Steaming Mound Of Manure
Once again, Voyager presents us with an alternate reality nightmare bearing no resemblance to the style, ideals & format of the previous Trek series. I smell the angry stench of Brannon Braga...
Let's be clear: Voyager as a series is hot pig garbage. The writers hate the characters, the producers hate the format, the entire creative team hates themselves and their audience. How else can you explain week after week of black, torturous trauma, of painful death and plague, of demonic possession and slow death and punishment both physical and mental? I'm watching this cosmic train wreck of a series only because I'm currently stuck at home and addicted to all things Trek. I would not wish this program on my worst enemy.
This week B'Elanna, Chakotay, Doctor & Janeway die- yes: die- and the rest of the crew learns that they're actually alien replicants and that their entire lives and memories are fraudulent. I'm making the popcorn! Those unlucky enough to live through the episode are rewarded with cancerous lesions on their face as their bodies are wracked with disease and eaten alive from the inside. (Are we having fun yet?) Lots of insulting techno-babble is expelled from the mouths of the actors in an attempt to justify the torture and abuse... none of it makes a lick of sense.
A last-minute alternate reality/time travel contrivance is supposed to set straight the travesty we've just witnessed, but it's a light year late and a dollar short: once again the underlying theme is the writers KILLING the main characters because they had no better ideas.
Disgusting. Repulsive. Offensive. Gross. Insulting. These are the nicest words I can think of to describe this episode and the majority of the series. Maybe next week the Voyager writers will show some mercy and just let the ship explode in space, killing everyone on board instantly and putting an end to their pain and suffering... or maybe the writers are just cowards who will continue the abuse indefinitely.
Star Trek: Voyager: Dark Frontier (1999)
We Are The Bored
Voyager takes a break from its wondrous, inspiring adventures to tell a two-part tale that plays like a sobering slap to the face: Janeway decides to exploit Seven of Nine's Borg past to steal a transwarp coil, and in the process the Borg reveal plans to get Seven to rejoin the collective and assist them in conquering Earth.
When I think Star Trek Voyager I think of fun! And balloons! And cute little puppy dogs! At least the nightmarish series isn't drowning in a swamp of compromised morality, blurry objectives, questionable character choices and wildly-swinging story lines. That would be bad.
This episode is terrible, stretching a bad idea over two hours, almost single-handedly killing the character and reputation of Janeway while forcing Seven to suffer alone yet again in choosing between humans and the Borg. Oh, and there's a Holodeck fake-out too. You can never get enough of those.
To pad out the two episode arc we are treated to multiple pointless flashbacks and forced to hear "You will be assimilated" and "Resistance is futile" about nine times each. I often wonder what this series would be like if any of the writers seemed to LIKE any of the characters... what it would be like if episodes were even-keeled with recurring, season-spanning story lines... instead our crew is punished and dehumanized yet again while all previous lessons are forgotten in favor of this week's mission.
Why would Janeway risk the ship and her crew member/friend Seven for a transwarp coil only to later risk the ship in order to save the evidently expendable Seven? Even after its revealed that Seven may not want to be saved?
Kate Mulgrew is wonderful as the Captain but the writers did her no justice by making her morality and priorities change with the breeze. Will this be the last time Seven's loyalty is questioned and she is forced to experience the cold fear and terror of reintegrating herself to life as a human? Let's hope so. I don't think she could endure any more of this.
That makes Two of us.
Like An Outbreak Of Gonnorhea
"I think I'm gonna be sick," says Quark, and that one sentence sums up this episode, which can only be described as sewage.
Let me think... where to begin... there's so much wrong with this episode that I may not have enough space to accurately describe it.
"Let He Who Is Without Sin" is soft core sensationalist soap opera sludge, and to pass this off as Star Trek is a violation of the franchise and everything for which it stands.
Leading the parade of shame is the god-awful Terry Farrell, who has managed to keep her character Jadzia Dax as useless and poorly defined as it was in Season One. Farrell- vacuous and stiff- has managed to make Dax lifeless and entirely unnecessary, and she ices the cake of her performance each week by speaking in a faint, flat voice, the result of her clearly not having enough air in her lungs to push the dialogue out through her lips. Maybe that's why she had to overdub every single one of her lines. As an actress Terry Farrell is a cadaver, a comatose shell, and her performance is a crime against the craft of acting.
In recent episodes Dax has suddenly become the biggest in space, with multiple, head-scratching references made to her extensive sexual history and unbridled lust. It's even revealed in the Deep Space 9 TOS flashback "Trials & Tribble-ations" that Dax slept with Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy. Read that sentence again. Now a third time if you have to. It doesn't help, does it? Dax is vocal and obnoxious about taking a vacation with Worf to Risa so they can bang each other's brains out in private. She smiles cluelessly and without shame, and urges the senior staff of DS9 to loosen up and get laid, but not before we're treated to a graphic description of Klington/Trill intercourse. "I pulled my neck fugging," Dax tells Odo and Sisko, grinning gleefully, without even a hint of guilt or self-awareness. Also Vanessa Williams shows up as Dax's lesbian lover for some reason. Are we vomiting yet? Someone needs to slap Terry Farrell so hard that the echo from the resulting crack makes schoolchildren weep.
Not to be outdone by Dax's boggling behavior is Alexander Siddig as medical paperweight Julian Bashir. He raises one eyebrow and engages in sexual innuendo so inane and juvenile it would make a twelve year-old boy blush. It seems Julian likes sex, and the act of having sex, and he wants to have as much sex with his dabo cupcake Leeta as he can. Because of the sex. Did I mention sex? In "Without Sin," Star Trek- originally conceived as a high-minded science fiction anthology built on themes of discovery and human nature- melts inexplicably into a broad, goofy, exploitive sex-com as a ragtag band of space station crew misfits hit the road to bust a nut and learn a little something about love, sex, and the true meaning of Christmas. Gene Roddenberry must be rolling over in his torpedo tube on Genesis. This episode is nothing less than an absolute bastardization of the Trek name and the ideals for which it stands... it is a tumor... it is a crime.
My attack on this episode may seem severe but it is in my opinion well-deserved. My criticism of Terry Farrell may seem harsh, but I have patiently waited five years for this actress to display even a trace of talent or energy. I have waited five years for her to TRY. Frankly I'm tired of waiting. If she can't be bothered to even make an attempt then I can't be bothered to show her any sympathy. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," says the Bible passage. (John 8:7) *tossing a jagged rock at Terry Farrell's face* Avoid this junk. It's not Star Trek. It's forgettable smut.
"Let He Who Is Without Sin Cast The First Stone." Boldly banging where no man has banged before.
