Come What May -
In Harm's Way - To Serve All My Days -
World Enough and Time - Blood and Fire I/II
Enemy: Starfleet - The Child - Kitumba - Mind-Sifter - The Holiest Thing
Stardate 6010.1: After a distress call from a research outpost the Enterprise arrives at the scene, only to find everything in perfect order thanks to "The Onabi". The Enterprise finds "The Onabi", who is beamed aboard and turns out to be an attractive woman with enormous powers. Onabi has been traveling through space and time for a long time. Under her influence the crew is soon subjected to hallucinations and visions of the future. When the Enterprise runs into an enormous enemy vessel, Onabi interferes yet again. She vanishes together with that vessel and is not heard of again.
I have seen a few Trek fan films over the years, but owing to their various shortcomings I have never been too fond of any of them. New Voyages is a series that has changed my view a bit.
The plot of the pilot episode "Come What May", produced in 2004, is a rather simple one in essence. But more importantly it is one that would perfectly fit into The Original Series. While television dramas have "learned" to tell more complex stories in the past 40 years, I think it was becoming for the TOS revival to start with a straightforward story: build up a little mystery around "The Onabi", get the crew in some decent and not too serious trouble, resolve it with a nice twist. Well, in the hallucination sequences the episode foreshadows many events that would happen later in the movies, not to forget the appearance of the (then unnamed) Borg. But aside from this "continuity porn" (the producers and writers are fans just like me and I would have done the same in their place), "Come What May" shows the essence of TOS. And it wouldn't rank among the worse TOS episodes in a direct comparison. Perhaps most obviously "The Onabi" is a capricious female character who would have been perfect as a guest in a TOS episode. I could very well imagine she has traveled straight from the 60s (1960s or 2260s, either way) to our time.
James Cawley, who plays Captain Kirk, is the driving force behind the whole series, which alone deserves the highest praise. We can notice in his role that Cawley is not a full professional, but he largely succeeds in copying Kirk's mannerisms without turning it into a parody. I only couldn't help staring at his forelock all the time, which looked silly and permanently cast distracting shadows on his face. Jeffery Quinn as Spock gives a decent performance, especially considering that Spock impersonations usually make me cringe. It is so hard to remain serious in this role without being unintentionally funny. Quinn is one of the better Spocks. John Kelley is Dr. McCoy, as already the name says. He is not related to DeForest Kelley though. Overall, Kelley could be less obtrusive. We all know Bones' southern charm, but he doesn't let it out all the time. The other crew members have rather few lines, although it is perhaps more than in an average TOS episode. Chekov's accent is a bit overdone. Uhura is occasionally in "dishtress". But these are rather minor nuisances. Overall, the cast may not be totally convincing but their performances are respectable. And I don't think they have hit the wall yet.
Regarding the production design, it is needless to say that the faithfully reconstructed sets and props are fantastic. I wonder how much this alone has cost, but it was clearly worth the effort. There is no other fan series that recaptures the atmosphere of TOS so well. Only the professional production of DS9: "Trials and Tribble-ations" shows how it can be done still better, albeit with a many times higher budget. The CGI of the Enterprise looks wonderful. Some of the other ships are a bit coarse. But the standard of New Voyages is close to a professional production. The only thing that should be improved is the effects in open space. Some nebulae and light effects in the episode are way too colorful.
I also like that the episode re-uses the background scores of TOS, although at times they contrast with the current mood. In particular, some very cheerful themes are used for situations where nothing is really funny.
Remarkable dialogue: "I do not understand the words. 'Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.'" -
"'I once was lost, but now I'm found. Was blind but now I see.' Spock, it's about us. It's about what we're supposedly doing out here. Extending compassion to those in need. Saving the lost. Helping those people who can't help themselves and asking nothing in return." -
"But the song would seem to indicate a deity. Were it not the religious conflicts of your world that led your species to the brink of destruction?" -
"Yes. But it's the ideal that survives." - "Then the hymn is still relevant. I shall endeavor to study it further." (Spock and Kirk)
Remarkable guest appearance: Larry Nemecek appears as the director of a research colony.
Remarkable starbase: The Starfleet Headquarters as designed by Franz Joseph appears prominently in this episode. We can see in a very nice sequence right at the beginning how the Enterprise leaves the drydock in one of the ball-shaped extensions. In addition, the cargo containers from Franz Joseph's STTM and one of his emblems are shown (the latter on the research colony).
Note: This episode was meant rather as a test run and is not considered an official part of the series.
Stardate not given: A time-traveling planet killer, also known as a Doomsday Machine, has changed history. The Enterprise under Captain Pike was destroyed as soon as in 2254. Captain Kirk, with many of his Enterprise crew, commands the U.S.S. Farragut in 2268. His science officer is Kargh, a Klingon. Much of the Federation, including Vulcan, has been destroyed in a devastating war against the Doomsday Machines. Spock, working on the Planet Gateway, where the Guardian of Forever is located, is unaffected. After informing the surprised Captain Kirk they use the Guardian to go back to the late 20th century, where they have picked up strong antiproton readings. On Earth, in the year 2006, they find a message from Commodore Decker, who was believed dead but had actually traveled to that time, dying only a few years ago. Back on Planet Gateway, the Farragut uses a larger version of the Guardian to travel to the time when history began to diverge. They ally themselves with an initially reluctant Captain Pike against the Doomsday Machine. They witness how the enemy vaporizes a Klingon ship, commanded by Korogh, Kargh's father. Soon the Farragut makes another time leap in pursuit of the weapon, and the surprised crew is contacted by Captain Pike, now on an old Daedalus-class ship. Just when the two ships are on a suicide course towards the Doomsday Machine, another Starfleet vessel emerges from a temporal vortex. It is the refitted Enterprise under Admiral Kirk. With joined forces the three ships destroy the machine. But Captain Pike meets his fate when he suffers severe delta radiation burns.
Wow. This episode was so much more exciting than the pilot. There wasn't a single boring second. The visual effects were outstanding, and they could have been hardly any more advanced in an "official" Trek episode. While I was not surprised to see better visual effects and overall better craftsmanship, the performances of the cast have improved just as well. Perhaps it may have to do with the fact that in a thriller it is easier to get the excitement across than the subtle emotions in the rather light-hearted "Come What May". But speaking of emotions, "In Harm's Way" is so full of them in spite of all the action that I don't know where to start. Matt Decker's message, Kargh's encounter with his father, Spock's fruitless attempt to save Pike, Pike in the wheelchair. But probably most of all the episode draws on a very intelligent screenplay with just the right degree of complexity and on the directing.
It may seem a bit too much of everything, considering how this episode ties together three major plots of TOS: "The Doomsday Machine", "The Guardian of Forever" and "Menagerie" (plus the usual small tie-ins from other TOS episodes and movies). This is done with care though, and so the episode does not wind up trying to provide a grand unifying theory of all events in Star Trek. Well, "In Harm's Way" may have gone a bit over the top though, in particular with the commitment of bringing together the Farragut, the Enterprise, a Daedalus-class vessel and finally even the refitted Enterprise in some fashion. I liked it in spite of its contrivance. It is a fanboy's dream to see different vessels, and vessels of different time frames on a common mission.
There are three things pertaining to the time travel that don't quite make sense. Firstly, it does not become clear how exactly the new timeline was set off. Something must have happened in the year 2268 that leaves "our" Spock on Planet Gateway. Was it Commodore Decker's sacrifice? This is the second problem. While we may buy the idea that everything on the Farragut is much like on "our" Enterprise, why does the incident with Decker appear in this timeline as well, a timeline in which the Federation is fighting these machines for already more than a decade? Thirdly, it seems that the Guardian takes care that the Farragut follows the Doomsday Machine through time. But why in the world is Pike, and only Pike, suddenly on that Daedalus-class vessel?
