Sunday, 23 June 2013

TOS - 2.1 - Amok Time

Star Trek TOS - Amok Time
Stop! In the Name of Logic !
What's Love Got to Do with it ?
For Whom the Bell Tolls ?

For these and many more earth songs, tune in
Radio Starfleet 240.5
First off, Gene L Coon, the lesser known Gene, who wrote a few important episodes in the 2nd half of TOS Season 1, and created some important stuff for the Trek lore took over the producer role.

For the burgeoning Star Trek fans who enjoyed TOS' 1st Season, this must be a very anticipated episode. This 1st episode of a new season brought several significant changes.

I imagine the Trek writers would be thinking hard about what to put in this new season. Another season, another perspectives, so to speak.

Indeed, not only they had thinking about the new perspectives for TOS, I think they have turned everything upside down of their philosophy from the previous Season.

Why do I say that? There're 2 things in this episode that supports my thinking. Indeed more of this trend is to be continued and revealed in future episodes.

A number of episodes in the 1st Season drew inspiration from the Cold War conflicts between Uncle Sam USA and the Polar Bear Soviet Russia. Examples include episode 1.18 "Arena", 1.22 "Space Seed" and 1.26 "Errand of Mercy".

Episode 1.21 "The Return of the Archons" suggests the dystopia of the Soviet Communist model where individualism is destroyed while the people's content is 'unathentic'.

You could say episode 1.21 is very much anti-Soviet. While episodes 1.18, 1.22 and 1.26 aren't purely anti-Soviet, but they definitely ain't painting a flattering picture of the Soviet.

All these episodes are told in allegories. Much like George Orwell's Animal Farm is an allegory of the Communist dystopia. Instead of animal settings, we have futuristic space settings.

The 2 George Orwell's novels, Animal Farm (published 1945), and Nineteen Eighty-Four (published 1949) are still considered very important political works today. But in the Cold War Era of the 1960s, the influence of these 2 books couldn't be overestimated. I would find it very surprising if the Trek writers in this period weren't influenced greatly by Orwell's works.

But all these business is part of the political mentality of TOS 1st Season.

With this episode that marks the beginning of 2nd Season, there's a change of direction with the addition of a Russian crew. While TOS is about the future, but its 1st Season is anything but that. It's in fact very much about the era they lived, the Cold War Era of the 1960s.

With the appearance of Chekov, the Enterprise has trekked into the future. No longer mired in the present time of the 1960s. A Russian crew is now working alongside with the Yanks in the same spaceship. It's like the space program cooperation between USA and the USSR (as they do today. Of course, with the new and less anti-West Russia).

Sure, Chekov was added to attract the younger audience. He looks and has the same haircut as the Monkees. In fact, the first time I saw him, I mistaken him for one of the band member of the Monkees. Ok, I was quite green then.

Still, this character could take on any nationality to attract the young viewers. Gene Roddenberry asked to cast somebody either looks like the Monkees or the Beatles. It would make more sense to achieve that goal if this new character was British. What's Soviet in the 1960's got to do with rock and roll? The Beatles would definitely ring more bells.

When I say British, I should say English. There's already a Scot (like Scotty), and Irish (like Lt. Kevin Thomas Riley) aboard the Enterprise, but no English (like the Beatles that Gene Roddenberry was looking for) that ever shows his/her face on the Enterprise in TOS, so far.

Whether Walter Koenig has Russian root is irrelevant as many Caucasians playing Asian in TOS episodes anyway.

Many of the villains in TOS Season 1 clearly alludes the Soviet Russia. As the audience would soon see that, starting from this episode, the Trek writers had given up on Soviet bashing. This is wise. Because the preoccupation of Soviet bashing is not only tedious and tiresome to watch, but Star Trek would rightly be accused as a propaganda arm of Uncle Sam in the Cold War.

In TOS, many crew members of the Enterprise just pop up out of the blue, without any explanation. For example, Sulu's 1st appearance as helmsman was unannounced. There was no backstory that explains why he just turns from being a science officer into a helmsman (I think it occurs on episode 1.3 from memory).

Another 180° turnaround is regarding our logically higher evolved crew from the planet Vulcan (I think it's in this episode that the word 'Vulcanian' was dropped for 'Vulcan'. Also, this is the 1st time we see the dexterously challenging Vulcan salute. Or what I would like to call the Vulcan 'V' sign). Throughout the TOS 1st Season, he's always being portrayed as more superior in intellect, and more in check of his emotion.

In this episode, this 'myth' is busted, wide open. A glimpse into the Vulcan culture via its wedding ceremony reveals that some aspects of the Vulcan biology and culture is indeed very primitive. Or to be exact, hasn't evolved since the time of antiquity.

This is not the 1st time our Vulcan shipmate loses his cool. In fact, he lost it twice in Season 1: in episode 1.4 "The Naked Time", and 1.24 "This Side of Paradise".

The reason why I wrote a review for episode 1.4 but not 1.24 because except for superficial variations, the 2 stories are essentially identical.

In episode 1.4, an alien viral infection causes the Enterprise crew to act as if they're drunk.
In episode 1.24, an alien plant spores causes the Enterprise crew to act as if they're drugged.

Just substitute "drunk" for "drugged", and "Viral infection" for "Plant spores", you get one new story from another. The only significant difference is the remedy, which I won't go in to avoid spoiling the ending.

Everyone, includes Spock is acting like they're "drunk" or "drugged" in these 2 episodes respectively. But in this episode, Spock loses a grip of his emotion because of his reproductive cycle called "Pon farr" in Vulcan. In other words, Spock is having a period. And he acts like some earthling who's having a period. Oh no...Am I in trouble for saying that? Am I going too far with Pon farr?

On the romantic side, it reveals that nurse Christine Chapel is having a romantic crush for Spock. But it had already been made known in episode 1.4 where everyone is emotionally naked. And so she has no trouble in revealing her unrequitted love for Spock then. Poor nurse Chapel. Love is so very blind. Spock could never reciprocate her love. I feel for thee!

When Spock asks Kirk and McCoy to beam down to Vulcan to accompany him, they didn't know they're attending a wedding ceremony. And so they have no idea that they were going to be Spock's groomsman and best man. If they know it, they probably hold a stag/bachelor party for Spock. Stags in space? Sounds like Xmas...

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