“Star Trek”: Season 2, Episode 4 (“Mirror, Mirror”)

During an ion storm over an alien planet, there is transporter malfunction on the Enterprise. The landing party of Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, and Uhura find themselves in a mirror (parallel) universe aboard a ship run by a ruthless crew. Their evil counterparts take their places on the real ship. Our heroes must find a way back before they’re discovered by a crew (where using treachery, violence, and seduction are common)! Kirk also must avoid destroying the peace-loving Halkans, who refuse to deal w/ the Empire (b/c of the power for destruction that their dilithium crystals would give them).

The Mirror Universe salute may remind modern viewers of the Nazis; however, it comes from Ancient Rome. One the first things you’ll notice is the clothing, accessories, and hair (esp. the mustache and goatee on Spock). TOS was usually not allowed to show women’s navels, but Uhura’s toned abs are visible. They filmed while a PA took the Standards representative to lunch- LOL! Sulu wears a red shirt as he has a different role in Security; he has a long scar on one cheek. Phasers are worn upside-down on the left hip; I only noticed this on my third viewing.

Kirk (to fit in w/ his environment) warns the Halkan commissioner: “We will level your planet and take what we want- that is destruction: you will die as a race.” Kirk is faced w/ more complication when he discovers a gorgeous woman waiting in his quarters- Lt. Marlena Moreau (Barbara Luna- an actress w/ Latina and Filipina heritage). She is clever, opportunistic and feisty; she desires to be “the woman of a Caesar” (another call-back to Ancient Rome). Marlena gets suspicious b/c this Kirk is a lot less brutal and insensitive. After filming had begun, Luna was diagnosed w/ strep throat. Since the script called for Capt. Kirk to kiss her, they had to postpone that scene for three weeks until she was well.

This is one the most popular TOS eps; also, The Mirror Universe was later depicted on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Enterprise. Ronald D. Moore (a writer/producer on later Trek series) cited this episode as one of his favorites; he is also the creator of the rebooted Battlestar Gallactica. The writers examine the negative side of the main characters, which is fun and unexpected. While Spock remains mostly true to the Spock we know/love, Sulu is a cunning schemer and young Chekov turns out to be a risk-taker. I also discovered that there is a second Vulcan serving on the ship (as Mirror Spock’s security guard).

[1] Instead of the usual prime directive and the overriding desire to do good, this anti-Enterprise world is just plain awful and a great counter-point to the sometimes saccharine-like world of Star Trek where everyone gets along a bit too often!

[2] …there’s something about tapping into the dark side of all our beloved characters here which makes this an irresistible mix of tension and adventure – an ultimate Trek, if you will.

[4] The acting takes it over the top. William Shatner’s Kirk displays the quick wits and cleverness that make the character so interesting. And notice how our good guy Kirk is not entirely uncomfortable in his new, dangerous environment. Leonard Nimoy’s evil version of Spock is genuinely menacing in a cool, calculating way. Nichelle Nichols’ Uhura shows us a cunning, wily side… But the acting prize goes to George Takei. …his evil Sulu is slimy, sleazy, scary, and wonderfully despicable.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

“Star Trek”: Season 2, Episode 1 (“Amok Time”)

[1] One of the more iconic episode from TOS, and rightfully so. It’s also full of firsts. It the first episode to feature Walter Koenig as Chekov, the first to bill DeForest Kelley alongside William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy in the opening credits, and perhaps most importantly, the first to feature Gerald Fried’s iconic “battle music”.

[2] The episode… it examines the estrangement of arranged marriages by a traditional society, and the lengths the parties involved will go to to alter the bargain made in which they had no say. 

[3] Nimoy does a fantastic job in this episode showing off a wide range of emotion, something normally not asked of him.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

Even though it was not the first ep filmed for S2, it was the first one that was aired on TV. This also marks the first visit to the planet Vulcan, and the first time we get so see other Vulcans (beside Spock). Vulcans were named for Roddenberry’s concept for their planet being a “volcanic”, desert world. We hear the Vulcan phrases: “Peace and long life” and “Live long and prosper” accompanied by the hand salute (which Nimoy modified from a gesture made by Jewish priests).

