Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Welcome to the second and concluding part of our look at Star Trek's 20 Most Embarrassing Moments. (Click here for the first part.) As much as we love Trek in all its incarnations, it sure hasn't been all good things.
9. "You're a droid and I'm a noid." (Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Outrageous Okona) That's right, The Outrageous Okona has scored twice on our cringe-worthy countdown. What can we say, it's just a really special episode. In this scene, Data is talking to Guinan about comedy, and she tries to explain it to him using a joke, of sorts: "You're a droid, and I'm a noid." (Apparently she means she is annoyed, and not that she's a Noid.) When Data doesn't laugh and quite reasonably suggests that perhaps the joke's just not funny, Whoopi gets huffy and says that the joke is funny but Data just doesn't get it. Guinan's supposed to be hundreds of years old, but her feeble pun and her blaming Data for not laughing makes her sound like she's about six. Obviously the El-Aurians should stick to being a "race of listeners," instead of a race of joke-tellers.
8. The Planet of the Amazons (and the wispy little twink guys.) (Star Trek: TNG - Angel One) We will love Gene Roddenberry forever, but there's no denying that the early seasons of Next Generation played like sub-par episodes of the original series and Next Generation didn't really find its footing until illness forced Roddenberry to scale back his involvement. Even in the '80s, this battle-of-the-sexes story felt like a creaky throwback. The entire episode is composed of nothing but cringe-worthy moments, so it's hard to pick just one... But we'll go with the scene where the already-doughy Riker slips on a silky little number for his date with the Amazon queen. Troi and Yar collapse into giggles at the sight of him, while we at home are weeping bitter tears.
7. Intergalactic Ooga-Booga. (Star Trek: TNG - Code of Honor) Star Trek has always been commendably forward-thinking on racial matters. This was the franchise, after all, that gave us the first interracial kiss on network TV. All of which just makes this episode, in which the Enterprise encounters an alien race apparently based on African tribes as depicted in American films of the '40s, even more pathetic. The moment when Tasha is forced into girl-on-girl combat while the alien tribal chief watches almost makes the depiction of black people in the original King Kong look daringly progressive. Even the Next Generation cast was appalled, with Jonathan Frakes later declaring, "The worst and most embarrassing and one that even Gene would have been embarrassed by was that horrible racist episode from the first season... Code of Honor, oh my God in heaven!"
6. "It's REAL!!!" (Deep Space Nine - Far Beyond the Stars) This one's a tough call. This is a truly classic episode with a fascinating premise, as we're left to wonder if all of Star Trek is merely the imaginings of Sisko's alter ego Benny Russell, a black, struggling sci-fi writer in pre-civil rights America. Avery Brooks is an underrated, intense actor, and his breakdown at the end of the episode gives him the chance to do the kind of mega-acting most actors only dream about, with shivering, screaming, weeping, the whole works. But is that moment heartbreaking, or is Brooks' performance so extreme that it loses its effectiveness and just gets icky? If we're being honest, we'd have to say that scene was a case of Brooks (who also directed) allowing himself to go totally over the top and down the other side.
5. Frank Gorshin runs like a spazz. (Star Trek - Let That Be Your Last Battlefield) This episode has a cute, very '60s gimmick, mocking the idiocies of racial prejudice by introducing us to a race of people who are all black on one side and white on the other, but who fight constantly over which side it's better to be black or white on. For much of its running time the episode is preachy but diverting enough, but then in the last act, something goes terribly wrong. Apparently they ran out of script or something, because after we hear that the planet of the two-toned people has been destroyed we are then subjected to approximately six weeks of Frank Gorshin running through the halls of the Enterprise while stock footage of flaming buildings is superimposed over him. And while Gorshin was generally a very capable actor, apparently he couldn't figure out how to run and act distraught at the same time - he plays these scenes very strangely, making pinchy faces and flailing his arms around like a dork. And then, just when you're begging the episode to end already, a rope suddenly appears in Gorshin's hand, extending under the camera as he runs - presumably Gorshin is using it to stay a consistent distance from the camera, so he'll remain in focus. But why is it there in the shot, where we can't help but see it? Either the director was legally blind, or he was simply so sick of filming Gorshin running through the halls that he basically said, "Rope, shmope. Print that sucker, so we can freaking go home!"
4. "Yea, Brother." (Star Trek - The Way to Eden) The original series' space-hippie episode is almost so bad it's good... But it doesn't quite make it, and just ends up being astonishingly bad. The episode is a dated, crushingly preachy mess, from the "Herbert" stuff to Spock's solemnly intoned "And his name was Adam" at the end, but the space-hippie music is, like, a major bummer, man. Words cannot do it justice. You must experience the horror that is the space hippie protest music for yourself. (Yes, you must. Sorry.)
3. Captain Kirk enjoys being a girl. (Star Trek - Turnabout Intruder) As The Rocky Horror Picture Show taught us all, there's nothing wrong with a little gender-bending in sci-fi... But Turnabout Intruder never fails to give us the queasies. To his credit, William Shatner doesn't hold back. (Shatner never holds back.) He is absolutely commited to playing a femme fatale who has hijacked the body of the Enterprise captain, and is having the time of her life with it. But Captain Kirk has been a he-man, two-fisted, alien-babe-bedding role model for generations of young men, he was butchness squared... and watching him suddenly mince around like a drag queen and flirt with another dude just does not compute.
2. Barclay's holodeck fantasy, featuring the Enterprise crew as ineffectual, fey swordsmen in tights and Deanna Troi as the "Goddess of Empathy." (Star Trek: TNG - Hollow Pursuits) Now admittedly, this one was supposed to make you cringe in embarrassment. We're seeing Barclay's id, and even as we're laughing at his pathetic and childish fantasies, we're also squirming in sympathy at his abject humiliation. The scene accomplishes what it set out to do, but even so... Yikes. Isn't it every nerd's nightmare that the people at work will somehow find your journal full of your most freaky fantasies, and the girl you like will get totally grossed out and call you a perv? That's basically what happens to poor ol' Reg, in 3D hologram form.
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