Links and Comments: Marcotte on Trump, and Evangelicals

It’s becoming more and more clear that Trump has no values, no ideals, no standards. He’s only about making deals, and he’s willing to align himself with anyone to make deals, no matter for what, no matter with whom.

Salon, Amanda Marcotte: Yes, it’s really this simple: Donald Trump is a cranky, obsessive racist. Subtitle: “Trump is a simple man driven by a single-minded racist obsession: delegitimizing Barack Obama’s presidency.”

Trump’s obsession with delegitimizing Obama’s legacy predates not just Trump’s own presidency, but Trump’s campaign and even his affiliation with the Republican Party. In the endless chaos of our news cycle, it’s easy to forget, apparently, that Trump, a longtime political independent who often donated to Democrats, became fixated during Obama’s first term on a conspiracy theory holding that Obama wasn’t born in the United States and therefore couldn’t be president. …

Trump has a long history of racism and a long history of floating eugenic theories, repeatedly insisting that he must be a genius because of his supposedly good genesTrump is a stupid man who believes whiteness makes him smarter, and Obama’s actual intelligence upends everything Trump thinks he knows about the world. This induced an obsession that happened to dovetail with the racist anger of a large proportion of white Americans.

My bold emphasis.

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Amanda Marcotte again: White Christians are now a minority — but they’re getting more isolated and less tolerant: Subtitle: “Religious homophobia is driving away young people, but evangelical leaders double down on anti-LGBT bigotry.”

This refers to the Nashville Statement of a couple weeks ago, issued by something called the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which doubles down on basic evangelical insistence of one man, one woman, only in marriage, sexual activity and gender existence. Because Bible — never mind (this is my take, not Marcotte’s) the autonomy of people in a free country not bound by religious dictates, or what humanity has learned about sexuality and gender and family roles in the thousands of years since Bible.

The irony, Marcotte goes on, is that these folks heavily supported Trump. A recurring theme in these days: the hypocrisy of evangelicals.

The white evangelical support for Trump, coupled with the continued denunciation of LGBT people, makes it clear this is not and never was about morality, sexual or otherwise. Instead, “morality” is a fig leaf for the true agenda of the Christian right, which is asserting a strict social hierarchy based on gender.

Posted in Conservative Resistance, Religion | Comments Off on Links and Comments: Marcotte on Trump, and Evangelicals

Wright: Nonzero: Intro and Chapter 1

I’ve decided to tackle three or four substantial nonfiction books, over the next few weeks, in the manner of reading books for college courses — that is, alternating among them over a quarter or semester-like period of 8 to 10 weeks. Pinker’s book, posted yesterday, is one; Robert Wright’s book begun here is the second. At least two more are planned, to all be done by, say, end of November at the latest.

This book is Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, by Robert Wright, published in 2000. Wright wrote one of the best early books about evolutionary psychology –- The Moral Animal, in 1994 — that brilliantly illustrated the principles of how evolution has shaped human nature, through the events of Charles Darwin’s own life. Since then he’s gone in curious directions for a journalist who understands and appreciates science; after this 2000 book he went to to write The Evolution of God in 2009, and just published a new book last month, Why Buddhism Is True. The latter book isn’t about Buddhism supernatural claims, but rather its view of the human condition, which apparently Wright thinks has been validated by evolutionary psychology.

The present book, Nonzero, discusses how progress in human history exists; it’s not a zero-sum game. My initial reaction: beware! It is the easiest thing, given human nature, for humans to perceive order and purpose where there is none, especially if such order and purpose privileges the perceiver. (I’m special!) The past two decades has seen much psychological research and conclusions about the biases of the human mind that would enable such conclusions. So I go in to this book skeptical. But it’s good and necessary to occasionally sample books (and claims of any kind) that challenge one’s provisional conclusions. Let’s see what he has to say.

Frontispiece: a Darwin quote about “sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races.”

Intro: The Storm Before the Calm, p3

Quote by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, about “something tremendous is at present taking place in the world. But what is it?”

Author’s thesis is that “The more closely we examine the drift of biological evolution and, especially, the drift of human history, the more there seems to be a point to it.”

Wright then evokes both Henri Bergson, who posited a vital force called ‘elan vital,’ and de Chardin’s “Point Omega” outside time and space. Wright thinks that the trends noted by them can be explained in scientific terms, yet asks, “If directionality is built into life—if life naturally moves toward a particular end—then this movement legitimately invites speculation about what did the building.”

DNA was one kind of secret of life, but perhaps so was the idea of “zero-sum” games vs. “non-zero-sum” games, as described by John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern, the founders of game theory. Games like tennis or chess are the former – for one to win, the other must lose — while activities like saving Apollo 13, and many kinds of trade, can be the latter, where both, or all, sides can win.

The book consists of a survey of human history, then a brief organic history, and then a conclusion with speculations. Human history shows a pattern of non-zero-sum situations that produce positive sums, beginning as early as 15,000 years ago. The details of kings and battles are part of a larger story, a story that leads to “social organization [of] planetary breadth. Globalization, it seems to me, has been in the cards not just since the invention of the telegraph of the steamship, or even the written word of the wheel, but since the invention of life.”

Author cautions that the ‘destiny’ of the title doesn’t mean inevitable, just chances that are very, very high. It’s like saying the destiny of a poppy seed is to grow a poppy, even if in reality any given seed might get eaten by a bird or baked into a bagel. It’s still reasonable to talk about the destiny of a poppy seed. Author intends to make an analogous argument about human destiny. So does our species have a purpose? That somehow we were “designed” to realize? Author says “I do think the reasons for answering yes are stronger than many people — especially many scientists and social scientists — realize.”

(I remain skeptical.)

[As the author writes in 1999 or so] The world seems to be in crisis. Fundamentalists perceive Judgment Day. Author disagrees but says yes, we are approaching a kind of culmination. “It is a test of political imagination — of our ability to accept basic, necessary changes in structures of governance — but also a test of moral imagination.”

And he anticipates a new era of relative stability, even with a lot of “wiggle room” about the degrees of freedom or privacy that stability might entail, another purpose of this book.

Part I: A Brief History of Humankind

Ch1, The Ladder of Cultural Evolution

This 5p chapter summarizes how early 20th century anthropologists categorized groups of people as “savages,” then “barbarians,” divided into lower middle and upper subdivisions. After that a culture might pass into “civilized”: “At that point its people could start writing books in which other cultures were called savage.”

This scale was unveiled in 1877 by Lewis Henry Morgan. Marx and Engels embraced his book. Such forces of history were also held by sociologist Hebert Spencer, who loathed Marxism; John Stuart Mill also endorsed these ideas.

In the mid 20th century this conventional wisdom changed; the idea of ‘ranking’ cultures came to be seen as unsavory. Franz Boas; Margaret Mead. After WWII, Isaiah Berlin and Karl Popper attacked such theories. The idea of ‘metahistory’ lasted until Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History (1992) [which, post Wright’s book, was undermined by 9/11 and the rise of Islamic terrorism].

Author plans to argue that Popper, Berlin, and Boas were wrong. Oddly, anthropology is more sympathetic to ideas of cultural evolutionism. Because its observations of older societies being more primitive, simpler.

This is up to page 17.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Wright_(journalist)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonzero:_The_Logic_of_Human_Destiny (as always, I’ll examine Wikipedia’s summary only after I’ve read the book myself.)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Fukuyama

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Pinker: Better Angels: Passages and Outline from the Preface

This is Steven Pinker’s big 2011 book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, that takes a long-range view of human history to show that the human condition, over millennia and especially in recent centuries and decades, has vastly improved in terms of the reduced likelihood of any person dying of violence.

I’ve dipped into this book before, including some quotes of its brief discussion of violence in the Bible — in this blog post (scroll down). And it’s gotten huge plugs from the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates (e.g., http://time.com/money/4780337/bill-gates-book-recommendation-better-angels-steven-pinker/, among many other links). There’s a long Wikipedia page, which I’m not looking too closely at before reading the book for myself. Here’s my take on the first 8 pages– the preface.

The book’s thesis:

page xxi.3: “Believe it or not—and I know that most people do not—violence has declined over long stretches of time, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species’ existence.”

And how it relates to the idea of modernity (nice definition):

xxi.6: “How, in particular, are we to make sense of modernity — of the erosion of family, tribe, tradition, and religion by the forces of individualism, cosmopolitanism, reason, and science?”

And the book’s scope:

xxii.2: “This is a big book, but it has to be. First I have to convince you that violence really has gone down over the course of history, knowing that the very idea invites skepticism, incredulity, and sometimes anger. Our cognitive faculties predispose us to believe that we live in violent times, especially when they are stoked by media that follow the watchword ‘If it bleeds, it leads.’ The human mind tends to estimate the probability of an event from the ease with which it can recall examples, and scenes of carnage are more likely to be beamed into our homes and burned into our memories than footage of people dying of old age. No matter how small the percentage of violent deaths may be, in absolute numbers there will always be enough of them to fill the evening news, so people’s impressions of violence will be disconnected from the actual proportions.”

(this last sentence an observation I’ve made several times; many people are especially prone to be panicked and alarmed by nightly news anecdotes)

xxiii.3: “A large part of the book will explore the psychology of violence and nonviolence. The theory of mind that I will invoke is the synthesis of cognitive science, affective and cognitive neuroscience, social and evolutionary psychology, and other science of human nature that I explored in How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate, and The Stuff of Thought. According to this understanding, the mind is a complex system of cognitive and emotional faculties implemented in the brain which owe their basic design to the processes of evolution.”

And, “Some of these faculties incline us toward various kinds of violence. Others—‘the better angels of our nature,’ in Abraham Lincoln’s words—incline us toward cooperation and peace.”

(cf. EO Wilson on the two competitive selection forces.)

The book is, xxiv, “a tale of six trends, five inner demons, four better angels, and five historical forces.”

(I appreciate his use of the Oxford comma.)

Six Trends (chapters 2 through 7)
1. Transition to agriculture, over a scale of millennia beginning ~5000 years ago, with a reduction in chronic raiding and feuding: the Pacification Process
2. Consolidation, especially in Europe, of patchwork feudal territories into large kingdoms; the Civilizing Process
3. Beginning with the Age of Reason and the European Enlightenment, organized movements to abolish socially sanctioned forms of violence (…); the Humanitarian Revolution
4. How since World War II, the great powers have stopped waging war on one another; the Long Peace
5. Since the end of the Cold War in 1989, organized conflicts of all kinds have declined throughout the world; the New Peace
6. In the postwar era, a ‘growing revulsion against aggression on smaller scales, including violence against ethnic minorities, women, children, homosexuals, and animals.’ The Rights Revolution.

Five Inner Demons (chapter 8)
1. Predatory or instrumental violence – violence as a means to an end
2. Dominance
3. Revenge
4. Sadism
5. Ideology – “a shared belief system, usually involving a vision of utopia, that justifies unlimited violence in pursuit of unlimited good.”

Four Better Angels (chapter 9)
1. Empathy
2. Self-control
3. Moral sense
4. Reason – “allows us to extricate ourselves from our parochial vantage points, to reflect on the ways in which we live our lives, to deduce ways in which we could be better off, and to guide the application of the other better angels of our nature.”

Five Historical Forces (chapter 10)
1. Leviathan – “a state and judiciary with a monopoly on the legitimate use of force…”
2. Commerce – “a positive-sum game in which everybody can win…”
3. Feminization – “the process in which cultures have increasingly respected the interests and values of women. Since violence is largely a male pastime…”
4. Cosmopolitanism – “that can prompt people to take the perspective of people unlike themselves and to expand their circle of sympathy to embrace them.”
5. Escalator of Reason – “an intensifying application of knowledge and rationality to human affairs.”

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This is a big book that will take me a while to work my way through. It’s been on my to-read shelf for years. I’m finally motivated to take it on, with the news that Pinker has a new book on the way, one that is sort of a sequel to this one: Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, due next February (https://www.amazon.com/Enlightenment-Now-Science-Humanism-Progress/dp/0525427570/).

Posted in Book Notes, Culture, Evolution, Human Progress, Humanism, Steven Pinker | Comments Off on Pinker: Better Angels: Passages and Outline from the Preface

Worlds Beyond Time! Worlds Beyond Ken!: Star Trek 2, by James Blish

James Blish’s second book of episode adaptations was published in February 1968, just past the half-way point in the production of the show’s second season, even as all the scripts in this book are, as in the first book, from the show’s first season. As with the first book, the adaptations are moderately short, with 8 of them filling out a book of just 122 pages.

And as in the first book, Blish’s narratives follow Kirk’s point of view, so any scenes from the original scripts that dealt with other characters, when Kirk wasn’t in the room, are automatically omitted, or at best summarized in some fashion.

As with the Blish’s own writing, the publisher’s descriptions, especially on the first page inside the front cover, indicate that whoever wrote them had either never seen the show, or had not paid close attention. The inside front cover describes the three main characters: Kirk, Spock, and … Uhura! The last is described as: “Easily the most popular member of the crew, the truly ‘out-of-this-world’ female has drawn the important assignment of scan engineer on her first mission in deep space.” Scan engineer?

Once more, I’ve mentioned in previous posts concerning Blish’s Trek books that for years I’ve felt he did several of the shows some notable improvement, smoothing out infelicities of the plots and providing justification for some stories’ more outrageous gimmicks. But Cushman’s books, especially now his second book (https://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-These-Voyages-Season/dp/0989238148/), confirm that most of the differences between the broadcast episodes and Blish’s short story version were due to Blish being send draft scripts that were not final. The best such case is one of the stories in this book. Even so, some changes were surely Blish’s own contributions, as I try to note here.

