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nsmtnz:

So, chances are, you have a hazy memory of a Star Trek episode that takes place in a mental hospital of some kind. Like us, you probably made it to Dagger of the Mind and went “wait, what? why is this way worse than I remember, and not just because it’s been twenty years since I last saw it?” Well, I’m about to put your mind at ease, because it turns out that there are, in fact, two Original Series episodes that a) take place in a mental health facility and b) talk about mental illness in a surprisingly sympathetic and progressive way, e.g. It Is An Illness, and this is the second one. The do-over, if you will, given that their actual plots are really, really similar. And spoiler: this one’s a lot better.

I mean, on costumes ALONE.

The Enterprise visits the Elba 2 asylum (a facility for the “incorrigibly criminally insane” deemed incurable by other medical means) to deliver a new wonder drug that Federation scientists hope will provide the cure to all mental illness… or at least, that’s the idea, broadly speaking. Kirk and Spock beam down to deliver the vials and learn that one of Kirk’s heroes, Captain Garth, aka: Garth of Izar, is now an inmate at the hospital. Because apparently no one’s ever told him that you should never meet your heroes (seriously, specifically in Kirk’s case - it never goes well), he asks the Governor if he can see Garth.

Naturally, it’s about two minutes later that we learn that Garth has replaced Governor Corey, taken over the asylum, developed an ultra-explosive capable of destroying planets, and has grand plans to take over the galaxy because the extinction of war as a way of life has made humans weak and robbed them of purpose. Oh, and by the way, Garth has developed shapeshifting powers that allow him to look like anyone he wants. Guess who his new favourite shape turns out to be.

There are… literally too many double-blank jokes.

Kirk is absolutely opposed to this entire way of thinking, and he says so, a lot. Peace, Kirk says, gave him purpose. Peace brought prosperity to the galaxy. Peace made Kirk and Spock brothers. Peace - and compassion, and friendship - are the way forward, into the future.

If this refrain sounds familiar to those of you who’ve seen and liked the thesis statement of Star Trek: Beyond, you’re not alone. And this episode deals with similar themes, enough that we saw direct connections between Whom Gods Destroy and the reboot film. Garth, despite his clear Napoleonic roots, is a sympathetic character. Kirk, while trying to argue him out of the whole galactic domination thing, repeatedly tells Garth that what he’s doing is wrong, but that it’s not his fault: that he’s sick, and that what’s happening isn’t his fault. You could brush this off as coming from Kirk’s clear affection for the man’s legacy, but it’s also obviously rooted in a culture that has gone a long way in destigmatizing mental illness. Garth, we’re told over and over again, is not his mental illness. Garth’s not crazy, he’s sick, and Kirk wants to help him.

The most stylish mental hospital in the galaxy.

These are all attitudes we rarely see convincingly portrayed in twenty-first century television, and moreover, it’s strongly implied that a life of war and its associated trauma may have caused Garth’s mental illness in the first place, long before an accident maimed him and led to his developing superpowers. In the end, the message of this episode is larger than our oft-repeated “safe words save lives.” It’s about compassion, and about how friendship is, really, kinda magic.

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[From The Not So Much The Neutral Zone Podcast]

Two Kirks, and some surprisingly good decision-making. Who could have foreseen this.

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Anybody on the Pillowfort.io beta?

It occurred to me that many of the people I most want to link up with again on Pillowfort are people who may well still be using LJ on a semi-regular basis.

Where are you, my fellow Fandom Olds?

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nsmtnz:

This week, Kirk gets kidnapped by an alien queen to become part of her man-harem.

No, literally.

And we love her.

It starts as all bad days for the Enterprise start: with them answering a distress call. Only when they arrive, there’s nobody home; just an entire abandoned city and a lot of annoying buzzing noises. Are they all dead? Is the distress call merely on repeat from long ago? Maybe we should just go?

Our favourite part of the male aliens’ outfits is the ultra-low-cut shirts. V. snazzy.

But they lose their first redshirt maybe two minutes in, realize five minutes later they’ve brought something dangerous back aboard the ship with them, and then we’re off and running. Mostly the crisis amounts to irritating mosquito-sounds until Kirk, himself, disappears - or rather, is accelerated far beyond everyone else - and finds himself in a bizarro-world where his crew is frozen in place and he’s alone, at normal speed, with Deelah.

We have no idea how this outfit works, but it’s a marvel and so is Deelah.

We love Deelah. She knows what she wants, knows what she has to do, and she’s not going to let any insignificant considerations like the objectively unethical shading of abducting people to be your unwilling sperm factories stop her from getting any of it.

