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on September 1, 2003
The Lights of Zetar-Yet another dull and pointless episode, this one sees Scott's love (Mira Romaine) possessed by an alien life form represented by flashing lights. Scotty's romance plays only slightly better than McCoy's earlier in the season; whereas McCoy's romance seemed flat, Scotty is over the top, acting
completely irrational and out of character. At least Jan Shutan's stiff performance provides some counterpoint to Doohan's overacting! The episode has few highlights, and no ultimate message. It also lacks the quirky style of many 3rd season shows; there is no original music (although revisiting the Where no Man has gone Before soundtrack was an interesting decision, and they were running out of money after all), and the close up shots of the eye were kind of interesting. When such
minutiae are the best thing going for an episode, you've got problems. (1.5 stars)
The Cloud Minders-This episode, concerning a socially and
vertically stratified society of mine and cloud dwellers, temporarily staunched the haemorraging occurring at this point in the 3rd season. While not exactly action-packed (not many 3rd season shows were) this episode has an ebb and flow lacking from many of its contemporaries. The premise is also interesting enough, with obvious implications for our own society. The decision to take on the nature vs. nurture question was all admirable. While they were of course correct to pick nurture, the zenite quick fix was a copout. Obviously those deprived of knowledge for generations will require some time to get up to speed (the same could be said of Uhura's experience in the Changeling).
While the Spock romance was out of character, I didn't find it totally implausible or regrettable. They did seem to have a rapport, at least. The episode is hurt by weak performances from the other two guests though.
Tidbits: Production was getting really sloppy by this point. For example, after the crew have been corralled on the planet's barren surface, Kirk is heard to utter through totally unmoving lips, "Who are you? What is the meaning of this attack?" (3.5 stars)
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on March 20, 2003
Volume 37 of The Star Trek DVD series contains two of the lesser episodes from the show's third and final season. This collection points out the low points of the third season because both episodes are quite weak.
THE LIGHTS OF ZETAR is the better of the two here. However that's not saying much. An evil alien entity invades the body of Lt. Mira Romaine (Jan Shutan) Scotty's new love interest. The alien is from Zetar and threatens the crew that Mira will die. Essentially this episode is a blue print for the famous horror film 'The Exorcist' however this episode lacks any distinct depth. The episode isn't the worst in the series and Jan Shutan makes a nice acting appearance here. However the story is weak, Scotty's love interest is completely unconvincing (like all the others he had), and the ending of this episode is completely lame. I don't think evil possessive aliens can be defeated so easily by a pressure chamber!
It's gets worse though. THE CLOUD MINDERS has to be one of the weakest Star Trek scripts ever to make it into production. The episode try to tackles the discrimiantion issue between upper and lower class people, but ends up flopping over and the message is not only vague but incomplete. The budget (which was really low at this point) was spent entirely on set and costume design. Therefore we have a really weak script and some pretty mediocre and shoddy acting. Although this episode may have been good had the budget been spent better and the plot developed more. Even a double serving of eye candy with Diana Ewing (who plays Droxine, a rich Stratos girl who becomes a totally unbelieveable love interest for Spock) and Charlotte Polite, cannot save this episode from the depths of humilation. It's bad but there has been worse so this is still watchable.
Overall not the best thing to come out of the Star Trek production crew but this is still classic Trek and worth picking up. Recommended to fans of the Original series.
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on January 11, 2003
'The Lights Of Zetar' is an episode that plays by it's own rules and the result is one of the poorest efforts of the original series. The story was written by Shari Lewis, of "Lamb Chop" fame, and her husband Jeremy Tarcher, with the thought that she would be the female lead. Thank goodness clearer heads prevailed! The idea of a conscious body of interstellar beings traveling the galaxy looking for an escape from their incorporeal state isn't really a bad concept at all. It's the way that they are defeated that's the problem here.
In the beginning we are introduced to Lt. Mira Romaine who the Enterprise is taking to Memory Alpha, an immense library sanctioned by the Federation and open to all. The starship encounters an unusual phenomenon just before reaching their destination. It appears onscreen as a multi-colored cloud that gives no discernible readings when scanned. It soon penetrates the hull and disables the crew in various ways; the cloud assaults Lt. Romaine momentarily and later she has what she believes is a disturbing premonition concerning the Memory Alpha facility. Within time the true identity of the mysterious cloud is discovered - and the crew also learns that Lt. Romaine has been chosen by them to fulfill a sinister and costly purpose.
