Tuesday, April 21, 2015

We Love Leonard Nimoy: Our Favorite Spock-centric "Star Trek" Episodes




Please accept our apologies for delaying so long in bringing you another Leonard Nimoy tribute.  The loss of him has really sunk in during the past month and we will continue to honor him here.  The Flaming Nose TV Blog has always been close to everything Star Trek, and as you can see from our previous posts we are collectively and completely devastated by the recent passing of Leonard Nimoy.  Though we at the Nose have watched and loved everything else Nimoy ever did, Mr. Spock was and is my favorite TV character ever and I truly can't imagine living my life without the inspiration and entertainment provided by Nimoy's (and now Quinto's) artistry in bringing him to life.

Star Trek: The Original Series fans will argue forever about best episodes, but we'd like to put our two quatloos in and offer up our favorite Mr. Spock episodes.  They might be different from yours but they'll be guaranteed to offer you some prime Spock viewing opportunities.  Actually many of these would be among the best overall Star Trek episodes too, so even more reason to take a look.  Our choices, in no particular order, but the best is first!

1.  "Amok Time" --  Flaming Nose Logline:  Mr. Spock's Vulcan half takes over and he is forced back to his home planet to take part in a dangerous mating ritual.

Naturally this episode, the first of the second season, easily takes this position.  It's got everything -- Vulcan biology, plomeek soup (Vulcan comfort food), Kirk and Spock talking about the birds and the bees, T'Pau,T'Pring, Stonn, the lirpa, pon farr -- and the most famous musical theme possibly ever to come out of a TV show (click here for a fascinating post by Sean Munger on his website).  Jane has already declared this her favorite, and I can't disagree.  Here is the original trailer for the episode:



The trailer for the remastered version which was syndicated a few years ago:



The full episode:




I have to say this next video is quite charming and adorable.  Be warned!  Meet Sarai!




2. "The Naked Time" -- Flaming Nose Logline:  A strange virus infects the Enterprise crew, revealing hidden emotions and threatening to destroy the ship.

Early in the first season this episode revealed a hidden emotional side of Spock as the Vulcan, after being waylaid in Sickbay by a smitten Nurse Chapel -- it's the first time we learn that she has a big crush on him which is referenced in several episodes -- contracts the mysterious bug.  Despite all his attempts at control, he breaks down in a spectacular sobbing scene and it's not until Captain Kirk gives him a super pep talk that Spock gets it together again.  The entire ship is a madhouse albeit a sort of fun one...until the dire consequences rear up.  The original trailer for the episode:



The remastered version trailer:



The full episode from Hulu,  click here to watch and also available on Netflix.

"The Naked Time" is a nutty episode with wonderful Spock moments which put it on our list.


3.  "The Menagerie, Pt. 1 & 2"   Flaming Nose Logline:  Mr. Spock is put on trial for redirecting the Enterprise in an attempt to bring his disabled former commander to a forbidden planet.

Though I don't personally love this episode, it's important to Spock history as we get a chance to see via flashbacks the younger Spock (actually Nimoy as Spock in the 1st Star Trek pilot "The Cage") and learn about his service with Captain Pike.  Kind of an epic episode, two parts, with a taciturn Mr. Spock facing a court martial and a death sentence for hijacking the ship to the mysterious Talos IV.  Pike, played by the terrific actor Jeffrey Hunter (who would have made an awesome starship captain in the series but whose wife put the kibosh on his further Trek participation), is a great character and seeing "The Cage" is a lot of fun.  Here are the two trailers for the episodes, the second with a neat Spock narration:



The remastered Part 1 trailer:



The remastered Part 2 trailer:



You can watch "The Menagerie" on Hulu.com or without commercials on Netflix.

4.  "This Side of Paradise"  Flaming Nose Logline: A mission to relocate settlers from a farming outpost on Omicron Ceti III turns into a fight against alien spores; Spock reunites with a woman who was once interested in him romantically.

