ll give the creators that one. But Cochrane in “Metamorphosis” sure seems to ACT much differently than Cochrane in “Star Trek: First Contact.” It’s hard to believe that the drunk who invented warp drive as a way to end up on an island full of naked women — something Cochrane tells Riker in the movie — would have the “totally parochial attitude” we see here, to quote our favorite half-Vulcan science officer. Oh, and in case the idea is that Cochrane became a new man after discovering warp drive and meeting the Vulcans, an episode of “Star Trek Enterprise” has a line of dialog about how Cochrane was “frequently intoxicated” in later years.

Beyond that, Cochrane is strangely referred to as “of Alpha Centauri” in this episode. Maybe the creators, at the time, were implying that humans got to Alpha Centauri and developed warp there? But that, obviously, doesn’t square with Cochrane developing the technology in an abandoned missile complex in central Montana. Now, it’s possible that Cochrane resided on Alpha Centauri before he left for deep space, but the matter is never really addressed.

Final thoughts

It’s interesting to watch “Metamorphosis” and see how it became a foundation piece for Star Trek (inconsistencies and all) while an episode like “Whom Gods Destroy” introduces another supposedly important historical figure (Garth of Izar) who is immediately forgotten. I like to think about the creative process there: “You want to write a movie bringing back the crazy dude with different colored boots and the green girlfriend or the guy who looked like a ’50s yearbook photo who fell in love with a yellow energy cloud?”

I’ve also always had a soft spot for this episode. It’s got some great Big Three interaction, but Shatner absolutely sells the point about the expanding galaxy. It’s an important exchange and it really gives us an idea of the scope of Star Trek.