Category Archives: Movies

Farewell, Dame Diana

So as you’ve probably heard, Dame Diana Rigg passed away last week. Which got me reflecting how much I insanely, madly crushed on Emma Peel in The Avengers as a kid.

Emma Peel was awesome. Intelligent (one episode established she had a higher IQ than Steed). Fearless. Able to take down the toughest foe with her bare hands. And gorgeous — even before I met TYG, I liked dark-haired beautiful women. I’m quite sure my crush was based mostly on her looks, but I don’t think it would have been so intense — certainly not as long-lasting — if she’d been a bimbo or simply Steed’s girlfriend. She was also an excellent actor, playing a chillingly ruthless Regan to Laurence Olivier’s Lear in a 1983 TV-movie. She’s delightful (and yes, beautiful) as a female reporter and early 20th century reporter in The Assassination Bureau and Vincent Price’s deadly daughter in Theatre of Blood. She was funny in an early 1970s sitcom, Diana — British professional working in the U.S. — though the series didn’t last.

She was also a big influence on X-Men, via an episode A Touch of Brimstone slugged in the UK’s TV Times as “Steed joins the Hellfire Club and Emma becomes a queen of sin.” I was too sick to stay up and watch when it originally aired but even at eight years old I knew “queen of sin” sounded awfully er, interesting. And yes, it was.Still is (I did see it eventually). And this episode had a huge influence on the Hellfire Club arc in the Chris Claremont/John Byrne era of X-Men, particularly how Byrne drew Jean Grey during her brief time as the Club’s Black Queen:Jason Wyngarde whom you see in that scene was modeled on Peter Wyngarde, the Hellfire Club’s leader in the Avengers episode.

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Cross country trips, Romanian tragedy and more: movies viewed

LOVE ON A BET (1936) is a fun It Happened One Night knockoff in which Gene Raymond’s future as a theatrical producer hinges on his ability to leave NYC penniless in his underwear and arrive 10 days later in Los Angeles — in those pre-interstate highway days, a much more impressive feat than it is now — with clothes, $100 and a girlfriend. He soon finagles his way into traveling across country with fortune-hunter Wendy Barrie and her snarky aunt Helen Broderick, but will the burgeoning Raymond/Barrie romance survive when she learns she’s his ticket to fame and fortune (I hadn’t realized that particular rom-com plot went back that far)? A fun one.“I despise the odor of toasted marshmallow.”

MR AND MRS SMITH (1941) is Alfred Hitchcock’s only screwball comedy, the result of Selznick renting him out to RKO after Rebecca and Foreign Correspondent, though Hitch claims he chose it primarily because Carole Lombard wanted to be in one of his movies. Robert Montgomery discovers his affectionately squabbling marriage to Lombard is technically invalid but handles the reveal so poorly she walks out and starts over with Gene Raymond, this time as Montgomery’s blandly wholesome partner. This was an uninspired film but it turned a profit for the studio and proved Hitch could bring in a film without busting the budget. It’s also less of an outlier in Hitchcock’s work than I used to think, not that far from Rich and Strange or the rom-com bits of Young and Innocent, so perhaps the story appealed to Hitchcock as much as working with Lombard. “That’s fine — after I die, she gets the furniture.”

THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU (2005) takes place over one night in Bucharest (it’s unclear if he actually dies at the end, but he clearly doesn’t have long) as the sick, pained drunk goes from hospital to hospital under the care of a kind but weary paramedic, only to encounter overworked doctors, arrogant doctors and exhausted doctors all coping with forms, bureaucracy and personal lives — it felt like Grey’s Anatomy or E/R without the compassionate doctor showing up to save the day. Given how universal these issues are, I’m surprised there hasn’t been an American remake. “These neoplasms are Discovery Channel stuff!”

For the first few minutes I wondered if E.T. — THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982) wasn’t going to work for me on rewatching (for Alien Visitors, of course) but before long I found it as charming as I did first run. Elliott (Henry Thomas) discovers a kindly alien who loves Reese’s Pieces (one of the great successes of product placement) and helps him hide from Peter Coyote’s Men in Black while “E.T.” tries to figure out a way to phone home. This is seen almost entirely from Elliott or E.T.’s perspective, or occasionally Elliott’s little sister (Drew Barrymore) which works remarkably well. On one of the special features Stephen Spielberg says although it was a personal film he figured it would only appeal to fans of Disney’s live-action kidvid of the time (trust me, this was not a compliment) and felt quite stunned when it became a critical and commercial hit (Peter Coyote talks about how the crew on the movie he was making when E.T. hit the theaters started treating him as a lucky charm). The sentimentality that works here would bog down a lot of later Spielberg films, but that’s no reflection on this film, which deserves its spectacular success.“It’s a miracle, and you did the best that anybody could do.”

