Khan’s back, and he’s PISSED! The TOS Rewatch feels The Wrath of Khan, as we talk about revenge being a dish best served cold, the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few, new characters, old characters, nebulae inside star systems, the good, the bad, the ugly, and more.
More fundamental, though, is that the theme of Kirk never facing death until he lost Spock just rings wrong on every possible level. I mean, we start with “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” where Kirk has to kill his best friend from the Academy. We move on to “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” where Kirk is deeply affected by the security guards who die, and while that consideration whittles down over time, to the point where he stops even noticing his crew dying by the late second season, Kirk has been seen to feel the loss of crew at least occasionally. Then we have “Operation: Annihilate,” where he listens to his sister-in-law die and finds the body of his older brother. Then we have “Obsession,” where Kirk’s guilt over his role (whether real or imagined) in the death of half the Farragut crew is so palpable that he devolves into the titular obsession to stop the creature responsible. Then we have “The Paradise Syndrome,” where he falls in love with Miramanee, marries her, and has to watch her die after finding out she’s pregnant with their kid.
And, the biggie, Edith Keeler, whom he stopped McCoy from saving. Yeah, that’s someone who’s never faced death. Sure. Hell, “The City on the Edge of Forever” was a classic no-win scenario: either let the great love of your life be killed or destroy history. And Kirk already faced it. For that matter, he took the Kobayashi Maru test twice before he cheated, so he faced it there, as well.
It’s the first, and arguably the least, of the Star Trek feature films, as we get ugly uniforms, bumpy-headed Klingons, McCoy with a beard, Scotty with a mustache, Uhura with an afro, and a warmed-over rehash of “The Changeling,” mixed in with endless SFX scenes, including a four-minute-and-forty-four-second masturbatory gaze at the refurbished Enterprise. The TOS Rewatch slogs through Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Thank goodness DeForest Kelley is in this movie, because it would be unbearable otherwise. His acid tongue and snide remarks are the only relief from the endless stilted line readings. With Spock, this works, as he’s going for totally emotionless, but Nimoy also doesn’t stand out very much because everyone else sounds like that, too. Bits of personality occasionally bleed through in the regulars, but the secondary actors—from the Epsilon 9 crew to DiFalco to the guy who wondered how Decker would feel about being kicked out of the center seat to the other engineers working with Scotty—all sound like bored high school students reading off cue cards. Even Mark Lenard—slathered in latex and speaking a made-up language—can’t do anything with his Klingon captain.
Successes like Spock visiting his childhood, Kirk facing off against Orion pirates, and Kirk and Spock joining an impossible mission to save the galaxy justify failures like the crew turning into children, the center of the galaxy being full of magic, and the Enterprise computer becoming a dangerous prankster. The TOS Rewatch does an overview of the animated series.
Best of all, the series enabled Trek to get a bit more alien in its landscapes and creatures, going even further than they went in the third season, where they were heavily constrained by budget. (Though, of course, that was half the reason why they went more alien in season three, but whatever.) It was worth it to give us more far-out crew members like Arex and M’Ress and nifty non-humanoid aliens. Plus, the animated series did something neither the live-action TV series or the movies had the balls to do: put Uhura in charge of the ship, not once, but twice!
We meet the first Enterprise captain, the crew is reverted to childhood, and your humble rewatcher bangs his head against the wall. The TOS Rewatch ends the animated series with quite the whimper as we do “The Counter-Clock Incident.”
The episode isn’t entirely without merit. It’s fun to meet the Aprils, and I especially like that both of them are pioneers. Robert April was the first captain of the Enterprise, and Sarah April was his chief medical officer. Of course, this is still Gene Roddenberry’s original Star Trek, so every bit of progress involving women comes with an asterisk, in this case, everyone referring to Sarah April, not by her rank or her title, as is proper for someone who was the chief medical officer of a starship, but as “Mrs. April,” because obviously the fact that she’s a wife is way more important than showing her rank and position the same respect that everyone else on the ship gets.
The Enterprise encounters Kukulkan, and it goes about as well as it did when they met Apollo. Only with fewer togas, which is probably for the best. The TOS Rewatch asks, “How Sharper than a Serpent’s Tooth.”
My main source of adoration is that we get the gods-were-really-aliens trope, but it isn’t a god from Europe or North Africa, as is often the default in such tales. The only deities even mentioned in the episode, beyond Kukulkan, are Quetzalcoatl and the dragons of Asian myth.
My main issue, unfortunately, is yet another use of the gods-were-really-aliens trope.
There’s a practical joker on the Enterprise–or, rather, in the Enterprise… The TOS Rewatch meets “The Practical Joker.”
The jokes are all incredibly unimaginative and very basic stuff. The dark-eyes-from-the-microscope thing doesn’t even make sense in the setting. (Why would there be a microscope on Spock’s console? How’d a disembodied computer even get it there?) They’re just variations on contemporary pranks, and not particularly interesting ones. Plus, there’s the completely absurd giant inflatable Enterprise decoy that the Romulans somehow don’t realize is a giant balloon until after they fire on it. I can’t even…