Mr. Spock is NOT himself, as he is acting illogical and irate (even throwing the plomeek soup that Nurse Chapel brings him against a wall)! FYI: This soup stained the set for several weeks. He insists that the Enterprise be diverted to his home planet- Vulcan- for shore leave (which he never takes). Spock finally reveals to Capt. Kirk that these behavioral aberration happen every 7 yrs when Vulcans must mate (pon farr) or die! Nurse Chapel comes to see Spock in his quarters, worried about his condition (esp. b/c she is in love w/ him). They get a brief scene (where he probably senses that she has feelings for him) and we learn that Vulcans also dream.

In one of the best scenes of this ep, Kirk disobeys Starfleet orders out of friendship; as he explains to McCoy, Spock has saved his life many times. There is another great scene in the turbolift w/ where Spock requests Kirk to accompany him down to the planet, as a close friend; then here is a pause and he asks McCoy the same thing. Kirk and McCoy think they’re about to be be in roles of “best men” at the wedding ceremony, but there is much more involved. As a viewer commented, the final scenes are Shakespearean.

“Star Trek”: Season 1, Episode 27 (“Errand of Mercy”)

The title comes from The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens: “It is an errand of mercy which brings me here. Pray, let me discharge it.” This ep is commonly known as “The Vietnam Story,” for its obvious allusions to Vietnam and its abuse by colonial powers. The Klingons and the Federation are poised on the brink, and then war is declared. Kirk and Spock visit Organia, a planet which lies on a tactical corridor likely to be important in the coming conflict. The Organian village was to be modeled on old English villages, w/ thatched huts and muddy back alleys. The simple/pastoral Organians are unconcerned by the threat of the Klingon occupation. Kirk has to hold in his anger when Kor interrogates him, as he is pretending to be passive like the Organians. Later in the street, Spock gets between Kirk and a Klingon warrior, so they don’t fight. Finally, Kirk and the Klingon commander Kor (Johm Colicos) learn why, and the reason will change Federation/Klingon relations!

Kor: Where is your smile?

Kirk [posing as an Organian]: My what?

Kor: The stupid, idiotic smile everyone else seems to be wearing.

This ep introduces the Klingon Empire; Klingons were named after creator/producer Gene Roddenberry’s friend, Bob Clingan. D.C. Fontana thought the Klingons were made the regular adversaries of the series b/c they didn’t need any special (and expensive) make-up like the Romulans, whom she thought to be more interesting. Colicos intended to reprise the role of Capt. Kor in a later, Day of the Dove, but he had a scheduling conflict. The role of Capt. Kang was written to take the place of Kor. The actor who played Kang, Michael Ansara, was of Arab descent and married to actress Barbara Eden (best known as Jeannie). Colicos reprised the role of an elderly Kor in a few eps of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The baldric that Kor wore was reused for Worf during S1 of Star Trek: The Next Generation. When it was exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution in the ’90s, the material could clearly be seen to be burlap sacking, painted gold. 

[1] This episode resides at the top of the heap of Trek. Here is a well-paced, tension-filled, logical plot with good characters and an intriguing riddle at its core. John Colicos gives a simply great performance… And he gets the all time great line in Trek: “I don’t trust a man who smiles too much.”

[2] Kirk describes their society as a military dictatorship and there are parallels to Nazi rule in Europe during World War II.

[3] The Organian’s prove to be more interesting than they first appear, although I’m sure most viewers will have guessed that they aren’t quite what they seem long before the reveal.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

“Star Trek”: Season 1, Episode 22 (“The Return of the Archons”)

The Enterprise travels to Beta III to learn what happened to the U.S.S. Archon, which went missing a century earlier. A crewman in the landing party disappears, while another (Sulu) returns in a strange state. The word “Archon” was the title of certain Greek heads of state, incl. those in the Athenian Republic. It comes from Greek root “arch”, meaning “leader, highest, chief” (found in monarch, hierarchy, and anarchy).

Kirk beams down w/ another landing party just before the chaos of “Festival” (or “Red Hour”) begins at 6PM. They say they’re visitors from “The Valley,” escape the streets for a hotel, where the owner (Reger) and town elders ask if they are “Archons.” To learn more, Kirk has to convince some citizens to disobey Landru (who has ruled this society for 6,000 years). There are Lawgivers (wearing brown robes w/ long staffs in hand) everywhere; they are watching and waiting for those who disobey.

Spock: This is a soulless society, Captain. It has no spirit, no spark. All is indeed peace and tranquility – the peace of the factory, the tranquility of the machine, all parts working in unison.

