TV: Star Trek (The Original Series) [various], The Twilight Zone [various]
Star Trek (The Original Series) [various]
More viewing for the Hideout's Science Fiction Double Feature -- this time, I've been catching up on classic Trek. (I wrote up some notes here.)
The two surprises I've had here are (1) the good episodes are actually quite good, and (2) the show generally has more in common with The Twilight Zone than I would have guessed. When I thought of classic Trek, typically I didn't think of any of the best-written episodes -- instead, I always remembered, say, the horrible fight choreography with the giant lizard in "Arena". I remembered the show as clumsy, cheap, and kind of laughable.
When I got back to actually watching the show, I found that, yes, its worst episodes fit my memory of the show. But at its best, the central-cast relationships are as good as everyone says they are. For example, pretty much every comedy on television tries to do the "they banter insults at each other, but really they're good friends" relationship, but they never make it feel as convincing as the prickly friendship between Spock and McCoy. It's genuine and consistent behavior, it's arguably the best thing about the original Trek, and it'll be hard as hell to create anything like that in our improv take on the material.
In rehearsals, we've noticed a lot of similarities between this show and The Twilight Zone, in that neither show is really about churning the plot forward. Instead, the characters encounter something strange, and then there's a lot of guys-in-rooms, theorizing about what the strange thing could be. Then once we see what it is, there's a lot of theorizing about the right way to save themselves from the problem. Maybe there's a moral quandary involved, and there's some talk about that. It's only towards the very end that it moves towards serious action -- in Star Trek, it's a last-act action sequence, and in Twilight Zone, it's the final reveall.
This is a far cry from modern TV shows, with their six-act structure and additional commercial time requiring cliffhangers about every six minutes. Even a slow-paced show like Mad Men seems event-packed compared to any TV show from the era it depicts.
Lastly, it's been interesting to finally get back around to watching something that's such a big part of our general pop-culture awareness. For instance, I sat down to watch "The Gamesters of Triskelion", and realized,"Oh, this is where 'Forty quatloos on the newcomer!' comes from." More generally, even when there weren't specific references I noticed ("Oh! Kirk really *does* sound like the gazillion Kirk impressions I've heard!"), you can watch this show and *feel* how much of science fiction is either a refinement of this show or a reaction against it. It feels like the baseline for the genre.
The Twilight Zone [various]
I saw some more episodes of The Twilight Zone this week, as continued preparation for the Hideout's Science Fiction Double Feature.
I don't have too much to add to my earlier comments about it. Like Star Trek, it moves slow. Maybe five things happen in an episode; the rest of the time, the characters are exploring what this latest event means, and what they can do about it. The big *difference* between Twilight Zone and Star Trek is that, while Star Trek is almost cloyingly sunny about human nature, The Twilight Zone is almost relentlessly bleak. Most episodes carry the message, "Humanity is hateful, worthless, and doomed." The smattering of redemptive stories they tell usually require some supernatural agency to step in and save the progatonist from destroying themselves completely.
I might prefer the storytelling in Twilight Zone, but I'd much, much rather live in the world of Star Trek.
For next time: more Star Trek, more Twilight Zone -- though between this Chicago trip and all the New Year's celebrations, I doubt I'll have much time for either.
 ... in which Kirk's alien love interest is named "Shahna". Heh.
 ... and at some point, someone's got to assume that the weird thing is some kind of elaborate practical joke. Everybody now: "What is this, some kinda gag?"