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Go Back   The Trek BBS > Star Trek TV Series > Star Trek - Original Series

Star Trek - Original Series The one that started it all...

View Poll Results: Which episode is better?
Yesteryear 31 100.00%
The Practical Joker 0 0%
Voters: 31. You may not vote on this poll

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Old April 4 2011, 12:48 PM   #1
Botany Bay
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Yesteryear vs. The Practical Joker

Next up, in our TAS episode showdown :

Yesteryear vs. The Practical Joker

Vote for the one you want to continue through to the next round.
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Old April 4 2011, 12:55 PM   #2
CorporalCaptain
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Re: Yesteryear vs. The Practical Joker

This one is about the easiest one so far: Yesteryear.
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Old April 4 2011, 01:20 PM   #3
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Re: Yesteryear vs. The Practical Joker

Unquestionably, "Yesteryear."
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Old April 4 2011, 01:21 PM   #4
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Re: Yesteryear vs. The Practical Joker

Ditto. Points for

- expanding the Trek lore with a story about a central character's past and a popular alien world's intriguing particulars
- nonchalantly introducing alien characters that fall right into place: this Andorian that could have been Spock, the chick in the history team, assorted Vulcan fauna...
- presenting beautiful Vulcan vistas
- dealing with death like Vulcans would, with just the right mixture of passion and cold logic
- giving a time travel story with at least an ounce of sense
- doing it with the established and popular Guardian of Forever...

The Practical Joker gets points for showing a few seldom visited areas of the ship, but that's about it.

Timo Saloniemi
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Old April 4 2011, 03:14 PM   #5
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Re: Yesteryear vs. The Practical Joker

This is not even a contest. "Yesteryear" would probably win against any other TAS episode, but "The Practical Joker" is one of the weakest possible contenders to pit against it. TPJ is a stupid episode on many levels. The premise is nonsensical. A mere malfunction turning the ship's computer into a juvenile prankster? Consider the ramifications. Humor, even such crude humor, requires sentience, the capacity to understand human thought and emotion, the ability to anticipate how others would perceive an event and feel in response to it. It requires cognitive sophistication of a level that the Enterprise computer has never been shown to possess, and there's no way a simple malfunction could explain it. Also, how stupid is it that this damage was somehow fixed by a second passage through the same cloud that caused it? That makes about as much sense as curing sitcom amnesia through a second clonk on the head.

Maybe the story could've kind of made sense if there'd been some entity within the cloud that "possessed" the ship, maybe something that seized the opportunity to escape from the cloud and then got reclaimed by its other inhabitants when the ship returned there -- sort of a cross between Trelane and the "Lonely Among Us" entity. But there was nothing in the episode to suggest that. And it would've still been a lame episode. I never bought that these intelligent adults would laugh so loudly at the simplistic, puerile practical jokes pulled in the episode. Not to mention the cartoony and medically inaccurate portrayal of the effects of "laughing gas" (nitrous oxide).

I should probably balance this out by praising "Yesteryear," but it's all been said many times. It's pretty much universally recognized as the best TAS episode, with only "The Pirates of Orion," "The Slaver Weapon," and maybe "Albatross" being competitive. It's the one TAS episode that's been most influential on subsequent Trek canon, being drawn on by "Unification," the Enterprise Vulcan trilogy, and the 2009 movie.

The one thing that bugs me about "Yesteryear," though, is that the Guardian's behavior is hard to reconcile with "City on the Edge of Forever." In "City," the Guardian said that it was only capable of presenting history in fast-forward playback, but in "Yesteryear," it was able to take requests and lock onto a specific place and time. Not to mention the completely different voice it was given. But then, I've long been suspicious about the Guardian. What kind of "guardian" of a thing actively invites people to stumble around in it, even after they've already demonstrated the damage they can do to it? Shouldn't a guardian of time discourage people from time-travelling rather than saying "Let me be your gateway?" So personally I tend to think that the Guardian's a little senile.
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Old April 4 2011, 06:40 PM   #6
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Re: Yesteryear vs. The Practical Joker

It requires cognitive sophistication of a level that the Enterprise computer has never been shown to possess, and there's no way a simple malfunction could explain it.
To the contrary, we saw in "Tomorrow is Yesterday" that the computer is quite capable of the exact kind of cognitive sophistication required for sophomoric jokes - and our heroes didn't like that a bit. So it seems that the computer is being deliberately held back from being "too human", and a simple malfunction could hit the inhibition mechanisms that are in place for this purpose.

Also, how stupid is it that this damage was somehow fixed by a second passage through the same cloud that caused it? That makes about as much sense as curing sitcom amnesia through a second clonk on the head.
This part would have obviously worked better if the sentience plaguing the ship were a lifeform they picked up from the tri-isospatiotemporal anomaly, like you say. Which is a possibility by no means excluded by the episode. But the idea of the starship computer as an inherently intelligent entity is the more intriguing one. And obviously a computer with a Roger Rabbit sense of humor would realize the funny thing to do when re-entering the cloud would be to "reverse the effect"!

