TOS Season 2 Write Ups

Who Mourns for Adonais?

The Enterprise is captured by an alien claiming to be Apollo, the Greek god of the sun.

If you take all the worst cliches from the first season of Star Trek and combine them into one script you end up with this episode.

A god-like being? Check. A script that has a neat concept and does nothing to examine it? Check. A female officer who goes weak in the knees for the male antagonist? Check.

In earlier episodes I was a bit more forgiving with these cliches because they hadn’t become so entrenched. We’re in season two now, however, and they’re starting to feel a little absurd by this point. This episode combines all the the most frustrating aspects of TOS into a torturous 50 minutes, creating one of those episodes that starts out OK but quickly moves towards irrelevance.

The idea of gods on Earth being aliens is a good one (it must be, since it’s been used so frequently), but Apollo does nothing to explain the reason that his species would need the approval and worship of less powerful creatures. He isn’t enslaving anyone, he just seems lonely. Why not simply return to Earth?

The female officer in this episode is like a worse version of the woman from Space Seed. She has even less of a reason to fall for her object of desire, and her teaser introduction makes her switch all the more pathetic. She’s stayed up all night working on her reports (and by extension, her career), but one look from a guy in a yellow toga outfit, and five seconds in a new dress, and all of a sudden she’s willing to betray her companions. It’s not so much sexist as it’s just stupid.

This is an episode that has a memorable antagonist and a memorable setting, but it simply doesn’t amount to anything.

2/5

The Changeling

The Enterprise finds an ancient interstellar probe from Earth, missing for 265 years, which has somehow mutated into a powerful and intelligent machine bent on sterilizing entire populations that do not meet its standards of perfection.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but as an episode!

As a test run for an idea that would be done more effectively in The Motion Picture, The Changeling isn’t that bad. The Enterprise encounters Nomad, an early human exploratory space probe that met a destructive alien probe in the far reaches of space, merged with it, and now has a new mission of seeking out imperfect biological organisms and eradicating them.

If anything, the problem here is one of scale. As we saw in The Alternative Factor, it’s hard for TOS to get big ideas across to the audience. Nomad has killed billions of people, but it’s brought up early and cast aside almost instantly. The probe itself is fairly unimposing flying robot, so it’s not as if it inspires fear in and of itself. We’re told that Nomad is returning to Earth, and humanity’s existence is at stake, but that fact never really grabs hold of the viewer. The scope of The Motion Picture (for all the flaws of that film) allow for V’Ger to mind blowingly huge and for the danger it represents to be fleshed out.

This is also the episode where Scotty dies! And Uhura gets mind wiped (but returns to normal by the end of the episode, showing that education in the 23rd century has improved by leaps and bounds).

3/5

The Apple

The Enterprise crew discovers an Eden-like paradise on Gamma Trianguli VI, controlled by a machine that is revered by the local humanoid primitives as a god.

A goofy, light hearted episode. It’s another of the “planet controlled by a computer” episodes, but it doesn’t end with Kirk talking the computer to death. Instead, the Enterprise simply shoots it with phasers until it blows up.

You might remember this one as the one with the tribe of purple people with the hair of Donald Trump. You might also remember it as the one with the exploding rocks (which always makes me laugh) and the poison dart flowers. Part of the flaw of the episode involve these dangers: in an otherwise perfect planet, why are there all these dangerous accoutrements? The tribe and the Enterprise crew make a point of mentioning how idyllic the planet is, but the natives are slaves to their god and the environment does its best to kill everyone. Doesn’t seem all that great.

I don’t find this episode to add much, and it’s fairly derivative of episodes we’ve seen before (this is becoming a common criticism of mine at this point). If we podcasted about The Apple, I’d hope that the majority of the focus would be on the TOS idea that Kirk considers himself the savior of species that he deems enslaved. Spock acts as his foil in this episode, arguing that because the tribesmen are happy the Enterprise shouldn’t interfere in their way of life. In a rare turn, I think I disagree with Spock here: Kirk might be over the top, but the tribesmen are certainly not living a free life. They might be happy, but it’s a happiness born of ignorance. Kirk is at least arguing for them to be given the option of something else.