Something remarkable in this episode is how incredibly agile the Starfleet starships and even the Doomsday Machine are. This is in strong contrast to the one-dimensional motions that we know from TOS and that essentially (and consistently) remained the same in DS9 and Voyager, despite the advent of CGI that would have allowed to move and swivel ships in any direction and at any speed. While the depiction of ships in "In Harm's Way" that move like mosquitoes rather than dragonflies may be more realistic, I think it contrasts very much with everything shown in canon Trek.
As much as I disliked parts of the score in "Come What May", as perfectly it is composed in "In Harm's Way". It adds greatly to the overall excitement.
Remarkable dialogue: "How do we know your correct history is the right one, the best one?" -
"Because Jim, here, in your timeline, billions of people are dead." (Kirk and Spock)
Remarkable scene: Kirk, Spock and McCoy open Decker's garage in which they find his shuttlecraft. It is named "Jefferies".
Remarkable guest appearances: We see Barbara Luna, who played Marlena Moreau in "Mirror, Mirror", William Windom in his old role as Matt Decker and Malachi Throne, known as Commodore Mendez in "The Menagerie", as Korogh. Curiously, Mendez appears later in the episode as the events of "Menagerie" repeat, but now played by an accordingly younger actor.
Stardate 6021.2: After the failure of a conference to avert the economical collapse of the Federation, Pavel Chekov transfers Ambassador Rayna Morgan back to the Enterprise. Suddenly their shuttle comes under attack by a Klingon Bird-of-Prey commanded by Kargh. He only stops his "targeting practice" when the shuttle arrives at the Enterprise. Later on the ship, when a power conduit is about to rupture, Chekov pushes Scotty aside and is hit by the plasma surge himself. This causes a rapid aging of his body, of the kind that initially didn't affect him at Gamma Hydra. Meanwhile, the Enterprise is attacked and takes casualties by what looks like another Klingon warship. But soon Kargh arrives, telling Kirk on his honor that the attacker can't be a Klingon. When the enemy strikes again, the aged Chekov takes his seat at the tactical console one last time and manages to cripple that vessel. It turns out that it is actually a Federation ship, run by the Asterians, whose ailing military industry would be in demand if they could trigger a war with the Klingons. McCoy can't find a cure for Chekov, and the ensign dies of his old age.
I admit I never found Ensign Chekov very interesting in TOS, which may have to do with the fact that only on rare occasions he contributed more than a few casual lines, and a bit too much comic relief when he did (most memorably in "The Trouble with Tribbles"). I think, aside from his more elaborate roles in "Spectre of the Gun" and (as silly as the episode was on the whole) in "The Way to Eden" it was as late as in the movies when a matured Walter Koenig gave the character some depth. Now Koenig reappears one more time, 40 years after the first time he played Chekov. In a screenplay that focuses on Chekov he is given the chance to be brilliant, and he takes that chance.
"To Serve All My Days" is built upon the TOS episode "The Deadly Years", where Chekov was the only one among the landing party not affected by the rapid aging. In its original version the episode has no built-in reset button and no recognizable loophole that could bring back Chekov. This both befits and handicaps the episode and the further development of the series. It is a new twist that for once McCoy doesn't find a miraculous cure in the nick of time. It adds realism and enables a touching death scene. I think that the sorrowful dialogues of Chekov, especially those with his younger self, were a bit overdone though. They set the tone for the whole episode, which feels rather funereal even before it becomes clear that there is no hope for Chekov. Regarding future episodes, we know that Chekov will be alive, and since New Voyages is not meant to grossly violate canon, he must return in some fashion, in some universe or another. Kudos to Cawley and his creative staff for the bold decision, but right now (that I have not yet seen the next episode) they leave me with a bad feeling in my stomach.
Other than the Chekov story, the most interesting aspect of the episode is that it critically comments on the weakness of the Federation's economy. I wonder if a future episode will hark back at the economical crisis.
The visual effects were again a tad better than in the last episode. Especially the surface of the planet with its mile-high buildings and the Klingon BoP (an intermediate design based on the ENT BoP as it seems) looked great. The too blunt damage on the Enterprise and the lacking details of the ice chunks in the opening scene, on the other hand, show that there is still room for improvement.
But the perhaps highest praise must go to the make-up. Curiously Walter Koenig was digitally made younger when he appeared for the first time (which is not very flattering!). In the following, we underwent a couple more stages of aging, done more professionally than in many commercial TV series.
Inconsistency: In the debate about the possible non-Klingon origin of what is labeled "Marauder Class" (actually a D7), no one can imagine that anyone else, including the Romulans, could possess such ships. However, in TOS: "The Enterprise Incident" even three of exactly these ships (TOS-R: only two) are in Romulan hands.
Remarkable quote: "I was never that young." (Ambassador Morgan)
Remarkable dialogues: "And Mr. Scott?" - "He begs to inform you. He generally only performs miracles on Tuesdays and Thursdays... Today is Monday." (Kirk and Spock, just after the first attack on the ship), "How much time do I have, honestly?" - "Dammit, Pavel, I'm a doctor, not a watchmaker!" (Chekov and McCoy)
Remarkable guest appearance: Mary Linda Rapelye (Ambassador Morgan) previously played Irina in TOS: "The Way to Eden", where she had a crush on Pavel likewise.
Remarkable fact: There is a yeoman named Miss Okuda.
Remarkable shuttle: The shuttlepod "Archer" in which Chekov and Morgan narrowly escape the Klingon attack is a nice hybrid of the standard TOS shuttle and a TNG-era shuttlepod.
Note: This episode was re-edited in 2008, and the visual effects were enhanced. I only watched the original version, but I was told that in the very end it comes up with a (lame) explanation for Chekov to reappear in the following episode.
Stardate not given: The Enterprise enters the Neutral Zone to aid a freighter in distress, only to witness how three Romulan Birds-of-Prey vaporize the freighter with a new weapon. The Enterprise fires back and destroys two of the enemy vessels, while a third one is heavily damaged and adrift. The explosion of the Romulan vessels has trapped the Enterprise in a hyperdimensional field, with gravity waves endangering the structural integrity of the ship. Sulu and Dr. Lisa Chandris take a shuttle to retrieve data on the Romulan weapon from the remaining ship, which is necessary to dissolve the field. When that ship breaks apart, Scotty does not succeed in beaming them out. Instead of that, he beams back a savage old man, who promptly attacks the crew with blade weapons. This man is Sulu, who was stranded with Dr. Chandris on a lonely planet. While she died 15 years ago, Sulu spent 30 years on that planet. The two have a daughter, Alana, but Scotty can't completely materialize her. She has to stay in a containment field. The attempts to extract the data about the Romulan weapon from Sulu's mind with a Vulcan mind meld and with drugs fail, and the only way to retrieve them would be reverting him to the young man he was, using the transporter. The efforts to save Alana are in vain. While Alana may have a chance to return to her planet alone if the field persisted, this would mean that everyone on the Enterprise, including Sulu, would die. With deep regret Sulu allows himself to be rejuvenated and manages to break the Enterprise free. He does not remember Alana anymore, but agrees to another mind meld with Spock to renew this memory. Years later, when Demora presents Sulu his grandchild, he finally tells his daughter that she once had a sister.
Well, to start with, Chekov is back as if nothing had happened and there is no explanation, other than the one in the remastered version of "To Serve All My Days".