Deelah was immediately nominated to our top 10 of female TOS characters. She’s smart, witty, unimpressed by Kirk but also unafraid to say what she wants, and then, uh, take it. She’s in a shitty situation, with her culture and her species on the edge of extinction, but she’s dealing, and did we mention this is the second or third lady in a few episodes to be the undisputed ruler of an entire civilization? I mean, that civilization is down to maybe five people, but still. Plus it seems to be a matriarchy.

Did we mention she outsmarts Kirk about 79 times before the episode is more than fifteen minutes in?

Honestly, this is a pretty solid episode. We get a puzzle, characters whose motivations are clear, and a conflict where you understand why the bad guys are doing what they’re doing, even while you acknowledge that it’s ethically… uh, grey.

We do have some issues with the parting shot/decision on the part of Kirk & Co where he basically dooms the Scalosians to extinction despite having the cure, but up until the last three minutes, it’s a thing of beauty.

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[From The Not So Much The Neutral Zone Podcast]

NGL, we are all about the episodes that flip the gender dynamic and objectify men.

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nsmtnz:

So fair warning on two counts:

this episode contains multiple instances of various kinds of assault, humiliation, and other hella disturbing violations of people’s rights, and

you will have to listen to both William Shatner and Corene make this noise, multiple times:

Plato’s Stepchildren is another of those classic Star Trek stories that everyone has heard of, and in a lot of ways it’s based on a theme that’s often repeated throughout the franchise: intrepid crew meets omniscient aliens who use their ineffable power to fuck with people, omniscient aliens must be taken down a peg and justice is restored. It’s a well-worn and dependable formula.

On the other hand, though, this episode also includes a variety of some of TOS’s most explicit statements about both the perceived backwardness of its contemporary audience, and broader thesis statements about the underlying messages of Trek.

So the trouble starts when the Enterprise answers a distress call from Platonia, peopled by a race (if you can call 38 eugenically-chosen people a “race”) of functionally-immortal aliens who have based their society on the teachings of Plato, absorbed during a millennia-ago trip to Earth. Unfortunately, the Platonians don’t seem to have absorbed the full range of Platonic ideas, specifically hand-waving the parts about peace and justice in favour of living lives so contemplative and “simple” (for a certain value of “simple” that means “extreme luxury and every whim satisfied”) that they’ve gotten too lazy to maintain immune systems. This is what brings Kirk, Spock, and Bones to them in the first place: their self-styled philosopher-king has gotten a tiny cut and developed a deadly bacterial infection. Bones easily fixes this with basic medical science, and the Platonians reward them by turning them into their newest telekinetic playthings.

Must give credit to the balls-to-the-wall physical acting in this episode.

Did I mention that the Platonians also have telekinetic powers, which they mostly use to play games and torture people?

So, “playthings” is too mild. In fact, the lone exception to the Platonians’ superpowers is a little person named Alexander (played by Michael Dunn, who we awarded Performance of the Episode about three minutes in), who seems to be kept around to mock, torture, and push around.

Again, there are a lot of really disturbing moments in this episode. There are a number of scenes that amount to straight-up torture, which are absolutely carried out for the amusement of the Platonians. But here`s the thing: the whole thing is a set of super-unsubtle metaphors. The Platonians’ powers are the disproportionate influence granted by wealth and privilege, and the way that when one part of the population has an obscenely disproportionate level of either, they will use it to oppress and harm those who don’t. When offered the power he’s been so long denied, at the point where our heroes figure out how to out-brain their oppressors, Alexander turns it down: “I don’t want to be like them,” he tells Kirk, after Kirk has laid out as explicit an endorsement of Trek’s futuristic socialism and extreme inclusiveness as I’ve ever seen in Original Trek. “Where we come from,” he tells an incredulous Alexander, “size, shape, or colour makes no difference, and no one has the power.” “The power,” here, being literally their tormentors’ superpowers, but they may as well be handing a printed indictment of rich white supremacist elite right through the fourth wall and directly into the viewers’ living rooms.

It’s not you. They really are just giant bags of dicks.

Add to this the fact that this episode contains the famous First Interracial Kiss (though it’s under undeniably disturbing circumstances and may or may not be the “first,” historically), we can’t exactly call this episode subtle. But we can appreciate it for both its timeliness and how ahead of its time it managed to be.

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[From The Not So Much The Neutral Zone Podcast]

Both subtle and oh god, the air-dancing.

from Tumblr http://ift.tt/2jxZfA5 (click to see full post including images)
nsmtnz:

This week’s episode really, really wanted to be a ghost story.

