Wednesday, April 12, 2017

His Alien Love Could Victimize: Star Trek episode 7, "Charlie X"

We're seven episodes in, and already Star Trek is beginning to cannibalize itself.  "Charlie X" shares a few things in common with both "The Cage" and (especially) "Where No Man Has Gone Before," and while it aired before either of those episodes did -- it was the second to be broadcast -- it is nevertheless derivative of them in certain ways.
  
Is this automatically a bad thing?  Nah.  I don't think so.  I think of stuff like this as like unto jazz: you're interested in the changes moreso than in the melody.  And "Charlie X" is plenty different enough from those earlier episodes to keep it from feeling like a mere rehash.
  
If you disagree -- and you might -- then I honestly don't know you would bear watching the rest of this series, because (spoiler alert!) it won't be the last time this happens.  Not even with this plot!  You WILL get more petulant godlike beings; rest assured.  So if that bothers you, I'd recommend pulling the ripcord now.
  
I type that as though I'm addressing people watching the series for the first time.  Lol, like anybody is reading this at all, much less some hypothetical bodies who have never seen Star Trek!  Sometimes I just type this shit because that's what is in my head.  Am I doing that now...?
  
Eh...
  
  
  
  
I'd kind of like for this post to be a bit more succinct than the last few have been.  We'll see if that actually happens, but it's the goal.
  
Don't think that's because I find this to be an inferior episode or anything.  No sir, I love this episode, and if anything I love it more after this deep-dive than I ever have before.

In the spirit of trying to be brief, there are three things I want to discuss regarding this episode.  Let's begin with the perils of adolescence.





Charlie Evans, you may recall, is a teenager who's been living all by his lonesome since (solely) surviving a crash on the planet Thasus when he was a small child.  He's reached adolescence and now, and has been found by a passing Earth ship.  They rescued him and are taking him to an Earth colony to live among his own kind, but the boy has some behavioral issues.  Nothing particularly unusual about having behavioral issues as a teenager (be you boy OR girl).


There's a major wrinkle in Charlie's development, of course, but we're going to delay discussing that aspect of the episode.  Let's stick with the adolescence angle, because it's what drives much of the episode.

Before we proceed, I want to issue a point of clarification: I am a heterosexual man.  This is not something I would normally feel the need to mention -- the drooling I'm apt to do over Grace Lee Whitney or Nichelle Nichols or whoever probably gets that point across for me during most of these posts -- but I thought it might be worth point-blanking here.  That way, in case I make any blanket assumptions about what it's like to be a "typical adolescent," you'll know that I mean a "typical straight-male adolescent."  I have no Earthly idea what it's like to be a typical straight female adolescent, or a typical homosexual adolescent of either gender, or a typical transgender adolescent.  I'm sure there are plenty of other distinctions as well, and I don't know what it's like to be a typical representative adolescent for those groups.

My point is this: I make no claims that my thoughts represent anyone other than myself.  I assume that my own feelings probably get close to those experienced by many other males, both straight and gay, and likely of other inclinations as well.  We're pretty much all led by our dicks during those years, so far as I can tell, and while I can't swear that that includes those of us who might not actually HAVE dicks, I would be a bit surprised to find out it didn't work that way for them, as well.

But ultimately: what the hell do I know?

I know me.  And that's what I'm writing about.  So just in case my assumption-making come off as being exclusionary or phobic or something, it's not my intent.  Just writing 'em up as I -- I -- see 'em. No subjugation of others is intended; all are welcome here, and hopefully I'd be welcome at your blog that occasionally considers Trek through the perspective of a transgender woman or whatever.  (That'd be pretty dang fascinating, actually; if such a thing exists, kindly point me toward it.)

All that out of the way, let's take a moment to consider what it might be like to be a Charlie Evans, growing up all by your lonesome on an alien planet.  You eat up all your ship's food supplies, and then you begin foraging on plants and whatnot (note that I am aware this is not precisely what happens to Charlie), and you get used to doing that, and life goes on that way for an indeterminate period of time.

Then, one day, you notice that ... some things are changing.

We won't go into details on that; not trying to make any of this weird; just sayin', it already IS weird, by definition.  Or so it seems; in fact, there's nothing at all weird about the perceived weirdness of adolescence.  It just seems that way from the inside.

This is precisely the dynamic that exists between Charlie Evans and the crew of the Enterprise: he feels he is alone and isolated in his struggles, and mistakes the calm forbearance of the crew for cruel disinterest (or, worse, mocking).  Charlie is every kid who ever yelled at an older person, "You don't get it!  You don't know what I'm going through!"  Metaphorically, he's also every kid who settled for thinking it rather than yelling it.

And here's the thing: he's not entirely wrong.  Because the first thing you do when you are no longer an adolescent is, you try to forget all about it.  Because it kind of sucks, right?  You don't want those feelings.  You don't understand them, you don't know where they came from, you don't know how to get rid of them; but once you figure that last part out, you get rid of them ASAP.  As such, while you might sort of remember what it's like to be an adolescent, you don't truly remember it beyond the way you remember what something smelled like.  It's an incomplete memory.

Charlie comes striding onto the Enterprise, meek and confident all at once, and one of the first things that happens to him is that he encounters Janice Rand.




For Charlie, something clicks into place.  Oh, this is where those weird feelings I've been having come from!  AND this is where they need to go!  I've been carrying around this key, and by golly, there's the lock.

In other words, love at first sight.

The tendency of adults is to think of that as a somewhat silly concept.  It's not really love, they will insist; it's something else.  Maybe so.  Whatever it is, it's powerful, and it cannot be easily ignored.  You don't make a feeling like that go away; the best you can do is ignore it.  If it's a dog, you have to lock it inside a room and refuse to feed it, and hope that eventually it will stop whimpering and die.  Do that to a dog, they might put you in jail for it; do it with a feeling, they congratulate you for being grown-up about the whole thing.

The advice Kirk ends up giving Charlie is, essentially, that he lock this particular dog in a room as fast as possible.  It won't be easy, but it's necessary.  Kirk is correct, of course, but from Charlie's perspective he is both cruel and incorrect.  And for me, it's not hard to put myself in his shoes for a bit; all I have to do is think of his love for Janice as a dog that has been left to die of hunger and dehydration, alone and stinking in some dark room.  "I can't even touch them!" Charlie will scream in horror near the end of the episode about the Thasians; and in that moment, he IS that dog, wishing only to be petted.

Charlie, during the course of this episode, will prove to be unable to lock his feelings for Janice away.  Few adolescents would; they are being driven by their biological impulses, driven to fulfill their biological function.  This will -- temporarily -- have dire consequences for Janice.