Something else that I didn't like at all about this episode was the setting in the beginning, which was an awkward blend of "The Enterprise Incident", the Kobayashi Maru scenario (that Sulu mentions to Chekov) and "The Tholian Web". In particular, I found it very unlikely that, once again, exactly three enemy vessels would arrive at the scene only seconds after the Enterprise. There was simply zero originality in the whole scenario. But then old Sulu was beamed back, and this changed everything for the better. From now the episode thrives on George Takei's performance and on the charm of Christina Moses as his daughter Alana, but also on wonderful writing that builds multiple new character relationships and gives almost everyone, not just Sulu, a couple of memorable scenes.
Actually, I enjoyed this Sulu story a lot more than the Chekov special "To Serve All My Days". "World Enough and Time" was just as emotional but much more dramatic and more exciting. It kept up the suspense all the time, while the other one had some rather long-winded chapters. I'm sorry to say that, but except for his one memorable maneuver to get the ship out of trouble (that Sulu kind of repeated here), Chekov had nothing more to do than to age and eventually die, while Sulu was left with many choices he had to make. He played a much more active part and came across as a lot more vital.
The episode was once again full of digital eye candy. I liked the ships a lot, the effects of the gravity waves were nicely done and the scene with the shuttle among the Romulan wreckage was a definite highlight.
Remarkable guest appearance: Grace Lee Whitney reprises her role as Janice Rand.
Remarkable ships: We see a Y-Class freighter, a new type of Romulan Birds-of-Prey (Imperator class) and, of course, the Excelsior. The shuttle that Sulu and Chandris take to the Romulan ship is the Bellerophon NCC-1701/5.
Remarkable dialogue: "Isn't the Kobayashi Maru supposed to be a no-win scenario?" - "Let's hope not." (Chekov and Sulu)
Remarkable quote: "He always manages to snatch life from the jaws of death." (Sulu, about Kirk)
Remarkable fact: Sulu named the planet Caliban, after a character in Shakespeare's The Tempest.
Stardate 6429.22: After a battle with the Klingons the Enterprise is badly damaged, but is sent on a mission to rescue the U.S.S. Copernicus. Captain Kirk orders medical technician Alex Freeman to beam over with the team, which upsets security officer Peter Kirk, his nephew, who is in love with Alex. Peter tells his uncle that he does not want him to be overprotective, and that he is going to marry Alex after the mission, whereupon the captain changes his mind and assigns Peter to the team as well. The Copernicus is heading straight into a plasma stream between two stars, towards its certain destruction. When Spock beams over with his team, they find that all records are lost and many of the crew have either died because all blood was removed from their bodies or have committed suicide. The ship is swarming with strange matter/energy lifeforms, plasmacytes. On the Enterprise, Kirk and McCoy recognize what is going on on the Copernicus: The plasmacytes will mutate to deadly Regulan bloodworms. On the Copernicus, Engineer Hodel is killed by the bloodworms. Kirk receives Code-9 order from Starfleet Command to destroy the Copernicus while his people are still aboard. When he communicates the decision to his senior officers, they deny him their support, which is what he has hoped for. In order to save the Spock's team from the bloodworms for the time being, Scotty beams them behind a repulsory field on the Copernicus, where they meet a number of survivors, among them the scientists Blodgett and Yar. McCoy devises a method to cure the infected people by a complete exchange of the blood in their bodies. A Klingon ship appears, whose commander turns out to be Kargh, ready to destroy both Federation vessels. Everyone is rescued from the Copernicus, except for Alex. When Kirk reveals what is the matter with the Copernicus, Kargh suspects that the Federation has brought bloodworms from the Regulan homeworld as a weapon. And this is true. It was the mission of the Copernicus under orders of Section 31 to take the bloodworms into Klingon space. As Kargh is already close to attacking the Enterprise, Kirk asks him to listen. But now Blodgett holds up a small jar with plasmacytes that he threatens to release aboard the Enterprise. Peter pulls his phaser to take revenge on the ruthless scientist. Yar eventually turns against Blodgett and takes the jar. She also volunteers to sacrifice herself as a bait for the plasmacytes, after injecting a substance into her body that would revert them to their harmless natural form. Kargh is content with what he has seen and orders to head back to Klingon space. Jim and Peter Kirk watch how the Copernicus goes up in flames in the plasma stream, and accompanied by the now healthy plasmacytes.
So this is the much-anticipated "first gay episode of Star Trek". I am very glad that such a blunt and one-sided label as I have seen it a couple of times doesn't suit "Blood and Fire". Much less the nicknames such as "Brokeback Trek" that it has earned among those who don't like the mere idea. It should be clear that centering a whole episode or even a double feature around a gay couple that struggles for acceptance would have been gratuitous, and unrealistic in the future setting of Star Trek, where sexual orientation should be a non-issue, unlike it was in the USA of the 1960s. I don't know David Gerrold's original story that he kept pitching for TNG, and that was apparently turned down because of the producers' lacking interest in the issue. He may have reworked it substantially, in addition to just replacing the TNG characters with the ones of TOS. In any case, there is nothing gratuitous about the relationship of Peter and Alex. The focus is on the gay couple only in the first ten or fifteen minutes after the teaser of the first part, and in the second part when the Peter has to leave Alex behind. And while we may suspect for a moment that Peter is angry about the decision to send only Alex on the mission because he suspects his uncle is homophobic, it is much rather because the captain is overprotective of his nephew, who is about the only family he still has. In fact, Jim Kirk is not even aware that Peter is in love with Alex, and perhaps he also didn't know that his nephew is gay in the first place. Perhaps someone else reads more into their interaction, but to me it is undecided whether Captain Kirk is embarrassed because he is the last to know, or rather because Peter has a gay relationship that would give him a hard time to approve of. And I think even Spock, who is standing beside them, is unusually embarrassed, but maybe rather because private matters are being openly discussed in his presence. Well, and same-sex marriages are not an issue in Starfleet, at least not legally.
Summarizing, the "gay" part of the episode is handled appropriately, in a way that it shows homosexuality as a normal form of sexuality and without turning the episode into a "gay rights parade" in space. And even for those who don't like the social commentary or even the mere sight of two kissing men there is no good reason to complain about an episode that consists of so much more and is excellent in both idea and execution.
In many respects Star Trek New Voyages or Star Trek Phase II, as it is called now, outperforms the original Star Trek that it is based upon. Phase II naturally has superior visual effects owing to the technical progress of over 40 years. It is on almost the same technical level as major TV productions. It has adopted new forms of storytelling that may be regarded as more mature than in TOS. Only the mere fact that it is a revival made by fans and for a geeky audience rather than for mainstream television may still cause critics to put down the show or simply ignore it. I know why I care about it. And "Blood and Fire" is further reason. It is the so far best episode of Star Trek Phase II, and arguably of any fan-produced series. The directing is absolutely professional, and the editing is top-notch. The actors' performances are usually spot-on, and they don't look like they are trying hard to be convincing. The episode is full of eye candy, especially the initial battle between the Enterprise with a burning nacelle and the Klingon cruiser. The sets and props look perfect. I also like the score very much, which is a nice blend of old TOS and new themes, so well combined this time that it would be impossible to tell for a casual fan which parts are new.
