Sunday, February 9, 2014

TOS Rewind #60: "Day of the Dove"

Our podcast for this episode...oh, just listen to the damn thing here.

Up today:  Day of the Dove (11/01/1968)

This episode is perhaps the opposite of the last one: where "Spectre of the Gun" looks better with age, this one is perhaps not quite as good. My younger self also greatly preferred "Day of the Dove" to "Spectre" for pretty obvious reasons. This episode contains a fair amount of action and the Klingons were always fun villains in the old series. The only thing missing, according to John, aged 12, was a space battle. Nobody's perfect.

The idea for this episode is fairly compelling: two rival groups are thrown together in a situation that almost plays like an evil science experiment where the subjects placed into an artificial situation while the aliens observe. In this case, the alien just feeds off the hostile emotions. It may seem extremely contrived but it does sound like someone's idea of Hell; unending hatred, pain, and violence with no release. The resolution comes off as a bit pat, but the setup where the Klingon ship and the Enterprise are lured to the planet is very effective. The only thing that lessens the drama is the way that the presence of the alien is revealed early in the first act. We know the alien is there way before the characters do and it robs some of the suspense. It would have been more satisfying if we'd gotten a bit more insight into this alien but that would have required slowing down the action. Next Gen was far more adept at this.

The character interplay, like many episodes this late in the series, well broken in like a comfortable shoe. A side benefit of Third Season is that we often get Sulu and Chekov at the same time (George Takei was absent for much of Season 2 and Chekov wasn't introduced until after Season 1). Speaking of Chekov...the poor guy gets another round with the Agonizer just like his mirror universe self did in Season 2; a cosmic joke if there ever was one. Chekov also gets the ugliest scenes in the episode where he attempts to rape and possibly kill the Klingon captain's wife until Kirk intervenes. Pretty edgy stuff for 1968 television, but he was a Russian so all is good, right?

The rest of the crew is good and Kirk once again is mostly immune to the alien influence, though his decision to destroy the disabled Klingon ship at the beginning of the episode is another clue that perhaps not everyone is right in the head. The scenery chewing duties are shared by pretty much everyone, except perhaps Sulu and even Spock and Scotty get into the action.

The casting of Michael Ansara as Kang was fortunate. Ansara's performance is right for the character where John Colicos, who was supposed to come back as Kor from "Errand of Mercy" might not have worked as well. Nothing against Colicos, who is still great but his flavor of Klingon is perhaps a bit too, well, nuanced for the story of this episode. Kang fits. Kang's wife, Mara is a welcome addition to the Boys Club. There are criticisms to be made about her but she is a prominent character with authority so overall this was a plus.

The original series Klingons haven't aged at all well, at least the way the appear. In the clear light of HD, they have this unfortunate look of actors with a lot of black/brown makeup on with a few costume flourishes. Options were of course limited back then but when Trek made the move to bigger screens and budgets, the showrunners were smart to "update" the Klingons. Some have dinged this episode for having almost all its action confined to the existing Enterprise sets. I don't really see a problem with this. The episode works for this and playing this out on a cheap-looking planet set or the same old California location wouldn't have improved anything. The sword fights are pretty anemic but fight choreography has come a long way.

The HD effects and picture are of course very good again this time. The enhanced effects are welcome for the ship shots and planet effects.



Oh joy, a warming trend. It's 0 degrees outside, which is still cold enough to freeze the balls off of a brass monkey, and still has absolutely nothing to do with our current episode, which this time is "Day of the Dove."

Like "Spectre of the Gun," the budget constraints worked in favor of this episode. Since it was least expensive to film on the standing sets, almost all of "Day of the Dove" takes place on the Enterprise. Luckily, however, this is exactly what the story called for. It didn't seem at all contrived to me (which can often make the difference between a good episode and a lousy one). I also applaud the late Michael Ansara's portrayal of Kang, who is one of my favorite Klingons. He combined the warrior aggression and ruthlessness with nobility and dignity. Very nicely done and a good template for ST:TNG Klingons like Worf. (Geeky Note: A much older Kang appeared in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Blood Oath" with William Campbell as Koloth and John Colicos as Kor. Great fun. If you haven't seen that episode, it comes highly recommended.) And I like the basic story: A powerful alien entity sets up a situation of continual, regenerative warfare and violence on the Enterprise in order to feed off of the negative emotions and actions of the Klingon and human crews. The implication that this entity has been responsible for some (or much) of humanity's bloody inhumanity is also interesting, if improbable.

Despite the fact that I enjoy the story, the swirly, multicolored entity bears too strong a resemblance (at least in terms of nature and function) to Redjac from the second season episode "Wolf in the Fold." In addition, the fight scenes look staged, especially by the standards of the later Trek shows. Klingons are vicious warriors, but they don't look or act like it in "Day of the Dove." And finally, what happened to the Organian Peace Treaty that was established in the first season in "Errand of Mercy?!" One would think that the Organians would have taken notice and put an end to the battle given their enormous power and obvious determination to prevent the Federation and the Klingon Empire from fighting. Evidently, whoever was in charge of continuity was asleep at the switch.

In spite of these flaws, "Day of the Dove" still stands out as one of the better third season episodes. Although I'm not sure whether that's saying a great deal or very little...

Next time: "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky"

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