The philosophical argument manages to save an otherwise silly episode.

2/5

Catspaw

The Enterprise crew finds witches, black cats, and haunted castles on a distant planet.

A Halloween special disguised as an episode of Star Trek, Catspaw is an abject failure of an hour of television.

There’s simply nothing to hang on to in this one. It’s a weaker version of The Squire of Gothos, with no explanation given to the alien antagonists’ objectives. It has a silly subplot about the aliens reading only the “subconscious” of the characters, which is why the illusions of witches and castles appear. Because, of course, these kinds of images are constantly swirling in peoples imaginations, right?

Essentially, this is simply boring. As far as I can tell, there is no through line beyond “Kirk, Spock and McCoy experience a bunch of weird shit”. There’s a some casual sexual references about the female alien wanting to “experience” new sensations, and then they have a device that can create matter and travel throughout the universe but it also shatters if you bang it on a desk.

Dumb.

1/5

I, Mudd

Harry Mudd, now ruler of a planet of androids, captures the Enterprise and attempts to imprison Kirk for revenge.

What a turn around for Harcourt Fenton Mudd! From the depths of “Mudd’s Women” to the heights(?) of “I, Mudd”.

Mudd’s first appearance in season one was one of that season’s worst outings. The plot was nonsense, and Mudd’s character was too odd and flamboyant to completely sell the narrative that he was a skillful con man. His second appearance fixes most of the issues I had with the first.

“I, Mudd” is the first straight comedy episode to come from TOS, and it’s largely effective. The buffoonish Mudd works much better as a scavenger who stumbles across a race of androids and doesn’t think twice about the ramifications. The entire cast gets a chance to shine (they’ve done away with the idea of isolating a few characters and leaving the rest on the ship), and Spock’s interactions with the androids are particularly wonderful.

I also give the episode points for ending with around 10 minutes of something I haven’t seen on any Star Trek to this point: improv comedy. In a neat twist, and the only time that arguing with computers has made sense. The crew use supremely illogical statements and actions to overload the androids fiercely logical minds. It’s many times superior to Kirk yelling random statements at a supercomputer, and provides really terrific comedy.

4/5

Metamorphosis

On an isolated asteroid, Kirk finds Zefram Cochrane, inventor of the warp drive, who has been missing for 150 years.

I know that the writers thought that Cochrane would never been seen again, but it’s still very weird that this episode features the idea of someone like him at all. The fact that the inventor of warp drive is involved in this story changes absolutely nothing about it, and it seems to only exist because Kirk needs a reason to identify Cochrane (but he doesn’t even need that). The character would go on be present in other movies and series, so the of his scope of character feels important, even if the end result is quite unimportant.

That said, this is a neat little episode. I understand the charges of sexism that are levied against it, but they don’t feel as aggressively obnoxious as they do in other episodes (like Space Seed). Sure, it’s lame that this highly regarded commissioner is needed for peace talks until the minute they realize she’s a women and then she’s expendable. The immediate assumption that the Companion is female who is in love with Cochrane is also a bit of a stretch. None of this feels totally off base for TOS, but I get the complaints about it.

Even so, I think this is a terrific little episode that manages to be about something (love) while also looking fantastic. The colors in this one really pop: the purple planet and the lime green of the Commissioner really look terrific. The whole vibe of the planet wonderfully serene and matches the tone of the narrative in a meditative and interesting way. It’s rare for the show to mesh these two aspects so neatly, and Metamorphosis does a great job at it.

It’s also a simple tale about the power of love. It might be a bit clunky at the start, but by the time Cochrane agrees to stay with the Companion it all feels like it has come together. Cochrane is at peace, the Companion has learned what it means to be human, and the Commissioner can live a full life, having been healed by the Companion.

