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

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Old March 23 2014, 06:33 AM   #31
BigJake
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Re: Robert Sawyer goes off on "Return of the Archons"

Yeah, "Errand of Mercy" there never seems to be any question of the Prime Directive applying despite Organia's being a "primitive" planet, so Organia must somehow have been contacted or managed to initiate contact? On Neural in "Private Little War" the Federation regularly does planetary surveys (presumably searching for exploitable dilithium?) despite it being a pre-contact PD-protected planet... which implies some more disturbing loopholes in the PD. Capella IV in "Friday's Child" basically has commercial and diplomatic relations with both Feds and Klingons, yet seems too primitive to have spaceships. It was all a bit amorphous.
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Old March 23 2014, 06:59 AM   #32
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Re: Robert Sawyer goes off on "Return of the Archons"

I li9ke "Archons" for two reasons:

1) It's got a really creepy atmosphere at times. The scenes of Kirk and crew being set upon by the relentless locals are kinda like a zombie movie and IMO the backlot shooting sells it even more.

2) I like the moral dilemma posed by the script. Is it better to have free-will and possible anarchy, or is it better to have that anarchic spirit controlled by the state? While the answer to that question might seem obvious, I just really do like the way the show digests it in an entertaining way.
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Old March 23 2014, 07:20 AM   #33
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Re: Robert Sawyer goes off on "Return of the Archons"

Lance wrote: View Post
I li9ke "Archons" for two reasons:

1) It's got a really creepy atmosphere at times. The scenes of Kirk and crew being set upon by the relentless locals are kinda like a zombie movie and IMO the backlot shooting sells it even more.
Also, it does better than most episodes the idea of presenting a planet with an actual culture. There's a bunch of pieces that are not explained neatly and squared away, because Our Heroes don't have the time to investigate them and because the locals don't go volunteering explanations that they have no reason to think our Heroes need to hear.

The Festival is an excellent case in point: it's obviously important to the culture, but, why? Spock makes one conjecture, and we can make others, but none of them gets confirmed or refuted.

There's also the not-exactly-fitting mix of sets, from the Generic American City backdrop set (with apartments that more or less fit the early-20th-century design) and dungeons and then the high-tech(?) centers for processing and of course the central Landru computer. On most Trek episodes every room of every building looks about the same; here, there's neighborhoods, at a minimum, suggested to be as diverse as a real town might be.

Heck, for all the times Trek visits a planet with a computer overlord, has it ever run into one that actually already had an underground resistance? And for that matter, one that is in way over its head as soon as the resistance shows signs of succeeding?

I realize it's easy to say the episode is sloppy or half-realized; perhaps it was. But the result feels to me rather authentic to what a planet would look like if you had only a few short glimpses at it and then got caught up in an expanding set of crises.

(I admit a certain irrational fondness for this episode as it was my first live-action Trek, but, I don't think it's that irrational.)
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Old March 23 2014, 03:17 PM   #34
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Re: Robert Sawyer goes off on "Return of the Archons"

It's possible, maybe likely, the PD during TOS isn't that old. In "A Private Little War" Kirk mentions recommending a "hands off" policy regarding Neural thirteen years prior. It's sketchy, but just maybe in the early days invoking the PD wasn't necessarily automatic and depended on individual circumstance. And as has been said before it seems more nuanced and layered, less absolute, than during the TNG era.

At certain times evidently the PD can be waived---a notable example would be regarding Organia. And/or the PD might not apply when a culture was contacted before the PD was adopted such as with the Cereans in "Friday's Child." Note Akaar's references to Earth men suggesting they've been familar with them for quite some time.

So for all we know the PD might be only about twenty years old (give or take) during TOS.


This might also dovetail with the age of the Federation. There are references (such as in "Whom Gods Destroy") and subtext that suggest the Federation might only be a couple of decades old at this point. It's never spelled out in TOS because they never thought it important, and the third and final season was winding down, but the subtext is there.