It almost manages it - Kirk, rather than saving the day, spends most of the episode floating at low-opacity in the background, waving his arms - but mostly this episode is about getting along.

And also how you never, ever fucking board a ghost ship.

I’m just saying, “let’s go visit” would not be my first impulse.

The Enterprise is in search of yet another missing ship, this time the Defiant (you might recognize the name from a successor’s major appearance on DS9), which is missing and adrift in a section of uncharted territory where space is literally falling apart around it. Into this comes charging the Enterprise, whereupon they immediately become ensnared in the region’s weird physics and harmful side-effects. Specifically: this part of space does a particular kind of brain damage that makes humans go slowly insane.

This is a pretty well-worn plot for TOS, a Man vs. Environment tale where they have to brain their way out of a seemingly impossible situation. What’s unexpected is that after beaming aboard the ghost ship and finding the Defiant’s entire crew not only dead, but murdered by each other, they beam back to the Enterprise and leave Kirk behind… and then he’s lost.

I mean… sort of. Physically.

You read that right: for most of this episode, the crew is not only without the guidance of their captain, but they’re pretty sure he’s dead. They even hold a mini-memorial, is-this-really-the-time memorial service midway through the episode, which mostly serves to highlight the tensions between the surviving senior officers, namely Spock and Bones who, absent the social lubricant usually provided by Kirk, are having what we will call “issues” with their grief, the dangerous situation, and each other.

Fortunately, the triumph of this story is basically what Kirk leaves in his Final Message addressed to Bones and Spock: we need to get along with each other in order to survive.

Also: social drinking solves everything.

As for the titular Tholians? Well, they’re there, for maybe the last 25% of the episode, and they mostly serve to crank up the ticking-clock pressure and build a space-net. I mean, it’s a nice space-net. I guess.

Overall this is a pretty good bottle-episode, even if the Tholians themselves could have been replaced by, like, the ship’s rapidly dwindling power supply. Or a black hole. Or a really big space rock.

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[From The Not So Much The Neutral Zone Podcast]

Orange Tang: the cure for space dementia! This explains so much.

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nsmtnz:

So just to get this out of the way before we start: oh god, later Klingons are so much better than TOS-era Klingons. Not just in terms of, you know, a vastly more fleshed-out and consistent culture and general coolness factor, but also because of the wow, really terrible (both in terms of, you know, just being brownface and also because of the impossibly bad quality) brownface makeup. It is somehow most noticeable on Kang’s science officer, wife and one of only two Klingon ladies in the original series, Mara.

It’s fine, just melt a Hershey bar and smear it all over their faces. No one will notice.

(A heads-up at this point that this episode does include a scene with a sexual assault.)

We’re not sure what the goal here was, since earlier TOS Klingons didn’t… really… have this? So we’re not sure what makeup and wardrobe were smoking that day, but.

This week’s episode also purports to deliver a subtle message of not letting yourself be riled up by bullshit, hate-mongering propaganda to hate and fight things that actually have nothing to do with your own life (we try, guys; we try) that could conceivably be relevant to today’s mediasphere, but actually just brings us a torturously drawn-out metaphor for how we should all just hug it out.

We genuinely did not need the other 50 minutes.

Here’s the rundown: the Enterprise and a Klingon ship under the command of one of our favourite Klingons, Kang, are tricked into a rendezvous. The planet supposedly had a Federation colony on it, but it`s mysteriously gone, with no sign on their instruments that it ever existed. The Klingon ship, on the other hand, suffers a catastrophic malfunction that (possibly) kills 400 of their crew. Tragedy on both sides! How terrible! And then the Enterprise beams the survivors aboard, leaving them with equal numbers of Klingons and Federation crew, and suddenly shit gets weird. 

By which I mean: a bunch of swords appear from thin air.

The takeway is that the whole thing is a hoax perpetrated by a glowy disco-ball alien that feeds on negative emotions like hatred, specifically “race hatred,” because while Star Trek has never been a subtle beast when it comes to its messaging, TOS is somehow even less subtle than its descendants. The disco ball wanted to keep them fighting so it could suck up all those delicious, delicious bigotry feelings, even going so far as to revive fallen fighters when they’ve been killed by the other side.

…yeah.

Like I said, Trek is not subtle. On the other hand, we mostly don’t mind.

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[From The Not So Much The Neutral Zone Podcast]

Oh god, so bad.

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nsmtnz:

Do you enjoy bizarre sci-fi-esque westerns like Wild Wild West and Westworld? Alternately, have you been doing a lot of drugs? Then this episode is for you!

