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

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Old September 5 2012, 06:07 AM   #1
Wingsley
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That Which Survives

"That Which Survives" was definitely classic TOS, yet it stuck out like a sore thumb. On the one hand, it was pure fun action-adventure, an interesting open-ended mystery, introduced some interesting characters, and a wild ride. On the other, it was an atypical plot-driven story, didn't really see any growth in any of the recurring characters, and of course we get to hear them spout off hilarious gaffes like "Keep back! Stop or I'll shoot! I don't want to have to kill a woman!"

This ep has plot holes that even Spock would have to call "fascinating":

If the Kalandans, the presumed builders of the "Ghost Planet", were capable of transporting themselves over 900 light-years, why would they need supply ships?

Why would the Kalandans "build" outpost-planets in the first place? Why not just terraform existing worlds? Wouldn't planetary fabrication seem like an awful lot of trouble to go to?

"That Which Survives" typifies excursion stories in TOS, following the bone-headed tradition of "The Galileo Seven" and "The Enemy Within", in which small expedition-parties get separated from their mother-ship and find themselves ill-equipped to survive on their own. They don't even transport down a compact base-camp kit to help them with enough food, water and other vital supplies and equipment to allow them to complete the mission in case the need arises.

Assuming there's something to be salvaged from the outpost on this "Ghost Planet", what would the Federation do with its technology?

"Are there men on this planet?"

If M'Benga knows so much about Vulcans, why would he waste his breath joking with Spock?



A few interesting trivial observations in this ep:

The ill-fated John B. Watkins is confirmed as being an "Engineer, Grade Four", which seems to at least leave the door wide-open that Watkins was an N.C.O. Too bad Watkins, Wyatt and D'Amato bit the dust, BTW. We could've enjoyed seeing more of them and Rahda in other stories.

Scotty's "magnetic probe" is an interesting concoction. Anybody recognize what it's made of/derived from?

Does anyone know the fate of Losira's wig? That has to be the most spectacular celebration of '60's hair since Yeoman Rand's beehive.

Neat how the Kalandan "uniform" seems to correctly predict Madonna, Mariah Carey or other pop-fashion of 20-40 years later, with the I DREAM OF JEANIE exception of the navel being covered. If someone like PHASE II or AJAX or STAR TREK CONTINUES brought back the Kalandans today, would the navel cover vanish? Would anyone even care?

I don't know why, but I've watched this ep for close to 40 years and I always thought the matter-antimatter integrator room and the service crawlway were neat little sets that added a nice touch to the story. Sure, they were recycled components from other stories, but they still looked great.

In an unintended valentine to the crude picture-tube technology of the early days of color television, the murderous replicas of Commander Losira tend to disappear like the little dot when you turn the TV off. That visual FX, combined with the sound FX and the music, were priceless.

In fact, the music for the whole ep is outstanding for third-year TOS.
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Old September 5 2012, 02:26 PM   #2
Timo
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Re: That Which Survives

Some possibilities:

If the Kalandans, the presumed builders of the "Ghost Planet", were capable of transporting themselves over 900 light-years, why would they need supply ships?
"Transporting themselves" is probably not what is going on with the Losiras that appear everywhere. Losira isn't a Kalandan, but a software entity. For all we know, her ability to transport was limited to sneaking aboard the Enterprise through a communications or sensor system receiver, establishing herself in the computer system, and manifesting when needed.

However, the ability to kick starships across a thousand lightyears might well be the way Kalandan supply ships move.

Why would the Kalandans "build" outpost-planets in the first place? Why not just terraform existing worlds? Wouldn't planetary fabrication seem like an awful lot of trouble to go to?
I'd challenge the terminology "outpost-planet", in the sense that it would be a planet that would have an outpost on/in it, rather than a planet that "is" an outpost, like some sources suggest. Perhaps Kalandans normally spread to other star systems by taking over suitable worlds, but this once did not find a suitable world and decided to construct one, for the purposes of keeping the flag flying while not having to huddle under a protective dome all the time? The process did appear experimental, in that they fumbled it and created the disease that killed them.

They don't even transport down a compact base-camp kit to help them with enough food, water and other vital supplies and equipment to allow them to complete the mission in case the need arises.
Hmm... In "The Galileo Seven", they supposedly did have the supplies. They just suffered loss of transportation.

In contrast, in any episode involving transporter excursions, the supplies are right there on Kirk's belt, waiting for him to flip them open with a chirping sound. If the starship ceases to be available, everybody is dead already - no point in prolonging the agony.

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Old September 5 2012, 03:17 PM   #3
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Re: That Which Survives

I like this one a lot, even though the dialog is loopy and full of cheats and false cliffhangers. The only real issue I have with it is Spock - he's pretty damned obnoxious with everyone, being overly literal and highly critical when people don't calculate to the last decimal point. Scotty is a lot of fun and D'Amato is a really nice guy you actually feel sad about losing. He had personality, something the "red shirts" (even tho he's in blue) rarely have.

