Star Trek: Who Mourns for Adonais?

Star Trek Opening TitlesThis next episode is hard to come to grips with, but you’ve got to hand it to them, it’s an idea that is worth exploring. (Come on! I couldn’t resist. You can’t even fault me!)

The idea is that Greek God Apollo is alive and well on another planet, sitting in his throne basking in sunlight when along comes a Starship. He reaches out and brings it closer. Literally. Kirk, a bit of a hothead, decides “I won’t hear what you have to say because you’re saying it while holding me hostage” and therefore ignores everything until he angers a god. (I always say Kirk is my favorite captain, but not the one I’d want to serve under!) To prove he’s who he is, Apollo reminisces; he mentions that Spock looks like Pan. He talks about all the old Greek Gods of myth. This is basically his ID check; he’s who he says he is. And while I think this episode is a bit of a slog, I love the ideas presented here. What if the Gods of our ancient world were actually travelers from beyond the stars. I’m reminded of Clarke’s Law: any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. If that’s true, then it opens a door to all the pantheon of gods that exist and that’s something worth talking about. So it is therefore Kirk’s job to destroy them. (Again, favorite, but I’m not working for him!)

For a show that was often way ahead of its time, I still have to make fun of how far behind things were for women. (Not even getting into the size of the skirts which were measured at one centimeter longer than necessary to cover the backsides!) “You seem very wise for a woman!” Yes, Apollo, those beings aren’t that wise, usually. They just get Archeology and Anthropology degrees in the oven while cooking for their captains. Look pal, with that attitude it’s no wonder “Hera split herself to the wind”. Let me prove to you women are wise: Uhura puts on a welding smock when working with the faulty equipment. Do you see Spock having the wisdom to protect his clothing? NO! And he’s logical, so clearly it was an overabundance of wisdom on Uhura’s part, totally lacking in Spock! Don’t tell me woman aren’t wise!

Then we have Kirk. He’s trying to convince Carolyn that they are the same because “look at us”. But this scene would have been far more effective if she were not white because then looking at them wouldn’t be enough to make the case. Kirk’s point is borderline fair, but his way of getting to it is way out in left field. He wants Carolyn to turn on Apollo, who she seems to have fallen in love with, but saying “look at us, we’re the same” isn’t good enough. And for a ship whose mission it is to seek out new life and new civilization, what does being the same mean anyway? Spock’s own IDIC principle (not yet introduced) is Infinite Diversity through Infinite Combinations; a lovely concept. But being the same shouldn’t have been his argument anyway; it should have been: look, he’s willing to hurt people and enslave them. Not “we look the same”. By Kirk’s logic, he and Spock shouldn’t be brothers! It was almost too pro-human which is not the guiding principle of the Federation.

Not to mention, I don’t know how to feel about the religious element. No, not because I’m super touchy about that; I love the idea at the heart of the story, but it’s yet another thing Kirk says: “Mankind has no need for gods. We find the one more than enough!” Yeah, he’s saying one is all we need, but what our intrepid explorer is doing is saying all the others are worthless and can be killed off. Which is actually what he does! Yeah Apollo was not giving them free choice and yes, that’s bad. But he wanted someone to be there to worship him and in return, they could have paradise. I’m not saying I’d have wanted a paradise like that, but I do wonder if Jim would have listened and negotiated with Apollo a bit more, if their would, in fact, still be room for gods.

Far from a favorite episode for me, but I guess now I know the answer: I mourn for Adonias…  ML

The view from across the pond:

“Captain, that thing’s a giant hand.”

And the award for stating the blindingly obvious goes to… Mr Sulu.

“What is it Mr Spock? Is it a hand?”

Yes, it’s a hand.

“Negative Captain.”

