Friday, November 5, 2010

Anger At Another All-Powerful (Sort Of) Manipulator On "Day Of The Dove!"

The Good: Some decent enough acting, Fine use of Klingons
The Bad: Very campy special effects, No real character development, plot seems obvious
The Basics: When a ship full of Klingons and the Enterprise find themselves fighting, it's up to Spock to figure out why the violence is happening before the audience stops caring.

Star Trek did not have a whole lot of episodes that featured the Klingons, despite what many people think. Moreover, in most of the instances where the Klingons appear, there are very few of them and they are seen as manipulators, like the Romulans became in Star Trek: The Next Generation and beyond. One of the most notable exceptions to this generality is "Day Of The Dove," which features almost an entire crew of Klingons and the first Klingon woman seen in the franchise. Unfortunately for the quality of the Klingons, this episode also is a simple recasting of another - at best - mediocre episode of Star Trek, from the prior season, "Wolf In The Fold."

The U.S.S. Enterprise is responding to a distress call coming from an alien planet where it exchanges fire with a Klingon vessel. Beaming down to the planet, Kirk and his landing party encounter Kang, an angry Klingon who insists Kirk destroyed his ship after luring him there. Captured by Kang and his crew, Kirk and the landing party make a switcharoo when they are beamed back to the Enterprise, soon leaving the Klingons trapped in their brig with nowhere else to go when the hulk of the Klingon ship is destroyed.

The ship then begins to warp ever faster on a course out of the galaxy and tensions begin to rise. The Klingons break out of their jail and Kirk begins to lose control of his crew, most notably Chekov as the phasers and other weapons are turned into less lethal swords and knives. Paranoia and racially-motivated warfare break out on the Enterprise as Kirk's crew and the Klingons are both manipulated by an energy being that is feeding on their hatred, leaving Kirk in a desperate situation.

"Day Of The Dove" might have been a fine episode had it not been for "Wolf In The Fold," the prior season which involved another energy being that made the crew afraid and then fed off their fear. Considering this episode reminds me of the Family Guy joke with Stephen King pitching his next novel about an evil lampshade because there is a lampshade in the office he is making the pitch in. "Day Of The Dove," in the context of the series, seems terribly lazy. It's a strangely lackluster retelling of a story already presented, to the extent that Kirk and company drive out the alien organism in a fairly similar way.

In other words, fans of science fiction are not likely to enjoy this overdone plot and fans of Star Trek in particular are likely to feel more than a little cheated by the lack of creativity in the execution of this idea. And fans of general drama might just wonder why it takes Captain Kirk so very long to figure out what the problem is and to thwart the glowing colored ball of evil.

"Day Of The Dove" does take some chances, though. Amid some of the most hackneyed and poorly choreographed swordfight sequences to ever grace a television screen, there comes the ability for the actors to go into some truly dark directions with their characters. Actually, this only happens with one character from the main supporting cast and that is Chekov.

Chekov, under the alien influence, goes quite angry over the death of his brother, who was killed by Klingons. In a particularly bold move for Star Trek, Chekov corners Mara, Kang's wife, in a corridor, puts a knife to her throat and implies he is about to rape her. Chekov leers like a pirate of yore and seems quite comfortable with the menace he represents, allowing the viewer to become convinced that he is not in his right mind to the extent that he might actually be able to go through with the heinous violation he is threatening.

The problem, of course, is that this becomes something of a punchline when Sulu reveals that Chekov does not have a brother and that all Chekov's menace does not actually add to his character. After all, he - and all the others - get the "alien influence" write-off and there's a strange, "no harm, no foul" ending that makes the viewer wonder what the point of the episode was. After all, if it's not truly Chekov menacing Mara, it's not revealing anything from deep within his psyche, it's not about the underlying hatred between the Federation and the Klingons, it's all the mechanizations of the alien of the week.

What does work out well for the episode is the acting. While Chekov and none of the Federation personnel actually learn anything and/or develop as characters, the performances given are some of the better ones in the third season. Walter Koenig, who plays Chekov, gives a decent performance as the mind-altered Chekov. Koenig has the ability to hunch over and lower his voice, cock his head so he's looking up at people right in front of him to portray himself as a predator. One might suspect that before he was cast on Babylon 5, for "Mind War" anyone who wondered if he could convincingly play a villain, must have been shown his performance in "Day Of The Dove!" Koenig here gets to play over-the-top angry villain and he makes it work and makes it actually seem like not too much of a stretch for the character.

William Shatner represents the main cast well and Leonard Nimoy gives one of his more quiet performances as Spock. James Doohan gives a performance that makes it difficult to tell whether the character he plays, Scotty, suddenly becomes less muted or if the actor's enthusiasm trumped the character when he first picked up one of the swords. There's a ridiculous delight on Doohan's face that I want to attribute to good acting.

But it is Michael Ansara - and to a lesser extent, Susan Howard - who rules the episode as Kang. Howard plays his wife, Mara, and she is more than adequate in the supporting role. Howard even holds her own against Koenig's worthy performance. But Ansara, Michael Ansara is powerful as Kang, adding more than just a deep voice and physical stature to the role. Ansara, more than any other actor in the piece, portrays a realistic level of sustained anger toward the others. Ansara presents a character who is twisted by rage and angered beyond words or belief at those he assumes are his enemy and Ansara's Kang is completely convincing. He adds a depth to the part that insinuates that his character has heard as much propaganda about the Federation as the Federation (and the audience) has heard about the Klingons. Ansara makes this otherwise stale episode watchable.

In the end, it's just not quite enough to recommend this very average episode. The statement the episode is trying to make has already been made in earlier episodes and the science fiction mystery is not nearly as interesting at the writer or producers might have wanted it to be. The result is an action-packed dud. Sure, there are fights, but it ultimately means nothing. And we tend to want more than that from Star Trek.

For the only other episodes in the Star Trek franchise featuring Kang, please check out Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's "Blood Oath" and Star Trek: Voyager's "Flashback!"

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek - The Complete Third Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the third and final season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek episode, DVD set and movie review, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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