Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Star Trek: Turnabout Intruder

Episode: "Turnabout Intruder"
Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 3, Episode 24
Original Air Date: June 3, 1969
via Memory Alpha
And just like that, it's over.  I've reached the end.  All 79 original series episodes, in the bag.  Geek cred officially enhanced.

On the night "Turnabout Intruder" was originally scheduled to air, March 28th, the network preempted with a report on the death of Dwight Eisenhower earlier in the day.  In June, NBC moved the show to a new time slot: 7:30 on Tuesdays.  "Turnabout Intruder" was the first and last new episode to air in the new slot.  No one could have known it at the time but the franchise was about to take on a whole new life through the magic of syndication.

"Turnabout Intruder" is a popular choice for Trek fans' worst-ever lists.  I didn't think it was quite so horrible though I do understand the feminist objections.  In response to a fake distress call [They fall for it every time...], our friends arrive at the planet Camus II, site of an archaeological expedition.  Among the only three survivors is Dr. Janice Lester, an ex-girlfriend of Captain Kirk's from his clearly eventful Academy days.  [Considering the number of women ol' Jim was nearly married to at that point in his life, it's a miracle he graduated!]  Through mysterious technological trickery, Lester switches bodies with Kirk, fulfilling her unrealized ambitions to become a starship captain.

The objections to the episode tend toward two elements: William Shatner's campy portrayal of a woman in a man's body and the sexism implied in Lester's character.  The latter I understand completely.  I'd like to believe that sexual politics have progressed a great deal since 1969 but popular culture still has difficulty generating female characters who are simultaneously ambitious and likeable.  Shatner's overacting, on the other hand, should hardly come as a surprise at this point.  And to his credit, I don't think he comes off as effeminate so much as a man unaccustomed to his own body - true to the part.  [I sense some wardrobe help, too - pretty sure he's wearing a girdle to aid in his overemphasized manly posture.]  I realize this isn't exactly a ringing endorsement, but it could have been a lot worse.

The story provides an interesting send off for the series.  While possessed by Lester, the captain adopts uncharacteristic mannerisms - for instance, referring to himself as "Captain Kirk" as opposed to simply "Kirk" in communications - that arouse the suspicion of his fellow officers and serve as a wink to knowledgeable fans.  Also, Lester (inhabited by Kirk) makes several references to previous episodes in an effort to convince Spock of his true identity.  Overall, it would have been nice for the series to end with a stronger story but again, it could have been worse.

*****

Watching the original Star Trek has been an enlightening experience.  Having invested two years in the project, I feel a reflection on the series as a whole is worthy of its own post which I shall compose for next Wednesday.  In the meantime, I shall give the third and final season its due...

Thoughts on Season 3

General Impressions

The third season is much maligned by the devoted and not without cause.  Formula, once so elegantly avoided, was now the rule.  Eye roll inducement was ever on the increase.  Some stories were just plain dull, an unforgivable sin for science fiction.  Even cast members were raising objections to the garbage that was being thrown their way.  I don't know if a single episode from the season will make it onto my must-watch list (to be included in next week's post).

And yet, there are moments.  Kirk's kiss with Uhura was a genuinely revolutionary event in American television.  Dr. McCoy gets much needed development in the third season, especially in terms of his relationship with Spock.  Characters other than Kirk are allowed romantic adventures.  None of this was enough to save the show from cancellation but it did broaden the canvas to be filled by future series and films.


Favorite Episode: "The Enterprise Incident"

Romulans only appear in two episodes of Star Trek's original series.  The first was "Balance of Terror," easily one of my overall favorites.  In "The Enterprise Incident," Kirk and Spock infiltrate a Romulan ship in order to steal its cloaking device.  Along the way, Spock has a brief, disingenuous romance with the Romulan commander, a far more interesting female character than Dr. Lester, to be sure.  The story adds a great deal to our understanding and appreciation of the nature of one of Star Trek's long-standing antagonist races.


Least Favorite Episode: "The Way to Eden"

I will concede that other stories may be weaker overall but the horrendous songs performed in "The Way to Eden" are more than enough to warrant such distinction.  Several who commented on my post suggested that the tunes may have been intentionally bad.  Somehow, that only makes matters worse to my mind!


Favorite Guest Star: Joanne Linville

Once again, my favorite guest star coincides with my favorite episode.  Linville played the Romulan commander in "The Enterprise Incident."  Her on-screen chemistry with Leonard Nimoy is exceptional.  The two invented intimate gestures to take the place of human kissing.


Onward?

Someday, I may continue with Trek.  Next up would be the animated series which ran in the early '70s.  But it's a good time for a break.  I'll post my overall reflection next week, after which my Wednesday posts will head in more gastronomical directions.

In June 1969, one of humanity's greatest moments was right around the corner.  On July 21st, American astronaut Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon.  Perhaps Roddenberry's vision wasn't so fantastical after all.  Let's get cracking on that Warp Drive, folks!

*****
via Comic Vine
Also in June of 1969, Gold Key Comics released the fourth issue in its Star Trek series: "The Peril of Planet Quick Change"... terrible title.

An interesting coincidence: the comic book story also involves possession by a hostile entity, though Spock is the target this time.  Our heroes, casually cruising through another galaxy (never happens on TV), come upon the strange planet Metamorpha.  As its name suggests, the planet is flying through epochal changes over a matter of Earth minutes.  While on the surface, Spock's brain is invaded by bright, shiny, disembodied entities who guide him to the solution to the planet's ills.  Once he has done their bidding, the beings leave his brain, revert to their own physical forms and reward the Enterprise crew handsomely for the trouble.  All leave his brain, that is, except for one who's keen to tag along for interstellar adventures.

