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TRIBBLES ARE A THING
July 6, 2014 6:43 PM   Subscribe

Mark Oshiro starts his biggest project yet: Mark Watches Star Trek. All of it. In airing order. HE IS SO UNPREPARED.
I knew I should watch it and I wanted to watch it, but… good lord, HAVE YOU SEEN HOW MANY EPISODES THERE ARE? So when it was proposed to me years ago that I should journey into the great beyond that is Star Trek’s canon, I knew that this would be the only way I could see all of it – from beginning to end – and to try and appreciate it for what it did and what it is.

S1E01 - The Man Trap:

Mark launches the project and is startled by the closeness of the Bones/Kirk friendship:
With just a few minutes of dialogue, “The Man Trap” establishes that they are close friends, that they respect one another, and that they’re comfortable enough that they can openly poke fun at each other, too! Their rapport is unreal, and I had this super silly moment when Kirk and Bones were super close to one another, and I almost said, “NOW, KISS.” Because holy shit, their dynamic IS NOT OKAY AT ALL.
and by the Enterprise's diversity:
THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST DIVERSE CASTS I HAVE EVER SEEN IN A SCIENCE FICTION SHOW. A black woman, a Japanese man, A TON OF SUPER DIVERSE BACKGROUND CHARACTERS ALL THE TIME, and like????? Mostly, it makes me sad that in one episode, this goddamn show is more diverse than sci-fi properties being made in 2014. It’s been nearly 48 years since this aired, what the hell are we doing with ourselves?
S1E02 - Charlie X:
I make jokes about this being a Twilight Zone episode BUT IT ACTUALLY WAS HOLY SHIT.
S01E03 – Where No Man Has Gone Before:
Watching William Shatner constantly overact is the greatest treat in the world.
S01E04 – The Naked Time:
Sulu, in one of the most unforgettable set of scenes I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED, is eager to go to the gym??? THEN HE BELIEVES HE IS A SWASHBUCKLING HERO, AND HE DOESN’T HAVE A SHIRT ON, AND HE’S CHALLEGNING EVERYONE TO DUELS, AND HE’S TRYING TO RESCUE UHURA BECAUSE SHE’S HIS DAMSEL IN DISTRESS, AND OH MY GOD, IT IS EVERYTHING I HAVE EVER WANTED IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.
S01E05 – The Enemy Within:
I realize that this episode was penned a long time ago, and I’m not expecting perfection from it either. But lord, this wasn’t done that well. Of course, there’s a problem with the whole trope of using rape to put women in peril, which unfortunately has become a pervasive trope in genre works. Science fiction specifically hasn’t historically dealt with consent well at all! So I don’t know that I accept how this premise is executed over the course of this episode. And I could have used something in the script to say that Spock’s treatment of Rand at the end of the episode was forty billion times not okay. Yo, dude, I get that you’re a logical being devoid of emotions, but why on earth would you tell her that some of the things Evil Kirk said to her were interesting? No. NOPE.
S01E06 – Mudd’s Women:
Anyway, I got the sense that this story was supposed to be about choice and objectification, but I don’t know that it actually achieves that goal. [...] Virtually nothing about the way “Mudd’s Women” is made or executed suggests that this was written for women. The camera suggestively follows all of the women, framing only certain parts of their bodies. Their outfits are absurd. The way that the men’s behavior is framed is so unreal because it’s not like there are no women aboard the Enterprise! Though I do find it suspicious that in an episode about women, practically every woman on the ship is non-existent. Why didn’t Uhura have a bigger role here? Where’s Rand? Not one woman had anything to say about this?
New posts every other weekday: Schedule. Spoiler Policy. Mark's commenters use rot13 for spoilers: rot13.com.

Mark previously on Metafilter: Mark Does Stuff; Around The Worldcon in which Mark reads bad fanfic and (bonus link) meets GRRM: "George told me the most brilliant thing: For the rest of my life, I’d always be a Hugo Loser. No one could ever take that away. I would be a Hugo Loser forever. "
posted by We had a deal, Kyle (58 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
TURNABOUT INTRUDER

Job done.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 6:49 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


Uh, I just did this, including the movies (including reboots) and TAM. Not exactly in order, though.

So, any questions?
posted by NortonDC at 6:50 PM on July 6


Surely there's always some jerk who wants to spoil the policy. How does that work?
posted by Coventry at 6:53 PM on July 6


Mostly, it makes me sad that in one episode, this goddamn show is more diverse than sci-fi properties being made in 2014. It’s been nearly 48 years since this aired, what the hell are we doing with ourselves?