This was among the handful of Star Trek episodes (including the above discussed "Amok Time" and "The Naked Time") to deal with Spock and his interaction with females, a subject of much interest in Star Trek fandom for these past five decades. In "This Side of Paradise" the female from Spock's past is lovely botanist Leila Kalome played by actress Jill Ireland, at the time the wife of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. star David McCallum and later married to Charles Bronson; she was also known for her memoirs about her battle with breast cancer.  In contrast to the new Spock of the J.J. Abrams world, our original Spock wasn't a ladies man so when an episode came along with a hint of romance we were all over it.

In addition to Spock's smitten behavior we've got crewmen in mutiny, Dr. McCoy sipping on a mint julep and terrific moments from Kirk as a captain whose command is slipping away before his eyes.  Directed with finesse and thoughtfulness by Ralph Senensky, "The Side of Paradise" was from the pen of Star Trek story editor Dorothy Fontana and shows her deep care and understanding of the characters.  A really great episode which looks particularly great because it was filmed largely on location, "This Side of Paradise" is a must-watch.



The remastered trailer:



The Sci Fi Channel's wraparounds when they aired the episode:




You can watch the full episode on Hulu (click here) or on Netflix.

Sarai brings us her recap of "This Side of Paradise" here:




5.  "City on the Edge of Forever"  Flaming Nose Logline:  When a crazed Dr. McCoy escapes into the past via a time portal called The Guardian of Forever, Kirk and Spock must go back to Depression-era New York City.

One of Star Trek's best known and highly praised episodes (and written by Harlan Ellison), "City..." manages to combine amusing fish-out-of-water scenes with Kirk and Spock with cogent sociological insights and ultimately deep tragedy. One of the treats of this episode is actress Joan Collins guesting as social worker Edith Keeler, a progressive thinker who captures Kirk's heart.  It's hard to believe that so much story is crammed into a mere fifty minutes, so rich is the experience of "City on the Edge of Forever."  Overall terrific, great interaction between Spock and Kirk and also McCoy, and we get to see the guys in civilian clothes which is rare treat also.  Plus, who doesn't love time travel?

This is the original trailer:



Here's the trailer for the remastered version which was shown in recent syndication:



In 1991 on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of Star Trek, viewers named "City on the Edge of Forever" their 2nd favorite episode, as explained by the late great Leonard Nimoy:



You can watch the episode on Hulu (with commercials) or on Netflix.

6. "Journey to Babel"  Flaming Nose Logline:  A galactic treaty dispute puts the Enterprise and a shipload of diplomats -- including Mr. Spock's mother and estranged father -- in grave danger.

This is a very Spock-centered episode as we delve into his family and meet his Human mother Amanda and his Vulcan father Sarek.  From Star Trek's second season, "Journey to Babel" is another glimpse into the conflicted inner life of Mr. Spock.  It's an exciting episode with lots of exotic ambassadors in flamboyant get-ups, some great alien make-up, and a whole lot of backstory concerning Spock's decision to join Starfleet and his denial of his human half.

The veteran movie actress Jane Wyatt, a TV stalwart for many years as the mother of Princess, Bud and Kitten on Father Knows Best opposite Robert Young, guest stars as Amanda and she is delightful and effective in the role. (She reprised the role in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.)  Actor Mark Lenard (who had already guested in the series as a Romulan in the first season) gave a masterful performance as Sarek, a role he was to repeat in episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation as well as several of the big screen motion pictures.  Together they made you believe that a Vulcan could fall in...if not love, then something as good as...with a Human.

The original trailer:



The trailer for the remastered version:




 7. "The Enterprise Incident"   Flaming Nose Logline:  A covert mission involves Kirk and Spock in a dangerous encounter with a brilliant and alluring female Romulan commander.

A third season entry that manages to combine adventure, intrigue and sexual tension in a mix that showcases Spock's Vulcan heritage.  It's the one episode where Captain Kirk gets to try on a pair of pointed ears, a treat in itself.  The terrific actress Joanne Linville guest stars as the Romulan Commander, a formidable warrior, top-notch tactician and beautiful woman who is attracted to Mr. Spock.  Is Spock just playing with her emotions in order to complete his mission, or is there something more to his exotic flirtation with the lovely alien captain?  We think there is.

