Star Trek: Plato’s Stepchildren – That Kiss

Written by Meyer Dolinsky, Arthur H. Singer, and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by David Alexander

Amid an episode that is pretty awful in many ways, we have moments of social justice that Star Trek became known for. Indeed, I don’t know how people can call themselves fans of the series now and align themselves on the side of right-wing politicians here in the U.S. They must have missed a lot when watching the series.

The Enterprise responds to a distress call on an unexplored planet. Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and Doctor McCoy (DeForrest Kelley) beam down. Unlike the previous episode, they have no space-suits and no drawn weapons. So much for a lesson learned.

They are greeted by Alexander (Michael Dunn) a dwarf of a man who says this society thinks of themselves as “Plato’s Children” and call themselves Platonians. He brings McCoy to treat a wounded man known as Parmen (Liam Sullivan), the leader of the Platonians. When Parmen is in pain, he exhibits psychokinetic power that tosses the Enterprise around as if in a storm. On the planet, objects are hurled through the air and the other people are attacked. He almost chokes Alexander to death psychokinetically.

These people traveled to Earth during the time of the Greek civilization. They admired it so much, they modeled their own society on it. His wife, Philana (Barbara Babcock) claims to be more than 2,000 years old.

Once Parmen recovers, it becomes apparent he has little interest in letting the Enterprise or any of the crew leave. In particular, they want Doctor McCoy to stay with them. McCoy refuses, at which point Parmen begins using his powers to toy with and torture Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock.

The actors are convincing at being forced to do things against their will. Sure, William Shatner chews scenery, but here it’s perfectly appropriate. Leonard Nimoy gets to show emotion as it’s forced out of him. It’s all cheesy and over-acted and ridiculous. The Platonians are nothing bus sadists and fixate on torturing the Vulcan by having him perform against his character.

What’s important here isn’t much of what we’re seeing but what’s being said. At one point, Kirk sits down with Alexander, who is sort of the court-jester to the Platonians and the object of the most of Parmen’s abuse, and the two have a remarkable conversation. Kirk tells Alexander “where I come from, size, shape, or color makes no difference.” This was revolutionary for the 1960’s because this is what the Civil Rights movement was all about. This one sentence puts into words what the entire Star Trek series was about.

Then, of course, there’s the moment that Plato’s Stepchildren has become known for throughout television history. Parmen is using his psychokinetic powers to treat the Enterprise crew like puppets. At one point he forces Kirk and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) to kiss. This is the first interracial kiss ever on U.S. television. Of course, the caveat is they were forced to do it against their will, and the cut does not show their lips touching, but it aired. At this time, there were states that were still doing battle to keep their anti-miscegenation laws on the books, although the Supreme Court was about to rule them unconstitutional. What seems like no big deal now, was a huge deal at the time.

While much of this episode is horrible, the series managed to slip by the censors some great moments that make it worth viewing. People born after this era won’t understand the significance of what they are watching amid all of the torture, but it’s really a tremendous piece of history. You can’t be against social justice and call yourself a fan of Star Trek.

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DVD Review: New York Episode 8 – The Center of the World 1946-2003

When Ric Burns set out to make a documentary of the city of New York, he had no idea of what world events were about to transpire. Just as the sixth episode was about to air on PBS at the end of September 2001, the city was attacked and the landscape was forever changed. Burns quickly deleted scenes from that episode which dealt with the plane which crashed into the Empire State Building.

Burns also realized that there was another entire chapter now to the city’s history. Not only had he glossed over the building of the World Trade Center in his initial documentary, but he had not really looked at New York’s place in the globalization which happened throughout the late 80’s and 90’s.

This eighth installment was added to the series after the events of September 11, 2001 as a “coda” to New York: The City and the County by Ric Burns. This two-hour long documentary features many of the same shots of New York seen earlier in the series, only now with a new poignancy as those two towers now represent something entirely different.

Burns approaches this chapter of New York’s history as an attempt to show how New York’s place in the world – at the heart of globalization – almost made it an inevitable target eventually for someone who wanted to strike at the county. He points out the innocence with which many Americans (both in and out of government) believed we could get involved in global conflicts and never receive retribution. (I’m not saying it’s right, only naïve to believe it wouldn’t happen eventually with all of the conflicts it ends up in the middle of.)

While this may be off-putting to some, it’s nice to see a frank discussion – without casting blame anywhere – that does help to understand just why it happened. It could have happened just as easily as a result of our involvement in Kosovo as it did with our involvement in the Middle East.