It’s a nicely subtle (for TOS) episode that doesn’t try too hard to sell its own story.

4/5

Friday’s Child

The Enterprise becomes involved in a local power struggle on planet Capella IV, where the Klingons want mining rights.

The return of the Klingons (after Errand of Mercy) features a wide ranging (some would say free falling) story that has Kirk, Spock and McCoy stranded on an alien planet while the Enterprise goes on a wild goose chase.

On the positive side, I always enjoy when the show shoots on location. Filmed in the same area as Arena, Friday’s Child is gorgeous to look at, and you can tell that the director enjoyed getting a chance to think about the composition of his shots. The alien tribe is a bit on the goofy side, with their cliche stilted-warrior speech and vaguely Arab garb, but you get a pretty good sense of their culture. It might not be very interesting, but it’s enough to carry the hour. I even enjoy the weapons that the aliens use, despite the selective accuracy they show throughout the episode.

I don’t dislike this episode, but I think it’s much more enjoyable while you’re watching it than when you think about it afterwards. It might be the best “objectively” bad episode the series has done so far. The plot feels like a series of cool vignettes that simply pile on each other. The central hook of the story never really sinks in: is this about Klingon relations, interacting with an alien culture, an adventure story about survival, or something else? You never get a chance to sink into the narrative, but the individual scenes are strong enough that you don’t really care while you’re in the moment.

And while I enjoyed almost everything on the planet (outside of McCoy’s crazed “coochie coochie coo’s”), the Enterprise scenes fell flat. In what feels like the millionth time this has happened, Scotty is again in command. The Enterprise receives a distress call and chases after it, only to slowly realize it was a Klingon trick. I think the problem here is due to plotting: why not have the Enterprise receive the distress call before we learn that Klingons are on the planet? Since the show has already shown the Klingons, the distress beacon is far too obviously a trick and the crew seems extremely dumb in falling for it. Ultimately, it amounts to nothing as Scotty returns the ship to the planet at the end of the episode, saying that he dealt with the Klingons in an off screen scene. Oh.

It’s very fun to watch, but doesn’t really amount to anything in hindsight.

3/5

The Deadly Years

The Enterprise discovers a colony full of rapidly-aging scientists. Whatever caused the rapid aging afflicts the ship´s landing party as well. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Scott are shocked to discover they are aging decades each day and will soon die unless a cure can be found. The unaffected Chekov may be their only hope for survival.

It might be easier just to list all the things wrong with this episode.

  • The old age make-up is terrible.
  • Why does the aging disease seem to stop people from realizing that they’re aging?
  • The commodore is 100% right: Kirk has no business commanding the ship in this state. Why is everyone treating the commodore like he’s an evil villain? He seems like a decent guy.
  • The court room scene is a completely devoid of drama. It consists of people describing things that happened only a few minutes earlier.
  • Again, Kirk is in NO condition to command a starship at this point. You can feel bad for him, but it’s the equivalent of giving an 85 year old with vision problems the keys to your new car.
  • This episode confirms that McCoy is deliberately hiding a “good ol’ boy” southern accent (see: This Side of Paradise)
  • OK, I guess the commodore is not only bad at command, but he decides to cross the Neutral Zone (for no reason) to get to Starbase 10 (for reasons we’re never told), runs into Romulans and promptly becomes brain dead?
  • The one clever moment in this episode is when Kirk uses a mistake he made earlier (the wrong communication channel) to defeat the Romulans.
  • It was a terrible place for a mirror.

1/5

Obsession

A survey of Argus X brings the Enterprise crew in confrontation with a vampiric cloud that killed a crew Kirk was on years ago, captained by the father of an ensign currently assigned to the ship.

An interesting take on regret and obsession, this episode is one that promises more than it can deliver, although I appreciate the attempt that it made.

