The Enterprise Incident
Acting apparently restless and irrational, Captain Kirk inexplicably orders the Enterprise into Romulan space where the ship is quickly captured by the enemy and Kirk held captive aboard their flagship.
After season two, a year where it felt like so many episodes were based on “near Earth-variants” and more ethereal themes like war and companionship, it’s nice to get a simple action episode with some familiar aliens as the antagonists.
I like the fact that the Enterprise Incident doesn’t spoil the story too quickly. If you’re familiar with the show, you can be confident in the fact that something sketchy is going on, but the script does a good job of disguising exactly who knows what. Is Kirk really crazy? Has Spock gone rogue? It’s only at the halfway mark where the true plan is revealed, and it’s a credit to the show that it had the confidence in its audience to draw out the mystery for that long.
The plot itself is fun, but it also doesn’t hold up well under too strenuous an examination. The plot to steal the cloaking device is filled many opportunities for complete failure: what if the Commander was not enamored with Spock? What if the Romulans saw through the “Vulcan death grip”? What if the Enterprise was attacked by the three Romulan ships? It’s a bit much when you add it all up, but it works during the viewing. The pace is lively and the problems not so obvious that they distract.
Less enjoyable, in my opinion, is the romance between Spock and the Commander. Not only does it weaken the female Commander to have her judgement be so swayed by the hunky Spock, but Spock admitting at the end that he fell for her feels lame and unearned. The romance comes out of nowhere, develops at light speed, and then ends so oddly that the viewer never gets a sense that any of it was real, despite what the characters say.
The Paradise Syndrome
Kirk loses his memory and joins the descendants of a tribe of Native Americans.
One very odd thing about TOS is the insistence the series has about mentioning how many planets they find are extremely similar to Earth. Every few episodes the characters will beam down to a planet and remark about how Earth-like everything is, and Spock will chime in with the odds of this happening as being impossibly low.
Most of the time, this doesn’t amount to anything and the plot ignores it (which makes it all the more strange that it’s even brought up in the first place). Sometimes, however, it does serve a purpose. And most of the time, that purpose is a little silly.
Yes, this episode deals with The Preservers, a race of ancient aliens who seeded different worlds in order to protect species from extinction. I guess the episode tells us that Native Americans were seeded on this distant planet, and the Enterprise just stumbled upon them. It doesn’t really amount to much. It’s simply another TOS episode that feels the need to explain the low budget alien design.
The Paradise Syndrome is uninspired. One of the few episodes to have a strong B plot (it might even be better than the A plot), it’s mostly a collection of tired TOS cliches (Kirk fights, Kirk loves, McCoy is a dick with a dumb opinion, Spock works through the problem). The portrayal of the Native Americans is stereotypical (the original title of the episode was “The Paleface”) and features a pointless love triangle buried underneath a bunch of symbolism for the white man being divine, and brown skinned people being unintelligent savages.
I also can’t get over how silly the McCoy-Spock interactions can be. The scene where Spock explains, for 5 minutes, why they need to divert the asteroid on a collision course with the planet is one of the dumbest scenes in the series.
I might give it credit for the ending. Kirk is attacked with stones by the fearful natives, but he shrugs it off. Unfortunately, his lover and unborn child are not so lucky and they’re killed. It’s a very dark turn for the show.
And the Children Shall Lead
A group of children on the Federation outpost Triacus, under the influence of an evil spirit, commandeer the Enterprise.
The second “children are monsters” episode, with Season 1’s “Miri” being the first.
I actually liked this episode until about the halfway point, when its internal logic started to unravel. The first half is genuinely creepy, with a colony of dead adults and the seemingly undisturbed youth who are playing among the bodies of their dead parents. It feels like a Star Trek episode. It has a unique central mystery, hints at a dangerous alien influence, and creates a situation where the Enterprise crew is against each other (even if it’s for reasons beyond their control).
The episode falls apart, however, once the children start to take over the ship. Using (far too often) a sort of exaggerated jerk off hand gesture, the children can apparently control the perception of reality of many of the crew. Fortunately, they don’t perform this take over in a manner that would prevent Kirk and Spock from fighting back, but it also seems that Kirk and Spock are somehow beyond the control of the kids. For one reason or another. But mostly because the plot demands it.
Another big downside is the alien. This could have been a creature like Pennywise from It, but instead it’s just a fat green guy. He’s not threatening at all, and it’s never made clear why he has so much influence over the children.
