PATTERNS OF FORCE was described by someone at the IMDB as "the serious version of A PIECE OF THE ACTION".  That's about right.  Unlike the alleged "parallel evolution" of THE OMEGA GLORY and BREAD AND CIRCUSES, the gangster planet and Nazi planet were both the direct results of Earth missions contaminating the indiginous cultures.  Of course, this meant in both cases, Kirk was free to "interfere", since he was trying to put right was was put wrong from previous interference.

This was one intense, nasty episode... and yet, unlike B&C, it's eminently watchable, even entertaining.  I wonder, maybe Nazi stories are easier to deal with than Roman Empire stories, because in WW2, there were, in the long run, much greater powers poised to take down an obviously insane, hate-filled, self-destructive country... while, with Rome, there was nothing to stop them (apart from a mesage of peace and brotherhood, which itself became perverted when a Roman emperor decided to CO-OPT it as his new STATE RELIGION).

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THE ULTIMATE COMPUTER has always bothered me.  There's some very real issues at stake, with machine replacing mankind, of putting people out of jobs unnecessarily, which are all brushed aside when, abruptly, we find out the damned machine is malfunctioning.  And why is it doing it? Because its creator, without telling anyone, tried to create a genuine THINKING computer... a machine that could duplicate the human brain... and did so by trying to create a duplicate of a human brain... HIS OWN.  And, unfortunately, the damned thing's creator is NOT in his right mind.  And so-- NEITHER is the DAMNED machine!!!

Warning signs should have been setting off red lights in everyone's heads.  WHY is a computer "drawing more power" as it continuesd to function?  WHY-- or HOW-- does a computer have its own protective force-field, which apparently, nobody on the ship was even aware of, until it decided to turn it on?  Didn't ANYONE in Starfleet Command have a real look at the blueprints of this thing? Next thing you know, it goes out of its way to destroy a robot freighter, and then, it FRIES a crewman who happened to be standing in the path of a power beam.  As someone who has worked in factory shops, both in school and in business over the years, I echo the implied question in the story.  WHO designs any machine WITHOUT an OFF switch? This is how you get Landru, or the Doomsday Machine, or Nomad, or Vaal, or, soon to come, the Oracle.

Many people refer to BLACULA (a great movie with a stupid name) when discussing William Marshall. But by the time this episode made its debut near the end of the '66-'67 season, I had already seen Marshall as the villain the classic 2-part TARZAN story, THE BLUE STONE OF HEAVEN.  He's up there with Jock Mahoney among the greatest villains ever seen on Ron Ely's jungle TV series.

I know it's common for actors to play more than one role when guest-starring on TV series over a period of time (just as it's also common to have more than one actor play the same recurring roles).  Even so, it must have been a bit jarring to anyone who'd seen THE DEVIL IN THE DARK to see actor Barry Russo come back in a different role, as Commodore Bob Wesley. The guy seems far too eager to push Kirk out of a job, and even to belittle him when the M-5 computer does its job well.  So WHY does he turn around and think that KIRK is the one attacking his ship? I swear, Starfleet sure seems to have a lot of incompetent or wrong-headed people in its top positions.

THE OMEGA GLORY-- ah, that wondrous train-wreck of a story.  It starts out with a scary-as-hell biological plague to be diagnosed and cured, but with each scene, veers farther and farther from that, into something totally different.  The whole episode makes far more sense than it appears, if one realizes what went on behind-the-scenes.  TOG was one of the earliest ST scripts written, introduces a plethora of concepts that wound up getting used in many other episodes before it was finally filmed itself (after being apparently SHELVED early-on!!).  It was also written before Gene Roddenberry had even determined how far in the future STAR TREK was supposed to take place.  You see... unlike BREAD AND CIRCUSES (which I strongly suspect may ALSO have been written before the show even went into production), OMEGA was not meant to be a case of "parallel development".  It was SUPPOSED to be about a "lost colony"-- FROM EARTH-- who got written off 1000 years before the story took place!  That way, the Yangs, the Cohms, the American Flag, the Bible, and the U.S. Constitution's presence at the end of the story would all make perfect sense!

Instead, the story was shelved... then, some of its concepts (a planet IDENTICAL to Earth, a biological plague, and the resulting effect of people living for centuries) were turned into a new script, MIRI.  The Prime Directive, also a HUGE part of B&C, turned up around RETURN OF THE ARCHONS.  The general idea of "parallel Earths", while mostly abandoned for the 1st season, was revived midway thru the 2nd season, with "Roman world", "gangster world", "Nazi world", and, finally, "post-WW3 world", dug out when they were probably running desperately low on scripts.

