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nsmtnz: You know it’s a bad week when


You know it’s a bad week when “starship crew reduced to little piles of salt” is the high point of the episode.

Okay, here’s a partial list of acceptable scenarios under which you may portray generally Earth, or specifically the United States of America, as existing on an alien planet or anywhere that is not our universe:

alternate timelines

alternate universes

cultures that deliberately imitate Earth

cultures that have been plucked from Earth/America and plonked down on another planet and directed to develop that way

cultures that have been plucked from Earth/America and deliberately preserved, in situ, by omnipotent alien museum curators

alien training programs that mimic and live as humans for the purposes of infiltration/invasion

Scenarios where this just pisses us off:

alien planets thousands of light-years from Earth spontaneously developing parallel China and America, right down to the Stars & Stripes, the Christian Bible and the Declaration of Independence for the purposes of making a sloppy point about how The Cold War Is Bad And We Should Stop, with bonus White Indians, yes you read that right

Guess which one happens in this episode.

What the ACTUAL FUCK, Gene Roddenberry.

The frustrating thing is that this episode contains at least three barely-connected episodes, and 1.75 of them could be good stories. Unfortunately, they’re made retroactively irrelevant by the general shittiness of the final, out-of-the-blue, America, Fuck Yeah! minutes of the episode are, especially since the entire debacle could have been avoided by a refresher course on Biohazard Protocols (yes, we’re back here, again) and Keeping In Touch With Starfleet.

This makes me so? irrationally?? angry???

Mystifyingly, this was one of Gene Roddenberry’s submissions for the original pilot, but NBC - rightly - made him shelve it until late in the second season when, presumably, they could no longer stop him.

Possibly this episode would seem less wretched to an actual American, but we seriously doubt it.

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[From The Not So Much The Neutral Zone Podcast]

I’m still just, so angry? And even more angry about the parts of this episode that are too real up against the current state of Americaland.

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So with guest-host Trisha joining us this week, the NSMTNZ crew is 50/50 on loving this episode and finding the Kelvins some of most genuinely scary villains of TOS so far.

The story begins rather generically, with the Enterprise responding to a distress call… and then being immediately taken prisoner. “Thanks for picking up the phone,” says Chief Villain Rojan. “You, your ship, and your crew are now ours to command.”

“…huh,” says Captain Kirk.

-50 points for attempted galactic domination. +100 points for alien conqueror gender parity.

The thing about this story is that you expect it to go down just like every other episode: our brave crew, taken prisoner by seemingly all-powerful aliens, notices a flaw at the outset, makes a plan to exploit that flaw, and ultimately defeats said all-powerful aliens. And ultimately, that’s what happens. Intellectually, as viewers, we know that ultimately, the Enterprise crew will triumph. But the difference in this episode is, chiefly, two-fold.

First: the episode defies your assumption that the crew will progressively one-up the aggressors by having the Kelvins repeatedly, ruthlessly, foil our protagonists’ attempts at rebellion, starting with a calculated, cold-blooded murder in the first five minutes of the episode. This murder is not only utterly cold-blooded, but deliberately calculated for the purposes of breaking Kirk, and making him less likely to take risks later on in the episode.

It’s like a really, really dark version of Follow the Lady. Like, LAYERS of dark.

And the crazy thing? It works. Former-space-squid Rojan reads Kirk like a book in the first forty seconds of their acquaintance and works out exactly what will keep Kirk in line when faced with the deaths of more of his crew, to the point of making Kirk decide against initiating a self-destruct that will protect the Federation and the entire Milky Way Galaxy.

Second: the crew gives up. Not for long, admittedly; the time between “oh, we’re fucked” and “oh hey, a plan!” is a matter of seconds, in-episode. But it happens, and the Eureka moment that gives them the idea for their plan is essentially an accident: their enemy makes a mistake. But if that hadn’t happened? Damn. Who knows?

Because we wouldn’t want to go an entire episode without cultural stereotypes, Scotty’s solution is get everyone super-drunk.

