Bread and Croutons

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Qonundrum, Apr 17, 2021.

  1. Qonundrum

    Qonundrum Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    So I recently sat through "Bread and Circuses" again. The "Hodgkin's parallel Earth" theory had started to balloon so far out of control that it's no wonder someone scribbled up "Spock's Brain" as a dare because they felt the makers of the show took it too seriously... And yet, the "take it seriously" approach probably saves B&C, because an Earth with all the Romanisms with 20th centuryisms is incredibly hard to swallow - and yet the story just about manages to capture and keep the proceedings entertaining, but it's still a bit of a slog...

    Budgetary constraints led to this trope being used time and again, with season 2 having the lion's share of this trope. Not to mention and I may as well the prop shields are laughably bad, complete with ADR "clang" noises because hitting a rubber sword on a big piece of plastic can't begin to produce that effect. Thankfully, the incidental music has a reason to be there since it renders much easier the otherwise difficult problem of removing loud laughs from camera operators and other production staff behind them.

    For TOS in particular, it's particularly - and unexpectedly - violent. Spoiler alert, Cap'n Merrickus gets killed rather gruesomely via a stabbing. It, along with a for-the-time impressive use of machine gun slaughter, is wisely kept to the end while the episode builds up a "Oh jeez, how do we get out of this mess this week?" claustrophobic feel. Indeed, the last second escape is really tightly executed - one of a number of well-directed scenes.

    Merrick's ship was the "USS Beagle"? Who was barking to get that in the script?

    And Kirk using "ship by the sea" was a nice way to sidestep the prime directive, just as long as you don't remember they're wearing their ship uniforms and not in the locals' sartorial tastes. Not to mention, the revelation of "if you know him, we're not friends" has a bit more complex layering going on. How they played it out wasn't as cliched as I hoped.

    Merrickus certainly looks the part.

    As usual, the Spock/McCoy banter/bicker scenes do much in favor of the episode. There are two scenes in particular that were fantastic. One got a loud chuckle (McCoy reacting to Spock's apparent support of this allegedly "idealistic utopia" being described), the other I quipped "fascinating" over (involving Kirk). He should have said "46"... and as this wasn't TNG, not to mention the TV show it was paying homage to all those times hadn't even started yet, "47" wasn't repeated for any great reason. Unless Kirk was playing poker, but it's all moot since we don't see who survived and turned and who did not.

    Marcus cites they had no war for centuries and that Merrickus should stay because anyone knowing of the planet-- there's a problem with this, since Klingons or Romulans or anyone could just traipse there one day and there's no indication these alt-Romans could take over an imposing, mighty fleet of 1 spaceship.

    Perhaps Merrickus is shades of Caesar. Or perhaps not, since we see a paper thin veneer of life on this planet after Captain Merrick broke the prime directive and there's no sign of Cladius Marcus or anyone else muttering behind bated breath, bad breath, or any other form of breath... or Merrickus having second thoughts either that led to his calling the Enterprise with the communicator, now that friend Jim Kirk showed up and said something somewhere somehow (by Sally's seashore) that got him to think, which seems rather unlikely given previous scenes. That's all a missed opportunity, but at least we got that elongated scene of Kirk being courted by a slave so he could eat some Roddenberries and then later "be a man one last time" before being executed. I guess. What if the sex schlock was made minimal and more of the Merrickus/Marcus undercurrents be brought out instead?

    That said, the post-porker scene between Kirk and Marcus... it's different. It's toward the tail-end of the episode and is when Kirk is searched for a communicator that disappeared. I do suspect this story got a lot removed during rewrites, but seeing more between Marcus and Merrickus would have been more important than Kirk's latest fling - something he did surprising little of in TOS, but this is one story where the claim is flanderized out of proportion (not as frequently as "red shirts", however.)

    If they had the budget, would they have done this on an alien civilization and de-shackle all the overdone and sunny side up, over-easy, and scrambled Earthisms?

    There's a great script blunder: Kirk and Merrickus discuss the latter's crew... and cites the identical number of crewmen, despite one being turned into diced beefaroni on the viewscreen at the start of the episode.

    The episode surprises in that it differentiates "space ship", what Merrick commanded, with "starship" (what Kirk commands). It's a neat little way to make some continuity, even if Kirk has stated in the past he's commanding the space ship Enterprise...

