S01E18 – “The Squire of Gothos”
When Kirk and Sulu disappear from the bridge, the search party encounters a being with seemingly godlike powers and a dangerous sense of whimsy.
Thanks to The Next Generation, I now think of Trelane as the “proto-Q.” Indeed, the early TNG novel Q-Squared was one of my favorites of that line. Of course, we didn’t know Trelane was just a little kid until the end of this episode. To my mind, that twist is genius. It really paints the entire martial civilization of Earth as the dangerous cruelties of a child species.
On the whole, this is a fantastic episode, and I really have very little commentary to add. It just speaks for itself. I truly wish Trelane had become a recurring threat. His evolution would have been fun. The one point that bothers me is that Trelane is supposedly seeing Earth 900 years past, yet he knows Napoleon. That’s only 400 years behind the Enterprise and her crew. He should be seeing the late Middle Ages / early Renaissance. I know… it’s quibbling. I still enjoy the story each and every time.
Bonus points for one of Trelane’s objects d’art being the M-113 salt vampire from “The Man Trap.”
S01E19 – “Arena”
Expecting to be guests at a commodore’s lavish banquet, the Enterprise crew finds a destroyed outpost and an ambush from an unknown force. When Kirk chases the alien vessel at the limits of the Enterprise‘s capabilities, both vessels are neutralized by the Metrons, who force the two captains to fight in a brute force contest “best suited to their limited understanding.”
Kirk vs. the Gorn. When it comes to iconic imagery of the original series, this one seems to be the one that even non-fans know about. There’s a lot of goofiness associated with this one that I never know how to explain… like mortars. Why would Starfleet use these things in a world with phasers? I get it, it sets up the one Kirk will put together later, but still… weird choice for an advanced force like Starfleet. And more importantly, why would Kirk think that a universal translator would be a log recorder? I think this one ranks right up there with his legendary stupidity from “The Galileo Seven.” It’s one of those conceits that drives the story but undermines Kirk’s credibility as an otherwise intelligent man. It’s the ’60s; it happens from time to time, as we know so well.
His obsession in pursuing the Gorn vessel is worthy of Melville, providing a platform for Spock to remind him of his responsibilities to sentient life. The noted parallel to, say, the Vietnam conflict is a bit heavy-handed, but this is the sort of thing Star Trek was famous for, skirting the executives and censors while still speaking to the audience. It’s very telling that when Kirk first encounters the Gorn, he is reviled by something different than himself and forces himself to remember this is a fellow starship captain, intelligent and dangerous, fighting for his own survival as Kirk is. It’s exactly the sort of thing that would go over the head of an executive unsuited to subtext. It’s also telling that the Metrons provided both the means to create weapons and the means for the two captains to talk to one another. As I mentioned, Kirk doesn’t recognize the universal translator for what it is, and the Gorn takes the advantage outright. Then again, Kirk is also a little slow on the uptake to put together the components for gunpowder. Not really his finest hour, but educational for the kiddies! For the adults, the question of political culpability is the larger question. If the Gorn were so opposed to “invasion,” one is forced to wonder why it took them so long to respond to the Federation putting an outpost there. And then they just blow it up without even talking. Seems to be a common thing in Star Trek. It’s a very Klingon response… except we haven’t yet been introduced to the Klingons. It’s also a similar setup used in “Balance of Terror.” At least Kirk got there in the end and set a higher example.
S01E20 – “The Alternative Factor”
When a galaxy-wide phenomenon is experienced in the form of non-existence, the crew is confronted by a humanoid who claims to be fighting an other-dimensional being that Spock can neither explain nor prove.
This is one of those little overblown gems where the idea is far, far, far better than the execution. Limits in special effects, combined with an inability to really explain just what the hell is really going on, turn this episode into a vague mess of a melodrama that centers around the ship’s dilithium crystals, a parallel universe, and a character with an anti-matter doppelganger. Honestly, it’s not that the story is undecipherable, it’s just that it’s so badly written that nobody wants to follow it. But if you’re like me, you’ve seen these episodes 500 times, so it’s easy enough to turn off your brain and simply go with it.
Credit where it’s due, actor Robert Brown makes the character of Lazarus come across as dangerously unhinged in a way actually makes this episode worth the watch in spite of itself. Not bad for an actor who was cast at the last minute when John Drew Barrymore failed to report in for work. I love watching Brown’s performance. He’s on my short list of awesome guest stars for this series, up there with Ricardo Montalban and Joan Collins. He’s crippled by a script beyond anyone’s ability to improve without blowing it up and starting over, and yet, he still gives it his all. I don’t care what anyone else says, that’s true professionalism.
S01E21 – “Tomorrow is Yesterday”
A breakaway from a star’s gravity sends the Enterprise back in time to the late 1960s, where she’s intercepted by a United States Air Force pilot whose unborn son will be part of Earth’s first manned mission to Saturn.
Time travel is a staple in top shelf science fiction, but it’s always messy business. Cleaning up the contamination to the time stream is just as messy. All in all, this is one of the better episodes of the series, if (ironically) somewhat inconsequential to the grand scheme. There are plenty of good character beats, especially between Spock and McCoy (always my favorite part of the entire series), as well as that wonderful ability of this series to make the modern age look terribly primitive and hokey by its own standard. The more years pass, the funnier that gets.
The comedic highlight of this episode is the reprogrammed Enterprise computer. Kirk is annoyed by its feminine persona and insistence at calling him “dear,” and Spock is perturbed by it for what he describes as “a tendency to giggle.” People, that’s just priceless, mostly because they don’t overdo it… much.