Star Trek: Dagger of the Mind

Star Trek Opening TitlesToday’s mission: drop off supplies to the Tantalus penal colony.  McCoy ironically states of the penal colony that “a cage is a cage”, which could be a reference to the prison kept by the Talosians in The Cage.  (That’s the pilot episode; we’ll learn more about that soon enough!)  Kirk makes a big thing about saying he’s visited penal colonies before and I’m reminded of Airplane.  (“Joey, ya ever hang around a gymnasium?”)  I don’t know why it mattered so much that it is mentioned repeatedly, but there you have it.  (“You ever been in a cockpit before?”)  In fact, a lot about Kirk’s behavior here gets a bit questionable.  (“You ever seen a grown man naked?”)  Oh, yeah, it gets better!

Kirk and Dr. Dimples beam down to the planet, step into an elevator which starts moving at some speed and Kirk does the most chivalrous thing he can think: grabs Dr. Sexy and pulls her so close that they are nearly one person.  Then, Kirk has a sneaking suspicion that the mind wipe device can be used for some nefarious activities, but what does he do?  He goes there after hours with Dr. Christmas Gift Noel and says “try a harmless suggestion”.  You see where this is going?  I did.  She goes for hunger.  (Damn, not quite what I was looking for, thinks Jim!)  “I think we should try this again,” says Dr. Brown Eyes.  And Kirk ramps it up a notch.  “Yes, Pick something unusual.  An unusual suggestion we can both be sure of!”    Mmhmm!  I’ll play your game, you rogue!  You mountebank!  Sadly for him, Kirk’s plans are beamed into a sun.  Dr. Short Skirt is captured and the torture device is used on Kirk.

Now, what exactly was going to happen here is anyone’s guess.  Dr. Adams, the head of the research facility, is going to wipe Kirk’s mind, I imagine, but why?  To what avail?  Send him up to the ship to get more supplies?  Like, what was his end goal?  If it was just to kill Kirk, that would have brought the entire Enterprise crew down on him.  Send him back to the ship and be his minion?  He wasn’t going to live there!  Maybe he just wanted Kirk to forget about Dr. Legs and have her stay behind.  I couldn’t fault him.  But I have a ton of other complaints about this episode anyway, and the crazy thing is, I actually like this one!  But beyond his motivation, why did McCoy send Kirk an expert with Psychiatric and phrenology experience?  When did feeling the bumps on a person’s skull factor in?  Kirk may have been pretending not to remember Dr. Lips Noel (from the Christmas party, ironically) but I suspect he remembered her just fine.  And did he really think she couldn’t hear what he was saying to Spock, 3 steps away?  Off camera, I am certain Kirk was thinking “hey, this is a good time to get with that shrink with the skull feeling experience and see if she’d interested in touching my head.  Bones, get me an expert in…”  Blackguard!!

Also, those vents!  Kirk says to Dr. I Want To Look Up Your Dress that she can fit into the vent so he hoists her in.  But he could have fit in just as easily.  Hell, K-9 could have trundled through those vents!  And I love his advice!

Kirk: “Have you had any training in hyper-power circuits?”
Noel: “No.”
Kirk: “Touch the wrong line and you’re dead!”  (Off you go!!)

I guess he’s looking at the best case: she’s fine and he takes the elevator ride back to the surface with her.  Worst: she dies, and doesn’t get to tell the crew that he groped the crap out of her in an elevator.

Meanwhile Dr. Simon Wild Eyes Van Gelder is actually a nerve wracking case to watch.  My son said something great about him: if this were the only show you ever watched, you’d be convinced it was easy to knock someone out!  Van Gelder karate chops people to the neck and they drop like a Salt Vampire on its last meal.  He makes a good point to Kirk when Kirk says “not our problem” claiming they will just wash their hands of it, which seems to galvanize Kirk into action.  It’s Van Gelder’s psychosis that prompts action from Kirk who is utterly convinced nothing is going on down on the planet.  As Spock does the “deeply personal” mind meld in front of a voyeuristic McCoy, he learns the truth and begins working to save Kirk.

So what was the point?  What was the “big think” for the episode?  Was it that psychiatric hospitals should always check their outgoing boxes in case someone is hiding in them?  Or that mind control never ends well?  Or perhaps it was far more simple that that.  Loneliness kills Dr. Adams in the end.  He was striving for more than he was entitled, which is ironic, because Tantalus is a Greek figure who is punished by the Gods for trying to give his son that which was reserved for those Gods.  He is put into eternal suffering, always right near food and drink but unable to have it.  Dr. Adams has a more merciful end, in some ways, but it’s his desire to reach beyond his right that ultimately causes his death.  At least he’s gone, but the inmates are still running the asylum.  Mrs. Roving Eye, who was a patient, and Dr. Wild Eyes now run the place.  Should Van Gelder first get treatment for the trauma he underwent?  Nah!  That’s what mind-melds are for.