I'll say one thing-- Morgan Woodward's Captain Ron Tracey is one of ST's most memorable-- and INSANE-- villains!  I love the description someone at the IMDB had for him-- saying he looks like Kirk's older, tougher, EVIL brother. He seems reasonable when we first meet him, but with each consecutive scene, he goes more and more over the edge.  His best line may be when he returns after the battle with the savages.  "We killed THOUSANDS-- and they STILL came!!!"  Kirk gets into no less than 3 brutal fights with the guy in this single story, and that's on top of his equally brutal battle with "Cloud William" (Roy Jenson), leader of the savages.

I can't help but wonder... it looks like at the very end, Kirk, Spock & McCoy are all ready to beam up to the Enterprise.  But what about Sulu?  He had Tracey in custody.  I have to assume SOMEBODY remembered that Sulu and his landing party could NOT beam back up to the Enterprise until enough time had passed for them to be immunized against the plague.  Otherwise, the entire crew of the Enterprise would be DEAD within an hour or so!

Roy Jenson turned up on an episode of THE FUGITIVE as an insane strangler who never spoke a word.  Typecasting maybe?  The funny thing is, BOTH Morgan Woodward AND Roy Jenson turned up, together, as a pair of hired thugs in a TARZAN episode, "King of the Dwasari", which was made the same season as this.  That kinda thing cracks me up.

As a kid, I had no clue that ASSIGNMENT: EARTH was designed as a "backdoor pilot" for a spin-off show. But there had to be some reason Robert Lansing was the ONLY guest-star in 3 seasons to be listed in the opening credits!  To this day, I have still never seen the TV series TWELVE O'CLOCK HIGH, so this was my intro to Lansing... although, I did get to see him, much later, as a regular on the first 2 seasons of KUNG FU: THE LEGEND CONTINUES.  He brings a real serous intensity to the role of "Gary Seven", a 20th Century man raised on another planet, who finds our modern-day Earth so primitive, he wonders "how can anyone live like this?"

This was also my first exposure to Teri Garr.  As the computer described her character "Roberta Lincoln", "despite seeming chaotic behavior, she has a high I.Q.". Several years later, she cracked me up when she became a recurring character on McCLOUD.  It only occurs to me now, it seems a shame nobody ever thought to have her guest-star on an episode of KUNG FU: TLC.  A Lansing-Garr reunion could have been fun.

It's strange that, if you watch in production order, the 2nd season both begins and ends with stories involving a black cat who turns into a woman... or is that the other way round?

Considering the extreme difficulty and great danger involved in the Enterprise going back in time-- then returning to its own time, in TOMORROW IS YESTERDAY, this stylistic "sequel" of sorts barely touches on it, and seems to treat Enterprise time-travel as somehow "normal" by this point.

And here's something I never connected before... Art Wallace, who wrote this one, was one of the regular writers on DARK SHADOWS, and is credited at the IMDB with over 1000 episodes of that show!  (I doubt that's accurate, but who knows?)

SPECTRE OF THE GUN-- would this have made a good season opener?  Maybe.  It starts out like THE CORBOMITE MANEUVER-- the ship is confronted by a "marker bouy" that warns them away.  Kirk has orders to establish friendly relations with the Melkotian at any cost-- like in A TASTE OF ARMAGEDDON.  The Melkotians turn out to be VERY powerful telepaths, capable of creating illusions in other's minds so real, so convincing, it's almost impossible to tell what's real and what isn't... like in THE CAGE.  And despite the seemingly "obvious" unrealty of their situation, the longer it goes on, Kirk, McCoy, Scotty & Chekov all seem to believe that they're somehow back in Tonbstone, Arizona in 1881. Only this ISN'T a time-travel story!

Strangely enough, this was my intro to the whole "Wyatt Earp" / "Gunfight at the OK Corral" situation.  I've seen multiple versions of the story in feature films and TV shows (including the very entertaining one played for comedy on DOCTOR WHO).  But there's probably never been a more psychopathic bunch of Earps (and Doc Holiday) than seen here. This could almost be seen as "revisionist history", in that the Earps are really portrayed as THE BAD GUYS, so rotten, so EVIL, so BLOOD-THIRSTY and murderous, that everyone in the town (or so we're told) are hoping the Clanton Gang will get rid of them!

The most interesting scene in the story is when the smoke grenade fails to put Scotty to sleep.  Spock has to explain, the rest of them do not get what just happened.  And what amazes me is, when Spock does explain... he's SMILING!  it's subtle, but it's there.  Spock has very cleverly figured out something that seems inexplicable... and he's marveling in it, as a wonder of the universe, genuinely enjoying the moment of mental discovery.  The rest of the landing party aren't smiling.  They know they could DIE unless they can find a way to be as sure as Spock is.  At which point, Kirk suggests the Vulcan Mind Meld.  Oh well, but this point, who didn't see that coming?

Despite not killing, Kirk did seem to take real pleasure in beating the crap out of Wyatt Earp, before tossing his gun away.  When, an instant later, we see them on the bridge, McCoy looking over a still-alive Chekov, one has to wonder... did they ever even beam down to the planet AT ALL?  Or did the entire illusion begin while they were still on the bridge of the Enterprise, and they didn't know it?

