25 September 2016

Sex, Drugs and Strange Weapons (Review: 'Star Trek' 2.1, "Amok Time")

She's just watched "The Alternative Factor"

Spock starts acting very strangely indeed... he's all emotional. It turns out that he's in his 'mating period' and has to return to his native Vulcan to get married or he will die...

Right, let's get the 'saucy' bit out of the way first. "I have to mate or I'm going to die" is the sort of plot one commonly associates with a bad comedy or a porn film. Indeed, it was considered too adult for West German television (which was also easily receivable in East Germany) and the episode got majorly edited in the dub there... Also, 'pon farr' sounds like the sort of thing that immature teenagers would snigger at and "I'm in my 'pon farr' period" sounds like the sort of chat up line you'd use at a convention...

Leonard Nimoy spends most of the episode trying to contain his raging hormones... well, that's something every adult has experienced at some point or the other... as either the giver or the recipient. He does a great job at trying to suppress his emotion and not always succeeding, although we never entirely seem him completely lose it.

It's a credit to the writers of the show that they resist the opportunity to use Spock's predicament as fodder for jokes... or maybe they weren't allowed to by the network. Kirk comes across as a good friend understanding what Spock is going through, especially in an well-played 'awkward' scene in which Spock opens up to him about his biological urges. McCoy isn't the kind of gentleman who makes sex jokes and he has another strong performance in this - Season 2 also marks the promotion of DeForest Kelley into the opening titles of the show.

Speaking of regulars, this episode has the first appearance of Walter Koenig as Ensign Pavel Chekov and it's clear from the start why he became a fan favourite. Brought in to draw younger viewers to the show and made Russian by Roddenberry after he received a complaint from the USSR that the other superpower was being ignored in his vision of the future. He's a charming character who has an enjoyable cyncism - and anticipates changes in orders - although his hair (Koening wore a wig for the first few episodes he filmed) is a bit distracting. He definitely works well with Sulu.

This episode sees the début of two of Trek's most famous bits of iconography, the Vulcan salute and their associated catchphrase, "Live long and prosper". We also get to meet plenty of other Vulcans, most notably T'Pau, who is a pretty big cheese in Vulcan society and the Federation in general. Celia Lovsky, who was born in what was then Austria-Hungary in 1897 had a thick accent that got her cast in 'exotic' dignified old lady roles after her divorce from Peter Lorre, very well known for playing sinister foreigners himself and  with a distinctive accent commonly imitated by Looney Tunes.

The Vulcan ritual is very ornate and is the sort of thing I'm sure some Trekkies have actually employed for their wedding. Mind you, Dothraki weddings are far more violent.


Well known for establishing a good chunk of the Vulcan backstory, this episode is far better than its plot would suggest.


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