No, really. It’s a hand. We seem to have hit a new low point here. The basis for this episode is that hideous old sci-fi cliché of an alien race visiting the Earth in the past and shaping its history. I’ve seen it a million times, I can’t stand it, and it’s got to be the most common sci-fi idea there is. And that’s it. The writers do absolutely nothing with the concept whatsoever, except use it as an excuse for the Trek crew to be captured and then eventually escape.

I suppose you could say there’s some attempt to examine loneliness and translate that to a godlike figure, but the writers don’t really have anything to say about that and at no point do they really inspire any sympathy for Apollo. It was such a disappointment after spotting Michael Forest in the cast, who I’m familiar with from The Outer Limits episode It Crawled Out of the Woodwork, and for voicing Arakawa in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. I was hoping for better for him than this. Instead he’s a bargain basement Omega from Doctor Who, looking for some company in his lonely world, and trying to force people to stay with him instead of just inviting them for a cuppa.

“Did I ask so much?”

Yes. Falling for his charms in an instant is Lt Carolyn Palamas. Like all Trek babes, I’m not entirely sure what she looks like, as the screen goes into soft focus every time she appears. But she must be an idiot because she’s ready to turn her back on her crew and make a lifelong commitment to a man she’s just met, and apparently has no problem with his suggestion about becoming “mother to a new race of gods”. He’s a smooth talker, alright.

“I love him.”

No you don’t. Kirk deals with the problem by appealing to her… xenophobia.

“We’re the same. We share the same history, the same heritage, the same lives.”

No inter-cultural marriages in the future world of Trek then? I understand when this was made, but sometimes the 60s attitudes really get me down. If it’s not Apollo telling Kirk not to bring “the one with the pointed ears”, it’s Kirk making some comment about losing his female crewmembers once they find a man (and presumably then have to be housewives instead), or Apollo saying this:

“You seem wise for a woman.”

Well you seem stupid for a god. And seriously, that’s what she could have said, if the writers wanted a real person in their scripts rather than a soft-focus plot device in a skirt.

I don’t think these things would have bothered me so much if there had been anything else to grab my attention, but the paper-thin story progressed at a snail’s pace. The episode was full of people stating the blindingly obvious.

“Sensors are picking up an atmospheric disturbance in your area.”

But then life does seem to be very slow in the future:

“Take these equations to the nuclear electronics lab.”

You don’t have an email address for them, Spock? Just about the only good thing I can say about this episode is the writers resisted the temptation to have Kirk fight Apollo and get his shirt ripped. At least, I don’t think they did that. I might have nodded off for a few minutes at some point.

“I wish we hadn’t had to do this.”

That makes two of us.   RP

About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on Author of Editor of
This entry was posted in Entertainment, Reviews, Science Fiction, Star Trek, Television and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Star Trek: Who Mourns for Adonais?

  1. scifimike70 says:

    For a world now coming to terms with how many ancient aliens may have very well influenced our human history and mythology, Apollo (played wonderfully by Michael Forest) is even more popular for Trekkers. I was always saddened by how Apollo finally had to be defeated, with Kirk and Bones even admitting that it may have been unjust, despite Apollo’s arrogant ways of wanting respect. It’s quite easy for me, whose ancestry is Greek on my father’s side, to appreciate what Greek mythology has blessed our human culture with. So it would have been nice to see how beneficial Apollo might have been for the Trek future. Thank you both for your reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. scifimike70 says:

    The finale’s explanation for how Apollo’s magic was actually more scientific and technological, for how the central structure of his domain was destroyed by the Enterprise’s phasers, confirms what Arthur C. Clarke once said. That such a highly advanced alien technology can be indistinguishable from magic to a lesser species like ancient humans. Kirk of course, for his advanced upbringing, is wise enough to see the magic for what it is. Should this be depressing? Was it depressing when Dr. Who had to resort to the same unmasking of ‘magical’ villainies? It’s very natural and even healthy for us to believe in magic. The way the magic is generated can simply take many forms, even if the forms can be scientifically explained. So Apollo is thankfully still a magical being in his own right.

    Liked by 1 person

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