Home Featured TV Shows All TV Shows Movie Reviews Book Reviews Articles Frequently Asked Questions About Us

Star Trek The Animated Series: The Ambergris Element

Mikey Heinrich and Billie Doux discuss "The Ambergris Element."

Mikey Heinrich: Kirk and Spock become fish people. Disappointingly, there is no joke about tartar sauce.

Look, I can see the flaws in this one, objectively. The ticking clock of "impending catastrophic undersea earthquake that's going to wipe out the village of the people holding Kirk and Spock hostage" that in any other story would absolutely start to happen, only to have Kirk and/or Spock save them all from it, thus proving that not all "air-breathers" are hostile and isn't it nice to not be racist and now we're all friends comes to pretty much nothing.

Although there is a nice little moment at the end when the stodgy conservative elders allow themselves to be beamed up to the ship to watch the Enterprise crew deal with that impending catastrophe by conveniently moving it to an uninhabited area of the ocean surface.

Although, again, they already established like forty times that the Enterprise sensors are pretty much crap at detecting life signs on the ocean floor here, so there are reasonable odds that they just kicked the absolute shit out of a different, perfectly harmless and unsuspecting Aquan metropolis. Somebody please begin fanfic from this premise.

Also, elders of the Aquan people? Maybe the reason your rebellious, 'progressive' young people are so perfectly happy to break all of the sacred rules and edicts is that they never suffer any consequences for breaking the sacred rules and edicts in any way. Like, not even a sternly raised eyebrow.

Seriously, there are at least three instances in the plot which basically run:

Aquan 1: "We must do the forbidden thing!"
Aquan 2: "But it's forbidden to do the forbidden thing!"
Aquan 1: "Thank goodness that we've suffered no consequences for doing the forbidden thing!"

And yet... I can't help but love this one. It's just so freaking endearing. From the goofy big red sea monster (who they absolutely should NOT have just left trapped under their net to be crushed by falling debris... shame on you, Kirk) to the ridiculous way Kirk and Spock swim through the ocean with their arms outstretched in front of them like they were Superman, to the way that they constantly focus the "camera" on the image of Kirk's webbed fingers and yet the dialogue never, ever mentions it. Not even once.

I love this goofy, batshit crazy, undersea romp. I just do.

There were a couple of things specifically that I love about it. I love that the history of the Aquans doesn't really seem to track in any logical way, but it doesn't make logical sense in the same way that real, actual history doesn't make logical sense, from an objective perspective. Like, try to explain the entire historical relationship between England and France in three sentences without sounding insane.

Clearly the land masses fell beneath the sea thanks to seismic activity, and yet some people still stayed on the surface instead of being deliberately turned into sea people. And the sea people don't like the surface people because they "hunt them." But... like... where are these surface people? Because it kind of feels like you might have commited genocide against them, sea people, and are just putting a positive spin on it.

There are so many weird inconsistencies in what we're told about the aquan/air breather history that I can't stop speculating on how they resolve into one coherent story. And I love that. Internal inconsistency can really ruin a story, but inconsistency in how a culture remembers its own history is a real thing, and can be fascinating if it's handled right.

Also, I really loved how the Aquans' first response after Kirk and Spock tracked them down was basically, "Jesus CHRIST, we already totally did you a solid by turning you into fish people. And YOU'RE WELCOME, by the way. Get the hell off of our undersea lawn!"

Is it me? Am I being too generous to this one just because it tickled a few of my specific funny bones?

Billie: And it's one, two, three times a fish guy! Okay, I sort of loved it too, despite its many multitudinous flaws. All of which I think you covered beautifully, Mikey.

Like, Kirk and Spock deserved trouble in the first place. Why were they playing with the huge, unconscious red lobster when they already knew it could pick up a shuttlecraft and hurl it like a football? And the thing that bothered me most was that the sea quake was supposed to arrive in a couple of hours, but they managed to squeeze in all these activities before it hit – exploring the ruins for documents, going back up to the ship, getting toxin from that immense, huge red lobster – it was just too unreal.

I did like how all the old Aquans were paranoid about airbreathing spies coming to destroy them, while the young 'uns secretly saved Kirk and Spock by making them fish. (Did we ever see the young 'uns? Or were they just represented by the female Aquan who kept helping them?) I also liked Kirk complaining, "I can't command a ship from inside an aquarium." Lol. Of course, he and Spock could have spent the rest of their lives walking around with those water tanks on their heads. Speaking of which, why weren't Kirk and Spock wearing water tanks on their heads instead of being confined to an aquarium in Sick Bay?

The animation really suffered in lots of places. There were many shots of Kirk and Spock swimming from place to place in the ocean (with their arms extended like Superman, as you said, Mikey) but the animators didn't bother coloring them in. They were either white outlines with bubbles, or all black like shadows. Did they run out of money that week?

Mikey: Yeah, they got a LOT done in the lead up to that super imminent sea quake. I can't remember, in that Voyager episode where Tom Paris takes the shuttlecraft into planet "GiantWaterDrop," did he have to do something to the shuttlecraft in order to go in water, or can shuttlecraft just do that?

Oh, and I wish they'd made the Aquans blueish grey. Green reads like they were supposed to be reptiles, which I don't think was the intention.

I suspect that the animators were hoping we'd buy the uncolored silhouettes of Spock and Kirk as an artistic choice. Like, we are artistically choosing to be cheap and lazy in this moment.

Billie: That shuttlecraft thing was indeed confusing. It felt like the first one was a normal shuttlecraft and the second was a shuttlecraft-shaped speed boat they use for pleasure cruises on ocean planets.

I can't remember most of Voyager – it's been way too many years. But I know Juliette had a shuttlecraft count going in her reviews because they kept losing them and there was no way to replace them. It seems to me that a shuttlecraft should be able to function like a submarine. A hostile environment is a hostile environment, right?

Mikey: I would have thought so. Would water do damage differently than a frozen void?

I now want a shuttlecraft-shaped speed boat. I'll post links to my gofundme later.

Billie: I've always thought that a shuttlecraft would make a great space RV. And now I'm picturing trailer parks in space full of old shuttlecrafts with solar panels on their roofs.

Mikey: This is the spinoff the world needs right now.

Billie: So I'm willing to give "The Ambergris Element" three out of four solar panels. It was definitely fun.

Mikey: I'll give it eight out of ten sacred traditional laws that you don't really have to bother following.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We love comments! We moderate because of spam and trolls, but don't let that stop you! It’s never too late to comment on an old show, but please don’t spoil future episodes for newbies.