Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Star Trek TOS Goodness, 20 Court Martial

#20 Court Martial, 2/2/1967

I was surprisingly disappointed in this one on closer viewing.

On the Yay side, in order:
  A black actor in high rank -- Percy Rodriguez as Starbase 11's Commodore Stone.
  Kirk's demand for a full trial.
  New starbase sets -- lounge, quarters, courtroom.
  Cogsley's cat-like stalking of the truth and quick-thinking pounce at the right moment.
  Cautionary message about granting authority to machines (and databases).

On the Ughh side:
  Jame Finney's melodramatic emotion and fickleness.
  Unbelievable conflict-of-interest breach of Shaw talking to Kirk.
  The elevation of Kirk to near-perfection. (Oh Shatner's ego.)
  Spock testifying as an expert Anthropologist/Psychologist.
  Cogsley's speech and conclusion of "I demand it!" (Well OK then.)
  The whole heartbeat-masking experiment, OMG.
  Kirk un-f___ing his ship by removing Finney's "tubes".

Some tropes:
  Watching on screens, as noted/listed in the previous Arena post.
  Old flames (Shaw, Nancy Crater, Korby, Lester, Marcus).
  Mental breakdown/illness (Ben Finney, Decker, Tracey, Van Gelder, Garth, Lester, Marvick, Lenore Karidian).

One good point that I had previously missed is that Jame's supposedly very "human" forgiveness of Kirk is what triggers Cogley's suspicion of the inhuman computer.

Amusing was Areel Shaw's pronunciation of her first name as tri-syllabic and everyone else's as bi-syllabic. Why not give up on the exotic and just change it to "Ariel" in the script. (Very similar issue to what happened with Arena's "Metron[e]s".)

All-in-all, an awkward mashup of court-room-drama with space-drama, but a timeless warning about human gullibility around, and the false authority of, machines and databases.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Star Trek TOS Goodness, 19 Tomorrow is Yesterday

It occurs to me that I should list the string of episodes I am calling a superior consecutive sequence:

TOS Season One, 1967
#18 Jan19 Arena
#19 Jan26 Tomorrow is Yesterday
#20 Feb02 Court Martial
#21 Feb09 The Return of the Archons
#22 Feb16 Space Seed
#23 Feb23 A Taste of Armageddon
#24 Mar02 This Side of Paradise
#25 Mar09 The Devil in the Dark
#26 Mar23 Errand of Mercy

I should also note that I am using air-date as the criterion of "sequence", and that Amazon Prime's sequence numbers are also indexed to that, and as such do not correspond to any official "episode numbers" nor "production numbers" such as are found on

#19 Tomorrow is Yesterday, 1/26/67

This episode always struck me as having the most deceptive of cold opens -- footage of a current-technology fighter jet, supposedly scrambling to investigate a UFO, which we only learn at the very end of the teaser is, cue the theme, the Enterprise. Almost as if Roddenberry were trying to hook new viewers of a military bent.

Of course, for science fiction types, it's a giveaway that we're going to have a time-travel episode. And sure enough after the intro, we find the Enterprise crew reeling from some interaction with an undetected "black star" and soon realizing from a radio broadcast that they've time-travelled to the late 1960's. What a coincidence. The whole first part of the exposition here is really bad -- they can't detect black holes in advance in the future??, Kirk has no idea of the potential stress to the jet of ordering the "tractor beam"??, captain Christopher transports from a sitting to a standing position??. Little better is the contrast and contest of competency between the two captains (and two cultures). Kirk does the whole smarmy male-dominance welcome-aboard-I-know-more-than-you dance, while Christopher does the name-rank-serial-number bit, ogles a female crewmember, makes digs about Kirk's "accidents", but "can't deny the fact that you are here" (uhh thanks). This is all punctuated by a trip in the turbolift where they hold their ... down-facing turbolift controllers, of course. But quality improves rapidly as Spock becomes involved.

Starting immediately upon first contact: Christopher: "I never have believed in little green men." Spock: "Neither have I." Heh. Christopher's whole unspoken reaction of "WTF, well I guess he isn't "little" is well done. Spock also introduces the whole moral/time paradox of whether Christopher can ever be returned, due to now knowing "the future".

Then, wow, the whole scene in Kirk's quarters to end Act One is excellent. The misbehaving computer is a real gem, popping the whole male-dominance balloon, and giving Christopher another chance to dig at "future problems". Countered by Kirk and Spock double-teaming him on not being able to go home, to which he reacts with a foreshadowing reference to his family. And finally ending in the stalemate, maybe I can't go home but neither can you. Touché.