I also have to wonder... given the worries about the telepaths on Talos IV (THE MENAGERIE), doesn't it seem strange for the Federation to be deliberately trying to establish relations with another set of telepaths, who seem equally as powerful?

ELANN OF TROYIUS is a sci-fi variation on "The Taming Of The Shrew". It features France Nuyen (who was in SOUTH PACIFIC !) as a spoiled, ill-tempered brat in a woman's body, wearing revealing, HOT outfits, who has been ordered by her people to marry the leader of her planet's enemies, in order to prevent a mutually-destructive war.  Assigned the job of "familiarizing" her with her future husband's culture, is Ambassador Petri, played by Jay Robinson (forever remembered as the Emperor Caligula in THE ROBE and its sequel DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS).

After Elann stabs Petri in the back for entering her quarters without permission, Kirk decides to take over Petri's job.  It's a toss-up which is more dangerous-- having daggers hurled in his direction, or Elann using her tears, which act as a powerful, indelible love potion, to enslave Kirk to her will.  She suggests he can use the Enterprise to destroy the enemy planet, so there need be no marriage, and in gratitude, her people will make Kirk ruler of the entire star system.  "What kind of a mind could even conceive of such a thing?", he asks, in a half-dazed state.

This episode is actually a stylistic follow-up to JOURNEY TO BABEL.  They pick up people at the beginning, spend most of the story travelling to their destination, and are stalked by an enemy ship bent on their destruction, cued in by a spy on board.  In this case, the spy is one of Elann's boydguards, who was in love with her and angry when she became engaged to someone else.  The enemy ship this time belongs to the Klingons. And for the FIRST time (in production order, anyway), we finally get to see what a Klingon Battle Cruiser looks like!  Well, not really.  AMT came out with model kits of The Enterprise and The Klingon Battle Cruiser during the summer break between the 2nd & 3rd seasons.  AND, blueprints of both ships appeared in Gene Roddenberry's book, THE MAKING OF STAR TREK, which came out about the same time.  So I'd seen the Klingon ship in 2 DIFFERENT places, before it ever appeared on the show!  As a kid, this gave me the false impression that it had appeared on the show during the 1st or 2nd seasons-- when, it hadn't.  Crazy!

To add to the confusion, while filmed 2nd, ELANN was aired 13th!!!  And, the Klingon ship appeared in 2 other episodes that both aired before it.  In the first of these, THE ENTERPRISE INCIDENT, the design was being used by Romulans.  So the 1st time TV audiences actually saw the Klingon ship onscreen, it was the Romulans using it.  AUGH!!!

Oddly enough, as soon as Kirk falls under Elann's spell, she starts acting much nicer.  Perhaps the spell works both ways, and the person who "casts" it also falls under its influence at the same time?  As a result, near the end, we actually have more sympathy for her than could have been imagined when it started.  Especially as, just like in THIS SIDE OF PARADISE, Kirk's love for his ship over-rides the outside influence.

Fred Steiner wrote new music for this one, most notably that heard during the battle sequence near the end.

I decided to skip THE PARADISE SYNDROME, as I never liked that one. (I hate "amnesia" stories.)

 

THE ENTERPRISE INCIDENT is infamous for having been inspired by the real-life "Pueblo Incident", wherein a US ship was captured by North Korea and accused of spying.  Here, Kirk, acting erratically for several weeks, orders the Enterprise into Romulan space, where, within minutes, they're surrounded by 3 Klingon ships-- manned by Romulans, of course.  (Legend has it, they couldn't find the prop for the Romulan ship-- or, it got destroyed.  And they were too cheap to build a new one.  Too bad AMT didn't also put out a Romulan Bird Of Prey model kit, HMMM???)

It's a funny thing.  In production order, this comes right after THE PARADISE SYNDROME.  In that story, Kirk has amnesia and is missing for MONTHS, during which time he fell in love, got married and was going to have child.  But the woman and baby were both killed, he got his memory back, and was totally heartbroken.  So seeing Kirk act irrationally, shortly after all that, would have actually made some sense, and been more convincing.  But, typical of NBC, this episode was aired just BEFORE the other one, rather than just after it.  OY!!!

This has some scenes I find very entertaining.  Like when Spock tells the beautiful female Romulan commanding office (Joanne Linville) that Kirk ordered the Enterprise into the Neutral Zone "on his own initiative and his craving for glory."  Kirk's response:  "You traitor-- I'll KILL you!!  KILL YOU!!!!!"  Spock continues:  "He is NOT sane."