And wasn't there a reference to conflict with the Klingons going back about fifty years? I know there's one in TUC mentioning seventy years of conflict with the Klingons. This certainly flies in the face of Picard's reference in TNG of contact going back two centuries.


Back to more on-point. Kirk initially didn't set out to destabilize the society of Beta III. They went down in native costume and tried to gather information incognito. When they were discovered Kirk tries twice to reason with "Landru." If the Landru computer had been more flexible it could have agreed to release the Enterprise and allow Kirk and company to be on their way. But it was rigid and could only see the option of destroying whatever it decided to be any contaminating influence. Kirk's use of logic was the only recourse to get the computer to shut itself down. Of course, by the rules of '60's conventions that meant the computer frying itself (with pyrotechnics) rather than simply getting stuck in "blue screen" or "spinning beach ball of death" mode as would be the case today. Then it could be reprogrammed, if desired.

The PD supposedly doesn't apply to stagnant societies. If indeed the culture of Beta III was stagnant for thousands of years then Kirk didn't violate the PD while saving themselves and the ship. And Sawyer is wrong.


Another interesting point is how advanced the original society must have been. It's best evidenced in the fact "Landru" could neutralize the landing party's phasers and mostly that it had access to means to destroy something in orbit. That suggests the original culture had reason to believe danger could come from beyond their own planet. The same applies to the Val computer in "The Apple."
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Old March 23 2014, 04:09 PM   #35
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Re: Robert Sawyer goes off on "Return of the Archons"

Warped9 wrote: View Post
At certain times evidently the PD can be waived---a notable example would be regarding Organia.
I guess the thinking would be that it's better to interfere and try to protect them than to leave them to the mercy of the Klingons who will most definitely destroy their culture.

There are times when the Prime Directive has to give way to the reality of a situation.
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Old March 23 2014, 04:22 PM   #36
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Re: Robert Sawyer goes off on "Return of the Archons"

Let me say, first, that I love Sawyer's work. He is a big ST fan and always, at least almost always, works an ST reference into his novels. But he is off base on this one. "Archons" had a lot going for it. My main nitpick with it is a minor one. Kirk being surprised by "broadcasted holography" is not consistent with his coming from a technology that has the transporter which can assemble a living human being without there being a receiving device at the other end.

I was in college during TOS syndication run and it was on the local station at 7:00, I think, and we'd all get back from dinner and watch in the dorm lounge.

"YOU ARE NOT OF THE BODY" became a catchphrase in my little group.

This was a whole lot more fun than when "Last Man on Earth" was shown on the late movie and for months people would bang on your door as say, "Come out, Morgan."
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Old March 23 2014, 09:41 PM   #37
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Re: Robert Sawyer goes off on "Return of the Archons"

"Archons" is my go-too example of Trek's taking "Hodgkin's Law" too far. I appreciate that the show had a limited budget and time, but little details like simply having the faces on the clocks have a different arrangement of numbers (say, 10 instead of 12) would have added a little much needed "we're not in Kansas anymore" to the proceedings. The same is true of second season planet of hats episodes like Patterns of Force.
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Old March 23 2014, 09:52 PM   #38
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Re: Robert Sawyer goes off on "Return of the Archons"

I just never liked the idea of alternate earths at all, the implication being that earth's biological, political, social, religious, scientific, and technological evolution is inevitable everywhere given earth-like conditions and enough time. Even on a limited budget they could have been more imaginative than that.

It's not a problem that went away with the later series, either; they just gave their humanoids bumpy heads and called it good.
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Old March 23 2014, 10:27 PM   #39
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Re: Robert Sawyer goes off on "Return of the Archons"

Who?
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Old March 23 2014, 10:32 PM   #40
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Re: Robert Sawyer goes off on "Return of the Archons"

Well, having watched it again (albeit not on BluRay) I think it holds up rather better than Sawyer gives it credit for. I agree with Lance about the creepy atmosphere that it achieves at times, and I don't think its fine cast of character actors is wasted at all. And I smiled to hear the immortal line "We are not Archons, Marplon."

