Saturday, January 14, 2012

Star Trek Episode Reviews (in production order): Season 2

    All right, the second season of Star Trek, viewed in production order, as opposed to original airing order.  Though there are some fantastic episodes in the second season, it is generally a step down in writing quility.  The cast seems to have a sold handle on their characters and there are clearly times when they were trying out some wild ideas.  And heck, even most not-so-good episodes are still fun to watch.  Here are my reviews for each episode written just after watching them.

Catspaw:  Ugh.  What an inauspicious opening to the second season.  Originally aired just before Halloween, this goofy adventure into cheesy, haunted house antics is simply tiresome.  I expect more from Lovecraft disciple and Psycho writer, Robert Bloch.  Filled with awkward scenes and dumb looking sets it’s just a dog of an episode.  This was also the first episode to feature Chekov and his idiotic wig.  Yikes.

Metamorphosis:  A cool sound stage and solid guest appearance from Glenn Corbett keep this mostly uninteresting episode watchable.  I do like the underlying message about love transcending traditional boundaries, though.  And a common original series idea that I like creeped in, that man needs obstacles in order to grow stronger.

Friday’s Child:  Lots of humor in this episode, in spite of some violent deaths.  The cast gets a good deal of exercise, as Scotty and the ship go off on a side adventure, while Kirk, Spock, and an especially goofy McCoy have fun dealing with savage warriors with strange customs.  Throw a wily Klingon in the mix for some flavor.  Not a great episode, but a fun watch.

Who Morns for Adonis?:  Yikes.  Not a good episode.  Cringe inducing cheeseball acting from guest star Michael Forest as Apollo doesn’t help.  But really, it’s the script here that’s the problem.  Uninspired writing and a story that could have been cool, but isn’t.

Amok Time:  Finally, season two gets good with this classic episode featuring our first serious look into Spock’s past and his people.  Visiting the Vulcan homeworld, Kirk and McCoy witness some crazy antics on the part of the usually stoic Spock, when his blood drives him to mate.  There are some really good bits in this, with some excellent music.  And more than any previous episode, this one cements the trinity of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.

The Doomsday Machine:  The tension gets cranked up to eleven in this episode about a giant something devouring whole star systems.  Then a cracked commodore gets in on the action.  Some great stuff from Scotty and Spock in this story.   In a way, this episode presages not only The Motion Picture, but the arrival of the Borg much later.

Wolf in the Fold:  Robert Bloch and Star Trek don’t mix.  The third and final episode written by Bloch is only slightly less annoying than Catspaw.  Mr. Scott is a bumbling idiot, ruled by his rampant sexual urges, while a cheesy Agatha Christie wannabe ‘who done it’ ambles on.  Everyone getting high as kites in the last ten minutes makes for some fun comic moments.  But this just isn’t a good episode.

The Changeling:  The major precursor to The Motion Picture, this story has the crew facing off against a shockingly powerful and dangerous probe.  Scotty continues to have bad luck, and something pretty drastic happens to Uhura in the episode that probably should have made more of an impact on the future of the show, except for the nature of episodic TV.  A good episode, overall.

The Apple:  Some of the early exploration in this episode is pretty cool, but once they run into the white beehive hairdo people, it all goes downhill pretty quick.  There isn’t much story, some rampant imperialism on the part of Kirk and crew, and a bunch of uncomfortable sexual innuendo.  And for some reason, Spock keeps getting his butt handed to him (shot with poisonous quills, bounced off an energy field, and struck by lightening!).  Fun in a cheesy sort of way, but not a very good episode.

Mirror, Mirror:  One of the very best episodes, I just love what they do with this one.  From the alternate world versions of our familiar characters, to the crazy costumes, it’s a lot of fun.  And Uhura in that midriff baring outfit…wow.  I always wished they’d returned to this setting with the original cast and crew.  “Your agonizer, please!”

The Deadly Years:  Old age is the enemy in this episode.  Nothing really amazing here, but there are a bunch of cool moments for the actors to put on their best ‘old guy’ routines.  The side story of a competency hearing for Kirk serves more as a distraction than a good plot development.

I, Mudd:  Oh, no.  Mudd returns in this annoying and stupid episode.  I’m never a fan of comic Trek episodes, and this is one of the worst.  Filled with terrible gags, characters acting against character, and well, Mudd, it’s nearly unwatchable.  If ever there were a character that didn’t need to return, it was this annoying jerk.  I hate to think that this episode might be someone’s introduction to the series.  Bah.

The Trouble With Tribbles:  I’m never a big fan of Star Trek’s brief forays into comedy, and this episode is certainly no exception.  Though it often makes it on to people’s favorite lists, I find it more grating than anything else.  The trader character is almost as annoying as Harry Mudd.  There are a few good moments, but overall, not a very good episode.