Flushing Dr. Crusher
A lot of people ask- to this day- why the character of Beverly Crusher was written off Star Trek TNG in Season 2 and replaced by the character of Dr. Pulaski. I'll give you the simple answer.
Gates McFadden is a terrible actress. She was fired from the show. Gates McFadden was fired from Star Trek: The Next Generation because she's a terrible actress. She is talent-free. She is an embarrassment. Her inability to act and perform was so pronounced that producers fired her from the show. Gates McFadden was fired because she was terrible.
Is that clear enough or do you need to re-read the above paragraph a few dozen times? The first and best example of Gates' staggering lack of passion and ability is this episode, a cherry-picked custom-made contraption designed to give the world's worst performer a chance to look good.
Gates falls on her face.
Blank, vacant, repressed, hollow, invisible, forgettable, stiff, awkward, frigid, numb, traumatized... pick an adjective, there's plenty to go around. You can argue with me or call me names but first I insist you sit through this 45-minute bowel sandwich called "Remember Me."
I'll be here. I'll be here waiting.
DS9 Roll Call! Avery, Colm, Terry, Armin, Rene, Siddig, Cirroc & Nana!
Yes, the most blandly named cast in television history finishes their third season with a strong episode: newly-promoted Captain Sisko takes his crew to their battleship for a mission, which is quickly sabotaged by a Dominion changeling. Who's real and who's not? Which crew members are in on the ruse? Good story, good action, and good performances combine to make an open-ended season finale without a contrived or over-the-top cliffhanger.
Deep Space Nine can be great Trek when it wants to be... here's hoping Season 4 will have more definitive, substantial episodes like this and less stray character story lines soaked in political/moral soup. Engage.
May I Borrow Your Body?
See the lazy DS9 writers fail to devise a story or plot-based reason for Dax to meet her former hosts: she does it one afternoon because there's nothing good on TV.
The fact that Dax employs the DS9 crew- including Odo AND Quark- to offer their bodies as Trill shells is pointless and beyond absurd. Terry Farrell- who has not a thought in her hollow little head- once again commits a crime against acting with her typically vacant dissociative presence. Much more interesting is watching young and spunky Nog in his attempt to qualify for Starfleet Academy.
Note to DS9 writers: enough hypothetical, imaginary, spiritual fantasy horse diarrhea. I'm old enough to remember when things ACTUALLY HAPPENED on Star Trek, and I miss those days bitterly. Still, this episode gets a bonus point for Odo's rockin' fro.
In Space No One Can Hear You Shrug
"Shakaar" is an example of the schizophrenic nature of Deep Space Nine, and exactly the reason I find my interest in the series rapidly waning.
We're coming to the end of Season 3 and there are too many disjointed story lines and tones going in the series. Is this show about Quark, his bar, and the Ferengi obsession with profit? Is it a lighthearted family show about a single father and his son? Is it devoted to the Bajoran/Cardassian conflict? Odo's identity search? Is it even about the space station anymore? Unfortunately the writers and producers don't seem to know. Week to week is a crap shoot: sometimes you get tense political drama and other weeks it's Deep Space 90210.
This outing features the otherwise-solid character of Kira leaving her job on the station to help Kai Winn retrieve farming equipment for the Bajoran provisional government. Huh? This is the moral and science-fiction morass which sunk the Star Trek franchise post-TNG. There are too many shades of gray plaguing this series: everybody's right while being simultaneously wrong. Who are we as an audience rooting for and why?
So Kira takes a week off to rejoin her former freedom-fighting comrades, unseat Kai Winn as head of the provisional government and somehow manages to return to work on DS9 before her coffee gets cold. Without any penalty or repercussion. Give me a break.
"Civil Defense" is a coma-inducing bore, a Star Trek episode so dull and dreary and pointless that you wonder how it was made. And why.
Sisko, Jake & O'Brien inadvertently trigger a Cardassian security program which locks down the station and threatens our hero's lives. It also provides the episode's ONLY dramatic arc. You see, the Cardassians had evidently anticipated a rebellion of the enslaved Bajoran mine workers and wrote a computer sub-routine to subdue the potentially unruly mob. (How convenient!) This computer program serves as a very thin disguise for terribly written, terribly detailed empty threats to keep our protagonists in supposed danger until the next act break, at which point the program starts issuing a new hollow warning.
"Warning. Warning," says the computer, "poison gas will be released in twelve minutes." Thanks for the heads-up.
"Surrender, Bajoran rebels, or we will be forced to destroy the station," says a prerecorded message from the writers. I mean from Gul Dukat. "You have eight minutes to decide."
"Warning. Warning," says the computer as the episode nears its ridiculous 'action' climax, "Core meltdown in three minutes. And just wait till your Father gets home." Chock-full of junky, clunky writing, zero character development and extraordinarily contrived plot devices, "Civil Defense" is Deep Space Nine- and the Star Trek franchise- at its most abysmal. Will our three lead characters be killed and the space station destroyed in the middle of the third season?!?
I won't spoil the ending for you.
Space, Baby. Deep Space.
Well we're midway through the first season of Deep Space Nine and I figure this is as good an episode as any to take a look at the series as a whole so far. I've been a huge fan of the original Star Trek series, the films, and the Next Generation, but I've only recently decided to work my way through DS9... I had heard mostly good things from Trek fans. I'm only ten episodes in, but here's my take on what works and what doesn't.
The Good: Avery Brooks as Captain Sisko. I already like the actor and the character he plays: he's got a quiet, introspective presence which works very well. It's also a nice change to see a Star Trek captain who isn't trying too hard to be authoritative or iron-willed: Sisko seems perfectly comfortable as head of the space station and Brooks is engaging and leaves me wanting more.
The Setting. What I thought would be detrimental to a Trek franchise- a stationery headquarters as opposed to a propulsive ship boldy going where no man has gone before- has actually turned out to be a positive: there's a stability to the DS9 station that I actually find comforting, especially with the ambient outer-space white noise in the background.
Quark. Boy was I ready to hate this character. In the few episodes I saw during DS9's original run I got the impression that Quark was an over-the-top greedy goofball, an alien bartender/host who was as much of a Gremlin as he was a Ferengi. I've been pleasantly surprised so far by the understatement of the character and Armin Shimerman's performance. If you've ever witnessed the neurotic nightmare Neelix on Voyager you thank the prophets for Quark's quiet dignity.
Odo. My favorite character so far. We don't know much about him yet but he has an air of mystery and steely determination that you don't usually find in a shapeshifter. I hope we get more episodes and backstory on him as the series continues.