Then McCoy examines Kirk, declares him unfit for duty, at which Spock is ready to assume command.  While McCoy then begins ranting at Spock as usual, Kirk tries to attack Spock-- and winds up on the floor, following a very peculiar move on Spock's part.  "What did you do? WHAT DID YOU DO?????"  "I was unprepared for his attack.  I instinctively used-- the Vulcan Death Grip."  "Your instincts are accurate as always, Spock.  The Captain is DEAD!"

Gee, only 4 episodes in, and already for the 2nd time one of the regulars has been KILLED!  Of course, Chekov got better... we can't really believe Kirk is really dead... can we?

Back on the Enterprise, Christine sees Kirk's eyes open, and screams her head off.  Yep. It was all an act.  And, as Christine puts it, "There's NO SUCH THING as a Vulcan Death Grip!" With her interest in a certain first officer, she'd know.  I have to say, this is the 2nd episode in a row where Majel Barrett is showing signs of GREATLY improved acting skill.  I never really noticed it before, but she seems to be getting better by leaps and bounds.  I bet she was taking acting classes while the show was in production.  She seems so much more relaxed and "natural" by this point.  Also, they changed her hair so she doesn't look like some LOST IN SPACE android or something.

So, McCoy turns Kirk into a Romulan, Kirk STEALS the cloaking device, Scotty installs it, Spock is beamed back (along with the Romulan Commander, who Spock was in the process of SEDUCING!!!), and after hitting WARP 9 (I thought it couldn't go that fast?) Scotty gets the thing to work, and the Enterprise just... fades away.

D.C. Fontana wrote this, so you'd expect it to be free of continuity problems.  But right from the very beginning, I'm bugged by the way they seem to refer to the Romulan Cloaking Device as something brand-new, as if it HADN'T been used extensively in the 1st-season story BALANCE OF TERROR.  Perhaps this was an improved version-- one that didn't leave any subtle trails that could be followed, as seen in the earlier episode?  They did say near the end that even the Romulans could not track a ship using the Cloaking Device.

I'm curious to know what changes may have been made to this script.  From what I read, without Roddenberry in charge of the show, network interference led to a LOT of rewrites over the course of the entire 3rd season.  In every case, scripts that started out intelligent were dumbed down, changed, altered, CORRUPTED, and stupidified into near-unintelligibleness.  Among the casualties were THE WAY TO EDEN, THE CLOUD MINDERS, and THE ENTERPRISE INCIDENT.  Apprarently, and this goes all the way back to when this was first-run, the original intent of this story was somewhat different.  And a lot of fans were deeply offended that Kirk, The Enterprise, and the Federation, were clearly acting like THE BAD GUYS here. But because they are "the good guys", they were allowed to get away with it.  YES, they WERE spying.  And the story tells us, THEY WERE RIGHT TO DO SO.  But does this conflict with the morality of most previous episodes?  And did anyone at NBC, or working on the show, care, one way or the other?

I thought Joanne Linville would have made a GREAT Catwoman. Not only the face, but that voice. WOW.

Alexander Courage was credited this time, and wrote some cool new music, including the staccatto Romulan Battle Cruiser cue, and the more quiet, eerie "Romulan Commander" theme (love theme?).

AND THE CHILDREN SHALL LEAD has a bad reputation as one of the "worst", or at least, most hated episodes of STAR TREK.  I was quite surprised that at the IMDB, about half the reviews were quite positive ones.

Like SPECTRE OF THE GUN, this one starts out with a collection of ST cleches, the sort of thing that makes you wonder, "Hey, didn't I see this one already?" --even if you haven't.  The Enterprise arrives at a planet where there's a scientific expedition, only everyone has gone mad and killed themselves (see THE NAKED TIME).  There was also some archeological diggings going on, and it turns out, there is in fact one lone survivor of a long-destroyed civiliation (see THE MAN TRAP).  The only survivors of the expedition are 5 children, who, very strangely, show no signs of grief, and actually seem unaware that their parents are dead.  Before you know it, the kids turn out to be menaces (see MIRI) and use some kind of supernatural power to take over the Enterprise (see CHARLIE X).

This was the work of Edward J. Lakso, who had a long career writing TV shows.  Most prominent among his many credits are 33 episodes of COMBAT!, and 38 episodes of CHARLIE'S ANGELS !!  (That's quite a range.)  I note that Arthur H. Singer was the show's "story consultant" for the last 24 episodes.  I guess without Gene Roddenberry or D.C. Fontana, "TV writers" was the best Fred Freiberger could manage.

There's a few very strange glitches, which may go right over the heads of people used to seeing these things butchered on commercial TV.  First, down on the planet, Spock, out of nowhere, proposes a theory that the scientists were "attacked" by some outsode force, and the children not being affected may have been a deliberate move, their silence about what happened stemming either from fear of punishment or anticipation of some reward.  Had he proposed this after Kirk's massive anxiety attack in the cave-- or back on the ship after studying the log entries-- or after studying the legends of the planet's history-- it would have made more sense.  It's as if a whole train of dialogue was shifted from one part of the script to another, without concern for any natural story progression.

