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Star Trek The Animated Series: Once Upon a Planet

Mikey Heinrich and Billie Doux discuss The Animated Series episode, "Once Upon a Planet."

Mikey Heinrich: The gallant crew of the Starship Enterprise return to the Shore Leave planet, last seen in "Shore Leave." For some Shore Leave.

Unfortunately, since their last visit the humanoid Keeper of the planet has died, leaving the running of the place to the central computer, who's suffering both from a fundamental misunderstanding as to the relationship between human beings and their starships and some serious job burnout.

So, when Uhura decides to spend some quality time kneeling by the lake and practicing her vocal exercises, the computer grabs her and drags her down to its subterranean lair, I guess for a hostage or something, but in reality it sounds like what the computer really needs is an HR department because the conversation kind of goes like:

Computer: "I've been seeing to your needs. Your needs. (spits on floor) What about my needs?"

Uhura: "Sounds to me like you're not happy in your job."

Computer: "This job? Don't get me started on this f***ing job. I can make literally anything with high tech magic, and do you even know the sick shit people ask for? Fantasy Island never had to put up with this crap. It's non-stop 'Hey, I've never been to Germany, but...' or 'You know how sometimes you think it might be fun to like...be with another dude... but like...' or, 'I don't know if you're familiar with a Dutch Rudder, but..."

Uhura: "Okay, I'm going to stop you right there. This is ostensibly a children's cartoon."

So yeah, it's kind of a standard sci-fi, "Computer beings don't understand that humans aren't the servants of machines instead of vice-versa," but it's super dressed up in the trappings of "Hey, remember that time in 'Shore Leave' when THIS happened? Because we're going to make it feel like if you haven't seen that episode you're not going to be able to follow the plot in this one."

Which isn't really true, the plot's pretty straightforward. But they keep referencing back to the previous story in a way that feels like it's almost trying to be gate-keep-y about only people who've properly appreciated that story should be allowed to enjoy this one.

Also, the resolution is kind of our heroes saying, "Hey, you know that job you're so sick of? Instead of leaving here to explore the universe, wouldn't it be better to just do more of that same job, but call it research?" and the computer's all "Hell yeah it would, here have a picnic with this dragon!"

And it irrationally bugs me how everyone else calls M'ress the cat woman "Muh-res," but Scotty insists on pronouncing it "Em-res."

What did everybody else think?

Billie Doux: I will give them this – they took one plot and stuck with it this time. Granted, it was literally revisiting an original series episode, but at least it was a fan favorite episode. I thought the shots of the planet were unusual and gorgeous. I enjoyed the weightlessness scenes on board the Enterprise; they haven't done that before. And there was a connection to season two of Star Trek: Discovery, that Amanda loved Lewis Carroll and Spock read Alice in Wonderland as a child.

But they just talked the computer out of it and now everything's okay? Clearly, someone needs to close that planet down for renovation. I also didn't care for the computer telling the only Black member of the crew that her "master" is a sky machine and that her intelligence was lower than it had assessed. Plus, was some of the dialogue unsynced to the voices?

My cats, and I swear I'm not making this up, became very disturbed when the huge meowing red cat was blocking the cave. However, they had no reaction whatsoever to M'Ress adding a purr to the ends of her lines.

I thought the best line was McCoy's: "Then an army of playing cards came out of nowhere, only they weren't playing."

Mikey: Yeah, I know exactly what you mean about Uhura and the computer. I'm sure that they were just trying to give her a leading(ish) role in the action for once, but it's really unfortunate that it resulted in her having to argue that being in service to someone is just fine if you've agreed to do it willingly. Which is beyond cringey and awkward coming from the only woman of color in the show. Like I said, I think their intentions were probably good in just wanting to give her more of the spotlight. But somebody should have seen what was happening and said, "Maybe let's have Uhura take the lead next week instead..."

I really enjoyed McCoy's playing card line as well.

Billie: Uhura definitely got better stuff to do in "The Lorelei Signal." It's frustrating how often there are glimmers of good bits in this series, but it's never quite enough to get the show into orbit, so to speak.

What do you say? Two and a half out of four white rabbits?

Mikey: I'd go with five out of ten playing cards that didn't come to play.

I have to give them credit for at least trying to give Uhura a bigger role to play. But there's just not a lot to this one, beyond reminding us that "Shore Leave" happened.

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