Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Star Trek: The Practical Joker

My friends and I are embarking on a new journey to watch all 22 episodes of Star Trek's animated series.  We'll be posting on Wednesdays.  All are welcome to join us for all or parts of our adventure.

Episode: "The Practical Joker"
Series: Star Trek: The Animated Series
Season 2, Episode 3
Original Air Date: September 21, 1974
via Memory Beta
Every once in a while, we get a Star Trek episode that's downright goofy.  In an effort to escape three Romulan battlecruisers, the Enterprise hides in an energy cloud.  But there's something funny about the gas in that cloud.  It inspires the ship's computer to play practical jokes on the crew: drinking glasses with holes, "Kirk is a jerk" printed on the back of the captain's uniform, a pile of food dumped on Scotty by the replicator, etc. 

I wasn't too impressed by this episode.  I'm not opposed to the humor.  Trek can get heavy and comic relief is welcome.  But "The Practical Joker" pushes the limit.  There's one scene when the entire crew, affected by the nitrous oxide in the cloud, giggles uncontrollably.  It runs just a touch too long, feeling like an uncomfortable dinner party.

However, there is one important development for the future of the franchise: the introduction of the rec room, a forerunner to TNG's holodeck.  McCoy, Uhura and Sulu seek a break from the practical jokes with a virtual walk in the woods but the computer's mischief extends to their fantasy world.  The idea of a computer-generated vacation isn't new for Trek.  The planet in the TOS episode "Shore Leave" creates fairy tale scenarios for the amusement of visitors.  "The Practical Joker," however, represents the first instance of such capability aboard the Enterprise.

*****
L to R: Norm Prescott, Hal Sutherland (TAS director)
and Lou Scheimer, via Wikipedia

Lou Scheimer supplies the voice of a Romulan crewman.  More importantly, he was co-founder of Filmation and one of the producers for the series.  Scheimer was born October 19, 1928 in Pittsburgh.  According to family legend, Scheimer's father, a German Jew, once punched Adolf Hitler during a bar brawl.

As with his co-founder, Norm Prescott, Scheimer filled a number of roles for Filmation over the years.  He was credited as a composer (under the pseudonym Erika Lane, a combination of the names of his children) for the musical score of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.  He died from Parkinson's disease in 2013, two days shy of his 85th birthday.

If you would care to join us for all or part of our travels, sign on to the list below.  Please visit the other participants.  Next week: "Albatross."



20 comments:

  1. Did you watch the Enterprise series?

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    1. I've seen a decent portion of the series but not every episode.

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    2. They give the origin of the holodeck in that series. I don't remember the specifics other than that it was some kind of trade with aliens.

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    3. As to the real world origin, Trek writer DC Fontana claimed there was no conscious connection between TNG's holodeck and the rec room in this episode.

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  2. I'll know to steer clear of this one!

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    1. Yeah, probably one to skip, though the introduction of the holodeck idea is cool.

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  3. When the Romulans fired at the balloon Enterprise, the sentient entity laughed in their faces, It really enjoyed taunting its victims. seeing those pointy eared vultures humiliated , haha serves them right

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  4. I'm super impressed that you guys have embarked on this journey. These animated eps are so crazy.

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  5. I'm super impressed that you guys have embarked on this journey. These animated eps are so crazy.

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  6. It does sound goofy and I want to check it out for that reason:)

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    1. Definitely goofy. In fact there's a shirt that I want in this episode. The captain walks on to the bridge at one point with KIRK IS A JERK printed on the back of his uniform.

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  7. This is the funniest episode so far and it's amazing that the co-founder of Filmation managed to have time to do voicework. Review up on Friday and I hope you have a smooth day Man.

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    1. Thanks, Maurice!

      It's been interesting exploring this series and Clone Wars simultaneously. TAS was a shoestring, all hands on deck affair. They always avoided hiring outside help if they could do the job themselves. Cartoons have since become high tech, big budget affairs. Shelling out for talent is expected.

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  8. Script by Menville and Reed was delightful and full of caprice. Kirk: "Our own computer has declared war on us and I haven't the slightest idea why." Pretty sure I've uttered those same words over the phone to our internet service provider --so, a prophetic line for 1974 as well. I'm enjoying these toons, Squid!

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    1. Me, too! Always delighted to have you join the discussion as well.

      Technology, for all its marvels, is its own burden.

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  9. I can understand this. Sometimes I'm watching a show or movie that's mostly serious and short moments of comic relief may be normal, but longer ones seem forced or clash with the overall theme and mood.

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