Star Trek and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Tribble Episodes

Once upon a time, there was a Star Trek fan club in Atlanta that did not have enough members, and it did not have enough rules. So they had an idea: they were going to organize every other fan club in Atlanta with their rules and give them each a planet. So there would be a Doctor Who planet and a LARP planet and an RPG planet and an anime planet and so on.

And each of these planets would appoint ambassadors to visit the other planets and report back to their own planet, and to the Star Trek planet, which was the most important planet, what every other planet was doing. Because that’s exactly what you want to do before you spend your afternoon in the game shop playing BattleMech: stop for half an hour to listen to your planet’s ambassadors report what episodes of Forever Knight they watched at the vampire planet’s last meeting.

But in the interest of goodwill, some friends of some friends put an anime music video together for the Star Trek fan club to show at their table at some con. This was the early ’90s, when Akira was hot and people were saying things like “that Japanimation is totally bitchin’.” I don’t remember what song the editors originally chose, but the Star Trek fan club decided that it needed to be a much more totally bitchin’ song and so they overdubbed it with MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This.”

I’m not making any of this up, I swear.

Word got back, and we were aggrieved and offended and amused, and so I decided to retaliate. I phoned a friend who had some Star Trek on video and a couple of us got together and edited, deliberately, the worst fan video ever made. You thought that songtape of Kirk and Spock exchanging meaningful glances to the tune of REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling” was bad?

Okay, that one I made up.

Well, this was worse. It didn’t have a storyline, I dumped video effects into it just because one of my decks could do that, and once I finished the master, I recopied it back and forth twice more with the tracking screwed up to make it look like the work of an enthusiastic idiot.

The scenes were picked almost entirely at random from six episodes of the original show and Next Generation, plus the movie where Spock gives a nerve pinch to the guy on the bus with the boom box. It was four minutes of shots of people in hallways, except I made sure to include Denise Crosby in a sexy costume, and when all the Tribbles got dumped on Kirk’s head, I fast forwarded and rewound and fast forwarded and rewound. And then the finishing touch, delivered with a chef’s kiss: the soundtrack to this eyeball-punching monstrosity was a song by the then-popular boy band New Kids on the Block.

The people who were in on the joke chuckled for maybe thirty seconds before it lost any charm. People who were not in on the joke were annoyed just being in the same room. The video was made to aggravate anybody who saw it, like going to a comedy club to see Andy Kaufman, that funny man from TV, and all he does is read a book at you until his voice gives out. Some joke, huh?

But the joke was on me, because when you spend half an hour making your Tribbles dump and jump, up and down, back and forth, as terribly as two VHS players can make them hop, you have, forever, associated the Tribbles with “You Got The Right Stuff” by New Kids on the Block. And David Gerrold, who wrote this episode, is such a nice man and such a good writer that even though I don’t care for Star Trek, I feel terrible that I did this to his script. And the original episode has those fine actors William Schallert and Stanley Adams in it. The guest stars and series regulars all deserved better than the New Kids on the Block. David, if you’re out there, I’m really sorry. We should have used Harlan’s episode.

Of course the kid loved it to pieces. “The Trouble With Tribbles,” I mean, not that terrible video. And that bit where Scotty asks Kirk whether his answer is on the record really is funny. But he howled throughout as the situation escalated, especially because it wrong-footed him completely. I successfully kept this one a complete secret, and when Cyrano Jones is selling Uhura on the wonder of Tribbles, one goes and munches on Chekov’s grain. Our kid said “It’s going to grow into a giant!” And boy, was he wrong. We’ve seen this kid lose it completely laughing, and I’ve reported to you good readers that he was in stitches, but this was next-level. Every subsequent revelation that the Tribbles are getting everywhere had him on the floor choking with laughter. Watch old shows with kids, friends. You might just have a really good time.

And then I seriously wrong-footed him by sending him out of the room and setting up the 1996 sequel episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, telling him that what happened next on Sherman’s Planet was resolved in this show. What actually happened was they made a thirtieth anniversary special and had a Klingon villain jump back in time a century to the events of “The Trouble With Tribbles,” planning to change history somehow. So Avery Brooks and Terry Farrell and their gang dig deep in the closet for some old Star Fleet uniforms and tech.

Honestly, the “gee-gosh-wow that’s really the Mister Spock!” business gets a little tired, but the production is remarkable and the visual effects to insert the 1990s actors into 1960s footage makes for some great little jokes. Say, that guy wasn’t there when we watched this scene half an hour ago! The time travel stuff is the really amusing part. Avery Brooks’ character is being grilled by two bureaucrats from the Federation’s time travel division, who really don’t want to have to clean up another mess involving that blasted Captain Kirk again, and one poor fellow thinks he may be caught in a Grandfather Paradox and is obliged to meet up with a lady on the Enterprise to ensure his own existence. And of course there are Tribbles. Tribbles everywhere.