“Arena”

  • Blish jumps to the chase, so to speak, omitting nearly the entire first half of the broadcast episode that concerned the discovery of the destroyed outpost on Cestus III and the pursuit of the alien vessel. All of this is summarized in the first page of Blish’s prose. (Blish makes no attempt to rationalize how alien beings could have faked voice recordings of the outpost’s commander inviting the Enterprise crew down.)
  • After that, the dialogue and action follow the broadcast script pretty closely. Per the focus on Kirk, though, we never see that the Enterprise bridge crew gets to watch the action down on the planet.
  • One big plot difference: Blish retains a line (from an earlier version of the script, presumably), in which, as the Metron reveals himself at the end, he explains that he lied earlier – that the Metrons’ plan all along was the destroy the winner of this battle, since the winner would obviously be the greater threat to the Metrons.
  • But since Kirk refused to kill the Gorn, the Metrons were left with no clear winner. The Metron does offer, after all, to destroy the Gorn ship—and Kirk hastily explains that that’s not necessary.

 

“A Taste of Armageddon”

  • Blish’s version follows the script closely, though again he collapses initial scenes into a prose introduction, cutting to the introduction to Anan 7 before introducing any dialogue.
  • Minor bit: the female Yeoman in the landing party is Manning, not Tamura.
  • Presumably the script has some specific directions for how particular scenes or actors would play; in any case Blish’s own adjectives seem preternaturally precise, compared to how they came across on screen: Mea Three’s (Blish spells out all the numbers in the Eminiar names) manner is “cool, but correct”; Anan speaks about causalities “evenly.”
  • When Kirk confronts Anan Seven in the latter’s quarters, Blish omits the transparent ploy by Anan and the subsequent fist-fight between Kirk and an Eminian guard in the corridor. Blish tended to omit or gloss over action scenes, which aren’t nearly exciting in prose as perhaps they were on screen (even as they look a bit anachronistic, by TNG standards).
  • Mention is made, near the end, of the name of the head of the Vendikar High Council: Ripoma.

 

“Tomorrow Is Yesterday”

  • As you would expect by now, Blish omits the initial off-ship scenes of the US air base detecting the ‘UFO’ and sending up a fighter to bring it down. But he does spend a couple long paragraphs at the beginning providing some astrophysical background about the notion of “black star.”
  • In passing, Blish establishes that warp 4 is 64 times the speed of light.
  • On the one hand Blish describes the Enterprise as being in a “fixed orbit” around Earth, but on the other hand that the ship is “too low in the atmosphere to retain this altitude,” which doesn’t sound like an orbit at all. So even Blish doesn’t seem to have a reasonable understanding of orbits or how things move through space.
  • As Blish does several times in his books, he describes Uhura as a “beautiful Bantu girl,” which surely was never in any script.
  • In the scene in which Spock relates his research in the future contributions of this Air Force pilot, Cpt. John Christopher, Blish (unlike the scriptwriters) has Spock note that “There was a popular author by that name, but it was a pen name; you are not he.” He’s referring to http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/christopher_john.
  • Similarly, Blish adds a bit of background or perspective that didn’t occur to the scripters. When Scott says the engines are working, but “we’ve no place to go in this era,” Blish has him go on: “Mister Spock tells me that in the 1970s the human race was wholly confined to the Earth. Space outside the local group of stars was wholly dominated by the Vegan Tyranny, and you’ll recall what happened when we first hit them.” Fascinating.
  • And Kirk clarifies, for Christopher: “There is no such solar planet as Vulcan… Mr. Spock’s father was a native of The Vulcan, which is a planet of 40 Eridani.” 40 Eridani being a real star, only about 16 light years from the sun (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/40_Eridani). But no Trek episode ever established Spock’s Vulcan as being a planet of 40 Eridani. Anyway Spock warns: “If we took the Enterprise there, we would unwrite their future history too.”
  • Blish omits the entire subplot of Kirk and Sulu beaming down to retrieve Air Force evidence of the Enterprise, their capture by a policeman, and the inadvertent beaming up of yet another local.
  • As they discuss the idea of slingshotting back into the future, Blish has Kirk made an extraordinary concession: “I would rather destroy the Enterprise than the future.”
  • And as Christopher expresses distress for possibly losing his memories of this glimpse of humanity’s future, McCoy offers some advice, which at first repulses Christopher, then deeply impresses him. McCoy: “In perhaps sixty more years, or a few more, you will forget things many times more important to you than this—your wife, your children… You will forget every single thing you ever loved, and what is worse, you will not even care.” Christopher is shocked; but McCoy goes on: “I’m only trying to remind you that regardless of our achievements, we all at last go down into the dark. …I’m trying to call to your attention the things that are much more valuable to you than the fact that you’ve seen men from the future and a bucketful of gadgetry. You will have those still…” He goes on; it’s quite a passage.
  • Blish, more than once, refers to a “navigation tank” located presumably at the helm and nav station – a suggestion that a depiction of 3-dimensional space would need a 3-dimensional image, not a flat, round panel.
  • And Blish implicitly acknowledges the absurdity of the crew manually timing the beam down of Christopher as the Enterprise flings past Earth: “This was going to have to be the most split-second of all Transporter shots. No human operator could hope to bring it off; the actual shift would be under control of the computer.”
  • And Blish avoids the question of whether the Enterprise returns precisely to its own time, by not mentioning it at all, nor having the Enterprise contact star fleet command. Instead Blish ends with Spock alluding to the poet Omar, and the passage about the moving finger that, having writ, moves on.

 

“Errand of Mercy”

  • Follows the broadcast script very closely, though yet again Blish summarizes the set-up and initial encounter with the Klingons, with no dialogue until Kirk and Spock meet the Organian council, and Spock makes his remarks about an arrested culture.
  • Blish implies the Klingons are actually an offshoot of humanity: “The Klingons were hard-faced, hard-muscled men, originally of Oriental stock.” I suppose that might explain how they speak English.
  • Blish has Spock not only explain what trillium is (a medicinal plant of the lily family), but later mentions that the word has some other meaning to the Klingons.
  • Blish collapses the plot a bit: Kirk and Spock explode the munitions dump; Kor immediately responds by phasering 200 Organians; Kirk and Spock surrender themselves in Kor’s office. No scene in a jail cell from which Ayelborne magically releases them.
  • As Kirk and Kor talk, Kirk recalls the Spartans, warriors who nevertheless lost to Athens, known as the mother of all the arts. Kor finds the analogy “a little out of date” which again seems to imply a common background.
  • The rest follows the script very closely, all the way through Spock’s comparison to an amoeba and Kor’s final line “It would have been glorious” – but then omits the redundant final bridge scene.

 

“Court Martial”

  • Blish’s version of this story seems to be derived from a draft or two before the final script. Kirk’s romantic background with Areel is omitted; the key issue is whether the ship was a “double red alert” rather than just “red alert”; and Finney, at the end, doesn’t sabotage the ship, requiring Kirk’s quick work to repair it.
  • Rather, we get a better resolution of the subplot concerning Jame, Finney’s daughter. In the broadcast script we see her twice: at the very beginning, angry at Kirk for apparently killing her father; and then later, when she’s much calmer and concerned for Kirk’s well-being. She explains her change of attitude as the result of having “read through some of the papers he [her father] wrote, letters to mother and me.”
  • Blish saves those lines for later, and has Jame show up on the ship just as Kirk finds Finney in engineering, resolving that scene in an emotional, rather than violent manner.
  • This may be a case where a character-development plot was sacrificed for the sake of a fist-fight – between Kirk and Finney – an action sequence that NBC always appreciated.
  • Blish retains most of Cogley’s speech about the rights of men in the face of the machine, but omits the specific examples given in the final script: “Rights, sir. Human rights! The Bible, the Code of Hammurabi, and of Justinian, Magna Carta, the Constitution of the United States, Fundamental Declarations of the Martian Colonies, the Statues of Alpha Three.”
  • Blish does not try to rationalize what I’ve always felt were two huge flaws of this episode: how the altered video of the ship’s bridge, when it was or was not at red alert, has anything to do with changed computer logic for playing chess; and the clumsy, implausible manner of locating a missing crewman, by masking out the heartbeats of the last few others left on board.

 

“Operation Annihilate”

  • This is likely the best example of how very different Blish’s stories could be from the broadcast episodes – and now that we have Cushman’s books, the best verified example of how those differences were due to Blish being sent early drafts of the scripts.
  • (One wonders why the people at, where?, presumably Desilu, would not have taken care to send only final shooting scripts. My guess is that TV in the ‘60s was ephemeral, no one at the time had any idea Trek would become an eventual hit, or that it would quickly attract fans who would notice the discrepancies between Blish’s versions and the broadcast versions, and complain, as they did. In contrast, about the same time there were paperback versions of Time Tunnel and Lost in Space that had nothing to do with their show’s scripts, but with stories, only vaguely consistent with the shows they were based on, invented by their authors. For that matter, there was a Trek book like that too, by Mack Reynolds — https://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Horatius-Mack-Reynolds/dp/B000EX7CAO/ — but it was marketed as a kids’ book and no one cared.)
  • In Blish’s version, there’s a character named Aurelan on Deneva, but she’s not the wife of Kirk’s brother or the mother of a son; the family connection to Kirk was added late in rewriting by Gene Roddenberry.
  • More substantially the story here doesn’t end with the experimental blinding of Spock, and the deployment of UV satellites around the planet, and the silly cop-out ending of Spock not really being blind. Rather, the theorizing of the nature of the creatures leads them to conclude that they are all connected to some central core, light years away at the far end of the pattern of mass insanity described at the beginning. So the Enterprise heads off for this planet, launches two (in Blish’s words) “fully-armed planet-wreckers,” and destroys the planet, whereupon the infestation in Spock dies – and the same thing happens back on Deneva, they verify, its inhabitants fully recovering.
  • Cushman’s Season One book (https://www.amazon.com/These-Are-Voyages-TOS-Season/dp/0989238105/) describes this and other earlier drafts of the script, including the final additions by Roddenberry of the family connection and Spock’s blindness.
  • There are some nice concluding lines in Blish, presumably from the earlier script, about the nature of parasites and evolution.
  • This version was better than the broadcast version, I think.
  • Cushman’s Second Season book, pp310-312, describes the production staff’s reactions to James Blish’s first two Trek books. They were not pleased. D.C. Fontana – story editor and writer of several of Trek’s best scripts, including “This Side of Paradise” – wrote a long memo to Roddenberry, in which she complained especially about this episode, but also about the lack of action scenes at the ends of “Tomorrow Is Yesterday” and “Court Martial.” TV writers have different priorities than prose writers.
  • Roddenberry had a Desilu exec send Blish a copy of the Trek Writers’ Guide, along with an admonition not to downplay Dr. McCoy’s character, as Blish had done. (McCoy, not Uhura, should have been the third major character described inside the front cover of Blish’s second book.)

 

“The City on the Edge of Forever”

  • Blish has a footnote on the first page of this story, about how Ellison’s original script was drastically different than the final version, and how he, Blish, tried to “preserve what I thought were the best elements of both scripts.”
  • But in fact, Blish’s version is 90% the final broadcast version.
  • Again, Blish summarizes the opening scenes, with no dialogue until the landing party is on the planet and sees the ‘Guardian.’ But at least Blish has McCoy’s frenzy due to a defective hypo-spray – not McCoy’s uncharacteristic clumsiness at tripping as the Enterprise bumped over a ripple in time.
  • Blish describes the Guardian as “a large, octagonal mirror… Whatever it was, it gleamed, untarnished, agelessly new. A cube, also untarnished but half-buried in dust and rubble, sat beside it.”
  • In this version the Guardian explains itself as a “time portal,” and “Through me the great race which once lived here went to another age. … The past, always and only the past. And to their past, which you cannot share. I can only offer you yours. Behold—”
  • And it shows primeval images of the forming of the solar system, and life on Earth, and of primitive jungles…
  • As Kirk and Spock arrive in 1930s New York, Spock remarks, “Is this the heritage my mother’s people brag about?” And Kirk replies: “This is what it took us five hundred years to crawl up from.”
  • Blish tempers Spock’s time travel theory about eddies and currents; Spock goes on to say, “Like the solar-system analogies of atomic structure, it is more misleading than enlightening, but there may be a certain truth to it all the same.”
  • Edith Keeler’s speech at the mission is not the unlikely, mystical vision of a future about traveling into space, but an inspirational one, nonetheless, one suited to her time:
    • “Shadow and reality, my friends. That’s the secret of getting through these bad times. Know what is, and what only seems to be. Hunger is real, and so is cold. But sadness is not.
    • “And it is the sadness that will ruin you—that will kill you. Sadness and hate. We all go to bed a little hungry every night, but it is possible to find peace in sleep, knowing you have lived another day, and hurt no one doing it.”
  • To which Spock whispers to Kirk: “Bonner the Stochastic.” And Kirk replies, “He won’t be born for more than two hundreds years.”
  • The narrative proceeds, with most of the best lines retained, though per policy, the scenes of McCoy arriving are omitted.
  • Spock underscores the gravity of Kirk’s decision with a couple more lines than broadcast: “Millions will die who did not die before” and then Kirk: “Abstract millions. A different history. But Edith Keeler is here. She’s real. She deserves to live.” Spock: “And so do Scott, Uhura, and the others we left behind—or ahead. Sir, you are their Captain. They are waiting for you, in the ruined city on the edge of Forever. They, and the future that nurtured you. The choice is yours.”
  • Blish provides a final, substantial scene, that was not broadcast — he adapted it lightly from the final scene of Ellison’s original screenplay. (https://www.amazon.com/City-Edge-Forever-Harlan-Ellison/dp/1880325020/) After they’ve returned to their future, Spock comes to Kirk’s quarters, where Kirk is disconsolate. Spock: “Jim, on my world, the nights are very long. In the morning, there is the sound of silver birds against the sky. My people know there is always time enough for everything. You’ll come with me for a rest. You’ll feel comfortable there.”
  • Kirk can’t over his sacrifice of Edith. “She was negligible.”
  • Spock: “Her death saved uncounted billions of people… Far from negligible. … No woman was ever loved so much, Jim. Because no other woman was almost offered the universe for love.”