The original trailer for "The Enterprise Incident":



Full Episode:




8.  "Is There in Truth No Beauty?   Flaming Nose Logline:  A diplomatic mission to transport Kollos the insanity-inducing-if-seen Medusan Ambassador to his home planet creates rivalry between Miranda, the gifted and mysterious telepath assigned to the dignitary, and Mr. Spock.

Another good third season episode.  The tension which develops around the mental bond that Miranda hopes to consummate with Kollos -- and make no mistake, there is definitely a sexual aura around the joining -- but hasn't yet, and Spock who as a Vulcan can easily accomplish, is deep, real and troubling to Miranda.  She's played by the talented Diana Muldaur in her 2nd Star Trek appearance, the first one being 2nd season's "Return to Tomorrow" which almost made our list here (well worth watching, too).

The dynamic between Miranda and her ex-fiance (played by David Frankham) who is also on the mission is complicated and ends badly both for him and the entire ship.  When the Enterprise is thrown into a mysterious void from from which only the superior navigational skills of Kollos can possibly extricate them, Miranda's jealousy of Spock makes the mind fusion a move fraught with danger.  Great Spock moments here and also the appearance of the IDIC pendant which supposedly was a symbol of the Vulcan philosophy, or maybe it was just a marketing idea from Gene Roddenberry to sell necklaces...?

The original trailer for "Is There in Truth No Beauty?":



Full episode:




9.  "Mirror, Mirror"  Flaming Nose Logline:  A strange electromagnetic storm sends Enterprise crew members into a vicious alternative universe where loyalties are unknown and violence is the norm.

Spock with a beard.  That's basically the chief attraction of "Mirror, Mirror" and it's a great reason to watch.  Alternative universe Spock is piratical, sexy, determined, brutish yet still retains the great cool of a Vulcan. Everybody else gets a chance to play outside of their usual boundaries and wear flashier uniforms than usual, too.  It's an exciting episode with lots of action and character moments.

The original trailer for "Mirror, Mirror":



The trailer for the remastered version:



You can watch the episode here:



Here is Sarai's review of "Mirror, Mirror":




 10.  "All Our Yesterdays"   Flaming Nose Logline:  Spock, McCoy and Kirk are thrown back and trapped in the past history of a planet on the verge of being destroyed by an exploding supernova.

This next-to-the-last episode of classic Star Trek is a melancholy one, a mostly successful time-travel tale with no scenes on the Enterprise at all.  Kirk is sent back to a Musketeer-like era where they finger him as a witch, and Spock and McCoy end up in an ancient Ice Age where they encounter a woman exiled there in a solitary existence.  "All Our Yesterdays" gets put on best-of-Spock lists because it's one of his rare romantic outings, made more interesting and sympathetic by the presence of the lovely actress Mariette Hartley as the lonely Zarabeth.  It's basically Spock's "City on the Edge of Forever" moment and even within the time constraints of an hour show there is a deeply tragic note to the proceedings.  Also some good testy Spock-McCoy dialog going on!

The original trailer:



The remastered trailer:



You can watch the whole episode here:




That's all for now.  A mere 10 of the 79 episodse produced are in this list, but there are amazing Spock moments in every episode.  More of those later!

For now, remember how much Leonard Nimoy gave us when he became Mr. Spock.

Unforgettable.  Fascinating.




Sunday, March 8, 2015

International Women's Day 2015: Saluting BBC's 1974 "Shoulder to Shoulder"




There is no better time than today, the important worldwide celebration of International Women's Day 2015, to doff our hat to the classic six-part BBC miniseries Shoulder to Shoulder from 1974.  Remembered by entranced viewers here in the U.S. from its run on Masterpiece Theatre at the beginning of the 1975 (its fifth) season., Shoulder to Shoulder was the harrowing tale of the groundbreaking campaign for women's suffrage in Great Britain which took place over several decades around the turn of the 20th century.  Riveting, sometimes shocking and completely unforgettable, Shoulder to Shoulder is one of the few times that this important historical period and issue has been subject matter for drama.  Astute viewers will also recall Hilary Swank in the much more recent 2004 HBO TV movie Iron Jawed Angels dealing with the suffragette movement here in America.



