What I've got is the new releases with the enhanced special effects - I'll comment on these as best I can, shame I haven't got the originals to compare and contrast, but such is life. I put up the "spoiler" just on the off chance that there's someone here that hasn't seen all these a million times - you never know, I suppose.

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While for many years I've felt the Roddenberry-produced episodes from Season 1 felt like THE OUTER LIMITS in color, what i never noticed until this past month or two is that about half of thr 3rd season ALSO feel like OUTER LIMITS stories... but 2nd-season OL.  Cold, not fun, sometimes downer endings.  While Gene Coon gave us ST with "heart", and sometimes humor, Fred Freiberger thought humor was a bad thing.  Perhaps he figured they didn't have the budget for it.

A little grandiose in the titles, if you ask me...

doc photo said:

Whom Gods Destroy, Is There In Truth No Beauty, Let This Be Your Last Battleground - one point of quality that did not go away in the third season was the great episode titles.

WHOM GODS DESTROY: “Able was I ere I saw Elba.”

Elba II is, I think, one of Star Trek’s more subtle in-jokey names. I don’t know where the cliché of crazy people thinking they are Napoleon came from (I know it from Warner Bros. cartoons), but Napoleon was exiled to Elba in the well-known palindrome quoted above.

On the rank of “Fleet Captain”: This came up once before (regarding Christopher Pike’s promotion), so I looked it up. In the Star Trek universe, Fleet Captain (not a common rank) is analogous to an old-style Flag Admiral. In the event of a large-scale military mission (such as a possible conflict with the Klingon Empire), a Fleet Captain would direct the movements of entire squadron.

This is one of those episode I enjoy simply because I have seen it so infrequently. I saw it one (or maybe twice) in syndication, once (or maybe twice) on VHS, and once over the weekend. There is only one episode (which we’ll get to presently) I have seen less frequently.

LET THAT BE YOUR LAST BATTLEFIELD: Unlike “Whom Gods Destroy” I have seen this episode far too many times. Even as a kid I thought the allegory was pretty heavy-handed, but I guess that’s what Star Trek is known for: the ability to discuss hot-button solcial topics in the guise of science fiction. “Sledgehammer symbolism” I call it (in this case).

I take the “50,000 years” reference with a grain of salt. I chalk it up to be a glitch in the universal translator. The way I interpret it is that Bele has pursued Lokai across “50,000 light years,” and even that would be employing a bit of hyperbole. You k now, like “I’ve chased you ‘round the moons of Nibia and ‘round the Antares maelstrom and ‘round perdition’s flame!”

"50,000 light years" does sound a lot more reasonable.  Even if both characters were very long-lived, the pursuit going on for maybe 50 years would seem more than long enough to impress dramatically.

Most criticisms aimed at this episode focus on the histrionics or the make-up, but there's other things about it that bother me far, far more.

Lou Antonio switched over to directing.  I'm watching one of his McCLOUD episodes today.

The Mark of Gideon:

Written by George F. Slavin and Stanley Adams (Apparently, Cyrano jones co-wrote an episode!)

Directed by Jud Taylor


Synopsis:  Kirk makes a young woman sick.



1)If I was Starfleet, I might be concerned how about how well the Gideonites duplicated the Enterprise. I might have had the reveal be Kirk noticing some small detail they'd missed.


2)"We must acknowledge once and for all that the purpose of diplomacy is to prolong a crisis." Spock gets snippy!


3)"You mean you're gonna scan space for him?" 


4)"Diplomats and bureaucrats may function differently, but they achieve exactly the same results."


5)"You shall test the skill of your very excitable repairman."


6)I have to admit, I didn't pick up on the coordinate trick the first time I saw this.


7)The ship carries enough food for 430 people for five years?  They must have really effective storage techniques.


8)The watching faces are quite creepy.


9)"What is like to feel pain?"  Come here, I'll give you a free sample!


10)"You are a gentleman, Captain Kirk."


11)Sure hope Spock didn't get into too much trouble for disobeying that admiral.



A so-so epidoes. It had some good moments, but the Gideonites plan had an almost Team Rocket level of absurd, unnecessary complexity. Surely there had to have been an easier way to get what they needed without taking the insane risk of kidnapping a Starfleet Captain!


Jeff of Earth-J said:


On the rank of “Fleet Captain”: This came up once before (regarding Christopher Pike’s promotion), so I looked it up. In the Star Trek universe, Fleet Captain (not a common rank) is analogous to an old-style Flag Admiral.

Um, Jeff, my friend, I don't know who wrote the source material from which you obtained that information, but my guess is that it was the same guy who wrote the Sarge Steel entry in the 1985 Who's Who and insisted that Steel held the rank of "captain sergeant" in the Army.


