Shuttle Pod 45: The Best Of Star Trek’s Weirdest Episodes, Volume 2

There are good Star Trek episodes, there are bad Star Trek episodes, there are forgettable Star Trek episodes, and then there are the just plain weird ones. This week, the Shuttle Pod crew went back to the well of oddball episodes and we each chose a weird episode of Star Trek on television to rewatch and analyze. If you missed our first podcast of weird episodes you can catch up here.

For Volume 2 of The Best of the Weird, we watched the The Next Generation episode “Sub Rosa” (Dinnae light that candle!), Voyager’s The Thaw“, The Animated Series “The Magicks of Megas-Tu” (Friend Kirk!), and we wrap it up with The Next Generation‘s “Home Soil” (we’re all just “ugly bags of mostly water”).

Shuttle Pod 45: The Best of the Weird, Volume 2

While re-watching “Home Soil” Matt realized that there are a number of parallels to the classic Original Series episode “The Devil in the Dark.” This is something the production seems to have been aware of too, they setup a shot in a tunnel that mirrors the iconic shot of Kirk and Spock seen through a Horta tunnel. You can see the comparison below:


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The Thaw presented a terrifying concept! Good episode.

Sub Rosa and Masks were (almost) TNG’s Spock’s Brain.

ICYMI: the guys covered “Masks” in the first Best of the Weird podcast here:

Y’know, I’m getting sick of people crapping all over “Spock’s Brain”. It wasn’t great, but at least it’s watchable… akin to a cheesy B movie. It’s a far cry from unwatchable TOS like “The Alternate Factor”, or “I, Mudd” or that dreadful “The Empath”. And don’t get me started on those Irish village holodeck episodes of VOY or the cowboy episode of ENT.

Yeah, but saying “it isn’t as bad as Alternative Factor” can hardly be considered praise. “Spock’s Brain” stinks. I mean seriously, “Brain and brain! What is brain?” Good Lord, that episode is bad. Still, I watch it once in a while to laugh at how bad it is. “Alternative Factor” and “And the Children Shall Lead” is simply can’t watch anymore. (“I, Mudd” is bad, but at least it was played mostly for laughs and they knew it was a silly episode.)

Guess my point is that this “worst TOS ever made” label that “Spock’s Brain” got is hardly fair. Not when you’ve got “ALternative Factor” out there not getting crapped on (and not making any bleeding sense).

Yes “The Alternative Factor” is an absolute mess.

Really interesting stuff here, sadly he hasn’t written Part 3 of the investigation yet.
Part 1
Part 2

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and defend Spock’s Brain for being at least daring and not completely terrible in execution. People make fun of the brain and brain line but like what else would she say? Sounds like something I’d say if I was confused and frustrated and not sure why these angry men are yelling at me. As entertainment, it holds up. It’s not the nadir of TOS.

If any of you have a slightly juvenile sense of humour I’d recommend checking out Swear Trek on Twitter. They did a parody of Spock’s Brain a few months ago where they replaced all the mentions of brain with another part of his anatomy

The biggest joke is that the TV people who make the key decisions decided to have Spocks Brain as the Season Three premiere episode. What is that all about?
They must have knew they had a sticker of Season already so basically decided to have one of the worst they made be the first one it!

The curse of Fred Freiberger, the Show Killer.

Freiberger was on s1 of THE WILD WILD WEST and it didn’t end for another three seasons (then again, Gene Coon came in briefly — I think he wrote that semi-relaunch ep with Nielsen and Dawn Wells and Katherine Ross that is the best of s1 that is kind of an alt-pilot, and probably my fave outside of NIGHT OF JACK OF DIAMONDS and NIGHT OF THE FIREBRAND)and produced TWWW out of trouble before embarking on TREK, so maybe FF really would have been the kiss of death if he’d stayed there too.)

I consider Spock’s Brain as one of the good ones. The “brain, brain” line makes perfect sense in the plot and is a great use of irony.

I love “The Clown.”

I must admit I was and remain rather fond of Sub Rosa – added some layering to Beverly’s character and a nice bit of the (alleged) supernatural in there as well.

Glad to see that I am not the only person who liked Sub Rosa.

Harlequin Romance in Space! Watched once. Will never watch it again.

“Dunna light that cannle!”