The Not-So-Good: Nana Visitor as Major Kira. So far she's been bland and forgettable. Definitely room for the character to grow. Also who names their kid Nana? Chief O'Brien & Keiko. It's great to see Colm Meany from TNG, but so far he's offered little in terms of character or performance, and Keiko is the dramatic equivalent of a Styrofoam peanut. My favorite was the episode where she smiled and nodded.
The Ugly: Alexander Siddig as Dr. Bashir. Vaguely-British, vaguely good-looking and thus far almost entirely useless. He's like a department store mannequin modeling a mock turtleneck. Bashir seems to have two emotional settings: Mildly Surprised and Daydreaming About Donuts.
Terry Farrell as Dax. This is a joke, right? Good one. Now bring out the REAL actress. Farrell is not only corpse-like and comatose in facial expression and flat, stilted vocals, she's physically stiff as a plank when her character is required to move. In this episode she has to play hopscotch and follow a little girl's steps. Farrell looks like a newborn calf whose legs are not yet connected to her brain pan. There are not enough stool softeners in the world to cure her dead eyes and bland symmetrical forehead freckles. Seriously, the woman has been a crime against acting, and as we all know Star Trek is not Shakespeare. The only thing worse than Bashir & Dax is Bashir & Dax TOGETHER, sharing a chemistry-free flirtation and failing to connect as performers on any level. These two can only get better from here on out, because they surely can't get any worse.
But back to the episode: "Move Along Home" is a familiar but fun Trek expedition as the crew of DS9 are forced to play as pawns in an alien culture's game after Quark is caught cheating. I like what I see from Deep Space Nine... it's a chill, mellow Trek, a subtle fine wine in comparison to TOS' whiskey on the rocks and TNG's vodka martini. I'll keep checking in as I get farther in... so far it's worth the trip.
The series so far: B+
Black Widow (1987)
Please Squash This Spider
It took me almost thirty years to see this movie. I probably should have waited another thirty.
Black Widow is about a woman who marries wealthy men, kills them, and then inherits all their money. Then some lady who works for the FBI tries to catch her. A wild premise, I know. I'll give you a few minutes to digest that outrageous plot line. But seriously: what could have been a dark character study or Hitchcockian-suspense masterpiece simply dies on screen with an underdeveloped script and plot holes too gaping to overlook.
Why does Catharine (Theresa Russell) repeatedly marry and bury wealthy older men when doing it just once would have left her enough cash to live the rest of her life in luxury? How could every law enforcement bureau miss Catharine's obvious poisoning of her victims and not even classify the deaths as homicides? Why does Alexandra (Debra Winger) become obsessed with nabbing Catharine only to launch the silliest, sloppiest investigation in law enforcement history? ("I don't really work for the newspaper- I freelance. Actually I'm trying to sell a piece to Cosmo") How does the detail-oriented Catharine not see Debra Winger's clueless federal agent a mile away? Why would she continue to marry and kill even AFTER she knows Alexandra's true identity? Are there really all-girl scuba classes in which women get to play lesbian by performing CPR on one another?
And a word here on the homosexual overtones in the movie: they're poorly-constructed and entirely half-ass. We know absolutely nothing about Alexandra as a person except that she refuses to date. Debra Winger is no help by playing Alex as a comatose shell: she doesn't seem attracted to men OR women. If a movie is going to imply lesbianism there has to be more than two throwaway lines and a make-believe kiss. I feel sorry for the reviewers who have patted themselves on the back for catching the "deep subtext" of the gay implications: there isn't more here than meets the eyes, my friends. There's less.
This brings us to the ending, which is so absurd as to be laughable: Alexandra is arrested and charged with the murder of Catharine's husband while Catharine struts like a peacock in front of attorneys and law enforcement officers, even going so far as to visit Alexandra in prison! Because, you know, doesn't everybody drop by the local jailhouse to say hey to their spouse's killer? The answer is no.
"Black Widow' is a sloppy potboiler-wannabe, a suspense-mystery with neither element to be found anywhere on screen. The film's only highlight is James Hong as a scuzzy heroin-addicted PI, a character dark and dirty enough to hold your interest. Otherwise this movie is two frozen-faced women doing things that the script tells them to. Feel free to miss it.
Cause for Alarm! (1951)
Hilarious Housewife Nightmare
I've read the other reviews here and they're all completely correct: Cause For Alarm Exclamation Point is corny, contrived, nonsensical and an utter failure as an attempt at a film noir. It is also hilarious.
Housewife Loretta Young is taking care of her husband George who is bedridden with a heart condition. He is SO bedridden that the very act of getting out of his bed- even to take a few steps to look out bedroom window- is worthy of comment and concern by neighbors and friends. His other problem? He's clinically insane and paranoid delusional- so much so that he thinks his wife & doctor are working together to try to kill him so they can make off with his insurance money and live together happily ever after.
The entire story takes place in one day, in almost real-time, as George writes a letter to the district attorney fingering his wife and doctor should any tragedy ever befall him. Faithful, loving wife Ellen (Loretta Young) mails said letter unaware of its contents and that's where the real fun begins. George tells her what he wrote and then conveniently dies of his magical mystery heart disease, leaving Ellen in frantic pursuit of the incriminating letter. The obstacles she encounters as she tries to get the letter back (nosy neighbors, a meddling Aunt, a neighborhood kid who thinks he's a cowboy) are nothing compared to the ultimate bureaucratic nightmare of suburbia: the post office.
Cause For Alarm! is unintentionally hilarious, almost an "Airplane!" take on film noir movies (The Postman Always Whines Twice) and will have you laughing yourself silly at the unbelievable circumstances that have Loretta Young changing clothes and putting on makeup with her dead husband five feet away so she can look presentable in front of the Postmaster. If you're looking for serious, gripping film noir you should look elsewhere, but if you're looking to laugh at a movie that doesn't seem to realize how absurd it is check out this little gem.
And don't forget to put proper postage on all your outgoing mail.
Fantastic Four (2015)
Chunkburger with Cheese
"Fantastic Four" (2015) is a dismal, abysmal, painfully-lame action movie based on the legendary comic book of the same name. What goes right in this picture? Almost nothing.
Our lead actor Miles Teller (Reed Richards) has the face of a turtle without its shell. And he wears glasses. This does not stop director Josh Trank from doing endless closeups of Miles' chubby, geeky, inexpressive face.
The entire pace of the film is off, with far too much time being spent on the origins of the Fantastic Four gaining their super-powers. By the time the characters actually go to fight crime there's twenty minutes left in the film, and the finale is a humiliating rush of action clichés so predictable that even the children in my theater had lost interest and were talking in their seats.