28 comments:

  1. I have not seen this episode in a long time. When you texted you were about to watch the last episode, I recalled the title but not the negativity surrounding the episode.

    I'm impressed with your commitment to this project. Since we started and finished Doctor Who, I rarely tackle series of any length. I'll spot visit old favorites (The Office, MST3K and Star Trek: The Next Generation) leap to mind, but I tend to shy away for anything new with a large back catalog (I do it with comics, too).

    All my shows these days need to be done in two weeks and watched while I exercise. Lots of BBC and canceled series.

    My recollection about Animated Trek is that there are two semi-strong episodes, one of which is considered canon.

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    1. My interest in Trek is partly for the shows themselves but also partly for the cultural phenomenon aspect. Considering its struggles in the beginning, it's truly amazing that Star Trek is still relevant nearly 50 years later. I mean, you and I weren't even born until after the show was off the air. Compare this to Star Wars which has been a pop culture heavyweight from its opening weekend onward.

      Our girl is into old shows. The Dick Van Dyke Show is her current favorite. She and I have actually watched most of TAS together. I wouldn't say the shows are brilliant but - like the comic books - they're an amusing sideshow to the rest of the franchise.

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  2. This has been a delightful romp through an innovative and memorable television series. Thanks Squid. I can only contribute a bit of rumor regarding the show's cancellation --that in 3 years Wm. Shatner chewed up all the scenery until they had none left. There may be something to it.

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    1. Your contributions to my exploration have been wonderful. Your comments made the whole project worthwhile. Thanks to you, Geo.!

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  3. I vaguely remember that episode. It's a sad reflection on our society as a whole that any ambitious women is perceived as bitchy while ambitious men are admired.

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    1. And yet, Star Trek has done alright on that score from time to time. The Romulan Commander in "The Enterprise Incident" is wonderful.

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  4. Congratulations !
    WooHoo finished !
    Do not remember this one but at my age they all seem to meld together. Only the costumes are different and awful. Oh and the hair, OMG the hair.
    Like the photo you posted.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Thanks, parsnip!

      '60s hairstyles aren't so bad compared to other eras - the '80s, for instance.

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  5. I remember the animated Trek. It was so bad. There's this one episode where Spock, I think, takes his arms and legs off (or something) so that he can get untangled from some plants. Or something like that.
    Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention this cool party trick I have!

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    1. If I do it, I shall embrace all of the marvelous absurdity.

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  6. I love Star Trek and the Romulan Capt was great. I also agree that the Eden episode sucked. They were trying to bring in the hippies. By this time Gene Roddenberry was not really part of the show from what I heard. He had one too many disagreements with the executroids. I just spoke with my ex the other day(we're still great friends) and he told me that one can go online and watch the last remaining episodes that were supposed to be for the original series. It was a 5 year mission so there are still 2 more years. the sets, costumes are all the same. The actors are different obviously but the man who plays Scotty is either Jimmy Doohan's son or grandson.. Aside from some acting issues in certain episodes, my ex said they are quite well done. I have to check it out.

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    1. You're a fan!

      The Phase II episodes are intriguing. It may be a while before I get to them, though.

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  7. Congrats on getting through them all, Squid! I'm not sure if I'd have the fortitude to do it. Yes, this one is cringe-worthy, especially given future developments (like Janeway, female admirals in the TNG time-frame, and lots of strong female command-level characters in the Bakula prequel-series)... but it is what it is.

    I think I agree with Mock that only one or two of the animated series episodes are really halfway decent. Many of them were quite gimmicky and Saturday-morning-cartoon level. I checked out a couple of the "Phase Two" online shows that Birgit mentioned... meh... Lots of love poured into the sets, effects, & costume design, for sure. The scripts were middling (but some quite contrived, like alternate futures designed to explain the much-older guest actors from the original series), and the acting, well, Birgit used the word "issues." :-)

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    1. Thanks, Cyg! I have watched most of the TAS episodes before but would enjoy exploring them with a new eye having slogged through TOS.

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  8. Geek cred officially enhanced! You've done what few fans have done and deserve a break. I've always wanted to watch the TAS so I might join you.

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    1. Thanks, Maurice!

      I might get to TAS sooner if I had some company... I have emailed you.

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  9. I always found it amusing just how many episodes of Twilight Zone were dedicated to space travel. When I was a kid, I didn't get it--watching it as an adult, I had that, "Oh WOW...they hadn't even landed on the moon yet so they had no idea what was out there." I don't know why I didn't make that connection when I was younger. I think when you're a kid, you just assume everything was created for your generation. You don't think all that much about how it was watched by your parents when THEY were kids!

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    1. It has been interesting watching these with the realization that it was all created pre-Moon landing. Of course, one could argue the space exploration thing is all just a metaphor. Stay tuned...

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  10. I've been enjoying all your posts with so many insightful views by you.

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  11. Li vile made a cracking commander!

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  12. Wow finished it all? That is pretty impressive! I have yet to see most of the episodes but it was fun reading your reviews. I really liked todays because it dealt with feminist issues and makes me really want to see the episode in question!

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    1. Oh, don't bother with this one. If you're genuinely interested in checking out Trek, there are many better options.

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  13. I am impressed that you watched every episode over the past two years! I have seen many episodes, but not even close to all of them! Can't wait to read your wrap. Curious to know the must see episodes. :)
    ~Jess

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    1. It was a fun journey. Already looking forward to the next advenutre!

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  14. It impresses me, also, that you have so knowledgeable in dissecting each episode.
    I watched the early episode while I was about 13, became addicted. So seeing them again with overly grown-up eyes is joy.
    Thanks!

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    1. Thank you, Susan! I'm delighted to facilitate nostalgia.

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