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

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Old September 9 2010, 09:01 PM   #1
Gary7
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What are the top worst TOS episodes for plausibility errors?

Ok, there are a lot of Star Trek episodes that show alien civilizations with an unbelievably close likeness to Earth appearance and technology... even to the point of mimicking the Declaration of Independence. Those are big plausibility holes, but putting those kinds of things aside, episodes can stand up pretty well for themselves.

But there are some episodes where the basic premise is just so flawed, that it makes one put them at the bottom of the list for watching again.

OK, let's begin.


"The Mark of Gideon"
What? Population control is a big problem? I can understand that. So... you do your research and find that a certain infection is phenomenally good at killing off people. How to get it? Well, you find a carrier. Someone who survived the infection but still has the virus in their blood, which can infect someone else.

OK... So Kirk has something like HIV then. Nice. Yikes, stay away from THAT guy! Don't let him kiss any women!!

OK... here you go; you find that the captain of the Federation flagship Enterprise has had this amazingly rare virus. Invite the Federation for a visit and hope Captain Kirk coincidentally comes. Kidnap him through some clever ruse. Spend all this effort to duplicate the USS Enterprise decks just to confuse the heck out of Captain Kirk and hope he somehow falls in love with a woman who will steal his blood and infect herself.

Ummmm... couldn't you just appeal to the Federation and ask for some contaminated blood for research?


Stupid, stupid, stupid... one of the worst Star Trek episodes ever. If not for the unique vacant ship scenes spread throughout, I'd never watch it. Almost as bad an episode as "The Children Shall Lead."
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Old September 9 2010, 09:01 PM   #2
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Operation -- Annihilate!

"Operation -- Annihilate!"
The basic concept is interesting, but horribly executed and one of the worst IMHO. Here you have an idea of alien creatures mysteriously interlinked together that attack other beings to use as host bodies. They do this predominantly to species with space faring technology, so they may move about from planet to planet. The creatures attack near the spinal cord of the prey, so that the injected alien flesh may interconnect to the spinal cord and control the victim.

Amazingly, these creatures are reported to conquer entire civilizations. They are highly resistant to phaser fire, although phasers will stun them. In appearance, they look like a highly enlarged neuron, some kind of giant single celled creature. The outer material is flexible in nature and it bulges/pulsates to the rhythm of the creature's metabolism. They are also highly resistant to radiation and extreme heat.

What kills them? Extreme light. Apparently, not enough to cause severe sunburn, as Spock and other infected people are cured of the infection without requiring any skin protection. What was the clue? A Denevan ship piloted by an infected Denevan is brought very close to the sun, whereby the pilot screams out "I'm free! I'm finally free!". OK... spaceships are totally sealed vessels with view screens that show what is outside. They do have windows, so maybe the Denevan stood near a window to be exposed to the extreme bright sunlight. How did he know to do this? We don't know. Also... who's to say the guy wasn't saying "I'm free" because he was about to be killed, free of the pain?? The whole premise to use light was based on a very flimsy supposition.

Anyway, being vulnerable to extreme light is a serious weakness, compared to all other types of exposures. It doesn't make any sense, especially because the creature is INSIDE THE VICTIM, not at the surface of the skin. It is controlling the nervous system. For extreme light to penetrate, it'd have to burn through the skin of the victim.

And what of everybody hiding the buildings, which is where most of them are? They're protected from the sunlight. How are they going to get exposed? Ridiculous that nobody brought this up.

Also... given what people might witness with these things attacking, heck--put on some flexible Kevlar body armor and the stingers can't penetrate to get to you. What, NOBODY thought to do this? Everybody got infected?

All of these serious holes make this episode a complete farce to me, shuffling it down very close to "And The Children Shall Lead"; just barely above it.
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Old September 9 2010, 09:02 PM   #3
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The Alternative Factor

"The Alternative Factor"
This is just so damned silly, I don't know where to begin. I put is at #2 behind "Operation: Annihilate". The story had potential, but credibility went out the window in almost every regard. It has already been thoroughly bashed about the TrekBBS forums, so I won't go through it again. The idea had merit, but it was weakly developed and poorly executed. And at quite a few moments, confusing. The writers just couldn't get their act together on the "physics" of it all. Sadly disappointing episode.
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Old September 9 2010, 09:02 PM   #4
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The Squire of Gothos

"The Squire of Gothos"
The power of the being Trelane is significant. So significant that he can literally move a planet around without destroying it's atmosphere and ecosystem. He can make anybody do anything he wishes. And yet... he is fixated on a very, very primitive period in human history and becomes obsessed with being challenged by it, to the point of undertaking a man hunt game with Captain Kirk. All very childish, and we are shown a number of times that Trelane has this queer blend of mature yet juvenile behavior. Yet, he has the sophistication to move an entire planet. What, his power source is managed within a device hidden in the wall behind a mirror? No... something that vulnerable is ridiculous.

