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The Enemy Within

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The Enemy Within is the first Star Trek episode to include a transporter malfunction. This would become a staple of the Trek universe. In this story Captain Kirk is split into two halves his good and bad sides. This story requires a hefty suspension of disbelief.  It also requires Shatner to over act so he is right at home.

That might be a bit of a cheep shot but Shatner does have a well earned reputation for over acting. In this episode as evil Kirk he has to yell ‘I’m Captain Kirk.’

As well as the dilemma of Kirk being split in two there is also the problem of the landing party being stranded on the planet. Watching this now the obvious question is why not use the shuttle? There is only the out of universe explanation that they didn’t yet have a shuttle to use. Even so they could have rescued them off screen and done so without need of a new set.

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I have seen this episode before but not for a long time. This time I found myself identifying with Kirk’s predicament as he sees the other him – the savage him.

I feel that way sometimes of having a part of my being that I can’t, or don’t want to, face a lot of the time. For me it is not about evil and good – rather it is happiness and sadness.

I have days when all the weight of life feels too much. I feel a sense of hopelessness. In those moments all my life goals feel far away and there seem to be no possibilities for change. Then, sometimes, I feel happy without specific stimulus. In those moments everything does seem possible – although still far far away.

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So when Kirk sees this mirror of himself – this violent man. I believe I can almost understand. When I am in a state of being alright the great sadness is alien to me and I cannot imagine how it feels. It makes it hard to seek help because it is like describing a sunny day in the park to an eyeless fish in the deepest depths of the ocean.

Star Trek is well known for these types of stories. It often uses science fiction to try and explore an aspect of humanity. That aspect could be internal and emotional or external and dealing with important issues.

We have another incident of violence against woman. Evil Kirk assaults Yeoman Rand.  This is made even worse considering what happened to Grace Lee Whitney in her real life. That scene made for uncomfortable viewing and Spock’s last line of the episode, where he suggests, obliquely,  that Rand might have liked it is disgusting. It is stuff like this that makes me unsure of TOS as a whole. The 1960s seem so alien to me a lot of the time. We have a long way to go in treating all people with proper respect but I think we have come a long way too.

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I am going to come up against heavy topics a lot in this show it seems. The past really is another world.

In conclusion though this was a good story. It explore the concepts of the two sides of humanity quite well. I do wonder if they would have been better off removing the landing party plot to focus more on the main plot. We do get a nice moment with Spock where he talks about the two sides of his being and how he has to balance them.

We are only a few episodes into TOS but I will be back with the next episode which is: Mudd’s Women – which is also fairly anti-women. I am sensing a theme here. I am so looking forward to reviewing my favourite TOS episodes. We have a little way to go yet.

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I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.

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The Cage

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I am never going to be super fit. I know this because of two pieces of evidence. Who am I kidding it is more than two. The two I was going to go with are that I am currently eating a chocolate chip muffin and drinking a chai latte – and that I have to practically drag my ass to the gym when I go.

I did go to the gym yesterday – really yesterday this time. I am writing this only a few hours before you will see it.

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I did about 55 minutes on the treadmill. I wasn’t doing an intense work out but I was exercising so I’m glad about that. While I exercised I was watching The Cage. Yep the first, and rejected, pilot episode of Star Trek.

It is difficult to put myself in to the mind of the executives that rejected it but over all I think this episode stands up pretty well.

The character of Number One is a wonderfully strong character. It is such a shame that we didn’t get her later on. I have nothing against Spock, of course, but Number One staying would have been groundbreaking.

One of the strangest parts of the episode was at the very beginning. Captain Pike considers retiring and thinks about a new career. This is strange for two reasons. Firstly since this is a pilot it seems obvious they will not be writing the lead out so why is this here? And secondly one of the jobs he considers is being a slave trader. You think I’m making that up don’t you? Go watch the episode it is all there.

On the subject of Orion slave girls there is something a bit strange about that scene. And I don’t just mean the green woman. One of the men who sits next to Pike is wearing a Starfleet uniform. Which is weird as it was implied that this fantasy was drawn from the idea that it was something Pike could never do. That has just always struck me as strange that’s all. I know Starfleet wasn’t said in the episode but we all know what it was.

Spock smiles. This is because they hadn’t completely figured out the character yet. Those plants must have a weird effect on Vulcans and Pike was nice enough not to say anything.

Spock uses the term Class M. I mention this as the geek in me loves that that was present from the very beginning.

The story itself was a little on the simple side. I feel though that it did its job well in showing what the show would be like. Each week traveling to a new planet and having an adventure.

The characters are not that well defined. Spock would be the only one to continue. Pike does appear again but the less said about that the better. The beeping thing has always struck me as stupid.