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Crusade impossible!: Movies viewed

After reading John Phillips’ The Life and Legend of the Sultan Saladin a few months back I eventually streamed 1954’s KING RICHARD AND THE CRUSADERS. Set during the Third Crusade it’s a textbook example of what one critic called the “in love with Loretta Young” school of history: the outcome of the Third Crusade, the relationship of Islam and Christianity and the future of the Middle East all hinge on whether Richard the Lionhearted’s (George Sanders) cousin Virginia Mayo (who gets the immortal line “War, war, that’s all you think about Dick Plantagenet!”) ends up with his Scots right hand (Laurence Harvey) or Saladin (Rex Harrison in brownface).

Based on Sir Walter Scott’s The Talisman, this is a glossy, colorful epic. Schemers in Richard’s forces want to eliminate him as Step One towards claiming control of the region as their own kingdom. After an assassination attempt leaves Couer de Lion injured and poisoned, Harvey’s Sir Kenneth finds a wandering Arab physician who cures him, little dreaming the wryly humorous fellow is actually Saladin himself (the Saladin biography says the two leaders never met, but doing so has been irresistible to storytellers). Can Kenneth and Richard expose the traitors? Who will finally end up with Lady Edith (Mayo)? Can the friendship between the king and the sultan avert war? For a historical epic this is surprisingly light on big battles, but it has plenty of action and I found it a lot of fun, though Harvey’s always stiff in romantic roles. It also makes Phillips’ point that Saladin was popular in the west because he embodied the chivalric virtues they admired, though here he claims he learned it all from the crusaders. “We play dice with death and we’ll match him throw for throw.”

Watching MISSION IMPOSSIBLE II (2000) made me wonder if old-school germ-warfare stories like this won’t have to change in the future, as we now know the effects of a plague ripple far beyond just the number of bodies. That said, this John Woo-directed film is laden with the kind of spectacular, insane action he’s famous for and it holds up better than the stunts in True Lies do.

Returning as IMF leader Ethan Hunt, Tom Cruise is assigned to gather his team (Ving Rhames returns as his hacker) and recruit master thief Nyah (Thandie Newton). Why? Because her former lover, rogue agent Dougray Scott, has stolen a genetically engineered superflu and plans to unleash it, then make millions from the cure. Hunt seduces Nyah into helping, but they fall in love with the process, which makes it tougher. At least it’s supposed to, but I couldn’t buy for one minute that they had that kind of a connection.

The film itself feels even less like the TV show than the first film: the break-ins and disguises (reminding me a lot of Woo’s earlier Face/Off) could have been pretty much any action/spy thriller. Watchable, and obviously didn’t stop the series progressing, but hardly compelling viewing. “He’d undoubtedly engage in some aerobatic insanity before he’d harm a hair on a security guard’s head.”

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Womanizers, superhumans and Japanese racers: movies viewed

DON JON (2013) stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the eponymous ladies’ man who doesn’t think he has a problem just because he can’t orgasm with his many lovers, but only watching porn afterwards. When he gets serious about Scarlett Johansson, she finds out and demands he stop, but can he break the addiction? And will Julianne Moore as the voice of reason be able to help?

Gordon-Levitt wrote and directed this one so it’s a pleasant surprise he doesn’t go overboard and make Johansson just The Bitch. She certainly has flaws — her view of gender roles is so rigid she freaks out about her lover’s fondness for cleaning his apartment almost as much as his porn addiction — but she’s pretty much in the right on the porn problem (compare this to Woody Allen’s Anything Else).  I rewatched this simply because TYG was rewatching it, but it was worth the attention. “And just when you’re getting into it, there it is, on your computer — a dick!”

Gordon-Levitt was also in Netflix’s PROJECT POWER (2020) but I gave up on this superhero movie about twenty minutes in. The story of a super-power drug hitting the streets and the efforts to find the supplier — Gordon-Levitt is the hardcase cop on the case who’s using the drug himself — seemed much more a stock cop film than a superhero film, and anyone who’s still using Matrix slow-mo special effects for superpower scenes has a black mark against them in my book.