The entire second act of the story- in which the Four test out Reed's inter-dimensional transporter- is triggered by the team getting drunk one night and deciding that traveling to another dimension would be "really cool." Reed even calls his best friend & basically says, "Dude! You gotta get over here! This is freaking' awesome!" No explanation is given for the other dimension, for HOW the four gain their powers from traveling there, how the team gets back to their home dimension or how they magically arrive back on Earth at the end of the film. This is sloppy writing that slaps you in the face and laughs at the fact that you paid for your ticket.
A sub-plot about Reed escaping from the military facility at which the Four are being held goes nowhere, accomplishes nothing, and fails to further the story or characters in any way.
The cast shares ZERO chemistry, the "jokes" fall instantly flat, and the final scene of the film- where Reed suggests the group come up with a cool name for themselves- is awkward and sad:
THING: This place is fantastic.
REED: Wait a minute- say that again...
Yup. That's it, folks. That's how they got the name Fantastic Four. My face was red for everyone involved in making this hot manure sandwich. Bad music, dull actors, blank faces, dialogue by Mrs. Johnson's second-grade class, zero conflict, cheesy visuals, and no story.
Is that enough or are you actually still thinking about watching this movie?
American Sniper (2014)
"American Sniper" is one of the worst movies I have ever been forced to endure. It is simplistic propaganda masquerading as an award-worthy story. There is no story.
American kid Chris Kyle is good at shooting so he uses 9/11 as an excuse to join the Navy SEALS and kill Iraqis. That's it. That's the whole movie. Clint Eastwood's one-dimensional direction shows Chris as some sort of American hero, even though any sane human will at least question the cold-blooded murder of men, women & children in a morally ambiguous war. I'm still not sure how Iraq was responsible for 9/11.
Clint tries to humanize our hero by tacking on a subplot about Chris's wife, but this storyline- like the rest of the movie- has NO conflict. Chris meets his prospective wife at a bar, dates her, marries her, impregnates her and starts a family with no trouble whatsoever. Why are we watching this? In the meantime our hero goes back to Iraq to blow the brains out of more women and children, and he doesn't seem to lose any sleep over his work.
Back home Chris gets accosted in a Jiffy-Lube by a fellow veteran, and the sequence plays more like a romantic meeting than a heartfelt tribute, as the appreciative vet stares at Chris with moist, dewy eyes while licking his lips. Either way, Kyle is unmoved and displays no emotion. Why are we watching this again?
Sienna Miller as Chris' wife cannot stop touching her belly to remind us that she's preggers. The straps of her fake pregnant belly are visible beneath her bra straps. At one point she hands Chris their child and it is very obviously a lifeless, motionless doll. Why are we watching this?
If you're looking for any type of character development you won't find it here: Chris Kyle is portrayed as a killing machine without any discernible personality. A fellow officer raises the question of why Chris carries a Bible. "I've never seen you open it," he says, and the issue is dropped there. Does Chris believe in God? Does he not? There is no internal life whatsoever.
Bradley Cooper does his best to instill this cardboard cutout of a character with some depth, but all he manages to do is say "Um " in a Southern drawl before he speaks every line to remind us that he is indeed from Texas. He meets his brother at an airport and the scene is a crime against acting: there is no connection, no exchange, no conflict. Suddenly Chris decides he wants to come home from the war and stop killing people. He does. Then he is killed by a fellow soldier and Eastwood leaves us with TV footage of the real Chris Kyle's funeral: six SUV's driving down the road while a couple people hold signs. Why?
Why was this movie made? What is it supposed to say? Why is this man special, or significant, or evil, or great? Why are we supposed to care about any of this? Why are we watching this?
The good news is: you don't have to.
Stone Pillow (1985)
The End Of The Road
You have to feel bad for the Hollywood actress: they start out as the love interest, graduate to playing mothers & wives and then- after that certain age- are relegated to playing only lunatics and monsters. Ask Bette Davis & Joan Crawford.
Okay, so Lucille Ball may not be playing a monster here, but she's definitely in the neighborhood. She stars as Florabelle, a tough-as-nails homeless woman roaming the streets of New York with her shopping cart. Daphne Zuniga shows up in the movie & gives one of the most blank, hollow, and forgetful performances in the history of film. The writing doesn't help: why does Daphne pretend to be homeless in order to befriend Flora? Um, I forget. And the end credits are still running.
The question of the day, of course, is how was Lucy's performance? Well, it was good but not great. She's believable but has nothing to work with in terms of story or other characters. The movie is full of schmaltz and heavy-handed social messages. The direction & writing is amateurish & silly: characters wear glasses only so they can pull them off to make a dramatic point, and most people are so humorless & sanctimonious about homeless people being "the same as you and me," that you'll roll your eyes at least a couple times.
The movie ends on a particularly-syrupy sequence: Flora, rescued from the streets, takes her first steps in the garden of her new home, arms wide, face beaming, overjoyed, enraptured: making mimes blush. She falls to her knees and scoops a handful of soil from the ground- HER soil!- putting it up to her face and sniffing it. Daphne Zuniga watches her in the cutaway, smiling but showing no genuine emotion. We cut back to Flora & mercifully freeze-frame & fade to black before she starts eating the dirt. Yuzz.
Am I being harsh on this movie? Yes. It was intended as an evening's entertainment and a vehicle for the great Lucille Ball. But as I was watching Lucy play gritty and real I realized: I don't want her gritty & real... I like her better when she's making me laugh. I won't remember Lucy unattractive and old as a homeless woman... I will remember her young and pretty and hilarious from her TV days. You can afford to miss "Stone Pillow."
Star Trek: Voyager (1995)
Year Of Hell
I tried to like Voyager, tried to plow through, to soldier on, to survive the endurance test of a Trek series which is seemingly obsessed with punishing its own characters, in undermining the franchise's previously established values of hope... and progress... and wonder. For a whole year I watched the show trying to fall in love with it like I did The Original Series or The Next Generation, but no luck. And now I have to step away.
You can take a look at my other reviews: I wrote summaries for more than 50 episodes of this show. I loved TOS, loved TNG, I love everything about Star Trek and what it represents, but Voyager is a show in which the writers and creators have no respect or feeling for the principles of the franchise. They don't even like their characters: the crew of the ship is tortured and tested to no end and without purpose, like crash-test dummies in a psychotic fun house. Impotent sociopath and Executive Producer Brannon Braga surely shoulders the bulk of the blame here: he seemed to enjoy mocking Trek and distancing himself from the show... I believe he was so intimidated by Star Trek's power and scope that he set out to single-handedly destroy the series from the inside. With Voyager he succeeded, but he was surely not alone.
