Clickerbox: Star Trek 1×02 “The Corbomite Maneuver”

Sigh. Lasers, lies, stupidity, and of course beehive hairdos. Ready for  more Star Trek?

Yeah, me neither.

 While the first episode demonstrated that Star Trek‘s best still holds up today, episode two does a nice job of showing us how awful and terribly wrong things can go.

As the episode begins, Enterprise is off making star maps of some unexplored region of space. Maybe they broke canon again and flew to the funk-o-tron galaxy. Who knows. Some time seems to have passed between “Where No Man Has Gone Before” and now, since Sulu is now manning the helm. I’m kind of curious as to what exactly he did to get stuck with driving the ship. In the previous episode he’s head to Astrophysics. Now he’s back in some entry-level shit job. Know why they let Wesley drive on Next Gen? Cause the job sucks, that’s why. There’s a reason Geordi high-tailed it down to engineering as soon as the opportunity arose.

Did Sulu take a dump in the turbolift? Take the last jelly donut in the break room? Walk in on Kirk and Spock doing that nasty thang? The galaxy may never know.

The uniforms are now the familiar TOS colours and style, although not everyone is wearing the right color just yet. Uhura is also here for the first time, and like usual she doesn’t have much to do other than to open hailing frequencies, but back in the day, that was a rather progressive thing for a black woman to do.

Sulu picks up an object moving towards Enterprise, and despite their best efforts, they can’t shake it. This might be frightening if the “object” was not one of those multicoloured cube thingies that was in every screensaver in every office building throughout the late 90s. Just move the mouse around a bit, Mr Sulu. That’ll teach it. Anyway, they can’t get around the object, our Other Helmsman of the day, Bailey, panics, and Spock summons Kirk to the bridge. Already, I’m facepalming.

Yup, no way around that!

  This bullshit right here is what Wrath of Khan would later call two-dimensional thinking. This is outer space,  guys. You can move in absolutely any direction conceivable without that pesky aerodynamics or gravity. You’re telling me you can’t get around one little screensaver cube?

Shit like this is what makes an audience disengage. In order for an episode like this to work, we need to buy that there’s a threat to the protagonists. Something this ridiculous just gets me laughing at it, rather than sympathizing with anyone.

Meanwhile, Kirk’s down in sickbay, doing……..wait, what the fuck are you doing?

I’m kind of at a loss for words here. I don’t know what exactly this is supposed to be, but I do know that it brings our Shirtless Shatner count to two.

At least this scene also marks the arrival of Dr McCoy, who is just  awesome. The addition of this character is also a very important thing for Star Trek as a whole, because unlike its sequels and prequels, which deal with large ensemble casts, the focus of Star Trek is the triad of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Many, if not most, of the best moments in the series come out of the relationships between the three, and now that that triumvirate is complete, we can get the ball rolling.

Also, I’m glad to see that the previous doctor didn’t take the vital signs-monitor machine with the wicked bass with him when he left. I’m growing rather fond of that thing.

Anyway, instead of putting his shirt on before heading up to the bridge, The Shat just kind of wanders down the hallway showing off his sweaty chest.

On the bridge, Bailey continues to whine to Spock, who is understandably less than sympathetic. I really hate Bailey from his shitty attitude right on down to his horse teeth. I am so very glad Spock completely shuts him down.

The bridge crew sets to work on analyzing the cube and much to my disappointment, it’s not piloted by a couple of fabulous Borg. I just burst into laughter every time they show the stupid thing. They take it so seriously, dramatic music and all. PLEASE STOP STAR TREK I AM IN TEARS.

This continues on right into the next scene, a meeting in the briefing room. Hey guys, there’s a minuscule, easily avoidable cube in front of the ship. Let’s have a meeting! Coffee and stickers for everyone!!!  To make things even more fail-tastic, it turns out Enterprise has been at a dead stop for EIGHTEEN HOURS.

ARE

YOU

SERIOUS?

Eighteen hours, and now it’s time for the meeting? Oh, and the decision made at this meeting is o hey let’s try flying away from it.

Off goes Enterprise, with the screensaver in hot pursuit. Most of the actors do a good job of looking tense, but Nimoy is quite clearly wearing a ton of eyeshadow and looks like he just got in from some crazy booze-bender.