FAST AND THE FURIOUS: Tokyo Drift (2006) is one of several Part IIIs I’ve seen that make a radical reboot from the first two films (Halloween III is the first one that comes to mind, partly because it was such a flop). As the producers couldn’t get any of the cast from the first two films back, the protagonist is a working-class Southern teen shipped off to his dad in Japan to avoid jail time for an illegal street race. Cars are his life so before long he’s breaking his promise and racing again, this time a version called drifting; this leads to a rivalry with a Yakuza-linked driver over the requisite pretty woman.

Unlike Halloween III this sticks faithfully to the Sexy Women & Fast Cars formula of the first two films, but it never rose above talking-lamp status for me (it didn’t do as well as the first two so apparently I’m not alone). Vin Diesel shows up in a cameo at the end, Bow Wow has a supporting role and Sonny Chiba cameos as a mob boss. “Your bookkeeping is incomprehensible, but even I can figure out your partner is stealing from you.”

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Movies about lowlifes, here and abroad

I’m a huge fan of Elaine May’s 1971 film A New Leaf but not so much her better-regarded The Heartbreak Kid. After them came MIKEY AND NICKY which wound up in editing hell until 1976 then went on to become a cult film. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like joining the cult.

Nicky (John Cassavetes) is a bottom-tier crook who’s convinced he’s been marked for a hit. He turns to lifelong buddy Mikey (Peter Falk) for help, unaware that Mikey’s fingering him for hit man Ned Beatty. The killer, however, gets lost reaching the execution site so Mikey and Nicky wind up on a rambling journey through African-American bars, hookers’ apartments, a graveyard, a night bus and a 24-hour movie theater. The two leads are excellent, but “two guys spend the movie talking” is not an easy sell for me (e.g., the pretentious Figures on a Landscape and the often pretentious, sometimes inspired My Dinner with Andre) and I wouldn’t have suffered if I’d never caught this. Joyce Van Patten plays Nicky’s long-suffering wife and M. Emmett Walsh is a bus driver. “Everybody said you were a nice girl.”

UP AND DOWN (2006) is a Czech film in an equally scruffy, seedy milieu, though it could be transferred to the U.S. without missing a bit. The various intersecting plot threads involve smugglers, a baby-stealing young woman and her soccer-hooligan boyfriend and an expat with an extremely tangled extended family. Much more entertaining. “You can never tell what it is when it’s covered in batter.”

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A shining star and early noir: this week’s viewing

Unlike so many CW series, STARGIRL wrapped up its first season without leaving us on a cliffhanger (though the finish planted a lot of seeds for S2, whenever that comes to pass). It’s based on DC’s Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. comic by Geoff Johns, who created Stargirl as a tribute to his sister, who died in the Lockerbee terrorist plane bombing. Overall, I like the TV show better than I did the comics.

Brec Bessinger plays Courtney Whitmore, less than thrilled that mom Barbara (Amy Smart) and new step-dad Pat Dugan (Luke Wilson) have dragged her to Barb’s hometown of Blue Valley to settle down. Things get more interesting when she learns the reason: Pat is secretly the former Stripesy, sidekick to the superhero Starman, who died along with the Justice Society in a battle with the Injustice Society of America. The ISA is hiding in Blue Valley, plotting something big, and Pat’s out to put a stop to it. When Courtney discovers Starman’s cosmic staff (which appears to be sentient) she takes action against the ISA herself, as Stargirl. Despite Pat’s objections, she also recruits a new Justice Society, turning her friends into the new Wildcat, Dr. Midnite and Hourman. But they’re fifteen-year-olds and they’re up against some of the deadliest villains on Earth …

I was pessimistic after the first episode that this would be way too heavy into teenage angst and outcast-ness, but it isn’t. Bessinger is an appealing protagonist, the action is good, and there are several details I liked such as how well her mother takes learning about this. There are also some things I didn’t like: If you’re going to use the Gambler as a villain, it doesn’t make much sense to turn him into a generic super-hacker (I’d figured they’d give him luck powers like the comic-book villain’s granddaughter, Hazard, but no). And while I like Icicle’s big plan, I honestly don’t see why the rest of the Society would be with him on this. Overall, though, thumbs up. “The staff didn’t choose you because you’re Starman’s daughter, it chose you because it believed in you.”

