Star Trek: The Original Series – Season 1, Episode 23 – “A Taste of Armageddon” – The Possibility of Peace

     “A Taste of Armageddon” is one of my favorite episodes of “The Original Series.” This is an episode that explores what it means to tackle the costs of war as well as how a society could buy into constant war for a state of false “peace.” This episode also uses most of the main crew and works fantastically as an ensemble piece. Suffice to say, this is one I highly recommend.

The episode was directed by Joseph Pevney with teleplay by Robert Hamner (who also wrote the story) and Gene L. Coon.

The story involves the Enterprise delivering Ambassador Robert Fox to open up negotiations with the Eminian Union who have been war with another planet in their system Vendikar for generations. All is not as it appears to be though when Kirk and the away team beam down during an attack from Vendikar.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The War – The war with Vendikar is the core part of the episode as it has gone on so long that the way of fighting has been completely taken over by computers and citizens on both sides now sacrifice themselves in areas where the computer says attacks occurred. This is taken as normal because it is all the 2 planets have known and it is the arrival of the Enterprise where the cycle of war is finally broken by bringing back an actual war not the virtual war where people willingly go to their deaths for the “Good of the state.” The war has warped all sense of valueing people as Anan 7 tries multiple times to trick Enterprise in lowering the shields so it can be destroyed as in the virtual war, it was.  Though even in this, when the war stops the desire for peace is still strong among those who have been a part of this war for so long.

Mea 3 and Anan 7 – Mea 3 and Anan 7 give us a great glimpse of the mentality that has been built up by war. Anan 7 is doing all he can to kill the Enterprise because he fears the war escalating when the virtual deaths aren’t registered while Mea 3 is a true believer but does nothing to stop Kirk and Spock from breaking all the death machines. In the end they are both flawed and human as in the end Anan 7 does accept Ambassador Fox’s help at negotiating a peace with Vendikar as he doesn’t want a war where he’ll see the bombs dropping and bloodshed. He could fight a sterilized war because that had been the way of things for so long and was willing to talk to make the change needed for the possibility of peace.

Scotty -Scotty is Captain while Kirk and Spock lead the away team on the planet. He does a fantastic job and keeps the ship safe as he figures out that Anan 7 is lying when he calls for them all to come down for shore leave and keeps the shields up even against orders of the Ambassador. This is an amazing Scotty episode and made me wish we saw him in the Captain’s chair more. He is more than qualified for it and will fight for his crew. He also plays of McCoy really well who is extremely anxious through the entire episode.

Spock – Spock calls out the Eminian Union in a great way where he see’s the logic in how they do war but does not see it as moral. We also see how powerful he is psychically when he controls the guards to free them and helps lead the revolution on the planet to stop the machines of death. He plays off Kirk really well too as it is them planning together when they are trapped to get out of each situation.

Captain Kirk – This is a great Captain Kirk episode. We get a Kirk speech that war has to be experienced to truly know how awful it is as he advocates for life and humanity. It is a fantastic Kirk speech and seeing him playoff Spock throughout the episode is handled really well.

The Cons:

Vendikar – We never see the people of Vendikar and that is really the only con I can think of. They are only mentioned when seeing them, even at the end would have shown their humanity as well. I’m honestly surprised the episode never showed us even one.

This is an amazing episode and easily one of the best of “The Original Series.” “The Original Series” was strongest when it worked the ensemble cast and explored deeper ideals tied to one’s humanity or the nature of war and peace. There is so much about this episode that works and it captures so much of what I loved about “The Original Series.”

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

Star Trek: The Original Series – Season 2, Episode 7 – “Wolf in the Fold” – Scotty on Trial

Star Trek S02E07 Wolf in the Fold - video dailymotion

   “Wolf in the Fold” provides an interesting premise and even has some good moments of tension before it fails as a story. This is an episode that focuses on Scotty, but we learn almost nothing about him, and even the main threat ends up not feeling like a threat. This is all besides the misogyny that runs through the episode. The premise had a lot of promise but absolutely fails and I’ll get into why below.

The episode was directed by Joseph Pevney and written by Robert Bloch.