Wingsley wrote: View Post
"On the other, it was an atypical plot-driven story, didn't really see any growth in any of the recurring characters,
To be fair, what growth have we ever seen in the recurring characters in the original series? Every episode had to end with the status quo intact. Whatever happened in one episode was forgotten in the next. That was the nature of TV at the time.
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Old September 5 2012, 06:21 PM   #4
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Re: That Which Survives

I've honestly never understood this episode and couldn't even describe it to you if you asked me to.
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Old September 5 2012, 09:49 PM   #5
Wingsley
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Re: That Which Survives

ssosmcin wrote: View Post

Wingsley wrote: View Post
"On the other, it was an atypical plot-driven story, didn't really see any growth in any of the recurring characters,
To be fair, what growth have we ever seen in the recurring characters in the original series? Every episode had to end with the status quo intact. Whatever happened in one episode was forgotten in the next. That was the nature of TV at the time.

I don't think you understood what I was saying there.

Most STAR TREK (regardless of which series) episodes are character-driven dramas. There's usually either a single plot or a primary plot and secondary plot. Whether it's a single plot or a primary/secondary, the main thrust of the story is invariably a dilemma that one of the characters is facing. In TOS, Kirk usually faces the dilemma, often a command challenge in which the latest expedition or crisis brings forth a problem for him to confront.

In "The Conscience of the King", Kirk must deal with a ghost from his past, that being whether he has found Kodos the Executioner in the form of Anton Karidian. He takes on the obsession of his friend, Thomas Leighton, after Leighton's death, and in doing so Kirk places both himself and his career (and unwittingly the life of Lt. Riley) in jeopardy on the hunch that Karidian is Kodos. There is a serial-murder subplot there, but the primary plot of this story is Kirk keeps deciding to get himself in deeper, allowing this mystery to not just haunt his personal life but to actually invite it aboard his ship and interfere with his duties, all on a hunch that he can catch a criminal. So in a sense, the character-driven drama here rests not on the actions of Anton/Kodos or Lenore but on Kirk's decisions.

Another vivid example would be "Obsession", in which Kirk discovers that the vampire cloud monster from his time aboard the Starship Farragut may have somehow travelled to another planet, years later, and he has to decide to commit the Enterprise to confronting and destroying the creature. The subplot involves Spock and McCoy reacting to Kirk's obsession, researching the Tycho IV/Farragut incident, and ultimately decided to confront the captain about his decision to stay. There's actually another subplot here, echoing the primary plot, in which Ensign Garrovick deals with the guilt of having survived while his comrades were killed.

You can argue that this kind of character-driven drama is common to TREK, although it usually wasn't about a character being so intimately shaken. In "The Galileo Seven", the primary plot is Spock and how he fumbles his first expedition assignment, actually making the King Kong tribe of Taurus II even worse than they were to begin with, while Kirk has to juggle his responsibilities of delivering supplies to New Paris, searching for the missing Galileo, and keeping civil with Ferris while he defies Farris.

An amusing kind of action-adventure story that was actually a cleverly disguised character drama would be "Errand of Mercy", in which Kirk puts himself (and Spock) on the line trying to defend Organia, then getting mad at the Organians for stopping the war he didn't want in the first place.

All of these are examples of character-driven drama. "That Which Survives", by comparison, is an entertaining story but it is plot-driven, not character-driven. In a plot-driven drama, the Enterprise crew usually faces an interesting situation they must deal with. The plot becomes a challenge as to how they solve a unique problem, as opposed to a character-driven drama in which a recurring character must face a personal challenge, make decisions, and hopefully come out of it a better person for it.
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Old September 5 2012, 10:52 PM   #6
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Re: That Which Survives

Wingsley wrote: View Post
" and of course we get to hear them spout off hilarious gaffes like "Keep back! Stop or I'll shoot! I don't want to have to kill a woman!"
How is that a "hilarious gaffe"?
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Old September 6 2012, 02:01 AM   #7
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Re: That Which Survives

ssosmcin wrote: View Post
I like this one a lot, even though the dialog is loopy and full of cheats and false cliffhangers. The only real issue I have with it is Spock - he's pretty damned obnoxious with everyone, being overly literal and highly critical when people don't calculate to the last decimal point. Scotty is a lot of fun and D'Amato is a really nice guy you actually feel sad about losing. He had personality, something the "red shirts" (even tho he's in blue) rarely have.

Wingsley wrote: View Post
"On the other, it was an atypical plot-driven story, didn't really see any growth in any of the recurring characters,
To be fair, what growth have we ever seen in the recurring characters in the original series? Every episode had to end with the status quo intact. Whatever happened in one episode was forgotten in the next. That was the nature of TV at the time.
I agree that Spock was poorly written in this one, unless he was supposed to be constipated or something.

