Saturday, January 10, 2015

TOS Rewind #70: "That Which Survives"


Today's fun is That Which Survives (1/24/1969).

Our podcast for this one was doubled up with the previous episode.

As we near the end of the series I find it difficult to avoid repeating my opinions and observations. The main reason for this is that the flaws in these late episodes become all too familiar.
  • Decent, if not amazing ideas; often retreads of earlier stories.
  • Questionable writing regarding the regular characters. 
  • A general sloppiness and lack of consistency with the pacing and flow of the shows.
  • Lower budgets which sometimes result in more so-called "bottle shows" (stories that rely only on the existing shipboard sets)
This time around, we have an episode that seems like more of a throwaway story. The one chance this  episode had at being interesting was the exploration of the people that made this what I assume is an artificial planet. The mystery of this and the obviously immense power of this civilization is mostly summed up at the tail-end of the episode with a few unsatisfying lines of dialogue. A shame, as this might have slightly salvaged the episode or at least softened the blow of how flawed this one is.

The biggest issue is the way the characters behave. Spock and, to a lesser extent, Kirk are dismissive and occasionally sarcastic towards their fellow crew. Spock stands out in this regard; he's really an asshole. There have always been times where Spock would be dismissive or contrary towards others, especially McCoy (this was of course part of the two characters' dynamic) but it appears that the writer here just decided to go whole hog and blow it out of proportion to create additional "drama". Like some other Third Season episodes, when Spock is in command, the other bridge officers feel free to question his commands and decisions. We'd like to think that by this time they'd have a bit more respect for the guy. However, even taking this into account, Spock's dialogue is really a stretch and just feels wrong. 

The scenes back on the planet start out well but the situation quickly becomes ridiculous. While it's nice to have Sulu doing more than sitting at the helm, he's wasted here and becomes a target for Kirk's dismissive putdowns. The whole story begs the obvious question:  if the computer running this outpost has the power to transport the Enterprise light years away, why does it need to resort to sending slow-moving replicas of the last inhabitant to pick off the landing party one by one? The idea of these things being "matched" to the cell structure of each victim is, by itself, a somewhat interesting but is pretty dim when looked at within the story as a whole. The computer goes to similar trouble to get the Enterprise to overload its engines and explode. Why? Did the alien computer need to make someone think this was an accident? As we're given no real explanation or story "rules" by which the people and things of the episode operate, we're left with a head-scratcher. Or the conclusion that the story just wasn't thought through very well. Shows like Star Trek don't need to be 100% realistic (or even close) but to be successful, the stories need to at least make some sort of sense within their own rules. 

My old friend Lee maintains that this is the worst Original Series episode. I am withholding final judgment until we get to the tail-end but I don't anticipate that this one will be on the bottom. Lee's main gripe, if memory serves, is the character issues I addressed above. This is a huge problem for the episode but I will probably spare this one from last place if for no other reason that I enjoy the scenes with Scotty doing his usual "fixing". This line by Scotty, "I'm so close to the flow now it feels like ants crawling all over my body" which was a favorite of my Dad's, saves it for me just a tiny bit: . Oh, and the visual effect of Losira disappearing is still kind of cool.


Eric gets his shot now:

This is going to be another short review. “That Which Survives” may be the king of meh episodes. In fact, I'm going to coin a new term, “mehpisode,” which, unfortunately, could be applied to many of the third season installments.

So what is there to say? The basic idea, a planetoid that can't exist but does, is reasonable enough, if lackluster. But after the teaser, there are about ten minutes of uninteresting story and forty minutes of annoying filler. The only marginally good things about this episode are the Spock-Scotty interaction (Scotty has some good lines) and the end of the episode where the plight of the Kalandans is revealed. I also will admit that the way Losira kills is effectively creepy and unsettling.

In addition, there was apparently an effort to introduce some elements of mystery by way of the nature of Losira's killing spree and the molecular transport of the Enterprise. And the producers clearly tried to insert tension via the ship being on the verge of exploding. In both cases, however, it comes across as contrived. And lazy.

We talk about this, and other aspects of the episode, in a bit more depth in our podcast, so if you're interested, give it a listen. Otherwise, that's all I have, except that my overall feeling at the end of this episode (besides meh), is the same as my feeling after most of the first through third season episodes of “Enterprise:” So what.

Next time: “The Lights of Zetar”

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