It’s a rare episode of Trek that can convince us, even for a fraction of a second, that maybe this time, just maybe, the good guys might not win the day. And even though the solution to the problem descends into Wacky Hijinks - tricking the Kelvins into giving in to the unexpected barrage of inconvenient urges that come hand-in-hand with stuffing an ultra-rational space-squid into a tiny human body via booze, makeouts and fisticuffs - that qualifies it, IMHO, for entry into the Surprisingly Good Episodes Hall of Fame.

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[From The Not So Much The Neutral Zone Podcast]

Despite the bananas parts at the end there were parts of this one that were genuinely scary??

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Check it out, I did colourwork! Successfully. Tam now blocking, and hopefully it’ll be dry by morning. 

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I appreciate that it’s a much-loved standby, like the ridiculous thing where they estimate time of death by the time a watch stopped, but it always throws me out of a murder mystery when the detective works out the identity of a killer because a dog doesn’t bark. The rationale here, I guess, is that dogs don’t bark at people they know or love. 

My question is: have the people who write these stories ever, ever owned a dog?

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Wow, yes, when you submit a request, half an hour after we close, for us to do something that we are not allowed to do without confirmation from a separate department - information which is included in the automatically-generated email you got in response to the request, which I know you read because you bitched about it for two straight minutes (“I don’t need an automatic email telling me things, I need to talk to a person to get this done immediately”, ACTUAL QUOTE) - and get no answer overnight or within the first twenty minutes that we’re open the next day, and when I pick up the phone and re-iterate that no, Thing has not been done because 

you only submitted the request yesterday, after we were all gone, and 

as spelled out in the email you admitted reading, we can do nothing until HR tells us to 

…the appropriate thing is ABSOLUTELY to berate me for a further two minutes and then hang up in a snit and call the one of our advisors who is also the chair of your department (academia is weird).

(Who will tell you the exact same thing.)

(And then, after he notices my frantic waving from his office doorway and has been informed that you only submitted the request last night, will call you back and sternly inform you that, and I’m paraphrasing here, a lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on ours.)


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Instructor: So this audio file I uploaded to WordPress isn't playing.
Me, expecting an explosion of entitlement and whining, as per usual from this department: Ooh, yeah, that's due to an issue with the native WordPress media player that we don't have a fix for, yet.
Instructor: Ohhhhh okay, no problem, I'll just change the way I'm teaching the class.
Me: ...so you're my new favourite.
from Tumblr http://ift.tt/2c9lvZ8 (click to see full post including images)

This episode is called “The Immunity Syndrome,” but frankly this is a missed opportunity to title an episode “Attack of the Giant Space Amoeba,” or to gleefully over-use the word “entropy.”

Attack of the Giant Space Amoeba. HOW COOL DOES THAT SOUND.

Because that’s what this episode wants to be about, folks: entropy, and why it’s the enemy.

This is another one of those times when you can just about see the episode that the episode wanted to be, but it never quite made it out into the world.

What this episode wants to be about:

how fatalism solves nothing except for making extremely orderly log entries

how just because something has worked for a long time doesn’t mean it will always work and how that mindset might indeed get you killed when faced with something totally outside of your experience

how what sets humans apart is our ability to go “wait, WAIT, fuck YOU,” and completely re-invent ourselves in order to survive (the latter being a central thesis statement of Star Trek)

What this episode is actually about:

an up-front death-count on par with a Garth Nix novel

a pseudo-B-plot of inexplicable Spock/Bones dick-swinging over martyring themselves for science

a literal trek into the Space Heart of Darkness whose symptomatic effects on humans include irritability, depression, confusion, and a loss of motivation, all of which translated through the screen to us, your reviewers

Keptin, I need a nap.

As so often happens with TOS, the episode you will inevitably write in your head while watching is far superior to what’s on the screen. And maybe sugar up before sitting down to watch, lest the entropy get you, too. 

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[From The Not So Much The Neutral Zone Podcast]

Just reading the description for this episode makes me feel tired.

from Tumblr http://ift.tt/2cIBrak (click to see full post including images)

Seeking input!