I WAKE UP SCREAMING (1942) is an early noir film in which promoter Victor Mature turns hash-slinger Carole Landis into a celebrity, only to lose her to Hollywood — but could that have been enough reason for him to kill her? Detective Laird Creegar, who had a stalkery obsession with the victim, thinks so, but Landis’ sister Betty Grable (her first non-musical role, though she did sing in one deleted scene) refuses to believe Mature’s a bad guy. Stylish and absorbing, with solid performances by the leads, plus Elisha Cook Jr. as a hotel clerk and Alan Mowbray as an actor. “Did you ever read The Sex Life of Butterflies by Faber?”

Seeing that prompted me to check out STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR (1940) which the book Film Noir identifies as the first noir film. A reporter’s  testimony puts Elisha Cook Jr. on death row, but when the reporter’s neighbor turns up dead the newshound discovers how easy it is for circumstantial evidence to jail an innocent man. And nobody believes he saw Peter Lorre sneaking around the boarding house, or that Lorre might also have committed the murder Cook was blamed for. Strongly influenced by German expressionist films (the stylized dream sequence has amazing visuals) this also has a lot in common with Hitchcock’s Innocent Man Accused stories.  “They’re not listening to me — your honor, please make them listen!”#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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Reporters, voyeurs and horror: this week’s viewing

I’ve never been a fan of Alfred Hitchcock’s FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940) but I find myself appreciating it more as part of my ongoing Hitchcock viewing: making the first third of the film a comedy makes more sense when compared to The Thirty-Nine Steps or The Lady Vanishes. It still doesn’t work as well as they do though.Joel McCrea plays a crime reporter whose boss ships him off to Europe on the theory a hardnosed investigator with a nose for news will get better scoops than foreign correspondents who just send in the latest government press releases. In Europe McCrea falls hard for Laraine Day, daughter of peace activist Herbert Marshall — this is where the comedy comes in — and meets with a prominent Dutch politician who’s a key player in whether Europe goes to war or not (I don’t really see how the guy could have stopped it, but I’ll accept the premise). When the politician is apparently murdered, McCrea realizes the man was an imposter; Nazi agents have kidnapped the real pol to get the truth about his secret treaty negotiations. Can McCrea rescue him in time? “Your childish mind is as out of place in Europe as you are in my bedroom.”

sex, lies and videotape (1989) blew me away when I saw it in theaters, between it’s frank, unconventional discussions of sexual dysfunction and the presence of Andie McDowell and Laura San Giacamo as sisters in Baton Rouge. They’re in a triangle with McDowell’s husband Peter Gallagher but when his college friend, voyeuristic James Spader shows up, the triangle becomes unstable.

Rewatching now I think that, as Roger Ebert put it, the results are more clever than enlightening; I don’t find it convincing that everyone has as much self-awareness as they do, let alone that they can discuss themselves articulately and without any impulse to lie or shade the truth. This problem has turned me off several Woody Allen films over the year but here the movie holds my interest, primarily because of the strong cast and their relationships. It is more clever than enlightening but it is very clever, and that was good enough. “What would you know about a normal frame of mind?”

I watched AMULET (2020) as part of a streaming program by the local Carolina Theatre but it was definitely not worth the price (but hey, I can say that about lots of films I’ve seen at the nearest multiplex). Nun Imelda Staunton sends a burned-out foreign veteran to move in with a woman and her deranged mother. Everything’s dark and moody with occasional shocks (and to their credit they are indeed shocking) before we learn Mom is a demon the woman is reluctantly forced to watch over. And from there, we accelerate to an ending that made absolutely no sense. I do not recommend it. “Forward is not the only way, Tomaz — there are other roads.”

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An anthology blows up and other links about books, movies, recipes and reporting

So my friend John Hartness of Falstaff Books posted this week on Facebook about some problems with the anthology Flashing Swords #6 (following up on a series of anthologies published around 50 years ago). It seems the publisher was blindsided by editor Robert M. Price and didn’t realize Price hadn’t signed or sent the authors contracts for the stories included therein, and had credited himself as copyright holder (the publisher admits that was a screw-up on their part). The authors were also upset with Price’s foreword, which veers into undead sexist cliches about how women need to stop crying rape, feminists hate het sex, and participation-trophy cliches (he is hardly the first anthologist to do stuff like this). The publisher, to their credit, says they’re killing the book and paying the writers a kill fee, which is precisely the way to handle a mess like this.

Due to the Trump Virus, it looks like the gap between theatrical release and streaming will narrow a lot.