Compared to Shoulder to Shoulder though, Iron Jawed Angels is a tidbit. As good as it was to see the latter on HBO, no one who watched Shoulder to Shoulder came away unchanged.  In the tradition of so many superb BBC dramas, nothing was spared -- least of all the audience's comfort level -- in making Shoulder to Shoulder as gut-wrenching a six hours as is seldom seen on TV, then or now.



For instance, this scene about a real march in London which took place nearly 101 years ago --




The cast of Shoulder to Shoulder was superb; actress Sian Phillips (I, Claudius, Clash of the Titans, so many more) headlined as the doyenne Emmeline of the famous suffragette-filled Pankhurst family, with Patricia Quinn -- probably best known for her role as Magenta in The Rocky Horror Picture Show -- as her daughter Christabel, as well as other tremendous performers such as Georgia Brown (she composed and sang the theme song above), Angela Down, Michael Gough, and an up-and-coming Bob Hoskins in one segment.

Episodes of the six-parter --The Pankhursts, Annie Kenney, Lady Constance Lytton, Christabel Pankhurst, Outrage (centering around the shocking death of Emily Davison and -- gulp -- brutal force-feeding), and Sylvia Pankhurst -- were mostly titled after the leaders of the movement.  If you've never heard of Davison, here is a short documentary on how she became famous in suffragette annals --




The production of Shoulder to Shoulder was a landmark undertaking for several reasons, among them the 1970s feminist movement which was in full force at the time and the fact that no one really knew if anyone wanted to watch a miniseries about suffragettes.  It turned out that audiences were very much interested in the subject and they embraced the series and also an accompanying book -- called a "documentary" but not a film -- by author and series story editor Midge Mackenzie.

The 40th anniversary of Shoulder to Shoulder celebrated last year brought renewed interest to this unjustly forgotten -- no DVD release! -- example of superb historical drama.

The Hub at The Centre for Media, Culture and Creative Practice held a fascinating symposium entitled "Shoulder to Shoulder: Female Suffrage, Second-Wave Feminism and Feminist TV Drama in the 1970s" in May of last year; click here for the introduction, click here for a report on the event, click here for another reporter from an attendee (and some great suffragette links), and click here for more info on the participants,

Here is another article on the importance of Shoulder to Shoulder, this one written by two of the women who took part in the above symposium.  Click here to read it.

The Television Heaven blog has a nice write-up on the importance of Shoulder to Shoulder, click here.

Here are links to two really great articles by a woman who leads historical walks through London on the continuing popularity of the suffragettes as evidenced by her clients; click here and here.

You may also enjoy this interesting article about the UK. suffragette movement as played out in popular postcards of the era; click here.

In the absence of an official release of the miniseries, we are pleased to report that at this time it appears to be available on YouTube thanks to a kind uploader.  We won't embed them here, but they are available as follows so you can click to watch: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five and Part Six.

Interestingly enough, there is a new theatrical movie in production right now for release sometime this year called Suffragette starring Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst along with actresses Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter.  The film was in active production last year; for a video of some of the filming click here.

One really terrific bit about today's International Women's Day 2015 is that Dr. Helen Pankhurst, the great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, joined a cadre of women in London who marched yesterday in the city to commemorate today's event.  This current Pankhurst is still very much a crusader for equality and women's rights and particularly urges women to use their power to vote, something for which her great-grandmother, among many other brave women, fought so hard to secure.  Click here for a wonderful article about Dr. Pankhurst and click here for another one.  Well worth a read and well worth remembering her message.

Happy International Women's Day 2015!




Sunday, March 1, 2015

Thanks for the Ride Mr. Nimoy




                                           Astronaut Terry Virts gives the Vulcan salute while 
                                          passing over Boston (where Leonard Nimoy grew up)
                                         on the International Space Station.