By this point, you've got to figure that Janice is sick and tired of hormonally-driven males finding their way into her quarters and trying to lay her.  One instance of that is one too many, I think.  And yet here she is, fighting off a walking cock just like she had to do in "The Enemy Within."

The episode began to get really interesting for me once I realized that the connection Kirk and Charlie share in this episode is intensified by virtue of the fact that we know the Captain has his own raging "love" for Janice.  He's keeping it secret, because it's a thing his profession -- and hers -- will not allow him to pursue.  But it's a big enough deal that when the transporter separated (this is shorthand, but it will do) his id from the rest of him, the first thing that id-driven Kirk did was go find her quarters and wait there with a bottle of brandy and a hardon.  (I'm assuming the latter.)  A few episodes later, when the emotional barn doors are thrown open and his feelings some drunkenly running out as the result of an alien infection, one of the first things he begins talking about is this lovely young yeoman he knows.  He openly speaks of her as a potential source of ease and comfort; so it's not just that he secretly lusts after Janice, he also does seem to actually love her.

He's reconciled those two things, and he's put that poor old dog in a dark room without food or water bowls; but the dadgum thing just lives and lives and lives despite his best efforts.

In Charlie, he obviously recognizes a version of his own feelings.  He's been where Charlie is, not merely as an adolescent, but also as an adult who finds it necessary to fight a similar version of the same old battle.  He's better at it than Charlie; but evidence from past episodes indicates that it may not hurt him any less.  It's just that he's better at hiding it.  I mean, he's got salt vampires and space pirates and whatnot to distract him from his yeoman problem, so in that sense he's got a leg up on Charlie.  But inside, down deep, is Kirk really that far removed from Charlie as regards how he feels about this lady in the red miniskirt with the enormous hair?  If so, it's only by degrees.

And, by the way, it's worth pointing out that of the two assailants -- Aggro-Kirk and Human God Charlie Evans -- it's the lovesick young god-being who seems like the less violent.  Yeah, sure, he wishes Janice out of existence in a moment of pique.  But Aggro-Kirk tries to literally rape Rand, whereas you kind of get the feeling that Charlie would have settled for Janice agreeing to go out with him.  I'm not sure you can accuse young Master Evans of attempted rape; assault, sure, but on the whole, his offenses seem a lot less severe than those of Kirk's id.  The discorporation notwithstanding, of course.

Interestingly, Janice seems to respond to Charlie somewhat over the course of the episode.  She mostly seems to be wary of him, and concerned that he not be hurt; but at two key points, you can almost see her leaning in his direction.




In this scene, where Charlie tells her that he'd give her the universe, you can see in her eyes that his unfettered adoration is affecting her greatly.  He's not winning her over, exactly; but I think she realizes that he's being genuine in his expressions of love, and it obviously has an impact.  She seems like she's used to being flirted with -- think back to her interactions with some chuckling crewmen in "The Man Trap" -- but a male truly loving her is perhaps a new feeling.

I'd speculate that it's even something she has fantasized about hearing from Kirk himself.  There is no direct evidence in the episodes to indicate this, but we know from behind-the-scenes materials that the Kirk/Janice story was initially intended to be a two-way street: both pining for each other, but unable to pursue their affections due to professional obligations.  So for me personally, I don't mind thinking that in that moment pictured above, she's looking at Charlie and kind of imagining what it would be like for James T. Kirk to be speaking those words.

[Fanfiction alert!  Fanfiction alert!  In some different version of "The Naked Time," Kirk passes the infection on to Janice, and the two of them go someplace and rut like rabbits.  Janice gets pregnant, requests a transfer before she tells anyone, and goes back to her first love, science.  Then, rewrite Wrath of Khan with Janice Rand in the place of Carol Marcus.  When I get around to writing my series of Trek novels, this will happen.]

Later, after Janice has been resurrected by the Thasians, as Charlie is panicking to think about having to return to their planet, he appeals to the entire crew to help him.  Janice is obviously moved by his plight, and McCoy has to gently restrain her from reaching out to him.





There's nothing Janice can do for Charlie, of course, and he disappears as the Thasians take custody of him once more.

Rand is visibly upset -- moved to tears -- by what has happened.  So what does she do in this moment of high emotion?






That's right: she runs to Kirk.  And don't think for one second that he doesn't know why.  These are two highly intelligent, self-aware adults.  They hear those dogs howling in the back room, and the sound is breaking their hearts.

Let's shift gears now and talk about the complicating factor in all of this: the superhuman mental powers Charlie has been given by the Thasians.

Charlie and the Thasians represent the third time we've encountered such being in Star Trek.  In "The Cage," we met the Talosians, who were able to create mental illusions to convince Pike and crew that things were happening that weren't; and in "Where No Man Has Gone Before," two crew members began developing superhuman abilities at an exponential rate after the ship was repulsed by some sort of galactic barrier.

"Charlie X" almost plays out like an attempt to revisit the themes of "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and see what ways the story needed to be changed in order for Kirk to be able to defeat Mitchell.  In that episode -- which, remember, aired AFTER "Charlie X" -- Gary Mitchell became so powerful so fast that it was very nearly impossible for Kirk to fight him, much less defeat him.  I'd argue that Kirk in fact did NOT defeat Mitchell: Dehner did, by retaining a core of her own humanity and striking at Mitchell in an effective enough manner that it gave Kirk a window in which to make his move.

It's somewhat different in "Charlie X."  Once Kirk realizes Charlie is an advanced being, he bluffs Charlie somewhat by simply continuing to act as though he is in charge.  This works for a bit, presumably due to the respect Charlie has for him as a role model and an aspirational figure.  This only lasts so long as Charlie's infatuation with Rand lasts, however; once Charlie removes her from existence in a fit of pique, he becomes somewhat more unhinged, and focuses his energies on commanding the ship (so as to keep it on course toward an Earth colony).

From here, Kirk has zero chance of defeating him.  None.  There is literally no move Kirk can make that will allow him to get the drop on Charlie.  All he can do is keep his wits about him and make a move when and if things change.  They do change: when Kirk realizes that Charlie's powers are limited, and have reached a point where the young tyrant is unable to stretch them any farther.  Even at this point, however, it is unclear as to whether Kirk's gambit is working; in truth, it's only the appearance of the Thasians that subdues Charlie.  So once again, Kirk is enabled by another higher being.