I also am fond of Sub Rosa from its original airing. It was an excellent episode, well grounded, as it brought on some respite from space voyages while adding further dimensions to Beverly’s character. They created a creepy atmosphere similar to the Holmes episodes. I compare Sub Rosa to DS9’s Far Beyond the Stars for the intent of bringing the sets and actors to something altogether different. From the previous Podcast, I would like to say also that Masks and Move Along Home are also some of my favorite episodes. Masks is clearly the best Brent Spiner episode. He should have won an award for this one. Move Along Home is also quite entertaining while offering an original view of aliens.

You can throw in most of the Holodeck-centered episodes. Except for maybe the Moriarty ones from TNG.

The Voyager epsidoe sounds a lot like a Voyager version of Stephen King’s IT. It also seems like a recent episode of the The Orville.

I found that clown in that Orville episode to be extremely creepy. And clowns generally don’t faze me. Great filming there, IMO.

The Thaw was a great episode. Michael McKean gave a brilliant performance as The Clown, and the episode still gives me the creeps today. I can barely sit through Sub Rosa, but it gave us some fantastic shots of Crusher and Troi in dress uniforms. I simply cannot even watch 5 minutes of Masks… it’s just awful in my opinion.

I’ll give “The Thaw” points for trying something new and different, but great? No. But as I recall from the Usenet / AOL discussions at the time, “The Thaw” was about 50% thought it was great and 50% thought it was awful, and there was almost no middle ground. That seems to still be true today.

Hmm. I can see most of those eps as falling into the “weird” category (with the possible exception of “Magicks,” which I’ll give you as a TAS wildcard. But, “Home Soil,” seriously? There’s nothing particularly weird or even off-format about it; it’s just a poor remake of classic TOS (e.g. “Devil in the Dark”), and as such pretty standard fare for a TNG first season episode.

(“The Inner Light,” at least in its early scenes, struck me as weird, even surreal, the first time I saw it, wonderful as it turned out to be. YMMY, of course.)

If you listen to the podcast we talk about how Home Soil probably isn’t weird, just kind of awkward, like many Season 1 TNG episodes.

Home Soil isn’t terrible, despite the awful “Ugly bags of mostly water” line. It is just kind of there. Nothing particularly offensive about it (unlike Beverly’s apparent lobotomy in “Sub Rosa”) and it does have one good scene (Data vs. the laser drill.)

I always thought that HomeSoil was an update to Devil In The Dark, But I never caught the tunnel parallel.
Nicely done.

I just finished watching DISCOVERY, and I gotta say, ep 13 or whichever one had all the swordplay seemed more like a bad CONAN movie than trek, seriously whacko. The whole last 1/2 of the season was just so much piling-on of reverses and double-reverses and plain nonsense, that I’d’ve almost have welcomed a usually dreaded reset switch.

Well, for my part I’ll take even the nonsensensical stuff any day over that reset switch, whose use on Discovery turned out to be just appalling—particularly in a show supposedly with aspirations to take Trek into the modern era of adult, long-form storytelling. Here you had the most complex, emotionally compromised lead character in a Trek series ever, played by an actress of great natural charisma and ability, stripped of rank and career. You had a Starfleet Captain, possibly morally compromised but not wholly unsympathetic, skillfully portrayed by an actor who brought nuance and mystery to the character even when the writing flagged. All of which was trashed by that awful finale. It’s as if the makers of GAME OF THRONES chose to conclude the first season with the Lannisters defeated and Ned Stark on the Iron Throne, with Tyrion as his loyal Hand. “But hey, you’ll love what we have in store for next season!” Yeah, I can hardly wait.

This isn’t a discussion about how “dreadful” Discovery supposedly is. It’s a discussion on weird Star Trek episodes.

(1) I was responding to another poster; (2) I never said that Discovery was anything like “dreadful” (it isn’t, though on balance I did find it to be a dreadful disappointment given its potential); and (3) I had no idea you were a forum moderator, which I’ll henceforth keep in mind.

Hey, DSC seemed VERY weird to me. That makes it fair game.

I myself rather appreciated the weirdness, even when the creative choices (to take just one example, the Klingon ship design) utterly baffled me. What I found so dispiriting was, after all was said and done, how utterly conventional and by-the-numbers and uninspired the story’s resolution turned out to be.

Yeah, do you think design efforts like the kling ship are kind of “Let’s put a new coat of paint on this thing to put our stamp on it!” thinking to mask the fact that the storytelling was so … so-so?