Time for me to wrap this one up.  I have to make an appointment with a certain therapist… ML

The view from across the pond:

I can’t sugar coat it, that was a painfully boring episode. Partly I think it was because the threat level seemed so low-key compared to anything that has come before. To start with it was just a bloke in a box, inexplicably able to escape from a maximum security prison by beaming up in some cargo. It wasn’t exactly The Great Escape. Things got a bit more interesting when it became apparent that he was the victim of brainwashing and there was something stopping him from spilling the beans about his captors or, oddly, his own name.

“My name is Aaarrrghhsimon van Gelder.”

Strange name. Morgan Woodward presumably took one look at the script and decided that the only way to do this is to go big with it, and boy does he go big with the mental torture stuff. In contrast, Spock is always keen to brag about his emotionless existence:

“Where there is no emotion, there is no motive for violence.”

Or, I would argue, for success, or self-betterment, or good deeds, or dozens of other positive things I could name. That’s the trouble with the Vulcan ethos. As soon as you engage your brain and actually start thinking about what it really means, the whole idea collapses into a nonsensical mush. Nobody could actually live like that without being a Cyberman.

While we’re on the subject of Doctor Who, when the action shifted to the prison planet we were into the realms of a watered down version of The Mind of Evil, but without the compelling villain behind it all. Instead we had the instantly forgettable… who was the bloke in charge again? Whoever he was, he asked Kirk to beam down with “a minimum staff”, which he always does anyway, and Kirk’s investigative companion was sprung on him at the last minute: Dr Helen Noel. There was apparently some history between them, which would explain why Kirk looked like he had never seen a woman before, although that seems to happen quite a lot in Trek anyway. Also becoming a regular occurrence is Kirk the Sex Pest, who reared his ugly head again this week, thanks to the Keller Machine or whatever the heck that flashy light thing was. The Prisoner did this stuff a million times better as well, not just Doctor Who. The old air vent escape trick deserves an honourable mention though, as does the doctor who always makes an instant diagnosis without bothering with resuscitation or anything inconvenient like that:

“He’s dead, Captain.”

This really is life, but not as we know it.   RP

Read next in the Junkyard… Star Trek: The Corbomite Maneuver

About Roger Pocock

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8 Responses to Star Trek: Dagger of the Mind

  1. scifimike70 says:

    Dr. Tristan Adams, played eloquently by James Gregory, is yet another reminder in Trek and in SF that absolute power corrupts absolutely. As common as it is for SF villainy, it’s interesting for Trek given its optimistic vision of the future that there can still be villains of Dr. Adams’ nature. We may recognize him as the kind of villainous doctor in our contemporary world who can abuse his or her position of trust and influence. The neural neutralizer room remains one of the most haunting SF examples, enhanced by the closing lines between McCoy and Kirk:

    McCoy – “It’s hard to believe that a man can die of loneliness.”
    Kirk – “Not when you’ve sat in that room.”

    As for Helen, I was disappointed that she didn’t get to appear somehow in the final scene after the death of Dr. Adams. Her last line, “I understand.”, when Kirk states the horror that Dr. Adams felt from his own machine is consequently more unforgettable. Even when being yet another of Kirk’s many women, she maturely holds up very well in this story and certainly when she fights the male guard who got electrocuted as a result. Any woman who can recover quickly enough from that is among Trek’s many great examples of female bravery. It was very rare in the classic Trek for the women to have anything to do fight scenes, at least where fair fights are concerned. So Trek has quite openly come a long way in that regard.

    For the first Trek story to have any mention of Christmas, that’s worth remembering Dagger Of The Mind for also. Thank you both for your reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

    • scifimike70 says:

      As for such occasions Dr. McCoy easily enough saying the timeless line: “He’s dead, Jim.” seemingly without bothering to resuscitate, I must confess that this has never occurred to me before. It was thankfully different enough with Dr. Crusher, Dr. Bashir, Voyager’s EMH Doctor and Dr. Phlox. But this will make me look back on Dr. McCoy’s famous line: “He’s dead, Jim.” a lot differently now. Thank you, RP, for pointing that out.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Roger Pocock says:

        He’s amusingly not very good at being a doctor most of the time. Look out for that line from now on! I’m into season 2 episodes now, and it keeps happening over and over again 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  2. “Where there is no emotion, there is no motive for violence.”

    To be fair, this is an early point early, both in the original run of ST, and in the overall franchise. Over time, both on the TV series and in the movies, we come to realize that Spock’s lifelong struggle with his emotional human half has led him to have an even more idealized view of a pure logical existence than even his fellow Vulcans hold. And, of course, later on we would see plenty of examples of Vulcans committing violent actions for what they believed to be purely logical reasons.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Roger Pocock says:

      Behind the scenes of the Junkyard (it’s a shady place), I’m currently watching season 2, and there are still huge issues with the logic of Spock’s logic, but Mike did mention something similar to your comment in an email to me – basically “wait and see”! We’ll be covering every episode of Classic Trek, and the movies, so I’ll get there! Pleased to see you like Trek too – I think this is probably the first time we’ve had a commenter crossing from one series to another, so that’s very welcome! Most people seem to stay in one sci-fi niche.

      Liked by 2 people

    • scifimike70 says:

      From one SF geek to another, you’re never alone, Ben. Thanks for sharing your words too on the Junkyard. 🖖🏻

      Liked by 2 people

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