That’s all the Star Trek I’m going to watch, but the kid enjoyed the heck out of it and he’ll probably want to start getting spaceship ornaments for our Christmas tree just like his uncle. He can get his own Blu-rays though. We’ll watch one more thing on the CBS streaming service before they bill me, so stick around for Saturday to see what that might be.

The Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew Mysteries 2.21 – Arson and Old Lace

Credit where it’s due: I’ve occasionally teased the producers and paymasters of this show for cutting some corners to save a little cash. But whatever they saved, they put onscreen in tonight’s hour, which put a Hardy spin on a couple of seventies obsessions: The Towering Inferno and Howard Hughes. Joseph Cotten has a breathtakingly thankless role in this episode, a character who’s both insane and evil. Rathbone is a recluse who hasn’t left his penthouse for twenty-two years, and he’s started embezzling money from his companies. Then Nancy Drew – who’s the spitting image of the “Jane Russell” in Rathbone’s past – starts investigating, and he has her kidnapped.

Six months later – and when you think about it, it’s pretty surprising that any series from the period would leave one of its characters in a villain’s clutches anywhere near that long – the Hardys finally get a lead on Nancy’s investigation, just in time for a serial arsonist, who turns out to have a pretty reasonable motive, to target Rathbone’s building. This story required a lot of extras, a lot of stuntmen, and a lot of fires on the set. Sadly, our son was really excited by the clips from the show before the titles, what with all the explosions and blazes, but the story left him cold, confused, and really unsatisfied. He did enjoy Joe Hardy saving a little kid from the building with a jump from the fourth floor to the fire department’s trampoline.

I think it’s a shame that the center of the story is Nancy being a helpless prisoner for half a year, because Nancy shouldn’t be a damsel in distress in the first place, and certainly not for such a long time. Without this chasm in the plot, it’s otherwise a very entertaining production, and features a fine cast including Jack Kelly and Pernell Roberts. And being a victim for half a year is no way for Nancy Drew to exit the show. This was the final appearance of Nancy and her dad. Janet Louise Johnson and William Schallert wouldn’t be part of the next season. I wish that the characters’ final outing would have been a more positive one.

The Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew Mysteries 2.13 – The Lady on Thursday at Ten

I’d like nothing better than to say that the Nancy Drew episodes were the best of this series, but that simply isn’t the case. The Hardy Boys segments this season, without the character, have been far better every time, and while some have been pretty dopey, a couple of them have been surprisingly intelligent and entertaining. So I honestly won’t be sorry to see Nancy go. The only stories of hers that I liked were in the first season. And so tonight’s show was the final solo outing for the character, and the last appearance of Pamela Sue Martin as Nancy, as she declined to continue as a guest star in what had been sold as a show that was one-half hers.

Marie wondered whether ABC and Universal decided to cancel her solo outings because they were of such remarkably lower quality than the Hardy Boys segments. My gut tells me – without any genuine black and white evidence – that the predominantly tween girls in the audience wanted to see Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson first and foremost, and weren’t interested when they weren’t on. I can’t even protest that surely some girls were tuning in for a positive female role model, because the Nancy of year two is not one. She’s unlikeable, illogical, muleheaded, and the way she destroys evidence at crime scenes is pretty amazing. So maybe the girls of 1978 were being superficial in only wanting to watch the dreamy guys, but who can blame them?

Guest starring in this last solo case of Nancy’s, there’s Nicholas Hammond and Simon Oakland, pretending to be policemen when they’re really criminals, and Los Angeles, pretending to be Manhattan when it is most emphatically Los Angeles. Television producers spent a lot of time in the seventies and eighties pretending that southern California was anyplace else, and I have spent a lot of time giggling about it when they fumbled, but…

…the episode begins with Nancy driving through Times Square at night, and she’s hopelessly lost, so every time she comes to a red light, she consults what appears to be a road map of Passaic County, probably because that’s the best the props department could do. You can make out Wanaque and Oakland on it. And it continues the following day, through palm trees and giant open skies and an ornately-designed police precinct that Barney Miller and Kojak couldn’t have dreamed they’d ever have worked from. The Hardy Boys were more successful in convincing me that they were in Egypt and Kenya this season. I look forward to seeing more from that show. It may be a kids’ show, but that crew was trying harder.

The Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew Mysteries 2.12 – Will the Real Santa Claus…

A couple of things to note about tonight’s Christmas episode. First, there’s a tip of the hat to the immortal Twilight Zone story “The Night of the Meek”. This story introduces us, briefly, to an alcoholic department store Santa who is barely able to sit up straight. I think that was cute. I also think that “The Night of the Meek” is about sixty million times more entertaining than this thing, but that’s neither here nor there.

Also, in this show’s first season, actor George O’Hanlon Jr. had played Ned Nickerson, who was a dreamboat all-American football type in the original books and a nervous assistant to Carson Drew in season one. While they had recast Nancy’s best friend George with another actress, they did a complete retool of Ned, and introduced him in this story as a brand new character played by heartthrob-to-be Rick Springfield. This Ned works for the Boston DA and is an obnoxious creep with downright hideous taste in clothes.

Finally, our son is now singing “Deck the Halls.” Hot freaking dog.

The Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew Mysteries 2.10 – Nancy Drew’s Love Match

Nancy Drew finally gets a solo outing this season… and it’s dreadful. Marie hated it because Nancy comes up with one dumb lie after another to explain why she’s secretly tailing a tennis player she went to high school with. And she has a point: this story did not need the complication and potential embarrassment. It could have been an interesting case with three believable suspects without it. If Nancy and two other characters just quietly talked about the problem before the show pretended to go to Las Vegas, it would have been a stronger story.

The episode tries to wring some humor from other characters acting on Nancy’s lies, leading her to lie further to maintain her cover. But it isn’t funny. Marie absolutely hates this kind of comedy; I’d never ask her to watch that Fawlty Towers where Basil tries to fib his way around a surprise anniversary party for his wife because I know it would be torture for her. Our son picked up on her distaste and turned on the show with alacrity, choosing to hide behind the sofa when there wasn’t anything frightening, but Mom didn’t like it and so why should he?

For trivia’s sake, this was the first episode to feature Susan Buckner as the second George, and the guest stars include Maureen McCormick, Jack Colvin, and Roger C. Carmel, who is by miles the best thing about the episode.

The Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew Mysteries 1.14 – Mystery of the Solid Gold Kicker

The other night, our son told us that he gives The Hardy Boys two thumbs up, and Nancy Drew one-and-a-half thumbs up. Then we ran into this segment, which left him confused and bored. He didn’t enjoy this at all. I got a kick out of seeing so many future stars early in their career, including Terry Kiser, Martin Kove, and most obviously Mark Harmon, who’s coming up on an astonishing 379 episodes of NCIS. I had no idea that show has been going so long. Harmon was just a few months away from being cast in his first starring role, in the long-forgotten Jack Webb show Sam, about a police dog and his handler. Bigger and better things were in his future, including the miniseries Goliath Awaits, which we would totally watch for this blog if it were available.

In the last episode of The Hardy Boys, I noted that the director and editors did an exemplary job making stock footage mesh with a carnival and parade, but I can’t say the same about this effort. Harmon plays the kicker for undefeated Overton State University, who play their games at the Not-Fooling-Anybody Rose Bowl, and their uniforms are a little more bright red than the University of Oklahoma’s crimson. Yes, they pulled in lots of old stock footage of Oklahoma playing a couple of other teams, and then the poor director – Andy Sidaris, who would later make all those movies where Playboy models fire bazookas at ninjas in Hawaii – tried to match this beat up footage that looks like it was the first color broadcast of anything, at twilight, with the new material of actors in their bright red and about twenty extras in the stands at high noon in Pasadena.

At least they got a legend to call Overton’s games. They brought in Howard Cosell to do the play-by-play. Honestly, I tease about the production, but the story’s a pretty good one, where gamblers convince Overton’s kicker that he’s killed a girl in order to blackmail him into throwing a game. But the highlight is watching and listening to Cosell doing his shtick and talking his pretentious piffle. (Read more about Cosell at this great post last year at Classic TV Sports. There was nobody like him!)

That wraps up the first season of The Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew Mysteries. There were a couple that I didn’t enjoy much, but overall this was better than I expected! We’ll watch season two a few months down the road, probably starting in late July. Stay tuned!

The Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew Mysteries 1.12 – The Mystery of the Ghostwriters’ Cruise

Well, I knew this would be a show with its ups and downs, but after five incredibly implausible but entertaining and cute installments, man, did we ever hit a turkey. “The Mystery of the Ghostwriters’ Cruise” is terrible. Characters don’t know things about their own pasts they should definitely remember, other characters have utterly astonishing technical skills that border on the supernatural, and other characters are just plain annoying. The direction and editing are unbelievably clumsy, too. In order to keep conveying a sense of mystery and keep everybody a suspect, the camera lingers on everybody way too long. It’s a very annoying hour of television.