The double feature is full of exceptionally thrilling scenes, especially in its first part. I especially like the sequence when Spock and his people investigate the bridge of the Copernicus, with a very skillful use of camera pans and of the light spots from the torches the crew are carrying. And while it is a perpetuated cliché that the insane Copernicus crewman grabs a phaser and commits suicide to free himself of the pain, something like this was never as dramatic in canon Trek as here. The attacks of the bloodworms are another highlight, not only visually but in their whole dramatic presentation. I also like the scene when Kirk explains to his senior officers that he has to destroy the Copernicus with Spock and the other crew members still aboard, and everyone rises from their seats in protest. And when Kirk states that he himself will push the button, resign command and order someone else to take over command, he doesn't find a volunteer. This kind of portrayal of loyalty is something I always loved about every Trek series, and here we have yet another impressive variant. The same goes for the the crew's readiness to donate blood at the beginning of the second part.
While I would give the first part as many as nine points, the second part of "Blood and Fire" falls a bit short of it. The story remains thrilling, especially as Alex stays behind and shoots himself with Peter's phaser as the bloodworms are circling him. But the following accumulation of threats winds up as gratuitous. Most obviously the Klingons are there all the time in the second part, but only as bystanders. Since the Federation and the Klingons are apparently at war, Kargh could and should destroy the Enterprise right after his arrival at the scene. Why does he hesitate? Why does he listen to Kirk, who hasn't really anything to offer to him? Why does he hesitate even when it becomes clear that the bloodworms are indeed a weapon? Well, perhaps he finds the conflicts among the human crew quite amusing. Kargh is certainly the antithesis to Kruge here, who becomes Kirk's archenemy under somewhat similar circumstances in "Star Trek III". But his passiveness is utterly un-Klingon.
The whole situation is becoming increasingly absurd anyway as first Kargh threatens to blow the Enterprise to dust, then Blodgett threatens to set the bloodworms free and then Peter Kirk threatens to kill Blodgett. And all this while the Copernicus is heading for the gas stream where the plasmacytes would reproduce in an uncontrollable fashion. It doesn't work with me how Kirk manages to defuse all these ticking bombs and everything is resolved nicely. Perhaps the Klingon involvement and the extraneous conflict resulting from it should have been dropped from the script altogether. It wasn't wise to let Kirk "repeat" Picard's confession to the Romulans that the Federation has developed illegal technology (TNG: "The Pegasus"), because so much else is already going on. And one more thing that I'm not really fond of is that the plasmacytes join to "space butterflies". Well, we have seen similar phenomena in Star Trek before, such as "space jellyfish", "space whales" or "dancing particles". It was visually beautiful too. But the contrast between the horrible bloodworms and the charming butterflies and the conciliatory sentimental ending created by their mere sight is too constructed.
Remarkable quotes: "Relax, Jim. We don't put bull's eyes on the redshirts anymore." (McCoy),
"In ancient times, when a warrior fell in battle, they put him on a boat, with his sword and a shield, and they set him off in flames." (Jim Kirk to his nephew, as the Copernicus is going up in flames)
Remarkable appearance: We see Denise Crosby as Jenna Yar, obviously meant to be the grandmother or great-grandmother of Tasha.
Remarkable uniforms: Peter and Alex are wearing a new uniform variant with colorful bibs. They look like toddlers, it is campy as if they had a label "gay" on their uniforms. Well, Xon can be seen in bib shortalls too.
Remarkable props: Peter Kirk is carrying a new phaser rifle. -- We can see various TMP-like props, costumes and pieces of decoration, which is quite realistic, because this style would become prevalent only a few years in the future. The TMP style can be found on a bed sheet, on the display in Chekov's viewer, on boxes with equipment and most notably in the form of Scotty's engineering suit. There are also the blue UFP flag and the yellow Starfleet Command flag, both in the 24th century version. Finally, we can see the four graphics of previous Enterprises that John Eaves created for Captain Archer's ready room. Actually, Eaves created a fifth one that remained unused.
Remarkable ship: The U.S.S. Copernicus NCC-1893 is of a new design that could be the predecessor or the pre-refit version of the Miranda class.
Remarkable facts: Going to warp is obviously possible with just one nacelle, or with two nacelles of which one is barely operational. -- The Enterprise encounters a red giant / blue dwarf pair. It is a spectacular phenomenon as the blue dwarf, named Iago, is drawing plasma from the much older red giant, named Lear, which will still carry on for thousands of centuries, as Spock reckons. -- Regulan bloodworms were created by the ancient Regulans as a weapon. This weapon eventually destroyed their civilization. The Regulan homeworld has been under quarantine for over 100 years.
Remarkable real-world facts: This episode is dedicated to the memory of Majel Roddenberry, who died on December 18, 2008. -- It is the first episode with "Phase II" in the main title. -- In the second part, the "new voyages of the Starship Enterprise" part in James Cawley's voice-over becomes simply "the voyages of the Starship Enterprise", making it identical to Kirk's line in the TOS main title. -- Peter Kirk's Vulcan roommate is named Xon. Xon was the name of the Vulcan officer to replace Spock in the never produced Phase II series of the 1970s. -- McCoy's assistant is named Fontana, a nod to D.C. Fontana, who wrote a couple of famous Trek episodes.
Stardate 7232.5: Investigating the surface of an unexplored planet, the Enterprise landing party is ambushed by unknown aliens, and the security chief is killed. The aliens also attack the Enterprise in orbit, but their weapons pose no threat, so Kirk orders to return fire with limited power only. One of the aliens, Commander Kyril of the Peshans, is beamed aboard, and he is full of hatred of Starfleet for no apparent reason. A Starfleet ship appears, the U.S.S. Eagle, which was reported lost eight years ago. The Eagle now sports several modifications to its original configuration. The ship does not answer to hails and begins to destroy the Peshan ships, so the Enterprise attempts to protect them. It turns out that the other Starfleet ship was taken over by a woman called Alersa of the Meskans, a cyclomorph who can force her will upon other individuals. Alersa also commands a whole flee of hybrid Meskan vessels that incorporate Starfleet design principles. Spock suggests to save the Peshans by modifying the Eagle's engines in a way to disrupt subspace, so no warp travel would be possible any more in this region of space. Although McCoy and Kirk have objections, the Peshans agree with this extreme measure. At Chekov's suggestion the Enterprise's phasers are routed through the warp engines, so it is possible to penetrate the Eagle's hull and disable the ship. While Kirk materializes on Alersa's ship to negotiate, his nephew Peter is secretly beamed into a Jefferies tube to sabotage the engines accordingly. After their return the fabric of subspace around the Eagle is destroyed as planned, while the Enterprise escapes through a wormhole. Kirk is very pleased with Chekov's performance and he promotes the lieutenant to chief of security, whereby he also puts Peter under Chekov's wings.
Considering that my life goes on without new official Trek (at least as the Prime Universe is concerned), I was eagerly awaiting the latest Phase II episode, "Enemy: Starfleet". It didn't turn out a disappointment, but I would have expected a bit more from it. The premise, or at least what I used to read into the trailers and announcements, is that in a remote region of space the Enterprise would encounter something like an evil version of Starfleet. Maybe a bit like the Mirror Universe Starfleet. But what we get is an alien race that only happens to make use of a Starfleet ship and its brainwashed crew. I would have hoped for a bit more moral and perhaps also emotional involvement of Kirk and his crew.
Well, I have to concede that the moral implications are worked out well though. The situation is comparable to the one in VOY: "Friendship One". While no Starfleet officer is guilty of breaking the Prime Directive or directly killing any Peshans (at least not on his own will), Starfleet's technology gave the Meskans a decisive advantage over the Peshans. I appreciate that this fact is subject to debates throughout the whole episode and is not simply ignored. Also, at one point McCoy throws in that the Meskans may not necessarily approve of Alersa's actions, and shouldn't be punished collectively (by disabling warp travel around their planet).