    The "sun worship" is a play on words - a trope that's better suited for Laugh-In or Hee-Haw, but does a good job at leading the viewer astray. The "son of God" quote is a bit on the nose, especially since Kirk - early in the story - recognizes numerous religions - but the term isn't dwelled upon, but the underlying meaning of togetherness and wortking together is. Even if they use sixtiesisms such as "brotherhood", since humankind is more than just men. Uhura's reaction to Spock is fantastic. The scene would also make for a series coda/epilogue... Not to mention, they don't quite infer Jesus directly.

    Who needs "Doctor Who" to consciously predict "reality shows" when Star Trek TOS was already doing it unconsciously in 1968?

    Also, wouldn't it have been fun to have known Ian Wolfe in real life and ask all sorts of pestery interview questions?

    Lastly, one of the better Spock/McCoy scenes... Spocoy? McSpock?



    I'd give it a 6/10, if not 7/10. Not Trek's best, but there's enough to make it a bit above average, despite it all.
     
  2. BK613

    BK613 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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  3. M'Sharak

    M'Sharak Definitely Herbert. Maybe. Moderator

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    Whatever the shield props were made of, it's safe to assume plastic wasn't it.

    You obviously weren't there, and thus cannot possibly remember, but plastic was nowhere near so ubiquitous then as it is now. What did exist came in a relative few forms, none of which remotely resembled the high-impact plastics now so commonplace.

    No, those shields, like every other prop weapon, helmet, etc. used in the episode, undoubtedly came from the prop warehouse maintained by the studio. If a production is being filmed under budgetary constraints, as you assert, then that production does not make new props out of what was then quite a new material; it makes use--as much as possible--of props / costumes / sets which the studio already owns.

    But do carry on pulling "facts" out of your backside, as per SOP.
     
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  4. Qonundrum

    Qonundrum Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Just observations as a post to engender ruminations and discussions like how everyone does. But I did not use the word "facts". That's your claim...

    We all know they shared props to save costs and plenty of people have made comment on their appearance and, yeah, I wasn't there... but if you were there, that's pretty cool. Also, there are youtube videos that make worse statements and not by "the fandom menace" either. Thank you for correcting me on the history of plastic, it was new at the time - hence its reference made in the 1967 movie "The Graduate"...
     
  5. MAGolding

    MAGolding Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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  6. Oddish

    Oddish Commodore Fleet Captain

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    Of course, "Enterprise" is the REAL Voyage of the Space Beagle. Because, you know, Porthos.
     
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  7. ssosmcin

    ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I actually like this one a heck of a lot more than you do (which is totally fair). I feel it's the best of the Parallel Earth stories which has a lot to say about a few topics. The TV satire is on point and very well done. The episode does have some scope mostly because of the props and set pieces from Paramount storage, which was one of the benefits of the Paramount/Desilu acquisition.

    The Parallel Earth "trope" was part of the original series concept. This was, obviously, a way to sell a series of affordable sci-fi/adventure parables to the networks. This works for me because it is very straightforward and, other than the television satire, very serious. Later series had their own budget saving methods. The original series had Parallel Earth plots. It's still better than the Irwin Allen "stock footage" solution.

    I think everyone gets something great to do here:
    Kirk: tortured heroic leader who gets to have a little sex with Drusilla. Also sword fights at the end.
    Spock & McCoy: area fights and deep discussions.
    Scotty: shows his ingenuity in giving Kirk the opportunity to get his escape started (the VERY last second beam out is classic)
    Guest cast: flesh out the society and conflict well. I really liked Flavius and wish his death was played up a little more.

    Nah, I rate this one very highly indeed, especially for an episode the Network pushed all the way to the ass end of the season to air. In those days, Christmastime and the end of the season was where you sent bad episodes to die without doing much ratings damage.
     
  8. Vger23

    Vger23 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I think the parallel Earth thing would have worked a lot better for Trek if they had set the series in a much more future setting (like 29th or 30th century), with the premise that Earth went through a major colonization phase in the 22nd and 23rd centuries, when FTL travel was still pretty rudimentary and journeys to potential colony worlds took many years.

    Now, in the 29th or 30th century, when the Enterprise encounters these lost "parallel worlds," they are really just human colonies that evolved from those colony missions launched 800 years ago.

    If I ever get the chance to re-boot Star Trek, that's what I'm going with...
     
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  9. Scott Kellogg

    Scott Kellogg Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I was under the impression that the original concept for Star Trek was exactly that:
    That the Parallel Earth's were all lost colony worlds.

    But, I don't remember where I heard that or read it.