It’s a very unique turn for Kirk. The normally stoic and in control captain goes a little nutty in this one (sort of amazing that he’s not the subject of a mutiny), as he recognizes an alien cloud creature from a previous mission that killed his crewmates aboard the USS Farragut. Screaming about the smell of honey, and filled with regret at not having destroyed the creature when it was aboard the Farragut, Kirk has one of the few episodes where his rationale is compromised. This is always effective, since it happens so rarely in the entire TOS run.

One other interesting aspect is the focus on the young security guard. Too often, TOS feels like it’s a show about Kirk, Spock and McCoy, with the background littered with unimportant cardboard cut outs of other characters. Obsession uses a young security guard as a means to remind Kirk of his earlier failures, and his relationship with Kirk is an intriguing look into how Kirk commands his ship and how he relates to the crew. Surprisingly, the red shirt doesn’t die at the end!

3/5

Wolf in the Fold

Scott is suspected of killing several women while on shore leave on Argelius II. However, a more sinister force may provide a connection between this murder and many previous around the galaxy, including a rampage on ancient Earth.

This episode held such promise at the start. Belly dancers, a murder mystery, references to serial killers of the past… and then it all fell apart.

First off, the episode starts opens with Scotty being diagnosed with a concussion. Apparently, a female crewmember hit Scotty on the head and he was concussed. Interestingly, McCoy tells us that this has led to Scotty developing an intense hatred of women.

Ok.

One thing about this one is that it features a court room scene. While it’s not strictly a court room, the interrogation scene is close enough to scenes like the one in Court Martial and The Deadly Years that you can make the same point: TOS is horrible at these scenes. They’re simply a boring rehash of everything the audience already knows, they feature nothing of visual interest, and the audience is generally a few steps ahead of Kirk and company (another problem the writing sometimes features).

In terms of concept, I really loved the idea of an alien serial killer that has taken many guises and names over the centuries. It’s always fun when the episode ties into true history, and it gives a little sci-fi spin to something that really happened. That always feels like a nice way to ground the show into normal reality.

The show doesn’t do anything with the idea, however. The episode devolves into a boring court room scene, the obvious reveal that the planet administrator is the creature, and then a standard 10 minute scene where Kirk has to figure out how to destroy it.

Other items drag this one down: The opening scene with the belly dancer might as well have Kirk offer Scotty a hand job, he seems desperate to get Scotty off. Spock has a wonderful line about women being easier to terrify, which makes them ideal candidates for a monster that feeds on fear. Lastly, the “psychic analyzer” is a device that, had it been introduced previously, solved a lot of problems in earlier episodes with a lot less fuss.

That said, when the alien possesses the ship it’s downright freaky. The computer screaming for death is a very unusual situation in Star Trek.

2/5

The Gamesters of Triskelion

Kirk, Uhura, and Chekov are kidnapped by aliens and forced to fight other aliens so that a mentally superior race can gamble on the winner.

One thing I’ve learned from watching these TOS episodes is that the modern day, popular conception of the show is different from what the show actually was. Kirk is viewed and remembered as a rule breaking cowboy who boned his way out of problems, but the reality is that he’s a pretty straight ahead, rational, and reasonable individual who sexes up the women-folk much less than you’d expect.

But then The Gamesters of Triskelion comes along and just gives the argument for the modern day interpretation some ammunition.

This is not a bad episode, but it is loaded with the cliches that would be most remembered about the show: Kirk the shirt ripping hero who punches out the problem, the green haired sexy aliens that Kirk seduces, the Spock and McCoy back and forth, etc.

The Kirk plot on the planet is fine, but nothing particularly special. Shatner notably hams it up in this episode, probably because he realizes that the script it plodding and he might as well try to kick things up a notch. We get another planet of neon colored lighting and a hodge podge of aliens. A three on one fight wraps things up, with Kirk avoiding having to out think his captors as he simply lays waste to everyone in a street fight.