Kirk: Mr. Spock, the plug must be pulled.

Spock: Sir?

Kirk: Landru must die.

Spock: Captain, our prime directive of non-interference…

Kirk: That refers to a living, growing culture. You think this one is?

This ep contains the first mention of the Prime Directive. This is also the first ep where Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and their landing party are disguised in the clothes of the native society. Nimoy looks a but more elegant than usual w/ a black cape (to cover up Spock’s Vulcan ears). Spock is seen sleeping with his eyes opens- another element of the alien side of his character. In the dungeon, Spock punches a guard in the face w/ his fist (first time we see) instead of using the Vulcan neck pinch.

This story is the inspiration for The Purge (2013) and its sequels; I haven’t seen those movies yet. Ben Stiller named his production company Red Hour; he is a huge fan of ST: TOS. The location scenes were filmed at the 40 Acres backlot in Culver City, CA. This is the same place where Miri and The City on the Edge of Forever were shot. The sets were featured prominently on The Andy Griffith Show and originally constructed to portray 19th century Atlanta for Gone with the Wind (1939). Westerns were very big in the ’60s, so it was cost-effective to use the sets, as well as the costumes.

[1] Some rather deep and sophisticated concepts were presented in this episode, quite sophisticated even for this show; the drawback was an unexciting narrative, even a drab pace. 

[2] This episode always makes me wonder if this was the inspiration for the Borg. The planet has 1 ruler/leader, who’s name is Landru. But he is really just a computer. This was a common theme in the original Star Trek… computers gone awry.

[3] There’s also Roddenberry’s intriguing symbolism of ‘the three’, those elder statesmen, who were immune to ‘absorption’. They were among the last remaining citizens who understood that ‘freedom is never a gift’.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

“Star Trek”: Season 1, Episode 20 (“Tomorrow is Yesterday”)

Time travel is one of the most common (and popular) topics in sci-fi. No doubt many of you have watched the Back to the Future movies (starring a young Michael J. Fox) and/or the TV series Quantum Leap (starring Scott Bakula- the captain in Star Trek: Enterprise). In this ep, Capt. Kirk says the first moon shot was in the late ’60s (which turned out to be accurate)! A fan noted that the day after this ep originally aired astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee perished in a flash fire in their Apollo Command module during a launch rehearsal.

When the Enterprise is flung back in time while trying to escape the gravitational pull of a black star (black hole), they find themselves in orbit around Earth- late 1960s. When they are seen by a U.S. Air Force pilot, Capt. John Christopher (guest star Roger Perry), they beam him aboard. They face the dilemma of what to do with him, as he learns more and more about the future. Lucille Ball (who started Desilu Productions) chose Perry for this role; he was a Broadway actor and had guest roles on many TV series.

Spock: We cannot return him to Earth, Captain. He already knows too much about us and is learning more. I do not specifically refer to Captain Christopher; but suppose an unscrupulous man were to gain certain knowledge of man’s future. Such a man could manipulate key industries, stocks, and even nations, and in so doing, change what must be. And if it is changed, Captain, you and I, and all that we know, might not even exist.

Kirk: Your logic can be most… annoying.

There is also some humor (as we expect) in this ep. The ship’s computer (voiced by Majel Barrett) has a glitch; it’s addressing Capt. Kirk as “dear” in an “affectionate” tone. Roddenberry was fascinated by the potential of a matriarchal society, and explored this theme in later eps and series.

Capt. Christopher: I take it that a lady computer is not routine.

Spock: We’d put into Cygnet XIV for general repair and maintenance. Cygnet XIV is a planet dominated by women. They seemed to feel the ship’s computer system lacked personality. They gave it one. Female, of course.

Capt. Christopher: [laughing] Well, you, you people certainly have interesting problems. I’d, uh… I’d love to stay around to see how your girlfriend works out, but…

Of course, Capt. Christopher is surprised to see the advanced tech, women working onboard, and (esp.) an alien- Spock. Capt. Kirk is fascinated by the pilot; he is probably much like what he would be (if he’d grown up in the 20th century). Later in the story, when Capt. Kirk is in danger, Spock and Capt. Christopher have to work together to rescue him. Spock’s response (and delivery) were very effective in this little scene.

Capt. Christopher: You don’t trust me, do you Spock?

Spock: In fact, I do. [Pause] But only to a certain point.