Paramount // 1968 // 101 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Nicholas Sylvain (Retired) // December 20th, 2001
Space...the final frontier.
With basic plotlines becoming increasingly familiar to loyal Trek lovers, Volume 34 includes an "Earth culture in space with an alien twist" show ("Plato's Stepchildren") and an "Aliens try to capture the Enterprise" show ("Wink of an Eye").
A distress call from the planet Platonius draws Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy into a society of alien space travelers based upon Plato's ideas from Ancient Greece on Earth. Devoted to philosophy, the arts, and other leisurely pursuits, they have neglected the study of medicine. Their leader, Parmen, finds himself in need of a doctor, hence the distress call. Kirk & Co. soon discover that these Platonians are dangerous, thanks to their strong telepathic powers and their determination not to let word of their idyllic existence spread. Imprisoned and humiliated at the whims of Parmen and his followers, our intrepid trio must find a way to regain their freedom and put the Platonians in their place.
"Wink of an Eye"
A distress call (sound familiar?) from the planet Scalos brings Kirk & Co. down to a once inhabited, though now deserted, planet. The mystery is soon solved, though not to Kirk's liking, when he is "kidnapped" by the small band of remaining Scalosians into their accelerated-time existence. Natural events which decimated the once numerous Scalosian race have left its survivors living an impossibly fast existence, appearing to normal-time inhabitants as merely a mosquito-like whine. The Scalosian queen (Kathie Browne) takes a shine to Kirk, because she wants him to help repopulate her species and the remaining Scalosian men are sterile. However, once Kirk learns that she plans to turn the Enterprise into a giant genetic deep-freeze and use its frozen crew to further her plans, you can bet he's not going to be content with being her consort. Between Kirk and a much slower Doctor McCoy and Spock, they must find a way to foil the queen's plans, save the ship and crew, and somehow get Kirk back to his own "time."
If you were interested in showcasing the best of the original Star Trek to an untutored friend, this would probably not be the volume to use. There are worse individual episodes ("The Omega Glory" and "Spectre of the Gun" come to mind), but on the other hand there is not a lot that stands out from this pair of episodes.
The Greek philosopher-king twist of "Plato's Stepchildren" does draw you in, but not for long. How a dwarf Platonian, Alexander, provides the sole support for a dozen or more layabouts is a gaping plot hole too big to ignore, but that's not the worst of it. Kirk and Spock's humiliations at the hands of Parmen (including TV's first interracial kiss, involving Kirk and Uhura) are well chosen, but particularly on Kirk's side seem more a chance for Shatnerian over-acting than well played dramatic scenes. "Wink of an Eye" lacks the novelty of "Plato's Stepchildren," with a tired plot we have seen executed with more finesse in other episodes, like "Day of the Dove," "Space Seed," and particularly "By Any Other Name." Borrowing from other episodes, "Wink of an Eye" lets Captain Horny sleep his way into the matriarch's good graces, causing jealousy in the Scalosian ranks, while Spock and McCoy solve in a few hours a problem the dimwitted Scalosians haven't solved in years. Ho hum.
Since these TOS discs are virtually identical in quality to each other, I will liberally recycle comments I have previously made about the technical presentation and extra content.
The "digitally enhanced and remastered" video transfer is certainly an improvement over the VHS tapes and broadcast quality of the original episodes that I have seen. Resolution is much improved, though the increased sharpness often lapses into a strongly soft, almost muddy picture. Colors are quite richly saturated, giving the show a much brighter look than I had known. As a side effect, the flesh tones look a few shades too ruddy. Film grain as well as blips and flecks show up from time to time, betraying the limitations of the original source material. True Star Trek fanatics will be disappointed that Paramount did not see fit to do a more comprehensive restoration and polish the original gems of this storied franchise.
The remixed 5.1 audio is about what you would expect from a late 1960s show. Rear surrounds are hardly used at all, excepting the flyby in the opening credits. Otherwise, this is a typical former mono/center channel focused mix. Clear dialogue and cheesy music are understood in all their analog glory.
Nothing is really wrong with this disc that a real season-by-season box set with real extras wouldn't cure. On the other hand, then Paramount would soak the fans twice for the same shows, which isn't a thrilling prospect. As it is, we get a "preview trailer" spot (ooh aah) and one (count 'em, one!) trivia tidbit for each episode. With only two episodes per disc, this is not exactly value for the dollar like with the X-Files box sets. To their credit, Paramount has admitted that given the success of TV box sets, had they to make the TOS decision over, it might too have shown up in space and money saving box sets.
Probably of interest primarily to completist fans of the series ($20 list), I would still recommend a rental to the casual fan so that everyone can enjoy the stellar example of over-the-top Shatnerian acting in "Plato's Stepchildren."
Even bad Trek has its moments, so this Court finds that the defendant disc deserves mercy and only imposes a modest fine. Defendant Paramount is strongly urged only to release full-featured series box sets in the future.
Review content copyright © 2001 Nicholas Sylvain; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 1968
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Preview Trailers
* Trivia Tidbits
* The Star Trek Logbook
* Sci-Fi Channel Summary, "Plato's Stepchildren"
* Sci-Fi Channel Summary, "Wink of an Eye"