Friday, January 13, 2012
The Dippiest Hippies in Space
It's no secret that the quality of Star Trek took a dive toward the end of the series. The episodes got more predictable and poorly written. Spock would act like a jerk in one episode for no reason and then be back to his normal self the next. Kirk tended to have a new one and only true love in every single episode. Scotty couldn't decide whether or not to slick his hair back, causing frustration for my Wife who cares about such things. For an iconic series they really limped toward the finish line. Having watched "That Which Survives" with my Wife a few nights back I thought I had seen the worst that Star Trek's third season had to offer. Little did I know that the dippiest hippies in space would be nipping at the heels of "That Which Survives" for the title of...[fanfare] The Worst Star Trek Episode Ever!!
The hippies appear in the episode "The Way to Eden." It is filled with horrible acting, plot holes, and some of the worst music you are ever likely to hear. At the heart of the problem is Charles Napier. You may remember him as the square-jawed hard-nosed soldier or cop in just about every tv show and movie ever made. Google him. You've definitely seen him in something. Despite the fact that Charles Napier had a perfectly fine career aside from this episode, it must be pointed out that his character was so unwatchably/unlistenably awful that I cheered and forced my Wife to give me a high five when he died (she really didn't want to). He doesn't play the leader of the hippies, but he is the most vocal of all the hippies. Under that wig and those thigh-high forest green boots (yes, really) he's still the same guy who was always typecast as a military/police type. This means that as he delivers all his lines about how the man is holding him down he looks and sounds like the man. It's ridiculous. Let's call it flaw #1: the ridiculously unbelievable nature of the hippies.
Flaw #2: (I should've listed it first, but I needed to explain who Charles Napier was) the music. Make no mistake about it, even though Star Trek is set in the 2100's, the series was made in the 1960s therefore the aliens they take aboard in this episode are hippies. They have flowers painted all over themselves and talk in a really groovy way, man. Because they are hippies, they have their protest music. The music is supposed to be made up on the spot by Charles Napier's character (see the picture above. He's the one with the weird instrument). The only problem with their protest music is that it is unbearably awful. First of all, they are supposed to be playing these wild alien instruments and yet they all sound like acoustic guitars (in fairness one of them starts sounding like a harpsichord for no reason). None of the songs are well-written melodically or lyrically. I heard them all last night and couldn't possibly sing a single note back this morning. The main problem with the music is that it's strictly filler. It takes up time so the poorly-written story gets to take a breather (a similar tactic was used in Abbott and Costello's awful version of Jack and the Beanstalk). There are really only two legitimate reasons why you would ever have singing in the middle of your show (unless your show is a musical, in which case you should sing away at every chance you get): 1) You have a genius like the Gershwin brothers or Cole Porter writing music for you 2) You have a legit singing talent and he/she wants to show off. This would explain every movie Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra were ever in. If you are singing just to fill time and divert attention from the fact that you script is full of holes, you are making a poor choice and your audience will hate you. I know I did.
Flaw #3: gaping plot holes. This is by no means a complete list 1) The first hole in the plot comes out when the hippies are first beamed aboard. They all make the Oregon Ducks sign with their hands and just sit down on the transporter platform. They don't move or address anyone until Spock comes in, does their little hippie sign and says their little words. The problem with this is that they are a movement of exactly six people. Even though one of them is the son of a prominent man it doesn't mean that their hippie dippy ways are common knowledge, even to Spock. The world of Star Trek is concerned not just with international but interplanetary issues. The issues of six hippies are a droplet in that sea. It never makes sense that Spock would know anything about these dippy hippies, let alone their hand signals. 2) Where in the world are the Romulans? In every other episode in which the Enterprise even wanders into the neutral zone, they are met by Romulans. In "The Enterprise Incident" (also a third season episode) the Enterprise is met by several Romulan ships as soon as they cross into Romulan space. When the dippy hippies take over the Enterprise, they fly for a full three hours into Romulan space. After everything that happens on their precious hippie planet, the Enterprise flies back the same three hours and encounters exactly zero Romulans. This makes no sense when considering everything we know about the Romulan defenses of the neutral zone. If you are not going to abide by the conditions of the Star Trek universe, you have no business writing an episode (that is the nerdiest sentence I have ever written). 3) When the hippie dippy music is played over the intercom, everyone on the ship loves it to the point that they are distracted from their duties and allow the hippies to take over the ship. Let's assume (and this is going to be a doozy) that the crew of the Enterprise doesn't hate the music. They are still Starefleet officers and trained to do their duty in spite of distraction. Also, nobody seemed to enjoy the music during the first two-thirds of the episode. Why would they suddenly take a liking to it? 4) The whole Eden concept. The hippies are in search of a planet called Eden where they are going to build their dream society (never mind the fact that their leader is a carrier of a disease that will kill them all regardless of where they settle). They seem to know generally where it is because they are headed right into Romulan space when the episode begins. Spock offers to help them find Eden and apparently does find its exact location. Upon realizing that the planet they found is populated by vegetation with a high acidic content (and Charles Napier dies. It was so satisfying after all that annoying singing and hippie talk he did) they head back to the Enterprise. Spock tells them he hopes they will continue to search for Eden. The only problem with that is that the planet they found was Eden. Eden can't just be any beautiful uninhabited class M planet because they wouldn't have needed to venture into Romulan space. They could have found hundreds or thousands of planets that meet their needs in Federation space. If the planet they found wasn't Eden, this means Spock made an error in navigation, which seems highly unlikely. The whole thing is just dumb. 5) The hippies stole a space ship and are told that they won't be arrested and prosecuted for doing it. They then take over the Enterprise and are still told that they won't be prosecuted. The reason they aren't being punished is because one of the hippies has a prominent dad. The only problem with that is that there is no special treatment in the Star Trek universe. Everyone is responsible for their actions regardless of who they are. The theft of a space ship which was later destroyed due to the actions of the hippies and the unlwful commandeering of the Enterprise would both be punishable offenses regardless of who was who's daddy.
I think that's a good list of plot holes. I didn't even point out the obvious symbolism that they practically throw in your face (Charles Napier's character named Adam dies on Eden when he eats the native fruit. Ugh). This episode is a real mess. It had at least 9 real cringe-worthy parts, and I would consider it the worst Star Trek episode if it weren't for the fact that I cringed every time Spock opened his mouth during "That Which Survives." This episode is a real clunker. You have been warned.