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Star Trek on DVD
by Rick Norwood

Star Trek, "The Corbomite Maneuver" (***)
written by Jerry Sohl
Other Babylon 5.1 Columns
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Ratings are based on a four star system.
One star means that the commercials are more entertaining than the program.
Two stars watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars is good solid entertainment.
Four stars means you never dreamed television could be this good.

Star Trek

This was the third Star Trek filmed, after the two pilots, "The Cage" (****) and "Where No Man Has Gone Before (****) and was the first appearance of Dr. McCoy, Yeoman Rand, and Lt. Uhura (who wears a mini-skirt so short as to be almost non-existent). But only Shatner and Nimoy get a listing in the opening credits.

This is the one where the Enterprise is captured by a huge spaceship whose captain, Blaloc, represents a technology far more advanced than Earth. Kirk bluffs. This rather thin plot keeps it from being quite as good as the two pilots.

Jerry Sohl, the author, wrote magazine SF in the fifties. He represents Gene Roddenberry's willingness to have someone who actually knew something about science fiction write tv sf. You might think that by now television producers would have learned from his success, but you'd be wrong. Except for Stephen King and William Gibson on The X-Files and Harlan Ellison and Neil Gaiman on Babylon 5, real SF writers, by which I mean writers who have actually written science fiction -- you know, the stuff built out of words -- are conspicuously absent from tv SF today.

Watching these old Star Treks on DVD gives the viewer a chance to see how the Star Trek universe developed. In this episode, for example, it is Blaloc who represents the "Federation", while the Enterprise is a "United Earth Ship".

This episode also introduces the annoying inconsistency of the star effects. Stars stream by either too fast or too slow. Someone (Roddenberry?) decided that it didn't really matter how the stars "moved", and this would continue to be a bugbear throughout the original Trek. In the Next Generation, a great deal of time and effort would be spent getting star movement relative to the Enterprise right. They didn't always succeed, but at least they tried.

Copyright © 1999 by Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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