Monday, September 22, 2008 09:08 PM
On the Viewer - Star Trek: The Animated Series, Disc Three
 by Fëanor

We actually watched this DVD a long time ago, but I'm only just now getting around to reviewing it. Such is life! First up on the disc is "The Ambergris Element," which is about Kirk and Spock getting turned into fish people. No really! They land on your standard issue water planet in a cool submersible shuttle craft, and when they're thrown clear of the shuttle into the water, the water-breathing fish-like aliens who live on the planet transform them into webbed, gilled folks like them in order to save them. Kirk and Spock swim down to talk to them and figure out how they can get changed back, and discover that the fish people are a very conservative society, and very mistrustful of outsiders, but the young people are less so, and more willing to break the rules and help the Earthers. Eventually Kirk and Spock manage to get the antidote they need and turn back into regular people. In the process, they also help the fish people to consider moving out onto the land. This isn't a great episode, but I thought the ocean-ready shuttle craft was very cool, and it was pretty fun to see Kirk and Spock get turned into fish people.

Next is a very different kind of Star Trek episode, and it's probably so different because it was written by famous science fiction author Larry Niven, based on his story "The Soft Weapon" (in other words, a regular sci-fi story which he retroactively dropped Star Trek characters into). It's called "The Slaver Weapon," and it opens up with Spock, Uhura, and Sulu cruising around in a shuttle craft with a stasis box, a rare artifact of the ancient, highly advanced, and now-extinct Slaver culture. The boxes contain valuable pieces of Slaver technology, and can detect each other. When their box indicates that another is nearby, Spock and the gang can't help but go check it out, only to discover that it's a trap set by the hostile Kzinti to get their stasis box. It turns out that the box contains a strange multi-purpose weapon with many shapes and functions. Spock and friends have to use what they know about the Kzinti race to get the weapon away from them and escape, or the consequences for the galaxy could be terrible. This is an interesting episode in that it only stars a handful of the Enterprise crew, and focuses strongly on exploring specific alien races and technology that, to my knowledge, never reappear in any other Star Trek episode. The episode also takes the form of a pair of puzzles: how can the three Federation officers escape their captors? And what is the secret of the ancient weapon? Like I said, a very interesting and different episode, and quite fun; the Kzinti are pretty interesting creatures.

The next episode, "The Eye of the Beholder," has a plot that's vaguely similar to that of "The Cage" and "The Menagerie," in that it features highly advanced psychic aliens who capture the Enterprise away team and put them in a zoo. The aliens are so far advanced mentally from humans, that they don't see humanity as anything more than dumb animals, but through careful use of projecting their thoughts, the humans are finally able to convince the aliens that they are at least semi-intelligent and should be allowed to go on their way. This episode is over-long; the story is ultimately a pretty simple one, but we have to sit through lengthy and frustrating sequences of the Enterprise crew thinking really hard at the aliens. Plus, the fact that we've seen this kind of story before in multiple other Star Trek episodes makes it a little dull. Still, it's not all bad, especially when Scotty and the alien baby make friends.

The other odd and unique episode on this disc, besides "The Slaver Weapon," is "The Jihad." In this episode, Kirk and Spock are called in as two members of an intergalactic A-Team (or really, D&D party) that's been assembled to traverse a dangerous planet and recover a holy artifact known as the "Soul of the Skorr." If the artifact is not found and returned soon, it could ignite a holy war that would engulf the entire galaxy in bloodshed and destruction. Also on the team, besides Spock and Kirk, is a winged warrior prince of the Skorr (sort of a druid?); a big, tough, reptilian guy (the tank/fighter); a tiny, cowardly lockpick (the thief/rogue); and a tough, fast-talking tracker named Lara (the ranger). Together they have to fight their way past various obstacles, making use of the team's various strengths to overcome them. The obstacles are sometimes rather ridiculous, and it seems as if there should be much easier ways to avoid them than the overly complex plans the team comes up with. And Lara's slang-filled dialogue is painfully silly, especially when she's coming on to Kirk (which she is from the very beginning - the man has mighty, interspecies pheromones!).
In the end, it turns out one member of the team is a traitor, and there's some political intrigue involved. And when they do succeed, everybody's minds get wiped by the super-powerful aliens who set this all up, and nobody remembers what they really achieved. It's all pretty weird, but I did enjoy the D&D-type team-up, and the silly quest format of the episode.

Last on the disc is "The Pirates of Orion," which opens up with the Enterprise's crew just getting over an epidemic. Unfortunately, somehow Dr. McCoy was unaware that this particular virus was fatal to Vulcans (!!) until Spock contracts it and collapses on the job. To save him, the Enterprise has to hurry to rendezvous with a ship that happens to be carrying a shipment of the cure, but when they get there, the shipment has already been stolen by pirates. A desperate chase ensues with Spock's life in the balance, and in the end it's necessary for Kirk to use all his guile to save Spock and the rest of the crew. This is a pretty tense and exciting episode with some clever moments at the end where Kirk has to outsmart the aliens. I did find it a little ridiculous that McCoy didn't do his research, and didn't think to maybe quarantine Spock during the epidemic.

I still think the first disc in this collection is the best, but this one had some fun episodes, too, and I'm looking forward to checking out the last disc.
Tagged (?): On the Viewer (Not), ST:TAS (Not), Star Trek (Not), TV (Not)



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Welcome to the blog of Jim Genzano, writer, web developer, husband, father, and enjoyer of things like the internet, movies, music, games, and books. For a more detailed run-down of who I am and what goes on here, read this.

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