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YMMV / Star Trek S3 E1 "Spock's Brain"

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  • Critical Backlash: People viewing Star Trek with fresher perspective today certainly see this episode as the farce that it is, but not quite as the "worst Star Trek episode ever made." But that's mostly because it now has a similar reputation to Plan 9 from Outer Space - it's simply too entertaining and unintentionally funny to be that bad. It looks even better next to later episode "The Paradise Syndrome," which has aged like milk. During the 50th Anniversary celebrations in 2016, fans were polled to pick the 10 worst Star Trek episodes ever made, and for the above reasons of unintentional hilarity, "Spock's Brain" was more or less left off. Instead, fans chose "These Are The Voyages..." from Enterprise as the all-time worst.
  • Fridge Logic: Mark Oshiro's review of the episode just degenerated into a list of this. All valid questions.
    Mark: There are just so many strange things done here! A primitive planet with people of the opposite gender split up... sooooooooooooo. How did these people procreate? Ever? Why haven’t they died out? Is there some weird sex shit going on here? Is that the pain and pleasure thing the Morgs referenced to? No, let’s not think of that for now. How did a primitive culture develop futuristic and sexy outfits like the ones the women who lived underground were wearing??? Where did the Great Teacher come from? Did the Ancients who created this civilization do so and then just leave everyone behind? If that thing only lasts temporarily, why aren’t more people using it to help out the society as a whole? [...] What did they plan to do with Spock’s brain in the long haul? If it was running necessary life components on the planet, who was doing that before? Because it seems like the Morgs and the Eymorgs were getting on fairly okay without things like HEATING or AIR CONDITION. What were they eating? Where is the water supposed to be pumped? Do the Morgs just not take showers? Who is going to build all the facilities that the Controller will control? Why didn’t anyone think of any of these things?
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    • Well to suggest answers to these questions...
      • Is there some weird sex shit going on here?. According to Spock the Underground City was originally created for the women while the men remained on the surface. Somehow a schism occurred with the Eymorg becoming a Lady Land that decided it was in their interest to keep the men subservient.
      • How do they procreate? The Eymorg abduct the Morg, have sex with them, then return the male children to the surface while raising the females for their own society. They provide the Morgs with food and basic tools so they stay strong, yet primitive and dependent on the Eymorg.
      • Is that the pain and pleasure thing the Morgs referenced to? The pain refers to the pain-belts the men are forced to wear to ensure their compliance, while the pleasure is sex (see above).
      • How did a primitive culture develop futuristic and sexy outfits like the ones the women who lived underground were wearing??? Where did the Great Teacher come from? Did the Ancients who created this civilization do so and then just leave everyone behind? The Ancients didn't 'go' anywhere; they degenerated into the Eymorg. An ice age forced them to build an automated Underground City run by the Controller that provided all their needs including heat, light, food and sexy clothing. Unfortunately their intelligence has 'atrophied' (in the words of Dr McCoy) after tens of thousands of years in a Lotus-Eater Machine where all their needs are catered for. It's not explained why the Ancients didn't use their ion drive spacecraft to go to another planet instead, but as the other Class M planets in the system are inhabited perhaps most of them settled there, and those societies also reverted to barbarism due to warfare or environmental cataclysm.
      • If [the Teacher] only lasts temporarily, why aren’t more people using it to help out the society as a whole? Because Eymorg society is inherently stable and thus has no incentive to change. The original Controller likely encouraged this so the Eymorg would have a vested interest in maintaining the Controller. The priestess-leader only uses the Teacher because the Controller was dying and radical action was needed to preserve this way of life.
      • If [Spock's Brain] was running necessary life components on the planet, who was doing that before? The previous Controller, presumably one of the original Builders of the underground city. This is based on an old science fiction idea that a Brain in a Jar would have an indefinite lifespan, in this case ten thousand years.
      • What were they eating? (Soylent Soy, Soylent Green, hydroponically-grown fruit — take your pick) Where is the water supposed to be pumped? (Waste heat from the city is funnelled to the surface where it melts ice; the resulting water is pumped down to the city, then filtered and distributed for reactor-cooling and drinking). Do the Morgs just not take showers? Well I guess they don't until the Eymorg kidnap them. Then the women would insist that they do before Boldly Coming.
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  • Ham and Cheese: Dear God. William Shatner isn't the only one catering this particular buffet.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight
    Bones: Take him where?
    Kirk: In search of his brain, Doctor.
  • Ho Yay: Spock talks of the distinct pleasure he gets from hearing Kirk's voice again.
  • Les Yay: Everyone looks at Kara in awe when she arrives on the bridge. Including Uhura.
  • Narm: The whole damn episode. Special mention goes to "Brain and brain! What is "brain"?"
    • Even for a show where Orchestral Bombing was the norm, having every single cut to a new shot be accompanied by a loud, dramatic sting might have been a bit much.
    • And then there's that damn "BOING!" sound effect.
    • A brainless Spock, walking around, by remote control. That is a thing that happens.
  • Narm Charm: In response to Bones' famous line "His brain is gone", the camera cuts back to Kirk, who mouths the words "His... brain?". This is actually a pretty plausible reaction to being told something so absurd, but the aforementioned deafening musical sting, accompanied by Shatner's trademark overacting (only he could over-sell a line like that without actually speaking) puts it right in that overlap of awesome and hilarious.
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  • So Bad, It's Good: The episode is so awesomely bad that, when you approach it the right way, it becomes one of the funniest Trek episodes ever made. Rumor has it that the script originated as a prank at the expense of Gene Roddenberry.
  • Technology Marches On: The ion drive that impresses the warp-equipped Federation is possible with today's technology (though it wouldn't be as powerful as it's depicted).
  • Throw It In!: This episode may have gotten to the point of being a camp classic because of this trope. Gene Coon, who wrote this under his "Lee Cronin" pseudonym, since he had left Desilu for Universal and could thus not, contractually, write for the show under his own name, had already delivered six scripts for the season when Gene Roddenberry asked him for yet one more. Annoyed, Coon supposedly wrote "Spock's Brain" as a pointed parody of what he saw as Roddenberry's limited understanding of science fiction as a whole, and may well have not expected, for this reason, that the episode would actually be produced. But apparently the show was too desperate for scripts for anyone to pick this up and ask for a rewrite.
  • Took The Bad Episode Seriously: Nowhere else does DeForest Kelley exemplify this ethos more than he does here. He delivers what is perhaps the most ludicrous dialogue ever written ("He was worse than dead! His brain is gone!") with intensity and conviction. It is truly a sight to behold. (And somehow, seeing him throw so much gravitas into this episode just makes it even sillier.)
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: For the time anyway, the switch in how the viewscreen was portrayed so that people could walk in front of it was quite impressive. So much that the first scene has as many people walk past it as possible.
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