Saturday, September 24, 2016
The WSW Trek 25: #20-17
This list took months to prepare, and to be honest, I'm still not completely certain about its order, but there comes a time when you have to dance with the girl ya brung. I'm sure this list will change in ten years (with or without the addition of any Discovery episodes), but this will do for now.
#20. "Space Seed" (TOS). I will concede Into Darkness this: the Khan/Spock battle was more in line with how I would expect a genetically enhanced human to fight. When Khan fights Kirk in this ep, he brags, "I have five times your strength," yet Kirk still beats him unconscious with a thingamajig he pulls from the wall. I think Khan took a dive is what I'm saying. But combat skill (or lack thereof) is not why I like original Khan; it's his charisma, his great intelligence, his Machiavellian methods to coerce and seduce and charm. Needless to say, Ricardo Montalban was entirely convincing, like a jungle cat on the prowl. The other guy simply did not have it. So yay for an ep that gave us one of the best villains in television history, but points off for having him job to an ordinary human with a... what was that thing Kirk beat him with, anyway?
#19. "The Measure of a Man" (TNG). Lightning struck twice with the introduction of Data. He appealed to viewers for many of the same reasons - outsider status, emotionless, objective observer of human foibles, unique way of thinking and acting - that made Spock a fan favorite. This ep justified Data. As artificial intelligence becomes a bigger thing in real life, to the point where people are already beginning to think of them as equivalent to lower life forms, we're gonna need to ask ourselves the same questions asked here: are AIs autonomous individuals, or are they property? Data, of course, was not truly emotionless, and neither was Spock. That's why we felt for him like any other character. Brent Spiner was able to walk the fine line between acting like the Lost in Space robot and an actual human. Couldn't have been easy, but he was successful.
#18. "All Good Things..." (TNG). The best "final episode" of the Trek series to date. Its mind-bending concept (anti-time? Is she the sister of Father Time?) was a great excuse to bring back TNG alumni Denise Crosby and Colm Meaney for another go-round, to put the regular cast in old-age makeup, and to let Q be Q once more. My only complaint: I would have liked some resolution to the Worf/Deanna ship. They didn't provide any in Generations or DS9. Fortunately, the novels did.
#17. "Far Beyond the Stars" (DS9). For all Bryan Fuller's talk of how diverse the new series, Discovery, will be, I find myself wondering: will any people of color write for the show? In a year in which POCs cleaned up big time at the Hugo Awards, there's no longer any trace of doubt that the talent is out there. Gene Roddenberry courted sci-fi writers for TOS. Methinks now might be a good time to revive that practice. It's worth thinking about as you watch this utterly brilliant ep, in which Sisko lives the life of a black 1950s sci-fi writer,
with all the institutional and societal prejudice that comes with it. Avery Brooks works both sides of the camera, directing himself in a borderline over-the-top yet inspired performance. The cast appearing sans alien makeup was a delightful chance to see them as they really are in a story that matters.