One major letdown of the episode, however, is that Alersa's mental powers and the way she exerts control over the Eagle's crew never becomes clear and is not sufficiently visualized either. All we see is an evil mistress who keeps yelling at her submissive followers. It doesn't look like she gives them anything in return, unless they need a very special kind of sexual arousal all the time. Also, when we see her board the Eagle eight years earlier in the ship's log entry, it is all brute force instead of mind manipulation, although it is the intention of the scene to infer that she has influenced the crew to give her control of the ship in the first place. At long last when Kirk meets face to face with Alersa we get a slight impression of the effect she may have on someone who is more susceptible than Kirk (I bet he wouldn't even have needed the injection to become immune). But her encounter with Kirk ultimately begs the question whether her kind of control (and just over men as it seems) may be a primarily sexual one. Overall Alersa remains one-dimensional, which is primarily the fault of the script and not Barbara Luna's.
Brandon Stacy is Phase II's new Spock, replacing Ben Tolpin, who directs the episode. My impression is that his intonation is initially a bit off the mark and improves in the course of the episode. However, this may be just a matter of me getting used to his play. Something that I like about all New Voyages installments so far is that all characters make significant contributions to the story, not just Kirk, Spock and McCoy. This time there is a special focus on Chekov (now played by Jonathan Zungre who does a fine job although he doesn't get the accent quite right) and on Peter Kirk. Jim's nephew is still mourning the loss of his friend in "Blood and Fire", and he seems to grasp every opportunity to prove himself and unnecessarily risk his life - much as his uncle must have done some 15 years earlier and Chekov still five years ago. I like the interaction of these "three generations" in the episode very much.
"Enemy: Starfleet" doesn't do so much in terms of creating continuity using small cues as some of the previous New Voyages installments. But this is not to the episode's disadvantage. On the contrary, continuity is applied quite appropriately where we ought to expect it and not to create homage after homage. In this regard I like the mention of Starfleet's ship access codes ("Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan"), the visual resemblance of the wormhole to the one created in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture", and the idea that a ship's warp drive may damage the fabric of subspace (TNG: "Force of Nature").
One open question is what happens to the Starfleet crew of the Eagle and why no one has a bad conscience about leaving them behind. At least, I believe it's still the Starfleet crew that is running around on the Eagle with Pike-era pullovers. As already mentioned, we can't tell who exactly Alersa's minions are and what kind of power makes them submissive.
On the technical side, the CGI effects are once again excellent for the most part. Only the modifications to the U.S.S. Eagle are rather disappointing. They look like country-style add-ons with an unrealistic crinkled aluminum foil texture.
Inconsistency: When one of them has just blown up, Kyril
exclaims: "200 people on each interceptor!" How small are those
other Peshans considering that an interceptor is evidently just a couple of meters long?
Remarkable guest appearance: Barbara Luna, who already appeared in "In Harm's Way", plays Alersa.
Remarkable scene: While being examined by McCoy, Chekov is fidgeting all them time. McCoy calls the nurse, who arrives with a hypospray. Chekov: "Who would that help?" McCoy: "Me. To paralyze your fingers."
Remarkable dialogue: "I'm going to make you chief of security - in addition to your duties as navigator." - "Thank you Sir." - "You realize of course this would put Mr. Kirk under your direct command? I understand you've already taken him under your wing." - "Uhm, not that I'm aware of, Sir." - "Well, he's going to need a mentor, and I can't think of anyone more suited to the task. You know how he is. He's a bit too rash. Stubborn. Competitive. He's way too hard on himself. Consensus on this ship is that he reminds you of somebody else." - "Yes - you... Captain." (Kirk and Chekov)
Remarkable facts: The U.S.S. Eagle NCC-1697 was reported lost with all hands eight years ago. The stardate was 813.2. The captain was an Andorian. -- Kyril's wife was a captain in the Peshan fleet. Three years ago she was captured and mind-controlled by Alersa, to fight against her own people. Kyril had to destroy her ship to avoid further carnage. After the Eagle's arrival the Peshan fleet was decimated from 700 to 70 ships.
Stardate 9717.7: As the Enterprise is traversing an energy field, a strange ball of light penetrates the ship's hull. The next morning the Deltan Ensign Isel reports that she is pregnant against all reason. Three days later she gives birth to a fully human daughter whom she names Irska. The child grows up rapidly and, according to McCoy, is doomed to die soon because of an abnormal white blood cell count. The Enterprise encounters an unidentified cylinder of light, which is made up of the same kind of energy, "dark light", as in the cloud that Irska supposedly originated from. Irska is the equivalent of ten years old when "dark light" from the cylinder is beamed aboard the Enterprise, which poisons the crew and would kill everyone within a couple of hours. Irska's blood, however, is immune and helps McCoy to devise a cure. Next, the cylinder damages the ship's impulse engines, causing a theta radiation leak. Mr. Scott almost dies trying to seal the leak, but Irska proves to be immune yet again and saves the ship. The next crisis follows suit as the alien cylinder manipulates the Enterprise's hull such that it is beginning to dissolve. Xon attempts a mind meld with Irska to learn more about her and about the threat to the ship, but he is overwhelmed by her emotions and falls into a shock. Spock tries to help Xon by melding with him but is repelled too by Irska's strong emotions that are still present. All he picks up is the word "cryontha", meaning "unnecessary shell". The unnecessary shell eventually turns out to be Irska's human body, which she has to abandon for her next stage of development, being a member of a once corporeal species that went through this development for the first time millions of years ago. Isel takes over the task of beaming Irska over to the alien cylinder.
As a preliminary remark, I wouldn't have made this story into a Phase II episode in the first place for two important reasons. Firstly, "The Child" was written for Ilia, a principal character of the never produced second Star Trek series that is referred to as "Phase II" as well. It was not meant to focus on an ensign like Isel who appears out of the blue and to whom neither the other characters nor the viewers are emotionally attached. Secondly, the story was already made into an official Star Trek TNG episode of the same name, and not a bad one, with Deanna Troi being pregnant, but otherwise with essentially the same plot. As much as I cherish the effort to finally tell the story the way that Jon Povill always intended it (and not the way it was rewritten for TNG during the writers' strike of 1988), the Phase II episode has an air of trying to better TNG and perhaps even of being defiantly anti-canon.
I tried to put my reservations against "The Child" aside when I watched it. Still, I frequently felt myself reminded of the original TNG story (which is the rip-off of Povill's original story, if you will). I just can't help comparing the two. Phase II definitely scores a point for going without an uninteresting B-plot (the deadly virus specimens in TNG: "The Child") whose ties to the main plot are just too weak. Furthermore the Phase II episode is more suspenseful and revealing in the final couple of minutes. Isel actively "kills" Irska by beaming her over to the alien cylinder, which is arguably more dramatic than Ian Andrew Troi just vanishing all by himself. Also, we learn that Irska's whole experience belongs to her race's normal process of growing up. Ian Andrew Troi, on the other hand, was just one of Star Trek's many alien lifeforms who wanted to experience human emotions, without being provided with a sufficient motivation.
Other than that, I have to say that I prefer the TNG version of the story on all accounts. TNG: "The Child" tells the whole story of Deanna's pregnancy, of the birth and of Ian Andrew growing up. Phase II: "The Child" largely forgoes this opportunity to build up suspense, to show everyone's amazement and to create emotional attachment with the unanticipated mother and her extraordinary child. Isel is pregnant, in the following scene she gives birth to Irska, and almost the next we are shown is that Irska is already the equivalent of ten years old. Moreover, we notice that Irska (pronounced: "I-rska") can speak fluently without anyone being surprised about that.
