Star Trek 3.15 – Let That Be Your Last Battlefield

So naturally I picked the one with Frank Gorshin, because Gorshin was the Riddler. I see that Gene L. Coon’s “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” gets a little online stick for being heavy-handed with its message about racism, but heck, fifty-one years have passed since its broadcast and we’ve still got uncountable numbers of clods across the planet who clearly need to watch something as heavy-handed as this on a daily basis. On the other hand, our son got the “hatred is bad” message, but he didn’t quite catch the “racism is bad” part. Hopefully we’re raising him right, because he thought that was obvious.

Sadly, I really didn’t enjoy it. It seems very slow and repetitive to me, but full credit to the other guest actor in this one. I think everybody remembers that Frank Gorshin plays one of the aliens, but the other guy is Lou Antonio. He was never a big name or a Batvillain, so pop culture has largely forgotten him, but I’ve seen other actors fold when Gorshin goes full-throttle – just try to watch everybody opposite him in that episode of Charlie’s Angels he did – and Antonio matches him note for note. He’s terrific in the face of a tornado, hurling back every insult with conviction and power in his performance.

Also of note, for those of you who ever chuckled at William Shatner’s strange pronunciation of, er, “sabataage” on that wonderful old collection of celebrities at their worst, he didn’t know how to pronounce it in 1969 either.

Star Trek 3.9 – The Tholian Web

I don’t remember “The Tholian Web” very well from my youth, but I definitely remember my pal Trey enjoying it. One of the characters that he made for an ongoing comic that we made in middle school was “Interphase,” plundered from this story. I was guilty of the same pilfering. I needed some aliens for some other story I was doing and came up with “Thoimmulans,” which sounds like something from a variety show parody of Trek hosted by Jerry Lewis.

With Kirk out of the action for most of the story, Spock takes command of the Enterprise once the landing party returns. Spock says there are no records of any Federation starship suffering a mutiny. Give him a month, there’d be one. Leonard Nimoy, of course, walked away with the show every week, but Spock wouldn’t be a captain I’d like to have as my boss. Dude can’t even manage to conduct a memorial service worth a darn. Chief Engineer Scott doesn’t see the big picture, but I think he wouldn’t piss off the entire crew, either. He, Sulu, and Uhura would get the job done.

Our son enjoyed this episode. Before it settles on the interphasing shifts of space itself being the cause of madness among space travelers, he really wanted to deduce what was happening. “I think it’s the life support systems!” he hissed at one point. He wasn’t right, but it’s not like anybody else was going to guess “interphasing shifts of space itself,” really.

Star Trek 2.11 – Friday’s Child

So naturally I picked the episode with Julie Newmar to watch, and naturally it was another disappointment. D.C. Fontana wrote this one, and it’s centered around a tribe of colorfully-dressed warriors. Both the Federation and the Klingon Empire want to negotiate for exclusive mining rights on their planet.

By far the most interesting part to me was the location filming, which it turns out was at Vasquez Rocks Natural Park. It’s absolutely glorious; I’ve probably seen it in the background of all sorts of television shows over the years (Shazam! and The Fugitive come to mind, maybe Route 66), but the great remastering job that they’ve done to these episodes – coupled, in no small part, by a desire to get out of isolation – makes me want to drive to California and spend all day hiking there.

As for the episode itself, while our son enjoyed the showdown with the tribe and the turncoat Klingon, he also got a buzz out of the B-plot. Scotty’s left in charge and the Enterprise has to leave the planet’s orbit to look into a distant distress call. To nobody’s surprise, it’s a trick, and when they get back, a Klingon ship has drawn a line in the sand, and the kid sat up ready for some special effects. Sadly, what happens next is resolved offscreen. I imagine the budget was probably pretty thin after several days of location filming and it didn’t even stretch to a good model of the Klingon ship, much less a space battle. Since I find Doohan, Takei, Nichols, and Koenig more watchable than Shatner and Kelley, I’d have liked to have seen more of this plot, honestly.

Oh, and this is the first episode we’ve seen with Walter Koenig’s character of Chekhov. Happily, he introduced himself to our son with a bit where he claims Russian credit of an old saying. Like McCoy and his “I’m a doctor, not a–” bits – an “escalator” this time – I think that’s something the younger members of the audience can enjoy. Our son thought his name was funny.

Star Trek 1.28 – The City on the Edge of Forever

“The City on the Edge of Forever” is the celebrated episode credited to Harlan Ellison, who spent the next forty years complaining about what those Hollywood finks did to his beautiful screenplay. It guest stars Joan Collins, and I enjoyed her performance more than anything that was in the script, whoever wrote the final draft. Our son liked it because there was time travel, but says that he liked “The Devil in the Dark” more. The grownups agree. Fifty minutes of Ellison ranting about what they did wrong would have been more entertaining.

Credit the Federation for at least being more civilized than Stargate Command and quietly leaving the planet after their mission to New York, 1930. If word got back to Cheyenne Mountain about what was living on that planet, Colonel Maybourne’s goons would have put the Guardian of Forever in a crate and shipped it to Area 51.