For me, all of this is different enough to both "The Cage" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before" that it works.  Do I kind of wish Kirk and Spock had looked at each other at some point and said, "Fucking Gary Mitchell all over again, amirite?"  Yeah, kinda; but that sort of thing didn't happen in the sixties on American television.  So nobody says it.  But I assume that's what is going through Kirk's mind in this moment:










Kirk reacts to the crewman's disappearance as though he suddenly realizes he's standing on a land mine.  He doesn't scream, or run away; but you can see the terror in his eyes for a second.  Do I personally believe he is remembering Mitchell and Dehner?  I sure do.

I once again speak only for myself, but I also confess to being a fan of the weird thing Charlie does with his eyes in this scene (and in a few others).  It's SO weird that I have no trouble believing that it would annoy other viewers; but for me, it is pretty nifty.  It's aided by both the editing and the Fred Steiner score (which is terrific), and whatever one might say in opposition to it, I think one has to admit that it evokes the character's alienness.  The first time you see it -- when Charlie is being dropped off by the crew of the Antares -- is so unexpected, so utterly untelegraphed, that I think it works.

Your mileage may vary, of course.

We also get a glimpse of Charlie's powers during the rec-room scene, which is the last thing I want to talk about as regards the episode.  This scene is fucking delightful.




We join the scene in progress, with Uhura and Rand playing cards in a somewhat lackadaisical manner.  You get the feeling that they have perhaps done this many, many times before.




At the end of the table, Spock is strumming his Vulcan lyre, and Uhura begins humming in tune with it, to which he expresses visible and audible dissatisfaction via a heavy sigh.  Uhura apologizes, but Spock's demeanor changes massively, and he begins playing again in a wordless invitation for her to join in.






What's up with that smile?!?  Given how much fuss was made in the previous episode -- "The Naked Time" -- over Spock's unemotional nature, this is somewhat incongruous.  But we know that Spock HAS the emotions, so there's nothing much here that violates our knowledge of the character.  It's unusual to see him expressing the emotions in so bold a manner as this, though.  Maybe he's still getting over that virus from "The Naked Time."

In any case, it's a lovely little moment, and right there, the seeds for the Spock/Uhura romance in the Kelvinverse films seems to be planted.

Uhura is emboldened by Spock's openness, so she (partially at Rand's encouragement) ad-libs a song on the spot.  Using the Scottish ballad "Charlie Is My Darling" as a foundation, she concocts the following lyrics:


Oh, on the starship Enterprise / There's someone who's in Satan's guise

Whose devil ears and devil eyes / Could rip your heart from you!

At first his look could hypnotize / And then his touch would barbarize

His alien love could victimize... / And rip your heart from you!

And that's why female astronauts / Oh very female astronauts / Wait terrified and overwrought / To find what he will do.

Oh girls in space, be wary! / Be wary, be wary! / Girls in space, be wary!

We know not what he'll do!

  
Nichelle Nichols is marvelous in this scene.  So is Leonard Nimoy, for that matter; and Grace Lee Whitney, who has some lovely little reactions while she is egging Uhura on.  This only becomes more so once Charlie walks in and Uhura shifts the lyrics to focus on him, going so far as to hint at his attraction to Janice.  Charlie becomes annoyed with this, and literally puts both Uhura and Spock on mute; nobody realizes that's what he's done, but it is.
  
  



  
This is a simple moment, but it's an effective one.  Nobody here realizes it yet, but Charlie is an existential threat to them all.  Here, he strikes at them by secretly disrupting their leisure pursuits.  Something about that gets to me.  Maybe it's that he is merely a representational standin for the sort of danger they all face on a daily basis.  They blow off steam by convening in this somewhat sad little room and simply sharing in each other's company; even Spock, the allegedly emotionless Vulcan, goes there to seek companionship.  Their little songs and card games and drinks could be forever disrupted at a moment's notice by spiteful godlike beings, or by some creepy alien in a gigantic round spaceship, or who knows what else.  They are taking their fun where they can get it.
  
I think I find this to be an affecting -- and effective -- scene because it hints at a different sort of Star Trek.  I've long thought there could be an effective television series to be found in simply exploring the day-to-day ways in which a Starfleet crew lived their lives.  I don't need every week to be about some alien menace (complete with a morality tale to tie it all in a bow).  Maybe give me that two or three times a season.  The rest of the time, follow the characters as they do their normal jobs.  They get on each others' nerves sometimes, and they probably fuck a lot (provided it's not outside their own rank), and sometimes they do really good jobs and other times maybe less so and they have to be disciplined.  They have strong moral codes, though, and they don't exactly regret devoting their lives to exploration; but that's not to say they don't have SOME regrets.  How do they cope with that?  What in their past were they leaving behind to be a part of this mission?  And so forth.
  
Anyways, this scene sort of hints at that different type of story.  And I guess I don't truly WANT Star Trek to be that; but it's an idea that pulls at me nonetheless.  Because let's face it, there's plenty of drama to be found in the tale of a man and a woman who are madly attracted to each other, but are unable to pursue that attraction because one outranks the other.  Star Trek can and should encompass that sort of storytelling as well as fistfights with Gorns and Klingons and the like.
  
A few more notes before we move on:
  
  •  This is primarily a serious episode, but there are a few solid comedic moments in it.  DeForest Kelley is great during the bridge scene when Kirk puts him in charge of giving Charlie a birds-and-bees lecture.  McCoy tells Kirk that such a conversation such be had with a strong father figure, and you can tell that he thinks he's thrown a winning hand onto the table.  Kirk subverts him, however, and you can literally see the evidence of McCoy's spirit breaking in his facial expression.




  • Speaking of comedy, Shatner excels at it in the corridor scene when he inadvertently gets roped into trying to explain to Charlie why it's not okay to smack a woman on the rear end.  
  • Speaking of smacked rear ends, Charlie learns that gesture from seeing a couple of male crewmen do it in the corridor.  The one who gets smacked is the same crewman who, in "The Naked Time," was roaming the ship, painting slogans on the walls.
  • Robert Walker Jr. gives an excellent performance as Charlie.  I did not want to let the post slip by without me mentioning that.  There would be a great deal of potential for the role of Charlie to be portrayed in a grating and unsympathetic manner, but Walker does a fine job of making Charlie be likeable enough that he isn't off-putting.  This is absolutely key to the episode's melancholy end.  You have to believe that (a) Kirk would still want to fight for Charlie's humanity and (b) that Rand would, despite having been blinked into nonexistence by this boy, be moved to tears by his plight.  Put a less expert actor in the role, one who amplifies the wrong qualities, and none of that works.  Here, it works, and Walker deserves a huge amount of the credit for that.
  • This episode is by far the busiest Nichelle Nichols has had to date as Uhura, and she is terrific.  Sadly, the series will only put her talents to proper use a handful of times during the three seasons.
  