Yes, the visual design does take Hodgkin's Law too far. And there is a pacing problem, I think, in that it takes too long to get to the final confrontation with Landru -- which is far, far too easily argued into seeing itself as "the Evil" and self-destructing as a result. Interesting, though, that Landru's ideology is posited as a mirror of the Federation's and also given the name "Prime Directive." (And what Kirk says about violating the Prime Directive in this case is that the PD applies only to "a living, growing culture.")

I can see why Sawyer felt Kirk was a bit flip about things. I think the impression really comes from the last few minutes. Having destroyed Landru, Kirk is completely casual -- quite arrogantly so -- about the consequences, saying dismissively to Marplon (who saved his life and his crew, might I add) "you're on your own now, I hope you're up to it" and quipping to the now-unguided Lawgivers that they'd better ditch the robes and look for new jobs. That feels really, really off, like he takes Marplon's help as his princely due and like it doesn't occur to him that genuine anarchy might now be in the works, the kind of anarchy that Landru rose to combat. Given the "Festival" they witnessed on their arrival, that glib unconcern is hugely out of place.

It's nice that they leave a "sociologist" and a "team of experts" behind to help "restore the planet's culture to a human form," I guess; but his placid grin when Lindstrom reports on their way out that they've already had outbreaks of violence -- "it may not be paradise, but it's certainly human" -- is pretty jarring, too. This was the problem with the backslapping-exit-joke format that TOS used to wrap things up; it gave the impression that the crew went jaunting merrily on their way in the certainty of a job well done no matter what kind of awful mess they left behind. Even if they were given no choice in making the mess, it still rings a false note here.
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Old March 23 2014, 10:33 PM   #41
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Re: Robert Sawyer goes off on "Return of the Archons"

Hober Mallow wrote: View Post
I just never liked the idea of alternate earths at all, the implication being that earth's biological, political, social, religious, scientific, and technological evolution is inevitable everywhere given earth-like conditions and enough time. Even on a limited budget they could have been more imaginative than that.

It's not a problem that went away with the later series, either; they just gave their humanoids bumpy heads and called it good.
The idea of running into humanoids speaking Standard American English is already stretching things beyond the realm of probability.

Science Fiction, in most cases, isn't really about imagining truly typical examples of alien life, but rather alien examples of typical (human) life.
It's allegory, it's morality tale, it's anthropological thought experiment. It's not a scientific projection of evolutionary probabilities regarding distributions of sentient species.
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Old March 23 2014, 11:03 PM   #42
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Re: Robert Sawyer goes off on "Return of the Archons"

Honestly, on a most basic level, I find Archons to be a tremendously enjoyable and entertaining episode to watch. That's it really, no further discourse or philosophical analysis etc., is required for me!
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Old March 23 2014, 11:20 PM   #43
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Re: Robert Sawyer goes off on "Return of the Archons"

LOKAI of CHERON wrote: View Post
Honestly, on a most basic level, I find Archons to be a tremendously enjoyable and entertaining episode to watch. That's it really, no further discourse or philosophical analysis etc., is required for me!
+1
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Old March 23 2014, 11:22 PM   #44
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Re: Robert Sawyer goes off on "Return of the Archons"

LOKAI of CHERON wrote: View Post
Honestly, on a most basic level, I find Archons to be a tremendously enjoyable and entertaining episode to watch.
Spock does indeed get to sock somebody in the jaw. Kirk even gives him a great little quip about it: "Isn't that a little old-fashioned?"
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Old March 23 2014, 11:53 PM   #45
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Re: Robert Sawyer goes off on "Return of the Archons"

Warped9 wrote: View Post

Part of his observation can be attributed to watching the episode on Blu-Ray where '60's era production sins are made more visible than they could have been on DVD or especially as seen on old CRT televisions.
Yeah, but who is so "not getting it" that he would judge older productions based on a very surface-y technical observation? I was watching a few Hitchcock films on blu-ray and not once did I see production standards of the period as a problem, or something preventing me from enjoying an overall great work.
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