Articles by Jeff Bond
Two years ago Master Replicas quickly sold out the first set of a limited series of pricey ‘studio scale’ models of the Original Series NCC 1701 Enterprise. This summer they will finally finish out the series with the final 500 models and pre-orders just recently opened up, leaving many collectors with the question of whether or not now is the time to pay $1200 for a model ship.
Alexander Courage, who wrote the original Star Trek title theme as well as the scores for numerous television shows and movies, died May 15 in Pacific Palisades, California at the age of 88. The Emmy winning and Oscar-nominated composer had over 90 film and television credits and at least one other TV theme (Judd for the Defense), but he was best known for the exotic, bongo-driven siren song he wrote for the original Star Trek TV series.
On Sunday, April 28th, I was fortunate enough to attend the memorial for composer Leonard Rosenman (who passed away in March). It’s no secret that Rosenman was one of the composers of the Star Trek movies but this event proved to be even more Star Trek-centric than I’d anticipated.
To quote one of my favorite bad Kirk lines: “Out of the nowhere; into the here!” It’s a pleasure to take a crack at another Trek Remastered review, and a very special one at that…Other than “The Doomsday Machine,” no classic Trek episode has been more anticipated in Remastered form than the late second season’s “The Ultimate Computer.” The spectacle of starship-on-starship action, achieved almost entirely through duped stock footage in the original episode, has had fans of the Remastered project slavering since the project was originally announced.
Once again it befalls me to offer the defense of a not-very-well-thought-of episode of original Trek. When most people bring up “The Omega Glory,” it’s to do their impression of William Shatner’s inimitable (well, actually, VERY imitatable) delivery of the preamble to the U.S. Constitution at the episode’s infamous climax: “WE…THE PEOPLE…of the unitedstates…do ORDAIN and ESTABLISH this Constitution–!!” It’s a groaner of an ending that quantifies Gene Roddenberry’s somewhat flat-footed idea of a rampant biological war between parties on an alien planet that effectively throws them into the Stone Age. That in itself isn’t bad (if having already been done in a sense in episodes like “Miri”), but Roddenberry (who was supposedly inspired to write this episode after viewing the actual Constitution on a trip to Washington D.C.) turns “The Omega Glory” into a Cold War parable that’s strangely racist, with warring “Yankees” and “Commies” descended from yet another culture apparently identical to ours right down to language both spoken and written.
Here’s another classic Trek episode that needs no defense—in fact it’s one of the all time greats, and probably ranks among my top handful of Star Trek episodes ever made. Kirk and Spock meet the franchise’s first Klingons and wind up coming up against a far more powerful—but ultimately benevolent—force when the Federation and Klingon Empire begin a rush to war.
Robert Bloch’s “Wolf in the Fold” is typical both of the horror writer’s contributions to the series (he also wrote “What Are Little Girls Made Of? and “Catspaw”) and of the show’s second season, in that in year two Trek often presented some fairly dark and outlandish plotlines but shook them up with humor. The story centers around Scott, who’s accused of murder while on shore leave on the hedonistic world of Argelius. Scott’s under suspicion because a head injury has apparently created a temporary feeling of paranoia and distrust of women, but as the female bodies start piling up and the investigation continues the culprit is revealed to be the ancient spirit of Jack the Ripper, in actuality a formless alien entity which thrives on fear.
For the last two reviews I’ve written for the site I deliberately took on Trek outings that I feel are a little undervalued by the community—not so here. Dorothy Fontana’s “Journey to Babel” is an acknowledged Trek classic and would be even if it had only conjured up Spock’s parents, Sarek and Amanda, in the flesh. But “Babel” offers much more than that—it’s a solid look at the Vulcan family relationship (albeit one somewhat disrupted by the presence of a human parent in the mix), an exciting tale of political intrigue, and an Agatha Christie-type murder mystery that also boasts satisfying action both onboard the Enterprise and in outer space.
While I’m curious as to why anything written by Dorothy Fontana would qualify as “underappreciated,” the second season episode “Friday’s Child” often produces a shrug of disaffection when you mention it to fans. I’ve never understood this and it’s always been a favorite of mine. Maybe it’s the patently ridiculous costumes, the mix of cyclorama “planet” sets and somewhat overused (but cool!) Vasquez Rocks location work, but I’ve always suspected that the chief thorn in many fans’ sides is one of the reasons I’ve always been drawn to the story: the unusual characterization of El’een, the pregnant tribal queen doomed to die by regime change. Despite being played by an actress known for her sex kitten roles, El’een is far from the usual green-skinned alien sexpot provided for Kirk to seduce. Pregnant, stubborn and disagreeable, she establishes her prickly personality early on by siding with the episode’s sneaky Klingon Kras (Mod Squad’s Tighe Andrews) when Kirk and company start their negotiations for the Capellans’ “rocks.” Even better, after Kirk valiantly sabotages her ritual execution after the coup, El’een asks for our hero to be put to death for daring to touch her!
part 3 of our series reviewing past Trek movies In the wake of 1982’s enormously successful The Wrath of Khan, and particularly before the universally despised Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Leonard Nimoy’s directorial debut, Star Trek III, was the whipping boy of the burgeoning Star Trek movie franchise. On the face of it the movie was a success—feverishly anticipated, given extra buzz by Nimoy’s presence behind the camera, the mystery of the fate of Spock after his death in Trek II, and the “final mission of the starship Enterprise” tagline that teased the movie’s shocking destruction of the beloved space vessel at the movie’s climax. Reviews were good, if not as glowing as the ones for Nicholas Meyer’s Wrath of Khan (one of the few Trek movies to garner non-condescending raves from the mainstream press), and box office business was brisk.
In addition to its place of honor as the inspiration for what is usually considered to be the best Star Trek movie ever made, the first season episode "Space Seed" displays many of the virtues that got me hooked on Trek in the early Seventies: cool spaceships, great music (albeit tracked from other episodes here), exciting action and most of all the match-up of Trek’s always interesting cast against guest stars who were their (and especially William Shatner’s) equals in magnetism and theatrical power–people like William Windom, Ted Cassidy, Morgan Woodward, and of course, Ricardo Montalban. Montalban’s Khan Noonien Singh is the quintessential Trek heavy: superpowered, superintelligent, but ultimately humbled by his own arrogance. His scenes opposite Kirk and Leonard Nimoy’s Spock are some of the most dramatically charged, well-written in the series, and his passionate romance with comely historian Marla McGivers (Madlyn Rhue) shows off the series’ full-bodied embrace of adult sexuality, something the latter-day Trek shows always shrank from.