26 March 2021

Coronavirus #27: The variants

The UK's case rate appears to be levelling off, with an increase in cases among schoolchildren offsetting falls in the wider population as the vaccine rollout continues, albeit at a somewhat slower pace than previously.

There is a concern about variants that might "escape" the vaccine and so render us back to square one. At the moment, these concerns appear to be somewhat overblown. While some variants do seem to be less impacted by the vaccine, none of them seem to be completely successful in escaping it to the point they are causing hospital admissions among the vaccinated.

This doesn't mean we should throw caution to the wind and we need to remain vigilant, but frightening people unnecessarily is something that the media in particular should not be doing. I somehow doubt they'll stop though, sadly.

23 March 2021

Space Mission: Impossible (Review: Star Trek 2.21, "Patterns of Force")

I'd like to start this post by extending a belated Happy Birthday to William Shatner, who turned 90 yesterday. 


Mike Godwin didn't come up with his famous 'law' until 1990, but a variant of it as that as any science fiction franchise continues, the chances of a discussion or comparison to the Nazis increases. It only took Doctor Who two stories - the Daleks are very much a Nazi metaphor - and now we have a very explicit Star Trek comparison, symbology and all.

Indeed, this episode was not aired in Germany until 1996; there is no ban on the use of Nazi symbols in television and film for dramatic purposes, but the German networks just chose not to broadcast it - it was after all only 23 years in the past and a felt bit too early for the subject to be covered in light entertainment.


Heading towards the planet Ekos to pick up a cultural ambassador who was one of Kirk's instructors at the Academy (he knows a lot of people, our Captain does), the Enterprise gets shot at by a nuclear missile. This is successfully dealt with and it is clear that something has gone badly wrong with Ekos, even more so after Kirk and Spock beam down to discover the place is basically Nazi Germany, with a plan to exterminate another race in the same system.


This doesn't exactly win any awards for subtlety. You've got a Nazi government planning a Final Solution against a planet called Zeon, whose people in the planet have names like Isak and Abrom. It's also worth pointing out that Shatner and Nimoy are/were Jewish - wearing SS uniforms is an interesting experience for anyone, but I'd imagine it is more so if you're a member of that particular people. As indeed is Walter Koenig who plays Chekov - his family fled Lithuania because of antisemitism.

The Ekosians are costumed in uniforms literally pulled out of the Paramount wardrobe department (they made a lot of war films) and generally with mis-matched insignia. Indeed, this episode was filmed in Paramount's offices with the corridors redecorated.

Kirk and Spock end up getting captured, losing their shirts and getting whipped with some unconvincing looking injuries; I suppose that the network wouldn't have allowed more realistic whipping. We do get a rather funny scene where Spock has to stand on Kirk's injured back to create a laser using a lightbulb... it's a pretty ridiculous scene in general, but I'm glad they thought of that detail. The leads all get good material.

The main characters then end up working with the resistance to infiltrate the Chancellery to get at the former ambassador who has now become another Hitler, although his deputy is now pretty much running the show. The overall reveal of his motivations for doing this is a bit unconvincing in the light of further historical analysis of Nazi Germany - it wasn't as efficient as thought - and to be honest, could have been written better. I get a feeling that this whole episode is a bit rushed - indeed it was trimmed in the edit - with key bits skipped over. Brevity is not always the soul of wit.

Where the episode does work is in the whole espionage/skulduggery department; I am very much reminded of 1960s Mission: Impossible, which of course Leonard Nimoy was in. Moles, infiltrating an enemy headquarters in purloined uniform and getting past the guards through sheer bluster, is the classic bread and butter of these sorts of stories - I generally enjoy them a lot. The climax is pure Mission: Impossible; the IMF would rarely kill their targets directly, but getting them to shoot each other was perfectly fine.

The episode ends in a rather perfunctory manner and it's left assumed that the hatred engineered against the Zeon people will magically go away. History tells us that really isn't the case.


Distinctly average and perhaps too unsubtle. This might have worked a lot better as a two-parter too.


08 March 2021

Did Someone Order Ham? (Review: 'Star Trek' 2.20 "Return to Tomorrow")

The original form of Sargon (Photo by Сергей Орловский on Unsplash)

It's been a while since I've done one of these - I was watching Season 3 of Star Trek: Discovery, which has very much grown the beard or (rather the braids) with a major step up in quality. Then, following its release on Amazon Prime, I watched the excellent Star Trek: Lower Decks animated series. Beckett Marinier would be great to see in the actual flesh.

So, now it's time to go back to 'Those Old Scientists' or the 2260s...


The Enterprise is, for a change, actually going somewhere where no man has gone before, when they encounter an M-class planet that has been dead for half a million years (quite how Spock figures that out so quickly from space is unclear). Or so it seems. Another space entity hijacks the ship - they should really get better firewalls - and gets the crew to beam down to a deep cave where the three survivors of their race are now energy contained in glowing spheres. They want to have bodies again and need to borrow some of the crew to make them, in return for giving them their technology.


Now Bill Shatner is known for chewing the scenery as Kirk. When another creature possesses him, it's an excuse to chew even more of it than usual, as Sargon, the leader of these three survivors, really appreciates a new body in 'excellent condition' - although this tale doesn't have Kirk's clothing get damaged this time. The use of 'booming audio' to distinguish the character is a fairly cheap device but it works.

Nimoy also gets a chance to ham it up good and proper as Henoch, another creature from the opposite side of a war that destroyed their civilisation. When it turns out Henoch has an ulterior motive, it's not really that surprising. Nimoy does a great job being evil.

The body swap lot isn't exactly a new one and you'd have thought that the Enterprise crew would be a bit wary about going into the whole deal - beware of Greeks bearing gifts and all that - but only McCoy really shows any questioning of the whole thing. "What's the catch?" is a question that should always be asked when anyone comes along with offers of superior technology - as many an ethnic group on this planet has found out to its cost. The twists and turns of the whole thing are OK, but nothing I've not seen before and arguably better.

The third survivor is Thalassa, Sargon's wife, who gets to use the body of a previously unseen female officer, who gets introduced with romantic music and of course ends up snogging Kirk. Not exactly the most feminist episode, that's for sure and a fairly major black mark for me.

The underground cave set with the balls is well done though, but you'd have thought they'd have added labels in some alien language.

The ending is straight up "deus ex machina", where some hitherto unrevealed power turns out to save the day and the reset button is duly pressed on the whole situation. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.


Giving a chance for more than one regular to chew the scenery, this is otherwise some very average Trek. It's been done before; it will be done again.