This is what always gets me -- the extras, my goodness!

But if he thinks Shat overacted in WNMHGB? Wow.
posted by allthinky at 6:53 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


I love Mark Reads so much. So much.
posted by prefpara at 6:56 PM on July 6


Sharing Star Trek with people who have never seen any of it before is so, so much fun. And so weird for someone who grew up watching it.
posted by Librarypt at 7:00 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


Shatner never OVERACTS, he does all the acting that is necessary, the most amount of acting.
posted by The Whelk at 7:04 PM on July 6 [65 favorites]


(more seriously watching his other work, it's more that Shatner is utterly fearless to go there and totally COMIT to what this character is feeling. It's not overacting, it's something more magical, a complete lack of breaks.)
posted by The Whelk at 7:06 PM on July 6 [4 favorites]


Watching William Shatner constantly overact is the greatest treat in the world.

No set left unchewed.
posted by Pudhoho at 7:08 PM on July 6 [4 favorites]


Thanks for posting this! I agree with restless_nomad's comment that Mark Oshiro is fucking hilarious in person (I can't offhand find a Youtube video that does the experience justice, but they must exist). And his writing is great too.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 7:22 PM on July 6


Shatner was trained as a theatrical actor. You play to the cheap seats, not the front row.

On preview, seconding what the Whelk just said.

I first heard this said of Tim Curry, but I think William Shatner is also more than qualified for a special Oscar or Emmy award of 'Most Actor'.

I envy Mr. Oshiro.
posted by KHAAAN! at 7:26 PM on July 6 [12 favorites]


One thing that really surprised me reading this Star Trek production diary recently, is that NBC actually requested that the show be racially diverse.

It's sort of considered part of the Gene Roddenberry idealistic midcentury futurism thing nowadays, but really in the mid/late 60s the network was desperate to become more racially inclusive.

Of course, Star Trek is so retrograde when it comes to gender that it almost cancels out.

Shatner was trained as a theatrical actor. You play to the cheap seats, not the front row.

It's also worth noting that, in the 60s, all of TV was The Cheap Seats. Screen resolution, color, and analog reception produced a notably shitty image, and it was probably necessary to have that really big, expressive acting style. A lot of early TV actors came out of theater, and in part that was probably because of the demands of a weekly schedule and the sheer amount of content that was being produced as compared to Hollywood. But it's also because, on that tiny and probably black and white screen, you are really playing to the cheap seats.

I also don't wonder if Shatner's acting style was a deliberate counterpoint to Nimoy's cold and passionless affect. You can't have two brooding silent types in the cast. Note also that McCoy is like a zillion times more effusive than anyone has a right to be.
posted by Sara C. at 7:33 PM on July 6 [17 favorites]


There is a special place in actors' heaven for folks like Will Windom, who could chew scenery as well as Shatner.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:34 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


Just reading a few of those excerpts was kind of exhausting...
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 7:37 PM on July 6


Forgot to mention this: if you doubt the shit image quality of 60s TV, go watch Star Trek on Netflix (in SD, even!) and see how often you notice things it's pretty obvious the audience was not meant to see. For me, it' lots of visible white underwear peeking through black pants, but I'm sure there are plenty of choices.

Also of note: the Command Gold uniform tops were actually lime green, but the color didn't read onscreen. That's why Kirk wears that kind of odd lime green jacket sometimes that seemingly bears no relation to the rest of the Star Trek color palette. The material used for that jacket didn't have the same problems the velour uniform tops did.
posted by Sara C. at 7:37 PM on July 6 [12 favorites]


The Twilight Zone was the show most ahead of it's time, Star Trek a close second.

"It’s been nearly 48 years since this aired"

Ouch.
posted by vapidave at 7:40 PM on July 6


Also of note: the Command Gold uniform tops were actually lime green, but the color didn't read onscreen

True, but intended. It was supposed to look gold on the TV. The green-green was supposed to set the captain off from the rest of command.

There's a story about original Orion Slave Dancer. They did multiple makeup tests and she didn't look green in any of the shots. Turns out nobody told the guy who was doing color correcting, and he just took the green out of it.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:40 PM on July 6 [7 favorites]


HAVE YOU SEEN HOW MANY EPISODES THERE ARE?
Yes, and I have a spreadsheet to prove it.
posted by Flunkie at 7:43 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


"It’s been nearly 48 years since this aired"

Ouch.


The next movie is scheduled (allegedly accidentally) to coincide with the 50th anniversary, and the director is reassuring us "in this movie they are closer than they are to the original series characters that you have ever seen. They have set off on their five-year mission. So their adventure is going to be in deep space." There may yet be hope.

