Due to an unprecedented confluence of circumstances, this week, for the first time ever, I have (and am taking) the opportunity to watch ST:TOS. I’m just about finished with season 1, and I have, along with some observations, some questions.
First, I note that when a young lady is introduced to a landing party, she tends to go into an unexplainable soft focus. Seriously, it’s like how on the Monkees, every time some teeny bopper caught Davy Jones’s attention, they’d get a twinkle in their eyes, but more distracting.
Another observation is that a LOT of the fixes they got into were resolved by a Deus Ex Machina of one sort or another. Is this going to continue in Seasons 2 and 3?
Also in the episode “Return of the Archons” what purpose was supposed to be served by everybody going all The Purge on one another at six p.m. (obviously, to give Kirk & Co. something to wonder about, but it’s never explained why Landru had the Festival programmed into the Body’s routine in the first place)?
Same reason the women all wore mini-dresses as uniforms and non-Federation women wore stripperific outfits - sex sells. It was 1960’s fan service. The guy who did costuming once stated that the sexiness of a woman’s outfit is directly related to how likely it looks like it might just fall off at any time. As another interesting factoid: the censors did not allow belly buttons to be shown on TV at the time. So no matter how near-naked a woman is on that show you’ll never see a navel. (Upon reflection - not sure if the men were allowed to show them in their shirtless scenes or not - it’s been awhile since I watched TOS).
Yeah, it happens quite a bit. TOS tends to be remembered for the stand-out episodes, some of which were really good. The truth is there were some absolutely wretched episodes. I don’t have to point out which is which, it’s usually pretty obvious.
I think it’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it explanation - Landru could suppress negative emotions but not eliminate them. The “Festival” was to vent those emotions all at once, in a burst. The fact that there were people there “not of the body” might have ramped up the violence.
Notable Season Two to look forward to (in my opinion)
Episode 1 - “Amok Time”. This is the first time we see Vulcan mating rituals and has a look at the Kirk/Spock friendship
Episode 3 - “The Changeling”. Not necessarily a great episode, but is in many ways the predecessor to Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I like this version better than the bloated theater run.
Episode 4 - “Mirror, Mirror”. Introduces the “mirror universe” where instead of a Federation there is an Empire. Leads to a number of episodes in Deep Space Nine and Enterprise revisiting said universe.
Episode 6 - “The Doomsday Machine”.
Episode 8 - “I, Mudd”. Ah, Mudd, intersellar con-man… a more comedic episode.
Episode 9 - “Metamorphosis”. Addresses the inventor of the warp drive and what happened to him - we meet him first at the end of his life. In the movie First Contact and the series Enterprise we see more of his life.
Episode 10 - “Journey to Babel”. Meet Spock’s family - this is the first time we meet Sarek and Amanda, and we meet a couple other species - Andorians and Tellerites - for the first time. In my opinion one of the best episodes in TOS. Another one that results in recurring characters and species in later series.
Episode 15 - “The Trouble With Tribbles”. This is likely one of the best known episodes, definitely has its comedic moment. Shortly after TOS was cancelled, in one of the first Star Trek conventions, my late spouse bought a prop from this show at auction, which I still have. It’s one of the tchokies you see on the shelves behind the bartender. This episode had sequels in both the Animated Series (“More Tribbles, More Troubles”) and Deep Space Nine. (“Trials and Tribblations”).
These are not the only worthwhile episodes from season two, just the ones I personally think are best/more important. Season two was the strongest season of the show and the basis for most of the love of the franchise.
I can cover season three if anyone is interested. Although season three is known for some wretched episodes there are some very worthwhile ones (“The Enterprise Incident”, “Is There in Truth no Beauty?”, “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky”, “Let that Be Your Last Battlefield”, “Requiem for Methuselah”)
And, um… yeah, I’ve been a Trek fan for a very long time…
Also a long-time fan, I wouldn’t call any of these “worthwhile,” though none approach the sheer wretchedness of “Elaan of Troyius,” “Plato’s Stepchildren,” “And the Children Shall Lead,” “The Empath,” "The Lights of Zetar,"or “The Mark of Gideon.” At best, they’re “tolerable.”
Third season episodes I would recommend are “Spectre of the Gun” (one of the most “Twilight-Zoney”-type shows), “That Which Survives,” “Day of the Dove,” and yes, “Spock’s Brain” (which, if you take it in the spirit in which it was written—a joke—is actually quite enjoyable).
In the same vein as the last, I think “Turnabout Intruder” is worth watching just to see Shatner chew the scenery as a woman occupying a man’s body. And “All Our Yesterdays” features a scantily clad Mariette Hartley surviving in a polar wasteland.
Of course, there really is no accounting for taste.
The soft focus photography was meant to make the women more attractive in close-ups—and, I expect, to take a few years off their ages and cover up any blemishes or exaggerated effects of their makeup. If you see the original 35mm prints projected onto a big screen, it’s clear they captured everything in very crisp detail. This wasn’t as important for the male actors, whose twentieth-century bad teeth were sometimes depicted in dramatic form. (Ew! ) The soft focus technique was widely used in the industry back in the '60s, and probably is to this day (though maybe not as often).
The series’ cinematographer was a guy named Jerry Finnerman, and both Gene Roddenberry and Associate Producer Bob Justman encouraged him to experiment with the photography. Sets were often painted in neutral grey, allowing different lighting effects to be achieved with colored gels and camera filters.
I’ve always thought the “Purges” in “Return of the Archons” were meant to alleive the tensions and frustrations that build up in “normal” humanoids when forced to live under rigid authoritarian conditions. Letting them participate in wild orgies every now and then was a machine’s idea of how to create a sustainable utopia.
“The Man Trap.” IIRC, it was the fifth episode filmed but the first one aired on NBC. Of the several episodes already in the can, it was considered to be the one best suited for the premier.
A bunch of journalists visited the set while they were filming that episode, and got to hear Spock deliver the line (in Nimoy’s words) “Captain, the monster attacked me!” as he lay in Sick Bay bleeding green blood. The entertainment press had a field day with that one!
Several episodes have been banned in different countries, usually because they contain scenes depicting torture. This is certainly true of “The Empath,” which is also excrutiatingly slow and boring. You can tell it was filmed when the budget had all but run out—the action (what little there is of it) takes place mostly in an empty, darkened set.
“Turnabout Intruder” was (mercifully) the final episode of the third season and (sadly) the series.
I love the new digital effects. The Doomsday Machine is the episode that made the best use of them. No more “budget of $2.00” AMT Enterprise model kit modified with “a flick of the Bic”.
I couldn’t get enough of the show as a kid, so I’ve seen every episode many, many times, even the bad ones. (I put The Alternative Factor above (below?) even Spock’s Brain in the gallery of bad episodes, and that’s first season.) Bujt every fan should see them all. You never know what you’re going to get out of an episode. The polarizing reviews right here of Spock’s Brain tells that!
I’m a fan of Obsession, even if Kirk is a bit blood thirsty (no pun intended) in that one.
Interesting note for The Empath: Wild Wild West did an episode the same way - large, dark set with action illuminated by a single spot. Don’t know if there were crew in common between the two, or one is imitating the other, but it is interesting.
Might have something to do with Gene Coon’s association as Producer (and then as a contributing writer) on both series. Compare “Wink of an Eye” and “The Night of the Burning Diamond” for a different example.
The best example of the digital effects I’ve seen was when Archer and crew found the Defiant in the Mirror Universe on Enterprise. That blew me away!