Grab your remote control and get ready for pain and delight as we go looking for “Spock’s Brain”!
Novelist William Leisner returns to the show this week to discuss an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series that has become emblematic of the low points of TOS. When a lady in go-go boots puts the whammy on the Enterprise, the crew wakes up to find Spock’s cranium empty. Now, Kirk must take a cave elevator ride to the center of a cold world ruled by even colder women to rescue the cerebrum of his first officer and friend!
The third season of TOS was met with budget cuts, a creative brain drain, and the defection to greener pastures of the show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry. But it’s perhaps the absence of former showrunner and head writer Gene L. Coon that was the biggest blow to Star Trek’s credibility. Coon was a gifted and versatile writer and he knew that Star Trek needed the occasional comedic touch to counteract its often leaden didacticism. Unfortunately, Coon had left the show by the start of Trek’s wobbly third season, and his pitch for “Spock’s Brain” was developed into an uneven hour of Trek that lacked Coon’s gift for both plotting and comedy. On this episode, we talk about the evolution of TV writing and viewership since the ’60s, the thin line between pathos and parody, the speed bumps affecting Trek’s 3rd year, the shortsightedness of NBC, Trek’s most successful comedic entries, a hypothetical (and possibly depressing) 4th season of TOS, and the feat of delivering essential Trek stories even when your hands are tied.
We also discuss the Council of the Valley of the Dolls, Maximum Shatner, a gritty Mannix reboot, a lost-and-found box for face parts, not going “full camp”, the 10 pm “death slot”, a planet of Nixons, the Scottish Faint, “who throws a club?”, Spock casual, the De Kelley sweat lip, and “Riker’s Brain”!
If you can’t handle me at my “Spock’s Brain”, you don’t deserve me at my “City on the Edge of Forever”!
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