A couple of interesting cast notes, though. David Wayne plays the famous mystery writer John Addams, who is retiring and taking a cruise, but somebody plans to kill him, and TV’s first Captain America, Reb Brown, is one of about six people set up as suspects. Les Lannom, who had been so entertaining as Lester Hodges in several episodes of Harry O, gets to play the ship’s entertainment director, who is pretty much the only man on the ship who doesn’t seem to want to kill Addams. Sadly, he’s so incredibly creepy and pushy and touchy in that seventies way that he’s more troubling than a potential murderer.

Also, the wannabe killer misspells “you’re” as “your” in the first threatening note. I thought that Nancy would say something about that. I’m not sure what prison sentence awaits the would-be assassin, but because of that note, I hope they threw away the key.

The Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew Mysteries 1.10 – Mystery of the Fallen Angels

The previous episode of Nancy Drew was full of established Hollywood stars making guest appearances, but this morning’s story was full of up-and-comers. Cast as four motorcycle-riding carnival workers who have a job on the side heisting appliances from fancy houses, there are two of the stars of Jason of Star Command, which would begin production a little more than a year later: Craig Littler and Susan O’Hanlon. Perhaps better known are the other two members of the gang: Jamie Lee Curtis and Robert Englund. Beverly Garland also has a major role in this story, but she was no up-and-comer; she probably had more than two hundred credits by the time she’d made this.

Also appearing, the Universal backlot. Well, it gets used in most of these episodes, but I don’t remember ever seeing it from this angle before. The carnival sets up on the other side of the studio pond, so the cameras are facing the “quaint coastal western” buildings and the riverboat, leading any viewer paying attention to ask the not unreasonable question where on Earth, other than a studio backlot, this carnival could possibly be. The actual story was just a bit of harmless fluff, but our son really enjoyed all the motorcycle stuff, including a big chase at the end that saw one or two of the “try your luck” stands destroyed by runaway bikes.

Speaking of Nancy Drew, we genuinely had no idea until yesterday that a new Nancy Drew film was released literally a month ago. I found the DVD at Target yesterday. Has anybody heard of this film? The 2007 movie with Emma Roberts has been on the “maybe” list to watch with our son for a while. Should we look at this one as well?

The Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew Mysteries 1.8 – A Haunting We Will Go

Tonight’s episode is the perhaps inevitable story about somebody in the old theater dropping lights down onto the stage and almost killing somebody and this was no accident, this rope’s been cut, and so on. They brought in a pile of good actors for it, though. Victor Buono, Bob Crane, and Dina Merrill are among the thesps playing thesps, a group who staged a show called Murder in the Fourth Act twenty-two years previously. They’ve all gone on to successful showbiz careers, but when they’re invited to tread the boards in the small town of River Heights one last time before the old theater is torn down to make room for a youth center, they all rush back, hating each other, because they all buried a secret down in the theater’s cellar.

Michael Sloan’s story is lighthearted and fun, and our son enjoyed it a lot, even if some of the jokes were a little over his head. I guess he figures that if his dad gets a good chuckle from a gag about Marcus Welby or Dr. Kildare, it must be funny somehow, whoever they are.

The Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew Mysteries 1.6 – The Secret of the Whispering Walls

Marie said, when we finished, that this was a perfect example of Nancy Drew, and I immediately agreed. When I was a kid, I read probably a dozen Nancy Drew books and another dozen Hardy Boys, and I couldn’t tell you a thing about any of them individually, but collectively they are all this episode: Nancy finding secret passages in an old house that lead to old caves that are being used by counterfeiters, while people send mysterious signals to each other for no better reason than to have Nancy spot them.

The most remarkable thing about “The Secret of the Whispering Walls” is the way that this seventies show just casually presents two elderly aunts who share a bed in this enormous old house. They don’t actually suggest any romance between the two, and you’re perfectly at liberty to assume what you like, but they sure do act like an old married couple and as far as I’m concerned, they’re delightful and probably the most queer-positive image that television presented in February 1977.

The Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew Mysteries 1.4 – The Mystery of the Diamond Triangle

Not a lot of free time tonight, so I’ll just note that in this episode, Nancy stumbles on a delightfully overcomplicated scheme to steal far more classic cars than any criminal gang could seriously expect to get away with. It’s pretty good timing; the annual Chattanooga Cruise-In, with something like two thousand antique cars, is coming up this weekend. I wonder whether I might could see one of the early ’30s Auburns that Nancy spots there. Anyway, the guest stars include Len Lesser and Gordon Jump, and our son enjoyed the whole story and loved the cops showing up at the climax, even if the insurance fraud part of the plot required a pause and an explanation. I think many of the bad guys had a long wait for a paddy wagon though. They were way out in the woods.