Meanwhile, the creator of Irregular Webcomic has abandoned his old 'photos of Lego minifigs' format for a badly-drawn (the reason he went for the photocomic in the first place) series of sarcastic Star Trek recaps: Planet of Hats.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:55 PM on July 6


I have to say, the sheer number of episodes in a season of 60s TV was really overwhelming when I was slogging through TOS.

By the 80s/90s TNG and DS9 era, 22 was the standard, which seems like a lot nowadays. But IIRC the original has something approaching 30 episodes per season, not counting the last being cut short.
posted by Sara C. at 7:56 PM on July 6


By the 80s/90s TNG and DS9 era, 22 was the standard, which seems like a lot nowadays.

TNG and DS9 had 26 episodes per season.
posted by crossoverman at 8:00 PM on July 6


I submit that the modern heir to the Shatner/Curry scenery chewing crown is probably Nic Cage.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:10 PM on July 6


Shatner was trained as a theatrical actor. You play to the cheap seats, not the front row.


Shatner was trained as a SHAKESPEAREAN actor, at a time when SHAKESPEAREAN productions were extremely minimalist, almost entirely opposite to the original ELIZABETHAN productions, so not only was one's ACTING necessary to compensate for the lack of ELABORATE ELIZABETHAN STAGECRAFT, but one's ACTING needed to be of a quality to reach the cheap seats in the back, rather than the GROUNDLINGS of ELIZABETHAN THEATRE.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:11 PM on July 6 [15 favorites]


TNG and DS9 had 26 episodes per season.

Weird. Maybe the TOS seasons just felt like a slog because the show got so shitty towards the end, then.

Because Season 1 of TOS = 30 episodes, and I was pretty riveted to that season. Season 2 has 26, same as the later shows. Season 3, the most unwatchable IMO, has 24.

So, yeah, my bad.

But still, it is harder to watch every episode of Star Trek in order than one would think.
posted by Sara C. at 8:15 PM on July 6


Sara C wrote: Also of note: the Command Gold uniform tops were actually lime green, but the color didn't read onscreen.

Wow. I want to make the joke about Mr Ed really being a zebra, but wow.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:18 PM on July 6


There's also the story (can't find it at the moment) about how Shatner was stuck in a dull production of some play and decided to overact the part because, why the fuck not?

Turns out it stuck right before Hollywood called.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:22 PM on July 6


Surely there's always some jerk who wants to spoil the policy. How does that work?

Moderators. Who, unlike Mark, have often already read or seen the stuff.

In other long-running projects, on the Mark Reads side, he's just finished the third Discworld book. Just 37 to go! (Well, probably at least 38. It's a moving target. Pterry aten't dead.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 8:32 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


This inspired me to rewatch The Naked Time and man what a great episode yall
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:55 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


Forgot to mention this: if you doubt the shit image quality of 60s TV, go watch Star Trek on Netflix (in SD, even!) and see how often you notice things it's pretty obvious the audience was not meant to see. For me, it' lots of visible white underwear peeking through black pants, but I'm sure there are plenty of choices.
Also the regularity with which the actors were swapped out with stunt doubles who had zero resemblance to the actors and sometimes even different hair colour. It's charming really.

I don't know if that was directly because of the assumptions the crew could make (poor image quality, no Internet to rewind and freeze frame for the lulz, etc.) or simply due to the immaturity of the medium (i.e. audiences simply didn't care and just loved to see a bit of biffo). It did however let the show simply show action sequences without fear of revealing too much of the production process.

Compare this to a recent episode of a televisual programme in which there was one twirly spinny man in a fight scene against a big burly man. Twirly spinny man did a lot of twirling and spinning, and it was like the camera had no idea where it was supposed to be. Were they trying to cover up that twirly spinny man was actually a double, or did they just do that on purpose? I honestly have no idea, but the former is more easily forgiven than the latter.

Anyway, I got the TOS blurays for xmas last year and am gradually making my way through them. It's interesting, and often fantastic, but ...
Of course, Star Trek is so retrograde when it comes to gender that it almost cancels out.
Yep. Yeah. Yes. Affirmative. This. QFT. Fixed that for you by not changing a word of it. With this I agree. I've subscribed to your newsletter and added your address to my address book so your newsletters do not get forwarded to my spam folder.
posted by dumbland at 8:57 PM on July 6 [8 favorites]


I've been following Mark for years and just commissioned my first videos, a bunch of Reads Discworld parts.

The next movie is scheduled (allegedly accidentally) to coincide with the 50th anniversary, and the director is reassuring us "in this movie they are closer than they are to the original series characters that you have ever seen. They have set off on their five-year mission. So their adventure is going to be in deep space." There may yet be hope.