Well, as it turned out, I sucked at the brevity thing, I guess.
  
Ah, well.  It was always a narrow path to success on that front, anyways.  Let's press on and go behind the scenes.
  
  
  
  
Perhaps the biggest behind-the-scenes story with "Charlie X" involves its status as the series entry point for D.C. Fontana, who would go on to be active with the franchise for literally decades.  She's unquestionably one of the pivotal creative forces on Star Trek, and this is where her writing for the show(s) began.
  
She started out as Roddenberry's secretary, and eventually landed the assignment of turning his story outlines for "Charlie X" into full-fledged scripts.  She did so, and was praised across the board -- by Roddenberry, by the other producers, and by studio executives -- for turning in a first draft that was better by far than the other first drafts they were accustomed to seeing.  She ended up getting rewritten by Roddenberry, too; but his changes to her work were minimal, and that fact evinced a confidence in and approval of her work that clearly served her well going forward.  
  
Cushman's book also contains some interesting insights from Roddenberry himself about certain aspects of the episode.  "Children have a lack of morality in that morality is primarily a learned behavior," he says.  "That's not to say children don't process traces of humanitarianism, but, for the most part, they have to be taught [right from wrong].  We are inherently reckless when we're young and not able to fully empathize with others -- people or animals or any living thing.  Now you take an inexperienced person like that and give him the ability to 'think' someone out of existence and you have a real danger.  You run the risk that if you reject this immature person -- deny him what he wants, tell him he's wrong about something, provoke him in any way -- he will more than likely use that power.  Seeing it this way, if you're going to tell what some may call a monster story, what better [antagonist] than a teenager?"
  
Cushman also (via Roddenberry quotes) sheds some light on the episode's title.  The idea is that signing one's name with an "X" was a sign of a lack of formal education, and therefore a sign of inexperience and immaturity (if only intellectual).  The episode's title had been "Charlie Is God" during its early development, and Roddenberry reveals that the change came about because that title revealed too much about the plot too soon.
  
A couple more noteworthy tidbits:
  
Fontana's screenplay included a role for Lt. Farrell, but one of Roddenberry's rewrites changed him into a no-name "navigator."  There's no evidence as to whether this was a direct slight to actor Jim Goodwin, but I'd certainly take it that way if I were him.  So goodbye, Farrell!  We hardly knew ye.
  
There was a medium-sized controversy over whether Kirk would or would not wear a shirt during the gym scene.  Shatner -- worried his physique had slipped a bit -- voted strongly for keeping the shirt on, but was overruled by Herb Solow and Roddenberry.  I think Shatner looks fine, personally.  If I were him, I'd have been more vocal about the red tights Kirk wears.  You will note a lack of screencaps of those tights.  And you are welcome for that.
  
   


Not much to glean from Asherman's book this week, but I did want to share one quote:

"It is illogical that Charlie goes on so long before he is suspected of having 'the power,' especially after he produces the perfume and the photos of Janice from out of nowhere."

Asherman is mostly correct about that, but I'd argue with him a bit.  If you set "Charlie X" in broadcast order, however, it's maybe more logical, because you can rationalize it by saying that it would be illogical not to think there were rational explanations for what Charlie was doing.  Why would Rand leap to the conclusion, "Oh, this kid must have godlike powers"?  She'd likely think he'd gotten the perfume from somebody else who knew what she liked, and that he'd had the cards made in advance by somebody who had that sort of printing ability.

If you're watching in production order, of course, it becomes a different matter.  Granted, Rand was seemingly not aboard for the Gary Mitchell incident; so perhaps she is unaware of it.  Seems unlikely that Sulu or somebody wouldn't have mentioned it, but hey, it's possible.

On the whole, I'd agree with Asherman, though.  I can overlook it.  A plot hole (if you want to go that far) of that nature is something I can live with every once in a while.




Nothing much pertaining to "Charlie X" in the chapter of this I read this time.  Several great anecdotes about practical jokes Gene Roddenberry played on various people during the first season.  Through Shatner's eyes, Roddenberry comes off as considerably more puckish than he has done in most of the other sources we've examined.

Shatner does speak briefly about the writing/rewriting issues.  He says, "Gene felt that there was no way anyone but himself could entirely understand his concept of what Star Trek should be.  With that in mind, Gene began personally attending to each creative detail of every Star Trek episode, refusing to let his vision be compromised so that he could partake of such luxuries as sleep, food or a personal life.  Instead, Roddenberry forced himself to revise and often totally rewrite each of our first thirteen scripts, always demanding that each new draft fit the creative, structural and dramatic guidelines he'd established almost two years earlier."

This continues to sound to my ears like what it takes to run a television series.  I'm sure there are plenty of other ways to think about it; it seems likely that no two people who were involved in the production of Star Trek during this era would think about it in the same way.  Add it all together and you've got Rashomon.

But the older I get, the more it seems like that's just ... life.  So Shatner's view of Roddenberry's hands-on approach might not be inherently superior to, say, John D.F. Black's or Harlan Ellison's.  But it might not be inherently inferior, either.  In the end, Shatner is a much more important element of Trek than either of those guys; and that's well worth keeping in mind.

One last quote I'd like to share comes from Nichelle Nichols, who spoke to Shatner about her development of her character with Roddenberry:

Gene's original dream was to have a cast of seven and tell their stories on a weekly basis.  With that in mind, he and I would get together as often as possible to discuss the ins and outs of my character.  I mean all through our first season, we'd sit for hours on end, talking about Uhura's life.  I remember we came up with the idea that she'd come from a place called the United States of Africa, that her people had been of the Bantu nation and that her native tongue was Swahili.  All of this really helped him in terms of writing for the character, and it certainly helped me to play her.

Wouldn't you think that given all those "ins and outs" that occurred "as often as possible," Uhura would have been a more prominent player in the ensemble? 




The chapter of I Am Not Spock that I read this week is titled "The Alien Connection," and it's interesting.  Not much here pertaining to "Charlie X," but I did engage with it, and some of what Nimoy discusses can be applied to "Charlie X."

He begins by discussing seeing the Charles Laughton version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame as a child.  "I watched them put him on public display on a wooden turntable in the cathedral courtyard," Nimoy writes.  "They whipped him.  I don't remember why.  Drunk in public or something like that.  The crowds laughed at him.  Jeered his pain and his humiliation."  Later, "a beautiful thing happened.  The lovely Esmerelda, although terrified by this awful, ugly creature, brought him some water."

Nimoy also remembers Boris Karloff in Frankenstein.  "He came across a little girl and we knew that the worst would happen.  This brute would kill her!  Tear her to pieces.  She wasn't afraid.  She wasn't wise enough to be afraid!  She tried to play with him.  And in that instant when we all thought her life had run its course, she offered him a flower . . . and she lived.  She had touched something in this monster's being and she lived."