As to the other characters, with the exception of Doctor Boyce, they are not even named. Boyce comes across as a proto-McCoy. He has a friends with the captain and seems to believe in the medicinal qualities of alcohol.

The Cage is a good solid pilot. The problem is it is effectively for a show that never happened. Although this was rejected the second pilot was accept and, to end on a cliche, the rest is history.

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I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.

 

 

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First Contact

antenna-contact-dawn-33153 In the Star Trek universe the 5th of April 2063 is the day humans make first contact – only 45 years to go.

Of course if that were true then it would mean we would have to have a third world war and have to have had a Eugenics war back in the 1990s.

It is possible that there were too many hads in that paragraph.

I am a life long science fiction fan. I really want to know the answer to the question of whether or not we are alone in the universe. Personally I believe there are other lifeforms out in space. Given then vastness of space it seems impossible that we could be alone.

pexels-photo-25316 This brings is to the Fermi Paradox – or to put it more simply ‘Where is everybody.’

I rather like the idea that aliens are giving us a wide berth. Humans have a hard enough time understanding each other’s behaviour sometimes so how would an alien understand?

earth-blue-planet-globe-planet-41953Star Trek’s optimism of the future is a wonderful thing. I do wonder though what the real effect of an alien’s arrival on Earth would be.

In the movie First Contact the Earth had been ravaged by war. As such there may not have been any military capable of engaging an ‘invading’ ship. And Cochrane was just an independent scientist – at least from what we see in the film.

If aliens came to us in the real world they would face a strong planet and would certainly be met with fear. Therefore any aliens wanting to contact us would be very careful – maybe the prime directive is real – maybe they are in another galaxy – maybe in all the universe we are first – after all someone has to be.

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I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.

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The picture here is from: https://www.pexels.com/

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Orinoco

Sorry Enya fans this post has nothing to do with her. In case that is why you are here I’ll just post this:

No I am talking about a different Orinoco: 20170826_214306 This is from the Eaglemoss the Official Star Trek starships collection. I have been cherry picking these for a while and have finally got this beautiful runabout.

The runabouts were a wonderful idea. Like a shuttle but they certainly pack a bigger punch and actually seem to have an airlock – unlike the silly shuttles used in TNG.

Having this model allows me to tell you a little story. A poorly timed story but who’s counting?

I don’t remember how old I was when I stopped believing in Father Christmas. But this little ship might have been something to do with it. I have the vague recollection of asking for one for Christmas once – not a model an actual ship!

I have no idea what five or six year old me was planning to do with such a well armed vessel but there it is.

I do remember often asking for impossible presents from Father Christmas. It was my thinking that he was magical. He didn’t need to go down to Toys’R’Us did he?

It was all rather wonderful to be a child and believe in magic. I look forward to those days with my nephew.

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I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.

 

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Nitpicking and Reviewing

I like to watch television shows analytically. pexels-photo-143714 I enjoy the process of seeing more than what is there. Some people, citation needed, have the attitude of: ‘It’s a TV show you’re thinking too much.’ – or words to that effect.

I know fiction is fiction. Yes here at Unstable Orbit – we state the obvious! I don’t know who we is!

What I mean is I know that fiction isn’t something that matters in the grand scheme of things but analysing it is fun to me. Again some people say that picking it apart ruins the fun. I disagree.

For a few years I have been watching SFdebris. He does reviews of various TV shows, with Star Trek being his flagship show, and I find these reviews fascinating. He has wonderful insights into what works and, more interestingly, what doesn’t work.

When something doesn’t work in fiction it is interesting to discuss it – and also what could have been done differently. What is most infuriating is when an episode has a flaw but also an easy fix.

I have been thinking for a while of doing reviews on this site. If I did I would probably start with Star Trek: Voyager. Voyager is an interesting series to discuss because, while it isn’t actually bad, it could have been so much more.

I have also been watching ruminations by a You Tuber called Lorerunner. I have been watching his reviews of Voyager too and Babylon 5. Since he is a big fan of Babylon 5 it is very easy to gush over the series. There is still a lot to say about a, for lack of a better word, good series but it is more fun to talk about a flawed series.

Speaking of Babylon 5 reviewing like this is what Captain Sheridan would probably call ‘Armchair quarterbacking’. Although, unlike the strict interpretation of that phrase, I actually have some writing experience.

Experience is a curse sometimes because you can see the gap in fiction and reality. Does that make sense? Let’s say you’re a cellist. If a character is playing the cello you would immediately know that it wasn’t real.
Similarly with writing I can’t turn off my brain so I will  Woman Playing the Violoncello notice when things go wrong in fiction. These can be big nitpicks or small nitpicks.