I’m also guessing TNG-era’s ‘the body is just a husk’ thinking (probably one of the only times I’ve ever been on the same page with such mindsets) on the part of Klingons is something that must have come to the fore later on, given the reverence they attach to bodies back in the DSC era? I mean it is almost like they are building the pyramids by attaching them to the hull.

I also wonder if the bodies on the hull thing came from watching SERENITY or whether they TUC notion (not stated in the film itself, but devised by ILM VFX art director Bill George), was that every time the klingons come back victorious in battle, they put some kind of decoration on their hull (hence a rationalization for why TUC’s battle cruiser is liberally covered with etched brass details.) See, I think if they really wanted to have fun with this ‘bodies on the hull’ concept, they should have (and I apologize if somebody has already offered this joke) had Klingons espousing a motto like, [come back] “With your ship, or on it.”

“Yeah, do you think design efforts like the kling ship are kind of “Let’s put a new coat of paint on this thing to put our stamp on it!” thinking to mask the fact that the storytelling was so … so-so?”

Maybe. Or maybe it just was another aspect of the overall effort, which I gather originated with Bryan Fuller, to make the Klingons appear more alien. Still hoping for a book or CINEFEX article that gets into the thinking behind the show’s design philosophy, much of which I liked even as I found some choices to be mystifying.

I thought Titan Books was doing some kind of making-of on DSC that was coming out during season 1? (never mind, just looked it up and realized it did come out already, but some Amazon reviews are less than charitable and make it sound like an info-free content-light waste.)

Titan has been doing lots of TREK-related stuff in recent years, though I am kind of disgusted with the drop in quality with their product (they have had a hand in some recent SW mags that kept on repeating outright falsehoods like John Dykstra having worked on Kubrick’s 2001 — when he was in the wrong country and still in school during that film’s production.)

I used to correspond with them fairly often earlier this decade, but found that while they kept soliciting book ideas, they never gave me the assignments for any of the making-of books (a lot of which they wound up doing, including stuff with people I’d previously interviewed like Christopher Nolan), and so I decided maybe they were just wanting me to do their homework for them.

I just made a way too big post on about the series that shows I need to spend more time doing work and not on boards, but that kind of sums up my feelings:

Thanks for the link. Always in the market for well-written-and-considered opinions, even when I disagree.

Can anyone show me a still where Beverly’s eyes are green? I can never tell from even the best screen caps.

Even in the HD versions it’s pretty subtle, the dark lighting makes any eye color hard to see, but I was looking for it on my re-watch. Her eyes go from Gates McFadden’s normal bright blue (which look kind of grey in the dark house) to a dark green once she goes down to Caldos to live in her grandmother’s house (after says she’s leaving Starfleet) and lets Ronin’s energy merge with her (in the infamous awkward “ghost sex” scene). As you said it’s hard to be sure. I’m certainly not 100% sure.

Wish Frakes had done a close-up at some point after Picard’s line. Of course, until Marina mentioned hating the contacts, I never realized Troi had black eyes. The black lenses are noticeable on Lwaxana and Tam Elbrun, but not on Troi herself.

Here’s a couple of shots from the HD versions on Netflix. It’s still really hard to tell, but I see a kind of olive color to her eyes after Ronin inhabits her (which quite honestly could be a sort of placebo effect). Right-click the images and open in a tab/window and make sure the browser is showing them at full size for the best look at them.

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Thanks. Better than the ones I found.

Sub Rosa is Anne Rice’s ‘Lasher.’ I know the producers have denied it, but it is.

Never could make out the technobabble ending of The Thaw. So… Janeway was never really at risk? She just talked Fear to death. Fine. To me, Thaw is 40% ‘I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream,’ 40% ‘It,’ and 20% unfinished. Yes, kudos to Michael McKean. Waiting to see if he’s back (even flashback) in the new season of ‘Better Call Saul.’

Love Magicks. Ed Bishop aka Cmdr. Straker!

Home Soil… what can I say? Season one. The chick is DUMB with a capital DUH.


While we’ve had our differences, may I be the first to express my admiration for the man who managed to drag “I Have No Mouth. . .” into a Trek discussion forum. Seriously, kudos!

FYI, Mission Log has a good interview with Gates McFadden up now. I can’t remember if Sub Rosa was mentioned, but she does talk about the episode she directed, Genesis. Another weird one. (And one I enjoy, in a guilty pleasure sort of way.)

I love that last scene with janeway and the clown in ‘the thaw’.
tripping him up just as she did the ‘think tank’.

…..and what of Lazarus…..