I trust Orci about as far as I can throw Optimus Prime.
posted by kmz at 9:14 PM on July 6 [7 favorites]


Moderators. Who, unlike Mark, have often already read or seen the stuff.

Also, a strong community of commenters who love him and who are invested in keeping him unspoiled.

Mark Reads/Mark Watches is a fascinating microcosm of patronage: he's built a community that's big and devoted enough to support him in doing what he loves. (Not that he doesn't work for it: that schedule is a punishing amount of writing.)

The Discworld project is probably a whole post in itself.

But also worth mentioning is his series earlier this year on Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Chapters 1-5; Chapters 6-15): an experiment in which he writes a deeply personal story vignette around each chapter. Brave and wonderful and lovely.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:43 PM on July 6


I don't want to completely talk down the idea that Shatner has his own personal style, but really, much of this is the burden of being one of the few people having to bear the burden of being in stuff from the sixties that is still rewatched today. There was a lot of that sort of thing, and it really was about playing through the small screen to some extent, but also an overall seriousness that television felt it needed being the little brother of the movies.

On my own rewatch a couple of years ago (I'm no up to S4 of TNG, and yes, that's how I like it because I hate binge-watching), I was very happy to reappraise Shatner's professionalism and dedication, particularly when you consider the then-grueling TV drama schedule and the special accommodations necessary for a complicated space opera like Star Trek. It was the middle of S2 before I felt he began to run out of new ways to do the same shot. So to me "overacting" is really a misnomer here.

Anyway, this argument is about as tiresome at this point as hearing 30+ years of "SNL just isn't good anymore".
posted by dhartung at 11:01 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


Wait until he gets to City on the Edge of Forever. I suspect the review will be ALL CAPS ALL THE TIME.
posted by digitalprimate at 11:25 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


I had far more problems with the dialogue and silly planet concepts than I did with Shatner's acting. Coming to the show with piles of cultural baggage, I was surprised at how well Shatner comported himself, after all that.

Nimoy, though. Oh, Leonard Nimoy.
posted by Sara C. at 11:26 PM on July 6


Nimoy, though. Oh, Leonard Nimoy. Yep, on a bad day he could out-overact Shatner himself.

"Aaagh! PAIN! PAIN! Pain..."
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:32 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Tried watching TNG all the way through, but I stopped in the middle of "Encounter at Farpoint" because I got violently ill, i'm not sure if it was the barbeque or the acting.
posted by hellojed at 12:54 AM on July 7


I so love the colors in TOS. The horrible biege and pastel colors of TNG make it close to unwatchable for me. It's like watching an eighties hotel lobby in space.
posted by octothorpe at 2:08 AM on July 7 [11 favorites]


"Spock's Brain" is comedy gold. The sort of orgasmic like sounds Spock makes when Bones is fiddling with his brain -- just awesome.
posted by angrycat at 4:23 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


It's like watching an eighties hotel lobby in space.

Bar and Lounge? Check.
Gym? Check.
Deluxe suites? Check.
Conference rooms? Check.
Photon torpedoes? Check.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:10 AM on July 7 [10 favorites]


Actually in my head, the original series is still in the black & white that I saw it in the first three or four times I watched it. We didn't get a color TV until '74 or '75 so I was almost a teenager before I saw it in full garish color.
posted by octothorpe at 6:23 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Tried watching TNG all the way through, but I stopped in the middle of "Encounter at Farpoint" because I got violently ill, i'm not sure if it was the barbeque or the acting.

I don't know if this is a bad joke or a serious statement. Either way, it makes me sad.

I did the Trek Through Trek a couple years ago. It's fun, but I think it isn't as much of a feat or an original exercise in our Netflix binge streaming world as it might have been a few years ago.
posted by Atreides at 7:07 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Spock: "Argh! PAIN! PAIN! Pain..."
Kirk: "Someone get that Vulcan an aspirin"

(actual dialogue)

As for the colours: I was looking at some of the first MASH episodes the other day, on the back of the recent thread, and I noticed that much the same sort of composition and contrast was going on with Trapper and Hawk's bathrobes - and, often, some other actor's non-military garb. Colour TV in the 60s and early 70s, especially with NTSC, really was more impressionistic than we tend to remember these days, for all sorts of technical reasons, and I always find it interesting to see how the tech limitations play out in the creative process.
posted by Devonian at 8:55 AM on July 7


Oh, I love Mark, and I'm following along with the TOS Trek because I realized how few of them I've seen (I'm a child of TNG and DS9). It's great fun. When someone's prediction post refers to the Enterprise as looking "like a pizza attached to two breadsticks", you know you'll be in for a ride.