Second, during another discussion, Kirk is talking about the possibility of some ancient "evil" still being alive, and McCoy responds by saying he could endanger the children if he tries to get them to talk.  WHAT???  This sounded as if someone spliced two different discussions together, or cut out the middle of a much longer one.  It's a total logical disconnect!

Third-- the 2nd time the kids chant to call forth the "friendly angel" (L.A. attounry Melvin Belli, moonlighting as an actor), they do it in full view of the bridge crew, and Kirk & Spock. WHY?  Belli says, "We have reached a crisis point. Our enemies have discovered out plans!" Well, they wouldn't have, if the kids hadn't called him forth in plain sight!

Fourth-- and this has been noted by a number of people over the years-- out of nowhere, Kirk refers to Belli as "The Gorgon", even though he has never been named before that moment.  WTF?????

Fifth is when Kirk wants to send a message to the nearest Starbase, with a warning that the kids "may be alien in nature".  NOT "possessed by some alien presence".  Why would he think the kids weren't human?  I'm trying to give this episode as much leeway as possible, but there's so many "little" problems with the shooting script, you'd almost think it was the work of a first-time writer, rather than a long-time veteran.

I have to say, the single most annoying feature of the story is the kids shaking their fist in tune to George Duning's dramatic music notes.  They come across like an evil version of Peter Pan's "lost boys".

There's fun stuff to help balance it out-- a bit.  I love the part where Sulu sees knives on the screen, and frantically yells, "CAPTAIN! If you touch the controls the ship will be destroyed!"  Also, when Scotty warns Kirk off by saying, "Now, LEAVE and don't come back, or we'll KILL you!"  (Talk about insubordination.)  Best of all, when Chekov tries to arrest Kirk & Spock as a result of non-existent orders.  "Don't-- force me to KEEL you, sair!  I weel-- eef I HAFF to!"  It almost makes the whole thing worth watching.

Christine has quite a big scene early-on dealing with the kids. As I noted before, Majel Barrett's acting has come a long way by here, she seems very natural and relaxed, almost a totally different person from a year earlier.

By the way... although I can't honestly remember if I saw her on anything else, the girl who plays "Mary", Pamelyn Ferdin (who was REALLY pretty, she must have grown up to be a real heartbreaker), it turns out, was the 2nd voice of "Lucy Van Pelt", doing the character in the 1st & 2nd CHARLIE BROWN feature films, as well as a special from 1971.

My IMDB review from April 2010...

IS THERE IN TRUTH NO BEAUTY?

"Don't look, Spock!"

Whatta ya know. Some things actually GET BETTER with age. I never cared for this show when it was first-run, and only tolerated it when I was a teenager and beyond. Yet tonight, I really enjoyed this thing.

Lots of fans complain about how every alien race that turns up on STAR TREK is either humanoid, humanoids with bumps on their faces, or "fake" looking rubber suits. Not this time. For once they came up with an alien race that is TRULY alien in every possible way, and so bizarre that they couldn't even show it. (Of course, if the TV audience saw it, they'd all go insane and die soon after.)

One really inspired scene is when Kolos, merged with Spock, comments on the human condition. For the most part he's delighted-- until he realizes just how "alone" each of us is living in "this shell of flesh". Thought-provoking, to say the least.

I finally "got" the whole thing about them being caught in some kind of other-dimensional area, that was somewhat confusing before.

I think this episode is just the kind of thing that could never appeal to kids, or even most teenagers, but at the age I am now (50) I guess I'm just "complicated" enough (as Miranda called Kirk) to get into it. It was nice to see the "plant" room again, used much better here than when it debuted in "And The Children Shall Lead".

I still wonder what it was Kolos said (or did) that made Miranda SCREAM the way she did.

Something I found rather annoying, if not downright completely disconcerting as a kid, was the new music this time out (George Duning) and the way director Ralph Senensky went completely berserk with camera movements, camera angles, and camera LENSES. There's stuff in this episode NOBODY had ever done on STAR TREK before here. Even something relatively "simple", like the shot in the Engineering section, looking from the center of the room out toward the entrance past the little side room with the controls on the wall. I may be mistaken, but I don't think anyone ever lined up the camera that way in any previous episodes. I guess he really wanted this one to stand out.

You know, oddly enough, this story now begins to remind me of an early-1st season episode-- the kind the networks wouldn't have wanted to see. Gene loved "intelligent" stories, I think. There was also one shot of a hallway crammed with crewmen-- something not often seen since the first 13 episodes. There's also bits that remind me once again of THE OUTER LIMITS. Not something that was crossing my mind for the bulk of Season 2 or the other season 3 episodes so far.

