Friday, October 01, 2010

"Spock's Brain"

From Wikipedia:

"Spock's Brain" is the first episode of the third season of Star Trek: The Original Series, first broadcast September 20, 1968. It was the first episode to air after NBC moved the show from 8:30 P.M. to 10 P.M. on Friday nights. It was repeated July 8, 1969. It is episode #56, production #61, written by Gene L. Coon (under the pseudonym Lee Cronin) and directed by Marc Daniels.

Overview: An alien female beams aboard the ship and, after incapacitating the rest of the crew, surgically removes Spock's brain. Kirk and the crew have just hours to locate and replace it before Spock's body dies.


The episode is seen by fans and those who took part in its production, as one of the worst episodes ever. In his memoir Star Trek: Memories, William Shatner called this one of the series' worst episodes. Leonard Nimoy, in his 1995 book I am Spock, writes that "frankly during the entire shooting of that [ie. "Spock's Brain"] episode, I was embarrassed—a feeling that overcame me many times during the final season of Star Trek."


Worst ever? Come now, I covered
the worst ever original series Star Trek episode last week, and this one doesn't even come close. But see for yourself.

Watch it

Notes and pics:

* Nice no-dialogue bridge procedure opening sequence

* Not your run-of-the-mill villain: a creepy smiling
Stepford Wife alien.

* Nurse Chapel has the best fall when Stepford Wife uses her superior technology to incapacitate the crew.

* Pretty good dramatic scene in sickbay where McCoy explains that Spock's brain has been stolen.

* They say "Spock's brain" quite a bit for this one--"Spock's Brain" is an episode where you never forget the title.

* Nice astronomy lecture. Really, this is very 1950s as far as science fiction narrative devices go. Good to see.

* Worst episode ever? Actually, this is pretty good so far.

* Uhura, always sensible, asks a very sensible question: "What would they want with his brain?"

* Okay, now we start to see why so many people hate this episode. Enter the goofy cave men who call themselves Morg.

* Okay, I love the Morg attack, lots of projectiles, and it goes on forever!

* Bizarre conversation about gender when Kirk realizes that the Morg have no women. The dialogue starts to get silly, very Tarzan and Jane.

* The Morg describes his group's oppressors, the Eymorg, which is apparently his race's word for "women," who he appropriately describes as "givers of pain and delight." We used to laugh a lot about that line back in college.

* McCoy beams down with Spock's brainless body hooked up to a remote control. This is fucking bizarre, and I love it!

* Chekov: "We may as well be comfortable." I always love it when they phaser a rock to provide heat.

* Sure, it's getting weirder and sillier, but it's pretty good so far. Good mystery and pursuit story, nicely paced.

* Another Stepford Wife: "You are not Morg or Eymorg." McCoy: "Hers is the mind of a child."

* Very cool: communicating with Spock's disembodied brain.

* This is all very Flash Gordon, the mix of primitive with super advanced.

* Stepford Wife: "Ah yes, 'brain.' What is 'brain'?"

* Okay, the dialogue ramps up the goofiness here astronomically. Stepford Wife: "Brain and brain! What is brain?!?" Scotty: "Aye, there's no sun, but there's light." Kirk: "Spock's brain controls." Very silly stuff.

* Oh god, what's with Kirk's white man talking to Injun "great leader" bullshit about? And it fails almost immediately when Stepford Wife doesn't buy it.

* The preceding scene was so silly that you almost enjoy the three of them writhing in pain on the floor. That's what they get for being fucktards.

* McCoy on the technologically inflicted suffering they've just endured: "I wouldn't belive the human organism would take such pain."

* Cool. With Spock and Scotty planetside with Kirk, Sulu's in charge back on the bridge!

* Another silly line. Scotty: "How does Spock's brain fit into all of this?" By now, this is all extraordinarily funny, in a sort of surrealistic way. Just go with it.

* Good fight with the Morg guards. In the end, because Scotty and McCoy aren't badasses, Kirk has to take them all out by himself.

* Really, this is so weird that it's very much like a comic book.

* Kirk struggling against the Eymorg pain device in order to get Spock's remote control is really fucking funny! And really fucking great!

* The "teacher" device reminds me of the Krell brain device in Forbidden Planet.

* Spock and McCoy bicker even when Spock is just a brain.

* Talking brains are very sci-fi.

* McCoy becomes a mad scientist.

* The operation to restore Spock's brain is very Frankenstein, right down to the German expressionistic film lighting on McCoy's face. And how can you not love hooking up Spock's speech center first, so the science officer can talk the doctor through the rest of the operation? Fabulous!

* Spock's excited post-op lecture is weird, but it sets up well McCoy's quip: "I never should have reconnected his mouth."

* Four stars. Look, I know just how utterly goofy this one gets about a third of the way into it, but it's all very funny, in that classic unintentional comedy way that often seizes the show, when it is not straight up
absurdist, which, to me, gives the entire endeavor a flavor of literary seriousness. And it's also something of a fanboy feast, with science fiction images and ideas that come from all eras of the genre up to the point it was produced. But most importantly, the story is engaging. You want to know what's going to happen next.

I hadn't watched "Spock's Brain" in some years. I remembered it being funny, but I had no idea that I would enjoy it as much as I did last night. This one may not be for everybody, but if you don't like it, it's because you don't get it.

I love it, myself.