DAW head Betsy Wolheim thinks Patrick Rothfuss hasn’t written anything on the third Kingkiller Chronicles book. This has led to much speculation by my writing friends why she didn’t keep her opinions in house: is he seriously missing deadlines? How close is he really to getting finished? Does it hurt specfic in general if people assume “maybe it’s better if I wait until all the books are out” and don’t buy into series early. One person linked to an article from a few years ago in which Penguin took very late authors to court.

Fifteen years ago, cable was home entertainment’s big dog. Now cable falters as streaming rises.

“This was a time of “Mean Streets” and “The Poseidon Adventure.” “American Graffiti” and “Last Tango in Paris.” “Airport” sequels and “Aguirre, the Wrath of God.” Edgy political thrillers, socially aware satires and mainstream melodramas managed to coexist with B-movies, porn and Warholian provocations. Regardless of their artistic aspirations, most were enormously entertaining.” — Ann Hornaday on why seventies film rocked. It’s an interesting take but as someone generally skeptical about How We Have Fallen Since Decade X, I’m not sure I agree (it rapidly turns into a standard grumble about all those CGI superhero movies taking up the multiplex).

Who exactly gets credit as a recipe creator?

Who should get immortalized in bird names?

An author pushed his book higher on the bestseller list by buying copies himself.

Years ago, critic Leonard Maltin discussed the problem of rating and reviewing a movie when the original version has been re-edited and is no longer available. A few years ago on Inverse, an article discussed the problem of finding the original Han Shot First Star Wars.

I wrote a while back about how bad management had killed reporting at Deadspin. Most of the staff who quit are back with a new project.

And here’s a Virgil Finlay cover to close with.

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Magic like plastic (this is a good thing): Cast a Deadly Spell

The opening text crawl of CAST A DEADLY SPELL (1991) tells us it’s 1948 in L.A. and everybody uses magic. We never learn where or when that started, but the movie makes the premise so real I don’t need to know more.

Everyone takes magic as a given; like plastic or television in the same era, it’s an exciting new invention that’s changing the world and everyone’s on-board. Well, everyone but protagonist Phil Lovecraft (Fred Ward), whose refusal to work magic marks him as an oddball, like someone who refuses to get a cell phone when landlines are so much better. For Phil, it’s part of his stubborn, incorruptible streak: he’s his own man and can’t be bought or controlled. Magic gives someone or something else a small piece of your soul, and Phil can’t stand anyone owning his.

Magic is everywhere in this movie. In a police station scene we see a typewriter printing a report by itself; file cabinets open and manila folders fly out when the secretary needs them. In other scenes people light cigarettes by touch (Phil uses matches) or levitates cocktail shakers. Sneering crime boss Borden (Clancy Brown) has replaced his regular goon squad with zombies: no need to pay them, they don’t get any ideas about double-crossing the boss and when they start to rot he just orders more from Haiti. There’s also a neat little detail I didn’t catch on first or second viewing: one newspaper has a front page article on magic eliminating LA’s smog right next to coverage of Robert Mitchum’s then-infamous pot bust (Mitchum gets the headline).

Lovecraft is your classic hard-drinking chain-smoking PI, hired by Hackshaw (David Warner) to recover a lost copy of the Necronomicon. The first time I watched this I agreed with Borden that it seemed like pure coincidence Lovecraft got entangled in this case. Rewatching it’s obvious that Hackshaw picked Phil because he knows the gumshoe doesn’t use magic. When Hackshaw drops the name of the Necronomicon and Lovecraft doesn’t react, Hackshaw smiles; he’s found a detective who’s ignorant enough to turn over the book and won’t try to tap it for himself. And won’t suspect why Hackshaw wants it turned over no later than midnight in a couple of days.

Leaving the Hackshaw estate, Lovecraft encounters his new client’s daughter, Olivia (Alexandra Powers) whom we first see hunting a unicorn. She comes on to Phil like a classic noir bad girl but he sees through her (if she wasn’t a virgin, she wouldn’t be trying to hunt unicorns). Later in the film, when he gets to know her, she turns out to be quite sweet, though restless at the way her father keeps her locked away from the world.