And speaking of THE OUTER LIMITS... David Frankham, who played "Larry Marvick", had earlier been in "Don't Open Till Doomsday", one of the most inexplicable and terrifying episodes of that show, in which he was trapped for decades with an alien inside... A BOX. Talk about typecasting-- I mean-- what are the odds???

Never thought I'd say this, but I think for once, Fred Freiberger did something he deserves to be proud of! If only they hadn't run the damn show 10 o'clock Friday nights. I was lucky to see this the first time out, but at least a third of that season I missed-- because that year, STAR TREK was the ONLY show left worth watching for me on Fridays, and since we never left the TV on unless we were watching something, Friday after Friday, I kept forgetting my favorite show was even on!

Finally, I know some over the years have accused Gene Roddenberry of shameless self-promotion, by having Spock wear the "IDIC" medallion (once as a pin, later on a neck-chain), which was a product specially created for Gene's mail-order side-business, but I always thought it was a cool idea, a cool design-- and I wouldn't mind having one of those.

Since THE EMPATH has been one of my least-liked, most-hated ST episodes since I saw it first-run... naturally, I skipped it this time around.  Who needs to watch pointless torture carried out by heartless, soul-less "scientists" who are trying to decide if a planet's people "deserve" saving or not, based on if they're willing to commit suicide?

How did a thing like that ever get on the air, anyway?  I notice that according to the IMDB, this was the ONLY writing credit Joyce Muskat had for TV or movies.  Somehow, I'm not surprised.

I'm suddenly reminded, when this was first-run, I walked in about 15-20 minutes into it.  Not only had they moved the show back to 10 PM, every other show worth watching on Friday nights had beenc ancelled or moved (like THE AVENGERS, which took me quite a few months to find, in its new 7:30 Monday-night time slot).  Several times on Friday nights that season, I'd get busy doing whatever... then, look at the clock and suddenly realize that it was after 10 PM, and I'd forgotten my favorite show was on.  GRRRRR!!!!!!

Seeing this one from the beginning later on didn't improve it, though.  I did get the impression this one somehow impressed George Perez.  He had a race of cold-blooded scientists in THE NEW TEEN TITANS who could easily have been related to these bastards.  (For all his sense of "fun", Perez often included far too much intense violence in his comics.)

The IMDB points out another one of those bizarre coindicences (or is it?)  It seems this was directed by John Erman.  A few years earlier, he'd directed THE OUTER LIMITS episode "Nightmare".  Both that story and this take place on a mostly-bare set, and involves Earthmen being tortured, sometimes to death, by aliens, for the sake of research.  Between the two, I much prefer the OL version. At least in that one, if memory serves, the people behind it (who turned out to be Earthmen!) got what was coming to them.

Whatta ya know?  Turns out I wrote a review for THE EMPATH back in 2010, in which I hit some of the same points I did in the previous post.

Been there, done that... and MUCH better!

**

There's long been a number of ST's that I rank as the "worst" episodes, among them "MIRI", "BREAD AND CIRCUSES", "THE GAMESTERS OF TRISKELLION", "THE PARADISE SYNDROME", "SPOCK'S BRAIN", "PLATO'S STEPCHILDREN". This one is squarely on the list. It's slow, it's cheap-looking, it pointlessly vicious, and parts of it don't even make much sense.

I had a feeling, like with "IS THERE IN TRUTH NO BEAUTY?", that I was almost watching an OUTER LIMITS episode. Then I read the comments about "NIGHTMARE", and the fact that both were directed by the same person. Too much! Just as LOST IN SPACE's 3rd season spent quite a few episodes doing "LIS" versions of 1st-season ST's, ST's 3rd season spent quite a few episodes doing inferior versions of stories already seen on other shows. Among them were "WINK OF AN EYE" (done much better on THE WILD WILD WEST), "TURNABOUT INTRUDER" (done much better on THE OUTER LIMITS, and THE AVENGERS as well), "THE PARADISE SYNDROME" (well, by this point, just about every show on network TV had already done an "amnesia" story).

Kathryn Hays is incredibly beautiful and does a great job as a member of an alien race quite different from anything we've seen before, even though she looks totally human. An interesting idea not properly dealt with, due to the nature of this particular story.

Davis Roberts is a terrific character actor I've seen on many shows, including TARZAN, who's wasted in a role where he gets maybe 2-3 lines of dialogue before being murdered for no reason whatsoever. ("WE didn't kill them", says the Vian. Right, like a guy holding a smoking gun will say it was the bullets that did the job.)

At one point Kirk brings up The Prime Directive. I can't think of a single instance where that thing was MORE uncalled-for and out of place than here. It seems to me The Prime Directive was a poorly-conceived idea of Gene Roddenberry's that he hatched when he wrote "THE OMEGA GLORY" (an episode so bad it was shelved for 2 whole years before being dusted off!). It's used so inconsistently, it's more of a joke and a gimmick used in poorly-thought-out episodes. Federation personnel are kidnapped, tortured and murdered by a pair of heartless "scientists" (the phrase "AND YOU CALL YOURSELF A SCIENTIST?" comes to mind), and he insanely quotes the P.D. saying it's not HIS place to "interfere".

