17 January 2022

Didn't he turn up in Lower Decks? (Review: 'Star Trek' 2.26, "Assignment: Earth")

The answer to that question is no, but Gary Seven has appeared in a number of non-canon works[1], including the Year Five IDW comics series from as recently as 2020.

Been a good while since I did one of these - when a 'current' series is running, I will focus on that. In any event, Discovery is on hiatus until February, so I might do a couple more of these before then. 

****

In a spot of rather casual time travel, the Enterprise goes back to 1968 to observe Earth's history and find out how the planet dealt with historical problems back then. As they're doing so, they intercept a transporter beam from a thousand light years away, with a suited man and his black cat. Who it turns out has advanced alien technology and plans to do something on Earth. Can the crew stop him? Should they stop him?

****

Star Trek was not doing well in the ratings during its second run and Roddenberry basically created the episode I am reviewing as a "backdoor pilot" for another show that was ultimately not picked up. NBC, convinced by among other things a mass letter writing campaign, renewed Star Trek, but... more on that in another post.

The plot is very Cold War in its basis and would have worked just fine as a standalone episode. A mysterious operative with high-tech gadgets (including an early version of a speech-to-text machine, a concept under development, but still very primitive at the time) that could be mucking around in Earth's history... definitely a good idea. Space nukes were something in the headlines at the time - the Outer Space Treaty banning them had been signed and ratified in 1967. 

The execution, however, is rather lacking. The Enterprise regulars are fine. Zero complaints about any of them - Sulu turns up as well in this one.

But then you've got those for the proposed spin-off series, Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln. Gary Seven is a rather forgettable character, one of those generic action heroes that fill so much of television even today. Any series would have likely built on his background of course. As for Roberta Lincoln, the very-of-her-time secretary, she's a 'dumb blonde' who in one case literally advances the plot with her backside. As for Isis the cat, who is very well trained (any cat owner can tell you that getting one to do what you want is not easy), the revelation at the end really cheapens the character. Terri Garr would go on from this to get much better roles, including an Oscar nomination.

The rest of the guest cast... not really memorable... and look more than a bit silly after being hypnotised by Gary Seven. I wonder when the NYPD got rid of the double-breasted overcoats? They certainly don't wear them now. Feel free to respond in the comments.

There is a lot of stock footage of a Saturn V in this story, which would of course be the rocket that took man to the Moon for the first time, although it had only made one test flight at this point. It does seem a very odd choice for the space nukes described in the episode - there were plenty of far less powerful rockets in the US inventory that could do the job just fine. This footage in any event provides a considerable amount of padding.

That's the problem with this episode. It's too slow and padded out with not very good set-up for a series. The denouement is great as Spock and Kirk have to work out if they can trust Gary Seven... but that's the best part of the episode.

Ironically and tragically in the latter case, shortly after this episode aired, a Saturn V did have problems[2] and there was an "important assassination" - namely Martin Luther King Jr., who had persuaded Nichelle Nichols to stay on the show as she was an inspiration to young black women.

****

Conclusion

The concept is interesting, but let's be honest, I would not be joining the Gary Seven Army.

Oh, and "Spock's Brain" is next... I will brace myself.

6/10

[1]CBS policy is basically that only the TV series and films are 'canon'. The Abrams films from 2009 onwards are considered part of an alternate reality called "the Kelvin timeline" after the ship that was attacked at the beginning of the first of those, a term that has become official. The Animated Series went from being canon to non-canon to de facto canon again. In any event, stuff from these works has turned up in TV and film, therefore becoming canon, such as James Kirk having the middle name Tiberius.

[2]Apollo 6 had been planned to simulate a lunar return profile and had a number of engine problems meaning that the full mission plan could be achieved. In any event, with Lyndon Johnson's decision not to seek re-election and MLK's assassination, followed by mass riots, meant that the thing was rather ignored in the press.

16 January 2022

Coronavirus #36 - past the Omicron peak

It is looking like Omicron has very peaked in the UK, with recorded case numbers coming down pretty rapidly over the last week. It is likely that this won't be the last wave of Covid infections here, but we're getting better at treating this all the time and I'm not sure how much more evolution the virus can do considering its pretty contagious as is.

In any event we will need to be vigiliant.

I've been following the developing scandal about parties in Downing Street like everyone else here. There seems to have been serial breaches going on here and Boris Johnson should have been aware of what has happening in his own offices. It's time for him to resign.

26 December 2021

Desmond Tutu 1931-2021

A true legend of the anti-apartheid movement; a man not afraid to criticise all parties, including the white supremacist regime that caused so much harm to South Africa's people and the ANC governments that have not truly delivered on the equality hoped for. There are very few like him.

Rest in Peace.

24 December 2021

Christmas 2021

This has been a better year than last, with the vaccine rollout making lives a lot better allowing for many restrictions to be at least temporarily lifted. Omicron is now posing a big challenge and it is clear that the fight against Covid-19 is by no means over yet.

All this has caused a lot of problems for people's mental health; uncertainty over plans and what we'll be allowed to do next week means that there isn't always a lot to look forward to.

But Jesus is something to look forward to. One day there will be no more guilt, no more fear, no more tears and no more uncertainty. Just an eternity of happiness with him in heaven. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be able to keep going at times. He came to save sinners - and we are all sinners - taking our sins away from us via his perfect sacrifice. Things will get better.

With that message of hope, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

19 December 2021

Coronavirus #35 - The Omicron lockdown?

With the rate of Omicron's growth and its ability to get round the vaccines to some extent, the ultimate question is just how much severe illness it causes compared with Delta. The evidence from South Africa is that it isn't as bad by quite some margin, but it remains to be seen just how applicable that is with other countries.

A number of nations are implementing restrictions already to slow the impact of this; people in other places are adjusting their plans to minimise their risk. I was going to see the new Spiderman film yesterday, but I decided against it in the current circumstances.

We may end seeing further restrictions after Christmas. A lot depends on how this week - with the schools off, remember - goes, particularly with hospital admissions.

27 November 2021

Coronavirus #34 - The Omicron Factor

So, we're back to mandatory masks in public transport and shops, along with self-isolation for all close contacts of those with this new variant. As yet, we don't know how much Omicron can beat the vaccine - I suspect it might allow for the vaccinated to be infected but not hospitalised. But better safe than sorry.

23 November 2021

58 Years of 'Doctor Who'

I've been monitoring the viewing figures of the show for a number of years now and the trend is rather concerning.




A continuous decline across the Whittaker era - the show is at ratings last seen in the McCoy era. It is a very different TV market now, don't get me wrong, but people have turned off in droves.

Ultimately, Russell T Davies is a man I trust to turn things around; he knows what works. Because if he isn't, we'll be back in the wilderness with no TV Doctor Who at all. Which would be a real shame.

I see "The Abominable Snowmen" is next to be animated - I watched the first episode of "Galaxy Four" and it holds up pretty well despite being over 50 years old.

In any event, happy 58th anniversary!

Edit 28/11: The graph is in a way not comparing apples with apples; the headline figure for the post-2005 era is Day+7 i.e. those watching live or within a week. Day+28 figures are seemingly about the same as for the Capaldi era, although we don't have those yet for "Flux". But it would be nice to have more people watching the show.