Meanwhile we see the ill-fated weasel Mickey (Ken Thorley), a former employee of Hackshaw’s, deliver the book to Borden. It turns out to be a fake copy (Mickey plans to sell the real one back to Hackshaw) but the packet of money Borden paid him with is just paper. Then Borden’s sorcerous aide, Tugwell (Raymond O’Connor) whips up the paper in a small magical cyclone and kills Mickey by literally the death of a thousand (paper) cuts. That’s another thing I like about the film: magic is colorful and interesting. Things like the paper cuts or Tugwell “setting the runes” on Lovecraft make even mundane TK tricks like levitating files seem magical rather than psi.

The struggle for the book is more personal than Lovecraft expects because Borden’s his corrupt former partner, from when they were cops together. Not only that but Borden got Phil’s lost love, Connie (Julianne Moore) in the breakup. Borden and Connie both think Phil’s a fool for being so incorruptible but Connie’s not immune to that old feeling they had. But Hackshaw’s deadline is approaching, Borden’s playing hardball, and Lovecraft’s landlady and sort-of friend Kropotkin (Arnetia Walker) is seeing signs Los Angeles is ground zero for the apocalypse. Lovecraft, however, will not back down, not from man, gargoyle or god …

I highly recommend this movie. I do not, however, recommend the sequel Witch Hunt, which replaced Ward with Dennis Hopper and made the anti-Communist witch hunts of the 1950s into a real witch hunt. It’s much less interesting than a world in which magic is amazing, yet taken for granted.

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Star Trek: A bite of the Apple

When I reviewed the first season of Star Trek I mentioned that I could spot many of the tropes the show would run into the ground in later seasons. While I’ll cover most of that in the review of S2 after I wrap it up, I’ll focus on one episode, The Apple, as an example of how not to do it.

The Enterprise is checking out a beautiful, newly discovered planet that looks like a garden of Eden. Until a flowering plant launches thorns at one of the red shirts and kills him. Another gets blasted by an unstable, explosive stone. A third is killed by disintegrating lightning — seriously, it’s almost like a self-parody of the red shirts trope. And now a force on the planet is now draining energy from the Enterprise.

In contrast to the environment, the inhabitants of the planet are peaceful, gentle souls; when Kirk strikes one of them for spying on the away team, the guy is so shocked he cries. The population makes up a small village that serves as votaries to the god Vaal, who lives in a cave with a dragon/serpent mouth. Spock figures out that Vaal is a supercomputer buried deep in the planet with the cave as an access point. Vaal keeps his acolytes in ageless perfect health and prelapsarian innocence, with no children or sex (though one young couple starts to figure it out from watching Chekhov and a yeoman make out); this being the era when married couples on TV were shown sleeping in twin beds, the efforts to tackle the topic are painfully euphemistic.

McCoy and Spock debate the merits of this system: the inhabitants are comfortable, cared for and healthy but they’re little better than Vaal’s slaves. Spock argues they’re content and should be left alone; McCoy advocates for freeing them from the shackles they don’t know they’re wearing (I’ll come back to this topic in another post). But as often happens with the Prime Directive, it’s a moot point: Vaal’s out to destroy the intruders so they have to destroy him first. Eventually by cutting off his food supply (the rocks, though that isn’t clear) and blasting him with phasers, the burn the computer out. The natives will have the chance to develop as a culture naturally and having babies instead of being preserved in amber, though a dubious Spock compares this afterwards to casting Adam and Eve out of the garden. Kirk points out that out of everyone on the ship, Spock looks the most like Satan … and we end.

This was the second world-controlling computer (more will follow the Enterprise encountered after Return of the Archons but there we got enough backstory to make sense of things: Landru, the great leader, programmed the computer to carry on after he was gone and keep society from breaking down (if you haven’t seen the episode, suffice to say things didn’t work as planned). Here I have no idea where Vaal came from; did the village’s ancestors build it and the computer took over? There’s no indication other than Vaal they’ve ever been that advanced. Why is the planet so full of booby-traps? Is it naturally deadly, because the villagers don’t seem to find it so, or is it set up by Vaal, in which case why? Does it see that many visitors? And if one of the natives falls on the exploding rocks or triggers a thorn-flower, do they then have sex to restore the population? The Enterprise crew brings that up but in all the hemming and hawing about discussing S-E-X, they never get an answer. Maybe because an answer would probably require the innocent natives having had sex.

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, “cool worldbuilding” is not something that makes me want to grab a book and read it. But if you’re building a world, it does have to make sense. If I have questions afterwards they should be in the category of “I want to see more!” not “how the heck can that make sense?” The Apple, unfortunately, falls into the second category.

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