What really hurts this episode is that Kirk, Spock and McCoy devise a way to defeat the Zetars that isn't quite plausible. How will this method defeat the beings? While you are watching this keep in mind they penetrated the ship's hull with no problems in the beginning of the show and also they have existed in zero gravity for millennia. I'm going to guess that the episode may have had an earlier solution that wasn't practical in view of budget concerns; this ending was written as a substitute and was certainly easy for the special effects crew to pull off. The result: It Stinks! Any reasonably educated person isn't going to buy this explanation as presented. The romance between Scotty and Lt. Romaine is a limp-legged plot element as well and it only gets in the way of the story, bogging it down with sappy and unlikely dialogue from the normally levelheaded engineer.
'The Cloud Minders' fares much better and introduces the city of Stratos that floats on a cloud, one of the most memorable fantasy elements created by Star Trek. Upon arrival Spock meets an attractive and intelligent woman whose beauty so impresses him that he gives brief consideration to a romance. But as you might have guessed something "sours" the milk for the first officer.
The Enterprise goes to the planet of Ardana to pick up a shipment of zenite, the antidote to an epidemic that has struck a Federation planet's vegetation and may destroy it all. On the surface of Ardana Kirk and Spock are attacked by terrorists known as Disrupters; they are rescued within seconds by the ruler of Stratos, Plasus, who has come to the surface with two guards. Returning to Stratos with Plasus, Kirk and Spock receive the explanation that the miners who live on the surface of Ardana are rebelling against their superior counterparts who live in the city of Stratos. Kirk and Spock see the clear distinction between the classes of citizens and attempt to negotiate an understanding of their differences, running afoul of both of the warring parties, leading to several complications.
The mutual attraction between Droxine and Spock develops nicely; their conversations are believable and revealing, adding necessary insight to the two cultures depicted here. Kirk takes the dire matters into his hands breaking all rules of diplomacy and shooting from the hip. It's hard to believe that the Federation would tolerate Kirk's actions in this case despite the severity of the situation. Apparently the creators of Trek realized this as you'll note by the final line of dialogue between Plasus and Kirk. Another unintentional comical moment happens when the elegant and refined Droxine tells Spock that she will go to the surface to work in the mines. Yeah, right! She wouldn't last 30 seconds in the completely foreign and harsh environment of the underground caverns. Obviously she wishes to continue to further impress the intrepid Mr. Spock.
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on August 1, 2002
Star Trek had grown remarkably flaccid during its third season, the result of the production crew realizing that their diminished budget and weak new time slot had already all but spelled out the series' end. The season had moments of rallying, putting forth some of the best scripts the show ever had - but the majority were pretty weak. These two are of the latter category.
"The Cloud Minders" is a pretty piece of fluff with nice sets, costumes and matte shots, a reasonably good cast, and a terribly trite "socially progressive" script that is just a cheap retread of the classic silent sci-fi film, Metropolis: the title characters are effete socialites, whose wealth is derived entirely from the exploitation of a permanent mining underclass. Can Captain Kirk demonstrate to them the ethical folly of their ways, before the end of the hour? (What do you think?) The episode does have Jeff Corey, who is never less than stellar, and a generous helping of eye-candy in the form of Diana Ewing and Charlotte Polite, one of whom has an entirely unconvincing romantic subplot with Mr. Spock.
"The Lights of Zetar" fares little better, but is at least a serviceable semi-horror story, rather like a sci-fi version of The Exorcist. Scotty's new love, Lieutenant Mira Romaine (Jan Shutan), becomes the target of a number of celestial space-lights that have already destroyed a planetary outpost. The lights are the surviving personalities of the long-dead planet Zetar, seeking a host body in which to live. Can the Enterprise find a way to exorcize the evil invading lights from poor Lieutenant Romaine, before the end of the hour? (What do you think?) Jan Shutan is pretty and genuinely likeable, but you have to pity poor James Doohan being saddled with yet another of Star Trek's third season absurd love-interest roles.
You could do worse than these two, but they're pretty unimpressive overall.
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on November 14, 2001
With the possible exceptions of Spock's Brain and Way to Eden, The Lights of Zetar is arguably THE worst Star Trek episode ever made. Even though Spock's Brain and Way to Eden are rediculous, they are often humorous, sometimes unintentionally, but somehow entertaining, none the less. Zetar just bores me to tears and James Doohan's character is simply wasted on another fruitless love interest. Cloudminders is melodramatic Trek at it most mediocre but exceeds Zetar, marginally. However, if you are a Trek fan, you simply have to possess every episode in the collection and watch them over and over like myself! Paramount's DVD quality, in my humble opinion, is excellent regarding the Trek series and I hope they continue. It would behoove them to add some commentary tracks or deleted footage/bloopers for extra interest.
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on October 2, 2001
Very few people know that Sheri Lewis wrote "The Lights of Zetar", it's quite a good story. No Lamb Chop though [....]
"The Cloud Minders" Ooh la-la....check out Droxine...the Stratos Cloud City babe. How soon can I go there?
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