Small nitpicks are not an issue to me. If the Enterprise fires a phaser from the torpedo tube it is just a goof doesn’t effect the story. However if the Enterprise is suddenly able to beam through shields that is a problem because of how often that has been relevant to the stories.

Since procrastination is my middle name I don’t know when I will get to reviews. I already have a lot of projects I am interested in doing. However if I don’t ultimately end up doing this I want to leave you with this final thought.

Picking apart a TV series doesn’t mean I don’t also like it. Some series have gaping holes in them and many a head scratchier moment. However if the story is well told we can ignore these flaws.

Amongst Star Trek fans Threshold is often seen as one of the worse episodes. While it is bad it can still be enjoyed – just not, necessarily, in the way it was intended.

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I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.

***

The pictures here are from: https://www.pexels.com/

 

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Gene Roddenberry: Section 31 and the Perfect Human.

20140202_221815As a Trekkie I’m of course indebted to Gene Roddenberry for creating the universe of Star Trek. However my favorite Star Trek series is Deep Space Nine and it contains many elements that Roddenberry would have hated.

The Star Trek universe is supposed to be ideal. Humans are supposed to be perfect. He saw a world without hatred, racism and war. That’s a fantastic vision of the future but it may not be terribly realistic – and creating a story without conflict is difficult bordering on impossible.

Things are only impossible until they’re not.‘ – Captain Picard.

Racism was present in TOS. Most notably in Balance of Terror. How this episode came to be written is something of a mystery to me. In this episode the Enterprise becomes the first ship to get a visual of the Romulans. They find out they look like the Vulcans and Lt. Sties starts to think that Mr. Spock is a spy.

‘Leave any bigotry in your quarters. There’s no room for it on the bridge.’ Captain Kirk.

I realise its odd to praise an episode for bigotry but let me explain. I firmly hope that we can one day come to a ‘perfect’ future. We may well be able to do away with war and famine in the years to come. We all know that there is enough food to feed everyone. Also, and I know its hard to believe, we are in the most peaceful period in history.

However the instinct that lead to prejudice won’t magically evaporate. I’m not an anthropologist but it seems fairly clear that for a lot of history anyone not like you was a threat. Britain has been invaded many times not to mention the countries we’ve invaded. You only need to look on Wikipedia at the pages for various countries to see how many of them have had to gain, through conflict or diplomacy, their independence. Thus even if we have a ‘perfect’ world those instincts would remain – and would show themselves in extreme situations.

“There are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy” Alfred Henry Lewis.

The thing about Star Trek is that only humans seem to have achieved this perfection. Its great to have such principals but if others in the galaxy are ruthless you might need to be too. The Klingons in TOS were written as an evil empire that killed civilians. It was perhaps for that reason that Section 31 was created.

Section 31 was introduced in Deep Space Nine but retconned to have been their from the beginning of the Federation. This doesn’t really present a continuity error as they are a secret organisation. They are the self appointed guardians of the federation. They are prepared to do whatever it takes to protect Federation principles. Sloan, one of their agents, describes it to Doctor Bashir.

Federation needs men like you, Doctor – men of conscience, men of principle, men who can sleep at night. You’re also the reason Section 31 exists. Someone has to protect men like you from a universe that doesn’t share your sense of right and wrong. Sloan

Roddenberry would have hated the idea of Section 31, especially after you know what, and I’m not defending that. However its hard to imagine the Federation without some form of covert group. The questionable history of the CIA is well known but spying can also be of use.

...tonight I know how many missiles the enemy has and…our guesses were way off. And we were doing things that we didn’t need to do. We were building things that we didn’t need to build. We were harboring fears that we didn’t need to have. President Lydon B. Johnson, 1967

Section 31 are extreme in places but their existence isn’t unbelievable.

Let’s make a deal, Doctor: I’ll spare you the ‘ends justify the means’-speech and you spare me the ‘we must do what’s right’-speech. You and I are not going to see eye to eye on this subject, so I suggest we stop discussing it. – Sloan

In Roddenbury’s mind humans will always do the right thing. This however presents a problem. The no-win scenario. The Kobayashi Maru. What do you do when faced only with bad and worse choices. Neither action or inaction is acceptable.

You were The Doctor on the day it wasn’t possible to get it right.The Doctor

In that case we have to make the best of the bad choices. Most of us won’t ever have to face that situation. In Star Trek though we’re talking about Starfleet personal its part of the job. This brings me to ‘In The Pale Moonlight‘.

“I was going to bring the Romulans into the war.” – Sisko.