The Bones and Spock stuff on the ship is pointless and feels like it’s something out of the early episodes of the first season. McCoy and Spock needlessly argue about the course of action. It’s needless because a) Spock is in command and b) his plan is the only rational option that anyone is presenting. McCoy can whine about wanting to stay and keep searching for Kirk on the planet, but all the evidence points to Spock’s theory about Kirk being transported elsewhere being correct (and it is).

Things wrap up with a sci-fi twist of Kirks captors being disembodied brains that apparently have gambling problems. It turns out that our heroes have once again been playthings for a “more developed” species. Kirk plays on his captors addiction to gambling by making a bet to win a fight for his freedom. And then he wins that fight.

Not a terrible episode by any means, but certainly not exciting.

3/5

The Immunity Syndrome

After Spock senses the destruction of the Vulcan-manned starship Intrepid, the Enterprise encounters an enormous single-celled organism that feeds on energy which threatens the galaxy as it prepares to reproduce.

A lot of great content and ideas in this one. Spock vs McCoy. The giant space amoeba. The crew working under extreme fatigue. The “Zone of Darkness”. Spock feeling a great disturbance in The Force. Sacrifice in the line of duty.

It’s interesting, however, that none of these come together to service the show. This is a prime example of an overstuffed episode that is still incredibly padded. The pacing feels glacial, which isn’t helped by the bottle-show production. The episode consists of premade sets, and the majority of the run time is spent on the bridge where seemingly no one can provide Kirk any answers about what’s going on. It’s supposed to play off the feeling of complete mystery, but the slow plot development only serves to annoy both Kirk and the audience.

It’s too bad, because a lot of the ideas mentioned up top deserve a showcase. Spock and McCoy scenes continue to be some of the best moments of the series, even when the writing for McCoy is sometimes best described as pig headed. The single celled organism threatening the universe is a neat concept and gets a nice reversal when the ship becomes the infecting agent.

Unfortunately, the episode is largely drama free (and falls into the Trek problem of not having captivating stakes i.e. the countdown to destruction) and doesn’t grab hold at any point.

2/5

Return to Tomorrow

Three survivors from a race that died half a million years ago “borrow” the bodies of Enterprise crew members so they can build android bodies for themselves.

Another in the line of “body snatcher” plot lines from Star Trek, Return to Tomorrow (which I will forever confuse with Tomorrow is Yesterday) features Kirk, Spock and a proto Dr. Pulaski being used as vehicles for a species that lost their physical bodies a very long time ago.

Return to Tomorrow strikes me as a good idea that comes across a bit too melodramatic and unfocused. I really liked the chance it provided the cast, and Nimoy in particular, to branch out. This might just mean that Shatner hams it up a little more than usual – his overacting reputation is really starting to come into focus at this point in the second season. It’s also interesting in that not all three of the aliens are bad guys. Only the Spock alien is evil, while the other two who possess Kirk and the Muldaur character are more of a cliched version of ancient royalty.

I didn’t find this to be a bad episode, but it sort of came and went without really sinking its teeth into me. The main conflict feels secondary to simply watching the characters interact with each other, with leads to a meandering plot that finds it difficult to hold your attention.

3/5

Patterns of Force

The Enterprise, searching for a missing Federation historian, discovers that the historian has apparently contaminated the cultural development of the planet where he was assigned as a cultural observer to have it follow the societal path of Nazi Germany in the 1930s and ’40s.

A truly odd episode. Watching this in 2017, where the idea of Nazism has reached peak evil, it’s extremely weird to watch a show filmed only 20 years after World War II have such a cavalier approach to the Third Reich. In a show peppered with jokes, Kirk and Spock dress up like Nazis and the viewing audience is reminded over and over again about the horrors of WWII (an unseen woman in the episode is told to have been shot and her body spit on as she lay dying). It’s such a dark place for the optimism of Star Trek. The show tries to balance the horrific aspects of the subject matter with jokes about Spock, but it ultimately comes across as unfocused and seemingly disrespectful. As I watched this, I couldn’t help but think that the actors and producers must have all known people who fought in the war: did they imagine this episode to be an appropriate take on it?