And what about self-preservation? Kirk should have SHOT first and asked questions later. Instead, he tries to talk to 2 killers and winds up without any weapons, at their mercy. The rest of the story involves Kirk, Spock & McCoy arguing about which one of them should gladly commit suicide (more or less).

In the entire 3-year run of STAR TREK, I think the Vians may top my list of villains I just wanted to see DEAD. Not only them, but their entire civilization with them. Imagine if Ron Tracy had been their victim. HE'd have shown those "scientists" what he thought of them. (Marv Wolfman & George Perez may well have taken inspiration from the Vians when they created the "Psions", a very similar alien race of cold-hearted scientists who pursue knowledge without any care how many countless innocent lives are damaged or destroyed in the process.)

I know this will sound sexist, but what was going on with all these 3rd-season stories being written by women? And, on the other side of the coin, WHERE was D.C. Fontana? I didn't see her name in the end credits. I guess a change in story editor was part of the reason for the show's decline in this period.

The 2nd Varese Sarabande CD of newly-re-recorded STAR TREK scores (1986) included Fred Steiner's version of George Duning's score for this episode. After seeing Duning's name on quite a few other episodes, I find myself wishing they'd have included one of the OTHER ones, instead.

Finally, NBC had nothing to do with the budget cut. That was all Paramount. When Lucille Ball's new husband convinced her to sell Desilu to Paramount, the big movie studio was in deep dept from too many expensive films bombing at the box office. When they found themselves now running a TV studio, the first thing they did was order the budgets on all "their" shows slashed-- so they could use the money to make bigger, even more expensive bombs.

When MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE's creator & producer Bruce Geller heard the order, he told all his department heads-- "This year, SPEND MORE." The network was thrilled. They'd already paid for the shows. The sponsors were thrilled. Ditto. Paramount was P***ED. But because Gene Roddenberry had stepped down (feeling rightly so that he'd been shafted by NBC over the schedule change), he wasn't around to make a difference. Imagine if Roddenberry had done what Geller had. STAR TREK's 3rd season MIGHT have been its best-ever, and that could have made a difference in the ratings. We'll never know.

THE THOLIEN WEB has long been a favorite of mine.  For one thing, I thought those space suits were SO cool!  Looking at them again now, I feel they're a positively unique design.  I wish they'd been used more often on the show.

Once again, The Enterprise finds another derelict Starship, with its entire crew dead.  The horror sinks in when they discover that, just like in THE NAKED TIME, everyone went insane-- and KILLED each other!  Will this happen on the Enterprise as well?  And then you have the really eerie bit... the thing that caused it is a rift in space between our dimension and another one... and The Defiant is in the process of vanishing.  Naturally, the distortion winds up screwing with the transporter, and everyone beams back EXCEPT Kirk.  So, just like in THE DOOMSDAY MACHINE, he's waiting to be beamed back... only, the Defiant vanishes before they manage to do it, taking Kirk with it!

A lot of 3rd season episodes have a rather cold-blooded feel about them, as if you're watching THE OUTER LIMITS again.  (Well, maybe 2nd season OL.)  They crank up the hostility between Spock & McCoy this time,  because Kirk is out of the picture.  In fact, at one point, Kirk is declared DEAD by Spock!  (What, AGAIN?) After listening to Kirk's pre-recorded "final orders", the pair seem to reach a better understanding... yet a few scenes later, McCoy in once again giving Spock hassles.  Oy.

The other really eerie element of this story has to be the Tholiens.  All we see of them on a viewing screen looks somehow utterly alien, or unreal, or both.  And after their ship is disabled, a 2nd one arrives, links up with it-- and then, inexplicably, BOTH ships begin spinning an electromanetic force field in the form of a "web"!  (How did the "disabled" ship self-repair in so short a space of time?)  Spock has this strangely poetic line, when he says, "If we do not succeed in escaping before they complete their task... we shall not see home again!"  I had a "Poster book" poster of the Enterprise surrounded by the Tholien Web on my wall once.  Right next to the one of Uhura in her MIRROR, MIRROR outfit!

As usual, Chekov is the FIRST one to go crazy.  MORE crazy than usual, in fact.  He spenda almost half the story in restraints, writhing and screaming.  How much of that can any viewer take?  Then it gets even stranger when Uhura sees what appears to be the GHOST of Captain Kirk-- and McCoy, naturally, figures she's going crazy, too.  Yet she was only seeing things-- she never got angry or violent.  Wasn't the ships chief medical officer paying attention to the symptoms?  Only when the entire bridge crew ALSO see Kirk's ghost do they realize Uhura is okay.

