We start this episode, What Are Little Girls Made Of?, on a mission to reunite nurse Chapel with her former fiancé, Roger Corby. Ok, maybe the mission was to see if anyone was alive on planet Exo III where Corby had been, but circumstances worked out that they could bring Corby his former fiancée. Sometimes things work out. Sometimes they don’t. Especially when nurse Chapel gets down to the planet and sees a far more gorgeous woman walking around in super-sexy attire. Ok, if we look at the episode on the surface, it’s full of hilariously silly things. But you can’t look just on the surface, because you’ll find very little. You have to go beneath the surface of the planet Exo III to find the goods. (Yes, I am repeating the name of the planet because it’s ironic. Exo means outside. On the outside, we see a barren planet. Inside we see life. On the outside, we see a human being. On the inside, we see wires and electrodes. On the outside, we see a monstrously big alien. On the inside, we see the Addam’s Family’s Lurch. And as soon as Kirk and company beam down, he comes to ask … “you rang?!” And we get the first redshirt death in the series. The poor jerk is pushed down a bottomless pit. The second one is suffocated or has his neck snapped. No idea but the two Starfleet deaths have been at the hands of Lurch. (I guess you could say, the butler did it!) Anyway, that puts us at 414 crew since 12 died in Where No Man Has Gone Before. No one has died since. And now this marks the first two redshirts. How will we recover? (This is also the first time we learn that Kirk has a brother. I had no memory of that from this episode! It was a nice surprise!)
Ok, so moving on… there is some real comedy gold to be mined from this episode. Let’s discuss my top ten (in no particular order, except for #1)
At number 10: Kirk’s first alien kiss. This is only comical because he seems to think nothing of it. He remains there, impassive. What he’s actually thinking is, “can I knock everyone in the room out and get back to Hottie McHotson before Lurch roughs me up again?”
#9: Kirk reprograms his own brain. “Mind your own business Mr. Spock. I’m sick of your half-breed interference.” This was the best Kirk could do to let Spock know he was not acting himself? Racial slurs??!! And Spock’s reaction is priceless. Give him time to walk down the corridor then stalk him. (Don’t make Vulcans angry!)
At number 8: “Maybe there’s a ledge?” Kirk hears his crewman plummet at least 30 miles but thinks maybe a ledge saved him. Sorry, I want to feel sympathy for the poor guy, but dude, he fell far. No ledge is going to have saved him. Just yell down if you don’t believe me! If he’s alive, it’ll be like that moment in Austin Powers when the villain gets burned: “I’m very badly hurt, but I’m on a rock ledge that thankfully only broke 123 of my bones. Please send help!”
#7: “I’ll explain everything.” What Corby really means is “I’ll strip you naked then put you on a machine that will spin you around so fast, any ideas you ever had will come spewing out of your vomiting mouth.” Was there an explanation in all that? I don’t think so. Poor Kirk! And how exactly did that spin a mass of clay into both wires and a face? And how did Kirk’s hair remain so perfect?
At number 6: Kirk’s phallus. What? Yeah, come on: he finds a giant stalactite that he breaks off the ceiling to club Lurch with, but that moment of him holding it is every meme-lovers dream come true. It’s warped, I admit, but you can’t make this stuff up! If you don’t laugh, I don’t think you’re paying attention.
Coming in at #5: “Standard orbit”. A comedian (who I would name if I still had the tape) once had a skit about this. Kirk asks for the helmsman to lay in a course to which he is asked “Standard orbit?” Kirk replies, “No, lay in the weirdest bizarre orbit. One that goes dangerously close to the planet, then so far away we can’t even scan it!” I laugh every time I think of that. What is the alternative? Sure, there could be “geosynchronous orbit” or something else, but how is that anything other than standard? Does “nonstandard orbit” exist? Is that one that sneaks up on the planet?
#4: “Kiss me.” “No, it is illogical!” ZAP. Kirk’s hand movement is really the funniest part as he casually dismisses Sexy McLovely. So she disintegrates him. But why did she ask for a kiss first anyway? If she thought this was Real Kirk, why didn’t she just kill him, since she was not “programmed for” him? Moreover, when she realizes she killed the android, why not kill Kirk when she sees him next to Corby? (Probably was still hoping for another kiss!)
At #3, “the old ones.” Were they called that when they made Rok? “Are you my creators? What should I call you?” “Ah, you may call us the Old Ones!” Any title with “ones” as the ending strikes me as idiotic. If we encountered some ancient race, we might go so far as to refer to them as “the ancients” but we’d never call them “the ancient ones”. When we get to the episode of hippies, we don’t call them “the hippy ones”, we call them “the hippies”. (Or the episode with that idiotic doctor with the enormous but utterly moronic pair of ears who likes to hang out with “the hippies”!) If we meet Atlanteans, do we call them The Wet Ones? (Or is that a brand of baby wipe?)
At #2, T. J. Hooker. One day, Kirk will give up the command and drive a police car instead. On his resume, there’s bound to be a bit about experience rolling. This is the episode where he perfected it.
And my #1 favorite comedy moment: Lurch remembers! “THAT was the equation,” he exclaims, then grabs Kirk by the tickle spots on his side. Kirk throws his head back with an “oof” (probably trying not to laugh). Tears ran down my face, I laughed so hard. I’d forgotten how funny this episode was!
