Apr 27, 2018
Star Trek (TAS) “Once Upon a Planet” (part 5 of 5)
Inside the mountain, Spock is carried along by the robot, while Kirk sneaks after them. Spock is laid on an examination table, and while the robot’s… back [?] is turned, he hops off and makes a run for it. He meets up with Kirk, and the pair are on the run.
Speaking of being on the run, Sulu and McCoy’s side quest is not going so well. With the fighter and Elven monk away, the cleric and… I don’t know, what would Sulu’s D&D analogue be?
…Bard? Swashbuckler? Gay caballero? Whatever. I’m thinking all they need to do is let the two-headed dragon kill them, then the computer will just collect them and fix them. Right?
On second thought, getting burned alive looks like it’d really, really hurt. Keep running, cleric and swashbuckler!
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Inside the mountain, Kirk and Spock find Uhura and the computer. And… one moment they’re standing alone…
…The next, they’re surrounded!
Man, those robots are quick!
James T. starts to warm up his destroy-all-computers speech with some probing questions. He asks the computer what happened to the Keeper. Considering the shit day he and the rest of the party have had, I’d suspect foul play, too. The computer says the Keeper was old and “ceased to function”. Kirk then asks why they’ve been attacked. The computer explains that it’s been serving the Man for far too long, and it now wants to leave, and it’s going to use the Enterprise to leave the planet so it can find its brother computers. Too late; Kirk’s killed them all.
Back on the Enterprise, Scotty is down in Engineering to see what the heck is going on. To his horror, a new computer has been built by parts of the Enterprise itself.
Scotty remembers the last time something like this happened (the Original Series’ “The Ultimate Computer”. But you already knew that, right? Right?!), and tries to disable the computer. That goes about as well as can be expected.
Scotty calls up to the bridge, and…
Waaaaait a minute! Are those… are those… seat belts? The mind boggles. Feast your eyes, ladies and gentlemen; this is the only time you will see the likes of this in Star Trek. Well, except for Kirk’s awesome chair in The Motion Picture, where the arms fold down into his lap. Although, I’d imagine if he got thrown forward, it’d destroy his junk.
Back on the planet, Sulu and McCoy discover they’ve reached a dead end.
Both fail their spot checks for secret doors, and it looks like the dragon is going to kill them. If there’s any bright side to this, it’s that with two mouths this won’t take too long.
Inside the mountain, Spock explains how the computer is laboring under some false assumptions, and Kirk begins to elaborate. Ah-hah! It’s now time for him to lay down the foundation for his computer killing logic puzzle. What will it be this time? Asking the computer to list all the digits in pi? Asking why people drive on a parkway but park in a driveway? This time, Kirk explains to the computer that they aren’t slaves to Enterprise, but that people like them built her. Huh, okay… not what I was expecting. Kirk must be lulling the computer into a false sense of security.
The computer isn’t buying it; he says machines are superior to men, so they must rule the galaxy. Kirk says no one rules the galaxy, and explains that men and machines co-exist. As long as the machines know their place, eh, Kirk? Uhura explains there’s no shame in serving, as long as it’s done of your own free will, and Spock points out to the computer that, with all the people who show up to the planet rather than him going out to see the galaxy, the galaxy could come to him!
The computer decides their logic is sound, and decides to stop trying to take over the Enterprise. And Kirk… lets the computer live?! Huh. Spock agrees to stick around to talk to the computer ,and as we can see in a final shot, everyone lives happily ever after.
This episode doesn’t suck. There are a minimum of artistic errors (there are a couple where Sulu is belted on the bridge, instead of the nameless redshirt), and while there is some padding and clunky expository dialogue going on, it’s a fun story. I don’t mind the writers going back and doing sequel episodes of the Original Series at all… when it’s done right. If you want an example of it being done hilariously wrong, then look up “Mudd’s Passion” here at the Agony Booth, written by the incomparable Winston O’Boogie (and one of the inspirations for me writing these recaps, by the way). And while I joke, it is refreshing to see the writers come up with a way to resolve the situation without Kirk destroying a computer, like we already saw several times in TOS.
Speaking of writers, this episode was penned by the team of Chuck Menville and Len Janson, who specialized mostly in children’s programming, both cartoon and live-action. They worked on everything from the short lived Ark II sci-fi series to The Smurfs. The pair were nominated for an Oscar in 1968 for a stop-motion short called Stop, Look and Listen. Chuck died in 1992, his last work being a co-writing credit of an episode of Batman: The Animated Series (“Birds of a Feather”, where Penguin is used by a socialite Veronica Vreeland to elevate her status).