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Creation Date: March 1st, 2010 06:15 PM
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In Moot Member Blogs 3rd Season Trek Entry Tools Rate This Entry
  #583 New July 17th, 2019 10:26 AM
Often I hear "original series" Star Trek fans decry third season Star Trek. But, if you actually watch the show, what you find is that though the production values are scaled back due to budgetary considerations, the stories are still fairly decent. Well, mostly.

Often "Spock's Brain" is touted or paraded as the worst Star Trek episode ever. It's got its issues for sure, but I would argue that "The Changeling" from I believe the second season is far worse. With "Spock's Brain" you have a divided society seeking a biological computer to run its subterranean facility. That's not really a bad premise. I think what really torpedoes the show is that Nimoy is forced to walk around literally as a brainless robot with Deforest Kelley controlling him with a remote control, like an RC car or airplane. To me that's the real ridiculous aspect of the episode. If that had been left out, and if Spock had been left in sick bay with the ever loving nurse Chapel watching over "his body" *ahem*, so to speak, then there would have been more elbow room to let the story explain why this society needed a Vulcan mind to run their complex.

Because if you watch the episode again, you'll note that we see the main viewscreen with Kirk between us and the camera, in a shot of the bridge that we've never seen before. And Checkov or Sulu advise the Captain on which planets are likely to have Spock's gray matter, and go on to describe two other planets in various stages of development. It's pretty interesting stuff.

And once they get tot the planet and are confronted with the cavemen "male" population, the episode just gets more interesting. I'm just sorry there wasn't the money to take the cast and crew up to Tahoe or something place to shoot that sequence during the winter snows.

The episode takes a nose dive with the woman who took Spock, acting like a stereotypical vapid female child. I think she should have been given a bit more intelligence, and not relied on "the teacher" (a custom made plexiglass dome with a bunch of spark plugs put into it). That part was hokey. It could have been a much better script without brainless Spock roaming the corridors of the alien planet, and giving a real intellectual; and perhaps religious reason for separating the males and females, as opposed to Spock's explanation at the end.

I know I'm going to get a lot of silent laughter for this comment, but to me it's an almost flawed masterpiece. Because a real good script would have gone into Spock's POV as a bodiless entity, and we might have seen him try to manipulate the underground city to aid Kirk and gang. That would have been a much better episode. No dumb women, no brainless Spock roaming the corridors, and no McCoy putting Spock's gray matter back into Spock's skull and body, but instead letting some high tech thingy do it with magic-tech. Truly, I think that should been the episode that was created. I'm sorry it wasn't.

Another third season episode to get bashed is the one with Melvin Belli of San Francisco legal fame. I used to drive by that guy's office, a Victorian home off of Franklin as you head towards North Beach coming down from the hills, a few blocks past the Japan Center. And I wondered if I should have stopped by and asked for an autographed photo, but never did.

The episode itself, with the then very popular Pamela Feridein who did a lot of stuff in the 70s as a young woman, again could have been more, but is what it is because of budgetary considerations. McCoy doesn't play the part of a child psychologist, as he probably should have, and the threats generated by Belli's ghostly clown, are pretty prosaic, though some are kind of clever. Again, the show needed more money to amp up the special effects, and perhaps show how the children were sucked into the malevolent murderous spirit's plans. Child killers are a scary thing, and Trek was willing to take on the topic, but didn't go the whole distance. I remember a couple of London or UK pre-teens who killed a young boy some years younger than they. That came after Trek, but there are other examples that predate the series that the writers could have drawn on. I'm sorry they didn't, but as edgy as Trek could be, that one might have been just too much for the audience. I don't know, really. Either way the episode is kind of light weight, and regrettably I think that is because there are children in this particular episode. Which is too bad, because kids can accept the concept of violence and death, given a proper framing.

Some truly awful episodes were "Return to Tomorrow", "The Changeling" and aspects of "Shore Leave". "The Squire of Gothos" has issues, but isn't overly ridiculous as such. "The Immunithy" syndrome was one of those "monster episodes" that James Doohan didn't like (or so he told me and the audience at a convention way back in 81 or 82 I believe). It was essentially Kirk and crew doing their version of Fantastic Voyage, and the writing suffers from the fact that medical science was still in the dark about cancer, so to speak (the space amoeba being protected by a zone of darkness). That's not really a fault of the writers as such, but the episode suffers from a kind of ignorance about how cells operate.

I've mentioned the Changeling. To me the opening scene of it absorbing the equivalent of fifty photon torpedoes is enough to make the most ardent fan snarf his pizza and coke. Why? Well, it only takes a couple to disable a Klingon battlecruiser (star fleet battled stats and weapons not withstanding), and the few other things subjected to photon torpedoes tend to die or blow up if a torpedo hits home. And yet this thing either fired off or absorbed 50 photons (I can't remember which . I think the Enterprise got hit with 50, but I'm too lazy to look it up). That, and the nomad probe looks and sounds a little bit like the 19960's prop that it is. It doesn't strike me as being a very high tech melding of Earth and Alien probes. It strikes me as a cheap prop with flashing lights and James Doohan voicing the thing in ADR. Oh well.

Return to Tomorrow is another flawed masterpiece in that it suffered because the SFX technology wasn't up to snuff to make that episode really shine with the kind of characters it was portraying; matter without form. Nimoy really played a an excellent malevolent psychopathic Spock. Scary stuff, or so I thought. That script, however, needed more vetting to show Sargon's nemesis really planning and executing his plan to take over the Enterprise and abuse the crew more than he had.

