Saturday, November 19, 2011

By Any Other Name

Note: this post is one of a series of STAR TREK episode reviews originally written for the newsgroup. For more information, please read this post.

Episode 51 of 80
February 23, 1968
Teleplay: D.C. Fontana and Jerome Bixby
Story: Jerome Bixby
Director: Marc Daniels

This routine third-season episode was—sort of—the first STAR TREK episode I remember seeing. In fact, I saw “By Any Other Name” before I saw the episode. What?

Well, when I was a kid, I had a toy movie camera—maybe a Fisher-Price toy or Viewmaster? You put a cartridge into the camera (the handle, I think), turned the crank, peered into the eyepiece, and you saw a movie. The STAR TREK cartridge ran maybe two or three minutes and was silent. It was this episode. I remember a shot of Captain Kirk rounding a corner in the Enterprise hallways and discovering little cubes lining the floor, Scotty standing over the self-destruct button, the Enterprise passing through the barrier, and a scene on the planet’s surface.

I wish I still had that toy, whatever it was.

In the episode, two members of the Kelvan Empire—human-looking Rojan (Warren Stevens) and Kelinda (Barbara Bouchet)—take over the Enterprise using devices on their belts that turns non-essential crewmembers into small solid cubes that can be easily crushed if Captain Kirk (William Shatner) gets out of line. Of course, Kirk manages to lower Kelinda’s defenses by teaching her the joy of making out, which makes Rojan jealous enough to fight Kirk (who, of course, kicks his ass). One of the most politically incorrect TREK episodes finds our Starfleet heroes resorting to getting the enemy drunk and seducing innocent young women to save their skins.

Very similar to a later episode, “Wink of an Eye,” in its execution and plot device of getting rid of the Enterprise’s background crew to cut production costs, “By Any Other Name” isn’t great and is mainly memorable because of Barbara Bouchet’s guest turn. Then 24 years old, the German-born starlet spent the 1970s acting in a wide range of European crime and horror flicks, including BLACK BELLY OF THE TARANTULA, THE MEAN MACHINE, CRY OF A PROSTITUTE, HOUSE OF A THOUSAND PLEASURES, and THE PARIS SEX MURDERS. She usually appeared nude in them, which no doubt made an impact at the box office. Whether or not she could act was usually irrelevant. In “By Any Other Name,” director Marc Daniels often films her from the rear to show off both her daring costume and her derriere.

Warren Stevens also had quite a few genre credits. He was, of course, a crewman in the classic FORBIDDEN PLANET and guested on LAND OF THE GIANTS, THE TIME TUNNEL, and nearly every other drama of the 1960s.

I like the shimmering visuals used to create the freeze effect. Unfortunately, Daniels doesn't always realize that the only way to convincingly portray humans frozen in motion is to always keep the camera moving, which helps disguise the actors’ tiny movements (nobody can stay absolutely still for a period of time). And what was so important to McCoy at the moment he was frozen? He had just heard that the Enterprise was to be invaded, and he suddenly turns to Spock as if to relate a great point. I would think a fight with Spock would be the last thing on his mind.

The references to past events in “Where No Man Has Gone Before” and “A Taste of Armageddon” were nice touches and unusual ones for episodic drama at the time. This was probably the idea of co-writer D.C. Fontana, who had been with the series from the beginning and would have been aware of the characters' history. The story was originated by Jerome Bixby, who scripted the 1958 sci-fi classic IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE, which is a direct antecedent of ALIEN. Watch it and you'll see.

Another nice but almost unnoticeable touch was Shatner as Kirk way in the background distracting one of the Kelvans, while Spock and Scott were up to their tricks in the engine room. It may have been a double for Shatner, but it sure looks like our Bill.

How come the Enterprise passed through the barrier this time without any of the crew members acquiring glowing eyes and turning into gods? Not a high enough ESP rating? (Again, the nod to “Where No Man Has Gone Before”)

There's an odd shot of Spock while he's playing chess with Rojan where he's speaking, but his lips aren't moving. Often, lines will be looped later and hidden in a long shot or over the shoulder, but this is a flat-out full-screen closeup. It's very strange. Surely, the editors had footage they could have cut away to.


Brandon L. Summers said...

Neat. I just saw Bouchet in Lucio Fulci's "Don't Torture a Duckling." And I just saw another Star Trek actress in an obscure film I just reviewed.

Mitchell Craig said...

Actually, "By Any Other Name" was a second season Star Trek episode.