As I pushed myself into Voyager's fourth season I had only to look at the episode titles to see where the show was headed: Revulsion, Demon, The Killing Game, Mortal Coil, and Year Of Hell (Parts I & II). Whatever happened to "Where No Man Has Gone Before" & "City At The Edge Of Forever?" Star Trek was always about the examination of human nature, celebrating man's potential for evolution and enlightenment, yet Voyager is preoccupied with maiming, mutilating, terrorizing and destroying the show's protagonists: not an episode goes by without at least one horrific, traumatic, nightmarish humiliation or degradation. I can serve on this ship no longer.
It's not like I'm afraid of the dark- I love downbeat, unhappy endings and all kind of alternative views, but this show is stuck in the primordial ooze of Original Sin: these characters were cursed upon creation and are doomed to a life of misery. Why? Because the writers were out of original ideas? Because they were afraid to be positive or too lazy to find the good in even the worst scenarios? "Year of Hell" was the final nail in the coffin for me as the episode features our heroes- already stranded and adrift in the vast black of endless space- forced to endure a year's worth of defeat and humiliation as their ship is destroyed piece by piece before finally surrendering and abandoning ship. Why? There's no fun in this story, no sense of adventure... just a sadistic satisfaction in watching these people suffer. That's no satisfaction to me.
Then of course there's the wildly-uneven plot lines: some weeks the crew was obsessed with getting home, willing to sacrifice all else in order to shave two weeks off their trip. Other weeks the show was a fuzzy romantic soap-opera, with characters hooking up and developing relationships. Still other episodes were big-budget F/X-driven action blockbusters, and every now and then the writers would yield to the franchise and try to write an episode in the classic Trek tradition of discovery and adventure. None of it gelled or formed a cohesive tone, and gaps in character and story were glossed over with jaw-breaking techno-babble too absurd to repeat here.
Wasted in this mess is the great Kate Mulgrew, a powerful Captain and richly-talented actress. Also wasted is Tim Russ as Tuvok, a fascinating Vulcan who is completely under-used. And then there's the over-used Robert Picardo as Doctor. What could have been a funny & original character in small doses becomes an ever-present shrew, bitching & chirping when no words are needed. I started off Loving him and liked him less and less with every episode. The producers tried to focus on the luscious heinie of Jeri Ryan in the hopes that the audience would forget her inability to emote. No ass can make up for a performance that wooden. And let's not forget the writers' abusive, negligent treatment of the Kes character before unceremoniously dumping her at the end of Season Three. A shame.
I simply cannot watch another episode of this show, so I guess I'll never know whether or not the crew finds their way home. The sad part is: I don't care. If the show's writers and creators can't find any reason to care about these characters and their story lines how can the audience? Your guess is as good as mine.
Voyager's journey home could have been- should have been- a proud Trek adventure, testing the ideals of Starfleet in a distant part of the galaxy, balancing the ship's quest for survival with the discovery of new life and new civilizations. Instead its worst enemy were the show's writers, who never showed any sympathy for their own heroes. A tragedy.
Star Trek: Voyager: Revulsion (1997)
Love Is In The Air
"I'm detecting elevated hormonal levels," says Doc, in an episode as soggy and unsatisfying as the french fry under your floor mat. We open with Tuvok being promoted to Lt. Commander, a sequence which has nothing to do with the rest of the episode. This diversionary scene also prominently features Janeway and Neelix, who will vanish for the rest of the episode along with our Vulcan over-achiever.
The main story this week features a renegade projection who thinks his species is better than humans. Naturally he decides to kill the "organic" crew of his ship in the most brutal way possible before calling for help from Voyager. (How's that supremacy thing working out, bud?) Voyager responds by sending Doctor & Torres. Don't worry- Doc won't have any significant or meaningful exchanges with his fellow isomorphic projection. Instead this whole plot serves as a backdrop for the steamy soap opera to which "Voyager" is transforming. "Live long and prosper' has evolved into "I wanna kiss you really bad."
Watching Kim flirt awkward with Seven is painful. If it weren't for Sev's utterly edible gum balls I probably would have thrown my boots at the TV. Steel-toe. Their courtship is like watching a raccoon stake out a toilet. Paris & Torres aren't much better: their relationship seems to be based upon the good old-fashioned desire to screw- hardly the stuff of great sci-fi.
Oh, I'm sorry- did I say sci-fi? Aside from the outstanding performance from guest actor Leland Orser this is just Star Trek: Voyager, 90210.
Cheers: My Fair Clavin (1987)
Ouch. This one hurts. It's almost impossible to make Cliff unfunny but this episode succeeds entirely. Mr. Clavin lands a girlfriend, a lanky spinster who tied for Employee Of The Month down at The Yarn Barn. Her name is Sally, and as played by the awkward, giraffe-like Karen Akers she's enough to make you vomit in a neighbor's toilet. I'd like to nominate Karen Akers for "Worst Cheers Guest Star," a very exclusive list that features- among others- Harry Connick, Jr. as Cousin Russell. Karen Akers is not so much an actress as she is a pterodactyl, and her pterformance is simply pterrible.
Cliff and Sally spend their courtship on his couch watching Jeopardy, until he decides to give her a make-over. It's hard to decide which is more nauseating: the beady-eyed sociopath Sally as "nerdy" or as "sexy." Neither one is believable and both should be destroyed for the good of humanity. Cliff finally brings her to Cheers, where Sam Malone- supposed womanizer- actually hits on her. Maybe Sam's herpes was flaring up that afternoon and he had temporarily lost his eyesight, or maybe he was just killing time until the middle school girls were dismissed for the day.
Sally- an unforgettable character- politely asks Cliff if she can interrupt her date with him to go on a date with another man. Seems reasonable. She assures him she'll be right back, and when the ginger flamingo returns she declares her decision to remain "pretty" and pecks through the trash barrel to snack on fresh worms. Okay I made up the worm part but the rest is all true.
In the Sam/Rebecca subplot Miss Howe promises to go to bed with Sam if she smokes another cigarette. She lights up but- being a hypocrite and liar- somehow manages to avoid serving Sam pie. This terrible episode is filled with manipulative women and the worst kind of teasing... we can only hope that Karen Akers served prison time as a result of this crime against television. If you see her, please pummel her with a broomstick or tire iron. You'll be glad you did.
Man goes to a psychiatrist because he has dreams about murdering his wife with a perfume bottle. Then his wife is murdered. With a perfume bottle. Was it him? I ain't saying boo.
This is a decent suspense movie carried by the greasy charm of Dan Duryea, who makes his sociopathic character (almost) sympathetic. Note to police officers: whenever a suspect in a murder investigation offers to help you solve the crime, it's pretty much a sure bet that he's the man you're looking for.