The documentary is also free from the political wrangling which seems to surround everything associated with September 11th since almost immediately after it happened. Where else could you see diametrically opposed politicians such as Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani, and Mario Cuomo all commenting on the events before, during, and after that day?

The history of the towers actually dates back to the 1940’s immediately following World War II. It would take another decade before the idea really took hold, and even longer until it would actually begin construction. Much of the motivation became “saving” lower Manhattan which is surprising considering just how much character this portion of the city seems to have in my time.

The politics which took place surrounding the building of the World Trade Center is quite fascinating. It’s shown through still photographs and films from the time period, which have been restored enough to be clear and easy to view, but at the same time haven’t been enhanced so they lose the flavor of the time period. There are a lot of pictures of the construction of the towers.

Again narrated by David Ogden Stiers, this chapter has all that the rest of it had – the great music, the commentary by prominent historians, reporters, and politicians. Commentary is also here from many of the people who were involved in the design and construction of the towers that are still alive. This commentary provides incredible insight into the thought and testing process.

It was also nice to hear the emphasis on the diversity of the people who worked in the World Trade Center as well as in Manhattan itself as globalization became the reality following the end of the Cold War. Something lost in the “attack on America” was the detail of just how many immigrants from how many different countries also died on September 11th. This fact is brought home in a way that is not preachy or accusatory, but just as a fact we all should remember.

The images of the attack are here. Those images have surely left an indelible image on the minds of so many of us. The way he recreates the attack giving a perspective not thought of before. It stirred me as much as the documentary by the Naudet brothers, some of who’s images have been reused by Burns. I was finally able to view footage I had heard about – of my husband’s cousin’s fire battalion walking into the building which would eventually fall on them as they tried to save people trapped in the elevators.

I liked this chapter in Ric Burns’ series quite a bit and I’m glad he saw fit to add it to the series. Although it’s become the first thing many people think about in regard to New York City, when viewed in the context of the entire documentary it’s just another part of a rich and sometimes turbulent history of the Greatest City in the World.


SPECIAL FEATURES:

– Interview With Ric Burns
– Outtakes: Intimations of Mortality: Empire State Building Crash (this was also included on the boxed set of the first seven episodes of the documentary)
– Selected Interviews


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Book Review: Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover

The final novel adaptation of the prequel films in the Star Wars universe really hits a homerun when it comes to filling in the gaps that the movie left us with. It’s the longest of the three, probably due to the fact that there was so much needed to make the events of this film seem plausible. It also, unknowingly, sets up certain themes that are resurrected in the final three films of the Skywalker saga.

Revenge of the Sith picks up a few years after the end of Attack of the Clones. Anakin and Obi-Wan are the media darlings of the galaxy, being presented as heroes of preserving the Republic. Anakin and Padme have kept their union a secret, although as time goes on, Obi-Wan admits he has always had some idea and never brought it up.

Obi-Wan and Anakin have been dispatched to save the Chancellor from his captivity under Count Dooku and General Grievous. Anakin is tired at this point from all of the battles, but fights on. He has also been closer to the Chancellor than anyone else, seeing him as a sort of father figure. If there’s one theme that ran through these films it was Anakin latching onto different people as father figures; in the first it was Qui-Gon, the second Obi;Wan, and here his allegiance seems to have transferred from Obi-Wan to the Chancellor.

Unknown to the two Jedi, all of this has been a set-up. The Chancellor has been manipulating events so the Senate confers on him more and more power in the wake of the war against the Separatists. His captivity is less an abduction and more a political maneuvering, designed to create more sympathy for the Chancellor trying to hold the Republic together. It also allows the evil Sith Lord, Darth Sidious, to dispatch his current pupil, Count Dooku, in favor of a new one he has his eyes on.

Upon returning to Coruscant, Anakin begs off press coverage to find his wife, Padme. They have been apart for some time at this point. Padme tells Anakin she’s going to have a baby. Almost immediately, nightmares of losing her during childbirth enter his dreams. He becomes afraid to sleep and the dreams returning and begins to search out any way to save her from what he sees as her fate.

At the same time, the Chancellor is making his final moves to consolidate his power, and that involves casting the Jedi as the enemy so they will be unable to stop him….

