Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Best Of The Absolute Worst: "Spock's Brain" Is Pure, Pleasant Camp!

The Good: Acting
The Bad: Virtually everything else
The Basics: Terrible, just terrible, but it forces Trekkers to have a sense of humor. It's hard not to love "Spock's Brain."

I am a serious reviewer and a very serious fan of the Star Trek franchise. As those reading my many reviews realize, I have a pretty high set of standards and I try to be consistent with those standards. Even so, once in a while I have an exception to the rule. The product that is defying the ratings system tonight is "Spock's Brain," one of the episodes of Star Trek that serves as the perfect counterargument to any serious Star Trek fan. In short, it's impossible to talk about how truly great Star Trek was without acknowledging the camp value some episodes had. The camp quality of "Spock's Brain" is undeniable. I mean it, it cannot be denied.

The U.S.S. Enterprise is cruising along through space when it encounters a small ship. Aboard beams a woman who knocks out the crew using buttons on her bracelet. The crew awakens a short time later, but Dr. McCoy quickly calls Captain Kirk down from the bridge. Spock is in Sickbay, near death, his brain missing. Yes, chicky from another world stole Spock's brain. So, the Enterprise goes searching, I kid you not, for Spock's brain.

Of course, the Enterprise crew finds the brain. It's underground on a planet where the men live on the surface as big, dumb barbarians, and the women live below ground in sophisticated cities that they've forgotten how to run. The women there are pretty much as dumb as posts. So, how did Kara (the abductor of the brain) extract Spock's massive brain? There is, in the city, the ultimate plot-convenient device cleverly known as the Teacher, which is the repository of all knowledge on the planet. It transfers the knowledge to Kara, but the knowledge fades.

Wow, I hate to even think of the social message in this episode. Sure, there's the obvious "people become too dependent on technology they forget how to be human" idea. Certainly there's a gender equality issue, but mostly, it's a stupid episode about a planet of moronic men, dumb women (though, hey, they look good in their go-go boots!) and the Enterprise crew that is forced to deal with the ridiculous concept of the episode without ever just shaking their heads in dismay and quitting the show. People talk about how it was a miracle that Star Trek got a third season, I say it's amazing they aired any more of it considering this was the season premiere!

This episode has the camp value which is the Star Trek equivalent of Surf Nazis Must Die, something so outrageously bad that it's fun to watch from time to time just to think "Wow, these people got paid to make this!" "Spock's Brain" is indirectly referenced in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Magnificent Ferengi" when a character is killed and his body is manipulated a la Spock's brainless body in this episode.

The body of Spock is driven around throughout the episode by remote control, ironically in the hands of Dr. McCoy. That's almost clever, having the body mobile, but it's mostly just campy and laughable.

What is not laughable in "Spock's Brain" is the acting. Everyone here brings their a-game to the effort. Marj Dusay crying out "Brain and brain! What is brain?!" is classic. That she delivered all of her lines without ever looking disgusted at how much of an imbecile her character was is a true testament to quality acting.

Similarly, DeForest Kelley must sell the audience on the plausibility of Spock being alive without a brain. As Dr. McCoy, Kelley creates a serious aura about the events that almost make the whole event sound credible. His acting at the climax of the episode is impressive in the way he portrays serious surgical determination. Kelley earns his starring credit (he was not a star of the show the first season!) with playing McCoy as serious as he does throughout this episode.

But it is Leonard Nimoy who should have won an award for "Spock's Brain." Nimoy must walk around without any affect the entire episode and he pulls it off. Unlike his usual "I'm not emotional, but I'll prove it with a glow from my eyes and subtle wry expression" Vulcan cool, here Nimoy must portray utter vacancy and he pulls it off admirably. Anyone who says Spock is sexy, which granted he is most of the time, should be subjected to "Spock's Brain" as a counterargument. There's nothing sexy about Nimoy's dead-eyed stare throughout this episode.

This should be a two or three out of ten, but I'm putting it up at four for the camp value. "Spock's Brain" is essential for every fan of the Star Trek franchise. It's also essential for all the jerks who pick on Star Trek fans; if you're going to say "Yeah, what about 'Spock's Brain?' That's a pretty stupid episode," you ought to see it at least once.

[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 reviews, please visit my index page!

© 2010, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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