In the entire history of the United States Navy, there has never been a rank or a title called "flag admiral", and I know a little about such things.


Now, yes, in a kinda-sorta way, we might have, back in '44, when Roosevelt proposed adding five- and six-star ranks to the Army and Navy.  "Flag Admiral" was one of the names bandied about for the six-star rank in the Navy, along with "Admiral of the Navy".  But neither name ever got any further than the doodles on FDR's notepad.  Secretary of War Henry Stimson wisely talked the President out of pushing the matter of a six-star rank.


Now, if we go back to the nineteenth century, we have a Congress that was loathe to establish any kind of admiral rank in the U.S. Navy.  This was a carryover from the earliest days of our nation, when our legislators looked upon any kind of high rank with suspicion.  In Britain, such ranks as general and admiral were usually bestowed upon aristocracy, and over here, most of the fellows in Congress viewed such a thing as creating an artificial aristocracy---just the sort of thing we had gone to war with England to avoid.


Now, the Continential Army had performed most of the grunt work of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, so Congress reluctantly appointed a few generals.  (Significantly, even George Washington was given only three stars---a lieutenant general.)  But they weren't about to give the Navy any rank above captain at all.


By the mid-nineteeth century, however, the need for parity between the Army and Navy was pressing, and grudgingly Congress created a rank called "flag officer" in 1857.  However, in actual usage, the term "commodore" was used more often than flag officer.  It really didn't matter much anyway, because a mere five years later, Congress capitulated and authorised admiral ranks in the U.S. Navy.


The term flag officer has persisted, though, as a general term referring, as a class, to Naval officers who wear stars.


But there's never been such a thing as a "flag admiral", old-style or otherwise.  Those Star Trek mavens need to open up a military history book once in a while.



Very informative, Commander but now you got me thinking about this whole "Commodore" rank. It seems to me like it's a bureaucratic postion more than a line commission in the Star Trek universe but I'm not sure.

Of course in Star Trek III, Scotty was promoted to "Captain of Engineering" aboard the Excelsior, why wasn't he the same aboard the Enterprise? And can you have two people with the rank of captain on one ship?

As for "The Mark of Gideon", the Gideonites' main problems were overpopulation and lack of resources so where did they find the room and the material to build a complete, full-size replica of the Enterprise? Along with the devices needed to simulate that it's in space AND all the props needed to fill every room on the ship AND the five year food supply that Kirk's bound to look for AND all the log entries that they would have no access to, etc. etc.

Not to mention the biggest problem, How do they keep their Pseudo-Enterprise upright? Anyone whose had the ship as a toy knows it can't lay flat on a surface!


Adam, I know that you know that I would never presume to dispute you on a military matter! I suspected that the definition I provided was so much smoke, and chose to soften its impact by prefacing it with the phrase “in the Star Trek universe.” I didn’t put my post in quotation marks because I changed some of the wording, and I didn’t “look it up” so much as I happened to read it over the weekend. I read it in a comic book, so whether or not the explanation is canonical in the first place is up for debate, but I’d never encountered a definition of “Fleet Captain” before, so I thought I’d post it just to see if anyone would bite. (For the record, my source is the Captain’s Log: Pike one-shot written by Stuart Moore.) Having said that, my takeaway is “In the event of a large-scale military mission, a Fleet Captain would direct the movements of an entire squadron” (the phrase “analogous to an old-style Flag Admiral” notwithstanding). In any case, it’s always a pleasure when such a knowledgeable source as you brings his expertise to a particular matter.

THE MARK OF GIDEON: This is another one I’ve seen too many times. As you pointed out, are we to believe the Gideons replicated a starship so exactly that Captain Kirk himself couldn’t tell the difference? All he’d have to do is go to his quarters and check his sock drawer for his medal for the Axinar Peace Mission (or whatever).

If he thought about it. Why would he think it was just a replica? Considering what Kirk had been through over the years I think his assumption that the crew was missing was the first one he'd make.

I don't know, Mark. I think if Kirk suddenly found himself on another actual Constitution Class starship he'd be able to tell it wasn't the enterprise.

Philip Portelli said:

Very informative, Commander but now you got me thinking about this whole "Commodore" rank. It seems to me like it's a bureaucratic postion more than a line commission in the Star Trek universe but I'm not sure.

Of course in Star Trek III, Scotty was promoted to "Captain of Engineering" aboard the Excelsior, why wasn't he the same aboard the Enterprise? And can you have two people with the rank of captain on one ship?

Groan!   I was afraid someone would ask me about commodores.  Compared to explaining commodores, explaining the difference between captain (the rank) and captain (the position) is a snap.