The story involves Scotty being blamed for a murder when the crew visits Argelius II.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Politics – In this story we see the politics between Argelius and Starfleet. Argelius is a free love society that hasn’t experienced a murder until the one that kicks off the episode. This gives an interesting dynamic as Kirk wants to do it by their laws but ends up offering up the computer as an answer when the Prefect is willing to try it after his wife is murdered during a seance to find the truth. From this, I wish he’d pushed back against more. He is the final judge on Scotty’s fate but he is very agreeable with Starfleet, even after his wife is murdered.

The Computer – The idea of using the computer to find the truth is really neat. It has all the information and can track if a person is lying or not. It is from the computer they found out the spirit of Jack the Ripper is the one responsible. This part of the episode is slow but I liked the computer being used the solve the mystery. It fit the theme of tech. solutions over supernatural which has always been a theme of “Star Trek.”

The Premise – The idea of a member of the crew being framed for murder on an alien world is fascinating. This base premise alone would have been enough if the politics between Argelius II and the Federation had been played up. Sadly the idea of the premise is not paid off.

The Cons:

Misogyny – Everyone woman we meet in this story is either being ogled by the crew (the belly dancer who gets killed) or is responsible for a problem. Scotty is on shoreleave because a female crewman caused a problem that lead to him hitting his head. This is so weak and isn’t helped by the text of the episode as all the other woman who we meet end up needing rescuing from Jack the Ripper or are killed by him.

The Enemy – Jack the Ripper is the enemy and his main host ends up being Mr. Hengist, an Argelian who is played by John Fiedler who voices Piglet in “Winnie the Pooh.” This does not work. Piglet’s voice is not ever threatening and the spirit taking control of the ship is for such a short time we don’t even see what the enemy is capable of. The moment the killings end on Argelius II all tension is gone and that is largely through how Jack the Ripper is presented. He just isn’t scary.

The Ending – The crew ends up fighting Jack the Ripper and him existing through fear by being pumped full of drugs that induce happiness by McCoy. This causes such whiplash that I don’t know why it was even included in the episode and focused on. Everyone is laughing, which takes away what tension there was by Jack the Ripper taking control of the ship.

This was an episode full of interesting ideas that it can’t execute. No ideas are delved into deeper and the supernatural threat just isn’t threatening. I appreciate that the episode is about someone outside of Kirk, McCoy or Spock but Scotty just doesn’t get enough exploration. This episode is reactive when it could have been so much more. There are the seeds of good ideas here, but failure to explore any of those ideas deeply leads to a bad episode.

Final Score: 5 / 10

Star Trek: The Original Series – Season 1, Episode 19 – “Arena” – The Dilemmas of War and Power of Mercy

Star Trek Arena

   “Arena” is the first of a few “Star Trek” episodes I’ll be reviewing this week. On Facebook I did some “Trek Requests” and this was the episode requested for “The Original Series.” The other two episodes will from “The Next Generation” and “Deep Space Nine.” I’ll save which ones they are until I review them. Suffice to say “Arena” was very enjoyable though it still has the same problems I noticed when I first watched the episode as a young child.

    The episode was directed by Joseph Pevney with the teleplay by Gene L. Coon and story by Fredric Brown.

    The story involves the crew of the Enterprise arriving on the outpost Cestus III which is under attack from the Gorn. A dying survivor tells them how they were attacked leading Kirk to pursue the Gorn ship until they are stopped by the Metrons who transport Kirk and the Gorn Captain to the Arena where they can face each other using the resources on the planet so the conflict between the two ships will no longer be happening in Metron space. From here the story unfolds as Kirk must MacGyver his way out the situation and learn what bigger purpose he it being put up to by the Metrons.

The Pros: Cestus III – Cestus III is a warzone. We see that chemical weapons were used on Federation troops and the Outpost is a wasteland we also hear about the slaughter of women and children but due to the nature of the episode we aren’t able to confirm it. It is war and like war there is a fog. Luckily through quick thinking by Kirk, he and Spock are able to fight back though the red shirt is killed. It’s a very strong start to the episode and shows just what is at stake and what motivates Kirk in his desire to stop and destroy the Gorn vessel.