The basic premise was to pit the Enterprise crew against an all powerful yet juvenile alien, to see how they fair. And at the last minute, before Trelane is about to destroy them, the parents intervene.

This could have been a good episode if it was written differently. But how it was done in this case is simply so implausible that you can't help but laugh all the way through it. It's not significantly low on my watch list, because it's more of a "humorous" episode akin to "Plato's Stepchildren".
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Old September 9 2010, 09:02 PM   #5
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That Which Survives

"That Which Survives"
Ummm... why? What's the motivation? I don't even know where to begin. An alien outpost designed to protect its inhabitants from invaders detects that a starship has entered orbit and people are planning to beam down. It apparently understands Federation technology in a matter of moments to know what the transporter does and that people will be arriving. So, it sends a copy of Losira to warn that they shouldn't beam down. Rather than appealing to the transporter officer to reverse the beam down, she kills him. Kills him? Does that make sense?

And once again, the Enterprise is catapulted across the universe. Well, if that alien outpost didn't want the Enterprise nearby, wouldn't it make sense to project a warning message rather than expend a HUGE amount of energy to send the Enterprise thousands of light years away?

Then... mysteriously, the copy of Losira is still on board and continues a systematic killing of the crew. But they present no danger any longer because the Enterprise is no longer near the planet.

Nothing makes any sense. It's just purely ridiculous.
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Old September 9 2010, 09:02 PM   #6
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Who Mourns for Adonais?

"Who Mourns for Adonais?"
So... the Greek Gods were real, eh? And it just so happens that Apollo is waiting for a human populated starship to pass on by and worship him? For a God, this Apollo is significantly lacking in psychological understanding. Yeah right... a space faring people are going to want to throw away all their technology and tend sheep with their long lost God? His approach makes assumptions that are not befitting a God. So the whole premise is that Apollo wants the Enterprise crew to worship him. And then what??

What about the next set of starships that come along in exploration to find out what happened to the Enterprise? If the Enterprise phaser banks can wipe out his power source, certainly he'll be no match for a fleet of ships. What, is he stupid? Doesn't he realize that more will come?

No... Apollo comes across as way too stupid for his own good. And Kirk's reasoning with him is petty. Not very intelligent at all. He gets far too emotionally caught up in this intent of Apollo. Where's the logical reasoning we've seen him undertake in previous episodes? I guess he had a bad day.

Fortunately, the episode has some nice aspects to it. The set it pretty good and the crew interactions are entertaining. But... it's not very high on my watch list.

Last edited by Gary Sever; September 9 2010 at 09:13 PM.
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Old September 9 2010, 09:03 PM   #7
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The Apple

"The Apple"
Whoa now... a sophisticated and powerful computer needs vegetation to run? And it needs to be fed daily? Ummmm... isn't that hugely inefficient? And I'm sorry, but to be able to lock onto a starship in orbit and drain it's energy requires an enormous reserve of power that I can't believe is supplemented by digesting plant life.

And apparently this machine named Vol has the fountain of youth as well, as these beings serving it appear ageless. They don't know what children are... and then later we learn that procreation is only enacted when a replacement is necessary. I guess if someone manages to fall off a cliff or something, they need to get another person to take his/her place. But then, they'd need to be raised, right? Which means that the people should know what children are. DING! Huge plausibility hole.

These are humanoid beings that are being well cared for, but they never get sick? What protects them from viruses and bacteria? Vol? If so, then this machine has an amazing store of knowledge and capability. But it's only interface is with a single individual via telepathy? No other interfaces? And what if that individual is the one who accidentally dies? What next? Huge weakness. Again...

I could go on. But I won't. And I only come back to this episode when I want to look up some "canon" material. It fits about on par with "Operation -- Annihilate".
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Old September 9 2010, 09:03 PM   #8
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The Gamesters of Triskelion

"The Gamesters of Triskelion"
Sophisticated creatures so advanced that they don't have bodies any longer. Their "brain matter" is all that is left, mounted in some kind of life support chamber. They have super powers, enough to catapult a starship across the galaxy and kidnap people from immense distances in a matter of seconds.

All this power, and all they want to do is gamble with apparently worthless monetary units called "quatloo's". They're not like the Yarnek aliens who want to observe human behavior. They want to bet against each other over which being manages to kill another. Primitive, primitive...

Now, one might say the more sophisticated the brain, the more simple the play. But... we see no sign of what these creatures do when they're not gambling on thrall combat. Where's their creativity? How else do they employ their immense powers? And... is there just 3 of them left? Perhaps they're just going mad because they evolved too much, and have a problem procreating now?

