Thursday, 19 September 2013

TOS - 2.17 - A Piece of the Action


Star Trek - A Piece of the Action
Nimoy:   Didn't you get the memo that we're doing
a  period piece today?                
Kelley:   They say they don't have any in my size.
Nimoy:   So what is your size ?                              
Kelley:   A gentlemen never tells. The main thing
           is that my wife's happy with the size.  
The diversification of genres away from the typical sci-fi themes that I mentioned in the reviews of episode 2.15 "The Trouble with Tribbles" continues. Episode 2.14 "A Wolf in the Fold" is a murder mystery, episode 2.15 "The Trouble with Tribbles" is a comedy, and this episode is a gangster flick.

This episode continues the trend of producing increasingly light hearted TOS series, and the colourful mobster slang just rolls off Captain Kirk's tongue like a rifle's salvo.

Maybe it's just me, but I really enjoy watching the Star Trek crew in other costumes and settings. Anachronism is always an entertaining feature in a movie.

As soon as the Enterprise is beamed down to the planet surface, we immediately reminded of the movie set from The Sting (1973). Perhaps, Bonnie and Clyde (1967) would be closer to home as it was released only a few months earlier. I wouldn't be surprise if this writer was inspired, indeed riding on the success of this very popular - to the point of phenomenal - gangster flick.

The underworld of this world may look like Chicago after the Prohibition in the 1920's, a closer look suggests that it would put the Chicago gangland to shame. I say that because it isn't just the male gangsters who walk around with Tommy guns, but the broads or doll faces - using what I imagine to be Chicago mobster lingo for "women" by imitating Kirk, who imitates the Iotian gangsters - who walk around with handguns in holsters that slung around their waists like some fancy fashionable belts (man, this is one long sentence). These gun-toting mamas is another indication that the writer was influenced by Bonnie and Clyde (1967).

This episode addresses 2 distinct but closely related concepts.

The 1st of the concept is why the Prime Directive is held in such high regard. Once the society is contaminated culturally by external influence, the result could be disastrous as shown in this episode.

The 2nd closely related concept is the cargo cult (I also wrote a review of a Japanese film The Bird People in China (1998) that's based on the cargo cults). While I suggested in my review of episode 2.2 "Who Mourns for Adonais?" that it's sort of about cargo cults. But this episode is more accurately reflected that idea.

With the Horizon crew from the Federation left behind a book, entitled Chicago Mobs of the Twenties, the whole Iotian society is based on it. This book, which the Iotians call "The Book" is the artifact that left behind by the higher civilisation where the more primitive society use it to regulate their society either as a religion or in this case a dogma for the mobsters. Nobody questions The Book, doing so would be sacrilegious.

Once the Feds - as the Iotians call the Federation - have made extensive contact with the local culture and invariably altered it, it leaves the Enterprise little choice but influence the hell out of it further to bring it back to the more civilised path. To fight fire with fire, so to speak. Such is a slippery path. As McCoy suggests that he may have left the communicator down at the planet. Kirk reasons with their talent of imitation and innovation, it wouldn't take long that they could reverse engineer the communicator to duplicate the Enterprise technology. I guess cultural contact could be tricky, and it's a case of damned if you do, and damn if you don't.

The cultural contamination of the Iotians by the Horizon crew in the past needs to be corrected by the Enterprise. This is like saying that the current government of a country needs to clean up the mess left behind by its previous government. This happens a lot in politics.

Since the Federation is really future equivalence of Uncle Sam - especially as depicted in TOS Season 1 when the villains in most of the episodes is future equivalent of USSR - one would naturally question the cultural, military, and political interference or intervention stance that USA took on the world post WW2, for better or worse. I already talked extensively about this topic in the the review of episode 1.21 "The Return of the Archons". So I won't repeat it here.




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