Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Star Trek: The Enemy Within

Episode: "The Enemy Within"
Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 1, Episode 5
Original Air Date: October 6, 1966
via Memory Alpha

"Chewing the scenery" is an expression often used to describe acting performances on the original series of Star Trek, particularly the work of leading man William Shatner.  His jerky movements, halting speech and exaggerated emotions have provided ample fuel for parody over the decades since.  Shatner's tendency towards overacting is on full display in "The Enemy Within."

Due to a transporter malfunction, Captain Kirk is split into two, separate selves: a good Kirk and a bad Kirk.  As the crew attempt to rectify the problem, working simultaneously to rescue an away team stranded on the planet below, Evil Kirk causes no end of trouble aboard the Enterprise.  He drinks.  He attacks women.  He attacks men.  (Alcoholic allegory?)  Meanwhile, Good Kirk has lost the nerve and resolve which he needs to effectively command the ship.

Shatner's performance as Evil Kirk is way over the top, exactly the sort of performance which has earned him much derision in pop culture.  However, his performance as Good Kirk is subtle and understated - in reality, a much taller order for an actor.  In these early episodes Shatner already wears the role of Kirk like an old shoe, a testament to greater skill than many have been willing to concede.

A couple of Trek culture notes:
  • The transporter, as cool as it is, was also a convenient cost-saving device in early episodes.  Transporter effects were cheaper than those required for a shuttle craft, which could easily have rescued Sulu and the rest of the away team much sooner.  However, one of many things I admire about the Star Trek franchise is how the transporter - which still seems like pure magic - was always presented as imperfect technology.  Over the course of the series, things do occasionally go disastrously wrong.  Limits are essential for the plausibility of an imaginary world.
via Memory Alpha
  • For the first time, an alien animal is featured.  In Trek lore, the creature is known simply as an Alfa 177 canine, named for its planet of origin.  The real dog inside the costume is uncredited.
James Doohan (Scotty) was born on March 3, 1920 in Vancouver, British Columbia.  A lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Artillery, Doohan was part of the force that stormed the beach at Normandy on D-Day.  He got his start in acting in radio dramas for the CBC.  A master of accents, he auditioned for Star Trek with several different nationality possibilities, ultimately settling on Scottish.  He named his own character after his grandfather: Montgomery Scott.
via Bonanza Boomers

24 comments:

  1. Jimmy Doohan lost his finger that day at Normandy, and if you look closely, you can tell. At the beginning of the series, they always try to hide it by angling his body and sometimes using a 'stunt' hand, but over the years they become more and more lax about it.
    Shatner may be the biggest over-actor ever, and a diva as well, but I still like him! Maybe because he owns a horse farm here in Kentucky...I have a soft spot, LOL.

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    1. You've gotta love Shatner! He's the crazy uncle who always makes a fool of himself at the family reunion but everyone loves him because 1) he's still family and 2) he's an ol' sweetie at hear.

      In all seriousness, I think he doesn't get nearly enough credit for the long-term success of the show. With good reason, Patrick Stewart is seen as the classier actor and has earned his stature within the firm but Shatner clearly put his heart and soul into Kirk. We're all the better for it.

      Doohan's missing finger: I did read about that on Wikipedia. I'll have to keep an eye out for it now.

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  2. My favorite Shatner role is in Fanboys.

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    1. OH MY GOSH! You need to see that. The Shatner cameo alone is worth it, but, man, that whole movie is awesome.

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  3. Shatner is the archetype for overacting!

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    1. Without a doubt. Belushi's parody comes to mind.

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  4. Kirk was fun to watch, but Scotty was always my favorite of the original cast. I was very lucky to attend an appearance of his long ago, get an autograph, hear all those other accents, and shake his hand. (Who needs conventions?) That autograph is stored in my trusty Star Trek Technical Manual, in between the pages describing the warp nacelles.

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    1. That's very cool that you got to meet him. Did you see the missing finger?

      I don't know if I have a favorite TOS character. I definitely have one for TNG: Worf.

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  5. Such a powerful episode. Someone else recently blogged about it.

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    1. Trek is definitely in right now. I think you may be remembering Suze's post.

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  6. I enjoyed the early Star Trek, it was just so much fun. I love the transporter and like Cygnus I liked Scotty the best.
    In the later shows I always laughed over the fact that Captain Kirk shirt always got ripped.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Yes, I'm looking forward to the ripped shirts.

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  7. Every once in a while, an old post of mine will come up on the dashboard out of sequence and I'll just shrug it off as a blip. When I saw yours come up on the dashboard, I swear it took me a good twenty seconds to process that it was your blog and not mine! We used the same title and pic.

    This: 'Limits are essential for the plausibility of an imaginary world.'

    is true not only for plausibility but for stirring, engaging and maintaining the interest of the audience. I wonder how this translates to a piece of music.

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    1. Just read your post again. At the time, I focused more on your dismissal of the movie. It's good to read your thoughts having seen the episode more recently.

      Funny you should bring up music, as that is where I first grasped the idea. It was a composer, and I don't remember which one, who said that art begins as the creator sets limits for him/herself. I want to say it was Schoenberg but I'm not really sure.

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    2. No comment from you on that post. How do you decide when to comment, if you've read it, and when not to?

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    3. Dart board.

      I usually only comment on a person's latest post. That's not to say I don't read the others. I just believe in keeping the conversation moving forward. In your case or for others whom I visit often, if I miss one or two, I'll go back to read what I've missed but only comment on the latest.

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    4. I can appreciate that. Else things could get bogged down. Though I do like to comment if an older post I missed inspires a response.

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    5. Sure. With Cyg's recent D&D posts, how can I keep from commenting on all of them?

      Oh, I also like to keep my friend Suze guessing on the method to my madness. ;^)

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  8. A favorite episode, and a telling Shatner photo. If you examine the excellence of his teeth and the regularity of his dental occlusion, you'll see the grill work behind him is a product of his bite. That's talent!

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    1. Those are nice teeth - never fully appreciated that before.

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