Monday, June 30, 2014

Star Trek: S1E14 Balance of Terror review

When I started watching Star Trek, I was positive that it was too dated and blah for me to enjoy it. A few episodes in, I forgave the look of the thing and came to enjoy what it wanted to be. Last episode, I finally saw what I thought the show strove to be, coming out bold and entertaining and cementing this troika of men at the helm of a space ship.

Color me blown away.

I can't even say that this is what I hoped Star Trek would be, because I never even thought it. This is a series that up till now has been been horror, fantasy, that sort of 19th century fiction feel, even Dumb Western (because smart westerns exist, but that was a dumb western). Last episode, I was treated to something novel that I really liked. This time, I got something familiar that I absolutely loved.

Star Wars had this great scene that was like an homage to The Dambusters, minus the casual racism and the work with Wallis and Bomber Harris. Just the best actiony bit. This one is another WWII movie, Enemy Below, which is about an American ship dueling with a Nazi U-Boat. I feel like someone writing this episode must have watched that movie; so much of it is here, the ugly ideology of the rank and file, the curious detachment of the commanding officer, the tension of the vanishing enemy.

Last episode I got extraterrestrials with equal (greater, really) capabilities and their own ship; this time, I get hostile extraterrestrials in the same situation and right from the get-go I was completely sold. I've heard of Romulans, although I didn't know they were Star Trek. They might have dropped the ball a bit with the sub-story about Mr. Spock's resemblance and whatsisface's space racism (spacism!) but on the whole, what a fantastic thing this was. Once again, love McCoy, he's the guy. Mr. Spock is just unflappable. Captain Kirk is great.

The show's just lost with Janice, though. Is she just there for looks? I'm guessing that one was a non-writery decision. "We need a babe on the screen, go get one." If that's the case, then, well, you know why that's an issue for many reasons, but can I just point out two things? 1) Uhura's way more attractive and actually does things; 2) Guys come on Uhura's not even wearing a miniskirt at this point it's like a failed butt-apron. You just told me she's got multiple competencies at the ship's helm and then there's a butt shot? Come on.

Anyway. WWII in space. It's funny, all this time I was never thinking of the ship in the context of, like, a ship. You can take all the boat stories and put them on Enterprise and they will work! In that sense I like the (otherwise completely manipulative, transparent and easy to see coming) wedding because it's this unique cue that we are on a ship. Might be traversing stars instead of oceans, but the same rules of isolation apply.

More like this, please. Star Trek, this is the standard I want to hold you to. Just plain awesome. :D


  1. You are gonna love Star Trek II!

    Star Trek was pitched as "a Western in space" so you're pretty on the mark with that one.

    As for the miniskirts- Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) has said that in the 60's miniskirts were common and she thought they were empowering. I thought I remembered the actress for Janice saying the same thing but I'm failing to find a quote.

  2. yeah the producers on the show wanted the ladies in more conservative attire but they refused to have their fashions dictated to them by the patriarchy, go 60's feminism!

  3. If you liked Enemy Below, you need to see the other side of it: "Das Boot".

    1. I'm sure it's on the... oh, wow, it's not on the Big List.

      People! How is Das Boot not on the big list? He's going to love Das Boot!

  4. Glad you are hitting some episodes you like. The troika of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy define the series (as you've figured out.) the best episodes will make you laugh, think, and cheer. Just as there are plenty of allegories for the time, they definitely take on a number of classic tropes.

  5. In case Jeremy is interested and has a cable TV, AMC is showing the entire Jaws series Wednesday (from 10am) and the entire Rocky series on Thursday. Yes, live TV can't be paused and he'd have to suffer the commercials, but there's likely no easier way to marathon these movies...unless he has a DVR?

    1. Ick. Commercials, edited-for-TV, and setting Jaws, literally-one-of-the-most-influential-movies-ever-made, up alongside it's incredibly disappointing (ranging down to truly awful) sequels?

      I strongly vote no.

    2. Hey, a bad sequel will make the original look even better by comparison.

  6. This is one of the best, most essential episodes of Star Trek. I'm glad you found it to your liking.

  7. May I recommend for your next iconic TV show - Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.

    Start with season one (patience), then season two which is outstanding. Season Three is very consistently excellent also.

    Here is my list of iconic pop culture television shows off the top of my head:

    The Honeymooners
    I Love Lucy
    The Twilight Zone
    Mission Impossible
    Star Trek
    Kung Fu
    Happy Days
    The Rockford Files
    Miami Vice – (Season 2!)
    Dallas - (Season 3-7)
    The Simpsons
    The Office
    Big Bang Theory

    Most of these, you could just watch 2 or 3 episodes of any season to get the flavor of the show.

    Here are a few of my favorite shows that weren't so iconic:

    WKRP in Cincinnati
    The Cosby Show
    Family Ties
    Sledge Hammer
    Everybody Loves Raymond
    New Tricks

    1. Your list is sorely lacking in anything animated. Or Firefly.

    2. For Buffy it is too early in the padawan's training. Not ready for the metafiction is he. When ready he is, then Joss Whedon we will take him to see. Whedon will complete his training and a Jedi he shall be.

    3. Rachel - suggestions?

      The Pink Pather? Scooby Doo? The Flintstones? Looney Tunes?
      Or are you thinking Family Guy type shows?

      Haven't seen Firefly but heard it's very good. Having only one season makes it a little hard to include in a list of Pop Culture Icons.

