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Star Trek The Animated Series: One of Our Planets is Missing

The Agents of Doux are covering The Animated Series with "discussion reviews." Mikey starts us off.

Mikey Heinrich: This feels a lot like one of those internet memes: "We forced an AI to watch 1000 hours of Star Trek, and this is the script it wrote afterward." There's the big mysterious space cloud for the ship to get stuck in, there's the imminent destruction of an inhabited planet, leaving them the moral dilemma of whether it's justified to kill the one big space creature to save 80 million humans. There's Spock improbably mind melding with a creature that kind of never makes up its mind if it's a cloud, or a solid being, or what.

At one point they jump without warning from "lost in a space cloud" to "the space cloud has a small intestine, so now we're doing Fantastic Voyage," but it's okay because the creature's villi are for one reason or another made of antimatter and yet are not catastrophically annihilating the large chunks of matter that it eats. Honestly, they're jumping from one Trek Trope to another at such an impressive rate that it's hard to ever really get into anything that's going on.

The one thing that the episode does not do? At any point involve looking for a planet that is missing. "Hey, where'd that planet go that was just there?" "Oh, it totes got eaten by that cloud thing." "Huh. Well, mystery solved then."

I guess "One of our planets is destroyed in the inciting incident" just wasn't as catchy.

And for some reason I was annoyed beyond reason by them declaring "A giant space cloud? Nothing like that has ever happened before!" JFC, Jim, you run into strange space clouds like every third episode. I'm almost a complete Star Trek novice, and even I know that.

Billie, I promise if you get through this one we can make it through the entire run. This I recall being the nadir. And even then it has some charm.

Billie Doux: Mikey, I'll keep you to that promise.

You're absolutely right that this is like an episode written by an AI. It was like Star Trek plot soup. It ripped off so many classic episodes: the planet killer from "The Doomsday Machine" combined with the vampire cloud from "Obsession" and ending with a Spock mind meld à la "The Devil in the Dark." And they added other little familiar bits: Nomad (do we knock?) and the self-destruct. Even Governor Wesley was from an original series episode.

What I found hardest to digest, pun intended, was that most of the episode had the Enterprise trapped in the cloud's small intestine. I honestly expected it to poop the ship out in the end. There wasn't enough of the more interesting stuff, like the exceptionally heavy dilemma of the planet evacuation and the moral implications of destroying a sentient cloud. And the technobabble just did not stop; it must have been half the dialogue.

According to Memory Alpha, James Doohan made his salary for the week playing both Governor Wesley and Arex, as well as Scott. Who saved the day again. This was the first time Arex had lines and I honestly couldn't tell it was Doohan. So good job there.

Mikey: You're absolutely right about the moral dilemma regarding whether it's better to warn the planet and freak everybody out or just let them die in peace. I wish there's been more of that because I feel like that could have been an interesting discussion.

And now the small intestine talk has me wishing that instead of Spock doing his mind meld yoga, they'd resolved the crisis by having the Enterprise observe a potentially life threatening cluster of polyps, alerting the creature to the danger, and then the creature pooping them out in gratitude before heading off to buy a couple gallons of that disgusting stuff you have to drink before a colonoscopy.

Come on, it doesn't make less sense than most of "Shore Leave."

Billie: They could have gone more into the Fantastic Voyage direction, too, using animation to explore more of the internal structures of an enormous alien instead of just the intestines.

Mikey: Yeah, seriously – how do you end up IMMEDIATELY in the small intestine?? (SO many inappropriate comments being held back at this moment...)

An Honest Fangirl: I have to say, as someone with zero context, this discussion made me snort soda out of my nose. So thank you for that.

ChrisB: I was just about to say something similar. This discussion is a classic.

Billie: And we're the adults. This was initially a Saturday morning cartoon. How did the kids watching this episode react to the Enterprise trapped inside intestines?

Does this scream "small intestine" to you?

Mikey: I'm going to take the optimistic view that they left the episode thinking, "Ah. That's what villi are and what their function is." Call me a dreamer.

Billie: IMDb rates this one pretty low, which isn't surprising. I'd probably give it one and a half out of four missing planets.

Mikey: I'd give it two out of ten. The dilemma of a responsible government trying to decide whether to tell its people they're all about to die is interesting.

1 comment:

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