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M. G Watson
- Publié sur Amazon.com
When I was a kid, wearing my mail-order "Captain Kirk" command shirt of gold vellour, the words "Third Season Trek" were synonymous with "bad." To compare something with the Third Season meant invoking images of failure, disaster, and sudden, irrevocable decline. Some of the individual episodes of this season also became buzzwords for something that, for lack of a better description, just plain sucked. "Space hippies!"; "What have you done with Spock's brain!?"; "You half-black!"
Reading Shatner's "Star Trek Memories" explained a lot to me about the hows and the whys of Trek's tumble from the tops it had achieved in Season Two: the departure of ace writer D.C. Fontana, the increasing indifference of creator Gene Roddenberry, the drastic budget cuts, the nasty feuding between Leonard Nimoy and producer X over the show's writing and direction. But it didn't exactly make me nostalgic to see gagworthy episodes like "The Way to Eden" or "Requiem for Methuselea" again.
When Trek Classic came out on DVD, my initial feeling was that I would buy the first two seasons and, perhaps at some point in the future, collect the third at a yard sale for pennies on the dollar. So you can imagine my surprise when I re-examined the Third Season and discovered it to have more than a few diamonds in its rough - including a couple of gems which are arguably among the best Trek episodes ever shot. For my money, the list of the good stuff includes:
The Enterprise Incident - After 2 ½ years of do-gooding, it was nice to see the Feds play seriously dirty and bogart the Romulan's secret cloaking technology. Kirk violates a treaty, Spock seduces a Romulan commander into a firing squad, and the whole team gets together to pull a burglary that would make Thomas Crown proud.
This Side of Paradise - Admittedly, Shatner is a Christmas ham in some of these scenes, and his Indian outfit looks decidedly silly on him. Still, this episode has serious sparkage between Spock and McCoy and the underlying theme of Kirk's loneliness, which had been examined previously in the First Season, was surprisingly touching. Here we see Kirk's "Paradise" - the life he gave up to become a starship captain. This is also the longest story in Classic Trek history: it lasts more than two months.
Spectre of the Gun - I always loved this episode, which pits our heroes in a stylishly nightmarish Old West scenario and lets them wear six-gun rig. The set design for this episode was truly creepy, as were the stone-faced, soft-spoken actors who played the Brothers Earp to our Starfleet Cowboys. Plus, Chekov gets plugged, which is always fun to watch.
Elaan of Troyius - This is one of the few 3S episodes which I think is brilliantly written almost from start to finish. Watching Kirk ham-handenly try to stamp out diplomatic fires while trying to root out a saboteur and outfight a Klingon battlecruiser is a joy. This episode has some jewels of dialogue, including Kirk's extremely impolitic remark: "Spock, the women on your planet are logical. Those are the only women in the universe that can make that claim"; and a truly classic moment where a fed-up Kirk threatens to spank knife-wielding hottie Elaan.
Day of the Dove - Who doesn't love this 51 minute slugfest? From the opening scene, in which the sensual and villainous Klingon commander, Kang, tortures Chekov (the scream!), to the all-out swordplay between our heroes and the Klingons warriors, this is a fight-lover's dream. Great chemistry between Kang and Kirk, and a lot of heartwarming Klingon axioms, such as: "Four thousand throats can be cut in one night, by a running man." (runner up: "We need no urging to hate humans! But for now, only a fool fights in a burning house!") Thankfylly, Kang was to make a reappearance in the Trekverse 25-odd years later, on DS9.
All Our Yesterdays - A highly underrated piece of work which features some terrifically subtle acting by Leonard Nimoy. In this episode - one of the rare "Trek tragedies" - Spock, having travelled backwards in time, finds his prehistoric Vulcan emotions getting the better of him. He falls in love, and seriously manhandles McCoy, which was probably sweet payback for three years of swallowing insults about that green icewater in his veins.
The Tholian Web - Probably the best episode of the Third Season, and a standout in the whole series, this was another excellent action episode which also took time to explore the complex relationship between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. I always viewed this tirumverate as a single being, with Kirk the heart, McCoy the conscience and Spock the logical brain. Removing Kirk from the equation threw up great sparks between the great Nimoy and the equally great Kelly. It also has the long awaited moment of familiarity between the two, when Spock says to McCoy: "Forget it, Bones."
There are some other decent (if flawed) outings here, but it seems sometimes like the newer generation of writers didn't quite understand the show's history or backstory....for example, the surprise of our heroes in The Enterprise Incident that the Romulans have a cloaking device, despite their previous encounter with one two years before in Balance of Terror: and the budget cuts, which limited most of the episodes to set shooting only, making for a claustrophic, low--budget atmosphere. I might be mistaken, but I can't remember a single episode besides This Side of Paradise being shot outside. Finally, there is the issue of Shatner's subtly growing pot belly and shaggy sideburns, decidedly un-captainlike features we used to mock as ungrateful kids who didn't know which side our television toast was buttered on.
Classic Trek's Third and last Season remains its least impressive. There are too many clunkers like Let That Be Your Last Battlefield and not nearly enough winners to balance the scale. But in the last analysis, it's still Trek....and that's enough for me. 3.5 stars.