 

“Space Seed”

  • Again, Blish condenses the opening scenes to summary, a chief difference from the broadcast script being that Lt. Marla McGivers is a control systems specialist who happens to be a historian on the side. I always wondered why the Enterprise needed a full-time historian, as implied in the broadcast episode.
  • Better than Trek generally did, Blish makes a smart deduction from the position of an interplanetary vessel being out in interstellar space. “They must have been trying for the Tau Ceti system,” the navigator says. A star only 12 light years from Earth. So that a ‘sleeper ship’ would reach there eventually, without taking forever.
  • Blish has more background about the Eugenics Wars and those behind them, e.g. how the selective breeding was among the scientists responsible themselves; how the “sports and monsters” appeared later, the result of “spontaneous mutations erupting from all the ambient radioactivity” once the war had already started. And that Khan – Blish gives his full name as Sibahl Khan Noonien [though elsewhere throughout, Blish’s version spells it “Kahn”] – was one of those scientists’ children.
  • Per policy, Blish doesn’t include any of the scenes between Khan and McGivers.
  • During the dinner party scene, Blish has Spock challenge Khan about never being afraid. Spock asks, “And does that not frighten you?” Khan thinks this is a contradiction. Spock replies, “Not at all. It is a null class in the class of all classes not member of the given class.” Now that’s logic.
  • Blish makes the focus of the story more on the question of why Khan and his people fled Earth, with Spock trying to apply psychology to draw Khan out—if he wasn’t afraid of anything, why did he flee? The broadcast version focused more on Khan seducing McGivers.
  • Blish condenses the action scenes – omitting Kirk and Khan’s fight in engineering altogether – into one short paragraph, before commencing with the trial scene. Beginning with an answer to the question of why they fled: “To free themselves of the rabble, and start fresh.” But Spock thinks, “In my opinion they would never have succeeded, even had they made it to a habitable world. The man who cannot know fear is gravely handicapped.”
  • The trial ends with Khan and McGivers exiled to a planet – which here Kirk does not name – and Khan invoking Milton. But Blish adds a line apparently scripted but left out of the broadcast version. After Spock says it would be interesting to return in 100 years, “to learn what crop has sprung from the seed you planted today,” Kirk replies: “I only hope than in a hundred years, that crop won’t have sprung right out of the ground come out looking for us.”
  • A last line that inspired the second Trek film.

(All these posts turn out much longer than I’d thought they’d be.)

Posted in Star Trek | Comments Off on Worlds Beyond Time! Worlds Beyond Ken!: Star Trek 2, by James Blish

Notes on Trek music, Season One

The essence of Star Trek’s music was that it was composed of many themes that recurred across many episodes throughout the series, sometimes in variation, sometimes not, in ways that made the series’ music a sort of extended symphony-cycle of recurring leitmotifs, rather than a set of themes tied to particular episodes, the way film scores are. The themes ranged from grandiose action-adventure music, to questing nautically-flavored tunes, to eerie and colorful music suited for the adventures of the Enterprise on strange planets and meeting new civilizations.

Ironically, this effect of a broad set of themes that unified two and half dozen episodes – considering in this post only Trek TOS’s first season – was created not by some grand master plan to unify the show in this way, but by musician union rules at the time. Those rules required a TV series like Trek to spend a certain number of hours in a studio recording music for each season’s shows, but otherwise allowed the show’s producers to reuse that music as often as they liked, at least within the same season.

Thus, original music was written only for a minority of episodes, generally episodes produced early in the season. Later episodes reused or ‘tracked’ the earlier music as appropriate, no matter which composer had originally written each track, or for which episode. It was up to the show’s music editor to compile a ‘library’ of tracks from the original scores, and then to select from this library appropriate music for later episodes, scene by scene. Individual tracks in this library were often quite short, some only a few seconds long; dozens of such tracks would be strung together to fill out the score for a ‘tracked’ episode.

There have been selected releases of Trek scores for decades, beginning in the late 1980s, when Varese Sarabande released, initially on LP, two discs of newly recorded music from a total of eight episodes. You can tell that the music is from the original scores — rather than arranged suites, say — and the music was performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Fred Steiner – one of Trek’s key composers, the single most prolific composer by episode count, in fact. The first album (https://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Recorded-Paramount-Corbomite/dp/B00000153T/) included Steiner’s own music for “Charlie X,” “The Corbomite Maneuver,” and “Mudd’s Women,” plus Sol Kaplan’s for “The Doomsday Machine”; the second, Steiner’s music for “By Any Other Name” and “Mirror, Mirror,” Jerry Fielding’s for “The Trouble with Tribbles,” and George Duning’s for “The Empath.” Steiner, in these re-recordings, takes his time with music originally written to fit carefully edited and timed scenes; e.g. in “The Corbomite Maneuver,” the “Baby Balok” theme is noticeably slower than in the original soundtrack, as is the big statement of the main “Fesarius” theme. In these recordings Steiner lingers over themes in ways that are often effective, but sometimes distracting considering what we remember and have listened to over and over again for decades.

Then in the early ‘90s Crescendo released three albums of remastered original soundtrack music. Each album contained scores from two episodes: the two pilots on the first, “The Doomsday Machine” (the full score, not the under 6-minute selections on the Fred Steiner album) and Gerald Fried’s “Amok Time” on the second; Fried’s “Shore Leave” and Alexander Courage’s “The Naked Time” on the third.

With my recent ambition to rewatch the series, I recalled the ambitious soundtrack set of Trek music issued of La-La Land Records a year or so ago– http://www.lalalandrecords.com/Site/STTOS.html. This is the ultimate soundtrack collection, a gathering of every track recorded for the show, even some that weren’t used, with annotations that include the exact dates upon which each set of tracks was recorded. It’s a boxed set of three fold-open plastic cases holding a total of 15 CDs. It’s not cheap — $225 – but I sprung for it, and it’s finally enabled me to appreciate not only which music was written originally for which episodes, but how that music developed and built on earlier scores by the entire set of Trek composers. And so for this consideration of Trek’s music, I’m focusing on this primary set of original recordings, not on the later re-recordings by Fred Steiner, or the earlier Crescendo soundtrack releases.

The liner notes for the La-La Lands CD set are by Jeff Bond, who published a book back in 1999, The Music of Star Trek (https://www.amazon.com/Music-Star-Trek-Jeff-Bond/dp/1580650120/), that covered TOS (The Original Series), several of the movies, and three of the later series to a lesser extent. So I tracked down that book also and bought a copy.

To go into further detail, as explained in Bond’s book: the reason producers could get away with generating only a certain amount of music, and then reusing that music in later episodes, is because that was allowed by musician’s union rules at the time. Bond gives some detail via an article by Fred Steiner (pp34-35 in his book). Rules at the time required a one-hour dramatic show of, say, 26 episodes over a year to spend at least 39 hours in the studio recording music. Further, a typical episode score might run anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, but a single scoring session could record only some 4 or 5 minutes of music per hour in the studio. Arithmetic leads to the conclusion that such a series would need to fully score only eight episodes. Trek’s first season had 29 episodes, and scored 13 of them, though several only with shorter “partial” scores.

(All that changed in the early 1980s, when union rules changed to prohibit such reuse, requiring new music for every single episode. Thus Trek Next Generation has a unique score for every episode.)

One twist of the original 1960s-era rules was that music could not be reused from one season to the next, unless the music was re-recorded (so musicians would be re-paid). That’s why, for example, the main Trek theme over the show’s opening credits sounds a little different from season to season. (I noticed this effect at the time, or at least in the ‘70s, when long-running TV shows would have essentially the same theme music from year to year, but you could tell that the themes weren’t exactly the same – there were often slight changes in instrumentation, or intonation, or phrasing. I noticed that especially about Hawaii Five-O back in the ‘70s when I watched that show regularly, and its iconic main theme was slightly different from year to year.) And Trek did that too, thus preserving some of Alexander Courage’s and Fred Steiner’s earliest themes all the way through the show’s second and third seasons.

In each of Trek’s three seasons, therefore, the majority of scored episodes came at the beginning, until enough music had accumulated to constitute a library of tracks for reuse that season. There was an irony about writing music to be suitable for a particular episode, while being generic enough to be re-usable; a theme too specific to a situation might perhaps never be used again. An example might be Riley’s jig in “The Naked Time.”

Another technical bit: almost every episode has a “music by” credit in the end credits, to a single composer, often Alexander Courage, since so many of the show’s earliest themes were by him. Even the episodes without original scores had “music by” credits. So what did that credit mean? It meant that, for a ‘tracked’ episode, the music editors would have compiled an elaborate tracking sheet, listing the length in seconds of each track and who composed it (Courage, Steiner, Kaplan, etc.), and then whichever composer was responsible for the majority of the music tracked when the episode was done was awarded the “music by” credit at the end. You can understand how most of those credits were misleading, because all of the tracked episodes actually contained music by several composers.

Here’s a list of the originally-scored first season episodes, with composers, where the numbers indicate production order. Episodes not listed were ‘tracked’ from the scores for these 13. (There were also a few miscellaneous separate ‘library music’ tracks done by a couple composers, rescoring other composers’ themes or scoring original mood bits for generic use, recorded as time permitted during sessions when original scores were recorded. They are included as a separate group on the La-La Land Records CD set.)

#0, The Cage (Alexander Courage) [pilot #1]
#1, Where No Man Has Gone Before (Courage) [pilot #2]
#2, The Corbomite Maneuver (Fred Steiner)
#3, Mudd’s Women (Fred Steiner)
#4, The Enemy Within (Sol Kaplan)
#5, The Man Trap (Alexander Courage)
#6, The Naked Time (Alexander Courage)
#7, Charlie X (Fred Steiner)
#8, Balance of Terror (Fred Steiner)
#9, What Are Little Girls Made Of? (Fred Steiner)
#12, The Conscience of the King (Joseph Mullendore)
#17, Shore Leave (Gerald Fried)
#28, The City on the Edge of Forever (Fred Steiner)

Note first of all that the shows were not aired in production order; e.g. “The Man Trap,” the fourth episode in regular production (after the two pilots), was the first ever Trek episode broadcast, in September 1966. To further complicate matters, however, the scores for these episodes were not composed in the order of the filmed production. That’s because the scoring was often one of the last things done during the post-production (i.e. after filming) of any episode; ideally, the composer would work from a nearly-finished show, completely edited and with special effects added in. But some episodes took much longer to get through post-production than others. “The Corbomite Maneuver,” for example, had heavy FX (special effects) of the alien spaceships, and took so long to complete that it was the 10th episode broadcast, not the 2nd.

The La-La Land CD set arranges the episodes more or less, but not exactly, in broadcast order – the order is altered a bit to fit on the CDs without splitting any one episode across discs.

But to appreciate which music was written originally for which episode, and to see how themes were reused or redeveloped by later composers, you need to listen to the scores in order of their recording (which even then doesn’t necessarily reflect the order of composition!) of that music. Fortunately, this La-La Land CD set has extensive booklet notes, listing track names and timings, names of performers at each recording session – and the exact date of each recording session. (Notable because in one case, relatively short scores for three separate episodes were recorded on the same day!) (Cushman’s books, too, as they nail down exact dates of every script draft and of filming and post-production, notes dates when original scores were recorded for episodes that got them.)

My notes here list the episodes in that recording order, with those dates noted in bold. As I go through these scores, I’ll give notable themes, especially those I know will recur, name tags for future reference, in bold. I should note that the scoring sheets and CD track listings use rather informal names or descriptions, some rather irreverent (e.g. “Zap Janice” for when Charlie makes Janice disappear, in “Charlie X”). I’ll try to use slightly more formal names.

“The Cage”, by Alexander Courage

  • This first pilot for the series was filmed from 27 Nov 1964 to 18 Dec 1964. Production dates in these notes are taken from Marc Cushman’s book; scoring dates and times are taken from the booklet liner notes for the La-La Land Records CD set. The series did not sell on the basis of this pilot, and the pilot was never broadcast in its original form (it was cannibalized mid-first season as background events for the two-part episode “The Menagerie”).
  • Music for this episode was recorded 21 Jan 1965; total time of the music score: 32:01.
  • This episode’s score debuts what would become Trek’s signature theme, known world-round: the initial sonar-like ‘pings’, the Enterprise ‘fanfare’ flyby on trombone, and then the soaring melody of the main theme with wordless soprano vocals. That melody was based, the notes tell us, somewhat on the old song “Beyond the Blue Horizon”. (This opening in this episode did not yet include Captain Kirk’s narration “Space: the final frontier”, etc.)
  • There are two signature themes of this episode. The first is the so-called “Vina’s theme“, a slow sultry vocal– one two, threefourfive one two, … heard in several variations — including as the basis for the famous green Vina’s dance. It was used again and again, throughout the first season, in situations with the exotic or the alien.
  • The second: the twangy electronic cues when we see the alien Talosians. Let’s call this the Talosian Twang. Very distinctive, it was used sparingly in later episodes.
  • There are other memorable tracks – the calm picnic scene music; bombastic music for Pike’s fight with the barbarian giant; the searing music in the scene when Pike is subject to illusory flames – that were also occasionally used in later episodes.