Except no, not really; she didn't.  The 1931 version of Frankenstein was heavily censored -- this scene especially -- in some areas of the country, including Massachusetts, where Nimoy grew up.  How unexpectedly intriguing it is to find that a censored version of that movie had an impact upon the man who would play Spock!  And this, by the way, is how Nimoy follows on from that quote above:

"And then, as Spock, I played one of those moments.  When in one episode a lady offered me love and completed the connection from Laughton to Karloff to Nimoy.  The love connection between human and alien."

Fascinating!  Nimoy remembers the moment in which Laughton as Quasimodo says, "I, too, need love."  Nimoy says, "Million respond and love pours out because we all need it and we all understand."

This understanding and identification is part of what drives "Charlie X," as well.  Is it really all that weird for Charlie to fall in love with Janice Rand?  He's never even seen a woman, and THAT'S the first one he encounters?!?  Good lord, why would he not be smitten right down to the ground?  We also understand why Rand would spurn him; but, spurned, we then understand why he would react as he does.  He is tied to a wooden turntable of sorts, and is being whipped and jeered; but he the power to free himself, and does, but with only brute power to help guide his next actions.  No wonder he ends up inside a windmill, chased by angry villagers.

So to speak.




Let's now turn our attentions toward the portrayer of the object of Charlie's affections, Grace Lee Whitney.  The chapter of her book that I read this week was the first of a couple that deal directly with her time on Star Trek.  So, in the immediate sense, this stuff isn't quite as gut-wrenching as some of the previous chapters have been.

Not on the surface, at least.  But the underlying sentiment -- one made explicit at a few points -- is that her role on Star Trek meant acceptance, stability, and professional achievement for Whitney, and that her firing in turn meant the repossession of all those things.  Whitney's time on Star Trek, then, is by definition almost a cruel trick that was played upon her; and when we see her as Yeoman Janice Rand, we are seeing the moments before the run is pulled from beneath her unsuspecting feet.

Thanks to the miracle of filmmaking, those moments are captured in time, perhaps not forever, but certainly for the foreseeable future.  In a way, that's good, because even though her time was brief, Rand lives beyond Whitney; but so does the pain of her brevity.

The bad with the good with the bad, and all that.

Anyways, it's a bummer, and I continue to want to use this blog as a means of wrapping an arm around her ghost.

Let's focus on the good times during this particular post, how 'bout it?  Whitney has some bright, cheerful, and insightful recollections, including, but not limited to:

  • She flatly rejects the implication made by Herb Solow (in Inside Star Trek) that she was hired due to a previous personal relationship with Roddenberry.  She says, "I never had a romantic relationship with Gene Roddenberry before Star Trek, during Star Trek, or after Star Trek."  She asserts that she had, in fact, barely known him personally; she'd appeared in two episodes of shows he produced, but that was the extent of their relationship.  "Did Gene make passes at me?" she asks rhetorically.  "You better believe he did!  Passes, innuendoes, double-entendres, the whole nine yards.  But I wanted to keep our relationship on a professional basis and I was basically moral at that time (it wasn't until after I got written out of Star Trek that my sexaholism went off the scale).  Who knows?  Maybe if Gene had gotten me in the sack, I might have done all three seasons of Star Trek instead of only half a season!"  This is a fairly chilling bit of self-honesty.  It's not stated, but you kind of get the feeling that maybe Whitney wishes she had tried that approach.  It seems unlikely that, say, James Doohan had to make decisions of that nature.  I don't want to go into Liberal Police mode here, but the fact is that it's kind of monstrous that Whitney had to work in an environment where decisions like that had to be made at all.  It's not certain that she did have to make that decision; but the fact that it is even possible is ... problematic.  It behooves us to bear that in mind when we're praising this series for its progressive stances.
  • Roddenberry told Whitney of the "undercurrent of suppressed sexuality" that would exist between Rand and Kirk.  "But it was up to me," she says, "to fill in that outline with colors and emotions and reality.  I projected a lot of my own self onto the soul of Janice Rand.  I really began to feel that I knew her, I understood her, I loved her as a sister under the skin."
  • "The chemistry between Captain Kirk and Yeoman Rand, between William Shatner and Grace Lee Whitney, was natural and unforced.  When Rand was afraid, she would go to Kirk's side, and he would automatically reach out and hold her.  The director never had to tell me to go to Bill Shatner's side, and the director never told Bill to put his arms around me.  It was instinctive for both of us.  We knew our characters and the electrical undercurrent that crackled between them, and we just responded to that as the situation demanded."
  • Whitney reports that she is always asked at conventions whether she and Shatner had a real-life romance going on during the filming of the series.  "The answer," she says, "is no, we were never romantically involved with each other.  And yet--  I was always aware of a tremendous attraction between us that was never consummated.  Part of that attraction has to do with the roles we played.  The scripts and the series format called for Kirk and Rand to have a repressed attraction and fascination for each other, and our job as actors was to become James Kirk and Janice Rand, to feel what they felt, to behave as they behaved, to immerse ourselves in their identities.  I remember that Bill used to stand behind me in certain scenes, and he would hold me, and the back of my body would be absolutely on fire for him!  That's lust, not love.  I was very attracted to him.  He was very charismatic, very sexy.  There was a strong physical attraction between us, but we never did anything about it."  Guys.  GUYS.  That is hot as hell.
  • Whitney has more to say about Shatner, admitting that he's been criticized by some other members of the cast for being self-absorbed and inconsiderate on the set.  "In Bill's defense," she says, "there was a lot going on in his life.  I remember him as being very sad and withdrawn during those early weeks of shooting.  His father was dying at the time, his marriage was breaking up, and he obviously loved his two little girls and wanted to be a good dad to them, no matter what happened to his marriage.  He didn't seem to have close friends to confide in, and he was under a lot of stress as the star of a network series.  I suppose Bill was self-absorbed during that time -- but given the way his life was disintegrating, I can't hold that against him.  The wonder of William Shatner is that, with so much going on in his off-screen life, he was so engaging and commanding on-screen."  Lovely words, and a good counterpoint to all that anti-Shatner snark that has been flung about willy-nilly over the years.
  • Whitney, quoting Roddenberry: " 'Janice Rand is a woman of the twenty-third century.  We want the viewers to know they're looking at a futuristic hairstyle.  It has to be totally unlike anything in our world.'  If Gene was right, I pity all the poor women three centuries from now, going through life with the mass-equivalent of a bowling ball on their heads!"



