Thursday, April 30, 2009

Star Trek Initiation: Dagger of the Mind

I apologize for the long time between ST:I postings. I'd actually tried to watch this episode--twice--last week, but was foiled by the slowness of my Internet connection. But apparently the third time's the charm, because I was finally able to watch "Dagger of the Mind," the ninth episode of the original Star Trek.

The title sounds quite surreal, though the episode isn't particularly trippy. The episode begins on Stardate 2715.1 (for those of you playing along at home) as the Enterprise travels to the Tantalus Penal colony. Man, does that sound dirty...but I digress.

As the episode begins, Kirk reminds the crew that the forcefields surrounding Tantalus-5 need to be opened before anything can be beamed down from the ship--an early firewall. I was impressed. So then they beam up a large box, and a man crawls out. Wait, they beamed up a dude in a box? Looks like trouble with a capital T.

The doctor in charge of the colony, Dr. Adams informs Kirk and Co. that the man who snuck onto the ship is mentally unstable and dangerous. Here is his paraphrased message: "Sorry, my bad. He's dangerous, so watch out. Bye now." Clearly a caring, compassionate man.

Spock manages to subdue the stowaway with what may be the first appearance of the Vulcan nerve pinch (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong here). After a dose (or seven) of sedatives from the good Doctor Bones, they find out that his name is Dr. Van Gelder. Also: his memory appears to have some holes, and he's terrified of returning to Tantalus-5. This was my first inkling that Dr. Adams may be more of a Dr. Frankenstein, and his prison is an interstellar Gitmo.

They contact Dr. Adams again, who confirms that the man is in fact his assistant, Dr. Van Gelder. He asks Jim to come down to the colony alone to take a tour.

Red flag number one.

Jim beams down to the colony, along with Dr. Helen Noel, who met Kirk at the Christmas party. I just found it funny that he was at a Christmas party and met someone whose last name is Noel. Annnnnyway, Dr. Adams is charming and seems glad to have them there. The first woman they meet (I think her name is Lethae, but I couldn't quite catch it) appears to have a way with sewing needles and curtains. She also appears to have had her brain thoroughly washed, possibly with bleach.

Red flag number two.

Meanwhile, Bones and Spock are trying to get as much useful info out of Dr. Van Gelder as possible. Whenever he gets too agitated, they stab him with a needle and give him more tranquilizers. I'm surprised he never overdosed, but maybe the drug has a short half-life. Whatever. Van Gelder, for his part, was the Unintentionally Funny Character of the week. I kept on expecting him to start shouting Shakespeare at the top of his lungs. Spock finally decides that he needs to get into Van Gelder's mind. They don't call it a Vulcan mind meld, but that's what it sounds like. They were easily the best scenes of the episode, despite my thinking that Spock was gonna kiss him. Spock gets Van Gelder to remember that Dr. Adams has some sort of memory beam, a device that can erase a person's memories and allow new suggestions to be implanted.

This convinces me even more that Joss Whedon (evil genius) is a Trekkie. Seriously, Dr. Adams' device reminds me so much of the "Dollhouse" device, both in design and intent. Check out the photos (wherever they are; I don't know how good the formatting is).

Meanwhile, back in Dr. Adams' evil lair, Kirk and Noel try out the device for themselves. Kirk sits in the chair, and asks Dr. Noel to make an "unusual suggestion."

How about dancing around with your pants on your head? But sadly, Dr. Noel suggests that their encounter at the Christmas party was not as tame as it really was. Then Dr. Adams comes in and makes Kirk surrender his weapon and communicator. Kirk starts fighting back, which gave me Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire flashbacks, when Harry is working to resist the Imperius Curse. I think Dr. Adams is the best Star Trek villain I've seen so far. He's an interesting character: he's done so much good for prison reform, but at the same time he's brainwashing his prisoners and manipulating them. And he seems so nice about the whole thing, too, which makes him even creepier.

Dr. Noel escapes through the AC ducts (which reminded me of Toy Story 2, oddly enough) and manages to shut off the power, freeing Kirk from the mind-control ray. One of Adams' lackeys attacks her, but she fights back with a Power Kick. He falls back and shorts out the power, electrocuting himself in the process.

Score one for the good guys.

But not before he turns the power back on. While it was on, Dr. Adams himself was caught in the memory beam and is left alone. Devoid of any thought, he dies from sheer loneliness. Honestly, I was disappointed to see him go. I know "Star Trek" episodes are designed to be stand-alone, but a good villain deserves more than one episode.

Thinking of villains reminds me of Heroes, and Sylar, one of the best TV villains ever. And Sylar, of course, is played by none other than Zachary Quinto, who will soon make his big-screen debut as Spock. Only a week away! I don't know when I'll get the chance to go see it, though. Probably Memorial Day weekend sometime.

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