But for all the ridiculousness of it, this episode is amazingly timely. We are beginning to have genuine concerns about AI and what it can do if it becomes “aware”. Will it kill us, we Organic Ones? Will it be able to feel and love us, we Fleshy Ones? Then there’s another really interesting thing to consider: Corby tries explaining to Janice that he could never love a machine. (Yeah, well why didn’t he at least try to make it look like his fiancée? Not only was she far prettier than Christine, she wasn’t even blonde, which he could have at least told her he was trying to approximate her if she were.) We’re on the cusp of actually having lifelike sex dolls. All kidding aside, they may even exist now but in a few years, we may even be able to have our very own Glorious McBombshell, programmed right from Alexa, Cortana, or some other all-knowing computer. And why not have him/her/it walk around in a piece of easily removed … well, whatever that was she was wearing?! But is that a substitute for real love? One would be inclined to think not, but if we get to the point that they can be programmed as the androids on Exo III, why not, and would we even know the difference? Would it matter, assuming the human found happiness, no matter how “unreal”? I mean what’s the point of love if not companionship and to learn and grow together? If the android can teach the human all new things (no, not just like that, but sure, like that too!), are we being too narrow minded in thinking it’s wrong? Perhaps weird; not normal? Remember, normal is only normal until it isn’t. Then one day, normal is outdated and a new normal takes its place. If you don’t believe me, look at the slaves we used to keep, or the women who couldn’t vote, or the planes we used to smoke on, or the horse and buggy we used to use to get around. A lot to think about. Star Trek was always ahead of its time, but I never imagined it could be this far ahead! ML
The view from across the pond:
When I saw that Robert Bloch, the protégé of H. P. Lovecraft and the author of Psycho, was the writer of this episode I had high hopes. In the end it wasn’t quite the creepy horror I was hoping for, but there were elements of the genre. Ruk has been around for centuries, since the time of the “Old Ones”, which is very Lovecraftian. Ted Cassidy, instantly recognisable as Lurch from The Addams Family, was a perfect choice for Ruk, presenting a genuine physical threat to Kirk and even able to pick him up in a fight. And when you hired Cassidy you didn’t just get the imposing stature. You got that voice. Incredible. In this episode Cassidy also proved himself to be a genius at lip-synching, a skill that eluded Shatner the last time he had to play his double. Speaking of which, we are already a bit early in the game for plots to be repeating themselves quite so closely. Once again, we have a doppelKirker.
“This is how you make an android.”
…with a turntable, apparently, which looks like a lot of fun, although when Korby tells Christine to “watch carefully” I’m not quite sure what he’s expecting her to watch. In the end, it’s just a Kirkish blur. Meanwhile, the android-generating roundabout is being controlled by some big colourful dials. Computers should have more big dials to turn in real life. Mine is disappointingly lacking in that department.
Although the episode didn’t go hugely big on the horror, in the end it was the elements of Bloch’s horror writing that made things interesting. There were shades of Doctor Who’s Cybermen in the idea of transplanting a human consciousness into a machine and then programming away the emotion of fear. Korby offered a compelling temptation: attain immortality by replacing the body with a machine, but eventually the real Korby was revealed. He had become a hybrid of man and machine in mind as much as body, and was starting to think like a computer. He was no longer the man that Christine loved.
It was nice to see Christine, one of the lesser-utilised Trek regulars, getting a big slice of the action here, and she provided us with two additions to our Trek Tally of screaming women (now a total of 6). Also in a Bloch-penned episode there were bound to be deaths. Mathews met his fate over a cliff and we must assume that Rayburn was killed by Ruk. It was a bit clumsy that one, like everyone forgot about him. After Ruk’s presumably killer blow he was never seen again, bringing our Minor Crewman Death Trek Tally to 18. As soon as the command came from Kirk to “beam down two security men”, that was always going to happen.
I haven’t yet mentioned the other guest star this week: former child actress Sherry Jackson as Andrea. When we first saw Korby’s robo-lackey Dr. Brown wearing those dungarees with a blue right leg and green left leg I was wondering who got the other half, but it turned out to be the colour-scheme of choice in Korby’s underground lair. Let’s just say it looked a lot better on Andrea.
“I don’t remember Dr Korby mentioning an Andrea.”
You could almost see the daggers coming out of Christine’s eyes at that moment, and it was no surprise with that outfit. When Korby tried to defend himself by saying “there’s no emotional bond”, I’m not sure it was emotions that Christine was worried about. But the combination of Jackson and Cassidy as the two main sidekicks made for an incredibly strong line-up this episode. Jackson was brilliant at portraying that confused wavering between woman and machine that the premise called for. It was an intuitive performance.
There was just one aspect of the episode that I found disappointing and also confusing unless I’m missing something. Spock realised something was wrong with Kirk when he spoke this line:
“Mind your own business Mr Spock. I’m sick of your half-breed interference, you hear?”
That seemed to imply that a racist comment like that is atypical of Kirk, and yet it did come out of the transfer of memories and was spoken by Kirk on the roundabout. Maybe it is a reflection of what their relationship used to be rather than what it has become, but either way it must be an indication of how Kirk views his colleague, and it’s troubling to see that kind of xenophobia portrayed in a supposedly enlightened future setting. I suspect Bloch was actually trying to make a point about that not being the real Kirk, but it didn’t come across very well and ultimately if your plot is going to centre on copying across somebody’s memories then you are going to struggle to make that kind of distinction work between Kirk and doppelKirker.
“Is it possible they built their machines too well?”
That might just apply to Kirk rather more than the writer intended. As for voice-impressionist giant Ruk and Queen-of-the-Dungarees Andrea, I think the designs were just about perfect. RP
Read next in the Junkyard… Star Trek: Miri