“Where No Man Has Gone Before”, by Alexander Courage

  • The episode was filmed 19 – 29 July, 1965. Music was recorded 29 Nov 1965; the show aired 22 Sep 1966. This was the second pilot, produced as a one-off and eventually broadcast as the third episode in the show’s first season. Total time: 27:58.
  • In the recording on this CD set, we have the score as originally composed and recorded – and this original version had a different main theme, different than the iconic “main theme” heard in “The Cage” and throughout the regular series. This was an aggressive four note motif stated once then repeated double-time, the pair then repeated a step up, and was scored for both the opening and closing credits. Courage used variations of this theme in other modes throughout the episode, and in fact you can hear a slow, probing version of this theme in the opening moments of the episode as broadcast.
  • The remainder of the score originally composed was retained for the broadcast version, which used the series’ “main theme” for opening and closing to match all the other broadcast episodes.
  • Courage reused this four-note motif in his later original scores, and it was often tracked; I’m dubbing it the NoMan theme for later reference. The aggressive version of this theme survives in several places in the show as broadcast, and in DVD sets: at the very end of the teaser, and again at the very end of Act IV.
  • Speaking of reuse, “Vina’s Theme” from “The Cage” turns up in this score, in track 23 of the CD (not sure which scene this was).
  • The second new theme in this episode is a rising, questing five-note theme, also heard near the beginning of the teaser and again throughout the episode. The liner notes of the CD set, and Cushman’s book, suggest that this was Courage’s attempt to establish a theme particular for Captain Kirk, and again he reused it in his later scores. So we’ll call this the “Captain’s theme.” It was occasionally used in later episodes as a low-key final send-off.
  • And the third prominent theme is heard as the Enterprise approaches and enters the ‘barrier’ at the ‘edge’ of the galaxy, a gradually building, searing collage of brass and electronic tones. Dub this the “barrier theme.”

“The Man Trap”, by Alexander Courage

  • Episode filmed 22-30 June 1966, score recorded 19 Aug 1966; the show aired 8 Sep 1966. This more typical interval – three weeks between recording of score and broadcast of episode – illustrates how scoring an episode is almost the last thing done before broadcast. Including main titles theme, total music is 35:20, for a broadcast show about 50 minutes long.
  • The version of the main title is the ‘electric violin version’ used in the initial batch of broadcast episodes. The electric violin plays heavy in the episode’s eerie score.
  • The episode’s slow, eerie score serves well to establish the strange other-worldliness of this alien planet — especially, I think, considering this was the first broadcast episode, Trek’s debut to the world. Note Courage’s “Captain’s theme” is woven into the score, early on. Especially distinctive are passages of eerie organ music, as the alien invader, in the guise of one crewman or another, wanders around the corridors of the Enterprise; other passages using an electric violin; and the mournful two-note French horn theme that opens the episode – one that appears often enough in later episodes that I’ll dub it the Man Trap moan.
  • Roddenberry reportedly hated the score — he wanted more aggressive, swashbuckling music, like Horatio Hornblower naval battle music, for his show – but the music turned out to be very effective here and in a number of later episodes, as low-key underscore for scenes of mystery.
  • Note there’s lots of winds and brass, and an organ, and an electric violin but otherwise no string section – an orchestration ploy to keep down the number of musicians needing to be hired for this particular recording session. The booklet that comes with the La-La Lands Records soundtrack collection lists, for each recording session, all the players and all the instruments! Not counting the manager or the copyists, there were 24 musicians performing this score.

“Charlie X”, by Fred Steiner

  • Episode filmed 11-19 July 1966; score recorded 29 August 1966; episode broadcast 15 Sept 1966.
  • Opening music is “Captain’s theme” segueing into the two-note horn theme from “Man Trap” – that is, here is Fred Steiner reusing established motifs from Alexander Courage. (Though this was Steiner’s first recorded score, Jeff Bond’s book implies Steiner composed the score for “Mudd’s Women” first.) This episode has an arranged version of the main theme, by Steiner, with cello playing the theme instead of the soprano voice. This leads to a new theme, an inversion of the two-note “Man Trap” theme – a two notes rising in menacing mystery.
  • Act I opens with a new Enterprise fanfare – call this Enterprise fanfare #2 – by Steiner, an eight note nautical-sounding theme that initially descends, almost as an inverse of the more familiar fanfare by Courage. The eight note theme repeats an interval up.
  • The third track includes an up-and-down-scale harp music, under a plaintive oboe, that was often used for no-dialogue scenes of a character looking around in wonder. Here it debuts as Charlie wanders around the deck of the Enterprise, watching crewmen go about their work. Call this Charlie’s wonder music. A similar but slower harp theme appears in track 4, heard as Charlie performs card tricks; instead of an oboe we get tense triplets on a muted trumpet. Call this the tense wonder music, where the wonder is undercut by a suspicion of some threat or danger. This track also has the harsh, trilling french horn ‘zap’ chord that we hear every time Charlie performs a trick – a short motif used many times in later episodes.
  • Track 9 covers the scene in which Kirk has Charlie wrestle a crewman named Sam; Charlie is awkward, Sam chuckles, Charlie is offended and makes Sam disappear. Kirk witnesses this and for the first time realizes what a danger Charlie is – and we hear a strong, determined yet subdued (as if Kirk is struggling to maintain control and not overreact) theme in brass that came to be played many times at moments of grim confrontation. Call this Kirk’s menace Its first three notes, actually, are very similar if not identical to the first three notes of Steiner’s fanfare #2. We hear this again the standoff scene at the opening of Act 3, as it segues into fanfare #2.
  • The appearance of the alien Thasian at the end is underplayed to mysterious effect, punctuated a couple times by an ominous chime, before the music rises up as the alien – and Charlie – disappear. This transitions to a closing as the show began: “Captain’s theme”, the two-note horn theme from “Man Trap”, then Captain’s theme in a more victorious mode.

“The Naked Time”, by Alexander Courage

  • Filmed 30 Jun – 11 July 1966; score recorded 31 August 1966; episode broadcast 29 Sept 1966. Score 33:42 long, not including a track on the CD for the trailer of the next episode.
  • Music begins with the traditional Enterprise fanfare #1.
  • The distinctive elements here are the character-keyed themes for Riley and Sulu; the former, a subdued Irish theme as Riley wanders the halls; the latter, a series of fanfares as Sulu brandishes his sword. (Riley’s vocal rendition of “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen” is not part of the soundtrack music on the CD.)
  • At the same time Courage reuses key themes from his earlier episodes. The episode draws to a climax with tracks of variations of “Captain’s Theme” in a manner that sounds both noble and foretelling possible doom – a terrific underscore that dramatizes the uncertainty and danger the Enterprise is in. These transition to the alternate Courage title music, the “NoMan theme”, in increasingly strident tones for the scene when the Enterprise breaks away from the planet – and finds itself plunging back in time – and for this scene there’s a unique theme for this episode, a Glassian arpeggio underlying a bold three-note brass theme, call it the time travel theme… both gradually slowing down as the time effect ends…. Smoothing out to a somber return of the Enterprise fanfare, then repeated twice in relieved triumph. (This music was used later as the Organians transitioned to their energy being true forms, in “Errand of Mercy.”)

“Mudd’s Women”, by Fred Steiner

  • Recorded 7 Sep 1966; episode broadcast 13 Oct 1966. Length, 22:01.
  • Appropriately this opens with Steiner’s Enterprise fanfare #2, followed by a variation of “Kirk’s Menace,” both from “Charlie X” (or reused in “Charlie X” perhaps, depending on which was scored first).
  • Steiner gives Harry Mudd a jolly, swashbuckling theme that’s cute, but not, so far as I noticed, ever used again in any later episode.
  • As the women appear we hear the first hints of the episode’s main themes – first, call it the Mudd’s women theme, three rising pairs and one falling pair being the principle. Heard only partially at first, it becomes quite lush in full blossom, and the instrumentation changes many times throughout the score, becoming low and ominous on a bassoon (or bass clarinet?) in a scene where the effect of the Venus drug is wearing off. (This version was used later, e.g. as Kirk and Sulu wander the corridors of the air force base in “Tomorrow Is Yesterday.”)
  • A secondary, complementary theme is highlighted in track 23, and is heard most famously late in the episode as Eve takes the Venus drug (or thinks she does) and seems to recover her glamour.
  • Later a swanky version of the first theme is called, on the CD, “space radio” and appears in the scene on the planet where the three miners try to get to know the women. The secondary theme is worked in here too.
  • And as the Enterprise orbits the planet, there’s a descending fanfare theme on brass that suggests the trauma of the ship running out of power; and a complementary theme with xylophone pulses for emphasis. (The xylophone pulses, a distinctive motif of this episode, appear at the opening of Act I also.)
  • An especially striking moment is the plaintive theme played in the scene in which Eve gets tired cooking for Ben, wearily, as if all hope is lost. This segues to the low/ominous version of the MW theme, the transitional rising flute theme as the pill is taken, then a brief rapturous passage as Eve’s beauty is, apparently, restored.
  • After a humorous bit for the banter between Kirk and Mudd, we end with Captain’s theme and Man Trap moan.

“The Enemy Within”, by Sol Kaplan

  • Recorded 14 Sep 1966. Episode broadcast Oct. 6th. A fairly long score, at 22:58.
  • Opens with a glittery version of standard fanfare, with piccolo figures swirling around the familiar theme. This became, I’m guessing, the most often used version of the theme.
  • The key theme here is the Evil Kirk theme, a strong descending three-plus-one-note piano motif when Kirk’s evil double appears. Bond notes that the three descending notes are an inversion of the first three notes of the standard fanfare – as if to suggest Kirk has been turned inside out.
  • A second key theme comes in the scene in which Kirk tries to seduce, and rape, Yeoman Rand – about two minutes into track 5, on the CD, a driving theme over a pulsing underbeat that becomes increasingly menacing. This theme would be reused in later episodes for similar moments of mounting danger. It appears here a bit later in a scene in which the two Kirks confront one another.
  • Later, in scenes in which the ‘good’ but indecisive Kirk can’t decide what to do, we get a plaintive, cello solo version of the pulsing rape theme.
  • The music for the “Two Into One” scene in which the two Kirks reunite has a few moments that foreshadow the only other Trek score that Sol Kaplan would write – that for 2nd season’s “The Doomsday Machine.”

“The Corbomite Maneuver”, by Fred Steiner

  • Recorded, along with the next two scores, all on one day: 20 Sep 1966. This episode was broadcast Nov. 10th.
  • These three are ‘partial’ scores, this one only 7:11.
  • First principle theme: a whirling aggitato for the alien space cube, overlaid by blaring brass. This is the Corbomite cube music. (This would be reused several times, e.g. as Captain Christopher aims his jet fighter toward the UFO in “Tomorrow Is Yesterday,” and even over a scene of riotous “festival” in “The Return of the Archons.”)
  • Second principle theme: a four+four rising theme of menace, repeated and gradually leading to a ladder-climbing ascendant as the mother ship appears. This is the main Corbomite theme or Fesarius theme, usually heard with xylophone ostinato.
  • Then there’s a variant of the second theme, as it extends to a five+four pattern.
  • Later there’s a mysterioso variant of the Fesarius theme, slower and on organ(?), as we see the puppet Balok. This short segment was often heard in later episodes for moments of exotic mystery. (Used when we see the Guardian of Forever, in “The City on the Edge of Forever,” for instance.)
  • And finally we get a delicate variant of the Fesarius theme (perhaps on oboe and xylophone), as we see the real, childlike Balok. Another short segment used later for moments of childlike wonder.

“Balance of Terror”, by Fred Steiner

  • Recorded 20 Sep 1966. Episode broadcast Dec. 15th. Time: 5:35.
  • Just one principle theme here, we’ll call it the Romulan theme, played in so many variations it fills the entire episode out of just four minutes or so of recorded music (not counting the chapel music at the beginning). It’s a seven-note sawblade theme played in a rising variation with a menacing tone for shots of the Romulan ship; or played in a descending, more contemplative mood for scenes of the Romulan commander doubting the wisdom of his orders. But there are several other variants of these: the rising theme quieter; the descending theme brassy and arrogant.
  • Versions of this theme were used in later episodes, perhaps unfortunately, since the theme’s identification with the Romulans is so strong here.

“What Are Little Girls Made Of?”, by Fred Steiner

  • Recorded 20 Sep 1966. Episode broadcast Oct. 20th.
  • About 7:15, not counting a version of the end title.
  • The principle new theme here, Ruk’s theme, features big kettle-drums underneath menacing chords as we first see the giant android Ruk, and later as he pursues Kirk through the caverns. One version of this, in particular, that begins with a stinger chord, was used many times in later episodes for scenes of imminent danger or fighting (e.g. in “Arena”).
  • The second theme is a romantic one underscoring the female android Andrea, in lush cellos with piano counterpoint.
  • There’s a bit of the “Kirk’s menace” here too.

“The Conscience of the King”, by Joseph Mullendore

  • Recorded 2 Nov 1966. The episode aired Dec. 8th. Time: 28:51.
  • The striking theme here is the mock-period music that underscores the performance of Macbeth, in the first scenes of the teaser. It’s set in winds, then a harp, then strings. On the CD it’s called “Go for Baroque”. I had thought this music – my favorite thing about this episode — was so distinctive that it might not have ever been reused, but it was, at least once: in “Shore Leave,” during the moments when Yeoman Barrows realizes, after an attack by Don Juan, she had just been thinking about such an old-style romantic hero.
  • This was Mullendore’s only score for the series, and the music sounds like some alternate dimension version of Trek, where people stand around cocktail parties (as they do here), and the music matches. We even get swanky, lounge-music versions of the Enterprise fanfare! (Despite the discordancy of some of these tracks, they were reused in at least one later episode, “Court Martial.”)
  • This episode has its own love theme, “Lenore,” which I confess has always sounded to me like the ‘60s Tony Bennett hit, “Who Can I Turn To?” I didn’t notice this theme, unlike Gerald Fried’s “Ruth’s Theme” in the next episode here, reused in any later episode.
  • In contrast to the lounge music, there are several spare, low-key cues for dramatic scenes – e.g. Kirk’s confrontation with Kodos in the latter’s quarters, and Lenore’s revelations and breakdowns at the end, with a counter-intuitive but quite effective solo harp theme.
  • This composer also did a couple notable library cues (see below).

