Monday, January 25, 2010

TOS Rewind #38: "Friday's Child"

Today we take a look at Friday's Child (12/01/1967)

And of course, Eric, Rob, and I did a podcast:


Ah, more Federation intervention in the Cosmos...

As Rob and I discussed on the podcast, neither one of us remembers being very excited about this one when were kids.  In retrospect, that seems odd since there is a fair amount of combat and some time playing cat/mouse with a Klingon ship.  As Rob mentioned, maybe it was the "birthin' babies" stuff.

Hot on the heels of "Journey to Babel," we get another episode that builds the political background of the Trek universe.  Sure, it isn't nearly as rich as that one, but the plot surrounding the negotiation between the Feds, the Klingons, and the Capellans raises some interesting questions about the mechanics of the Federation and its dealings with other non-member worlds.  I have to assume that Capella IV is not a regular Fed member, but they obviously have had contact in the past (McCoy was part of a previous mission to this world).  Seeing how primitive this civilization is, why would the Prime Directive not apply here?  One argument could go along the lines that since the Klingons are already vying for the minerals, the Feds have no choice but to talk to them, but apparently there were earlier contacts.  What's up with that?  Wouldn't McCoy and the others previously offering them medicines/hospitals be interfering with their development?

Eric mentions how much of a disappointment the Klingons are in this episode.  True enough.  The one Klingon we get to see is a bit of a weasel, really.  He's also a coward who's chicken to take on Kirk when the chance is offered!  For something so important, a crucial mineral, the Klingons could have sent someone more competent.  For all the buildup surrounding the Capellans in the teaser, they sure don't seem that impressive.  It often looks like some guys hanging around in tents with bad Ren Fest costumes.  Sure, the costumes are always an easy target in TOS Trek, but these were quite silly.  They tried to make them more than the stereotypical "noble savages," but much of the time it comes off as a retread of an old movie where the Americans are trying to "reach" the natives to explain why our superior Western values are worth siding with.  I feel like the intrigue over the negotiation between the Capellans, the Feds, and the Klingons was interesting at the beginning.  Instead of an exchange of ideas between the two sides, we have an introduction that breaks down into a chase sequence.  In the end, Kirk just has to hold out long enough for the Klingon to prove his treachery.  It does work, though it doesn't really compel me to take anyone here as serious adversaries.  A similar complaint can be raised about "The Trouble With Tribbles," though that episode gets away with it due to its less serious nature.

Despite the plot issues, the familiar characters are written with their usual flair and there are some genuinely funny bits in the episode, particularly the end where it's revealed that the new Capellan regent is named Leonard James Akaar.  Spock's eyes practically roll to the back of his skull.  McCoy has a few fun scenes with Eleen, the expectant mother (I'm a Doctor, not an escalator!") and the penultimate scene where Maab pays his price for trusting people too much.

The music is a lot of fun here, as it often is in TOS.  The score almost has a jazzy feel during the scenes where everyone's running around the hills making homemade bows and arrows.  I continue to view TOS on blu ray and love the picture quality.  The new effects didn't do much on this one, though the (wussy) Klingon ship looked more realistic.


And now, here's Eric:

According to the old nursery rhyme, from which this episode takes its title, Friday's child is loving and giving. Cool enough, but who is Friday's child? Eleen? Her baby? Or, as Doc Dregs suggests in our podcast, McCoy? I've never been able to answer that question. Dorothy (D.C.) Fontana, who wrote the episode, is still alive, so maybe I should email her...hmm...

Anyway, Friday's Child is another Star Trek episode that is good but not great. It is enjoyable from the standpoint of getting to see an interesting alien civilization, and there are some funny scenes--I always get a laugh out of the going-out-of-orbit joke at the end. Scotty also gets a turn in the center center seat in one of his few opportunities to take command of the Enterprise.

Still, for a warrior race that prefers combat to sex, the fight scenes with the Capellans are wholly unconvincing. And the portrayal of the Klingons is...wrong. Kras, the Klingon emissary, is a sniveling, almost sycophantic, coward. He shows none of the ruthless, but honorable, cunning we saw in Kor ("Errand of Mercy," first season) or the courage and nobility we will find in Kang ("Day of the Dove," third season).

With that said, the theme I found in this episode is that true leadership requires accountability and often, as a result, self-sacrifice. We see this demonstrated by Maab when he upholds his duty to fight and die in defense of his command. It is further shown by Akaar (who kills Maab and assumes leadership) when he sacrifices himself to take out the Klingon who betrays his pledge and threatens the Capellans. Both of these leaders are honored, Akaar in particular, as is fitting.

So there it is. The theme and the episode are worthwhile, if not especially profound or deep, which explains much of why "Friday's Child" is good but not great.

Next time:  "The Deadly Years"

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