I have to say the novelization of Revenge of the Sith does a great job filling in what is missing from the film. There didn’t seem to be a logic to Anakin’s journey to the dark side; it seemed like one minute he was a Jedi and the next he was slaughtering younglings. Here it fills in the toll that everything is taking on him, both mentally and physically. He is weakening in resolve, fearful of what’s going to happen to Padme and afraid to sleep for that’s when the visions come. There is pressure on him from all sides; from the Jedi Masters to locate the Sith they believe is in the Chancellor’s inner circle to the Chancellor himself who goads him along on a dark path without him even realizing it. By getting into Anakin’s head, we see why he ends up turning to the dark side.

The Chancellor’s political maneuvering against the Jedi is clearer here as well. Despite being rescued by them, almost from the moment he’s back on Coruscant, he’s casting them as the enemy rather than his saviors. We also see more of what sets up a divide between Anakin and Padme. It makes him lashing out at her on Mustafar all the clearer. It’s not just that Obi-Wan is hiding on her shuttle so he believes she’s brought him there, it’s also that she’s been hiding some of the back-alley politics she’s involved in.

What we also here are the regrets and the missteps. At the end, when Yoda is battling the Emperor in the Senate Chambers, he laments that the Jedi Order stagnated for so many years, never changing or adapting to the changes in the universe around them. The Sith, patiently lying in wait, adapted to the changes in the universe and this was why they were able to so successfully rise up and take over. This train of thought feeds into a lot of what we see happening in the final three films in the Rise of Skywalker saga. All that was and is Jedi must be lost so the new balance between good and evil can be achieved.

Star Wars fans owe it to themselves to read this book to get a better appreciation of the story in Revenge of the Sith. Books usually are considered to be better than the movie, but that’s usually said when a movie is based off of a book. Here, author Matthew Stover had created a novel from a movie that also is much better than the film. It greatly expands on events and gives details of what’s going on in the minds of the main characters that make the story we viewed on the screen all the better.

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Star Trek: The Tholian Web – Ghost in the Machine

Written by Judy Burns, Chet Richards, Arthur H. Singer, and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Herb Wallerstein

When I think back to when I used to watch Star Trek in nightly reruns at 6PM, The Tholian Web is one of those episodes that stands out. I have a clear memory of the effects in this episode, and they look just as good now after being remastered.

The Enterprise is investigating the disappearance of the ship the Defiant. It seems that space is folding in on itself here, creating a junction between two universes. The Defiant keeps phasing in and out of their reality.

The Captain (William Shatner), Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Doctor McCoy DeForrest Kelley), and Chekov (Walter Koenig) beam over to investigate the Defiant. However, because of the phasing Scotty (James Doohan) is having trouble beaming them back. He gets Chekov, Spock, and Doctor McCoy. Captain Kirk cannot be brought back from the Defiant and when it disappears from space he is with it.

To complicate matters, the Tholians arrive and claim the Enterprise is intruding in their space. Spock, now in command of the Enterprise, negotiates that they will leave once the Defiant phases back into this universe in about 3 hours so they can rescue the Captain. However, when the time arrives, their attempt to rescue the Captain fails. They do battle with the Tholians, which cripples the Enterprise. The Tholians then start creating an energy web to encase the Enterprise. At the same time, being in this area of space begins to create a madness that is spreading through the crew of the Enterprise. It’s a race against time to rescue the Captain on the next phase-in of the Defiant and repair the Enterprise enough to get them out of there.

This is one of those memorable episodes that almost makes up for all of the weak episodes this third season. There’s a good build-up of peril with a lot of great effects, from the energy web to the Tholian ships and the Tholians themselves. For the first time, we see the landing party beam over in spacesuits, which are somewhat comical. There are hints they are built on the astronaut suits of the 1960’s with brighter, metallic coloring and the crewman’s names emblazoned on the helmets.

The characters here are written very well and the actors really capture them perfectly. Particularly of not is the relationship between Spock and McCoy. Just like in For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky, the deep friendship between them is on full display, despite the bickering they usually exhibit. McCoy is badgering Spock about his choices and actions throughout his command, until they watch what would be Captain Kirk’s last words to them. It’s a significant moment for the characters, and I have to say they seem to be getting the best development this season, especially when Captain Kirk is not around.

Walter Koenig gets to go crazy with Chekov again. It gives him a bit of a stretch. I’d say maybe he did such a good job in Day of the Dove that they let him do it again.

The Tholian Web is one of those near-flawless episodes of the series. It still stands up very well all these years later. There’s a good balance of peril with character development and special effects. I wish we saw more of the Tholians in future series (the only series that deals with it takes place before this one).

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DVD Review: Mickey Mouse in Living Color Volume 1 – 1935 to 1938

Sometimes it’s hard to believe there was once a time when Mickey Mouse was seen as more than just a character wandering around a theme park. With the release of Mickey Mouse in Living Color, we are once again shown of just why this character has grown to be one so beloved by so many people.