Bread and Circuses:  Getting past the essential silliness of the parallel Earth concept, this episode about a 20th century Rome is pretty cool.  Gladiators as primetime entertainment.  Escaped slaves forming an underground in the hills outside of a Hollywood equivalent.  There are some good bits.  The cheesy Christian moral shoehorned into the finale is pretty out of place.  But I still like the episode.

Journey to Babel:  The second episode to deal with Spock’s heritage in a major way, here we meet his Vulcan father and human mother.  We get a lot more talk about logic and Vulcan culture.  It’s also a chance for the makeup and costume people to go nuts with all the various alien delegations.  There’s a fun murder plot, and a dramatic medical emergency.  Really, the episode is kind of all over the place, but it’s good.  And Kirk, though he takes something of a back seat in the episode, does have an extra cool tough guy sequence near the end.

A Private Little War:  What a crazy episode.  Klingons, white apes with horns, wacky wigs, sexual healing, Spock slapping, and Vietnam War allegory all wrapped up in one not very good, but goofily fun episode.  No shock this was a Roddenberry penned episode, as it’s extremely heavy handed and jumbled.  Nancy Kovack is especially interesting and weird as the over-ambitious, oversexed witch woman who tries to keep men under her thumb with a potent cocktail of sex and drugs.  Not one of the better episodes, but any means.  But it’s not dull.

Obsession:  Had Star Trek not been an extremely episodic show, and had there been some build up or lead in to this episode, it might have worked better.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t and there wasn’t.  So, Kirk’s completely out of character behavior as well as the young crewman who just happens to be the son of Kirk’s Captain who died under similar circumstances many years ago, all seems forced.  It’s not a bad story, and might have made a good premise for a novel or for a film, even.  But the episode is too short and the show’s episodic nature too limiting for it to really work.

The Immunity Syndrome:  A pretty good unbeatable space monster episode, this one features some very cool Spock and McCoy bits.  As the crew is stretched beyond the breaking point, tensions run high, and friendship is tested.  There are echoes of this episode in the films, especially The Motion Picture and Wrath of Khan.  And I really enjoy Tired Kirk.

A Piece of the Action:  What can I say?  This is one seriously goofy episode.  It’s filled with cornball dialog, a pretty silly plot, more Kirk and crew getting captured than a dozen other episodes combined, and gag after gag after gag.  Shatner hams it up on an epic level.  Everyone else seems at a bit of a loss.  But the image of Kirk and Spock in gangster attire is awesome.

By Any Other Name:  Kind of an interesting Lovecraft vibe to this episode.  Not great, but fun.  And there are some great lines and performances.  Scotty says the classic “It’s green!” line that I’ve always loved.  It also has a great bit of Kirk seduction.

Return to Tomorrow:  If nothing else, this episode has a great monologue from Kirk about risk and benefit that sums up my own views of space exploration and technology.  Otherwise, it’s a pretty typical ‘possession’ episode.  The actors get a chance to play out of character for a bit, especially Nimoy, who gets to ham it up as a smug villain.  Shatner does some fantastically crazy Kirk-acting in this one, contorting his body as he pauses and rushes through dialog.  I think everyone’s impersonation of Shatner could come from this episode alone.

Patterns of Force:  A powerful episode, this story deals with some pretty dark subjects, though in typical Trek form, intermixes a bit of humor, especially with Spock.  When a historian decides to help a primitive world, he introduces an old Earth philosophy, and things get out of hand.  An examination on power, hatred, and the lessons of history.  One of the strongest episodes of the second season.

The Ultimate Computer:  Kirk and crew face the possibility of being replaced by machines in this pretty cool episode.  The always awesome William Marshal plays a computer genius who may have a few circuits crossed.  Good, tense action.  Some awesome Kirk moments.  And a great, enraged McCoy.

The Omega Glory:  This episode starts out well enough.  A missing ship, a crew mysteriously missing or dead, a paradise planet below with two warring factions.  Everything is going along fairly smoothly.  And then it all falls apart in the last ten minutes as episode writer Gene Roddenberry pulls out all the stops and bashes us over the head with some of the worst, heavy handed, uncomfortably patriotic allegory this side of a John Wayne movie.  The last ten minutes actually turn this into one of my vary least favorite episodes of the whole series.

Assignment: Earth:  An attempted spin-off of Star Trek, as an episode, this really doesn’t work.  It’s totally out of whack as far as tone and even setting.  There are some cool ideas introduced, and Garry 7 might have made for a good lead in his own show.  But overall, a weak finish to the second season.

    A bad start and a bad ending, the season still had plenty of great highlights.  It was a lot of fun watching the episodes in order.  Though you see less progress/change than in the first half of the first season.  I really do love this show.  A different time, but one filled with wonder.

    Check out my reviews for season one, here.


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