On Friday, February 27th, actor Leonard Nimoy passed away at the age of 83.  There has been a cacophony of grief on the Internet, as fans of his beloved Star Trek character Mr. Spock express their dismay.  The half human Vulcan who asked us to Live Long and Prosper is not gone, and never will be.  The man that created that amazing character, and made him real for all of us, has passed on to the stars.

What can I possibly write about this that hasn't been written already?  I don't believe I can really add much more to the conversation.  My favorite episode of Star Trek was "Amok Time".  There are probably a million people around the world who could say the same.

At the end of the day, I think our best tribute to mark Mr. Nimoy's passing, is to make it personal. So in this post I'll share my favorite Star Trek memories, so we can see what an impact the TV show, and by extension the man, had on my life.

Childhood
The first appointment television show I ever had was Star Trek and it was because of my Dad.  He was fascinated by the space program and ST gave us a vision of what the future would be like when humans traveled to other galaxies.  Of course Spock was our favorite character.  His cool, dispassionate demeanor rose above whatever challenge the crew of the Starship Enterprise faced.  To a shy geeky kid in the 60's, Nimoy's Spock made me think anything was possible.  I remember watching with my Dad, so long ago I'm not entirely sure we even had a color TV yet.  We probably did, because I have a distinct memory of the brightly colored blue velour shirt Spock had.  I wanted one so bad. I remember fashioning a little phaser and communicator out of wood so I could recreate scenes from the show with my friend Sharon. By the way Sharon, I apologize for always making you be the "Gorn" while  I got to play Spock or Kirk.  Little did we know while we were playing, that one day we would all have our own real "communicators" in our purse.  Mine's an Apple 6+. Back when the original NBC Star Trek was still on the air, I bought Leonard Nimoy's strange and wonderful album (see below).  There was a spoken segment on the record that I read for a oration contest at Kings Elementary school next door.  I read it in a flat, emotionless voice just like Spock.  It must have been hilarious, but I won!  Anything can happen when you are inspired by Leonard Nimoy.




My First Job After College
What happens when you spend a life loving a TV show like Star Trek?  Why, you grow up to get a job at a television station, of course! In my case, it was the incredible independent station KTLA in Los Angeles.  It was there I met my dear friend, and fellow Star Trek addict, Lisa Mateas.  Some of you may know her as TV writer extraordinaire and the founder of The Flaming Nose.  Ms. Mateas and me bonded instantly over our shared adoration of all things TV, Star Trek and in particular Spock.  We were young, ambitious and very very weird when it came to our geeky sci fi passion.  This was before the Internet, back when Pterodactyls still flew through the smoggy skies of L.A.  We wrote pounds and pounds of silly scenes and imagined scenarios involving the crew of the Enterprise.  Spock was always the romantic lead.  We invented a new character called Bip the Space Boy.  I have an entire cardboard box filled with these shenanigans.  Jesus H. it was fun to work back in the day before email made slaves of us all.  We actually had time to let our imaginations roam free.  It didn't roam very far however,  as most of our passionate missives circled right back to Spock and what he could possibly like to eat for lunch. Also why he wanted to marry me. For some strange reason. :)

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Not the TV show....the son of Jane K.Collins.  So back when my only son Tommy was just a 5 year old kid, I decided I was going to initiate him into the Trek life.  What better way to do it than to travel to an actual Star Trek convention in nearby Pasadena with my older sister Georgette, who was on a mission to buy Tribbles.  It was a magnificent convention, with thousands of attendees dressed in full costume.  The Klingons were particularly realistic with their bony heads, leather uniforms and giant platform boots.  Tommy was absolutely terrified of the Klingons.  We watched a couple get married in full Star Trek dress uniform in one of the conference halls.  We saw and coveted a LOT of merchandise.  Right before it was time to leave, the young Tomster was given a choice between a huge inflatable Enterprise space ship or a Phaser.  He couldn't have both.  This Sophie's choice Star Trek conundrum resulted in a catastrophic meltdown that only ended when we threatened to give him to a Klingon.  Extreme parenting, I know.  But the important thing is, it didn't ruin Star Trek for him!  He's a fan to this day, thank God.