Seriously. First of all, the reason given for the Enterprise visiting this planet either makes no sense at all or makes them look like assholes, which always gets us off to a glowing start. Second of all, this episode takes place in a 19th-century Wild West town that apparently did not feel the need to put walls or ceilings on any of its buildings, something that is never, at any point in the episode, commented upon by anyone.

They do, however, have this fabulous floating sky clock. Trade-offs.

Basically, Kirk, following orders from higher-up, approaches a planet that has done them the damned courtesy of sending a probe telling the Enterprise in no uncertain terms that they are not at home to visitors, thanks. Naturally, this means that when the away party beams down, they find themselves quickly lectured by an almost unbelievably shoddily-constructed Guest Alien who informs them that because they can’t follow simple instructions or respect sovereign space, they must now be executed… in the weirdest fucking way I have ever heard of, even in Star Trek.

Death by toxic exposure to your own shitty past? I mean, it’s novel.

Basically, they’re zipped to Pretend Tombstone Arizona, the away team is cast as the Clantons, and the Earps are going to kill them if they don’t skip town by 5pm. Yes, Death by O.K. Corral. Supposedly this was chosen from Kirk’s mind because he (and his crew) must die by the “violence of [his] own past.” The fact that Kirk’s ancestors are from Iowa, not the Wild Wild West, is apparently immaterial to the moment, but… whatever.

Obviously the away team does not perish at the hands of the Earps and Doc Holliday (weirdly cast as Snidely Whiplash-level black hats in this story). But neither do they, really, escape via application of their smarts, as usual. They work out that the whole Wild West set is an illusion, but that the bullets can still kill them if they believe in them. But do we get to see the power of human imagination being wielded as the ultimate weapon against violence and death? No. It turns out that humans? Just too emotional to logically believe that an illusion is unreal.

Fortunately Spock is around to give them the psychic equivalent of an anti-anxiety pill.

Like, there are parts of this episode that definitely come out the other side of Bad and all the way back around to This Is Amazing, but the ten minutes of our lives we gave up to Spock doing the most awkward series of mind-melds ever really didn’t help.

Floating sky clocks can only make up for so much.

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[From The Not So Much The Neutral Zone Podcast]

I mean, it’s a lot less dark than Westworld. Somehow manages to make less sense. Sorry, I’m still hung up on the total lack of walls.

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

This week’s episode is widely considered to be the worst of the Original Series, and while we beg to differ on “worst,” it’s still pretty damn bad. From inconsistent characterization to random dialogue to one of the most random stunt-casts in our shared experience, this ep goes from “uhh” to “what?” to “umm, no” with great speed and all the agility of a drunken wildebeest.

This week’s Sailor Moon Says? Don’t Trust Orphans.

The ship’s first mistake is answering a distress call. Seriously, when does that ever go well? They arrive at Triacus to find that all the adult members of the archaeological expedition have committed suicide, leaving only their children alive. Children who are… shall we say disturbingly unaffected? Creepily cheerful? by the horrible deaths of their parents, apparently right in front of them.

Now you know, and I know, that creepy orphans are not to be trusted, especially in sci-fi, but the crew takes the kids aboard without even a biohazard scan (yet another checkmark in the fail column for the Enterprise crew!) and they promptly take over the ship.

You can’t stop the darkness with ice cream. At least, not for long.

What follows doesn’t make a whole lot more sense than what comes before, nor does the tone get any less inconsistent. We discover that the children are being manipulated by some kind of immortal demon, Gorgan, a translucent holographic dude who most closely resembles an inverted lampshade, but the villain’s motivations - beyond “conquest!” - and the children’s reasons for going along are never really explained or, when they are explained, even remotely plausible. Not to mention that for an episode centred around children, the children themselves are so bizarrely written that we have to wonder if the people writing them had ever met a genuine human child.

Unless the human child was the kid from The Exorcist. In which case, fair.

Verdict: baffling, off-key, and left us cold. Even Shatner’s famous, oft-mocked performance in the Homoerotic Turbolift Scene couldn’t save this one.

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[From The Not So Much The Neutral Zone Podcast]

So many jumpsuits. So little writing.

from Tumblr http://ift.tt/2hk8Wxn (click to see full post including images)
nsmtnz:

So we’ve been looking forward with - not anticipation? More like trepidation? Dread? knowing this episode was coming up pretty soon, and here we are: The One Where Kirk Gets Amnesia and Cosplays A Hollywood Native American. To give you an idea of the level of cultural sensitivity on display for this episode, the alternate episode title was “The Paleface.”

Is this episode, super, super-racist? Why, yes! How did you guess?

