Wednesday 21 September 2016

Where No Fan Has Gone Before #2

All my life, I've been a Star Wars fan. I've never gotten into Star Trek. As I approached my mid-thirties, I realised that I should probably actually have a proper go of this "Trek" thing. So, here is my ongoing mission: to view, consume and report back on Star Trek...the whole shebang.

I mean, how long can that take, right?

Where No Man Has Gone Before

This episode starts with the USS Enterprise doing what it normally does - drifting through space seemingly without mission, in the absence of a solitary doctor to give a medical check-up to. Fortunately for all concerned, but most especially the audience, a damaged ship's recorder of the SS McGuffin, an Earth spaceship lost two hundred years earlier, is found. Its recordings are incomplete, which is a little annoying, as it's a fucking recorder...but it reveals that the Valiant had been swept from its path by a "magnetic space storm," and that the crew had frantically searched for information about ESP in the ship's library computer. The recording ends with the captain of the Valiant apparently giving a self-destruct order.

So, this looks like the episode might be a little more space-fantasy that hard sci-fi. With my Warsian background, I'm more than okay with that.

Kirk decides that they need to know what happened to the SS McGuffin, and the Enterprise crosses the edge of the galaxy where it encounters a strange, wobbly-wibbly, pulsing, purple barrier which damages both the ship's systems and warp drive, forcing them to retreat. At the same time, Redshirts #2-#10 are killed (offscreen, to add insult to injury) and both helmsman Gary Mitchell and ship's psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Dehner are knocked unconscious by the barrier's effect. When he awakens, Mitchell's eyes glow silver, and he begins to display remarkable psychic powers.

Watching this episode I noticed a few odd things - the absence of Bones and Rand, the extra characters...and even that Sulu seemed to have a different job on board the ship (check me out, this "Trekkie" thing is easy!), so I suspected (correctly, as it turned out) that this was a pilot episode. There's not much that flat-out contradicts the other episodes, but it definitely felt a little like a rough-draft.

The story is...okay. There were no surprises along the way, I was pretty sure I knew how it was going to progress as it went along. I think the most grating thing was that it was just a little bit too similar to Charlie X, the preceding episode in the series. Had these two stories been a little further apart, I'm not sure I'd have noticed the similarities, but as it stands it's not very satisfying. Production wise it's fine. The cast are obviously all finding their feet, but that's understandable. It's a pretty forgettable story, but it's not a bad one; although a better conclusion would have been nice.

Where No Man Has Gone Before - Grade: B-

The Naked Time

If that title doesn't fill you with apprehension and visions of a naked Sulu running amok, then you should probably schedule a CAT scan, because it really should.

On stardate plifty-point-plifty, the Enterprise arrives in orbit around the dying planet Psi 2000, which is presumably the planet where they make tyre gauges. Though their mission is to observe and document the planet's (presumably acrimonious) breakup, they have also been tasked to locate a research team on the planet that had not been in communication with Starfleet for several months. A landing party led by Mr. Spock beams down, finding the life support system of the researchers' observation post shut down and the team frozen to death in bizarre situations, such as fully clothed in a shower, seated at a control console as if nothing was wrong, as well as one woman who was strangled. I thought for a moment we were looking at an Outpost #31 type scenario, but apparently not.

One Enterprise crewman, Redshirt #11, removes his environmental suit glove to scratch his nose, breaking all number of HAZMAT procedures and regulations, and comes in contact with a strange red liquid. The landing party is beamed back to the ship and quarantined by Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy. McCoy finds no medical issues with them and allows them to return to duty.

After returning to the Enterprise, going through decontamination and being cleared by Dr. McCoy, McDontbother begins to exhibit depression symptoms, prompting Mr. Spock to observe that he has a higher than normal quotient of self-doubt. He acts irrationally, expressing hostility towards other crew members in a crew lounge, ultimately threatening Sulu and Redshirt #12 with a knife.

Man, this is a weird-arse episode. I really wanted to like it, but so many parts of it just felt so disjointed that I just really struggled to bear with it all the way through. The main villain of the piece isn't actively malicious, he's just affected by the red liquid and thrust into the circumstances. The ending is also terribly rushed, and sputters to a finish.

There were some fun parts, George Takei, in particular, is brilliant in this episode, and Leonard Nimoy is similarly impressive. It's just a shame that when you pull it all together is just kind of goes limp and spurts out the sides like a fistful of play-dough.

The Naked Time - Grade: C

Want to share thoughts on this episodes? Tell me what to look forward to? Want me to cover some of the books, audiodramas, comics or anything? Hit me up on Twitter @realbradhb, and I promise to get back to you.

Brad Harmer-Barnes is a contributor to various gaming publications, as well the editor of Suppressing Fire. He can be followed on Instagram and Twitter @realbradhb

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