“Shore Leave”, by Gerald Fried

  • Recorded 2 Dec 1966. The episode aired Dec. 29th. Time: 20:34.
  • This is Gerald Fried’s first Trek score; later he would do spectacular and memorable scores for “Amok Time” and “The Paradise Syndrome.” His style is very different from the technical (almost Beethoven-esque) Steiner, who can wring an entire score out of a single seven note theme; Fried, more Tchaikovsky-like, is profligate with memorable themes, even if they don’t fit together in any way, as in this score, which suits a story with a bunch of random incidents that are cute and memorable, but that don’t relate to one another in any necessary way.
  • Opening theme: a playful five-note, broad musical turn, on woodwinds: “new planet”, initially calm. This segues into bouncy ‘rabbit music’.
  • Second theme: the bouncy, then energetic Irish-tinged Finnegan’s theme. This returns several times throughout the show, every time we see Finnegan, including the extended five-minute fistfight sequence between Finnegan and Kirk, bridging a commercial break.
  • Third theme: the tender, very simple, Ruth’s theme, on flute. This music becomes more interesting, more plaintive, as violins take over for a long bridging passage (largely played underneath dialogue), that seems to plead for understanding of how this person, Ruth, could possibly be here. Then the flutes return to restate the opening theme. (This theme was reused as the principal romantic theme in “This Side of Paradise.”)
  • Fourth theme: a joyous ‘old English’ theme as Yeoman Barrows discovers a beautiful gown; this is on the same notes as the “new planet” theme, but here on strings, and differently phrased. (So there is some relation between the themes…)
  • Then we get, in quick succession, a jungle theme with bongos for sightings of a tiger; an oriental theme with gongs for sightings of a samurai; and a fanfare theme for a jousting knight, on brass, a theme with some relation to ‘old English’ (similar intervals). This last theme transforms ominously to a scene finale as McCoy has apparently be killed. Later there’s a very brief, swanky lounge music passage, for the appearance of the two ‘ladies’ who accompany Dr. McCoy.
  • Note about the broadcast episode: it tracks the “Baroque” theme from “The Conscience of the King,” in the scene where Yeoman Barrows is realizing she had been fantasizing about Don Juan. I’d thought perhaps that theme was so distinctive to be unlike any other Trek situation, it would never be heard again! But the point is – even episodes with largely original scores, would occasional track music from earlier episodes. (As in next episode.)

“The City on the Edge of Forever”, by Fred Steiner

  • Recorded 24 Mar 1967. The episode aired April 6th, just two weeks later!
  • Aside from the main theme, the score is only 9:46 – and two tracks, totaling about 3 minutes, intended to establish New York in 1930, and Edith’s character, were not used! Bond’s CD liner notes identifies associate producer Bob Justman as making the decision to used tracked music in these early scenes instead.
  • And another minute and a half, on the CD, is the period song “Goodnight, Sweetheart.” So only about 5 minutes of Steiner’s original 8-minute score made it to the screen. (The producers atypically commissioned an original score for this very-late in the season episode, because they knew this was turning out to be a very special episode, and decided that it needed distinctive music. Which made it ironic that parts of Steiner’s original score went unused.)
  • What survived includes some variations on “Goodnight, Sweetheart”; some slow, vaguely ominous underscore as Edith wonders about Kirk and Spock; and, most recognizably, the climactic musical sting as the traffic accident occurs and Kirk stops himself from saving Edith, a track that quickly calms into sad, tragic echoes of the episode’s signature period song.
  • None of these tracks were reused in any later episode.

Library Music

  • The last CD in the Season 1 set includes 41 tracks, totaling about 25 minutes, of “library music,” consisting of some original themes by Joseph Mullendore, and some variants of themes from earlier scores, all these composed by Fred Steiner to give music editors more latitude in fitting tracks to scenes in future episodes. The disk also has source music used in “The Squire of Gothos,” another version of “Vina’s Dance” from “The Cage”, and then a bunch of sounds effects – the transporter effect, etc., some unused, and some outtakes of the main theme, totaling another 15 or 20 minutes.
  • There are two prominent library tracks by Joseph Mullendore. One, “Impension,” scores the first phrase from the main theme in brass, over a snare drum; it was used in “Shore Leave” as Kirk and the others run toward gunshots.
  • The second, “Lonely to Dramatic,” begins with quiet variations on the main theme, and then – beginning about :45 in – changes to a sequence of ominously pulsing brass, switching then to a swelling viola line — again, a variation of Alexander Courage’s main theme — that climbs, descends, climbs higher, then descends, then climbs even higher, and seems to sustain – before crashing back down. Just that latter portion of the track was used many times, notably in “Miri” when Kirk first finds the girl inside the closet, and during two key scenes in “Space Seed” as Khan subdues Marla McGivers.
  • And there’s a light-hearted “Humoresque,” by music director Wilbur Hatch, which would be used in “The City on the Edge of Forever” as Kirk and Spock steal clothes… in place of an original track written by Fred Steiner, that went unused.
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Many Such Journeys: TOS #28, “The City on the Edge of Forever”

The Enterprise visits a planet where a time portal enables a drugged McCoy to inadvertently change Earth’s history, forcing Kirk and Spock to travel to 1930s Earth, where Kirk falls in love.

