Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Star Trek: Amok Time

Episode: "Amok Time"
Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 2, Episode 1
Original Air Date: September 15, 1967
via Memory Alpha
For its second season, Star Trek was moved to a new time slot: 8:30 ET on Friday nights.   "Amok Time" is a significant episode for many reasons.  Most importantly, the regular cast got its final member with Walter Koenig playing the role of navigator Pavel Chekov.  Also, it is the only original series episode to offer a glimpse of Spock's home world, Vulcan.  The story introduced both the Vulcan hand salute and the "live long and prosper" blessing.

Compelled by biological urges, Spock must return to Vulcan for his marriage to a bride arranged for him as a child, T'Pring.  T'Pring demands that he win her in a challenge.  Surprisingly, she picks Kirk as the opponent.  Kirk agrees, figuring he can throw the match, only to discover that it is a fight to the death.  With Dr. McCoy's help, he is able to fake his own death well enough to fool even Spock.  A grieving Spock frees T'Pring to be with the mate she truly loves and returns to the ship prepared to face the consequences of his actions.  The surprising appearance of Kirk alive and well inspires a rare joyful display from our favorite Vulcan.

*****

via Wikipedia
Walter Koenig was born on September 14, 1936 in Chicago.  Clearly a very smart man, he attended Grinnell College in Iowa.  Apparently, the draw of southern California was too strong as he transferred to UCLA where he discovered acting.  He was cast in the role of Chekov largely for his resemblance to Davy Jones of the Monkees. 
Davy via 30 Days Out
Not originally intended as a regular cast role, Chekov grew in popularity while George Takei (Sulu) was busy finishing The Green Berets with John Wayne.  When Takei returned, tensions arose, Takei even threatening to leave the show.  Fortunately for all involved, peace was made and the two actors became good friends.

*****

via Memory Alpha
Over the summer of 1967, Key Comics published the very first Star Trek comic book, entitled "The Planet of No Return."  Unfortunately, the writer credit for this issue is long lost but the artist was Nevio Zeccara.  The Enterprise discovers a planet where the plant life holds dominion over the animals.

There were many advantages in telling a science fiction story in comic book form rather than television in the 1960s - no need for special effects.  If you could draw it, it could happen.  People turning into trees?  No problem.  However, it is abundantly clear that neither writer nor artist was especially familiar with the source material apart from character names and basic appearances.  For instance, the crew are exploring "Galaxy Alpha" rather than our own.  Transporting is referred to as "teleportation" - probably a more accurate description but that's beside the point.

More important than the nomenclature though was the very different character of the mission's approach to exploration.  In the comic book, the crew take a more Flash Gordonesque attitude toward encounters with alien beings: "They are different and they must be trying to kill us.  We must kill them first."  Most disturbing is the Captain's decision to destroy the planet in order to prevent its plant spores from infecting worlds.  That wouldn't jive with the Prime Directive at all.

It is interesting to note, though, that the Captain faced a very similar prospect in the last episode of the first season.  A parasite was destroying one world after another and the opportunity came to stop it in its tracks, but at the cost of the lives of millions.  It was not a happy choice but it was considered.  The comic book Captain, on the other hand, barely flinched in the decision.

18 comments:

  1. Another well written review. Thanks for sharing it. Star Trek was a great tv show.

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  2. ha!
    I already knew that stuff about Chekov!
    I always did like him.

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    1. I knew some of it but didn't know the Davy Jones part.

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  3. One of my most favorite episodes of the series. I never heard that about the Chekov actor, but I see the resemblance. And, yes, I may have had a slight pre-pubescent crush on Davy Jones. :)

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    1. You were neither the first, nor the last!

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  4. Chekov was always one of my favorites.

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    1. I prefer Sulu, but as a tandem, they're golden.

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  5. From Sheldon always mentioning "pamfar" (sp) I always remember this episode.
    I really don't know much about comic books so I didn't know about the Star Trek comic book.
    You have the most interesting posts.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Thank you, parsnip.

      A few years ago, I didn't know that much about comic books either. In exploring them, I've found I'm still more a scifi fan than a comic book fan, thus the turn in favor of Star Wars and Star Trek over the past several months.

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  6. Kal-if-ee! :-)

    The Gold Key comics were terrible, but they did craft one scene that both (1) stuck with me for decades, and (2) must have stuck with JJ Abrams or some other writer of the 2009 reboot movie: a flashback of young Spock being taunted and beat up by the other Vulcan kids for being a half-breed.

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    1. Yeah, the first issue's pretty bad. I intend to keep going with them but not sure for how long.

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  7. I love this episode. When Spock grabs Kirk and goes, 'Jim!', with that genuine, joyful smile on his face...it gets me every time.

    This episode is also notorious for a famous sort-of blooper, while they're on Vulcan. During one scene, you see Spock, in the midst of the Plak-Tow, then the camera cuts to Kirk talking to T'Pau and you see Leonard Nimoy dressed as Spock casually leaning against the wall near the back of the set. Then the camera cuts back to Spock in Plak-Tow again.

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    1. I love bloopers. In truth, I'm surprised things like that don't happen more often. I suppose digital technology can solve a lot of problems these days but flaws still occasionally make it through to the finished product.

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  8. Another great episode. I'll bet the comics of the time are pretty cool. I wonder if they published a graphic novel of them.

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    1. There was, once upon a time, a series of trades called Enterprise Logs. They are long out of print. I'm reading them via the Star Trek Comics CD-ROM. I think they're also available online through comiXology and other such sites.

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  9. I remember this episode. It was one of my favorites. (Then again, I think it might have been a top pick for most fans.) I've never read any of the comic books, though, and didn't even know they existed.

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    1. For Spock devotees, this one's a clear choice as it is the only original series episode to offer a glimpse of Vulcan.

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