Watkins is great, though. For once a redshirt gets to shout something helpful before he screams and dies.
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Old September 6 2012, 01:46 PM   #8
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Re: That Which Survives

I always remember the TV Guide blurb for this episode for it's fancy wording, although I'm going to have to recite from memory: "The crew lands on a mysterious planet replete with inexplicable phenomena, and a sad-faced siren whose merest touch means death."
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Old September 6 2012, 11:27 PM   #9
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Re: That Which Survives

People in danger. Solve problem. Not in danger anymore. Ho-hum.

No interesting or challenging what-ifs or ethical dilemmas (i.e. "science fiction").

If I'm wrong, correct me. But this is my least-favorite episode, because of its nothingness. I'm glad some of you like it, though. Be well.
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Old September 7 2012, 02:15 AM   #10
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Re: That Which Survives

ToddPence wrote: View Post
Wingsley wrote: View Post
" and of course we get to hear them spout off hilarious gaffes like "Keep back! Stop or I'll shoot! I don't want to have to kill a woman!"
How is that a "hilarious gaffe"?
Does sound a bit sexist you have to admit. Shooting a woman is different than shooting a man how?

He (Sulu?) could have said: "I don't want to have to kill anyone," or "I don't want to have to kill you."

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Old September 7 2012, 04:45 AM   #11
Wingsley
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Re: That Which Survives

plynch wrote: View Post
People in danger. Solve problem. Not in danger anymore. Ho-hum.

No interesting or challenging what-ifs or ethical dilemmas (i.e. "science fiction").

If I'm wrong, correct me. But this is my least-favorite episode, because of its nothingness. I'm glad some of you like it, though. Be well.
Well, you could say the same thing about "The Tholian Web", but it was a memorable story.

The dilemmas you speak of are often a crucial basis for character-driven drama in STAR TREK. Spock chose not to shoot directly at the King Kongs of Taurus II despite the suggestions of his team. It was a choice based on Spock's narrow interpretation of his duty, and on his estimation of the reactions of the "natives".

So, yes, there is a school of thought that STAR TREK should always be a character-driven drama, with the plot springing from the recurring characters' dilemmas.

The question in my mind now is not "That Which Survives", but "A Taste of Armageddon" and "By Any Other Name". Aren't these other two episodes plot-driven? You could argue either way on "Taste", but "Name" seems like a plot-driven story to me.
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Old September 7 2012, 08:36 AM   #12
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Re: That Which Survives

Speaking of Tarsus II, I don't think they ever tried "stun" did they?
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Old September 7 2012, 10:13 AM   #13
Timo
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Re: That Which Survives

Spock didn't specify a phaser setting when he told Latimer and Gaetano to go out scouting. When they encountered the natives, Gaetano said he had hit his target, but without a lethal result (except on poor Latimer). Subsequently, then, it would make little sense to try the stun setting: the choice would be between wounding the enemy with the kill setting, and merely scaring him with warning shots (which could be fired at any setting, since the natives couldn't tell the difference, even if a seasoned Klingon warrior might recognize the different beam colors of different Type 2 phaser settings).

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Old September 7 2012, 02:13 PM   #14
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Re: That Which Survives

Wingsley wrote: View Post

I don't think you understood what I was saying there.
You're right. Thanks for clarifiying.
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Old September 8 2012, 04:24 AM   #15
plynch
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Re: That Which Survives

Wingsley wrote: View Post
plynch wrote: View Post
People in danger. Solve problem. Not in danger anymore. Ho-hum.

No interesting or challenging what-ifs or ethical dilemmas (i.e. "science fiction").

If I'm wrong, correct me. But this is my least-favorite episode, because of its nothingness. I'm glad some of you like it, though. Be well.
Well, you could say the same thing about "The Tholian Web", but it was a memorable story.

The dilemmas you speak of are often a crucial basis for character-driven drama in STAR TREK. Spock chose not to shoot directly at the King Kongs of Taurus II despite the suggestions of his team. It was a choice based on Spock's narrow interpretation of his duty, and on his estimation of the reactions of the "natives".

So, yes, there is a school of thought that STAR TREK should always be a character-driven drama, with the plot springing from the recurring characters' dilemmas.

The question in my mind now is not "That Which Survives", but "A Taste of Armageddon" and "By Any Other Name". Aren't these other two episodes plot-driven? You could argue either way on "Taste", but "Name" seems like a plot-driven story to me.
"Name" is, yes, pretty much an escape-the-danger plot. Pretty forgettable, frankly. But Rogan and the Kelvans are a bit cool, you've got the overload the aliens' senses thing going on, and the dodecahedrons that are really a bigger word I can't remember.

"Taste" is a great concept story on ethics and war, obedience to authority, Kirk messing up an equilibrium, etc. One of my faves. I have nothing against plot-driven, but get-out-of-danger is only one plot of many possible. Plus "Survives" seems like a half-hour story stretched to fill an hour.
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