Sulu – Sulu is in charge of the Enterprise at one point when Kirk and Spock go down to Cestus III and he does a great job protecting their ship and keeping the Gorn at bay until Kirk and Spock are able to be beamed back aboard again. Sulu was eventually made Captain for a reason, the guy is great in a crisis.

Spock – Spock not being emotional is good as he points out that Kirk doesn’t know what happened or why they became under attack, what he misses is that the enemy has never communicated with them at all. Spock is implied to be right though on not destroying the vessel when it is found that the Outpost might have been placed in Gorn Territory and that it will be a situation for diplomats to handle.

McCoy – McCoy sees the consequences of fighting the Gorn too and makes an appeal to civilization to the Metrons to stop the fighting of Kirk and the Gorn Captain. They are ignored but when they are shown the fight the Gorn Captain says the Outpost was in their territory which changes McCoy over to Spock’s perspective of not attacking first.

Captain Kirk – Captain Kirk shows what he is famous for in this episode (no he doesn’t sleep with the Gorn) he MacGyvers a makeshift gun that defeats the enemy Gorn Captain after he’s exhausted all other traps against the Gorn…and after he shows Mercy which impresses the Metrons who appear to him and which later leads to a Kirk Speech where he tells Spock that in 1000 years maybe they will be an enlightened species, so they’ve got a little time. Kirk’s humor, passion, anger (the destruction of the outpost) and compassion (sparing the Gorn Captain) are on display here and show why he is one of the most popular Captains in “Star Trek.”

The Gorn Captain – The Gorn Captain has a great design and he is clearly alien. For him mercy is giving Kirk a quick death and any intrusion into their territory warrants a threat. The Captain is strong and powerful and is only stopped by a diamond fired from a gun. It’s a shame the Gorn weren’t used more as they have a great design and are one of the more intriguing lesser used species in “Star Trek” along with the Tholians.

The Message – The message is that mercy is important when you’ve defeated your enemy and to not leap to conclusions in war. The message is kind of wrong in regards to the outpost though as we never see the Gorn communicate with the Enterprise and to reason with another to understand a person you have to talk to them. The Gorn do not talk to the Federation as far as we can see until the Metrons force their captain onto the planet. Also, if there were women and children slaughtered on Cestus III than the Gorn involved were evil. There is nothing that can justify the killing of innocents and that is where mercy can be missed, as we have no guarantees the Gorn wouldn’t do it again elsewhere. The core message of not rushing to judgement is important though as the Outpost wouldn’t have been built if the Federation had known it was Gorn space (assuming the Gorn are telling the truth, just like have to assume the Federation soldier was telling the truth about women and children being slaughtered…we don’t know fully yet in either case).

Okay: The Metrons – Another God Species trying to teach the “lesser” species a lesson about compassion towards one another and mercy. I really don’t like the transcended species trope as it simplifies the issues and in most cases the folks like the Metrons stand by while real life atrocities are going on so all their talk of Enlightenment usually doesn’t mean much in regards to their actions outside those who enter their sphere. Still, one of the earliest uses of this trope so I’m putting them down as okay and not a con.

The Cons: Pacing – The episode is really slow. It starts out strong when Kirk and Spock are on Cestus III under fire but most of the action on the Enterprise is passive watching of either the Gorn ship or of the Gorn Captain and Kirk fighting on the planet. This episode should have been 35 minutes ideally or given us more character moments like when Kirk and Spock were discussing the attack and what might have lead to it and what must be done. Those were the strongest moments in the episode outside of Kirk’s ingenuity.

  This is classic “Star Trek” and well worth watching, even though it isn’t my favorite episode and I do take issue with the Metrons approach to life, the pacing and that the Gorn are just presented as bad guys if we only take how they react to Kirk and what happened on the outpost. There was the potential for much more complexity this episode than we got, though I really like the idea and watching Kirk MacGyver his way out of a situation is always fun to watch…and the horror of Cestus III really raises the stakes in the episode and kept me interested even with how slow the episode felt at times.

8 / 10. Solidly good.