Leonard Maltin once again serves as narrator to this DVD collection of the first cartoons of Mickey Mouse to be released to theaters in technicolor. This also marks the transition of Mickey Mouse into more of a “team player” with characters like Donald Duck, Pluto, and Goofy sharing the screen with Mickey more and more often. In this setting, Mickey isn’t a clean-cut corporate icon, but more like a little boy filled with mischief and the desire to have some fun. As the shorts began, Donald Duck is Mickey’s rival and sometimes foil. This is a sharp contrast to the image I’ve seen more recently where Mickey is almost always the good guy and Donald is the one trying to get his goat. It’s a shame that Mickey lost the little boy charm and air of mischief as he became more and more Walt’s chief sidekick, but it’s also fun to watch the evolution of Donald Duck to fill that void.

The remastered, uncut, and unedited DVD is pretty good as far as quality. The print seems nearly flawless on each cartoon. The color level is good and not faded, nor have the colors been boosted to the point that they bleed into each other. It’s really something to watch these cartoons and appreciate hand-painted and drawn animation for what it was as opposed to the CGI animation currently being churned out. The sound is even better than the black and white cartoons were. I’m not sure if that’s due to better condition of the source material or more perfection in the remastering techniques as we go along. It comes in a numbered collector’s tin.

My kids enjoyed watching this set with me. In particular, it captivated my four year old, who has rarely experienced Mickey as anything more than a six-foot rat, to quote Robin Williams. He really liked watching the early cartoons of Mickey Mouse and actually asked me to pause the DVD when we stopped to eat dinner. It’s nice that this collection has the PLAY ALL feature on each of it’s two discs so that I am not brought back to the main menu after each cartoon and prompted to select the next one.

While there may be some scenes no longer considered to be “politically correct” in this day and age, they are basically harmless and something I didn’t feel my kids would pick up on unless it was pointed out to them. A cat singing in blackface is just a cat with a black face to them. Likewise, I don’t see what the big deal is about a cartoon character using chewing tobacco, smoking a stogie, or getting drunk. If it was made now, there might be more qualms about it, but from the perspective of watching cartoons made almost seventy years ago, it’s not a big deal to me. There is also the usual cartoon violence of characters brandishing weapons and trying to blow each other up.

This is definitely a collection worth getting your hands on, although they are getting harder and harder to find. Especially for anyone who’s a fan of early animation, it’s a big coup to have something like this in your collection, and I just bet you’ll be surprised at how much your kids enjoy watching it with you.

Titles on the discs:

The Band Concert – 1935
Mickey’s Garden – 1935
On Ice – 1935
Pluto’s Judgment Day – 1935
Mickey’s Fire Brigade – 1935
Pencil Tests – 1935
Thru the Mirror – 1936
Mickey’s Circus – 1936
Mickey’s Elephant – 1936
Mickey’s Grand Opera – 1936
Mickey’s Polo Team – 1936
Alpine Climbers – 1936
Moving Day – 1936
Mickey’s Rival – 1936
Orphan’s Picnic – 1936
Hawaiian Holiday – 1937
Moose Hunters – 1937
The Worm Turns – 1937
Magician Mickey – 1937
Mickey’s Amateurs – 1937
Clock Cleaners – 1937
Lonesome Ghosts – 1937
Mickey’s Parrot – 1938
Boat Builders – 1938
The Whalers – 1938
Mickey’s Trailer – 1938
Brave Little Tailor – 1938

Bonus Material

• Pencil Tests – a nice feature here in that you can toggle between the pencil test and full color.
• Parade of Award Nominees – features Mickey Mouse with the Academy Award nominees in 1932
• “Mickey in Living Color” featurette – a bit about the career of Walt Disney narrated by Leonard Maltin
• Gallery
• “Easter Egg” on disc #1 – toggle up to Mickey’s head in the main menu for Walt Disney talking about the history of Mickey
• “Easter Egg” on disc #2 – toggle up to Mickey’s head in the main menu for “Mickey’s Surprise Party”, a cartoon from the 1939 World’s Fair

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Book Review – Face It: A Memoir by Debbie Harry

A few weeks back while listening to Sirius XM in my car, one of the deejays talked about Debbie Harry’s memoir and how it detailed some of the hardships she faced being a woman in the male-dominated music industry. I could relate to that. I had every intention of working in the music industry until I saw how women in that industry were treated first-hand. I came home and bought Face It: A Memoir.