Enterprise  fails to outrun the screensaver, which begins to emit radiation. Kirk orders the thing destroyed, and Bailey is too busy being a big baby bitch to hear him right away. He finally snaps out of it. and the screensaver blows up.

Kirk is rather hard on Bailey afterwards, and as much as I hate the guy I was kind of surprised. I suppose he’s tired and stressed out and sick of Bailey being a pain in the balls, but Kirk’s not usually that snappish to his crew.

He and McCoy go to the Captain’s quarters to have dinner, and McCoy tells Kirk he’s pushing the crew too hard. Scenes like this make me love the good doctor. I love his sarcasm, and I love the fact he’s just about the only character who can tell Kirk to stop being an asshole and get away with it. They argue like an old married couple, and sometimes I wonder if they are.

Kirk also complains that he’s been assigned a female yeoman. Way to be inclusive, dude. Also, this is Yeoman Rand’s first appearance. And she’s attractive. I kinda figured Kirk would be all over that. Besides, I don’t think there’s even any male yeomen at all throughout the series. Stop being sexist, Shat. k thx.

Despite the probability that they’ll run into whoever sent the screensaver, Kirk decides to continue on. Sure enough. they run right into it, a huge spherical ship made out of what appears to be balloons. The balloon-ship’s commander, Balok hails Enterprise and tells them their hostile behaviour has warranted them the death penalty. Kirk tries to explain, but Balok basically just goes “lalalala can’t hear you” and scans the ship.

It’s interesting to note that Kirk identifies Enterprise as the “United Earth Ship”,  not as a Federation ship. I guess the writers hadn’t thought of the Federation yet, or maybe Kirk just didn’t feel like mentioning it.

Balok says that they have ten minutes before execution. The delivery of this is utterly devoid of menace. It’s this cheesy, over-the-top big booming voice that sounds like God from Monthy Python and the Holy Grail. Cornball in the extreme. Oh, and it’s not even “ten minutes” it’s:

TEN EARTH TIME PERIODS KNOWN AS MINUTES!!

Really? This is why I hate Star Trek sometimes. In their mad rush to make sure everything is futuristic and alien, they forget to keep things natural. It’s never just a black hole or a broken engine, they’re spacial anomalies and fucking fucked up subspace multispectral fuckery-doos. The adherence to sci-fi language often means the dialogue is clunky and unnatural. STOP. IT.

Kirk tries to calm the crew down, giving a little speech on the intercom:

…there is no such thing as the unknown…

Uhh, that makes zero sense, but okay.

At least Kirk tries to simply leave the area, but all weapons and engines are disabled. Oh joy. Spock manages to rejigger the viewscreen to get a look at Balok.

AHAHAHAHA No.

 I know they kinda had to make do with what they had but this jerky, goofy looking puppet is just fucking ridiculous.

It’s two episodes in, and already I’m getting a little tired of the way that a lot of Spock’s dialogue is simply there to explain things to the audience the writers couldn’t figure out a better way to say. It makes sense, since he is the science officer, but it’s not always done quite right.

Bailey flips the fuck out and starts yelling and screaming about how they’re all going to die and why doesn’t anyone do something. He even starts yelling at Sulu for doing a countdown. Look Bailey, Sulu leads an empty and joyless life. Countdowns are all he has.

If Bailey had been in the previous episode, or if we’d had more time to get to know him, I might care just a little bit, but as it stands, I just hate the little dilhole. In fact, so far we’ve gone through a different co-helmsman each episode. I can’t remember if this continues, but  I’m starting to wonder if sitting next to Sulu is like teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts.

Kirk, thankfully gets sick of this shit and tells Bailey to GTFO. OH THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU NOW LOCK THE DOORS SO HE CAN’T COME BACK.

The crew sits there  and stews as they try to puzzle out a solution. There’s some nice acting here, and some nice interaction between Sulu and Scotty.
Spock pretty much just tells Kirk to give up. He can see no logical way out of this and that basically we’re screwed. Kirk, of course, doesn’t give up. Or surrender. Spock also for some reason feels the need to remind us that his mother is human.

I like the little discussion they have and the chess vs. poker analogy. Spock, while brilliant, always seeks logical solutions and that constrains him in some ways. Kirk, on the other hand, thinks outside the box. I like that he’s not above resorting to bullshitting, and that’s going to be an important character trait of his. Though, of course, Enterprise (the series) shows that Vulcans can lie through their teeth when they feel like it.