I will say that the uniforms are pretty sharp.

Outside of those points, the plot itself is either genius or totally bonkers. The idea that a historian would willingly insert the template for Nazi Germany on to a lawless society and think that something good might come out of it is crazy. It’s the kind of idea that seems nuts when you hear it, then you think about it for too long and it starts to sound like it makes sense. And then you realize you’re just over thinking it. Kirk tries to rationalize the story by saying that Nazi Germany wasn’t just bad men, it was a power structure that inspired cruelty. Maybe, I dunno.

In any case, season two of Star Trek has had a helluva time using Earth’s history to set up episodes. Mobsters, Romans, Nazis. It’s all there!

2/5

By Any Other Name

Extragalactic aliens hijack the Enterprise and turn the crew into inert solids, leaving the four senior officers on their own to exploit their captors’ weaknesses.

“It’s green.” I might remember this one more for the drinking call back in TNG’s Relics, but this is a fine story itself. The extragalactic aliens are an idea that might be too big for the scope of the show (a recurring problem), but the danger they pose is well conveyed even if their ability to turn people into sugar cubes is ridiculous.

The script was apparently rewritten because the first draft, with torture and forced breeding, was too dark for NBC. DC Fontana was brought in to lighten the tone, and that’s most obvious in the second half of the episode. In that section, the aliens become a much less intimidating presence and light hearted comedy replaces any sense of danger. Scotty drinking someone under the table is enjoyable enough, and Spock playing the devils advocate is good fun, but it feels a little trite (althougth not out of character) that Kirk would use seduction to get past someones guard.

There’s ultimately a bit of a let down with this one, as I feel that the opening is stronger than the close, but it’s one that always sticks in my mind and keeps me entertained throughout.

3/5

The Omega Glory

The Enterprise discovers the derelict starship Exeter drifting in space, its entire crew killed by an unknown plague and her captain missing.

I had never seen this episode before. Going in, I knew that it was fairly maligned amongst the general Star Trek fan base. A few listeners of the podcast had mentioned it as a analogy to the worst of the worst, a sort of Spock’s Brain for the second season. I, however, knew nothing.

So I was surprised when the episode started off very strong. The visual mystery of the Exeter is memorable, and the discovery of the very alive Captain Tracey on the planets surface implies some skeevy goings on. Sure, the episode is super clumsy with race stuff, as the Roddenberry penned script does the clumsy trick of making all the civilized villagers Asian, while the savages are all white people (what a switcheroo!) However, I wouldn’t call the episode racist as much as it’s simply engaging in a lazy plot reversal. But outside of that, the pace is good, the central plot of a renegade captain trying to capitalize on a planets fountain of youth is good (shades of “Insurrection”), and the script keeps our heroes on their toes with a number of fist fights and prison cell betrayals.

And then Kirk and Spock break out of their prison cell and…

… what the fuck just happened?

Some trivia: Roddenberry had apparently wanted to produce this episode since early in season one, but NBC and Bob Justman convinced him that the idea sucked. Roddenberry, undeterred, waited until late in the second season to unleash one of the weirdest and nonsensical episodes that the series had ever seen.

For me, the episode abandoned all hope at the reveal of the American flag. The episode does absolutely nothing to explain how this alien planet developed exactly like Cold War Earth, even down to the handwriting on the US Constitution. The flag even has 50 stars on it! The laughable reveal that the Yang and the Kohms are stand ins for Yanks and Comm(ie)s was simply jaw dropping. it’s so ham fisted and on the nose and completely disconnected from the rest of the plot.

That’s not all. The idea of a fountain of youth is tossed aside almost immediately, and it was actually doing a good job of driving the episode. This is such an odd show because it’s really not all that bad for the first half. The Tracey idea was something the show had never done before and I was excited to compare it to Insurrection. But then the show did the usual TOS trick of changing tack for no reason and we got a truly crazy resolution involving a bastardized American Cold War allegory. And the peaceful Asian villagers are somehow flipped around to be the bad guys!

