If you want to play me at tarbish, or at cribbage, I have to warn you in advance that I had very good teachers. Poker is a different story. I really like poker, but good god do I ever suck at it. I can't tell you whether Captain Kirk is any good at it either, since he didn't really have chips on the table, but I can tell you that there was a lot of charm to this episode.
Another thing I'm coming back to on a positive note. This could have easily been the first episode of the show, I think. As far as I can remember this is the first time the Enterprise has ever encountered a spacefaring extraterrestrial. It could have also happened in the skipped episodes, but for me this is new.
Now I understand Uhura's job a bit more clearly; and Sulu's as well. I had hoped we'd be sticking with Riley in the job Bailey is occupying, but I guess Riley was a one-time thing. Come to think of it, Bailey's staying with Balock's ship, so he's not sticking around either.
For a while I wished I'd been doing first impressions on this episode, because some of the thoughts were just hilarious: "They're being chased by a screensaver! The horror!" and whatnot. A lot of the design choices in Star Trek make me that much more aware of how tremendous an accomplishment all of the imaginative designs in Star Wars were, because the Fizarius is one hell of a stupid looking ship and its warning buoy was a spinning Pepsi logo. Balock himself goes from "oh hey a cliché" to "oh hey a creepy... bald... ugly... child," but I actually appreciated how overblown his performance was. It's like he was trying to act in a way that humans would recognize, only completely out of proportion.
I've watched seven episodes of Star Trek now and I'm sure I've solved its winning formula: the relationship of these three men, Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy. There was a moment in the episode where I was sure something was actually going on between the Captain and his first mate (if you know what I mean) that would be extremely bold for a show of Star Trek's age to have been implying. The superego/id/ego idea is also sticking with me; when he's out of use for logical answers (chess), McCoy appears behind him on the bridge and stokes Kirk's emotions, resulting in an illogical but successful approach (poker).
Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy make a wonderful duo of opposites. McCoy ignoring the alert status and waving off the threatened destruction of the vessel to talk to the Captain about Bailey shows that he's more concerned with people than things or events. Conversely, Mr. Spock's brushoff of Bailey's feelings is part of how his concern is things, not people. Now if only we could get a bit more of Mr. Scott. I'm hoping Janice's role gets expanded because right now it feels like she's just popping up once per episode because nobody knows what to do with her.
Last thoughts: how novel, I think, to have a meeting between United Earth and an extraterrestrial intelligence where the latter is testing us. It's not hostile, it's a meeting between two different species with a common goal of meeting, learning and sharing - to seek out new life and new planets, to boldly go where no man or crazy eyebrows bald child has gone before. The ultimate reveal of Balock's intentions made me smile and gives me hope that the series is going to keep going to interesting places, at least in the selected episodes.