  • This justly celebrated episode is not without its problems. The premise is striking, the situation dire, the characters and drama compelling, the awful moment of decision tragic and heart-wrenching. But its theory of time travel is a little loosey-goosey, and the pacing – after endless revisions by the producers from Harlan Ellison’s initial version – is rushed, with enough story to have filled another 15 minutes of airtime had it been available.
  • The story opens as the Enterprise is orbiting a mysterious planet that is the source of “ripples in time,” a phenomenon that manifests itself, seemingly, as road-bumps in space, causing the Enterprise to shake and Sulu’s helm panel to overload and erupt in sparks.
    • Kirk’s hasty summary, recited not as a log entry but as a report Kirk instructs Uhura to send to Star Fleet, describes how “something or someone down on this planet can affect changes in time causing turbulent waves in space displacement.”
    • Well OK, time and space are related. Still, one might speculate how else “ripples in time” might have been depicted. Brief flashes of events from the near past – or near future? Intriguing idea.
  • Yet it takes another physical jolt of the Enterprise to trigger the plot: McCoy, summoned the bridge to treat Sulu, injects him with a few drops of cordrazine – a fictional heart stimulant. Then a big jolt knocks McCoy over as he handles the hypospray device, and causes him to inject himself with the complete vial of cordrazine.
  • The effect, within seconds, is to transform McCoy into a raving paranoiac, screaming about “killers” and “assassins,” evading a security guard and disappearing into the turbolift.
  • Kirk’s Act I Captain’s Log is a “supplemental entry,” an odd event because there has been no previous log entry in the episode we’ve seen; presumably one might have been scripted and some point, and gotten cut in later drafts (or even recorded and deleted in editing for time’s sake, as sometimes happened). The effect is we get no stardate for this episode.
    • There’s one later log entry in this episode, in which Kirk states “No stardate,” because of the situation; but it begs the definition of what stardate actually means, as I’ve probably discussed before. In fact, the producers and scriptwriters rather arbitrarily assigned more-or-less progressive four-digit stardates to scripts as they went into development, but none too carefully; thus you have a couple episodes – “The Corbomite Maneuver” and “The Man Trap” – with overlapping ranges of stardates. Someone later tried to rationalize this, explaining how the stardate was determined not just by the passage of time, but by the ship’s position in space, yada yada. That has some superficial plausibility based on our understanding of relativistic effects. But how to account those effects with warp drive? Anyway, the point I’ve made before is that, if stardates can repeat themselves, then they are useless as a measure of identifying the progression of events, even if only the subjective progression of events on any given starship. And the mention of stardates during Star Base visits (e.g. in “Court Martial”) suggests they are meant to be definitive. This was an error of writing and production that no rationalization can ever explain.
  • In any event, the log entry here emphasizes the effects of cordrazine as a “madness” that will have some indefinite effect on McCoy. Spock’s research in the next scene elaborates its effects.
  • For whatever reason, McCoy heads to the transporter room, overcomes the transporter chief, and beams himself down to planet. And the transporter, Spock explains, was – for whatever reason (well, to move the plot along) — focused on the center of the time disturbance.
  • And so Kirk and a landing party – Spock, Scott, Uhura, and two security guards – follow McCoy down to the planet. They see stony ruins in every direction – as well as large donut-shaped object, which Spock identifies as the source of all the time displacement.
  • As Kirk and Spock speculate on its nature, it speaks – in English, of course – synchronously glowing as it does. “Since before your sun burned hot in space, and before your race was born, I have awaited… a question.” And, “I am the Guardian of Forever.” Both machine and being, or neither. Spock doesn’t understand. “I answer as simply as your level of the understand makes possible.”
  • This is good stuff, mostly, albeit a little vague. We’re used by now to experiencing effects and beings apparently operating in ways outside human experience, sometimes by orders of magnitude (e.g. the Organians).
  • Spock realizes that, in a perhaps limited sense, that it’s a time portal. It replies: “A gateway to your own past, if you wish.” And we see, in the center of the donut, a montage of film clips from old Hollywood movies, depicting the history of the human race.
  • McCoy is found and subdued, apparently. Kirk wonders if they might use this time portal to take McCoy back a day, to relive and avoid the accident? (A remarkably trivial thought, it seems to me, considering the infinite potential of such a time portal.) But Spock notes time is passing too quickly to make that practical.
  • He suddenly realizes he should be recording these “centuries of living history…” and turns on his tricorder.
  • And then McCoy wakes up, jumps up, and before anyone can react, runs toward the portal, and jumps through.
  • A moment later, Uhura says she’s lost contact with the ship. Nothing wrong with the communicator.
  • The Guardian explains: “Your vessel, your beginning; all that you knew, is gone.”
  • Kirk and the others – again, very quickly, compared to the pace of other episodes, especially the talky Gene L. Coon originals we’ve just seen– realize what’s happened. History has been changed. Kirk: “Earth’s not there, at least not the Earth we know. We’re totally alone.”
  • Now wait a minute. If history has been changed to the point where the Enterprise never existed – then presumably Kirk and the others wouldn’t exist either. Certainly not in their present state. Yet here they are, their memories of the Enterprise and their own pasts intact.
    • Spock made this point in “Tomorrow Is Yesterday” — that a change in history might cause the Enterprise and its crew to simply wink out of existence.
    • The literature of SF includes hundreds of time travel stories, many of them with uniquely different notions of how time travel would work. Perhaps the most famous is Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder,” in which stepping on a butterfly in the distant past changes everything in the time traveler’s future. Similar ideas in Alfred Bester’s “The Men Who Murdered Mohammed” and R.A. Lafferty’s “Thus We Frustrate Charlemagne.” Canonical time travel stories, with paradoxes, include Robert A. Heinlein’s “By His Bootstraps” and “All You Zombies.”
    • A key issue is the so-called grandfather paradox, which is close to what Trek is invoking here: if you go back in time and kill your grandfather, before he marries your grandmother and they have children, what happens to *you*? If you vanish, then do you not exist to go back and time to kill your grandfather..?? And so on.
    • Some of the theories: Those hundreds of SF time travel stories have imagined various notions about why the grandfather paradox might not occur, generally by invoking some imaginary fundamental law about how the universe works: e.g., you can’t change the past, it has a momentum that isn’t affected by specific changes in the past. Or: you can change the past, but doing so creates an alternate, parallel history, from which you may or may not be able to return from. Or: you can visit the past, but not change it. Many other variations.
  • Presumably here Kirk and the landing party are protected by some kind of time bubble, being close to the Guardian of Forever, and so immune to the changes in history that McCoy effected; it’s easy to imagine a couple lines of dialogue to justify such a premise. But in a crowded, busy script, there was no time to do so; and for obvious story purposes, we need Kirk and his landing party active characters.
  • Quickly, the story moves on: in Act II, Kirk narrates a “no stardate” log entry, in which he states “For us, time does not exist” – well, yes it does, they are still experiencing their own existence in a linear, time-forward fashion – and summarizes the situation and their plan (all formulated during the commercial break, apparently): to have the Guardian repeat its display of Earth’s history, and for him and Spock to go back into history and try to “set right whatever it was that McCoy changed.”
  • In the moments before Kirk and Spock take the leap, they square things with those they are leaving behind. Kirk: “Scotty… when you think you’ve waited long enough… each of you will have to try it.” Scott: “Good luck, gentlemen.” And Uhura: “Happiness at least, sir.”
    • This last line is the first of many in this episode that seem unusually inspired; without denigrating the work of Trek’s tireless regular writers and producers, it’s tempting to attribute such lines to Harlan Ellison, though I have no way of telling; only intuition. I won’t dwell here on the well-known history about how Harlan Ellison’s initial script was rewritten heavily by the producers, to his eternal distaste; his original script has been published in at least two books, one his own  (https://www.amazon.com/City-Forever-Harlan-Ellison-Collecton/dp/1497642906/), that describes this entire history.
    • Marc Cushman’s book lists the dates of various outlines and script drafts. Ellison was assigned the script in March, 1966, delivered his first full teleplay in June – presumably the one in print in those books – and then did three further drafts of the script, as late as December, 1966. (Ellison, like fellow Trek scripter Theodore Sturgeon, was notoriously slow to deliver, by TV standards.) Thereafter, as with virtually all scripts submitted by outsiders, followed revisions by Gene Coon, D.C. Fontana, and Gene Roddenberry, all the way until February 1967, with the last page revisions by Roddenberry *during filming*.
    • Since Ellison submitted a script as late as December, it’s plausible that some of his dialogue from his last drafts survived into the final filmed script. I have no way of tracking this down. Yet several inspired dialogue passages suggest the input of an inspired writer, that survived the rewrites of Coon, Fontana, and Roddenberry.
    • At the same time – this episode is possibly the best example of how the Trek staff *needed* to rewrite Ellison’s original submission into something that was both filmable on a budget – the original script imagined grandiose sets, scenes in New York with large crowds – and which was consistent with the Trek universe (Roddenberry’s idealism that many petty human conflicts would be overcome by the 23rd century) and with how the Trek characters really behaved (Ellison’s original script had a character on the Enterprise dealing drugs).
  • And so Kirk and Spock leap through…. To a street in 1930s New York.
    • (Filmed at the same studio backlot where “Miri” and “Errand of Mercy” and “The Return of the Archons” and even “The Cage” were filmed – see this section, http://www.startrekhistory.com/acres.html, of startrekhistory.com, and follow the links, to see revealing photos of how individual scenes from these episodes were filmed in the same small area.)
  • They attract attention, in their funny clothes, and with Spock’s ears. Passing old women scowl. They rush across a street – almost hit by a car, an amazing foreshadowing of the episode’s climax – and spot some clothes hanging on an alleyway balcony. [The same alleyway as… see link just above.]
  • But are spotted by a local policeman. If Gene L. Coon couldn’t end this episode with humor, he injected it here. Kirk tries to explain Spock, his ears. “My friend is obviously… Chinese. I see you’ve noticed the ears. … The unfortunate accident he had as a child. He caught his head in a mechanical…. rice-picker.” And so on. Spock uses a similar ploy as in “A Taste of Armageddon” to distract the officer momentarily in order to apply his famous neck pinch. They flee… run down a street and around a corner (past the visibly labeled 21st Street Mission), and down some steps into an unlocked door to a basement.
  • Then follows a bit more time-travel theory. Spock thinks they’ve arrived about a week before McCoy. Kirk: “Arrives where? Honolulu, Boise, San Diego? Why not Outer Mongolia for that matter?” Good question.
  • Spock: “There is a theory…. That time is fluid, like a river; currents, eddies, backwash.” Kirk: “Then the same currents that swept McCoy to a certain time and place might sweep us there too.”
  • Of course this theory is necessitated by plot, as Spock says: “Unless that is true, Captain, we have no hope.”
  • Spock is frustrated that he can’t access the history replay in his tricorder. Kirk wonders why. Spock: “In this zinc-plated, vacuum-tubed culture?” And Kirk teases, “Yes well, it would post an extremely complex problem in logic, Mr. Spock. Excuse me, I sometimes expect too much of you.”
    • But this isn’t a problem of logic. It’s a problem of resources. Trek promulgated a very loose idea of what ‘logic’ was about, in reference to Mr. Spock, more often than not insisting logic in scenes where technical logic did not actually apply. As here.
  • And then they are discovered by the kindly Edith Keeler, who is generous to a fault, inviting them to stay – despite their breaking in, despite their white lie about it being cold outside – to work, cleaning up her 21st Street Mission, for 15 cents an hour, 10 hours a day.
  • The next, key, scene has Kirk and Spock in the ground-floor soup kitchen, accepting the food down a cafeteria line and then listening to Edith Keeler preach. An old man at their table warns them: “You expect to eat for free or something? You gotta listen… to Goodie Twoshoes.”
  • And Edith speaks, urging the men who’ve taken refuge there: “I do insist that you do survive. Because the days, and the years ahead, are worth living for.”
  • Her speech gets more extraordinary by the moment, especially considering that Kirk and Spock are hearing her: “One day, soon, man is going to be able to harness… incredible energies… maybe even the atom. Energies that could ultimately hurl us to other worlds in… in some sort of space ship.”
  • And so on. Spock: “Speculation? Gifted insight?” (Or currents in time that have swept them to a like-minded local?)
  • Edith finds them a “flop” – a flat, a place to sleep – in her building.
  • Later, in their flop, Kirk returns with groceries. Spock is trying to build a mechanism to connect to his tricorder so that he can slow the speed of replay down to examine the history of where they are. The mechanism is spread out across the bed. Spock advises Kirk that he needs a couple pounds of platinum. Kirk advises him that’s not practical, and Spock replies that Kirk is asking him to “construct a mnemonic memory circuit using stone knives and bearskins.”
    • Isn’t “mnemonic memory” redundant?
  • Spock pilfers a clockmakers set of tools to help him construct a mechanism. Edith discovers him; Kirk apologizes. She wonders why they both seem so out of place. Kirk wonders where she thinks they belong. More inspired dialogue:
    • Edith: You? At his side, as if you’ve always been there and always will.
    • And after Spock makes a remark, she finishes it: ‘Captain.’ Even when he doesn’t say it…
  • Kirk is falling in love with Edith Keeler.
  • And then follows a beautiful scene, with that inspired dialogue, as Kirk and Edith walk down the street. To the background tune of “Goodnight, Sweetheart.”
    • Edith: Why does Spock call you ‘Captain’? Were you in the war together?
    • Kirk: We… served together.
    • Edith: And you, um, don’t want to talk about it? … Whatever it is, let me help.
    • Kirk: “Let me help.” A hundred years or so, from now, I believe, a famous novelist will write a classic using that theme. He’ll recommend those three words even over “I love you.”
  • A truly lovely thought. And then we get the added science-fictional perspective, in the following lines:
    • Edith: Century from now? Who is he? Where does he come from – where will he come from?
    • Kirk: Silly question, want to hear a silly answer?
    • Edith: Yes.
    • Kirk (pointing up into the sky): A planet… circling that far left star in Orion’s belt. See?
  • Maybe my favorite lines of dialogue in the entire series.
  • The plot quickly thickens. Spock finishes his device, and shows Kirk the replays of the history he recorded: in one version, a “social warrior is killed” here in 1930 – Edith Keeler – in a street accident; and in another version, Edith Keeler, in 1936, confers with the president, as a pacifist, and thus delays the United States’ entry into the World War II. Alternate history: the US delay enabled Germany to build the a-bomb first. And thus, it’s implied, Germany’s takeover of the world prevented the entire future history of humanity’s ascent into space, the formation of the Federation, the existence of the starship Enterprise.
  • Spock’s conclusion is ominous: Edith Keeler must be allowed to die. Somehow McCoy must have prevented her death.
  • Act Four begins with striking scenes, as McCoy erupts from the time portal onto the same street where Kirk and Spock appeared – but some weeks later, and at night. McCoy is still insane with effect of cordrazine, screaming out “Assassins! Murderers!”
  • Again, insightful dialogue. McCoy spots a street tramp.
    • “What planet is this??”
    • And McCoy looks around, seeming to perceive Old Earth, and looks up into the sky: “The constellations seem right.”
  • And McCoy, realizing where he is, realizing what medicine was like in 20th century Earth, sobs to himself about how hospitals needed sutures and needles, sewing up people like garments… until he collapses on the ground, passing out.
  • And the street tramp, poking at McCoy’s body, finds his phaser. And stepping away, activates it, and disintegrates himself.
  • The final scenes involve the coming together of all the characters. McCoy wanders into Edith’s 21st Street Mission, where Edith takes care of him, unaware of his connection to Kirk and Spock. McCoy wonders where he is.
    • McCoy: I am unconscious, or demented.
    • Edith: I have a friend that talks about Earth the same way that you do. Would you like to meet him?
    • McCoy: I’m a surgeon… not a psychiatrist. I am Leonard McCoy, senior medical officer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise.
    • Edith: I don’t mean to disbelieve you, but… that’s hardly a Navy uniform.
    • McCoy: It’s quite all right, it’s quite all right, dear… Because I don’t believe in you, either.
  • A random reference to a “Clark Gable” movie cues Edith to mention McCoy, alerting Kirk and Spock, who rush to greet him in jubilation; Edith, across the street, wondering what’s going on, starts to cross the street
  • And doesn’t see the truck that strikes her down. Kirk sees it. McCoy sees it. McCoy makes a move to rush to save her—and Kirk stops him. A scream, then silence. McCoy is aghast: “You deliberately stopped me, Jim! I could have saved her! Do you know what you just did??”
  • Kirk, in existential anguish, cannot speak.
  • Spock replies: “He knows, Doctor, he knows.”
    • Worth noting just one more thing about Ellison’s original script: in that, Kirk *was willing* to save Edith, for love, even if it meant the sacrifice of his future and the entire Federation. And Spock stopped him. A different ending; a different reading of Kirk’s character.
  • And then, magically, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, all back in their original uniforms, emerge out of the Guardian, where Scott observes that “You only left a moment ago.”
  • Guardian: “Time has resumed its shape. All is as it was before. Many such journeys are possible. Let me be your gateway.
  • Uhura observes that the Enterprise is there, asking if they want to beam up.
  • And Kirk, bitterly, curtly, says, “Let’s get the hell out of here.
  • There is no cute final scene, no Enterprise flyaway. We see the Guardian, only, as the final credits appear.

A couple music notes, to be filled out:

  • The music of the Guardian of Forever is a creepy, organ version of the main Corbomite theme.
  • As Kirk and Spock flee the policeman, we hear Finnegan’s fight music from “Shore Leave.”
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Pure Energy: TOS #27: “Errand of Mercy”

The Enterprise attempts to claim the peaceful yet strategic planet Organia from the rival Klingon Empire, only to find a curious indifference by the natives to any kind of threat.

 