Let me postpone the agony by taking your second question first.  With the usual caveat that I am speaking to the U.S. Navy and its history, and how things are done in the Star Trek universe could be very different.


Most certainly there can be more than one person holding the rank of captain assigned to a ship.  Usually, though, such a situation occurs only on carriers.  And, in fact, a CV is crawling with four-stripers.  The commanding officer, of course, is a captain; the executive officer is a captain; the chief engineer is a captain; and the commander of the air group is a captain.


But while you have several captains (rank) on a carrier, you have only one captain (position) and he is god unto that vessel.


Carriers are the only ships where other four-stripers are routinely assigned.  On other large vessels, both the CO and the XO conceivably could both be captains in rank.  But in those cases, it's a situation where the XO had been a very senior commander and the timing of his promotion board was such that he was selected for captain near the end of his XO tour.  In other words, he won't have that much time left in his XO tour---which is a commander billet---so the Navy will just keep him there until the end of his tour before moving him on to a captain's billet.


Now for commodores.  Fasten your seat belt, Philip; it's going to be a bumpy ride.  And remember---you asked for it!


As with Navy captains, the title of commodore was both a rank and a position.  But, unlike Navy captains, never consistently.


When the title of commodore was created for the U.S. Navy in 1794, it wasn't a rank; it was a position.  A senior captain of the line who was placed in charge of a squadron of warships was the commodore (and addressed as such).  But as I said, it wasn't an actual rank---for the reasons I described in my previous post. 


In 1857, the rank of flag officer was created, and most of the few selected for that rank were serving as commodores, i.e., in charge of a squadron or larger.  Despite the promotion in rank, most flag officers were addressed as "commodore", by tradition (and the U.S. Navy is very big on tradition).  (As opposed to the Marine Corps, which is very, VERY big on tradition.)


In 1862, the rank of flag officer became that of rear admiral, and admirals being the sort of fellows they are, they insisted on being called "admiral".  Gradually, the use of the term "commodore" faded out.  And in 1899, the Navy officially disestablished it.


When the Japanese dropped World War II on our laps in December, 1941, the U.S. armed forces had to adapt swiftly.  In terms of men, munitions, and mobility, such things moved at lightning speed.  As always, administrative requirements took a little longer to catch up.  By 1943, it became obvious that the Navy needed an extra statum of rank.  Officers who commanded large bases and shipyards needed more clout to get things done, but rear admirals, vice admirals, and admirals were needed to create strategy and lead battle forces.


It is also important to understand that, at the time, through the byzantine peculiarities of promotion systems, the Navy did not have a one-star rank.  This was unlike the Army or the Marine Corps.  In the Army and the Marine Corps, if a colonel was promoted to the next level, he became a brigadier general and wore only one star.  (If he received another regular promotion, then he would advance to major general--two stars.)


However, in the Navy, if a captain (equivalent to an Army or Marine colonel) was promoted to the next level, he became a rear admiral and wore two stars.


However, this did not mean that Navy captains jumped two ranks with one promotion.  It probably would have, except for the matter of pay---as always, money is the cause of everything.  What happened was this:  if a Navy captain was promoted to rear admiral, on the payroll books and in the rank structure, it was listed as "rear admiral--lower half".  What that meant was, even though the lower-half rear admiral wore two stars, he was the equivalent to an Army/Marine one-star-wearing brigadier general.


Then, if the lower-half rear admiral received another regular promotion, his listing changed to "rear admiral--upper half".  He still wore two stars, but now he was equal in rank to an Army/Marine major general.


I'll give you a minute to re-read that and let it sink in . . . .



Got it?  O.K., let's move on.  Remember, I said that the Navy had a need for an additional level of rank, for those large bases and shipyards, where the commanding officer often had to contend with senior colonels or brigadier generals of the other services.  In order to give those Navy CO's parity with his other-service counterparts, the Navy revived the term commodore and made it a one-star rank.  Lots of senior captains subsequently found themselves bumped up to commodore.


So now, for the first time in the Navy's history, you have the rank of commodore.  That was in late '43-early '44.  By August, 1945, World War II was over and a massive deconstruction of our military structure went into effect.  The chain-of-command was streamlined and the Navy didn't need the rank of commodore anymore and it didn't promote anyone to that rank, anymore.  But since the services are always delicate when it comes to officers who wear stars, the Navy didn't officially disestablish the rank of commodore until 1947---that was when all the officers with the rank of commodore had either been promoted to rear admiral or had retired.


With the disestablishment of the rank of commodore, the term "commodore" was once again applied to senior captains who were in charge of organisations of multiple units, such as a destroyer squadron or a submarine squadron.  Such officers held the rank of captain, but held the position of commodore and were addressed as commodore.


