TOS: Episode 18: Arena
There is a well-known notion that Roddenberry is responsible for the entire Star Trek universe pre-1991 (the year of his death), and that what arises after that time, in some sense, doesn't count. People will use such a view to explain why the series Enterprise sucks and doesn't deserve to be watched, or why Deep Space Nine or Voyager quickly become problematic. Here's the thing, I disagree. I'm willing to claim that Roddenberry's actual influence over the franchise is not as strong as all that. Roddenberry certainly generated the idea that led to the creation of the Star Trek universe, but NBC didn't even allow him the influential power of determining the opening episodes. Not only was his originally planned pilot denied by corporate agents, he rarely serves as anything more than Executive Producer of most. As we know, Executive Producers don't even have to be present on set.
Episode Quick Summary
The Enterprise crew beams down to the Cestus III colony expecting immense hospitality. At the urging of messages apparently received from the colony itself Kirk, Spock, and a complete away team arrive on the surface only to discover Cestus III completely destroyed and the messages faked. The away team comes under attack from an unidentified alien ship. The Enterprise escapes, is able to rescue the away team, and sets out in pursuit of the now-enemy vessel determined to destroy it. Spock indicates his skepticism of the decision.
Within pursuit of the alien vessel, the Enterprise and the alien vessel are both suddenly stopped in the middle of empty space. A flashing light alien power beyond the Enterprise or the vessel it was pursuing speak to Kirk, informing him that he and the Captain of the alien vessel will both be beamed to the planet below for hand to hand combat. At the end of the all powerful FLASHING LIGHTS ALIEN message, Kirk disappears and discovers himself beamed down to the surface of an asteroid sharing the appearance of New Mexico. There Kirk discovers "a dangerously clever" opponent with the appearance of a walking crocodile. Kirk must struggle against his "inherent aversion to reptiles" in order to fight the alien captain for the sake of his entire crew.
I'm going to admit to something. We know Roddenberry's genius--his magic channels through his dedication to take up complex ethical-psychological situations through the drama of outer space wagon train style travel. However, much of The Original Series isn't actually determined by Roddenberry's interests and turn into simple crime dramas, or enemy chase manuevers. My confession is that episodes such as these are rather boring.
On the upside, this episode shows the upper speed limits of our Enterprise--all the way up to warp factor 8!
Also, Spock gets to act as the moral highground to Kirk's semi-erratic behavior. Anytime Spock reveals honestly more than mere logic, and uses his ability to reason for the sake of virtue is a positive Star Trek moment.
Still, assuming we've already granted the total awesomeness of all things Star Trek, and so understand that all things Star Trek come recommended, I'm going to plainly say there isn't much to recommend "Arena" on its own terms. That is, beyond the fact that this is an episode within the Star Trek universe, there isn't much reason to watch "Arena." Spock, I love you. Forgive me.
There is a rather nice full set-collapse in which all of the actors have to throw themselves forward against the consols to indicate sudden stop at 18:48. We can always appreciate the fine special effects of that.
Early Star Trek Original Series compulsively explores encounters with alien forces more powerful than humans--forces that initially at least appear all powerful. We still have not genuinely stepped into sci-fi territory in the first season. More references to sci-fi elements have begun to appear--quasarlike anomolies, conversion of matter to energy, new alien encounters--but the show is still not actually about exploring the demands of such elements.
If you want to see what a walking, growling crocodile can do with a giant rock and Kirk's agility, then check this episode out. If Kirk's ability to fight against his own reptilion aversion does not draw your interest, move on.
The Entire Star Trek Universe at High Speed
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
If you're looking for a festive 'nom nom' way to celebrate that special occasion, Geeky Cookies offers up a few different kinds of Star Trek cookies.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
To keep the Wesley Crusher love fest going (honestly, the poor dude needs someone to love him, we all complained about him so bad when he really was still in TNG), I have to mention his book that was released this summer--Just a Geek.
Here's the description off the book:
"Wil Wheaton has never been one to take the conventional path to success. Despite early stardom through his childhood role in the motion picture Stand By Me, and growing up on television as Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Wil left Hollywood in pursuit of happiness, purpose, and a viable means of paying the bills. In the oddest of places, Topeka, Kansas, Wil discovered that despite his claims to fame, he was at heart Just a Geek.
"In this bestselling book, Wil shares his deeply personal and difficult journey to find himself. You'll understand the rigors, and joys, of Wil's rediscovering of himself, as he comes to terms with what it means to be famous, or, ironically, famous for once having been famous. Writing with honesty and disarming humanity, Wil touches on the frustrations associated with his acting career, his inability to distance himself from Ensign Crusher in the public's eyes, the launch of his incredibly successful web site, wilwheaton.net, and the joy he's found in writing. Through all of this, Wil shares the ups and downs he encountered along the journey, along with the support and love he discovered from his friends and family."
A friend of mine, Laura Anglin, wrote this brief but positive review:
"This was a treat. I can't say I *hated* Wesley Crusher, but he made me cringe. Mary Sue in fetching sweater. Never imagined I'd become a fan of the actor, (I am not, normally, a fan of actors) but after utterly enjoying Wheaton's blog and podcast, I bought the audio book to this. It's a masterpiece. Hysterical and insightful and almost surreally intimate. Plus, great Star Trek gossip. Good times."
I've heard from other sources too that he's an enjoyable public speaker, and know from recent examination of his blog (mentioned below the picture in the previous post) that he's an enjoyable writer too. When I have time I'll be giving Just a Geek a read. If you read it, or have read it, let me know what you think!
Whoo! Wesley Crusher celebrated his ten year wedding anniversary on Monday! (Apparently he and Wife Crusher materialized out of the upper dimensions we last saw Wesley become a part of (via The Next Generation, obvs) in order to enjoy the physical realities of Napa California for their anniversary.) Congratulations, Wesley!