      NBarnes - LOL so true.

    4. Anon: The Simpsons. Avatar the Last Airbender. Futurama. Batman The Animated Series. Animaniacs (if only so he'll understand the "Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?" joke.), Some version or other of Transformers. The four you said too, perhaps, if they're new to him.

      Firefly may be dubious as a pop culture icon but it looms hugely in geek culture. Plus, it's like an entire TV show of Han Solo, so I'm sure he'll find it appealing.

    5. I did just notice that you have the Simpsons on there, so there's that.

    6. Thanks Rachel. My son has Firefly. I'll have to borrow it.

  8. Jeremy, as a hockey fan - here is the best scene from a hockey movie ever put on film:


  9. I would add Babylon 5 to the iconic list. It's not that much part of the pop culture consciousness as some of the others but it was a reformer of the genre of long-running series. Before it, almost all were episodic; after it, story arcs became the norm of long-running series storytelling.

    1. I second this. The show was very subversively influential, where it didn't stick to the collective consciousness, but it influenced a great amount of the television that came after.

      And it's a terrific show.

      Also, he should watch Farscape.

  10. I haven't seen anyone list "The Last Starfighter" or "Enemy Mine" on the must see movies list. Both are very classic early Sci-Fi. Another couple great ones are "Explorers" and "Flight of the Navigator" to round out the 80s Sci-Fi classics.

    1. Second vote for Flight of the Navigator. He might love it.

  11. And I'm really looking forward to his reactions to Ladyhawke.

  12. Here is my list of iconic pop songs. I admit it lacks greatly in Broadway, C&W and Heavy Metal. Also, nothing for the 1990's and beyond (the decade the music died).

    Somewhere Over the Rainbow – Judy Garland (rated as greatest pop song ever)
    In the Mood – Glenn Miller (everyone knows this one – anthem of swing bands everywhere)
    Sing, Sing, Sing – Benny Goodman (Drums anyone? Gene Krupa rules!)
    White Christmas – Bing Crosby (Sugar on vinyl)
    Take the A Train – Duke Ellington
    Summertime – Billie Holiday
    My Way – Frank Sinatra
    Rock Around the Clock – Bill Haley and the Comets (The first rock-n-roll #1)
    Johnny B. Goode – Chuck Berry (you remember this one from the Under the Sea dance in “Back to the Future”)
    Hound Dog – Elvis Presley
    What a Wonderful World – Louie Armstrong
    Respect – Aretha Franklin (Woman Power! [led to mini-skirts on prime time TV shows like Star Trek])
    The Twist – Chubby Checker (Kicked off the dance craze – do the Mashed Potato!)
    Unchained Melody – Righteous Brothers (Karoke standard, finds it’s way into the movie “Ghost”)
    Blowing in the Wind – Bob Dylan (Ignited the Protest Music genre)
    Good Vibrations – Beach Boys (At the zenith of Brian Wilson’s genius)
    Yesterday – Beatles (Hard to pick just one Beatles song, but this is simple and great)
    American Pie – Don McClean (Catchy tune with many layers of symbolism)
    Sweet Home Alabama – Lynerd Skynerd (most played classic rock song on the radio)
    Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin (Like three songs in one, was one of the first of the hits that broke the 3 minute time limit imposed by radio stations)
    We’ve Only Just Begun – Carpenters (Played at every wedding in the 1970’s-80’s)
    Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon and Garfunkel
    Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘round the Old Oak Tree – Tony Orlando and Dawn (If you’ve ever wondered about those yellow ribbon magnets that people have on the back of their SUV, here is where that started)
    Country Roads – John Denver (Modern folk music classic)
    Candle in the Wind – Elton John (immortalized and rewritten for Princess Diana’s funeral)
    Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen (A Night at the Opera indeed)
    You Light Up My Life – Debbie Boone (Biggest song of the 70’s. Played to death so much, it was pretty much forgotten in the following decades)
    Old Time Rock and Roll – Bob Seger (#1 played juke box song)
    We Are the Champions – Queen (heard at every stadium)
    Stayin’ Alive – BeeGees (kicked off the disco craze)
    Dancing Queen – Abba (Not sure if this belongs on the list)
    Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana (defined another era)

    Some classic albums I can think of that broke new ground or became pop icons in their time: (Again - this is heavy on the time period of 1965-1975 because that's what I know best)
    Bitches Brew – Miles Davis
    Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band - Beatles
    Pet Sounds – Beach Boys
    At Folsum Prision – Johnny Cash
    Led Zeppelin IV – Led Zeppelin
    Tapestry – Carole King
    Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd
    Jeff Beck – Blow by Blow
    Frampton Comes Alive – Peter Frampton
    Boston - Boston
    Rumours – Fleetwood Mac
    Saturday Night Fever – Bee Gees
    Hi Infidelity – REO Speedwagon
    Thriller – Michael Jackson
    The Joshua Tree – U2
    Born in the USA – Bruce Springstein

    If someone recommends doing the Macarena or listening to Achy Breaky Heart – send Sir Arnold to terminate them immediately (without prejudice) , then feed their trailer trash carcass to an Alien. WE DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THEIR SHIT!!!

    If you love saccharine coated female voices that seduce you gently into a heavenly trance (perhaps needed after watching “Psycho” or “Aliens”) then check out these two:


    Yes, it’s Spanish, but sung in the unmistakable universal language of lust.

    1. Hm. We haven't really given him much to listen to yet, have we? Good thinking.