And, in the rank structure, the disestablishment of the commodore rank also did away with the one-star insignia.  Now, as before WWII, captains were promoted directly to two-star rear admirals.


That was the status quo when I entered the Navy.  And if you think the matter of commodores was complicated and tortuous before, you haven't seen anything.


Better go get something to drink.  I'll wait . . . .



For virtually the entire existence of the U.S. Armed Forces, there had been conflict and inequity over the differences in officer promotion rates and levels in each service.  Different services promoted its officers at different rates and the ceilings on how many of each officer rank/paygrade varied for each service.  There was also an issue with the practice of "frocking".  Frocking was similar to the wartime battlefield promotion.  If an officer was successfully serving in a position of responsibility greater than the rank he held, he could be promoted to the next rank, but only in terms of insignia and title, not in pay.  As with the other matters, frocking was conducted differently across the various services.  Some services, such as the Navy, frocked liberally; others---read:  the Marine Corps---did not frock at all.


All of this was a nightmare for the bean-counters in the General Services Administration, which oversaw the pay procedures and policies of all the Armed Forces.


And there was another issue, one that had been simmering for decades.  The Army and the Marine Corps and the Air Force resented the fact that their colonels, when promoted, got only one star, but the Navy (and the Coast Guard) captains, when promoted, went to two stars.  Now, yes, for pay purposes, there was still that lower/upper half business, but it wasn't so much the pay as the appearance of things.


I know this sounds picayune on the part of a bunch of senior leaders, but if you remember my post on the creation of the five-star rank and General Marshall, you'll recall that's how they roll.  Big brass usually equals big egos.  Basically, it was one big wail from the Army and Marines and Air Force of "It's not fair!"


(Oh, and it gets even better---read on!)


So, after considerable lobbying and back-room politicking on the part of the various services, the Defense Officer Personnel Management Act (DOPMA) was passed in 1980.  What this did was standardise the officer promotion policies and procedures for all of the Armed Forces.  It also placed uniform ceilings on the number officers each service could have at each rank and it imposed strict guidelines on the practise of frocking.


But the other thing DOPMA did---which is germane to the matter of commodores---was it required the Navy to establish a one-star rank.  More accurately, it required that officers in its "lower-half rear admiral" paygrade to now wear only one star.


As you can imagine, this bruised the egos of a lot of senior captains in the Navy.  I remember distinctly the second CO I served under on USS Forrestal (CV-59)---CAPT Skip Armstrong.  Successful completion of a carrier CO tour nearly always results in promotion to admiral.  Armstrong's predecessor, my first CO, CAPT Rudy Kohn, had been promoted to a two-star rear admiral.  Now, under DOPMA, CAPT Armstrong was only going to pick up one star, and he was vocally unhappy about that.


Forced to adopt a one-star rank, for once the Navy did the logical thing.  "Hey, we used to have a one-star rank once!" recalled the boys in the office of the CNO.  "We called them commodores.  We'll just call this new one-star rank commodore."


A simple and elegant solution, and one that lasted only about six months after the first bunch of promotees pinned on their single star.  You see, they were commodores and not admirals, and they didn't like it.  And the ones on the fast track, the fellows who'd been earmarked for plenty more stars in their careers yelled the loudest.


The result?  The Navy had the rank of commodore again---for about six months in 1981.


The commodores rattled their cages loud enough that the Navy capitulated and said, "O.K., we'll make them admirals."  The first notion was to call them "commodore admirals", but that idea never got past a few premature printings of rank insignia posters.  Ultimately, it was decided to go back to the old rear admiral--lower half"/"rear admiral--upper half" system, only now, lower-half rear admirals would wear one star, while their upper-half brethren would wear two stars.


And where did that leave the term "commodore"?  Right back where it was at the beginning---a commodore is the term for a senior captain in charge of multiple-unit organisations---just like it had been back in 1794 and 1947.  He's addressed as commodore, but only on basis of his position; his rank and insignia are still those of a Navy captain.


One final detail, for completeness:  while an officer in the position of captain can be of any rank, from ensign up to the rank of captain, a commodore is always an officer with the rank of captain.


And while an officer who is, or has been, a commanding officer can be identified by the command pin he wears, there is no special badge or device to show that a captain is a commodore.  You just have to hope someone tells you before you meet him.




(Somebody wake up Portelli over there!)









And where did that leave the term "commodore"? Right back where it was at the beginning---a commodore is the term for a senior captain in charge of multiple-unit organisations---just like it had been back in 1794 and 1947.


And will be again in 4179?

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