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Old April 4 2011, 07:08 PM   #7
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Re: Yesteryear vs. The Practical Joker

Timo wrote: View Post
To the contrary, we saw in "Tomorrow is Yesterday" that the computer is quite capable of the exact kind of cognitive sophistication required for sophomoric jokes - and our heroes didn't like that a bit.
You need to watch that episode again, or at least read the transcript. All the computer did was speak in a seductive tone of voice and append "dear" at the end of its otherwise routine statements -- both of which could've easily been achieved merely by reprogramming its speech synthesizer. No cognitive sophistication was indicated at all. The joke was on the part of the Cygnet XIV computer technicians who programmed it to talk that way.

Perhaps you're confusing the episode with the old novel Web of the Romulans by M. S. Murdock, which purported to be set immediately after "Tomorrow is Yesterday" (despite also being set months after "The Enterprise Incident" and having Chekov on the crew) and elevated the computer's "flirtatious" behavior, merely a minor distraction in the episode itself, into a full-on, stalkerish romantic obsession with Captain Kirk.
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Old April 4 2011, 07:15 PM   #8
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Re: Yesteryear vs. The Practical Joker

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on the level of difference between giggling at Kirk or decorating his shirt with "Kirk is a Jerk"...

The thing is, though, that the computer in all Trek shows is in the habit of answering questions not asked by the heroes, thus displaying an advanced sense of plot. It's easier to think of it as Pakled type of cunning (language inhibitions hiding passable intellect) than as an utterly moronic automaton. TAS "The Practical Joker" could well represent the computer's day off, much like TNG "Emergence" does. Hell, both times the preferred means of AI self-expression is the holodeck!

Agreed, though, that pitting "Yesteryear" against some more closely matched opponent such as "Mudd's Passion" or "More Tribbles" (both delving deeper into an established beloved TOS character, although lamentably not past wading depth) would have been less unfair.

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Old April 4 2011, 07:29 PM   #9
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Re: Yesteryear vs. The Practical Joker

Timo wrote: View Post
I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on the level of difference between giggling at Kirk or decorating his shirt with "Kirk is a Jerk"...
The difference is where the impetus comes from. It's easy to program a nonsentient computer to speak or behave in a seductive manner, even today; a lot of Internet porn surely depends on it. We know for a fact that the will behind that change in the computer's behavior came from the Cygnetians who reprogrammed it, so it does not constitute evidence of will or cognition in the computer.

But in TPJ, the premise is that the impetus comes entirely from the computer itself. What happens to it is depicted as a malfunction, not a "possession" by some other entity. So it's not an equivalent situation.
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Old April 6 2011, 12:18 AM   #10
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Re: Yesteryear vs. The Practical Joker

Not defending "The practical Joker" as a whole, as it was a weak episode I just wanted to point out something. It was the one episode where M'Ress was depicted closest to her original "model sheet" designs.



(The "Look behind you" shot)

Here she is painted with her proper colors: nose "pad" black (not the entire nose "bridge"), ears matching her face fur (rather than blending with the "mane"), and a black collar (rather than red). And her features are a tad more angular with better proportioned cheeks. Annoyingly, her most frequently used shot, a tight close-up of her face, depicted her with her entire nose black (making her look a bit like a lanky koala), bulging cheeks (like a chipmunk with its mouth crammed with nuts) and big "loopy" number "3" on its side for the muzzle (as a small child might draw one).

Does this shot make "TPJ" a better episode? Of course not. Just wanted to point out those few frames, nothing more.

Sincerely,

Bill
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Old April 6 2011, 05:52 AM   #11
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Re: Yesteryear vs. The Practical Joker

I had a huge crush on her when I was a cartoon.
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Old April 6 2011, 06:40 AM   #12
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Re: Yesteryear vs. The Practical Joker

captrek wrote: View Post
I had a huge crush on her when I was a cartoon.
You were a cartoon once? How did that work out?
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Old April 6 2011, 06:47 AM   #13
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Re: Yesteryear vs. The Practical Joker

Are you kidding? He made the cover of a paperback!
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Old April 6 2011, 02:15 PM   #14
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Re: Yesteryear vs. The Practical Joker

CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
Are you kidding? He made the cover of a paperback!
Really? What title? If you're thinking "Uhura's Song" with the Vallejo painting, that wasn't M'Ress or even a Caitian. Though I certainly wouldn't object to that being interpreted as a Caitian.

Sincerely,

Bill
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Old April 6 2011, 02:36 PM   #15
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Re: Yesteryear vs. The Practical Joker

He [JTK as a cartoon] made a cover: Star Trek Log Eight.
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Last edited by CorporalCaptain; April 6 2011 at 03:20 PM.
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