Enjoy this breezy noir and steer clear of husbands holding perfume bottles. (Incidentally, you know what would be a great name for a perfume? Manhandled.) GRADE: B-
Baseball Is Not The Civil War
Ken Burns' "Baseball" tries to be a good documentary... it presents a clear origin of the game, a great depiction of baseball's early years and heroes. There's plenty of great footage in this movie for any baseball fan... that said, the film has several glaring flaws- namely by presenting the game of baseball as some sad and tragic part of America's history when it is in fact the opposite: a joyous if imperfect celebration of everything uniquely American.
Ken Burns- fresh from the success of his Civil War series- tries to tell the story of baseball in the same way as he did his previous documentary: maudlin, sorrowful, and sentimental. The running time doesn't help: 18 hours is simply too long for the human attention span. It's clear that Burns stretched his film out to fit his "nine inning" concept. It's not even a tight 18 hours: the pace is slow, almost morose... the music always nostalgic and wistful. Isn't baseball ever exciting and fun? Why is every player and their accomplishments presented in the form of a tragedy?
Talking head after talking head turn every pitch into an emotional heartbreak, yakking about baseball as a metaphor, baseball as Americana, the psychology and theology of baseball... at times this is tough to sit through. What should have been an enduring tribute to the game becomes syrupy, mawkish drivel. Billy Crystal stops by to sell us all the Yankee hokum he's sold us before. Ken Burns uses the National Anthem as the series' theme song, and manages to play "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" so many times you might vomit. We get it, dude.
Mr. Burns also comes off as a neo-Hollywood faux-liberal, spending probably a third of the film on the Negro leagues... these segments are spent chastising whites of yesterday for not being as open-minded as Kenny is today. For shame! He chides baseball for being segregated in the thirties and forties but fails to realize that the entire country was segregated in those times! He tries to shame the game, evidently failing to realize that baseball was one of the FIRST institutions to integregate, starting with the historic signing of Jackie Robinson. Burns seems sheltered and naive, clearly falling in love with Buck O'Neil, a former negro-league player, and drools over every piece of footage in which the elderly O'Neil waxes poetic about his playing days. Nonsense...
Burns would have been better off with an objective outsider to help him edit his creation down. "Baseball" winds up as mushy, gushy, civil- rights propaganda disguised as Americana. It's clear that Burns is not a baseball fan... otherwise he would know that we fans watch games laughing and cheering, not weeping and reciting soliloquies... are you listening, Mr. Burns? There's no crying in baseball.
Tom Tom Club
Neelix begins broadcasting his own television show- "Good Morning Voyager" or some-such nonsense- in which he appears as host and does sports, news and weather for the benefit and boredom of the already- tortured crew. What makes it even more sad is that in the course of finding stories for his morning show Neelix is able to discover more about the traitor on board the ship than the rest of the Starfleet crew combined.
He stumbles upon a rumor that Tom Paris is leaving Voyager for a Talaxian convoy ship and has a genuinely emotional goodbye with the troubled officer. This was a nice scene, which everyone can relate to... no matter how you feel about someone you're forced to reconsider them when you realize you may never see them again. After a touching scene and on-air tribute, Tom departs and is promptly kidnapped by the Kazon.
Ready for the big surprise? Tom Paris is a spy and his recent subplot involving his "bad attitude" has been for the sake of creating the illusion that he was unhappy and wanted to leave. Oh. Okay...
The nauseating Martha Hackett returns as Seska, glowering and cackling and missing her calling as Witch #3 in a Children's Playhouse production of "Grimm's Fairy Tales." Here she welcomes Tom aboard the Kazon vessel and squeezes her stomach to remind us she's pregnant; back on Voyager Neelix singlehandedly takes on the traitor Michael Jonas, killing him and saving the ship. The Captain, Chakotay, Tuvok, Torres and Kim just stand around, demonstrating just how balanced and focused the writing is.
Doctor gets a subplot about being a cranky effeminate star who wants more airtime on Neelix's show, a stretch considering he is played by a cranky effeminate star who wants more airtime on the show. And Kes? Who? Oh yeah... Kes! By this point it seems the writers had either forgotten who she was and that she was even on board the ship. I'd never thought I'd be nostalgic for Kes eating beetles but there you go.
Tom Paris subplot- resolved. Traitor subplot- resolved. Where do we go from here?
I have no bloody idea.
Ally McBeal (1997)
Punish The Penis
Here's your standard episode of Ally McBeal: Ally- a young, attractive lawyer- bites her lip, rolls her eyes, hallucinates a cartoon and avoids making any emotional or personal decisions while her law firm defends a woman's right to dress like a whore and not expect any unwanted sexual attention whatsoever.
This show is disposable Hollywood-liberal schlock, a dreary timepiece, a false step in feminism. This was back in the day when women could get a man to do anything they wanted just by kissing another woman. Yawn... Ally is the fictionalized ideal of the woman-child who has it all but is still miserable because she doesn't know what to do with it. Or maybe she's just too stupid to make any concrete and assertive choices, paralyzed by the wonderful life she's made for herself. Poor Ally
The show was the brainchild of writer/creator/lesbian David E. Kelley, who seemed to genuinely believe the offbeat and often backwards fairy- tales he wrote each week. Ostensibly designed to liberate and empower women, the show was anti-male in every sense of the word: men were brutish creatures whose hostile sexual desires were thrown back in their face and openly mocked or they were impotent teddy bears. Middle ground and complexity are not Mr. Kelley's specialty. If only men could be as sophisticated as the strong women he writes, who take no responsibility for their sexuality, unless/until it suited their desires. You've come a long way, baby. Hypocrisy and arrogance abound.
Maybe that's what made it all the more ironic that the Ally herself- Calista Flockhart- was suffering from severe anorexia during the show's run: like Ally, Flockhart was an attractive young rising star who worked hard to achieve stardom, only to learn that she couldn't handle it. Just a little girl after all... how decidedly female, how decidedly obnoxious... The show shut down production several times to accommodate Flockhart's hospital stints and attempts at recovery. Like Ally, Calista wanted to have her cake and not eat it too.
Women- to a certain degree- will never fully understand their own sexuality, a simple fact of Nature that can't even be overcome in a fictional TV universe with unisex bathrooms and the open discussion of orgasm or lack thereof. For anyone to base their views of life, sex or feminism on this show would be criminal... it's trite, condescending and often plain ridiculous.
David E. Kelley used the show's "legal" cases for all the wrong reasons: not to examine morality and society or to tell an interesting story- the legal issues were in fact Mr. Kelley preaching and moralizing to the audience about his own personal views of the way the world SHOULD BE- and why everyone should agree. He created the weekly scenario and played judge and jury all by himself, with the underlying message to every ruling being that Men are Bad and that women- no matter how ridiculous, childish, slutty or insane- should be blindly praised and rewarded. The show hasn't been seen since its cancellation and it probably never will be- it was a sexist and insulting view of the world by a self-loathing male who wanted to atone for the carnal desires of his entire sex.