This is a remarkable episode. It’s not the worst (The Alternative Factor still holds that title, in my opinion), but it’s incredibly weird and downright amazing that no one was able to convince Roddenberry that this idea should not be produced.

1/5

The Ultimate Computer

The Enterprise tests a computer that, if successful, could replace Kirk as the captain.

After the incredible failure of The Omega Glory, The Ultimate Computer comes across like Shakespeare being performed by the finest actors of any generation.

It might not be that good, but this episode makes a strong case for being one of the best of season two of TOS. The script, penned by DC Fontana, seems years ahead of its time. I know that fears of automation have been around for decades, but this episode feels incredibly modern and has aged as well as any TOS episode.

The character of Kirk gets a chance to stretch out here. We see shades of movie Kirk, as he is forced to consider what he gets out of being a captain (is it all about ego?) and wonder why he can’t just do something else. McCoy and Spock are similarly well drawn here. McCoy always tends to get a little too blustery about things like automation, but Spock as the impressed student to Dr Daystrom feels completely natural. Even by the end of the episode, Spock hasn’t been proven wrong – he’s just a little more tactful in expressing his feelings.

Above all else, the script holds together for the entire run time. This is something that is unfortunately uncommon for TOS, so it’s extremely welcome when it happens. The characters exist in a believable situation, they react accordingly, and it doesn’t end with one side or the other being 100% correct. Even Kirk talking the M5 computer to death couldn’t make me too bothered. Sure it’s a silly idea that’s been done to death on the show, but it felt earned because the story sold the computer as something larger than a talking box with lights.

And Daystrom might be one of the best guest stars the show has ever had. Tall and imposing, the actor William Marshall comes across as a gifted genius who’s been trying to live his later years living up to his early potential. His damaged mind created the M5 ethical standards, and it’s a great analogy for the future danger that real life AI might demonstrate.

5/5

Bread and Circuses

Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are captured on a planet that resembles a Roman Empire with 20th-century technology. They are set to die at the hands of gladiators for the sake of public spectacle.

It’s an unfortunate fact that some TOS episode are under stuffed, and some are overstuffed. The series averages out to the correct amount of plot per episode, but it can make for an up and down viewing experience when you visit each individual episode.

Bread and Circuses is one of the overstuffed episodes. While I love much of the satire of television (the studio audience, the laugh tracks, the quest for ratings), the Roman background and the movement towards Christianity (?) feel like they could have been the main story of their own respective episodes. In the end, the episode feels unfocused simply because there is too much happening, and each of the events taking place feels like it deserves more focus than it gets.

I would have even enjoyed more information about The Beagle! What was Merik’s thought process during those years? How did the crew handle things on an interpersonal level? How long did they manage to stay alive during the Games?

I do have to say that McCoy in the gladiator fight might be my favorite McCoy moment. He’s annoyed to be fighting, and even more annoyed that Spock is peppering him with questions.

3/5

Assignment: Earth

The Enterprise travels back in time to 1968, where the crew encounters the mysterious Gary Seven who claims to be sent by advanced beings trying to help Earth.

I’m not trying to be glib, but this review will be short because this isn’t a Star Trek episode.

Roddenberry apparently designed this episode as a backdoor pilot for a new series which would feature Gary Seven. Star Trek was on the brink of cancellation, so Roddenberry wrote this episode to try to keep his work going. The first draft of the script featured no Star trek characters at all.

The episode itself is bland and boring. Gary Seven is well cast, and the idea of a space James Bond is novel, but the plot itself is a wild goose chase. Kirk and Spock chase after Gary Seven, who manages to evade them until the end of the episode where they all realize they’re on the same team. We’ve also got a dim witted secretary and a sassy computer, so those roles are all set for the new series (which would never be green lit).

It’s fun to have the crew mess around in then current-day 1968, but the episode doesn’t do anything with it besides have a few on location shots and expanding the costuming.

2/5