Just to give you an idea: this happens.

So to summarize, briefly: there’s an asteroid headed for a planet that is home to a pre-warp culture. The Enterprise is going to divert the asteroid and keep it from killing everyone, which is apparently nbd in the 23rd century. Cool. Fine. I’m with you.

Except then for no reason at all, even though they are on an extremely tight schedule (this is mentioned at least three times in the first five minutes of the episode), Kirk, Spock and Bones beam down to gawk at a) the weird alien monolith that seems strangely out of place on a world with no industrial development and b) the natives, who look curiously like pre-European-contact Native Americans of the These-Are-What-We-Had-In-Wardrobe tribe, and write an ode to how “idyllic” and “uncomplicated” their lives seem. (This is the first mention of The Preservers, aka: the omnipotent aliens who went around plucking up “primitive” cultures and preserving them in situ on other worlds, who we can only assume were invented to retroactively explain away all the highly questionable Alternate Earth writing decisions so far.)

Should we, white men, feel funny about this framing? …nah.

They’re in a hurry, so naturally Kirk has to trip through a hole and get lost, forcing Spock and Bones to leave him behind in order to keep their appointment with the planet-killing asteroid,

Kirk gets himself electrocuted, gets amnesia, and emerges from the monolith to be greeted by the tribe’s priestesses, one of whom promptly falls in love with him. Kirk - or rather, Kirok, as he comes to be called - gets adopted by the tribe as their new, uh, wizard? And worshiped as a god? and it only gets worse from there.

Naturally, the one canonically white dude gets immediately worshiped as a god. Nothing uncomfortable about this at ALL.

For what should be pretty obvious reasons, we were not huge fans. In addition to being ultra-terrible and full of holes big enough for a starship captain to fall through - the conflict makes very little sense, when it turns out that the planet had an asteroid deflection machine all along, and Spock comes to the solution mainly via inspirational lute-playing - but rife with the kind of infantilizing characterization of Native Americans/First Nations people that should give any decent human contact humiliation. Kirk’s whole character arc in this episode is a desire for a condescendingly-idealized “simpler life” that’s handily delivered to him by amnesia and being slotted into a position of power and basically worshiped as a god. Not to mention the rampant brownface and the fact that the sole female guest star exists only to…

…no. I could go on. But honestly, you can probably guess, and if we had to watch this, so do you.

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[From The Not So Much The Neutral Zone Podcast]

I would kind of prefer to never think of this episode again but honestly, I also want you all to suffer with me.

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

So mostly we loved this episode because it contains a novelty for TOS: a take-no-shit female leader in the form of a Romulan Commander whose authority is so unimpeachable that we don’t even get to learn her name. 

Witness the birth of the traditional Romulan Power Lounge. Her legacy, it is grand.

I mean, there are downsides. We encounter RomCom (we tend to come up with abbreviated nicknames for guest characters and this one was too good not to share) in the course of the Enterprise 100% participating in cross-Neutral-Zone espionage, and she ends up losing the day at least partly due to her having the hots for the tall drink of pointy-eared water that is Commander Spock. There are, of course, counter-arguments to the interpretations of both of those things, and as a bonus, the episode was written by our girl, D.C. Fontana, which lends at least two-thirds of us some confidence that our ultra-progressive headcanoning of this episode are at least a little right.

Come home with me and be my kept man. It’ll be awesome.

I do have to question the wisdom of Starfleet’s plan here, though, at least at the outset. The plan itself is relatively sound: manufacture a situation in which Starfleet personnel can get onboard a Romunal ship? Fine. Probably you do need to cross into Romulan space to do that. Suggest a possible explanation for this highly illegal action that does not represent a breach of the Federation-Romulan treaty (e.g. Kirk Has Gone Mad Again, something that happens often enough that you’d think people would start to get suspicious)? Cool. I’m with you so far. I’m even with you as far as part C of this plan, i.e. While You’re On Board, See If You Can Get Your Hands On Some Cloaking Tech, which I look on as a sort of value-added bonus-level option. 

Tech which, evidently, is much more modular than the level of tech onscreen so far might have led you to believe.

My objection arises in the initial planning stages, in that surely there were easier ways to go about acquiring this intelligence. Doesn’t the Federation have spies? I’m confident that Romulus does. Later on, I know that the Federation does. What is diplomacy for if not to serve as a flimsy cover for international espionage?

Learn from your neighbours, Federation. After all, isn’t that what you’re all about?

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[From The Not So Much The Neutral Zone Podcast]

Oh, look, it’s one of my favourite episodes!

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