And yeah, the moderators do a ton of work on keeping spoilers to a minimum by deleting or rot-13-ing. From what I've noticed in the past Mark usually avoids the threads for the first week or so of a new series while the newcomers get familiar.

Monsieur Caution:
(I can't offhand find a Youtube video that does the experience justice, but they must exist)


His Youtube channel contains many delightful unspoiled readings of wacky things that people pay him to read unspoiled.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:17 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


…I think William Shatner is also more than qualified for a special Oscar or Emmy award of 'Most Actor'.
posted by KHAAAN! at 9:26 PM on July 6 [12 favorites +] [!]


Eponysterical.
posted by BrashTech at 9:26 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


Eh, the "Khaaan!" scream was Shatner in character trying to convince Khan that he was upset and out of control.
posted by octothorpe at 10:20 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


My ideal order to introduce someone to TNG would probably be to start with the first six or so episodes of Season 3. Then when you get what the show actually is, you can go back and torture yourself with the first two seasons.

There are actually some decent enough episodes here and there in the first few years, but there's a lot of shit to wade through to get to them. And with a couple of exceptions, I think you kind of have to be an old TNG hand to even get that they are decent. For example I have a soft spot for the first season episode that introduces the Ferengi, but honestly yeah it is terrible as actual television human beings are meant to be entertained by.
posted by Sara C. at 10:30 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


I've recently come to terms with the fact that what the old Flash Gordon serials were to me, TOS is to These Kids Today.

Just you wait, Niners, it'll happen to you too!
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:28 AM on July 7


I don't know if that was directly because of the assumptions the crew could make (poor image quality, no Internet to rewind and freeze frame for the lulz, etc.)

That's pretty much it. One of the factors that they had to keep in mind when designing the colors for the series was how they'd look on a black-and-white TV set, which is what most of their viewership still had. Maybe five or ten years later, while watching an episode on a decent-quality TV set, I could see a rectangular outline around the shuttlecraft where they'd matted it into the star field.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:41 AM on July 7


One of the factors that they had to keep in mind when designing the colors for the series was how they'd look on a black-and-white TV set...

Oh, just the opposite. Look at the early (filmed) episodes and you'll see everything was more muted. The Execs wanted more color* since color TV was the New Big Thing (think 3D in movies a few years ago.)


*Legend is that Gene took that note as an excuse to cast a black woman in the bridge crew
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:49 AM on July 7


Just you wait, Niners, it'll happen to you too!

This is a very unpopular opinion among the mainstream Trekkie fanbase, but I'm currently slogging through the "good years" of DS9 for the first time and finding them way, way less good than I was led to believe. In a lot of ways, I actually prefer the early weirder years of DS9 to the later "good" era. Even though I understand that season of TV's significance in the history of television drama. I can get that it was far and away better than anything that had been done before in genre TV, but that doesn't actually make it fun to watch.

I don't know if it's quite a "Flash Gordon" reaction, but in comparison to what followed, yeah. Sorry Niners, your beloved story arc is not actually that interesting fifteen years later.
posted by Sara C. at 11:53 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I never liked DS9 there I said it.
posted by The Whelk at 12:36 PM on July 7 [4 favorites]


Also for the record, Roddenberry didn't have to convince anyone to have a black woman as part of the TOS bridge crew. It was actually encouraged by the network.

What he did beg and plead for was a role for Majel Barrett.
posted by Sara C. at 12:55 PM on July 7


You're a bad person, Whelk, a very bad person. This is why we can't live in a peaceful world without currency and stroll through parks in unitards.
posted by Atreides at 3:03 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


The Whelk: "I never liked DS9 there I said it."

I tried to re-watch it last year and didn't get very far before I gave up out of boredom.
posted by octothorpe at 4:49 PM on July 7


I love DS9 but I've never gotten around to rewatching the last three seasons. So this says a lot about how much I actually love it. One day, I'll rewatch them, I'm sure.
posted by crossoverman at 7:53 PM on July 7


Mark is awesome. He and I once rode bikes from SF to LA (and a buncha training rides besides). Actually he's done that a few times. On a freaking fixed gear. Up and down freaking mountains. Dude is badass and a great guy.
posted by ephemerae at 11:29 PM on July 7


Also perhaps of interest: Mark on the process of how he Does Stuff.
posted by Shmuel510 at 10:50 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


Oh hey, this is one of those sites where the comments are worth reading. Neat.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:03 PM on July 11


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