  • She recalls costume designer Bill Theiss telling her that she was a bit overweight, and recommending that she call her doctor "and have him give you some pills."  So she did, and so he did: amphetamines.  (This same doctor had previously prescribed high-dosage birth control pills when she needed to gain weight for a different role.)  "That," she says, "was the beginning of my problem with amphetamines."  She would take them not only to keep the weight off, but also to get her through the day; and then, to come down at night, she would drink to take the edge off.  She had not yet realized that she was an alcoholic, but she was aware that she was sabotaging her marriage.  "I just had this idea that there wasn't room in my life for both a marriage and a career on Star Trek," she says.  And in the end, of course, she ended up keeping neither.




We'll add a new book into the mix this week:




Given that "Charlie X" is such an Uhura-heavy episode, it seems logical.  I suspect we will not end up covering this memoir in anything resembling the detail we're doing with Whitney's -- I simply don't feel the sense of obligation -- but I'll include whatever seems pertinent.

All I read for this time was the book's prologue, which consists of a very touching reminiscence about Gene Roddenberry's memorial service, as well as Nichols' final meeting with him.

A few quotes worth examining:

  • "A devoted humanist, Gene Roddenberry ascribed to the belief that the future rested in our mortal hands, that our answers were to be found among ourselves, here on Earth or beyond."
  • "If one wanted proof that eyes are the windows to the soul, one needed only to look into Gene's.  Luminous and blue, they blazed with his insatiable passion for life.  Through many struggles, both personal and professional, Gene never looked away.  And although his sights were always set on the future, Gene was a man of the moment who believed The Future Is Now.  To be with Gene was to be reminded that you were truly, fully alive."
  • "Over the past several weeks, I'd heard that Gene was not doing well, and, in fact, his assistant had delicately cautioned me to try not to be too shocked by his appearance.  I braced myself.  But when I was shown into Gene's den and saw him dressed in light-gray slacks and a light-blue shirt that brought out the blue in his beautiful eyes, I thought he looked wonderful."
  • "After a few moments of talking, it became clear that while Gene was in most ways himself, it required all his energy and concentration to sustain that illusion for me.  We spoke of personal things we had talked about many, many times before, yet this time Gene seemed to be communicating to me a sense of urgency, as if he needed me to understand that every word he said that day had a new, special meaning."  Two days later, Roddenberry passed away.
  • Among others in attendance at Roddenberry's memorial: Whoopi Goldberg, Patrick Stewart, Ray Bradbury, George Takei, Leonard Nimoy, Walter Koenig, and Grace Lee Whitney.  "Sitting next to me," Nichols says, "Whoopi took my hand and held me together throughout the service by whispering funny comments to me."
  • "You could no more separate who Gene was from what he thought and believed than you could take a slice out of the sky.  They were one.  That was Gene."

I thought it might be worth flipping ahead a bit to see what Nichols had to say on the subject of "Charlie X," and she remembers that Roddenberry received pushback from "somebody upstairs" who "told him he couldn't have singing on the show."

"Of course we can!" Gene argued.  "We can produce anything we want to, and the public will accept it or reject it according to how good it is."  In network television, this view was heresy.

"This isn't a space musical," the network boys reminded him, as if Gene didn't know.  "Look, they're ordinary human beings," Gene countered.  "Uhura certainly wouldn't break out into song and dance on duty at her console, but this is in the recreation room, where the crew is relaxing.  Hell, when I was in the air force, we had people who were musicians and entertainers.  If someone could sing or play a guitar, they did, and we welcomed those times."

The bigwigs signed off on it reluctantly, and then later, when it turned out well, pressed Roddenberry to find more reasons for Uhura to sing!

We'll hear more from Nichols in the weeks to come, I'm sure, but for now let's move along to a little section I've decided to dub "Blishful Thinking."


  
  
As is typically the case with the Blish adaptations, there is some good stuff here.  First, it's worth noting that this is the first story in the first book of Blish short stories.  He's retitled it "Charlie's Law," which so far as I can tell was never a title of any draft of either the story outline or screenplay.  I'd be curious to know where this alternative title came from; Blish is on record as saying that the stories are always based on screenplay drafts, but I'm not sure the evidence supports that as far as this title goes.
  
Anyways, some of the intriguing issues I found in this story are:
  
  • After his exam is completed, Charlie asks McCoy "to see the ship's rule book."  "He didn't like making the same mistake twice."  McCoy says he feels the same way, but Charlie will later make a comment indicating that the good doctor never does produce that rule book.  I'd speculate that it's because no such thing exists; there'd be no need for actual rule books in Gene Roddenberry's 23rd century.
  • As the exam is concluding, it is McCoy who amiably swats Charlie on the rump.
  • During the scene on the bridge when Kirk confers with Spock and McCoy, Rand is also present.  Kirk asks her, "Yeoman Rand, what do you think of our problem child?"  She answers with the story about him giving her her favorite perfume and then swatting her on the rear end.  She also relates the story about Charlie playing card tricks in the rec room.  Rather than transmogrifying the cards into Janice Rand baseball cards, it seems that he simply -- if "simply" is the right word -- makes a game of solitaire come out for Rand.  After that, he performs a whole series of tricks with them.
  • Spock and Charlie do not play chess.
  • Rand mentions Uhura singing "Charlie is my darling," but there is no mention at all of Spock, and given his presence in the scene as she is telling the story, I think we have to assume that in this version, he is not in the rec room.  Was this scene altered to include him after the draft from which Blish worked?  Or might he have deleted Spock's musical moment so as to make it work in tandem with the bit in his version of "The Naked Time" where Spock sequesters himself in his quarters and plays horrid Vulcan music?  Intriguing, but I doubt we'll ever know.
  • Sam, Kirk's workout partner, has a slightly expanded role.  He's given a last name (Ellis) and a regular job ("a member of McCoy's staff"), and he's the one who does much of the initial demonstration for Charlie.  Did Shatner steal moments from the actor?  If so, he was probably right to do so; the more involved Kirk is here, the better.
  • Sam's disappearance is accompanied by "a pop like the breaking of the world's largest light bulb."
  • The scene in which a force field is set up in an attempt to detain Charlie is combined with the scene in which he has his final confrontation with Janice.  It's a VERY different version of both, and Kirk makes Rand be a part of it by asking her to lure Charlie back to his cabin after the work has been completed.  But here, the work takes seventy-two hours, so I'm not sure it makes any sense that Charlie would be unaware it was happening.  I'd love to know if that bit of illogic was what prompted the scenes to eventually be split apart, or if instead it made Kirk appear to be callous in asking -- NOT ordering, granted -- Rand to use herself as bait in this manner.
  • It's during this scene in Charlie's cabin that we get the reason for the title "Charlie's Law."  This, Rand says, is "everybody better be nice to Charlie, or else."  (I'm reminded of Mitchell telling Kirk that he'd better be good to him.)  Charlie objects to Janice's blunt assessment, but not convincingly.
  • The moment in which Charlie works Spock like a puppet, forcing him to recite poetry, is absent.  Fine by me; I'm not a big fan of that stuff.
  • Charlie directs Sulu to show him how to work the helm.  "That would take thirty years of training," Sulu objects, to which Charlie tells the helmsman not to argue with him.  "Go ahead, show him," Kirk tells the junior officer.  "Maybe he''l blow us up.  Better than letting us loose on Colony Five--"  This is a snappy line, and in and of itself, I like it; but it doesn't entirely fit with what we know about Kirk, who would never wish for that, even in jest.
  • When Janice reappears on the bridge, Sam does as well.
  • Charlie's line "I want to stay...! stay...! stay...!" is omitted.  His final line of dialogue is, "I can't even touch them--"  The echoed "stay" kind of works in terms of an audiovisual medium like television, but in prose terms, this version works blisteringly well.