As already mentioned, I appreciate that the Phase II episode has an overall more fitting B-plot, yet the alien cylinder is just a cookie-cutter plot device. The frequent plagues that it inflicts upon the Enterprise and to avert which Irska is always the key are becoming boring. And speaking of the plagues, the fact that Spock immediately finds out that the pollution with "dark light" is lethal is another example of a wasted chance of creating suspense. Moreover, instead of showing crew members who spot the first symptoms of the illness in the form of blemishes, the story skips to a point where everyone is already full of large-scale skin burns and almost seems to have accepted their fate. As already mentioned, the episode doesn't take enough time to depict a development and often just shows snapshots of the whole story that are deemed meaningful.
Regarding the characters, I liked Brandon Stacy as Spock and Patrick Bell as Xon very much. J. T. Tepnapa didn't feel right in his role as Sulu, I was almost glad he essentially didn't have more to do than commanding the night shift. John Kelley as McCoy did have his moments, although on some occasions his facial expressions were overdone without a good reason. I think it is sort of pleasant that in this episode Kirk is not the larger-than-life hero who instinctively knows what has to be done. I like this new "calm Cawley". He is very cautious and he stands corrected quite a few times, by Spock and most notably by Irska. Ayla Cordell, who plays Irska, steals the show anyway. Her character is in the center of interest, and the young actress fills that role on all accounts. It seems that child characters in TV dramas either come across as awkward or as awesome, and Irska is the latter. I might go as far as saying that she saved the episode for me every time the story was otherwise becoming repetitive or even plain annoying. I can't say the same about Isel, a character who suffers in the first place from not having been previously developed, as already mentioned. Her advances on Kirk come across as gratuitous for this reason, and perhaps also because actress Anna Schnaitter isn't all that convincing here. I like her portrayal of the caring mother though, at least as far as the script gives her that opportunity, considering that her character's involvement falls short of Deanna's in the TNG episode.
On a final positive note, the visual effects are simply superb, especially those of the Enterprise and the combination of the energy lifeform and real scenes inside the ship.
Summarizing, although a new Phase II/New Voyages episode can never be a disappointment, I think this episode falls short of previous installments of the series. The technical merits (sets, visual effects, camera, editing) as well as most actors' performances have greatly improved since the early days of Phase II, whereas the creative development of the series as a whole and of the single stories is stalled. I think Phase II should not limit itself by doing homages and telling stories from the backlog of TOS (or of the never made TOS sequel of the tentative name Phase II). I am sure I would have loved to see "The Child" in the 70s the way Jon Povill wanted to do it, but the Phase II episode produced with this premise simply comes 35 years too late, 35 years in which Star Trek has moved on.
Inconsistency: How can the "dark light", the equivalent of "dark matter" that is transported aboard the Enterprise, be a biotoxine? If anything, we would expect the radiation to cause something like physical skin damage or cancer. And even if it is toxic (perhaps in a broad sense), how can Spock know that and even calculate the time to cause death without having any experience or any reliable data?
Remarkable quote: "You know, you're the only wee lass I've ever known who could see the beauty in an engineering schematic." (Scotty, to Irska)
Remarkable prop: We see a wig in Isel's quarters, which insinuates that she is bald as we would expect it.
Remarkable facts: The normal gestation time of Deltans is ten months. Deltan women experience giving birth like a form of orgasm. The name Irska means "pure light".
Stardate 2623.3: The Enterprise is summoned to Space Station K-7, where other Starfleet ships have already arrived. Admiral Sheehan beams over and tells Captain Kirk that a war with the Klingons is imminent. In order to avert this war, he sends the Enterprise on a secret mission to the Klingon homeworld to meet the Kitumba, the 16-year-old regent of the Klingon Empire, who is said to be a descendant of Kahless. With the advice of the Klingon K'Sia, the Enterprise can circumvent the Klingon defenses and avoid major battles and finally arrives at Qo'noS. The planet acts as a sanctuary for anyone on the surface or in orbit, so the Enterprise is not further attacked. Kirk, Uhura and Chekov beam down to a public audience with the Kitumba, but with no result. Captain Kargh appears and tells the landing party to return at a later date. The Enterprise officers, however, beam down again, now in Klingon clothes, and urge Kargh to arrange a meeting with the Kitumba. They find the boy in a tavern, and beam him up to the Enterprise. Warlord Makthon is infuriated that the Kitumba has disappeared, as he needs his seal to finally launch the attack on the Federation, after which he wants to kill the boy. The Kitumba and K'Sia, on the other hand, want to get rid of Makthon with the help of the Enterprise. Back in the palace, Spock poses as the Kitumba, upon which he is stabbed by Makthon to Kirk's horror. Makthon assembles his fleet for the attack on the Federation, and he orders all other Klingon ships to follow him, for Kirk allegedly killed the Kitumba. McCoy can heal Spock's injuries quickly, and the Enterprise follows Makthon's ship with the help of a Klingon cloaking device. A team of Starfleet and of Klingons loyal to Kargh and the Kitumba beams over to Makthon's command center. After defeating Makthon, the Kitumba kills the traitors and announces that he is going to re-establish the High Council as the Klingon governing body. He warns Kirk never to enter Klingon space again.
"Kitumba" is one of the more intriguing story outlines for the never produced Star Trek series "Phase II" of the 1970s. The idea that the Enterprise is sent on a peace mission that could become a suicide run any time is arguably more interesting than the arranged diplomatic negotiations in "Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country". I also like the mystery factor about the Klingons in the episode premise. The Enterprise crew is not fully aware of their principles of leadership, of their concept of honor and other cultural values. But perhaps this could have worked out still a bit better, by keeping the true nature of the Kitumba a secret. I think it is given away too soon (to the Starfleet crew as well as to the viewers) that the Kitumba is a boy, and that someone else pulls the strings on Qo'noS. It may have been more powerful, had the crew arrived for an audience on Qo'noS, only to see to their surprise that the Kitumba is only a boy that is being pushed around.
The spirit of Star Trek is present in this episode despite the rather warlike premise that the Enterprise has to make her way through the Klingon lines. It becomes obvious when Kirk hesitates to destroy the one-manned cloaked vessel. He tries to elude it, he gives the pilot a chance to surrender. Only then he orders to fire photon torpedoes, with a bad conscience and with McCoy protesting. This can be contrasted with the scene at the end of the episode in which the Kitumba shows no mercy and kills his captured enemies with a disruptor.
The story is exciting, but drags on during the flight to Qo'noS and the frequent beam-downs and beam-ups when the Enterprise is in orbit and the crew is trying to reach the Kitumba. Maybe it would have been better to cut down the episode to 45 minutes (instead of one hour) for the sake of a faster pace, because a few of the dialogues and of the plot complications are not all that interesting or are even repetitive. Speaking of repetitive dialogues, I would have removed first of all some of the talking about Klingon honor, as well as some of the statements that the war would lead to mutual annihilation, which is repeated throughout the episode almost ad nauseam.
The episode involves many Klingon characters of the various factions, and they are getting a lot of screen time. At times it seems to me that the Starfleet crew are taking a back seat in favor of the Klingons. I think it is worth stepping back, since Klingon politics is in the focus and since there are some really strong guest characters that can fill the blanks. I especially like the actors playing Makthon and his female aide; they are doing an excellent job and strike me as very authentic Klingon villains. John Carrigan is a pleasure to watch as already in his previous appearances as Kargh. Kario Pereira-Bailey is overall convincing in his role as the Kitumba; perhaps he should have been a bit more emotional. The only disappointment among the guest characters is Pony R. Horton as K'Sia; I think I can notice how hard he is struggling to keep up the Klingon posture and intonation in his few longer scenes.
