Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Galileo Seven Redux

As if the review of The Galileo Seven wasn't already long enough.

This started out as a paragraph in the review for The Squire Of Gothos, but that feels untidy; why discuss one story within the review of another? I also don't like the idea of making invisible edits to old blog entries which is why this hasn't just been slipped into the original The Galileo Seven review as if it was always there. I'm slightly at a loss as to why I didn't mention this in the first place. I certainly meant to put it in. Possibly at nearly 2000 words I thought it was too long already. Or, possibly I didn't want to be too negative about a story I really like. So this is an addendum, or something like that; The Galileo Seven part 2.

The major weaknesses of the episode is Galactic High Commissioner Ferris an articulate plot obstacle who exists simply to walk onto the bridge and deliver lines like, “gentlemen it is five minutes since I was last on the bridge, in those five minutes you have moved five minutes closer to the time when you must abandon your colleagues.” It's the worst kind of plot device, an attempt to impose an arbitrary deadline on the story and explain why Kirk can't keep the Enterprise in orbit until he finds the missing shuttle. The script treats Ferris like an idiot and, worse, makes Kirk look stupid as well.

Ferris is there because the Enterprise is flying drugs to Makus III. The drugs will be put onto a freighter for New Paris colony, where a plague is out of control. It's three days to Makus III, and the rendezvous comes two days after that so the Enterprise has two days to search for the missing shuttle. There's nothing wrong with a ticking clock deadline but Ferris isn't handled well. All through the episode you can't keep him off the bridge. He's all, “we need to get to Makus III,” and, “that plague is out of control”. He is in every bridge scene right up to the point where his deadline expires. And then he disappears. His last line is, “You're procrastinating, Captain. You have your orders. Recall your search parties and proceed to Makus III immediately.” What does he do afterwards? Does he go to his cabin and sit there assuming that because his deadline has expired the ship must be on the move? For plot reasons he can't be on the bridge because if he were he'd uncover Kirk's cunning plan to leave orbit at “space normal speed” (presumably the starship equivalent of first gear). His total disappearance from the story is what gives away his lack of purpose as a character beyond forcing the Enterprise to leave orbit.

Kirk looks stupid because he stops the Enterprise in the middle of a mercy dash to do science. Regardless of the window in the schedule, or his standing orders to investigate quasars, this feels like an inappropriate time. Murasaki 312 will still be there when they've finished. There's also something unedifying about seeing Kirk pick and choose which orders he obeys. Standing orders to investigate quasars are fine but a direct order to proceed to Makus III is disobeyed; how many plague victims died because of Kirk's “space normal speed” time wasting stunt, or because he ordered the shuttle mission in the first place? Granted Ferris is an officious idiot, but he's also correct. It's frustrating to watch an episode which wants us to sympathise with Kirk, who is in the wrong (none of this would have happened if he'd headed straight to Makus III), and boo Ferris like a pantomime demon when he's clearly right; if lacking in people management skills.

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