Too many unanswered questions and some big plausibility holes. I do like some aspects of the episode and find it entertaining to watch sometimes, but it's sitting rather low on my list.
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Old September 9 2010, 09:03 PM   #9
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By Any Other Name

"By Any Other Name"
The Kelvans come all the way from Andromeda to the neighboring Milky Way galaxy, to explore for possible colonization. They find that they are stronger than all of the other space faring species they've encountered, so it's time to go back and report on their find. Unfortunately, their ship is destroyed by the galactic barrier and they escape in a life craft. Of course, the Enterprise is the ship for easy pickings and they take it over. They plan to modify the engines for super speed travel, to make the voyage in just 300 years.

First... given their advanced technology, it seems absurd that their ship would not survive the galactic barrier. The Enterprise manages to cross it several times in the course of the series, so why can't the Kelvans?

Next... the Enterprise is designed for the life support of human beings, not Kelvans. So they're going to make the journey in the form of human beings. But then, what of procreation? Rojan says his descendant will complete the journey. But if he were to impregnate one of the women as a human, they'll have a human baby. Humans will arrive to greet the Kelvans. Does that make any sense?

The big plausibility holes are this... if the Kelvans are going to perish in 10 millennium due to increased radiation in Andromeda, then wouldn't they send out multiple vessels to that HUGE nearby galaxy called the Milky Way? But they sent just one vessel? We don't hear Rojan mention other ships. Certainly you'd want a couple traveling together, in case one of them ran into trouble... Also, why not take their time and construct a series of automated unmanned vessels that can travel even faster (due to no need for life support) to let their Kelvan friends know that the Milky Way can be conquered easily?

Lastly... the Enterprise food systems are not designed to go for many hundreds of years without replenishment. These starships need period maintenance, as we've seen in TOS, TNG, DS9, etc. Alone in the deep void between galaxies means no support system. No spare parts. It's hugely ridiculous.

The final solution is for the Kelvans to settle down in the Milky Way with the idea of peaceful settlements, not conquering. Now THAT makes sense. If they really wanted to conquer, they could easily act as if they are peaceful... settle in... and then in a few hundred years, begin their takeover. That makes far more sense, especially since they find that the friendly Federation is open to species of all kinds. Far more logical.

The episode has a lot of entertainment value, so I try to push aside these glaring mistakes. But the writers could have worked around them and made the story much more believable.

Last edited by Gary Sever; September 9 2010 at 09:19 PM.
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Old September 9 2010, 09:04 PM   #10
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Let That Be Your Last Battlefield

"Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"
The resources needed to chase down a fugitive to that time and extent, as Beale has taken, seems utterly ridiculous. He is perfectly willing to sacrifice his own life just to pursue Loki. But what of keeping in touch with his home planet? He's willing to cut himself off, so he knows nothing of what is going on? Given where Cheron is, the rather close proximity to Federation space, wouldn't they be known to the Federation already?

Of course, the "black/white" face thing is kind of silly, but I see it as more symbolic than anything else. It highlights the pettiness of racial discrimination--the senselessness of it.

So back to resources... how do these guys sustain themselves? How do they live and procure food/medicine? Beale does mention the numerous benefactors to Loki. But what of himself? Personally, I would have preferred to see Beale traveling in a Cheron space vehicle of some kind, pursuing Loki in a stolen Federation shuttle. That would be a bit more believable. Beale's spacecraft would contain quite a lot of stores for him to keep going after Loki. But the ship he travels in is no such life base for Beale. He uses it to get aboard the Enterprise and it is destroyed in the process, intentionally. OK... that makes sense. NOT.

And in the end, the whole planet is destroyed. Not one person left. No life. The planet burned to death. That seems... so incredibly extreme. And all because of racial discrimination? No... I think religious discrimination and dispute over resources take the lead to wars of that magnitude.

Anyway, it's not hugely painful on the implausibility scale... but it could use some sprucing up.

____________________________________________


Of course, there are some plausibility challenges to other episodes, but I don't find that any of them are so painful as these to be worth mentioning. The list above is what I consider the more flagrant episodes for implausibilities.

Oh yeah, "The Children Shall Lead" is not listed... it's theoretically possible that an alien being could turn children against their parents and try using them to gain control of a rescue ship, with the intent to spread out at the next star base. It's just a bad episode overall, one which I think is the worst of all Star Trek episodes.

Last edited by Gary Sever; September 9 2010 at 09:21 PM.
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Old September 9 2010, 11:49 PM   #11
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Re: Who Mourns for Adonais?

Gary7 wrote: View Post
. . . Now, one might say the more sophisticated the brain, the more simple the play. But... we see no sign of what these creatures do when they're not gambling on thrall combat. Where's their creativity? How else do they employ their immense powers? And... is there just 3 of them left? Perhaps they're just going mad because they evolved too much, and have a problem procreating now?
Well, I suppose it is rather difficult to procreate when you're just a friggin' BRAIN. And how would such beings evolve, anyway?
Gary7 wrote: View Post
So the whole premise is that Apollo wants the Enterprise crew to worship him. And then what??

