The SmarK Blu-ray Rant for Star Trek (The Original Series: Origins)

Star Trek_The Original Series - Origins

Pretty simple compilation disc here, as we get the “origins” of the major players in Star Trek Into Darkness in case new viewers want to know where they came from.  Which means five episodes of the original series, four of which were in the first season.   So basically a few episodes of the first season repackaged into a new single disc.  But they’re all good ones, at least.

Note:  Although the season sets allow you to switch between the new-fangled computer graphics and the original pie plates on strings, this disc only gives the fancy new versions.

“The Cage” (First appearance of Spock and the Enterprise and Christopher Pike.)  So this was the very first, unaired pilot episode, originally presented in black & white but shown in color here.  Not to be confused with The Menagerie, which was the two-part episode cut together from this one later on.  So instead of Kirk, we have Jeffrey Hunter as super-angsty Captain Christopher Pike, weary of these years of travelling in space with his Martian science officer Spock and female First Officer.  Sadly, his moping is interrupted by a distress signal (delivered by intergalactic teletype), and off they go.  The top-flight CGI shots intercut with the zero-budget sixties bridge set is jarring to say the least.  The bulk of the episode takes place on Talos IV, as Pike and his crew find a group of crash survivors and one hot chick, who once again proves that dames ain’t nothing but trouble by luring Pike into a kidnapping via big-headed aliens.  Spock is much more emotional and hotheaded here, literally shooting first and asking questions later.  The Talosians screw with Pike’s mind while the bridge crew sits and talks and talks and talks and then decide “Maybe we should go with an EVEN BIGGER CANNON” as their solution to the problem.  Finest minds in the galaxy, these guys.  The talking continues as Pike debates with the aliens, and then talks with dream girl Vina in a variety of scenarios created by the Talosians and holy shit does this episode start dragging badly.  No wonder NBC rejected it as a pilot.  Majel Barrett as Number One is basically Spock as a woman, it should be noted.  After some “everything was an illusion” double-crossing back on itself, Pike escapes and flies off into space again.  At 63 minutes, this was WAY too long and talky and it’s no wonder that it went nowhere.  Sadly, Jeffrey Hunter died in 1969 and wasn’t able to cash in once the show exploded.

“Where No Man Has Gone Before”.  (First appearance of JAMES FUCKING T. KIRK) Third episode aired, but the first one shot (not counting “The Cage” of course) and stuff is drastically different here.  The uniforms are all different, most notably, and there are cosmetic differences in the ship.  Plus there’s no McCoy, only Dr. Piper.  So the plot sees the Enterprise voyaging to the edge of the galaxy, where a giant barrier awaits to put the cosmic smackdown on anything that comes near.  And in this case, Lt. Gary Mitchell suffers that fate which so many Trek characters would suffer after him:  Godlike powers without the godlike instruction book.  You can tell he’s godlike because he has silver contact lenses after his exposure to the barrier.  Kirk, it should be noted, is 100% fully formed as a character here, as Shatner nails the thing in one episode and doesn’t look back.   Spock, on the other hand, shows emotion (despite his claims to the contrary) and is frankly kind of a dick at times.  Speaking of being a dick, once Gary Mitchell starts showing superpowers, the crew switches from supporting his lifestyle choice of godhood to “let’s take him down to the planet and blow the shit out of him”.  Can you blame him for going crazy and trying to kill everyone?  Things get a bit silly as Gary Mitchell and his silver-eyed bride-to-be Dr. Hot Lips try to craft a paradise, and Kirk is having none of that.  Dig the overacting on Kirk as he’s tortured by Mitchell!  There’s just no “off” switch with Shatner, is there?  Luckily, they needed an action show to sell this version of the pilot, so instead of philosophical debate we get the first ass-whooping delivered by Kirk to settle things, as it should be.  Remember kids:  For all the talk about Roddenberry’s visions of peace, more often than not the solution was Kirk beating the hell out of someone and then dropping a rock on them.   Usually metaphorically speaking, but in this case literally.