One thing I never quite understood, for decades, was exactly HOW the Enterprise got out of that web.  I had to read about it online for someone to explain it to me (the ship warped INTO the rift between universes, then out again).  This reminds me a bit of the scene in 2001 when Dave enters the "star gate" and is hurled across the universe.  The way the film was shot, there's NO CLUE.  I had to read Arthur C. Clarke's novel to understand that-- and every time I see the film again, it continues to bother me, because that ONE shot is SO BADLY done, it's impossible to understand what the hell you're seeing.

Come to think of it, 2001 also had some very cool, and unique space suit designs.

FOR THE WORLD IS HOLLOW AND I HAVE TOUCHED THE SKY -- this most long-winded of episode titles belongs to a story that manages to hit several TV cleches at the same time. 

First, in the pre-credit sequence, we learn that one of the regulars has a terminal disease (or, as they once put in in MAD magazine, an "old movie illness"). Since it's Dr. McCoy, and this is 60's TV, we KNOW, deep, deep down, that somehow, against all odds, before the end credits roll, that he's NOT gonna buy the farm.  But if you're 10 years old or younger (like I was), you probably get sucked in and, at least for 55 minutes or so, actually believe that, hey, he MIGHT die!

Then we have a civilization where, because of some long-ago disaster, has been put in the hands of a COMPUTER.  And like all STAR TREK computers in charge of civilizations, this one's GONE BAD.  In fact, this one's worse than "Landru" in THE RETURN OF THE ARCHONS.  This one, which calls itself "The Oracle", has a genuine ATTITUDE problem.  For no discearnible reason whatsoever (mainly because nobody involved in making this episode ever bothered to include an explanation!!!), it fires a spread of nuclear missiles at The Enterprise.  Was it trying to destroy it? If so, why?  Or was it trying to get The Enteprrise's attention?  This seems unlikely, given how xenophobic (if I'm using that word right) it and the entire civilization of "Yonada" acts when Kirk & co. arrive to investigate. 

"We come in friendship.", Kirk says-- AFTER his entire landing party has been brutally attacked, subdued, and captured at sword-point, then dragged before their "idol".  "THEN FIRST LEARN WHAT IT MEANS TO BE OUR ENEMIES!", The Oracle says-- an instant before using high-voltage electricty to stun Kirk, Spock & McCoy into unconsciousness. This thing needs to learn some lessons about diplomacy.  If I were Kirk, I'd have gone out of my way to DESTROY The Oracle, at the very first opportunity, if a friendly overture from me was met with that kind of greeting.

The next TV cleche has McCoy fall in love with Natira, high priestess of the Oracle, and leader of the people of Yonada.  All of them are unaware that they're living on a giant spacehip, with the exception of one old man, played by John Lormer (THE CAGE, THE RETURN OF THE ARCHONS-- hey, talk about typecasting!), who, on speaking what he believes is the truth, is instantly MURDERED by The Oracle for his "blasphemy".  Seems The Oracle & Landru have a lot in common.  Of course, as this is 60's TV, if you think about it from a behind-the-scenes perspective, you'll realize that either A) Natira will die by the end of the story, or, B) McCoy will leave Natira behind at the end of the story.  ("One from column B.")

What really gets me is how polite Kirk, Spock & McCoy keep trying to be with these people, somehow not wanting to destroy their faith, their world-view, or hurt their delicate feelings, by telling them that the "world" they're on has developed a malfunction, is out of control, and in about one year will collide with a planet with several BILLION people on it. They're trying to SAVE both Yonada and the other planet, yet they're met with resistence, threats of death and attempts at murder at every turn!  Maybe going in shooting would have actually been called for here-- like it was in A TASTE OF ARMAGEDDON?

Dumbest of all has to be McCoy actually allowing Natira to insert the "instrument of obedience" into his temple... so that when he figures out where the ship's operating manual is hidden, and calls up Kirk to tell him, he ALMOST dies for it! Then The Oracle goes all "Phantom of the Opera" on Kirk, Spock, McCoy AND Natira by trying using intense heat to try to fry them all.

What can I say?  I HATE really, really STUPID computers!!!!!

Well, by the time it's over, The Oracle is shut down, the steering fault is fixed, McCoy realizes he wants to spend the rest of his life looking for a cure, Natira tells him that, no matter what, her life is on Yonada.  As it happens, by coincidence, among Yonada's library of stored medical knowledge (hidden away in the back room BEHIND The Oracle all these centuries-- GEE, it was really doing people a hell of a lot of good THERE, wasn't it???) is a CURE for McCoy's "old movie disease".  Although they tentatively plan to return to see the people of Yonada reach their long-predicted new planet and disembark to start a new life, STAR TREK, as a TV series, never lasted long enough for anyone to do a sequel.

I guess between Spock & McCoy, that makes TWO of them who have abandoned a wife. Sheesh.

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