Star Trek: The Animated Series: The Practical Joker   Rewatch 
August 18, 2020 7:25 PM - Season 2, Episode 3 - Subscribe

After passing through a strange space energy cloud, the Enterprise's computer gains an artificial intelligence that is relentlessly bent on making practical jokes on the crew.

Memory Alpha will a-maze you with some insight into this episode.

Background information
  • This is the second consecutive installment to feature the concept of a practical joker, following the introduction of Ari bn Bem in the episode immediately prior to this one, "Bem".
  • This episode also includes the first appearance of a holodeck in Star Trek history (and summarily, the "holodeck malfunction"), although it is known here as a recreation room. Gene Roddenberry had intended to introduce a holodeck-type room in the third season of Star Trek: The Original Series; however, budget constraints prohibited it. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, p. 404) D.C. Fontana, who had worked on the first season of TAS but left for its second and later returned to Star Trek to assist with the inaugural season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, was insistent that the TNG writing staff didn't remember this episode when conceiving the holodecks. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 17, p. 73)
Poster’s Log:

We’re in the home stretch, folks; only 3 more episodes to go.

Roddenberry loved recycling plots, and this one hits a number of familiar notes. The deranged computer brings to mind versions of “The Ultimate Computer” and the love-struck computer in “Tomorrow Is Yesterday”. Non-corporeal entities taking over the ship are surprisingly common - “Day of the Dove”, “Beyond the Farthest Star”, and “Wolf in the Fold” are the front-runners here.

Romulan sensors must be terrible not to have realized the giant Enterprise was a balloon.

The highlight of this episode has to be the Rec Room. It’s a fully matured concept, rather than some of the half-thought-through additions we’ve seen in the past (the Bridge Defense System from “Beyond the Farthest Star”, for example).
posted by hanov3r (4 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
KIRK IS A JERK

Within the first few minutes of this episode we get a guest appearance by Black Haired McCoy and after that Scotty has two consecutive lunches in a row.

Those clever creators, playing pranks on the audience!

D.C. Fontana, who had worked on the first season of TAS but left for its second and later returned to Star Trek to assist with the inaugural season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, was insistent that the TNG writing staff didn't remember this episode when conceiving the holodecks.

In a very real and legally binding sense!

The Holodeck does have the distinction of having been thought out of the extent of explaining that it words by holograms, replicators, and optical illusions to keep one from crashing into any walls. The TNG version is conceptually much more fleshed out. The Rec Room just sorta works. It DOES have an 'occupied' sign on the door though, which could prevent people having awkward encounters with your goddess of empathy program however.
posted by StarkRoads at 11:54 PM on August 18, 2020 [5 favorites]


This episode does indeed get a lot of ideas from previous episodes; I'd add the mess hall scene, which takes a couple of bits from "The Trouble with Tribbles": the food dispensers delivering something other than what was ordered, and the heap-o-food resembling Kirk being covered in tribbles. But it also had a few touches of its own: the Rec Room, and Spock not being bothered by the nitrous oxide because it would make him laugh, but because it happens to be toxic to Vulcans. There was also something kind of evocative about the ship's computer being somewhat cruel (as with the Rec Room blizzard), and even putting the crew in danger, because it simply didn't know when it was taking a joke too far.

Speaking of the Rec Room, one of the things that impressed me about it was that the computer could make a hole in the floor for the crew to fall into. (There's a holodeck explanation for that, but, as StarkRoads notes, that doesn't really apply here, except maybe retroactively.) As far as the giant balloon Enterprise, I'd allow it according to the Rule of Funny.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:05 AM on August 19, 2020 [1 favorite]


The nitrous reactions don’t make sense, either:

Humans: laughter
Caitians: laughter
Edosians: laughter

Vulcans: DEATH
posted by hanov3r at 12:01 PM on August 20, 2020


The practical joke as a story element was huge in the 70s, or I just watched a lot of M*A*S*H.
posted by juiceCake at 7:21 PM on August 21, 2020


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