"Kitumba" comes with the arguably best space scenes of Phase II or New Voyages so far, and probably of all fan series. The CG starships with their textures and lighting are stunningly realistic, and better than in many multi-million-dollar productions. Most of all I like the scene in which the Klingon ships enter the orbit of the red planet. A marvelous sight! The CG scene of the Klingon capital is not quite as convincing, it strikes me as too toy-like. But I dig the scenes shot at Fort Ticonderoga, which was converted to a credible Klingon fortress. It is amazing anyway how many different sets and locations appear in this episode.
Overall, this may be the best episode of Phase II so far. It is somewhat less exciting than "Blood and Fire", but it comes with a more plausible plot and with still better production values. I also appreciate that Phase II is back on its mission to continue in the vein of TOS and to conclude the five-year-mission, after the two previous episodes that feel a bit out of place in hindsight.
This is the last Phase II episode with James Cawley as Captain Kirk. Brian Gross will replace him in future episodes, so Cawley can focus on his work as executive producer of the series. I remember that in the first few episodes James Cawley appeared to me like a Shatner imitator, rather than an actor. But his performance has grown on me. I think Cawley has toned down the mannerisms by now and is absolutely convincing in his role, so it is sad to see him go. Anyway, I wish him all the best for his work behind the camera, and all the best for Brian Gross!
Inconsistencies: A group of K't'inga-class battlecruisers hovering a few
hundred meters above the Klingon city? Come on! -- Kargh says that he knows that
the Kitumba likes to visit taverns, and he almost immediately spots the boy in
the first tavern they enter! -- Seeing how the Klingon ships are entering orbit,
Kirk says: "I haven't seen driving that bad since I stole a Corvette as a kid."
This is a very odd mix-up of two universes. We have to bear in mind that A) the
Prime Universe Kirk is not just bad at driving with stick shift but can't get a
car to move at all and that B) it is an important point of the Abrams movie that
his universe's Kirk is such an asshole who steals a car because of his father's
premature death. -- Why does everyone beam over to Makthon with blade weapons?
What happened to their phasers?
Continuity: Kirk is well aware of the existence of the Augment virus and the according differences between the Klingons with smooth and ridged foreheads. We can see various Klingons of both types in this episode, plus some transitory Klingons with only slight ridges. -- In TNG: "Rightful Heir" Gowron says that there hasn't been a Klingon Emperor in 300 years. Kitumba's position, however, is much like that of an emperor. -- Qo'noS is spelled "Kronos" on the tactical map of Starfleet. -- Qo'noS is a very Earth-like planet in this episode, perhaps with more arid regions, unlike the greenish world we could see in TNG. -- Xon tells the Kitumba how unwise it is for the Klingons to rely on the energy production on the moon Praxis (which will explode in "Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country"). -- Makthon belongs to the House of Duras, whose members seem to be treacherous in just every generation. -- The High Council that Kitumba re-establishes will continue to exist in the 24th century.
Remarkable dialogue: "Course to Qo'noS, Warp 7." - "But without honor." - "Are we gonna spend the entire trip hiding in the bushes? While this Klingon stands there and lectures us about honor?" - "Honor, Mr. Scott, is behavior that adheres to a sense of what is morally right. The specifics of any given action must meet no further qualification to be in fact honorable." (Kirk, K'Sia, Scotty, Spock)
Remarkable quote: "We pass on values and history to our children without the aid of swimming pools and bowling alleys on our warships, Doctor!" (K'Sia)
Remarkable scene: The Enterprise performs what looks like a suicide run against the Klingon homeworld defense fleet. When the Klingon ships turn around and apparently destroy the Enterprise, they only see the explosion of a decoy.
Remarkable appearances: We can see Gil Gerard of Buck Rogers fame as Admiral Sheehan, and no one else but Andrew Probert, the designer of the Enterprise refit and the Enterprise-D, as Commodore Probert.
Remarkable ships: We can see a Starfleet Saladin/Hermes-class at K-7, and a wide variety of Klingon ships. Among them are a small ship originally designed by Andrew Probert (the one-manned vessel destroyed by the Enterprise), modified 22nd century BoPs with new separate nacelles, at least two different K't'inga derivatives and a Klingon space station.
Stardate not given: Captain Kirk, suffering from amnesia, finds himself in a mental hospital in Binghamton, NY, in the year 1958. He is subjected to the usual rigorous treatment of mentally ill patients of the time, with only Dr. Jan Hamlin speaking in his favor. In the 23rd century, Admiral Withrow orders Spock to call off the search for the captain, who vanished during a planetary mission. Spock is to assume command of the Enterprise and to join the Lexington in response to a Klingon threat. Against the protest of Scott and McCoy, Spock follows his orders. Spock is plagued by visions of Kirk being tortured but doesn't tell anyone. He tells McCoy to arrange for a memorial service for Captain Kirk that he himself doesn't attend. In the meantime on 20th century Earth, Kirk has regained some of his memory. He was kidnapped by Klingons under the command of Kor and treated with a mind-sifter. Kor wanted him to reveal the coordinates of the planet Gateway, the location of the Guardian of Forever. After their arrival on Gateway, Kirk managed to escape through the Guardian. He ended up in the year 1958, where the confused man was apprehended by the police and committed to the mental hospital. Spock finds an old newspaper report about the allegedly mentally ill Kirk. Against his orders, he changes course to the planet Gateway, where the Enterprise and the pursuing Starfleet ships run into the Klingons, who have to retreat. Spock and McCoy leap through the Guardian and take the captain back to the 23rd century.
"Mind-Sifter" is based on a story by Shirley Maiewski that dates back to 1975. Both the original story and the Phase II adaptation are well-rounded. They make good use of the established characters and settings of TOS and they come with a distinctive emotional touch. In a positive sense, we can say that "Mind-Sifter" has a bit of everything that we love about TOS. On the other hand, there is not much besides the well-known concepts, nothing that really expands the universe of TOS. The eponymous Klingon mind-sifter is a new idea, but everything else featured in the episode is already known from "The City on the Edge of Forever", "Errand of Mercy" and "The Tholian Web". Well, and if I exempt the original story for obvious reasons (it may have been the original inspiration), the idea of a Starfleet captain in a 20th century mental hospital is just too familiar from DS9: "Far Beyond the Stars". I enjoyed "Mind-Sifter" and I don't think of this episode as a setback like "The Child" was one. But I hope that Phase II will move on with the storyline in future installements.
This is the first full New Voyages episode with Brian Gross as Captain Kirk. I would have preferred to see the switch in an episode with Kirk in his usual place on the bridge of the Enterprise, as this would have been a better chance for the new actor to become Kirk and to be accepted by the audience. Anyway, I really appreciate what Brian Gross makes of his role as the battered Kirk and I am looking forward to see more of him as the "normal" captain in future episodes. Brian Gross exhibits a few less mannerisms in his acting than James Cawley, and I rather like that.
Brandon Stacy is mostly brilliant as Spock in this episode. Only in the scene when he is talking with Admiral Withrow, Spock's voice should't be so trembling. I quickly got accustomed to Jeff Bond as Dr. McCoy. Although his McCoy could be more grumpy, in terms of language as well as facial expression, I think his decent play benefits the episode. The arguably best acting in the episode, however, comes from Rivkah Raven Wood, who plays Dr. Jan Hamlin, which is a bit sad because it makes most of the permanent cast pale in comparison.