Nimoy, in an interview for the Television Archive, was told to state that "Let This Be Your Last Battlefield" was essentially a one trick pony regarding an examination of racial strife. Eh, not so. And he did one of the more popular yet less sterling Star Trek feature films (ST 4, the whale one oboy, fun revisit of the characters, but pretty stupid stuff plot wise). This episode looks at the tactics and social positions of both the oppressor and the oppressed, and we even get snippits of their issues as they lock horns on the bridge of the Enterprise.

But the rea blow is when Kirk tells them they're exactly alike, but that they protest by saying that they're each white and black on the opposite sides. And we see this frivolous thing being used as a social divide, much like the US of the first century decided to use race to dictate slavery. For those not in the know there were at one time white slaves and indentured servants. And that slavery had a genesis by African kings giving slaves, which then just turned into a wholesale market where white European slavers just grabbed as many people as they could, and sold them on the open market in Europe, the colonies and elsewhere. We see the culmination of social repression come to the fore, and continue to smolder and conflagrate where it can as Beal and Loki take their fight to whoever and whomever will listen. Not unlike the racial divides of the IUS, or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or any regional conflict that claims to be more important than it is Nave Americans contending with white prejudice, or various Asian ethnicities at odds with one another Japanese-Chinese, Japanese-Korean, Korean-Chinese and so forth.

Again, it's hamstrung by the fact that this was the third and final season for the show, and the budget had been slashed a great deal. Even so I think the only thing that could have added o this episode would have been to show the two combatants running or milling aimlessly through the ravaged ruins of their world, not utterly destroyed by racial hatreds. I think that would have underscored Kirk's final line;
Uhura; "Captain, {their hatred} do you think that's all they ever had?"
Captain Kirk; "No, but it's all they have left."

Again, this was the era of Room 222, The Brady Bunch, Gun Smoke and a variety of other westerns and police shows. Star Trek was far FAR more different and challenging. And, I heard other people talk about it at school. Ostensibly, or more appropriately allegedly non-Star Trek fans. And yet I heard the popular girls and their cheerleader friends mention Star Trek, and even the jocks or other in-crowd popular males bring up the show from bits of conversation that I overheard. So, even though no one would openly admit it, they saw some of the show that me and my friends watched almost religiously.. It was smarter and more daring than anything else on television.

So event he worst of the episodes had their silver linings, and even those that are praised had their flaws. That was Star Trek. My all time favorite TV shows next to Cadfael and Sharpe's Rifles.

To me, Season Three Star Trek is a laid back and more artsy version of the previous two seasons, because the cast and crew had to improvise and do with a lack of funds to really sell the story and episode as a whole.

In "Spectre of the Gun" (a very hauntingly appropriate title) the Melkotians render an incomplete version of an old west town. It's explained away as the Melkotians only being able to glimpse into Kirk's mind to create a setting to challenge the mettle of the crew of the Starship Enterprise. The truth is again a lack of money for the show, for it might have been shot on one of the western back lots at either MGM or 20th Century Fox or even Universal, but instead was shot on stage with a minimum cast. however, computer gamers will know that partially rendered rooms for maps that are incomplete have nearly the exact same look and feel of this episode. So, inadvertently this episode predicted a kind of computer phenomenon.

"The Corbonmite Maneuvre" is a bit hokey, and it was a first season episode. With a puppet for a puppet captain, and a glowing Christmas tree ornament for a giant space ship, it had a ways to go to get its point across. Here money was plentiful, but the uniforms weren't mastered yet, and the SFX were a bit off kilter. Even so the story is pretty gripping, even if the voice of the opposing ship's captain sounds familiarly like Lurch from The Adams' Family (it was the same actor, who also played Ruk in "What are Little Girls Made Of?".

I don't put down nor otherwise dismiss third Season Star Trek like other fans. In fact I embrace it for all its flaws, because even the best episodes had their shortcomings, and if we could some how tweak more than just the SFX of the classic show, we could crank out the stories that the authors wanted to tell with appropriate aplomb. Including the famous "City on the Edge of Forever" with dinosaurs and all. Someday someone will do just that, and it will be a visual treat for future mankind, assuming Star Trek fans still exist. It'll be something more than just remaking resterday's classic PC games with better graphics, but on that same kind of social and artistic plane.

I love Star Trek. When cop and family shows and vapid sitcoms were polluting the airwaves, and the stresses of school and work were getting to me, as well as the little Vargr unit being her usual self, I could tune into Kirk and Spock on nearly a daily basis. The stories were far more interesting, far more thematic, far more dynamic and far more profound than anything created for The Dukes of Hazard, Taxi, Alice, Barney Miller, The Dick Van Dyke show, or whatever mainstream fare was on at the time during Trek's syndication on what used to be the independent television landscape. It's not perfect, it has issues, I'm sorry its successor turned the whole ffranchise on its head and into something that it was never meant to be, and unto this a tool of social manipulation, but, when all is said and done, any classic Trekkie will tell you that we'll always have the three seasons of Kirk and Spock.

I could go on, but I should probably stop here. Again, at one time I wanted to take Traveller and do for it what Star Trek did for science fiction back in the 60s and 70s. Maybe next life time

Anyway, I hope this has been of some benefit to readers of my web log. I hope it has been entertaining and useful.

Prepare to jump!
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