Best Mother's Day Weekend Ever
As living proof that the convention did not cause irreparable damage to my spawn, when he was older we planned a fabulous date for Mother's Day weekend in 2010 to go see the new J.J. Abrams move "Star Trek".  We saw it the day it opened at a Friday matinee.  Tommy brought a college classmate, a Korean guy who spoke very little English. We were all crazy with excitement.  I remember sitting in the dark theater as the opening credits started to roll.  Tom and I held our hands up to the screen in the classic Vulcan salute and whispered "Live Long and Prosper".  Oh yes, we were getting our Geek on big time.  I looked over at his friend and he was giving the LLAP salute too!  To this day I'm not entirely sure if the pal knew what he was doing, but OK fine, he was willing to play along.  A few days later Tommy came over to my place so we could hang out for Mother's Day.  As soon as he walked through the door he said, "Mom,want to go see Star Trek again?". My response, "I thought you'd never ask!".  Off we went.  Man, that was a great weekend!



So many memories, all spectacular.  I have a pair of plastic Vulcan ears in a storage container somewhere in Sunnyvale California.  Oh how I wish I was wearing them now. Over the past few days, I've read hundreds of beautiful tributes to Leonard Nimoy.  He touched so many lives.  His NY Times obituary has over 1,000 comments, and people are still writing in.  Most are personal, just like this post.  What Star Trek meant to them...what Spock meant to them...the time they met Leonard Nimoy and what a gracious lovely man he was.  

Thank you for your artistry Mr. Nimoy.  We are all changed for the better because of your creations.  From this point on, when we gaze up at the stars, we will think of you there.  We will never forget you.  

I'll end now with a challenge to everyone who ever loved Star Trek, Spock or Leonard Nimoy to keep the memories coming.  Post them online, email them to your friends.  We know this series changed the world.  Just ask NASA. Literally. Changed. The. World. Keep it alive forever everyone.

Saying good bye with my favorite picture of Shatner and Nimoy, chowing down on something delicious as they take a break on the set.  Even out of character, you can see the friendship they shared...on screen and off.  They were, and always will be...my friends.



Friday, February 27, 2015

Remembering One of the Classiest Actors, Who Created one of the Classiest Characters, on THE Classiest TV Franchise Ever


It's been a long time since I've posted on The Flaming Nose.  Nothing can get me back here faster than the death of a beloved Star Trek actor.  Fewer characters have become more iconic than Mr. Spock.

I will try to make this brief.  Let's start with Star Trek being one of the first prime time television shows I remember seeing first-run.  I was six years old when it debuted and loved it from the first act of the first episode.  Spock was one of the main ingredients in a recipe that would turn out the most delicious television and movie franchises in modern entertainment.  Spock and Star Trek transcend Sci-Fi.

On to Leonard Nimoy.  A man who always embraced his Spock alter-ego without fear of it typecasting him for the rest of his career.  Every interview I've seen and article I've read indicate he was a class act.  His character no less classy - pure logic wrapped in the package of a loyal friend and commandant.  The actors who portrayed the main characters in the original series created magic, and although Star Trek Ruler-of-the-Universe Gene Roddenberry created them, and the writers put the brilliant words in their mouths, these superb actors literally created their personas.  Nimoy led the charge with a myriad of nuances and acting choices that turned Spock into the beloved Vulcan we came to know.

Nimoy was truly a gifted actor.  Beyond Star Trek, he was superb in Mission Impossible.  There in lies a huge connection to The Flaming Nose.  Both Trek and Mission were Desilu Productions - projects personally championed by Lucille Ball.  After those endeavors, Nimoy hosted a non-fiction (some would say) seventies TV classic, "In Search Of..."  

Nimoy was also a film director, poet and photographer.  
Leonard Nimoy, dead at age 83.  RIP.