For anyone who doesn’t recognize the name, Debbie Harry was the lead singer of the band Blondie. They were regarded as a punk/new wave band, but reading the memoir gives great insight into the band and how they just wanted to do different things and not get pigeon-holed.

Face It: A Memoir gives the truth according to Debbie Harry and I must say it’s a pretty good read. The tone to me is rather cool and off-hand, as if she’s describing everything as an observer, not as an active participant. I would say that fits with the image she had for many years. Reading her words, though, I had the feeling she was much more emotional about things than she lets on.

I could relate some to Harry’s formative years, being an adoptee myself. There is a sense of not knowing your identity and searching for who you are. I was amazed at times that she was writing the exact things I felt for a long time.

Harry is pretty candid here and admits there are things she can’t remember for various reasons. One of them is drug addiction. She doesn’t make apologies or excuses for why things happened, which is refreshing. Too many autobiographies of musicians try to downplay various sides of the industry and its effects, but Harry is no holds barred.

I really enjoyed reading about the punk scene in New York. From Max’s Kansas City to CBGB’s and more, Harry has a lot of memories of those times that were just before I started hitting the clubs in the City. I can’t imagine what it was like to live in that casual decadence, but Harry brings it to life, as well as the musicians of that era.

The band Blondie grew out of that and had great success at a time when bands were able to make a few albums before hitting it “big.” Harry talks about the ups and downs of recording and touring, as well as what went into their music. This isn’t a song by song diary, so if you’re curious about the background of a favorite song, you won’t find that here.

As for the issues for a woman in the recording industry, Debbie Harry was one of the first women in the industry who wasn’t “managed.” That is to say, she wasn’t someone put on a stage and handed songs and told to sing. She was a songwriter and a strong advocate for herself. That didn’t mean she didn’t face challenges. What I was expecting was some moments where she detailed active discrimination or sexual harassment, but that wasn’t here.

One of the great things is the amount of pictures and fan art in the book. I would say she’s probably hung on to nearly everything people sent to her over the years and some of it is on display in Face It: A Memoir. Chris Stein, her partner in Blondie and lover and life-long friend is also a photographer who took many pictures over the years. There’s a number of photographs in the book that were never seen before.

I really enjoyed reading Face It: A Memoir. The writing flows nicely. Debbie Harry has had a fascinating life and I thank her for telling her story before others decided to tell it for her.

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Star Trek: For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky – Well-Worn Science Fiction Plot Device, Again

Written by Rik Vollaerts, Arthur H. Singer, and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Tony Leader

By the time we are this far into the third season, the storylines are really starting to be recycled. There are some that still manage to be decent stories, but too many of them feel like something we’ve seen before. Case in point, For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky. Sure, it has one of the longest titles in Star Trek history, but it also recycles a plot we saw just a few episodes ago in the much-maligned (and deservedly so) Spock’s Brain. It’s main redeeming feature is the character development for Doctor McCoy and the acting of DeForrest Kelley.

Doctor McCoy (DeForrest Kelley) learns that he has a terminal illness with just a year left to live. He tells Captain Kirk (William Shatner) that he can keep doing his job.

The Enterprise was just attacked by a series of sub-light missiles and is tracking their point of origin. They are surprised to find they came from an asteroid. It is under atomic power and not following any orbital course. Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) intend to beam over and investigate. Doctor McCoy wants to accompany them and Kirk relents.

They are captured by the humanoid inhabitants of the asteroid/spaceship who call themselves the Yonada. They are brought into a temple of sorts where they meet the “Oracle of the People.” Guess what – it’s an artificial intelligence that the people have elevated to a God-like status. Big surprise.

Doctor McCoy falls for their leader, Natira (Kate Woodville). He tells her he only has a year to live and decides to spend it with her. This means he must have one of their obedience devices installed. This is how the Oracle punishes anyone who’s disobedient in their world. At the same time, the asteroid is on a path that will have it collide with an inhabited planet and the Enterprise must figure out how to shift its course or blow it up.

If you know anything about Star Trek after the original series ended in 1969, then you know McCoy doesn’t die and doesn’t stay with the Yonadans. Back then, there really was no sense of peril for the regular cast, despite the numerous tight situations they found themselves in. They all came back in the next episode like nothing had ever happened. Of course that happens here. Everything is fixed a little too neatly once again. And unlike in The Paradise Syndrome, where Captain Kirk finds love only to have his wife an unborn child die, it seems like as soon as he’s cured, McCoy abandons his wife and heads back out with the boys. I guess it would have been too much to kill her off too.