In this episode Sisko faces that choice. In his mind he either brings the Romulans into the Dominion war or the Federation is defeated. That defeat would lead to millions, maybe billions dead. In one episode we see Weyoun casually mention irradiating Earth’s population. Sisko didn’t hear that but its safe to assume he knew what the Dominion would do if they won. Sisko tries to bring the Romulans into the war legitimately but when that fails he is prepared to use any means necessary.

I lied. I cheated. I bribed men to cover the crimes of other men. I am an accessory to murder. But the most damning thing of all… I think I can live with it. And if I had to do it all over again, I would. Garak was right about one thing – a guilty conscience is a small price to pay for the safety of the Alpha Quadrant. – Sisko

In the Pale Moonlight is my favorite episode of Ds9 and maybe all of Star Trek. It is extremely well executed but of course Roddenberry would have hated it.

Here’s the thing. I don’t know what Roddenberry saw when he first thought about  Star Trek. Lets say it was the perfect society. The crew of the 1701 represent all of Earth. They show us that we can all work together and that things will be better tomorrow than they are today. How much did he see other than that? He wouldn’t have bothered to invent all the nuanced details. He wouldn’t have known about Section 31 because no-one did at the time of TOS. Roddenberry saw the perfect future but perhaps that was just the outside. The side that the Federation shows. At the end of the day although these humans are ‘perfect’ they still carry weapons wherever they go, they have a ship that can render a planet uninhabitable, and every week a crewman is killed by an unforgiving galaxy.

I realise I’m describing this as if Roddenberry had a vision. As if he saw the universe and wrote it all down. It is like that sometimes with creating fiction. You don’t see everything though. The Federation may be largely the ideal place to live but every society is going to have its less savory aspects. I believe that Roddenberry saw the dream society but didn’t think to look behind the curtain. We can strive to be good but there are times when its not possible.  Captain Kirk doesn’t believe in the no-win scenario but they do exist.

I never took the Kobayashi Maru test. What do you think of my solution? Spock.

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I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.

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What do I Need to Know?

20150501_234921-1[1] If there’s one thing that all Star Trek series have in common its the invulnerable crew member. Whether it was Spock, Data, Odo, the Doctor, Seven, or Phlox there was always a character that was unaffected by the threat of the week.

This was used most in TOS and TNG. Given all the times that Spock or Data saved the ship it’s a wonder any other starship survives. As Riker once said “Fate: Protects fools, little children, and ships named Enterprise.” Contagion – TNG

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to write stories. I don’t remember ever wanting to write Star Trek per se but I did want to write stories in my own universe.

I wanted a mixed crew, humans and aliens, and had four basic races. Two of them were, essentially, human with funny foreheads, that could have been achieved with tattoos; then there was one with a spherical head, and another with four arms. I was thinking in very narrow terms. Star Trek aliens are, for the most part, humanoid. While this may be scientifically implausible it is a necessity for a television show. Leaving aside the fact that CGI wasn’t even a thing in the 1960s it is still much easier for actors to act against a real person than a tennis ball on a stick that will become a creature.  CGI vs actor in prosthetic is a discussion for another time – for now I just want to go in a slightly different direction.

So I had my crew and amongst the senior staff all but one of those races were represented. I however wanted to consider the whole crew. In TOS Spock is the only Vulcan. Why? Why are there no Tellarites or Andorains on Enterprise? So I had lots of aliens, or non-humans if that’s more PC, aboard.

This presented a bit of a problem. I needed to know who they were.

There was a joke, I think it was on The Generation Game, where a contestant was quizzed on Star Trek. He was asked how many crew the Enterprise had, the D by the way, and he said 1,014, he was then asked to name them and was promptly gunged when he couldn’t.

This was where it all started for me.

Not the gunge thing the naming thing.

I wanted to be able to name all the crew of my ship. Originally it was called Capable but I renamed it Sovereignty – on the grounds that Capable is a bit wishy washy. The idea was that when I’d got the story I could look at my spreadsheet and know the names, ranks, and positions of all crew. Therefore when the Amadors were the invulnerable ones I’d know how many there were aboard and what they did.

I’m aware that this is a rather ridiculous level of information to want but there you have it. It turned out to be, and still is, a major headache though – which I’ll discuss next week.

Incidentally a friend at work was doing some spreadsheet work a while back. She was having a bit of difficulty and I tried to help. She asked how I knew about spreadsheets. I didn’t tell her that I’d wasted/used hours trying to work out the forenames, surnames, gender, rank, position, and nationality of the crew of a star ship. I think I just mumbled a vague statement about having used them.

She already knows me to be odd so that fact could only make it worse.

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