What about the next set of starships that come along in exploration to find out what happened to the Enterprise? If the Enterprise phaser banks can wipe out his power source, certainly he'll be no match for a fleet of ships. What, is he stupid? Doesn't he realize that more will come?
Apparently yes. That's why he admitted defeat and dematerialized himself at the end of the story -- although it's not clear whether he willed himself out of existence or just joined his fellow gods floating in a noncorporeal state in the ether somewhere.

Apollo comes across as way too stupid for his own good.
I'd say he comes across as arrogant and egotistical, demanding unconditional love and adoration from the humans who once worshipped him. He's also capable of petty jealousy, cruelty, and vindictiveness -- in other words, he's like a seriously neurotic human being. I'm not versed in classical Greek mythology, but it's my understanding that the Olympian gods were essentially humans writ large, with all of the human foibles, passions and weaknesses.

Last edited by scotpens; September 10 2010 at 02:41 AM.
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Old September 10 2010, 03:52 AM   #12
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Re: Who Mourns for Adonais?

scotpens wrote: View Post
I'd say he comes across as arrogant and egotistical, demanding unconditional love and adoration from the humans who once worshipped him. He's also capable of petty jealousy, cruelty, and vindictiveness -- in other words, he's like a seriously neurotic human being. I'm not versed in classical Greek mythology, but it's my understanding that the Olympian gods were essentially humans writ large, with all of the human foibles, passions and weaknesses.
Oh yes, definitely all of those things. And in retrospect, perhaps he wanted them to give up all of their technologies so that he would become the dependent provider of their needs... thus leading to the worshipping. But he's hearkening back to a much older time. Certainly he should understand that human beings have evolved in more ways than just technologically. Slavery and involuntary servitude are a thing of the past. Anyway, Apollo's desire to subjugate his arrivals is so short sighted, given that a rescue team would certainly destroy him. And THAT is the gravest mistake in plausibility for me. I'd expect he'd take a far more seductive tact. Something like "Hey folks, I'm here to take care of your every need. I have paradise right here waiting for you." And then show off all the things he'd be giving them. The only thing in return he'd ask for is their love and appreciation (and of course, intend to up the ante once they've submitted to him--turning it more to worship).
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Old September 10 2010, 06:40 AM   #13
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Re: What are the top worst TOS episodes for plausibility errors?

Gary7, next time please wait for people to post. Don't post a million posts in a row.
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Old September 10 2010, 07:10 AM   #14
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Re: What are the top worst TOS episodes for plausibility errors?

Gary7 wrote: View Post
"The Mark of Gideon"
What? Population control is a big problem? I can understand that. So... you do your research and find that a certain infection is phenomenally good at killing off people. How to get it? Well, you find a carrier. Someone who survived the infection but still has the virus in their blood, which can infect someone else.

OK... So Kirk has something like HIV then. Nice. Yikes, stay away from THAT guy! Don't let him kiss any women!!
Vegan choriomeningitis. He was treated and is no longer contagious. Try again.

OK... here you go; you find that the captain of the Federation flagship Enterprise has had this amazingly rare virus. Invite the Federation for a visit and hope Captain Kirk coincidentally comes.
Hope the captain of the ship "coincidentally" comes along? Besides, the Enterprise wasn't the Federation flagship during TOS.

In any case, it was stated early on that the Gideonites were a very private people and demanded all sorts of detailed information about just who it was that was going to be visiting them, which evidently included fairly detailed information of the Enterprise and Kirk's medical records, and diplomats being diplomats, i.e., idiots, they happily handed 'em over.

Kidnap him through some clever ruse. Spend all this effort to duplicate the USS Enterprise decks just to confuse the heck out of Captain Kirk and hope he somehow falls in love with a woman who will steal his blood and infect herself.

Ummmm... couldn't you just appeal to the Federation and ask for some contaminated blood for research?
It's also stated at some point that they were a very proud people, meaning they weren't about to admit to some major problems they were having, like an out of control population issue.

Stupid, stupid, stupid... one of the worst Star Trek episodes ever. If not for the unique vacant ship scenes spread throughout, I'd never watch it. Almost as bad an episode as "The Children Shall Lead."
Methinks you doth protest too much, along with not paying enough attention to the setup of the various dilemmas. Granted, it's not exactly one of the top ten, but it's far from the worst of the lot either.
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Old September 10 2010, 07:16 AM   #15
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Re: What are the top worst TOS episodes for plausibility errors?

Frankly, I'm beginning to wonder about the point of this thread.
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