    Scott Kellogg
     
  10. ssosmcin

    ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Nah, that's more Battlestar Galactica and the second season of Buck Rogers.
     
  11. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    He does someone who can't consent because she's a slave. There's a word for that.

    They aired it as the season's penultimate episode, but I'm unclear of why that was, as this is an episode I haven't drilled into much. Maybe @Harvey knows.

    Nope. That was never the idea. The "parallel evolution" thing was there in script as early as Roddenberry's 2nd pilot version of "The Omega Glory".
     
  12. ssosmcin

    ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Well, if you don't mind my playing Devil's Advocate for a bit:

    FLAVIUS: Long ago there were rebellions, but they were suppressed. And with each century, the slaves acquired more rights under the law. They received rights to medicine, the right to government payments in their old age, and they slowly learned to be content.
    SPOCK: Even more fascinating. Slavery evolving into an institution with guaranteed medical payments, old-age pensions.


    Going by that society’s standards (not ours), she wasn’t a victim, she was employed in a high level position for her social status and probably well paid. Drusilla is the Proconsul’s slave, which could be considered an honor. I'm sure there was a lot of competition. It was made clear in the dialog that the slaves were well treated. They are still slaves but at the same time, it was an accepted way of life that developed into an institution over the centuries. They learned to be content. Even the Gladiatorial games were seen to be just an extreme sporting event, like a lethal WWE match.

    Looking at it from our moral standards, especially today, it’s heinous and dated at best, but from theirs, it’s a way of life. Kirk knew all of this. But hey, there was a dissolve and he was dressed when the Proconsul came back, so maybe they just chatted.
     
  13. PCz911

    PCz911 Captain Captain

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    Rhodes Reason is in this episode.... I’ve seen the Toho King Kong movie so many times that I have a hard time with the casting in this ..... sorry
     
  14. Spock's Barber

    Spock's Barber Commodore Commodore

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    I can tolerate the parallel planet theory....once...but to see it used again and again just made me think, “No other original script ideas were available?” :shrug:
     
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  15. M'Sharak

    M'Sharak Definitely Herbert. Maybe. Moderator

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    It wasn't that. The "parallel planetary development" idea was built into the pitch for the series as a whole, so that they could do budget-light episodes which used existing costumes / props / sets / back lot settings already owned by the studio, freeing up funds to produce other stories for which new costumes would need to be designed and made / new props and models would need to be designed and built / new sets would need to be constructed / new special effects would need to be designed and produced.

    All of those things had to be paid for, so it became a basic financial balancing act for a generally effects-heavy TV show: If more than the average amount had to be spent to produce this episode, there necessarily had to be another episode (or episodes) which would cost a corresponding amount less than the average to produce.
     
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  16. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I'm in the camp that says Kirk was way too smart to have sex with her. He would figure he's being watched. And he can't (realistically) be feeling very sexy, because he, Spock, and McCoy are in grave danger, and he doesn't know he has plot armor. If I think I'll be dead in a few hours, I've got a knot in my stomach. I'm not getting turned on.

    Therefore, once he got all the intel he was going get, he sent her away.

    The people making TOS wanted it spicy for the audience, so they created the narrative space in which it could have happened. It reminds me of how today's "reality" shows are deceptively edited (in addition to being outright written by producers, who have sued for writing credits). Cast members have noted that the continuous bleeping of naughty language is often faked: light, family-friendly phrases are bleeped like crazy to darken the tone and cast aspersions on certain characters ("Do they kiss their mother with that mouth?"). And it's a false picture.

    So I'd say Star Trek created the supposed sex with Drusilla editorially, while the in-universe Kirk thought he was being watched, expected to die soon, and was anything but aroused.
     
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  17. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Fleet Admiral Admiral

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  18. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Bob Justman proposed scheduling it last in a January 8, 1968 memo about the final six air dates for the season. He’s explicit in that memo that this was his proposed schedule and he had not shared it with NBC. The only difference between this and the final schedule is “Assignment: Earth” and “Bread and Circuses” were swapped. Seems like this was more of a Desilu decision than one from NBC, although there may be other correspondence I’m missing here.

    The episode could have surely been aired earlier, the 35mm first trial was completed back on November 24, 1967.
     
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  19. ssosmcin

    ssosmcin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Maybe, like The Omega Glory, nobody like it but Roddenberry.
     
  20. Marlonius

    Marlonius Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Not to mention Kirk later saying, "They threw me a few curves" to McCoy, when describing his evening.
     
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