That’s not to say this is a bad episode. What saves it is the acting. DeForrest Kelley sinks his teeth into the role and gets to show he is much more than a one-dimensional crabby old man. From his diagnoses with the terminal disease and discussions with Kirk and Nurse Chapel (Majel Barrett-Roddenberry) to the fast affection he develops for Natira, he is the man facing his mortality and looking for a little more meaning in it. McCoy has always been the one who argues the humanistic view of a situation, so it feels natural that he just wants to feel at peace in his last moments. However, that isn’t what would happen with the peril facing the Yonadans. He’s reaching for something that just isn’t there, and as soon as there’s a chance to go back to the life he knew as a starship surgeon, he takes it and abandons Natira. The ramifications of this are never discussed.

Leonard Nimoy also manages to convey compassion from Spock without breaking character. Initially, McCoy’s condition is kept hidden from Spock. Eventually, it is revealed and Spock is at his side, striving to do what he can for his friend. The devotion he shows to McCoy conveys that Spock cares deeply for his friend, despite all of the bickering that they normally do.

There’s not much action in this episode. An initial confrontation between the landing party and the Yondans is quickly resolved and after that there isn’t much else. The effect of the asteroid in space is decent, and we get a glimpse of the Enterprise next to it, but not much else in terms of special effects.

World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky is just more of the same from the series. There’s nothing new to it, really. It’s not an episode I’d seek out, nor is it one I would shut off if it came on. There’s enough good about it to make it watchable, but not compelling.

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Movie Review: The China Syndrome – Yes, Let’s Build More “Nucular” Power Plants Part II

Written by Mike Gray, T.S. Cook, and James Bridges
Directed by James Bridges

I’ve heard people lately – mainly those lobbying for us to start building atomic energy plants again – stating that Three Mile Island was proof that all of the safeguards at the plants worked. I say they were damn lucky.

The China Syndrome was released in the U.S. just two weeks before this accident occurred. The title refers to what happens when the core is exposed and the fuel overheats, melting through the bottom of the plant. When it hits groundwater it releases radioactive steam and would render an area (the size of Pennsylvania – those words are used in all ironies) uninhabitable.

Jane Fonda is Kimberly Wells, a fluff-piece reporter at a local Los Angeles television station. She’s sent with her cameraman, Richard (Michael Douglas), out to cover the Ventana Nuclear Power Plant as part of a series about energy in California. While they are there, they experience what they at first believe to be an earthquake. Unbeknownst to anyone, Richard keeps his camera covertly rolling. They aren’t sure exactly what happened, but they both seem to know instinctively that it wasn’t good.

When they arrive back at the station, Kimberly is eager to roll with the story as the lead story, but it’s killed. Richard steals the footage and takes it to hearings being held on the opening of a second plant to get input from nuclear specialists.

Jack Lemmon is plant manager Jack Godell. I’ve come across three types of people in this world. There are people who just blindly believe that everything in the world will work out good (at least for them). There are people who believe in what they are told until they see different for themselves, and there are people who are just by nature suspicious of what’s presented to them. Jack Godell seems to fit into the second category. He completely believes in the use of nuclear power. That is, until something nags at him about the incident at the plant. He begins poking around and comes across some things that bother him – water leaking in an area that it shouldn’t; x-rays of welds that just show the same weld over and over again. The question is – why is he investigating this when others aren’t? The people he is clashing with are all the first type of people; they believe that nothing bad will happen despite the fact that there have been shortcuts taken with the building of the plant that they’ve known about for years. You would think that these people who have to live in the same area where this plant is and are exposed to the same level of danger would want to make sure that they and their families are as safe as can be, but they seem to live in the fantasy world where bad things can never happen to them; where things just can’t go wrong on the grand scale that those of us who live in the real world know they can.

The story is terrific as it builds to the climax. What was strange was just how similar to the events of Three Mile Island this film was. No, there were no faulty welds at Three Mile Island, but the accident there was similar to what is depicted in The China Syndrome. If that wasn’t enough alone to catapult this film to the notoriety it received, the performances themselves are really terrific. It’s tightly written at a good pace without dumbing itself down to the audience.

I grew to like the character of Jack Godell quite a bit. Jack Lemmon did a terrific job with him. He’s not got the hysterics of someone who’s against nuclear power as he believes in the job he’s doing. However, at the same time he has a conscience and is willing to call out those he thinks are putting the public at risk. Lemmon portrays Godell as intensely conflicted and does it well. I thought his performance was probably the best of the film. He really brought out the human qualities to him without overplaying who he is.