So what should a successful, attractive woman do when a man looks lustfully at her ripe breasts on full display in her low-cut top? Taunt him? Sue him? Stop eating until said mammary glands disappear? According to this show she should do anything except take some responsibility and cover up... that would be anti-Ally.
Audrey In Heat
"Tension" is a wonderful film noir with just the right amount of everything. Warren Quimby's wife Claire is a dirty sexpot, openly unfaithful and clearly unsatisfied. When she finally leaves him for another man the broken Warren plots his revenge, and the movie keeps throwing in plot twists until the very last frame.
The star of the show here is Audrey Totter, one of the most underrated actresses of all-time. Her pouting baby face could go from furious to lustful to maternally sweet and back within the course of a few seconds... she sings her lines in a kitten's purr, an angry growl and a child's whisper. She is sexual, she is strong, and she is fierce. Her performance as Clair is a one-woman clinic on acting and she is the glue that holds the film together. For once you can honestly believe that the female lead in a noir could be the cause of all this trouble.
Audrey was spectacular in movies like "Lady In The Lake" and "The Set- Up." Her thirty seconds of screen time in "The Postman Always Rings Twice" as the mystery blonde who lures John Garfield away from Lana Turner are enough to melt the butter on your popcorn. She is one of the truly great actresses from this period and adds so much more to every moment of screen time than was ever written on the page. Here she is the epitome of every bad girl written about in every pulp crime novel- dripping with sex and dirt and bad ideas and still somehow lovable, or at least irresistible. She earns her musical theme in the movie- a sultry, teasing clarinet roll- as no femme fatale ever has. "Tension" is worth watching for her performance alone.
Other highlights include Richard Basehart as the sucker husband- he's not afraid to play Warren as a loser, and shows the fear and insecurity that most male leads would never reveal. The locations are also beautiful- the all-night drugstore, the bowling alley, the beach house... and it's all filmed in a crisp and timeless black and white that's as fresh today as it was all those years ago.
The film has some weaknesses, of course- most notably the character of Lt. Collier Bonnabel, the detective/narrator who plays it just a little too cute with our lead characters instead of simply doing his job and making an arrest. (It's kinda tough to remain an impartial investigator after you've made out with one of the suspects.) And of course there's the coincidental timeline: Warren devotes his life to killing Barney Deager then has a sudden change of heart- all this on the same night that someone else decides to kill him. Very convenient.
But still, "Tension" is a lasting, quality thriller... fun and sexy and violent and engaging, with the magnetic Audrey Totter working her magic all over the place. Don't miss it.
"Chloe" is a disaster, a misguided and pretentious film that believes it's making a grand statement about sex and human nature until resorting to terrible, manipulative writing in the last act in order to force a pointless finale. It's like a soft-core flick on Showtime trying to get an Oscar nomination, and it isn't smart or sexual... it's just tedious.
The great Julianne Moore plays Catherine Stewart, a repressed gynecologist whose marriage to husband David (Liam Neeson) is slowly eroding over the course of many years and his many affairs. Catherine secretly hires classy call-girl Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) to seduce her husband and test his fidelity but here's where the movie goes wrong: Catherine doesn't have any reaction to finding out her husband is a cheater.
You might expect her to be angry, hurt, devastated... but she's not. Maybe she gets a kinky thrill from the prostitute's detailed descriptions of these hook-ups: after all we do see her masturbating in the shower as she replays the scenario. The trouble is this avenue is never explored- or even mentioned- for the rest of the film. So what is her motivation? Maybe she's ready to confront her husband, to divorce him, to address the hypocrisy in her own life. Except she does none of that. She seems to be going through the motions because the script tells her to. I am a tremendous fan of Julianne Moore but her performance here is almost an intentional void. She's never allowed to behave based on her character's natural reactions, mainly because her character doesn't have any.
When she finally shacks up with Chloe herself it's as unsatisfying as it is confusing: she showed no signs of attraction to the girl whatsoever. Is she a closeted lesbian? I don't think so... first off that would be an incredibly trite plot development- done thousands of times- and secondly she describes in great detail how very deeply in love she and her husband once were. Aside from the generous nudity, Chloe and Catherine in bed offers no solution or explanation for either character. It's not even sexy... it just happens.
Amanda Seyfried is vibrant as the whore. Her eyes and face tell the story of a lost soul- too beautiful to ever be taken seriously- and she fills the non-character with as much personality as can be expected. After all, Chloe the prostitute is not a person, just a metaphor for sex. Well, she is until the third act, when the script calls for her to fall madly in love (?) with Catherine and turn psychotic. This is where the film completely falls apart.
Chloe is dumped/terminated by Catherine, so of course the scorned hooker immediately seduces Catherine's son. This makes less sense than it sounds. We're led to believe that she does this to get into Catherine's house and get closer to the woman she suddenly loves more than life itself. Reality check: the idea of a hooker falling in love with a client is beyond Looney Tunes. Secondly, there are no hints or clues of this happening- not even a single emotional connection between the two- before their sudden hookup. Third, after sex Chloe and the son simply fall asleep in Catherine's bed, both evidently unaware that they would be discovered. Chloe generously agrees to fall out of the bedroom window and die, if only to try and give the film some sense of closure- talk about your hookers with a heart of gold.
And that's that. We know less about the characters at the end than we did at the beginning. Why did Catherine do any of this? Who was Chloe? Is the rumpled and weepy Liam Neeson actually having an affair? Who cares? What makes this movie so much worse is the pretentious direction by Atom Egoyan, who moves things along at a slow and ponderous pace, giving you plenty of time to notice the lack of substance and story. Too bad... If you want a good lesbian sex scene that will get your juices flowing I suggest a soft-core porn on Showtime. It's much more honest, and much more fun.
This episode was actually the second pilot to be filmed for the series, and opens with the Enterprise picking up a distress signal from a ship that's been missing for over two centuries. It turns out that the ship was destroyed and the call is actually coming from the emergency recorder (the cosmic equivalent of an airplane's black box) so Kirk orders it beamed aboard. When the probe starts transmitting a signal Kirk orders a Red Alert, if only for a dramatic development to take us into the opening credits. (Sometimes he orders a Red Alert when the galley runs out of tater tots.)
