Sunday, May 10, 2009

TOS Rewind #28: "Operation -- Annihilate!"

We reach the end of Season 1 with Operation -- Annihilate! (04/13/1967)

I was enjoying a cold Sam Adams (Bawston Laaaaager!) while we watched this one.

We did a podcast, a much shorter one than last time.

When I saw that this was the Season 1 finale, I thought it was a bit odd.  Not so much.  True, Trek was never produced with modern TV sensibilities like season openers and such and many current fans saw them out of order in syndication or on video.  The episode does work all right though as it has a relatively positive outcome after the two previous ones which were pretty bleak.

We always jokingly referred to this one as "The Flying Pancake Episode."  I should probably now call it "The Flying Bloody Omelet Episode."  Go watch it and tell me if I'm off here!

We had a really good chat about this one on the podcast.  The big thing that bothered Eric was the bogus science surrounding the way they kill the creatures.  I'm sure he'll mention this, but it's pretty silly.  However, to paraphrase my friend Andy, it may seem odd to go after this and not be bothered much by the other tech stuff like warp drive and transporters.  I guess you have to pick and choose when to suspend your disbelief here.  It does seem like they could have worked out this particular tech issue a bit better since they work conventional radiation/light into the plot.  Writer laziness perhaps.

OK, so maybe the science is laughable and the creatures not nearly as creepy as when I saw it growing up, but it does have good Kirk/Spock/McCoy character goodness.  The scenes after Spock is blinded are great.  The bit where Spock tries to seize the bridge is classic:  "Must take the ship!"  This line has amusing, if relevant meaning as a phrase I use to get off my ass and do something.  Maybe a clever T-shirt is in order...

Other stuff of note: 

We meet Kirk's brother, who's dead by the time we see him, plus his wife/kid.  I realize they did this to drive home the menace of the alien creatures, but it seems like a waste of a potential character to off him so casually.  These last two episodes were pretty bad for our Dear Captain.  Last time he's forced to let his true love get hit by a truck and now his brother is offed by some plastic bloody omelets.  Sucky.

Nimoy does a credible job playing Spock being subjected to extreme pain; the inner struggle seems on the level.  This is really a Spock showcase episode.

The plot of this one has obvious roots in earlier sci fi, which Eric will certainly go into.  It also has a fun cold war Body Snatchers-esque paranoia, even if it's a bit undeveloped.

The locations they use for the planetside scenes remind me of 1960s college campus architecture:  lots of tall skinny buildings with narrow windows.  Fill all the open areas with concrete and you're there.  But hey, what were they going to do?

They finally get Transporter Room security down in this one.  You may recall that in the last two episodes, the pot-smoking red dudes manning the controls were easily overcome by Lazarus and McCoy.  Well not this time!  Now the dude is augmented by Scotty who remembers to pack heat, thus preventing Spock's escape.  Sure, maybe he was there to get a hit from Mr. Leslie, but he was ready for action.  I can just imaging Scotty pointing the phaser at Spock while saying, "This aggression will not stand, Laddie."

 So all in all, a pretty good one with shaky science and some fun character interaction.  The episode is very well paced, with appropriate suspense in the right parts.  A solid, if unspectacular first season ender.
And Sir Eric's take:

As I write this, I am about five hours from going to see the new Star Trek movie, which gives me a delicious sense of excitement and anticipation that I rarely feel these days. Everything I’ve heard and read makes it sound like J.J. Abrams has done the impossible—he has successfully reinvented and relaunched Star Trek. This is especially apropos, since the premiere of the “reboot” movie very nearly coincides with the fortieth anniversary of the end of the original Star Trek series. And with this review, we’ve also reached the end of the first season of classic Trek.

To be honest, Roddenberry should’ve ended the first season with “City on the Edge of Forever” instead of “Operation Annihilate.” We discuss this, along with many other issues, in our podcast, so I won’t rehash my entire rant here. In short, “Operation Annihilate” isn’t a bad episode, but the glaring errors in the science make it very hard for me to watch. What’s worse is that the errors are so basic that even a barely competent science adviser would have caught them immediately—ultraviolet radiation CANNOT pass through most solid materials, most notably glass, wood, steel, or concrete!

My other gripe is that this episode plagiarizes both Robert A. Heinlein’s 1951 novel “The Puppet Masters” and the 1956 film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Admittedly, it is Star Trek’s take on the Cold War paranoia themes presented there, but Roddenberry shouldn’t have “borrowed” so heavily and blatantly.

I don’t, however, want to end my reviews of the first season episodes on a sour note, so I will add that there are some really nice character moments in this episode, particularly between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. It demonstrates how far the series progressed in the first season—the cast and crew have have hit their stride, and it presages a great second season.

Next time:  “Amok time”

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