The story that got lost in all of the fracas surrounding this once Three Mile Island broke is the story of what it was like to be a female reporter at that time in this country, and it really wasn’t all that long ago. As Kimberly Wells, Jane Fonda is given mostly “fluff pieces” about singing telegrams, a tiger having a birthday party. Her bosses comment on her hairstyle and tell her “not to worry her pretty little head” about such matters.

Fonda does a terrific job as Wells. She’s been hired based on how she tested with the audience. She’s even called a “performer” at one point. What she wants to do is hardcore reporting. What she’s assigned is something entirely different. She’s hungry for more than she’s been given while trying to tread the line of being a woman in what is mostly a man’s world. If she gets too forceful, she’ll end up on the street, while at the same time if she stays too meek and nice she’s going to be relegated to the same “human interest” stories she’s currently being assigned. A casual exchange between her and her co-anchor demonstrates this where he tosses a casual insult at her and she tosses it right back at him. It was all right for him to insult her and denigrate her as just a pretty face, but he takes umbrage at her shot back at him as being a threat to his credibility.

Michael Douglas does a fair job as Richard, but I got the feeling that he was pushing for a big story that will get him the limelight, no matter whether it’s something being blown out of proportion or not. That’s the whole point – what they witnessed is the system working and there was no story there. The depth is in what Godell knows about the x-rays being falsified. When Richard and Kimberly uncover that, they have their story, but both of them are so hungry to prove themselves they are willing to make mountains out of molehills.

Trivia : When Jack Godell is trying to lose his tail, he follows a fire engine. It’s “Engine 51” from the old Emergency! television series.

The truth is The China Syndrome wasn’t a blanket indictment of the use of nuclear power. It was a blanket indictment of human failures as the reason we aren’t mature enough as a species to be using this power. We are too powered by our natural greed and selfishness to put safety first and foremost – no matter what the cost. We don’t ask questions, naively believing that everyone will do everything on the up and up and not take shortcuts which will save them money when public safety is involved.


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Star Trek: Day of the Dove – Peace in Our Time

Written by Jerome Bixby, Arthur H. Singer, and Gene Roddenerry
Directed by Marvin J. Chomsky

The third season of the original Star Trek series was the one that was the most erratic and bipolar. There were some terrific episodes and some of the worst of the series produced this season. The reasons for this generally had to do with low budgets and the creative staff running for the exits. On the surface, Day of the Dove is not that spectacular an episode. However, couched against the growing unrest about the war in Vietnam in 1968 it becomes quite the argument against it. Star Trek was the only show that was doing this at the time, as its pacifist message went over the head of the network censors as well as some of the audience.

The Enterprise responds to a distress call from a colony that is under attack. When they arrive, there is not a trace of the colony remaining. Captain Kirk (William Shatner) leads a landing party down to the surface to investigate. While they are down on the planet, Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) communicates to the Captain that a Klingon battle cruiser has just been sighted. Thinking they are responsible for the colony’s destruction, the Captain orders Mr. Spock to engage in battle. However, as the ship approaches it becomes apparent that the ship is already disabled without the Enterprise firing on it.

Commander Kang beams down to the surface with his own landing party and quickly takes Kirk and company prisoner. He threatens to torture Chekov (Walter Koenig) unless the Captain orders the Enterprise to beam them up.

Someone wants the Federation and the Klingons at war with each other. It’s this blob of light that keeps changing colors nearby while all of this is happening. The audience knows it, but the characters do not. Chekov keeps talking about the Klingons having killed his brother, yet Sulu (George Takei) says he had no brother and was an only child. This energy being seems to thrive on the animosity between the Klingons and Enterprise crew, and also influence them. Scotty (James Doohan) is sent to check the weapons and finds all of the phasers have been transformed into elaborate swords.

Slowly the Captain comes to realize they are being manipulated, and the only way to defeat the being is by ending the fighting. Much the same way he comes to the realization that the way to solve the problem in A Private Little War is to stand down he must do that here and convince the Klingons of the same.

Day of the Dove is a good anti-war episode. The message that to keep fighting is futile comes across strong. The non-corporeal light being I would say is representative of the military industrial complex who profit when wars are being fought and will do anything to keep those profits coming.

The problem is there is overlap in the story between several different episodes we’ve already seen. Not only A Private Little War, but the idea of the non-corporeal being casting an evil influence over them is reminiscent of Wolf in the Fold. Day of the Dove does manage to draw the two of these concepts together nicely, but it’s been done and it feels a bit tired.