Star Trek 1.21 – The Return of the Archons

So it turns out that an evil supercomputer is behind the international communist conspiracy! Who’d’a thunk it?

I picked tonight’s episode of Star Trek because the mighty Sid Haig is in it. Alas, it’s just a henchman role. He plays one of the hooded lawgivers on a Paramount Backlot Planet (see comment). This one’s Small Town Main Street USA. All six of the main season one characters are in this story, even though Scotty and Sulu have very small parts. Since I’ve forgotten many of the details of this show and know more of its folk memory and stereotype, I was interested to see that the main three characters are accompanied to the planet by three other officers instead of the traditional one. None of them get eaten by a space monster behind a rock and one of them, Lindstrom, gets to have several lines.

The evil supercomputer in this one is called Landru and it represses individual thought, creativity, and free will, stamping all of that out for the good of society. It just leaves its brainwashed population mindless, happy, pointless drones until an occasional twelve-hour festival which is a curious antecedent of the much later Purge films, and all the young people go wild in the streets. It’s paced like a glacier and runs in place with about fifteen solid minutes of padding between the halfway point and the inevitable reveal of the computer. Naturally, Captain Kirk and Mister Spock talk the evil supercomputer into self-destructing, because that’s what happened in the sixties and seventies. We’ve seen this happen before, haven’t we, readers?

The kid says that he liked it. I have no idea why.

MacGyver 2.4 – The Wish Child

I picked tonight’s episode of MacGyver because George Takei is in it, but it turned out to be among the better episodes that we’ve seen. “The Wish Child,” written by Stephen Kandel and Bill Froelich, is about a scam that a Chinatown con artist is playing on a very wealthy sucker, played by the prolific James Hong, who has indeed been in just about everything. IMDB lists him with an amazing 424 credits, and even though most of his most recent work has been voiceovers, you’ve seen or heard him in a thing or twelve. Tia Carrere also appears in a small part, topping and tailing the episode as another very good friend of MacGyver’s that we never hear about before or after this story.

Our son was most taken with the bit that I also enjoyed the most. In order to get on board Hong’s character’s freighter, MacGyver coats himself with dirt, grease, and oil, and stomps past the guards carrying a random assortment of machine parts. His voiceover explains this as an old Minnesota trick: he’s filthy enough to register as untouchable. Nobody wants to touch the untouchable!

Takei’s character meets his end in a remarkably silly scene. It turns out the wealthy sucker may be gullible enough to fall for a scam about the reincarnation of a legendary “wish child,” but he’s also a ruthless criminal himself who intends to enslave the boy and kill any witnesses. So Takei takes a bullet to the chest while he’s talking to MacGyver, and the assassin just leaves… but MacGyver’s heard the whole story and is now a witness to both the scam and the new murder. Talk about a loose end! I bet that assassin doesn’t mention this when he gets a job interview with some other ruthless criminal.

The Six Million Dollar Man 1.12 – The Coward

Looks like I picked this episode for one point of continuity and one entertaining guest star. This installment is the first appearance of Martha Scott as Helen Elgin, Steve’s mother. She’ll return in several future episodes, and is seen here without her husband Jim, who raised Steve after the death of his father when Steve was an infant.

Carl Austin was killed in action in World War Two, and there’s a report that he bailed out when the plane he was flying over China was attacked by Japanese fighters. The plane is spotted again in the present day by a weather satellite, and so Steve goes to the Himalayas to retrieve the confidential documents the plane was carrying, and, hopefully, to find his father’s body there and prove he didn’t dishonorably leave his crew to to die.

The notable guest star is George Takei, who plays an experienced Chinese mountain climber who gives Steve a little training and is supposed to make the Himalayan climb with him. It doesn’t work out so well for George; they get attacked by Nepalese (?) bandits as soon as they parachute down and Takei’s character is killed. Fortunately, Steve gets some assistance from a mysterious older American who’s been living in these hills for many years…

The story is by Elroy Schwartz, Sherwood’s brother, who wrote for lots of sitcoms in the sixties and seventies. Looks like he wrote or co-wrote five episodes of this show. The tease throughout, of course, is that the older American is Steve’s father, which seems to be confirmed when they make it to the plane’s wreckage and find a body wearing another man’s dogtags and bury him. But three decades in the wild can make a fellow grow up. After a fight with the bandits that leaves this man mortally wounded, he confirms that the body in the plane was actually that of Steve’s father, Carl Austin. Steve’s dying friend is Christopher Bell, who was the real coward and bailed out. He’d climbed the mountain almost immediately and switched his tags with Carl’s, assuming the plane would be exhumed a whole lot earlier than now and he could live in peace among the nomads, farmers, and bandits instead of going home to a court martial.

I think that a lot of The Six Million Dollar Man is like this. There are few science fiction or super-spy elements to the story and the bionics are barely used. Still, I picked a pretty good one for the character drama. It was a little slower than I think our son was ready to try, but he says that he enjoyed it, and all the mountain climbing scenes certainly kept his interest. He says that he’d like to climb a mountain himself one day, but the boy can barely make it across a simple suspension rope bridge without wincing, so that day may be far off.