  • This is the episode that introduced the Klingons, a heretofore unmentioned alien race who are posed as representing an existential threat to the Federation – in obvious analogy to the two sides of the Cold War in the 1960s when the episode was made.
  • Indeed, the story opens as the Enterprise reaches “the designated position for scanning the coded directive,” a bit of spy vs. spy fluffery, and Kirk learns that the Klingons are about to attack. His mission is to head for the planet Organia, a strategically positioned world to both sides, and prevent the Klingons from occupying it.
  • And suddenly the Klingons attack! And in the enhanced graphics of the remastered episode, we even see the Klingon ship!
    • This sight is a bit of cognitive dissonance, because though we see the by now familiar Klingon ship design, that design wasn’t seen in the original series until the third season! The Klingon battle cruiser was designed at built for the third season’s second episode (in production order), “Elaan of Troyius,” though confusingly was first seen in the episode “The Enterprise Incident,” produced later but broadcast earlier – and, in further confusion, in that story occupied by Romulans, who had borrowed the Klingon design.
  • In any event, the Enterprise quickly dispatches the Klingon ship (the enhanced graphics show debris scattering), and Kirk and Spock assess the situation.
  • The script here is the second in a row by producer Gene L. Coon, famed as a fast writer who could crank out a script in a few days, and it exhibits some common notes with the previous “The Devil in the Dark,” including talkiness. Here at the end of the teaser, characters say and repeat things we already know.
  • Kirk leaves Sulu in charge, with instructions to avoid confrontation with any other Klingon ships, and he and Spock beam down to the planet.
    • Again, putting the two senior officers in potential danger was… not smart, but it was built in to the TOS premise and was unavoidable in order to make best use of the show’s two lead stars.
  • They find a placid, agrarian village, at the base of a hill topped by an ominous-looking castle. An elderly man, Ayelborne, greets them (he speaks English of course) and takes them inside to meet the Council of Elders, which Ayelborne leads. A group of placidly smiling, elderly white men.
  • Kirk lays it out: he’s here to help them resist the Klingons, a military dictatorship, who would take control of their planet.
  • Ayelborne calmly assures Kirk that the planet is in no danger. Kirk doubles-down, with talk of slave labor camps, prisoners, killings. Ayelborne and the others pretend to confer.
  • As they do Spock comes in, from some private reconnoitering, and reports that “This is not a primitive society making progress toward mechanization. They are totally stagnant.” And, “This is a laboratory specimen of an arrested culture.”
    • This is a theme I didn’t notice when I watched these shows in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but it stands out glaring now. Again and again, the Enterprise encounters cultures, both alien and human, who fail to exhibit the kind of ‘progress’ and technological development that Kirk, or the Federation, or more correctly Trek’s 1960s producers and writers, feel is necessary for a proper society. We just saw it in “The Return of the Archons” and “This Side of Paradise”; coming up, 2nd season’s “The Apple” comes to mind. In contrast, some factions of humanity, here in the 21st century, are recognizing that ‘progress’ that entails indefinite economic growth that in turn consumes resources on a finite planet and threatens to wreck the global environment… is not sustainable for more than a few more decades, or perhaps centuries. Something will have to give. Even a breakout to other planets, even interstellar travel, would only help the travelers, not the still-expanding population back here on Earth.
  • Kirk takes Spock’s cue and spins his appeal to help the Organians feed their people, educate the young, remake their world. He pleads, “All we ask in return, is that you let us help you. Now…?”
  • He’s interrupted by Sulu reporting that a fleet (now the enhanced graphics show a fleet! Well, six.) of Klingon ships converging on the planet. With the Enterprise’s shields up, Sulu can’t beam up Kirk and Spock out of danger.
    • Again, danger to the Enterprise is a common plot ploy to keep the show’s stars involved on-planet, instead of using that too-convenient transporter to beam themselves away and end the story. We saw similar ploys in “The Return of the Archons” and “A Taste of Armageddon.”
  • Act I ends with a rhetorical flourish virtually identical to that in “The Devil in the Dark”: Kirk turning toward the camera and grimly assessing their predicament.
  • And then the Klingons arrive, troops of men in glittery uniforms, dark beards, and  swarthy skin. Their leader is Kor, compact but sneeringly intense, who marches into the council chambers – where Kirk and Spock have changed into local clothing – to issue orders (in English, of course), threatening to kill any Organians who disobey the slightest of them. Kirk is presented as a local, Baroner, while Spock is passed off as a Vulcan trader. Kirk, even in disguise, cannot hide his disdain for Kor, and Kor notices. In fact Kor recruits Kirk (Baroner) to be a liaison, takes him to his office, and hands out lists of rules – in English of course, quite readable in the blu-ray disc’s resolution. Kor alludes to a device they have, a “mind-scanner,” or “mind-ripper,” which can extract every thought and memory from a man’s mind. Spock, of course, manages to evade its effects.
    • Several times, including in this scene, Kor refers to ‘human’ as if this describes both the Federation’s representatives, and the Klingons.
  • Kirk and Spock are released, left alone, but Kirk cannot leave well enough alone. That night he and Spock rig an explosion of a Klingon munitions dump, providing a “most satisfactory display.”
  • But the next morning Ayelborne protests the violence of the act – and here the story starts to deepen, not as one about whether Kirk can defeat the nasty Klingons, but as one about the mysterious Organians, why they insist they are not in danger, why they are so concerned about any demonstration of violence, by either side.
  • In fact, when Kor quickly confronts them, Ayelborne, without any sense of betrayal, calmly informs Kor that ‘Baroner’ is actually Captain James T. Kirk – a name Kor recognizes!
  • Kirk becomes frustrated and bitter, at the Organians.
  • Kor invites him to have a philosophical discussion, over a drink (there’s a similar scene in “A Taste of Armageddon”), claiming that at base they are similar species. On this planet of “sheep,” they are “Two tigers… predators, hunters… killers. And it precisely that which makes us great. And there is a universe to be taken.” Kirk defies Kor’s request for intel about the Federation, and he and Spock are locked up.
  • And then Ayelborne shows up at their cell, having magically unlocked the door and avoided the guard, and lets them out – because they plan violence, which he cannot allow.
  • Kor, learning the next morning that his prisoners have inexplicably disappeared, broadcasts via loudspeaker the sound of 200 Organians being killed by Klingon phasers. And promises 200 more deaths every two hours, until the ‘Federation spies’ are turned over to him.
    • Here is also, of course, the recurring Trek conceit that one little village represents the entire planet. Here reached by loudspeaker.
  • Ayelborne insists that “nothing has changed,” but Kirk, growing increasingly frustrated, demands that he return his and Spock’s phasers. Ayelborne accedes, then commiserates with his fellow Claymare that “we cannot allow it. To stop them is…very bad.” They seem as reluctant to interfere, as to interfere to prevent violence.
  • Kirk and Spock take off for the citadel – that castle on the hill – and take down a couple Klingon guards to gain entrance into the castle.
  • Kirk wonders about the odds of their success, and Spock replies with a replay of a scene from Gene L. Coon’s “The Devil in the Dark” – “Difficult to be precise, Captain. I should say approximately seven thousand, eight hundred twenty-four point seven, to one.” Kirk, skeptical, repeats the number, and Spock confirms it.
  • Naturally, it only takes a couple more scenes before Kirk and Spock reach Kor’s office, and hold him at bay with their phasers.
  • Kor informs them that a Federation fleet is on its way to Organia, to meet the Klingon fleet. They ponder the potential outcomes. Kor distracts Kirk for a moment, then summons his guards, who rush in—
  • –But everyone suddenly finds their weapons too hot to handle. They drop their phasers on the floor. Even physical violence is suddenly impossible—striking another produces a similar sensation of extreme heat.
  • We see a brief scene on the bridge of the Enterprise, where Sulu is in charge, and where everyone suddenly leaps up in panic, their control panels too hot to touch.
  • Back in Kor’s office, the doors open and Ayelborne and Claymare calmly enter. “We are terribly sorry to be forced to interfere, gentlemen, but we cannot permit you to do harm to yourselves… We have put a stop to your violence.”
  • Kirk and Kor contact their respective ships to confirm the situation. On the bridge, power goes off.
  • Ayelborne explains, in a metaphysical bit that recalls the Thasian’s words at the end of “Charlie X”; Ayelborne says, “As I stand here, I also stand upon the home planet of the Klingon Empire, and the home planet of your Federation, Captain. I’m going to put a stop to this insane war.”
  • Alliances shift. Suddenly Kirk and Kor are on the same side – how dare the Organians interfere in their war??
  • Kirk: “You can’t just stop the fleet! What gives you the right??”
  • Kor: “What happens in space is not your business!”
  • Kirk: “You should be the first to be on our side. Two hundred hostages killed!”
  • And the mystery of the Organians gets weirder and weirder. Ayelborne and Claymore: “No one was killed, Captain. No one has died here, in uncounted thousands of years.”
  • Kirk and Kor persist: “Even if you have some… power, that we don’t understand, you have no right to dictate to the Federation – or our Empire – how to handle their interstellar relations. We have the right—“
  • Here is the climactic moment. Ayelborne: “To wage war, Captain? To kill millions of innocent people? To destroy life on a planetary scale? Is that what you’re defending?”
  • Kirk is stumped. He realizes he’s trying to defend exactly what he should most be trying to avoid. And in this, Kor is on his side. Kirk tries to step it back. “Well, no one wants war… Eventually we would have…”
  • Ayelborne: “Oh eventually you will have peace…. In the future you and the Klingons will become fast friends. You will work together.
  • Kor is repelled by the thought. Of course, this is an ironically predictive moment, since by the second Trek series, TNG, the Klingons had aligned with the Federation to the point of having a Klingon officer on the bridge.
  • The mystery of the Organians culminates. Claymare: “We do not wish to seem inhospitable, but gentlemen, you must leave.” And he does seem in some kind of physical discomfort. Ayelborne: “Yes, please leave us. The mere presence of beings like yourselves is intensely painful to us.”
  • And: “Millions of years ago, we were humanoid, like yourselves. But we have developed beyond the need of physical bodies.” Their appearance, and the entire village, was mere appearance, for their sake.
  • And then Ayelborne and Claymare begin to glow, their bodies overlaid by increasingly bright blobs of light. The others in the room shield their eyes. The glowing blobs gradually expand, then fade out, and disappear.
  • Spock quickly deduces what they’ve seen: “Fascinating. Pure energy, pure thought. … I should say the Organians are as far above us on the evolutionary scale as we are above… the amoeba.”
    • The notion of beings consisting of “pure energy” recurred more than once in Trek, but I remain skeptical that the idea has any kind of physical plausibility.
  • And so Kirk and Kor can’t fight. Kor bemuses, “A shame, Captain. It would have been glorious.”
  • The final scene, again with Coonian rhetoric, repeats the point. Kirk: “I’m embarrassed. I was furious with the Organians for stopping a war I didn’t want.” Spock tries to console about how they beat the odds. Very mild Coonian joke by Kirk: “We didn’t beat the odds. We didn’t have a chance. The Organians raided the game!”

Music notes:

  • The episode opens, typically, with Alexander Courage’s Enterprise fanfare #1, and then immediately follows it with the Enterprise fanfare #2, written by Fred Steiner for “Charlie X” and used almost as frequently as fanfare #1 throughout the first season.
  • The music that underscores the Organians’ transition into energy beings is the Alexander Courage music from “The Naked Time” as the Enterprise plunges back in time.
  • This and other posts will be further annotated with comments about how music written for earlier episodes was re-used in later ones.
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The Instinct Can Be Fought: TOS #24: “A Taste of Armageddon”

The Enterprise attempts to initiate diplomatic relations with a planet conducting a computer war with its neighbor, a war in which theoretical causalities voluntarily go to die in disintegration chambers.

  • This is one of Trek’s best ethical conundrums, a contact with an alien civilization whose warrior ethical practices are not only problematic, but which threaten the Enterprise and its crew.
  • The Enterprise is on its way to star cluster NGC 321, with a Federation ambassador on board, Robert Fox, whose mission is to establish diplomatic relations with the civilizations “known to be there”. Fox wears a tight suit and comes across as stuffy.
    • We have here another example of Trek’s rather haphazard approach to using astronomical names and designations. “NGC” is short for New General Catalogue (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_General_Catalogue), compiled in 1888 to list thousands of objects in the sky that included pretty much everything not obviously an ordinary star. Thus its contents include things we now know to be star clusters, galaxies, and planetary nebulae, all very different types of objects. Its designations are still used, as are Messier’s (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messier_object), from a century earlier, when those designations are convenient to use.
    • NGC 321 is, in fact, a spiral galaxy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NGC_321), which means it’s completely outside our own galaxy, likely tens of millions of light years away (considering that the nearest spiral galaxy to our Milky Way, the Andromeda galaxy, is 2.5 million light years away), and so completely implausible as a target for the Enterprise’s visit. Presumably the script writers chose it at random, as an astronomically plausible name.
  • It’s unclear what “known to be there” implies; Kirk, in his opening log, mentions that the principle planet of the cluster is Eminiar Seven, and moments later Uhura receives a signal from that planet: Code 710. Meaning under no circumstances is the Enterprise to approach the planet.
  • So, how does Eminiar Seven, whose culture the Federation has no contact with, know what Code 710 means? Perhaps they’ve been vaguely aware of one another, but without that formal contact? Yet, to the extent that Eminiar knows Federations codes..?
  • The ambassador insists the ship proceed, on the grounds that “thousands of lives have been lost” in the quadrant that might have been saved with a treaty port here.
    • The ambassador/commissioner type character recurred several times in Trek (earlier in “The Galileo Seven,” later in “Metamorphosis”), a convenient plot device to force the plot into an area Kirk’s own judgement might not go.
  • In Act I, Spock provides some background: the planet was contacted 50 years before, by an “Earth expedition,” the USS Valiant – a ship that failed to return. But it reported that Eminiar Seven was at war with its nearest neighbor, a planet later mentioned as Vendikar.
    • The recurrent reference to historical space missions as being from *Earth* begs the question of how the Federation came into existence – implying it was Earth’s idea, that Earth gathered in other civilizations, like Vulcan’s, to form the Federation. (All the Federation Commodores the Enterprise occasionally consults or takes orders from are human.) This might be an echo of the 1950s supposition, in SF in general but particularly in John W. Campbell’s Astounding magazine of that era, that humans were by nature smarter and cleverer than any other aliens they might meet. It’s insupportable; logically, it’s far more likely that if similar species evolved on other planets and developed interstellar flight, there would have been many others that made that leap *before* humans did, and had a Federation already set up. Or, maybe the presumption was just a lack of imagination on Trek’s part.
    • There’s another nomenclature issue. The name Eminiar Seven presumably means the 7th planet of the star Eminiar. What’s Vendikar then? Another planet in the same system? Or a planet in some other system? Either way, why not a parallel name?
  • Kirk and his party – leaving Ambassador Fox back on the ship, with Scotty in charge – beam down to the surface. There’s a lovely scene combining a small soundstage set with a large matte background painting of an impressive futuristic city (see above), where the landing party appears, and is met by the locals.
  • Naturally, the aliens speak English. With cultured British accents, even.
  • Cushman’s book notes that the sets look dated, like something from a Buck Rogers serial – and I agree, though not from seeing Buck Rogers, but from seeing some cheesy Sci-Fi movies from the ‘50s that had similar sets, especially those weirdly angled, impractical, doorways.
  • The landing party is met by a lovely woman (Barbara Babcock) who calls herself Mea 3. She takes them to the Division of Control, where the leader, Anan 7 (played by the exotic and intense David Opatoshu), announces that his planet has been at war with Vendikar for *500 years* (!) and that they, and the Enterprise, are in imminent danger.
  • The situation quickly unfolds. The discussion with Anan 7 is interrupted by an attack on the city, by fusion bomb; Anan 7 steps into an adjoining war room. A map displays a hit, in the city. (A crude blob of light on a crude map.) Kirk and party hear nothing, detect no radiation. Spock observes and deduces the situation: the war is simulated, fought by computers. Anan insists the war is real: half a million people have just been killed – and will report to disintegration machines within 24 hours.
  • This way people die, but their civilization goes on.
  • Kirk is aghast. “Do you mean to tell me… your people just walk into a disintegration machine when they’re told to??”
  • But Spock sees a certain logic to it; yet he says “I do not approve. I understand.”
  • But Anan has been advised by his assistant Sar – “Just as it happened 50 years ago” – that the Enterprise, in orbit, has been registered has the target of a cobalt-bomb, and classified as destroyed. Its passengers and crew, Anan tells Kirk, are to report to disintegration chambers. They are already dead.
  • The situation and premise established early on, by the end of Act I, the middle of the episode consists of routine action scenes and ploys. An attack from the surface cuts off the Enterprise from rescuing the landing party (and simply leaving); Kirk and the landing party break out of their confinement quarters, and destroy a disintegration machine or two.
    • One of these scenes includes Spock’s priceless line, as he walks up to a guard by a disintegration machine, “Sir, there is a multi-legged creature crawling on your shoulder.” – a brief distraction than enables Spock to nerve-pinch the guard.
    • The Enterprise is subject to “sonic vibrations” and navigator DePaul describes them as “Decibels eighteen to the twelfth power.” Another little bit of Trek’s mathematical illiteracy. But this development is another way Trek episodes forced the plot: Kirk, standing in for the Federation, is nominally for the non-interference of other civilizations, yet again and again, the plot forces Kirk into interfering anyway, just to save his ship.
  • A recurring here theme is the credulousness of Ambassador Fox. Anan 7, who somehow can mimic Kirk’s voice, contacts the Enterprise and assures them all is well. Moreover, that the crew is all invited down for shore leave! Fox, believing this voice, tells Scott to lower the shields. Scott refuses. Fox gets angry. Scott still refuses.
  • Meanwhile, on the planet, the situation culminates with a confrontation between Kirk and Anan, about the ethics of fighting a war with no long-term consequences – only the immediate formalistic consequences of citizens committing to voluntary suicide, for the good of the state. This is one of Trek’s best ethical debates. The stakes are raised as Kirk gets a brief communication to the Enterprise to order General Order 24 – meaning that, unless the Enterprise hears back from Kirk, the ship will destroy the surface of the planet in 2 hours.
  • Kirk expounds. “Death… destruction… disease, horror… That’s what war is all about. That’s what makes it a thing to be avoided. You’ve made it neat and painless… so neat and painless, you’ve had no reason to stop it. And you’ve had it for five hundred years! Since it seems to be the only way I can save my crew, and my ship, I’m going to end it for you.”
  • And so Kirk and Spock destroy, with their phasers, the war room computers.
  • This explicitly breaks the contact and agreement between Eminiar and Vendikar, and Kirk advises Anan 7 that a *real* war might likely ensue, with real weapons that would actually destroy their planet – unless they try to make peace.
  • And here’s a key thought. Anan insists “There can be no peace! Don’t you see, we’ve admitted it to ourselves! We’re a killer species; it’s instinctive—it’s the same with you, your General Order 24!”
  • And Kirk gets the best lines: “All right, it’s instinctive. But the instinct can be fought. We’re human beings, with the blood of a million savage years on our hands. But we can stop it! We can admit that we’re killers – but we’re not going to kill, today. That’s all it takes. Knowing that we’re not going to kill – today!
  • And Kirk urges them to contact Vendikar and enter negotiations for peace. Ambassador Fox is there to volunteer his help.
  • The tag scene, on the bridge, underscores Kirk’s ploy. “It was a calculated risk… I had a feeling that they [the Eminians] would do anything to avoid [actual war] – even talk peace.”
  • Ending with a relatively mild Gene L. Coon quip about believing in luck, or miracles.