The Klingon makeup is terrible. I knw they were going for a bit more than what was done earlier with Klingons in the series, but this is just awful. It looks like someone went entirely too heavy with the spray tan and then decided to film like they were in Mississippi and sweating all the time. With the series being remastered, it makes it all the more noticeable and distracting.

The acting here is stellar, though. Michael Ansara is Commander Kang and pretty much defines Klingons from here on out. He is a warrior through and through and more than a match for the Captain of the Enterprise. He displays the right air of confidence and swagger as a race built on conflict would show. Really, the Klingons we see in The Next Generation and beyond are built on this performance right here.

The regular cast shine too. Walter Koenig takes Chekov in a completely different direction than we usually see from him. Chekov is scary in this episode, and because he’s under the influence of an alien, this being a part of his darker side is never explored again. Sometimes that plot device is used to excuse any type of behavior, such as Spock showing emotion and never having to answer for it. Here, Chekov appears ready to rape the Kang’s wife and never suffers any fallout for it. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) also has a moment when she overreacts to frustration as does Doctor McCoy (DeForrest Kelley) when he rails against the Klingons. It’s all being driven by the alien, but they are allowed to go darker than they ever did before in the series.

Day of the Dove is a very watchable episode and a good representation of the series. There are many missteps, but it still holds up very well all these years later. I give credit to the actors for that.

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Thoughts From the Mountain Top One Year In

View from my back deck

One year ago we were looking at a lockdown for who knew how long. I had all these reviews from my years writing at Epinions sitting in spreadsheets I’d downloaded when it shut down in 2014. My buddy Alex had a successful blog that he was forced to abandon, sort of, due to Conservatives and their version of “cancel culture.” All this came together to finally make me commit to starting a blog of my own.

I’d had a few starts over the years but never completely followed through. I’d get tired after a while and just not want to bother. I figured I’d have plenty of material to fill in with when I didn’t want to write. I think, so far, it’s worked out pretty well.

My first post (other than the about me post) had to do with COVID and our situation. It seems like so log ago now, but it wasn’t. I think there are many things that we take for granted that we won’t again for a long time.

In the meantime, I managed to re-work and re-post all of my Star Trek: The Next Generation reviews. Those were some of the first reviews I posted at Epinions and got me attention for my love of science fiction. I had reviews written for about half of the Original Star Trek series and I’ve been trying to finish that up these last few weeks. It’s harder than I thought it would be. Next, I should move on to Star Trek Deep Space Nine but I also have a yearning to review Babylon 5 episode by episode and the two series are so similar I really don’t want to be doing it at the same time, so we will see what happens. There are other shows I’m interested in analyzing episode by episode, such as The West Wing. The nice thing is on my own blog I don’t have to worry about whether or not there is a product listing, like I had to at Epinions.

I’ve re-worked and re-posted many old book reviews and plenty of new ones as well. The same with movies. I really wanted to wade through the Marvel Universe and all that’s in it, but haven’t had the time to watch the movies and pay as much attention to it all as I should. Everything I write about I watch at least twice, sometimes three times. It’s hard to dedicate that much time to something when I am also doing work from home and playing taxi driver for my family.

And geocaching. A lot of my original intention with this blog had to do with my geocaching activity. I’ve taken a few trips this past year and written about a few places I hiked with my son and granddaughter. However, for the most part I didn’t think there was a lot that was interesting in those adventures. The truth is, my media reviews get way more hits, not that I’ve made a lot of money. I write about geocaching when I feel like it. I’m taking a 10-day road trip to Kansas this month, so hopefully I will have a lot more to write about at some interesting roadside attractions I’ve planned to visit.

My stats as of this morning are 16,782 hits and a total earned of $6.16. Not much to write home about then. I’ve made a few friends here and enjoy reading some of the other blogs. Getting rich here isn’t going to happen.

I stopped writing for the most part after my daughter committed suicide in 2013. It was just too hard. About six months later I suffered my traumatic brain injury and that was it for any creativity for a long time. Even now it can be difficult to concentrate and write. Sometimes it flows easily, sometimes I feel like I’m fighting my own brain to write. There comes a point where my brain just doesn’t want to function that way any more and that’s when I just need to quit. It doesn’t make writing the blog easy at times.

Thanks to everyone who reads and comments. I wouldn’t keep doing it if I didn’t get feedback. Let’s see where the next year takes us!