Act Two sees Christopher's attempt to commandeer the transporter to return, defeated by Kirk's fists. And we're back into macho mode -- Kirk even put the computer back in it's place, and Christopher, now in sickbay, does the whole admiring bro-code "I see they have physical training in the future too" business. Again it is Spock who saves the scene, first with a true-scientist's admission of an error earlier, then with the "news" that although Christopher makes no relevant contribution to history, his future son does. The whole "I don't have a son"/"not YET" is a nice dramatic touch, but the dreamy "I'm going to have a SON" business is gratuitous and out-of-character. And, you know, the wife is kinda-sorta-gonna have something to do with that too (should have been "we're", eh?).

Next is the stealth scene where Kirk and Sulu attempt to recover/destroy evidence on the base of the existence of the Enterprise. It adds some nice suspense, although Kirk's dallying to admire a bulletin board and trophy case makes no sense. This (and the one later) is also a rare (only) scene with Takei and Shatner alone; the lack of chemistry is evident. The scene and act end with another comic relief, the security guard getting beamed up. This may be the first instance of an "alternate use" of the transporter, so well spoofed in Star Trek 2009 (trans-warp beaming). And this episode has more comic relief than I remembered (joining The Trouble With Tribbles, I Mudd, and A Piece of the Action).

Act Three is Kirk and Sulu being caught yet again on the base, Sulu escaping with all the recovered evidence, Kirk demonstrating how many men are required to subdue him (three) and how to avoid being interrogated, Spock, Sulu, and Christopher coming to rescue Kirk, and Christopher yet again trying to escape afterward, foiled by the Vulcan pinch.

Act Four is exposition and enactment of the "slingshot" worked out by Spock and Scotty that will return the Enterprise to its time after conveniently allowing the return of Christopher and the guard to the previous day (with somehow no Enterprise nor crew appearing then any more). Kudos to the remastering team though for distracting from some of that malarkey by some great new Earth and Sun effects.

All in all, a really good science-fiction type episode only marred somewhat by some really contrived narrative and a lot of macho elements. Surprising to me on this closer viewing is how much Spock/Nimoy, Barrett (the computer voice), and the writing for both (Fontana?) really save the episode.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Polgar 4016

A mate in three from Polgar "Chess", #4016

White has four checking moves, but Black has an amazing ten, two of which (Qb1, Rc1) are mates in one.

With b8 double-covered and the knight in checking position, I am immediately thinking smothered mate. With a7 also double-covered, yes smothered mate is it:  1 Qb8+ Rxb8 2 Ra7+ Bxa7 3 Nc7#

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Polgar 4015

A mate in three from Polgar "Chess", #4015

This one gave me some fits, until I got to the question, "what's the absolute minimum material I need for a mating net here?"

Black has 4 checking moves, and White only has 3, and again the only clean check, 1 Nc7+, is cleanly answered by Kb8 with no good followup.

The pawn on b7 is a big nuisance, able to either b6+ or bxa6, removing a key mate-net piece. So how about Bd5, pinning it? Nope, without a check, Black can give her own check Bb6+.

So we're down to sac checks, but neither sacking the rook nor the queen allows the other one to mate, and surely they can't both be sacked, right? Unless that is the whole idea, and yep, it is.

1 Rc8+ Nxc8  This both keeps c8 blocked to the king (later) and removes control from d5 for the bishop.

2 Qxb7+!  Removing the pest directly.

2...Kxb7 3 Bd5#

As with #4014, the king has been trapped in a corridor, this time a diagonal one (a8-h1), with a closed door (c8), and executed there.

Polgar 4014

A mate in three from Polgar "Chess", #4014

Black's king is exposed, four checking moves, while White's is not -- zero checks. White rooks are on two open files.

There is a clean check with Ne7, but Black has an apparently clean getaway with Kf7.

The idea with this one is to "draw the king in" to the h-file corridor, close the door on him, then open fire. 1 Rh8+ Kxh8 2 Ne7 any 3 Rh1#.

Of course the king needn't be drawn in; there is still 1...Kf7. But in that case 2 Re7 is, conveniently, mate.

Also it must be triple-checked that there really is no second move that blocks or prevents 3 Rh1 from being mate. Nope, absolutely no Black move to anywhere on the 1-rank or the h-file, no checks, and no luft move anywhere for the king -- Black would need both Kh7 and g5 to have luft on g6.

Polgar 4013

A mate in three from Polgar "Chess", #4013

If g3 were not pinned, g4 would be mate in one, so the queen is tied to the third rank unless it can give check. Therefore the rook is free to threaten mate in one also (on h7). The queen is overworked -- cannot both maintain the mate-preventing pin on g3 and also remove a mate-threatening rook.

So why isn't it mate in two? Because the queen can sacrifice herself to gain one extra move (Qxg3+).

And can't the rook threaten mate from either h8 or g7? Yes, but one of those moves (Rg7) also allows black to delay mate by a move (with h6).

1 Rh8 Qxg3+ 2 Kxg3 h6 3 Rxh6#