Overall, it's a good read.  It's intriguing to think that for anyone -- and these people would certainly have existed -- who read the Blish books prior to seeing the episodes, if they read in order, this was their first "episode" of Star Trek.

Does it work in that capacity?  Yeah, you know, it kind of does.  It establishes Kirk as a powerful commander, Spock as an intelligent right-hand-man, McCoy as a irascible but essentially humane man of medicine, and -- importantly -- Rand as a capable crewman for whom Kirk has a bit of a flame.  (Kirk, Blish tells us, "was fond of her, though he fondly imagined that to be a secret even from her.")

We'll conclude with more screencaps, Blish-enhanced and otherwise:
 
 
"Though as Captain of the starship Enterprise James Kirk had the final authority over four hundred officers and crewmen, plus a small and constantly shifting population of passengers, and though in well more than twenty years in space he had had his share of narrow squeaks, he was firmly of the opinion that no single person ever gave him more trouble than one seventeen-year-old boy.

Charles Evans had been picked up from a planet called Thasus after having been marooned there for fourteen years, the sole survivor of the crash of his parents' research vessel.  He was rescued by the survey ship Antares, a transport about a tenth of the size of the Enterprise, and subsequently transferred to Kirk's ship, wearing hand-me-down clothes and carrying all the rest of his possessions in a dufflebag."
















"Leonard McCoy, the ship's surgeon, checked Charlie from top to toe and found him in excellent physical condition: no traces of malnutrition, of exposure, of hardship of any sort; truly remarkable for a boy who'd had to fend for himself on a strange world from the age of three.

On the other hand, it was reasonable to suppose that fourteen years later, Charlie would either be in good shape, or dead; he would have had to come to terms with his environment within the first few years.

Charlie was not very communicative about this puzzle, though he asked plenty of questions himself -- he seemed earnestly to want to know all the right things to do, and even more urgently, to be liked, but the purport of some of McCoy's questions apparently baffled him.

No, nobody had survived the crash.  He had learned English by talking to the memory banks on the ship; they still worked.  No, the Thasians hadn't helped him; there were no Thasians.  At first he had eaten stores from the wreck; then he had found some other . . . things, growing around."

" 'Wellll,' she said.  'Maybe I'm prejudiced.  I wasn't going to mention this, but . . . he followed me down the corridor yesterday and offered me a vial of perfume.


My favorite, too; I don't know how he knew it.  There's none in the ship's stores, I'm sure of that.' "  " 'I was just going to ask him where he got it, when he swatted me on the rump.  After that I made it my business to be someplace else.'

There was an outburst of surprised laughter, quickly suppressed."














" 'The best sleight of hand I've ever seen.  He said one of the men on the Antares taught him how.  He was enjoying all the attention, I could tell that, but I didn't want to encourage him too much myself.  Not after the swatting incident.' "

"The boy's need for human company was touching, no matter how awkwardly he went about it.  There were many years of solitude to be made up for."




"On the bridge, Lieutenant Uhura, her Bantu face intent as a tribal statue's, was asking the microphone: 'Can you boost your power, Antares?  We are barely reading your transmission.' "

"His voice stopped.  There was nothing to be heard from the speaker now but stellar static -- not even a carrier wave."

"There was a long, terribly tense silence.  At last Kirk carefully unclenched his fists.  'Charlie,' he said, 'one of the first things you're going to have to get rid of is that damned cold-bloodedness.

Or self-centeredness, or whatever it is.

Until that gets under control, you're going to be less than half human.'  And then, he stopped.  To his embarrassed amazement, Charlie was crying."



" 'Captain, I've seen that look before; I'm not seventeen.' "  " 'I'm his first love and his first crush and the first woman he ever saw and . . .'  She caught her breath.  'Captain, that's a great deal for anyone to have to handle, even one item at a time.  All at once, it's murder.' "

" 'Janice -- Yeoman Rand -- she wants to give me away to someone else.  Yeoman Lawton.  But she's just a, just a, well, she doesn't even smell like a girl.  Nobody else on the ship is like Janice.  I don't want anybody else.'

'It's normal,' Kirk said gently.

'Charlie, there are a million things in the universe you can have.  There are also about a hundred million that you can't.  There's no fun in learning to face that, but you've got to do it.  That's how things are.' "

" 'Come along to the gym with me and we'll try a few falls.  Way back in Victorian England, centuries ago, they had a legend that violent exercise helped keep one's mind off women.  I've never known it to work, but anyhow let's give it a try.' "

"Kirk stared stupefied at the spot where Ellis had been.

Charlie, too, stood frozen for a moment.

Then he began to move tentatively toward the door.

'Hold it,' Kirk said.

Charlie stopped, but he did not turn to face Kirk."

" 'He's the world's most destructive weapon, and he's on a hair trigger.'

'No,' Kirk said.  'He's not a weapon.  He has a weapon.  That's a difference we can use.' "

" 'We can't be walking on eggs every second,' Kirk said.  'If every act, every question might irritate him, we might as well pretend that none of them will.  Otherwise, we'll be utterly paralyzed.' "

"From behind his back, where it had already been visible to the camera, he produced the single pink rosebud he had been carrying and held it out.  There had been no roses aboard the ship, either; judging by that and the perfume, he could indeed make things appear as well as disapepar.  The omens did not look good."

" 'Why did you do that?' he said.  'You won't even let me try.  None of you.  All right.  From now on I'm not trying.