So I’m writing a new podcast. It’s going to be a limited fictional serial, with probably just one voice: a young woman telling a story, the premise being that she had some strange (possibly magical, so maybe probably obviously imagined) experiences as a kid that even after many years, she just can’t put behind her, and her therapist advised her to start a diary about them. 

There are two main settings: sitting at a desk in her home, and walking through woods where these experiences took place as she tries to surface her memories (the woods have a set of background sounds to differentiate them from the house). 

Each episode will switch back and forth, but I’m trying to come up with a clear audible way of transitioning between these two settings, like a cut-beep but not a cut-beep, and something that sounds like it fits with the premise and the context. Right now I’m thinking a burst of radio static, but it’s just a placeholder, and I’m open to suggestions. Any ideas?

from Tumblr http://ift.tt/2bIEvC1 (click to see full post including images)

So this episode is nominally a murder mystery, which honestly, made us give it a whole lot of bonus points right at the outset. Our crew is visiting Argelius, a port world where, well, to give you an idea, the law of the land is literally love. A couple of hundred years ago Argelians decided that work was stupid, fighting was boring, and conflict was the worst, and decided to devote their lives to seeking happiness and pleasure. Honestly, this sounds like a pretty sensible set of ideals on which to base a culture. The shocking thing is how generally gross the representatives of the Enterprise are acting in the first five minutes, sprawled out on cushions around a table leering dramatically at the nice lady dancer who is just trying to do her job, guys. 

Foreground: young woman, dancing. Background: Scotty, Bones & Kirk being gross foreigners.

There’s arguably a plot reason for this, but it’s a stupid one: to manufacture a totally unnecessary motive for Scotty to be cast immediately as the suspect when the unfortunate young lady (Tara) is murdered about ten minutes later: Scotty recently suffered a concussion, which apparently, by insane 1960s space logic, has given him a “total resentment of all women” (yes, what the actual fuck is an excellent question to have here, though it did cross our minds that, if we’d believed it was deliberate, this is in some ways an incredibly modern way of viewing the relationship between brain injury and culpability in violent crime… though we pretty much came down on refusing to award credit on the basis of how stupid it sounds). Fortunately, Ship Pimp James Kirk is here to set him up with Tara, hoping they can bone that nonsensical resentment right out of him.

It’s almost funny how many more times Scotty ends up awkwardly positioned with blood on his hands over yet another murdered woman (three in total, RIP Tara, Lieutenant Karen Tracy, and Sybo), or it would be if this episode didn’t centre on a murderer whose motive is that it simply hates women.


Yes, seriously, this is the explicit motive, for real.

By the virtue of Space Google, they discover that the culprit is, in fact, a deathless, millennia-old misogyny cloud possessing a series of man-shaped shells which was probably the truth behind the legend of Jack the Ripper, but still: this is so bananas that if a woman had written this episode, I would be tempted to think it was trying to be subversive.

They would have caught the murderer a lot sooner if Space Google could fuzzy search, I’m just saying.

As it is, we just have to sit back and admire the skillful use of Agatha Christie red flags in pointing loudly at the murderer in the first ten minutes of the story: out-of-towner, loner, obstructionist, and portrayed jarringly by John Fiedler, voice of Piglet.

Some stuff happened to Piglet in the Hundred Acre Wood, apparently.

Yeah. Let that one settle. 

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[From The Not So Much The Neutral Zone Podcast]

Piglet. Piglet why.

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Our first bonus episode of two this week, all about the upcoming return of Star Trek to its natural habitat, television. There was a panel full of announcements at SDCC 2016, among them the name of the new ship, also the title of the series: Discovery. We also got a list of new names added to the show’s creative team, including a few new writers (still a little heavy on white guys, but there’s still time) and some directors and producers.

Join us as we pick the trailer apart into many tiny pieces, coming away with a wild mix of impressions and predictions, but your mileage may vary.

If you haven’t seen it yet, have a look! And commence wildly theorizing as we await the next batch of rumours and announcements.

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[From The Not So Much The Neutral Zone Podcast]

My feelings, they are so mixed.

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Chandri MacLeod

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October 2016



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