Overall, the dramatic presentation and the production values are among the best I have seen in New Voyages/Phase II so far. The lighting, the camera work and the visual effects are awesome. I never would have noticed that parts of the 20th century interiors were created digitally, as is revealed in the VFX Easter eggs. And the space battle between the Federation and the Klingons (in the modern VFX version) is pure eye-candy. It only should have lasted longer! My only small beef is with the background music, which is too dominant or too dramatic in a couple of scenes. Some of the more recent Phase II episodes were better in this regard, while "Mind-Sifter" feels a bit too much like TOS, a series that deemed it necessary to "wake up" the audience just before and after a commercial break.
Remarkable dialogue: "I asked for a transfer." - "And?" - "Starfleet refused. Spock wouldn't allow it. Your departure would negatively impact the efficiency of this vessel's medical services. Nicest thing he ever said to me." -
"Aye." (McCoy and Scott), "Cheating. Isn't that dishonorable?" -
"No. Losing is dishonorable." (Kirk and Kor)
Remarkable cameo: We can see James Cawley as another patient in the mental hospital. He thinks he is Elvis, alluding to Cawley's work as an Elvis impersonator in real life. Brian Gross as Kirk: "I hate that guy." :-D
Remarkable real-world fact: This episode was produced in two versions, one with recent and one with retro-style visual effects.
Stardate 7713.6: Just after Scotty and Dr. Carol Marcus have departed on their shuttle, the terraforming station on Lappa III where Dr. Marcus is working with her colleagues explodes in a huge ball of fire. The two are rescued by the Enterprise. Against Dr. McCoy's advice Kirk, who is infatuated with Dr. Marcus, allows the deeply shocked woman to investigate the accident together with Mr. Spock. The two beam down to the hazardous surface where Marcus spots a device with a strange energy signature. Spock can be beamed up again, but Marcus' communicator fails. Kirk beams down without a protection suit to save her. Upon further investigation Spock comes to the unsettling conclusion that the strange energy reading stems from protomatter, a highly unstable form of matter, and that Marcus may have produced or acquired it to give her project a boost that was behind schedule. The Enterpise follows the ion trail of an unknown alien vessel that turns out to be of the then unknown Ferengi. The Ferengi commander says he has been in contact with humans before, and upon further negotiations he reveals that he sold the technology to produce protomatter to one of Marcus' coworkers, apparently without her knowing anything about it. When Marcus is about to leave the ship, Kirk proposes marriage to her, but she declines although she is pregnant with his child.
Scotty raves over the old days ("No A, B, C or D"). Carol Marcus (who is not a "blond lab technician" here) breaks Kirk's heart. And we've got another anachronistic appearance of the Ferengi. Overall, this episode doesn't feel like the promised "New Voyage" but I still like it very much. Although it has all the ingredients for continuity porn, of which I mentioned only the three most obvious ones, the story can much rather be described as a romance that is embedded in a mystery. The former is just as touching as the latter is suspenseful (although it is blindingly obvious that the strange energy would turn out to be protomatter). Anyway, unlike in previous fan films that were pushing continuity themes too hard, I think that the relationship of Kirk and Marcus is told in a more casual fashion, a bit like "The Holiest Thing" were a real TOS episode that would be made into "Star Trek II" many years later.
However, I also have some points of criticism about the story and the directing. First of all, Kirk is smitten with Dr. Marcus from the moment he first sees her. It would have been more interesting and also more realistic if there had been some sort of initial clash between the two or anything that could add some spice to the romance. Even as Spock suspects that Marcus could be partially responsible for the explosion, there isn't a real conflict between Kirk and Marcus (and not between Kirk and Spock either). Given that this episode is over an hour long, more could have been done for the dramatic impact, in the tradition of a TOS episode. While I like the discussions about life, loss and love among Kirk, McCoy, Marcus and Spock, I think they take away a bit too much of the time.
This is the first time that Brian Gross, the new Captain Kirk, can be seen in his actual role for a whole episode. As I already noted in my review of "Mind-Sifter", Brian Gross is a good actor, but I think he may not be the best Kirk. My judgment may be premature but my impression is that James Cawley knew better how to catch everyone's attention. On the other hand, Cawley too needed a few episodes to grow into his role and especially to switch from the imitation of Shatner mannerisms to his own interpretation of Kirk's posture. Speaking of mannerisms and posture, I would have liked to see a bit more of those from Brian Gross in this episode. It is also notable that it is the second time we see Gross at the side of a strong female character. Notwithstanding the points about him not being quite Kirk I would like to see, he is quite convincing in his love story, and has a good chemistry with Jacy King as Carol Marcus. He makes an idiot of himself, but hey, that's what men in love do. Carol Marcus herself is yet another interpretation of the character here than the Marie Curie type in "Star Trek II" and the bitch in "Star Trek Into Darkness". She comes across as more lifelike than the other two.
I have praise for Brandon Stacy's performance as Spock. I only wonder if he had a cold in most of the scenes shot with him because his voice sounds very nasal (or this is something I may not have noticed before). John Kelley plays Dr. McCoy here because this episode was filmed before Jeff Bond took over. I have a slight preference for Kelley. Especially his intonation is always spot on. Well, McCoy's part could have been bigger. Speaking of characters who should have more screen time, it is sad that Scotty appears only in the frame story (24th century), and in some sort of second frame story (23rd century) within the frame story. This is a disappointment considering that the teaser with old Scotty creates the impression that he would be involved a lot more.
This is an episode that I finished watching with a content smile on my face. And I am tempted to agree with Scotty that "those were the voyages". There are clearly some weaknesses in the story and several continuity issues, but overall "The Holiest Thing" demonstrates how a fan series continues its way towards telling great stories and not just trying to recapture the spirit.
The production values are once again great. The numerous visual effects of the ships in space and the planet's surface are outstanding, but I also shouldn't forget the score that appears perfectly fitting to me in every scene.
Remarkable error: This episode takes place late in the five-year mission, most likely in 2269. "Star Trek II" is set in the year 2285 (in most reference works) or 2281 (in a revised TOS timeline with a few fixes). So Dr. David Marcus couldn't be older than 16 at the very most in "Star Trek II"! It is obvious that Kirk must have met Carol Marcus a couple of years before he went on the five-year mission.
Continuity: The "modified transporter technology" for terraforming sounds like a precursor of replicator technology. - Carol and David Marcus will use protomatter once again in "Star Trek II". But realistically, at some time in the movie Kirk or someone else should remind her of the catastrophe that happened because of protomatter.
Remarkable dialogue: "I didn't realize you had children." - "No, I don't. I'm birthing new worlds. New places for life to arise. That's the most mothering act of all, wouldn't you say." - "A mother is a mother still, the holiest thing alive." - "Samuel Taylor Coleridge, you read the classics." (Kirk and Marcus), "Vulcans are incapable of being wrong." - "No. Vulcans are unwilling to be inaccurate." (Marcus and Spock)
Remarkable quote: "Very curious. They have very strange ears." (Spock, about the Ferengi)
Remarkable ship: We can see the Enterpise with new nacelles for the first time while the rest is still the same. This is an intermediate step between the TV version of the ship and the total refit seen in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture". It corresponds with modifications that Matt Jefferies prepared for Star Trek Phase II, before this new TV series was canceled and the shape of the ship was modified more extensively for the movie by Andrew Probert.
Remarkable shuttle: The planetary shuttle Cologne OSS-748/5 barely escapes the explosion.
Remarkable fact: "Protomatter is the theoretical vestige of the birth of the universe. It is highly unstable. It fluctuates at the quantum level between matter and antimatter states." (Spock)
Dedication: "For Grace Lee"
|Last modified: 06 Feb 2017