YOU NOW HAVE THREE MINUTES

Kirk gets on the horn to Balok and tells him that every Earth ship is coated in corbomite, and if fired upon, the corbomite rebounds equal force back onto the attacker, assuring their destruction. Around this time, McCoy shows up with Bailey. WHY THE FUCK DID YOU LET HIM BACK ON THE BRIDGE MCCOY? I AM DISAPPOINT.

McCoy says again that Kirk’s been too hard on him, but none of the other crew members panicked like that, did they? If this were DS9, Sisko would have canned his ass a long time ago.

Kirk continues to bluff back and forth with Balok. He’s quite a skilled bullshit artist, that Kirk, but I can’t help but roll my eyes when the resolution of the episode boils down to a dickwaving contest.

In the meantime, Yeoman Rand shows up with coffee and when asked how she kept it warm when most of the ship is powered down, it turns out she heated it with her phaser. This is wonderful to me. Give Rand an episode, please.

Balok tells them they’ll be lead to a planet that can sustain human life and be marooned there.  A smaller ship shows up to tractor beam Enterprise there. Tractor beaming is quite a power suck on a small ship, and so Kirk bides his time.

Once the tow-ship has been mostly drained, the Enterprise breaks off.  Kirk decides now is good time to update his stupid Captain’s Log, while the rest of the crew just kind of….vibrates. This scene feels like it goes on for fucking ever.

This somehow damages the other ship, which begins broadcasting a distress call. So, yeah, the big balloony-ship wasn’t a real ship and Balok’s been in the small one all along. Kirk decides to beam over and rescue him. It’s a noble idea, but you have to wonder how tactically sound it is. He takes McCoy and Bailey with him. I kinda like the way Kirk sort of forced Bailey to come. It’s like nuh-uh, asshole. You’ve been a prick the whole episode. If anyone’s getting shot, it’s you.

They beam over and look around like a bunch of derp faces. Why is it that people who has just been transported always look around in amazement? You’ve done this like 716 times, guys. In a nice twist, they find the creature seen on the viewscreen, and it turns out the fake stupid looking puppet actually is a fake stupid looking puppet.

It’s too bad the real Balok is fucking awful. It’s goddamn baby Clint Howard with an adult voice dubbed over. No, fuck that. WHY?? God, this is so yucky. Just get that thing away from me.

He offers them a drink, which they all accept for some reason. Oh, sure, drink the weird alien juice given to you by a goddamn baby. This is how people wake up with missing kidneys.

Balok says he was just testing the Enterprise all along, and that the puppet thing is the Hyde to his Jekyll. That analogy doesn’t make much fucking sense, but we’re almost done so I’ve stopped caring.

And then the goddamn baby starts laughing o god i hate this i hate this i hate this i hate this i hate this i hate this i hate this i hate this

He asks for a liason from Starfleet to be left behind because he’s been so very lonely. He runs the entire facility himself you see. I gotta love the way Kirk slyly volunteers Bailey and gives him this o ho you’re fucked now smirk. I bet Kirk never came back for him. “LOL Stay here to learn about this guy’s culture. I’ll just be going back to my awesome ship don’t wait up kthxbai”

This episode seems to be fairly well-regarded by Star Trek fans, but there’s just so many awful things wrong with this episode I just can’t get behind it. The acting is really hammy, the effects are bad even by 1966 standards and the whole story never really goes anywhere. The nicest thing I can say about it is that it does a good job elaborating on who Kirk is and showing off his ability to bullshit and be kind of an asshole. Also the stupid puppet being a stupid puppet is a clever touch.

Let’s never watch this again, mmkay?

RED SHIRT DEATHS: 1

UNNECESSARY ROLLS: 1

SHIRTLESS SHATNER: 2

Next time: Star Trek 1×03 “Mudd’s Women”

About Random Assault

Random Assault is a collabaration of nerds who get together every Sunday to talk about whatever they want on their show Random Assault Podcast. What makes us unique is that we bring on guests from all walks of life who are just as passonate about entertainment as we are, guests including you! Just drop us a line and we'll put you on the list of guests, it's that easy!
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