I won't keep any of you but the ones I need.  I don't need you.'

There came the implosion sound again.  Janice was gone.  Around Kirk, the universe turned a dull, aching gray."






"Feeling like a man caught in a long fall of dominoes, Kirk jerked his eyes toward Spock.  There was indeed something materializing on the bridge, through which Spock himself could now be seen only dimly.  It was perhaps two-third as tall as a man, roughly oval, and fighting for solidity.  It wavered and changed, and colors flowed through it.  For a moment it looked like a gigantic human face; then, like nothing even remotely human; then, like a distorted view of a distant but gigantic building.  It did not seem able to hold any state very long."



"The boy and the Thasian vanished, in utter silence.  The only remaining sound was the dim, multifarious humming surround of the Enterprise.

And the sound of Janice Rand weeping, as a woman weeps for a lost son."



Next time: "Balance of Terror."

4 comments:

  1. (1) That fan-fiction scenario makes so much sense that it's a shame they just didn't go that route. It would have been a natural re-introduction of the character and nice throughline of TOS continuity. A missed opportunity.

    (2) "They hear those dogs howling in the back room, and the sound is breaking their hearts." Nice. Indeed this aspect of the episode is very sympathetic. Even with the bluffing aspect, too - everyone's in a pickle here and just trying to stay ahead of the puberty/mangy-dog monster in the room. Charlie is an externalization of the sexual desire between Kirk and Janice, really, and the pent-up danger it represents. (In their minds, I guess. Really given everything else we learn about the 23rd century and beyond, this sort of sexual tension makes sense as a projection of the 60s but not so much of the future. Arguably. But in the same way we can't lament Kirk's not saying "Gary Mitchell again!" (which would be great) we can't expect that sort of thing from 60s tv.)

    (3) Ditto for so much of the life-onboard-the-ship stuff. Makes total sense as a projection of WW2-ish-era navy stuff. Some of it seems a little too WW2-ish and not enough 23rd-century-ish but yadda yadda. All of the above/ as stated elsewhere / and even in this here blog itself. I'd love a Daily Life of Star Trek show, though. Really the new show should also have that kind of stuff as webisodes or special features or something.

    (4) "You will note a lack of screencaps of those tights. And you are welcome for that." You anticipated my thanks but allow me to restate them.

    (5) "In the end, Shatner is a much more important element of Trek than either of those guys; and that's well worth keeping in mind." Very true. Lately I've been shaking my head at people's inability to recognize multiple - sometimes things in opposition to one another - things as being true. Or like two sides can be wrong at the same time. Seems to trip too many circuit breakers. (My theory: this is the byproduct of our neocommie indoctrination. But that's my answer to most things.)

    (6) I think all of the secondary cast has (understandably) retconned their importance many, many times since the 60s. Hell, the principal cast, too. And why not? I don't fault them or anything - just that even 30 years ago I remember thinking, "Hmm. If this was as stated, why wouldn't he/she have brought it up on (insert multiple other occasions here)?" Over time, stories and accounts coalesce, particularly in one's own recollections, a certain way. Rashomon indeed. (Or, put in Children of Tama style, "Riker and Apgar at Botanica Four!")

    (7) I sooooooooo want there to be secret recordings of Doohan's confessions of all the sexual harrassment he receivd from the Genes. Anyway, regarding the progressive stances discussed, there's a certain amount of irony in wondering this in a discussion of "Charlie X."

    (8) I have no problem believing Shatner swiped Sam's lines.

    (9) Of the Blishful Thinking section, those Rand-cards Charlie makes are an image that's always stuck with me. There's something very dreamlike about this whole sequence, right down to Uhura's singing and Spock's smile, etc.

    (10) I wish someone (besides Tim Russ, God bless him) would follow up on the Thasians.

    Fun times as always.

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    Replies
    1. (1) I was real pleased with myself for thinking that one up. So much so that I wonder if I heard somebody else say it somewhere years ago and then swiped it as "my own idea." I don't think so, but it's not impossible. Either way, that should have happened. If I ever meet Nicholas Meyer, I'mma slap him and gruffly tell him so.

      (2) Thank you mentioning the fact that this episode -- and series -- really is just a set of sixties concerns projected through a futurist lens. That makes it seem dated in some ways, obviously, but it also makes it a hugely valuable time-capsule. And yeah, it doesn't quite wash for me that in this high-minded future, a man and a woman couldn't be trusted to have a romantic relationship despite one being the other's commander. If that sort of thing is still an issue, then I guarantee you there are still plenty of other issues, too.

      (5) Well, if the shoe fits, right? It's weird that "Star Trek" brings out that two-views-simultaneously ability in me. But is is certainly true: we're more complex beings than we often think, and truth is a more slippery concept than we give it credit for being. So one person might think Roddenberry was a saint, and then other might think he was a scumbag, and the truth MIGHT be that they are both right.

      (6) It was inevitable, I suspect. If you take a guy like George Takei -- affable, gregarious, opinionated -- and then send him to a never-ending series of conventions where people scream and holler and applaud him at every turn, what else would happen other than giving him an inflated sense of his importance to the thing of which he was a part? And here's the thing: maybe it's actually NOT inflated! After all, if those people all seem to feel it isn't, then IS it? I don't know. It's a fascinating dynamic.

      (7) Heh. Yeah, probably so.

      (9) Very much so. You could almost imagine that Charlie is somehow inhibiting their ability to find what he's doing weird, so that it's almost as if they ARE dreaming. That's not what is going on, but it's surreal for sure, especially with the lighting.

      (10) I have not enjoyed the Tim Russ films I've seen. We'll leave it at that. But yes, I wonder about the Thasians. Do all these godlike races coexist in any way? Do the Thasians and the Organians and the Q have an intramural softball league? Do they go to war? There is potential there, but I think the idea would require an Alan Moore to properly execute it. (Boy now THERE'S an idea...!)

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    2. I wish I liked those Tim Russ things more. It's got so many Trek people in it! But it's almost difficult to believe how amateurish those things feel - particualrly when contrasted against the "official" amateur Trek productions out there.

      But: you and I gave this topic a pretty sound thrashing, so no need to pile it on the guy. I do wish someone would film the superpowered intramural softball league. There's a fun issue of Star Trek Unlimited (when Marvel had the license the 2nd time) where Q and Trelane mess with Picard and Kirk from afar in an armchair-chessmatch/two-gods-goofing-off fashion.

      More to say but off to the train for now..

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    3. I never read it, but I believe there is also a novel in which Q and Trelane square off and/or collaborate. I mean, why not? It's kind of an obvious idea for fanfic, but there's a reason it's obvious.

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