I want to know who in Starfleet contacted Kirk and said “Hey, Jim, need you to find a planet that’s about to implode, sit there watching it, get some readings and take some pics. Post them on Fleetbook and let us know what you think!” I mean, that’s what Kirk says; their mission is a “close scientific examination of the breakdown of this planet”. He doesn’t mention rescuing the 6-man science party that’s down there, but presumably he planned to. But it just seems like a crazy mission. So far, we’ve had a few weird missions. House call for Professor Crater and his wife. Pick up an orphan. Go through a space force field that someone else went through 200 years ago. Now: watch a planet blow up! What we get is a germaphobes nightmare. After Joey takes his glove off for a very disturbing scene of what looks like a droplet of blood jumping to his hand, an outbreak occurs on the ship that can cost the whole crew their lives.
This outbreak that makes everyone act drunk is at times funny, if the idea behind it were not so scary. But through it, we learn some new things. Spock’s mother was the human ancestor he mentioned in Where No Man Has Gone Before. With all his differences of anatomy, green blood, and logic, he still has some appreciation for comedy. “Get Dartanian to sickbay!” And we get the Vulcan nerve pinch for the first time which Kirk wants to learn! “I’d like you to teach me that sometime!” Sulu, meanwhile, has tried getting Riley into botany, which is one of the few bits of character continuity we get in classic Trek, since The Man Trap showed Sulu working with plants. He must still have a love for that if he’s trying to get Riley into it.
Ironically, for all that goes wrong in this story, Joey is the only death. 415 crewmen remain! Then we get some really stunning lines. Kirk’s love of his ship, that takes pride of place, leads him to compare the ship to a woman. He manages to hold onto control for a few seconds, but as he leaves the room he mumbles, “Never lose you. Never!” It’s a deeply telling comment. (Also, I’d argue that this scene explains something else: Kirk goes for all alien women because of rules about being a captain prohibit him from being intimate with fellow crewmen.) Then after the intermix explosion that sends the Enterprise away from the planet, Spock says that they have the ability now to travel through time to any planet’s history. This gives us the impression that the show may start experimenting with Doctor Who territory, but will they? Kirk says, “We may risk it someday, Mr. Spock!” This is truly a situation where I can say “time will tell!”
Since this is still early in the 5 year mission (that gets cut 2 years short), some things are probably not known to the crew, so I accept a lot more, but I do expect them to gain knowledge as the series continues. So while Scotty might not suggest beaming into Engineering in this story, if he learns it later (and I am nearly certain that he does), I would not expect that to go wrong again. For now, cutting a roughly-Texas shaped hole in the wall will do.
One personal note: I was watching Trek since I was very young. Rumor around the family is that I started around age 3. I can believe this only because this episode never stood out to me until I was old enough to understand it. And I think that’s because there were no monsters. Instead, a disease nearly cripples the crew. So when I was probably around 10 and saw this one, I felt like I’d found a lost special. It may not be one of the top 10, but it is one that I’ve appreciated since I was old enough to understand it. (So when I was watching it this time with my wife and son, my wife asked me to rub her hand because it had a cramp! I looked at her and asked, “are you crazy?!” I mean, for real, doesn’t anyone pay attention to TV these days?!!?) ML
The view from across the pond:
I can only assume they must have forgotten what quarantine means in the future. This week Spock and his hitherto unseen colleague Joe beam down to a planet where everyone has been killed by some kind of unknown agent, carrying what appears to be a hair-dryer and wearing an isolation suit. While I can’t argue that the isolation suits are attractively patterned, I would respectfully suggest that they have a small design flaw. If you’re not sure what that might be, Joe wiping his nose by reaching under the hood might give you a clue.
Spock reports that the situation is “like nothing we’ve dealt with before” (cue a dramatic zoom in while he delivers his dramatic line dramatically) and the evidence for that is clear:
“One man was taking a shower fully clothed.”
Doesn’t everyone do that though? Saves wasting electricity on a washing machine. What happens next surprises nobody watching but everybody on the Enterprise: an infection is brought on board the ship. Joe soon ends his existence with a butter knife that wouldn’t get through the uniform in reality. He becomes our Minor Crewman Death #16 in our Trek Tally, and I wasn’t too sorry to see him go because frankly the actor couldn’t act.
“He’s dead doctor.”
Oh well, never mind. It turns out the virus is bringing out everyone’s hidden, inhibited true natures or something like that, and it’s the most fun virus I’ve ever seen. Riley unfortunately becomes an Irish stereotype, but Sulu becomes… a swashbuckler? That’s an unusual inner self to emerge, but Sulu prancing down a corridor with a foil must be one of the greatest moments of television ever. Another close contender for that prize is the man who finds a paintbrush the funniest thing he has ever seen. They are quite amusing though, to be fair. Oh, and I suspect my own inner self might be something similar to the man who is performing a musical number to Janice. Meanwhile, as for Spock…
“I’m in control of my emotions.”
… he isn’t in control of his emotions. We had a couple of significant firsts this episode. Spock performed his first neck pinch, and Scotty complained about not being able to do something with the engines.
“I can’t change the laws of physics. I’ve got to have 30 minutes.”
I’ve only seen a couple of episodes of Trek before, but even I know that these are things that are going to happen again. And I’m starting to regret not having a Trek Tally for Kirk’s ripped shirts. Another one bites the dust this week.
With three minutes of the episode to go, things got really interesting:
“We’re going backward in time.”
I was quite convinced it was going to be a two parter, with that happening right at the end, but the most interesting part of the episode came to nothing in the end. It felt like the idea was being shelved for future use, so I hope it doesn’t get forgotten. This episode was a lot of fun, but I can’t help thinking there might have been a better one hidden away in those last three minutes. RP
Read next in the Junkyard… Star Trek: The Enemy Within