I do have to give the episode credit for a) having a scene with Kirk considering the murder of children, b) the cruelly blunt dismissal of severe childhood trauma, and c) the use of home video tape to forward the plot.
Is There No Truth in Beauty?
A beautiful woman escorts an alien ambassador so hideously ugly that the sight of him can drive a Human insane.
This was an interesting episode because, while I’m not sure it was very good, it held my attention the entire time. I think it did a good job of tricking me into nearly finding it profound.
On a technical level, I really appreciated the unique direction decisions made here. The fisheye “crazy-vision” look when Spock and the Enterprise designer have gone mad is really fun and memorable. The long tracking takes down the hallways of the Enterprise have a great, spooky vibe to them. The design of the Medusans is also a nice compromise between fiscally conservative and unsettlingly alien. S3 has done a good job of making aliens “alien”. As opposed to previous seasons where the aliens are almost always humanoid, S3 has used budget limitations to expand the possible appearance of lifeforms.
On the other hand, the story itself feels half baked. Dr Jones and her relationship to the Medusan ambassador and every other male on the ship is something that feels like it’s trying to be profound but I’m not sure I understand what the greater point was. The episode seems to be a parody of ’60s sexism, but if it is, it’s so subtle that the episode sometimes seems sexist even for the standards of TOS (the dinner party scene where all the men in the room can’t shut up about the hotness of Dr Jones is one of the ickiest scenes the show has ever done – feels like it ends just before a group rape). It’s almost as if you have to watch the episode from an outsider perspective: is this what being a woman on the ship feels like?
The problem boils down to the fact that Dr Jones ultimately doesn’t do anything. She doesn’t solve the problem until Kirk roughs her up, she doesn’t take much of a stand against the sexism she faces (although she is remarkably strong in the face of it), and the point of the episode feels like it slips away before the end of the hour.
I don’t think this is bad, but it had some real potential to be great and never seized on it.
Day of the Dove
An extremely powerful non-corporeal being brings the Enterprise and a Klingon ship in direct conflict with one another.
Another script that wisely uses the lack of budget in S3 to its advantage. Stuck on board the ship? No problem. Can’t afford phaser effects? No problem. We’ll have a story where the ship is a prison and the more violent the fighting, the better.
This might be the best Klingon episode in TOS. Kang is a superb villain, and plays the best Klingon commander we’ve seen so far (second place would be the guy from Errand of Mercy). He’s a foil to Kirk in that he’s violent and driven in his Klingon ways, but he’s also smart and capable of understanding nuanced situations. He’s also got some really great lines.
The story itself is good, if not innovative. It’s an anti-war story that uses alien mind control as an allegory for political elites manipulating populations into a hawkish frenzy. Once a society is caught up in the violent manipulations of racism and nationalism, it’s easy to see how it can sweep through the entire group and lead to a cascading effect.
On the downside, it’s yet another energy being. At least it’s not testing humanity (at least in terms of it wishes to see how we respond, not in terms of testing our mettle).
Oh, and the episode ends with everyone laughing at the alien antagonist. And that’s amazing.
For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky
The Enterprise finds an asteroid that contains a generational ship on a collision course with an inhabited planet.
Awesome title. Really awesome. The Original Series has had some really great, pulpy titles during its run, but this might be my favorite so far.
The episode, however, is pseudo-functional while neither making a whole lot of sense nor being very exciting. McCoy, while performing routine physicals, has determined that he’s terminally ill with an incurable disease and only has a year to live. At the same time, the Enterprise discovers an asteroid-ark ship that is hollow and filled with the descendants of a long lost race.
This script is fairly remarkable in how it brings up issues and then does nothing to resolve them. McCoy’s illness adds nothing to the plot, and is cured by a laughable deus ex machina ending. There’s a year before the asteroid ship crashes into a planet, so there are no stakes. There’s a god-computer (of course) which controls the society of the asteroid ship (of course), but it has neither an organized list of rules to follow nor a purpose outside of being a general nuisance.
I’m just about done with the Trek cliche of a primitive race ruled by a computer-god. This episode doesn’t even explain why the society doesn’t seek knowledge about their situation. Why did the elders create this computer? Why not keep the society informed of their mission? How did they not realize that engines can’t run for 10,000 years without maintenance?
I watched this one on the train home from work. The guy sitting next to me watched my screen for a minute before saying “This is ‘For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky’. I know all these episodes.” I said, “Yeah, that’s right but it’s too bad it’s not a very good episode.”
He paused for a moment, and then said, “… well, at least Bones got laid”.