Star Trek (TAS) “How Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth” (part 1 of 4)

Hello! And welcome back to… Damn, I never really gave this thing that I do a name, did I? Sursum Ursa does Stuff I Like (and I like her stuff… I’m talking about her vlog! Get your head out of the gutter), Mr. Mendo does the Hack Attack. Heck, I haven’t even given myself a cool handle.

“Handle” means “nickname”, for those of you born after 1980.

Well, anyway, I’m open to suggestions as to either a name for the review and/or a nickname for myself. Something more clever than “Another internet reviewer with a goatee”, please. And something not unnecessarily cruel would be nice. And no, there’s no prize, other than my undying gratitude.

This entry is also going to be a little different, in that at the end, I’ll talk about some background regarding the series, as well as discuss why I chose the episode, as well as offer some speculation. I freely admit I’m inspired by Cecil Trachenburg’s highly entertaining Good Bad Flicks. Whether I agree or disagree with his views regarding the movies he chooses, the background he provides is fascinating. Whether or not I’ll continue to do this, I don’t know. I think in this case, there are some interesting items to discuss; whether there will be next time, I don’t know.

This edition of… Tom’s awesome recaps of Star Trek: The Animated Series… involves “How Sharper than a Serpent’s Tooth”.

Based on some of the comments from my debut, I’m going to try and make this a little bit more layman-friendly, in that I’ll try and explain some of the references and not assume everyone here has watched every single Star Trek series and/or movie. Also, since the authors and director of this episode have utterly bland names, there will be no cheap jabs at their expense.

Damn it.

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Our story opens with the Enterprise hot on the trail of an alien probe that showed up in Federation space, buzzed Earth, then lit out. Wow, we’ve never seen that sort of thing bef—

Star Trek (TAS) "How Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth" (part 1 of 4)

That would be V’Ger, from The Motion Picture. Right. Forgot about that. Well, okay, it happened once before, but other than th—

Star Trek (TAS) "How Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth" (part 1 of 4)

…Oh, yeah. The whale probe from Star Trek IV… Huh. You know, for a series that’s much maligned as being cheesy, it’s interesting how the writers of major motion pictures seemed to liberally borrow from it.

The probe self-destructed before it could be intercepted, but Enterprise is backtracking its trip. Spock notes the trail is getting colder, and suggests Enterprise slow down to compensate, so he can more carefully scan for traces. Kirk orders Mister Walkingbear to—

Wait. Who?

Star Trek (TAS) "How Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth" (part 1 of 4)

Oh. Mister Walkingbear! Of course, how could I forget him? He’s the ugly three-armed alien!

At least, I hope that’s an arm poking out of his chest.

Actually, the ugly three-armed alien is Mister Arex, voiced by James Doohan. Because the bastards who produced the Animated Series were too cheap to pay Walter Koenig to reprise his role as Chekov, and instead made Doohan do the voice of, well, just about everyone else (he also voices Walkingbear, by the way).

Mister Arex reports a vessel has been detected at extreme range. Spock stops looking at porn on his viewmaster long enough to determine the vessel is twice Enterprise’s size, and is an unorthodox design. The gang is able to finally get their first look at the ship.

Star Trek (TAS) "How Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth" (part 1 of 4)

Yes, I would say space vomit is an unorthodox design. Oh, that’s just its immense energy field! My bad.

Spock reports the alien vessel is comprised almost entirely of crystalline ceramic, but before he can determine whether or not this means the alien vessel may be the largest bathroom in existence, the super shaky-cam kicks in, denoting that the Enterprise is under attack! Ensign Walkingbear reports that…

Star Trek (TAS) "How Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth" (part 1 of 4)

Okay, seriously, who the hell is this guy?

So Walkingbear reports the ship is losing speed, and Kirk calls down to Engineering to ask Scotty why ship not go. Scotty says they’re at full power, but it’s like they’ve run into a wall of clay. Kirk orders all-stop, then gets a damage and casualty report. Once more, we see McCoy acting totally out of character. Last time, he was written as being a complete idiot. This time, we find him in Sickbay rather than loitering on the bridge.

Star Trek (TAS) "How Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth" (part 1 of 4)

Weird. McCoy reports there are no serious casualties, and asks what the heck is going on. Well, Bones, if you’d have been on the bridge where you were supposed to be, you would know, now wouldn’t you?

Spock reports Enterprise is encased in a in a globe of energy flexible enough to absorb any force. Spock says he’s unable to explain it, even though he just did. So Spock further explains they can’t escape by merely fleeing, which means Kirk desperately hopes the enemy is either 1) a beautiful woman he can seduce or 2) an artificial intelligence he can talk into self-destructing.

The alien vessel now comes into focus.

Star Trek (TAS) "How Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth" (part 1 of 4)

And… it looks pretty silly from this angle. The alien vessel then probes Enterprise. Insert your own crude joke here. I know you want to. Go ahead, it’s okay. Done? Great!

The alien vessel attacks, smacking the helpless Enterprise around. After making Enterprise its bitch for a while, the alien vessel’s energy field changes:

Star Trek (TAS) "How Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth" (part 1 of 4)
Star Trek (TAS) "How Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth" (part 1 of 4)

Okay, all kidding aside, while the front-on view of the ship looks silly, the side view, especially superimposed with the feathered serpent? Very cool. This is one of the Animated Series’ strengths: not being impeded by the limited physical effects of the time. You could make aliens look truly alien, give ships weird and fantastic shapes, and make environments look like something other than a sound stage or Vasquez Rocks, California.

Star Trek (TAS) "How Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth" (part 1 of 4)

Everyone is suitably shocked, and Kirk asks Spock if he’s ever seen anything like it. Walkingbear says he recognizes it and gasps, “Kukulcan!” The attack abruptly stops, and an alien voice calls out that he’s been angered, and he’s giving the crew one chance to do what their ancestors could not, or all of humanity will be wiped out.

If I were Mister Arex, I’d be raising my third hand and asking if I could please be excused before the holocaust starts.

Caption contributed by Thomas

“You apes are on your own!”

Kirk asks Walkingbear how he knew who the alien was, and the ensign explains he’s Comanche, and has studied ancient Earth cultures. Well, how convenient that he was on the bridge at this exact moment. Had he been in bed, the ship would have been shaky-cammed to death by now.

Multi-Part Article: Star Trek (TAS) "How Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth"
TV Show: Star Trek (TAS)

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