Memory Alpha summary: http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/A_Taste_of_Armageddon_(episode)

The crucial theme here is relevant to our times. We understand, much more deeply than anyone understood in 1967, that human nature has certain instincts, that might be lived with, and understood, yet which should be overcome, for the health of a multicultural, global society, which is inevitable, as the human race expands to fill up the planet. This theme applies to the Google controversy of this past week, and even the violence in Charlottesville last week. Do we presume that all our base instincts are true and must be acted upon? Or do we try to understand them and rise above them?

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Conservative Story-Telling

One of my themes here is about the nature of story-telling, how the human bias to understand things in terms of narrative is more widespread than we recognize, and how that tendency can blind us to an understanding of the real world that does not, outside human experience, operate in terms of beginnings and ends, causes and consequences.

Here’s an essay from Salon, by writer and producer Judd Apatow: Judd Apatow nails why conservatives make bad entertainment.

The essayist Gabriel Bell quotes Apatow and concludes,

And there it is: The conservative viewpoint indeed has difficulties admitting fault, admitting weakness, admitting doubt or any kind of internal battle. So much of what makes good television or movies hangs on character development, and — in many ways — the conservative viewpoint only allows characters to develop in one, mostly unquestioned way: toward faith and complete confidence. This may be why we get “Last Man Standing” instead of “Catastrophe”; why we get “Atlas Shrugged” instead of “Ulysses.”

So– there’s more drama in being non-conservative, in not thinking all the questions are already solved by ancient wisdom, and so on. People can change — the core element of story. Conservatives, by definition, don’t change. Can’t learn.

Interesting idea. Does this explain why those religious movies like “God Is Not Dead” get such terrible reviews?

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Forcing Us to Build Ships for Them: TOS #29: “Operation—Annihilate!”

The Enterprise comes to the aid of a colony planet – where Kirk’s brother lives with his family – that has been invaded by alien neural parasites that cause mass insanity.

  • The last episode of the 1st season, both in production order and airing order.
  • This is a somewhat grim episode; it has a solid SFnal premise, and it benefits from location filming in an urban setting, but its resolution involves a huge, unforgivable scientific blunder.
  • We begin as the Enterprise approaches the planet Deneva — note the planet itself has a name, instead of being referred to via its star, as designations like Beta V or Omicron City III — which has gone radio silent. Spock provides background: a pattern of planets suffering mass insanity over the past few hundred years, with Deneva being apparently next in line.
    • Spock illustrates this by pointing to a ‘star map’ of sorts on the screen above his station. It’s very crude; a photo of several clusters of stars, each slightly differently colored, which Spock points to, one by one, as being different planets.
  • The episode has a personal angle in that, as McCoy recalls and Kirk confirms, Kirk’s brother Sam and his family are stationed on this planet (which is a human colony). This kind of personal angle was used perhaps a bit too frequently in Trek; it’s a useful device for writers to heighten the stakes of whatever drama or threat that ensues, but used too often it becomes improbably coincidental.
  • The opening teaser ends with a dramatic scene involving a Denevan ship flying directly into the sun – with its pilot crying out, “I’m finally free of it!” just before his ship incinerates. (In the enhanced graphics of the remastered episode, we see a tiny image of the ship, which I don’t think was there in the original.)
  • Trek physics: As the Enterprise, trying to rescue the Denevan ship, approaches its sun, Spock advises that the “gravimetric pull is increasing” and then when they pull away, that gravimetric pull is “approaching tolerance level.” Trek writers and producers never took physics 101.
    • (To spell it out: there’s no such thing as “gravimetric pull” from being close to the sun that would tug at the ship, as Spock seems to imply; there is only the effect of the sun’s gravity on the Enterprise’s path through space near it. No one aboard would feel increased ‘pull,’ nor would the ship experience any kind of ‘gravimetric’ strain.)
  • Kirk’s log at the beginning of Act 1 mentions that the planet Deneva is “one of the most beautiful in the galaxy,” a claim which ties to the production filming on location, at the TRW site in Redondo Beach, a campus facility with modern buildings surrounding grassy plots and ponds. More about that in a moment.
  • Kirk has Uhura try a private transmitter channel, and gets snippy when contact is broken. That personal angle.
  • Kirk and his landing party beam down, into the center of that TRW office park. (See image above.) What I didn’t realize until seeing the episode in high-definition Blu-ray (and seeing it for the first time in 30 years or so), is that those futuristic sculptures, the red spiral and the white teardrop shapes, are actually small structures *on top of a roof* in the immediate foreground. They are not on the ground, and scaled to the size of the buildings we see in the background, as I’d always thought. It seems obvious now, but on ’60s TV my impression was this was a beautiful city with huge sculptures the rivaled the surrounding buildings.
  • There’s a moment when Kirk points to a building and says that’s where his brother’s lab is. There’s a short establishing shot of the building – and it’s not at the TRW office park, it’s the Knudsen Hall of Physics at UCLA, which I recognized when watching this episode ever since I attended UCLA in the ‘70s (and took many physics classes in that building). Here’s an image: http://www.publicartinla.com/UCLAArt/knudsen1.jpeg. You can recognize the building by the panels of tiles along the top between the columns.
  • They walk around the seemingly empty area, until attacked by four men with clubs, and dispatch them. They hear a woman scream, and follow the sound, into a building, where they find (coincidence!) Aurelan, Kirk’s brother’s wife, screaming about the invaders, as Kirk’s brother lies dead on the floor, and his nephew Peter lies still barely alive. It’s a heart-rending scene, as Shatner expresses Kirk’s grief, yet determination to duty, effectively. Shatner really was, in those days, a terrific actor.
  • Aurelan is subdued and is beamed up, along with Peter, to the ship, where in sickbay she provides background: the creatures appeared 8 months ago, carried by a vessel from another planet, Ingraham B (the same Spock identified earlier as last before Deneva), by taking over the vessel; not their fault. The creatures control them, she explains, through pain; and then she herself gives up to pain, and dies.
    • There’s a striking angle here: the creatures were an *invasive species* brought by a ship from one environment [planet] to another. The same thing has been happening on Earth, over the past few centuries – the past century especially, with air travel – and the effects have been almost equally disastrous, on smaller scales. See Elizabeth Kolbert. (my review: http://www.markrkelly.com/Blog/2015/06/30/elizabeth-kolbert-the-sixth-extinction/”)
  • Kirk returns to the landing party, as it tries to locate the invaders. We see an interior room, with a short flight of steps down into an anteroom, following a buzzing sound. We see the creatures: flat, pancake-sized white globs, pulsing. One of them flies into the air and hits Spock flat on the back, and he collapses in anguish.
  • Act II: Back in sickbay, McCoy and Chapel operate on Spock, lying back-up, until McCoy gives up, to Nurse Chapel’s distress. He takes a specimen to the bridge to explain to Kirk: the creature implanted a stinger, like a wasp or bee, that grew tentacles entwined throughout the body, impossible to remove by conventional surgery.
  • Spock loses control, breaks out of sickbay, makes his way to the bridge, and tries to “take the ship down” by overpowering Sulu, until Kirk and the others overpower him, and return him to sickbay.
  • Where Spock, being a Vulcan with (as always) superior physical and mental abilities than humans, learns to control his pain, and insists he’s able to return to duty. Kirk hesitates. Spock prevails; he makes his way to the transporter room, insisting on beaming down, and convinces Kirk and McCoy that a specimen must be captured and he’s the only man for the job.
  • Spock returns to the surface. There’s a lame act break as a local threatens Spock with a club, until after the commercial, when Spock subdues and pinches him. He gets a specimen.
  • Back on the ship, we’re in a new set, a new medical lab (perhaps the decompression chamber from “Space Seed” is off the left side?), with a containment device into which Spock has placed the specimen. He explains that it’s like a single brain cell, one that connects with all the others. Kirk says, “like something from a different galaxy”; Spock replies, “or from a place where our physical laws do not apply.” Ecch. Both comments are unjustified or nonsensical.
    • To spell it out: First, there’s no reason something unlike anything ever seen before need be from another galaxy; it might as well be from the next planet. [Somehow ‘galaxy’ just seems more intense, I guess.] The second comment is a cop-out, since there’s no reason to expect that any such place exists, and every reason to think such a place is logically impossible. Unless we’re talking alternate branches of the multiverse, perhaps, a concept ahead of Trek’s time.
  • In any event, several scenes go by as McCoy tries to find ways to kill it, unsuccessfully. He gets exasperated. “I’m sorry, Captain. I’ve tried everything I can. Varying radiation, intense heat…” Effects which would kill the human hosts, anyway.
  • Kirk realizes if they can’t find a way to kill this infection, he’ll have to wipe out the million people on the planet, lest it spread to yet another planet.
  • And so they brainstorm—what else was there about the sun, that the Denevan who flew into it seemed to become freed? Maybe…light?! So McCoy rigs up a chamber to floor “a million candles per square inch” of light on…Spock, who’s the only logical test candidate. Spock enters the chamber.
  • McCoy hesitates—they realize what this will do to Spock, right? He tells Kirk, “Mr. Spock’s the best first officer in the fleet.” Kirk tells him to proceed.
  • The test is successful. Spock emerges from the chamber, free of the creature. But he is also… Blind. Stumbling into a table.
  • Now, this is inexcusable since, boys and girls, light *is* radiation. If McCoy tested all types of radiation, he should have tested all types of light. Worse, as the screenplay acknowledges moments later, as Nurse Chapel walks in with “results of the first test on the creatures,” visible light is only a very narrow band of the electromagnetic spectrum. The story here ratchets up the tragedy of Spock going blind by having McCoy realize that he didn’t have to throw the “total spectrum of light” at Spock. As we learn a bit later, only UV light is needed to kill the creatures.
  • Kirk stares daggers of hatred at McCoy for this blunder. It is McCoy’s fault, but it’s really the scripters’ fault, for making such a boneheaded mistake. McCoy had already tried “radiation,” but apparently the scriptwriters didn’t realize that radiation would have included, oh, say, UV light. This is the kind of mistake a bright high-schooler would have caught, had he read the script before filming. (I made a similar comment about the boneheaded scientific mistake in Danny Boyle’s 2007 film Sunshine.)
  • And so the Enterprise, very quickly!, deploys 210 UV satellites in orbit about the planet, to project the light that will disinfect the million inhabitants there.
    • Sulu explains they’re put in orbit at 72 miles altitude, “permanent orbit”. This isn’t plausible—it’s too low. Typical “low Earth orbits” begin about 100 miles up (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_orbits). This is ironic since Trek is always worried about the Enterprise’s orbit decaying if the ship isn’t kept under power. A 72 mile altitude orbit would indeed decay pretty quickly; a typical Enterprise orbit, suitably high, would not decay and would not need ship’s power to maintain itself indefinitely.
    • The remastered episode’s enhanced graphics visualize the scene of the Enterprise deploying these satellites – a scene only implied in the original episode. But the new scene is a prime example of intuitive, wrong, Trek physics. A panel opens at the very bottom of the ship’s lower hull – like a bomb bay door on a plane – and these little satellites drop out, as if dropped downward in gravity, and then sorta bob into place behind the ship, like objects being dropped into the ocean from an aircraft carrier and following in its wake. Wrong in so many ways.
  • The satellites work, of course, and soon all is well on the planet below.
  • Even Spock is well. The tragedy of him going blind wasn’t just the result of a stupid scientific blunder, it’s also a dramatic cheat. We knew, in a 1960s TV series like this, that the major characters will survive each episode, in order to return fresh for the next. Knowing this, even a viewer at the time might cynically wonder, without worrying in the slightest that Spock will be OK, what explanation the writers will concoct for taking back the consequences of that earlier tragic scene.
  • Why, it’s the little-known fact that Vulcans have an inner eyelid, because of their planet’s bright sun, of course! So Spock’s blindness was temporary.
  • The writers even seem to acknowledge this handy Vulcans-are-special gambit, as McCoy mutters to Kirk, “I might have known he’d turn up with something like that.”
  • And, to conclude… there’s a mild Gene L. Coon joke about what McCoy said about Spock earlier, and Spock’s hearing.
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