“SPACE SEED”  (First appearance of KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!)  Yes, this will do.  The caps are mine.  The Enterprise finds a dead ship in space, apparently the USS Botany Bay, which is filled with leftovers from the Eugenics Wars who have been frozen and left to drift as punishment for, you know, trying to conquer the world and all.  Thus we meet Ricardo Montalban as Khan Noonien Singh, a combination of Hitler and Alexander the Great.  So you know this is gonna lead somewhere bad.  He immediately tries to shank McCoy after miraculously recovering from being mostly dead, and has an electric conversation with Kirk where you can just feel the alpha male posturing bleeding from the screen.  This carries over into a supposedly-civil dinner where Spock is needling Khan like a swordsman while Kirk watches for weakness, and Khan even points that out to gain the upper hand again.  Meanwhile, hottie crew-woman Marla falls in love with the ultimate bad-boy and agrees to help him in his quest to re-establish his empire of cloned super-soldiers.  And Khan comes THAT close to taking over the ship and killing everyone, only losing out because of a dramatic stunt double battle.  And Kirk banishes him and his crew to Ceti Alpha V, noting that it might be interesting to return later and see what’s become of him.  Awesome, awesome stuff.

“Errand of Mercy”.  (First appearance of the Klingons)  After a quick battle with them (off-screen to save money) to save the planet Organia from invasion, Spock and Kirk beam down to check on them and make sure no one’s been slaughtered.  Oh, and to offer protection from the big bad Klingons.  The Organians are stubbornly against any help from either side.  One really cool bit of new CGI here sees the awesome nerds inserting an entire Klingon fleet into what was previously just a one second shot of the Enterprise taking a hit.  Michael Okuda has the best job in the whole world.  So back to the episode, as the Klingons declare themselves the new rulers of the most peaceful planet in the universe and Kirk has to hold his tongue under the guise of being an Organian, and this is clearly a US v. Russia allegory.  The Klingons here are more of a general evil menace rather than the specifically honourable warlike race they became later on.  But while the Organians have no interest in fighting back, undercover Kirk and Spock are all too willing to blow some shit up to make their point.  Kirk readily admits that he’s a soldier and not a diplomat, and that’s a key difference between him and Picard.  Kirk and Kor actually start bonding over how annoying these pacifistic Organians are because they just want to wage some WAR, baby, whether their Organian friends want to help them or not.  Everything is a just a little too weird, as the Organian leader calmly leads Kirk out of any predicament set up by Kor, with little regard for any potential consequences.  Finally Kirk has just had enough and launches a two-man war on the Klingons (complete with another great little bit of dialogue with Spock about their odds of survival…approximately 7824.7 to 1) and finally the Organians step in and declare that shall be no violence on or around their planet, and that’s that.  And then the big twist:  The Organians are not even human beings, they’re energy beings who are supremely powerful and morally superior and even correctly foretell the future alliance between the Klingons & Federation.  Spock again notes that it’s life, but not as we know it.  This one kind of loses something without the Vietnam war as context (The lesson is that you shouldn’t interfere unless asked, you see) but it’s the KLINGONS!

“The Trouble With Tribbles”  (First appearance of…do I really have to tell you?)  This is of course one of the best Trek episodes of all-time and one of the funniest as well.  You know the story and love it already:  The Klingons and Federation are arguing about who can develop a planet most efficiently, and Kirk ends up answering a distress call on a space station.  The emergency:  Guarding 2 tonnes of wheat.   So Kirk, who with barely-concealed hatred of bureaucracy, gives everyone shore leave, wherein they meet scuzzy trader Cyrano Jones, who sells Uhura a Tribble.  And then the Klingons take shore leave on the station and things go downhill for Kirk rapidly from there.  The most famous scene of course sees Scotty getting into a barfight with the Klingons over harsh words said about the Enterprise.  This marks the first time someone calls Kirk a “swaggering, tin-plated dictator with delusions of godhood.”  Although he would be far from the last.  Kirk’s followup chat with Scotty (“…and THAT’S when you hit him?”) and the visual gag of the multiplying Tribbles are classic understated Trek comedy.   And of course, the only creatures in the universe who despise Klingons more than James T. Kirk does are the Tribbles, so everyone ends up getting what they deserve.   This one became even more famous when DS9 did a time travel episode that saw Worf participate “behind the scenes” and act as a meta-commentary on the episode.

The Pulse

Five great (or in the case of “The Cage,” historic if nothing else) episodes of the Original Series for cheap!  Not exactly essential, but hardcore Trekkies already have the seasons sets anyway, so this is aimed squarely at casual fans and it’s a fine selection of Kirk goodness.

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