Lt. Commander Gary Mitchell joins Kirk and Co. on the bridge, and he's played by none other than Gary Lockwood, who would go on to star in the astounding "2001: A Space Odyssey." Next Sally Kellerman reports to the bridge as psychiatrist Elizabeth Dehner, and this beautiful actress would come to be known for her role on M*A*S*H and for her sultry, seething voice, a voice which had the power to melt men, women and steel. Spock discovers that the missing ship- Valiant- was researching ESP before self-destructing, and the next sequence is one of the best in the series.
Kirk orders the Enterprise out of the galaxy at warp one, and the ship immediately comes up against a mysterious force field that does not appear on their sensors. The visual effects on the field are spectacular- a flowing, pulsing purple horizon that would stand up with any CGI today or of the future. Its subtlety is masterful: this was the age when special effects were used to serve the story's needs. Unfortunately that has come to be completely reversed. Black space is visible above and below the event horizon in the exterior shot, and the Enterprise in relation for once seems perfectly scaled. These effects- ironically- bear a slight resemblance to those that would later be used in "2001."
It's a fitting comparison because this scene is cinematic in nature- both dramatically and from a technical standpoint. Lt. Mitchell and adorable Crewman Smith wordlessly take one another's hands during the crisis, and no comment is ever made about this intimate exchange. The field begins to storm, change color, and there are actual explosions aboard the ship- control panels sparking, smoking and flaming. Finally, Mitchell and Dehner are zapped by an unknown force, and Gary is left with silver glowing eyeballs.
The Enterprise is left paralyzed, warp engines down, and Lt. Mitchell begins to show symptoms of being a Supergenius: he's reading several books an hour and controlling his medical monitors telepathically. He quotes a sonnet written "back in 1996" and it's little script touches such as this that make the show a joy. Dr. Dehner conceals Gary's abilities from her superiors and has an emotional outburst during a departmental briefing: an objective scientist she is not. Spock suggests killing Lt. Mitchell, reasoning that a similar, unchecked situation led to the destruction of the Valiant. It's a great plot point and Kirk is faced with an excellent moral dilemma: sentence his own friend to die or risk the life of his ship and crew.
I find the development of Gary's character during his "mutation" to be extraordinarily realistic: he's not a cackling, power-mad villain, but he's clearly transcended the bounds of humanity. He openly agrees with Spock's conclusion: he admits he's a threat but he can't stop the progression. The Enterprise arrives at Delta Vega for repairs and to strand Gary, but he soon overpowers them and takes the psexy psychiatrist to be his omnipotent Eve in his self-styled Eden.
But, just like in the Bible, paradise is interrupted by a Starship Captain with a sub-machine gun. Kirk, Dehner & Gary battle over the line between God and man, the theme at the heart of the episode, and the writers weave it in to the action beautifully: no heavy-handed speeches or static pontificating. "Morals are for men, not gods," proclaims Mitchell, and he has clearly lost his humanity, and all compassion, attacking Kirk with bolts of lightning from his fingertips. Dehner, still merciful, intervenes, buying the Captain enough time to bury Gary the god in the grave marked for James T. Kirk. Fantastic.
Back on board the ship Spock confesses to having "felt" for Gary- ouch- and then Smiles at Kirk's comment- yikes: very out of character for the Vulcan. Let's chalk this last bit up to the fact that this episode was just the second pilot filmed for the series, and the stoic, analytical Spock character that we all know and love had yet to be perfected.
It would be illogical to do otherwise.
Star Trek: Charlie X (1966)
The Wonder Years
A young man with strange powers hitches a ride on the Enterprise. His name is Charles Evans- Charlie to you and me- and as the sole survivor of a crash he has been alone on a deserted planet for fourteen years. But making Charlie's return to society more difficult is his mysterious godlike abilities
This episode is almost certainly a metaphor for puberty/adolescence: it's the awkward stage taken to the exaggerated extreme. Charlie is the uncertain, stumbling teen- a lusty man one moment and a spiteful child the next. He's flexing his newfound muscles and does not yet realize his own strength. And who should be the object of Charlie's first crush? Why it's none other than Yeoman Janice Rand, intergalactic chew toy and perpetual victim. (Poor Janice- is she cursed?) Charlie reaches for her ample backside but is reprimanded because he has not taken her to Olive Garden first. Kirk is asked to step in as the boy's father figure but he neatly weasels his way out of the job, "delegating" the task back to Spock and Bones.
Next we have the single most mystifying sequence in the first season of the show: Uhura's cafeteria cabaret performance. She's in uniform, in front of the entire crew, singing to Spock's funky harp jam and serenading Charlie until he uses his power to destroy her vocal chords. (We owe you one, Chuck.) Why did anyone think a musical number would be appropriate here? This always stood out as strange to me. Charlie demonstrates his gifts by performing card tricks for Janice, who suddenly seems less upset about the ass-grabbing in Corridor B.
If Kirk's advice to Charlie ("There's no right way to hit a woman") is less than romantic at least it's well-intentioned, but father-son time is over as the ship which brought Charlie aboard is suddenly- and mysteriously- destroyed. Next Charlie loses to Spock at chess and melts the pieces in frustration. At this point it's impossible not to draw a parallel between this story and the "It's A Good Life" episode of The Twilight Zone, in which a small town is terrorized by a young boy with unlimited powers. Were the Trek writers unconsciously copying that story? Consciously copying it? We may never know. Back on the ship Charlie pursues Janice and her giant beehive because she "smells like a girl" and she makes him "hungry, all over." Down, boy.
Kirk pulls Charlie aside for a verbal hose-down and then tries to beat the puberty out of him with a gymnastics routine that evidently consists of slamming your body against the mat as hard as you possibly can. (This is the secret to the Captain's bodacious physique.) Charlie doesn't seem to enjoy it and begins to vanquish crew members to oblivion, and in short order he's taken command of the Enterprise.
We cut to Janice in her quarters: she's alone, in her nightie, writing a letter to Starfleet requesting a transfer to another ship. Then Charlie comes barging in, cornering her, hitting on her hard, and wishing her away when she rejects him. Next the boy goes on a ship-wide tirade, forcing a female crew member through a one-minute menopause and punishing another for laughing by evidently gluing a pancake to her face. (Tough but fair.) Kirk tries to overwhelm Charlie's abilities but suddenly an alien vessel appears and power is restored to the ship, with missing crew members magically returned.
In this final act an almost literal deus ex machina is used to resolve the plot: a "god" appears on the bridge and simply takes Charlie away. It is a disappointing and confusing resolution to an otherwise fine episode, and raises some major plot questions. (If these aliens gave Charlie magic powers in order to survive why didn't they just rescue him? If they're omnipotent why did they allow him to get out of control in the first place?) You can't write a story this good and then just press the Reset button when you run out of time... it's too bad because "Charlie X" deserved an ending.