Tuesday, 22 May 2012


TOS 1.10: Dagger of the Mind


Captain Kirk vs. Psychiatric Treatment

The Mission:
Find out what sent Dr Simon van Gelder insane on Tantalus.

Planets visited: Tantalus V, a desolate ringed planet that is home to the Tantalus Penal Colony.

Space Bilge: Sorry, I just have to get this out of the way: how the hell does van Gelder manage to hide in a box in order to beam aboard the Enterprise and not get discovered? Surely the transporter would detect a human presence in a cargo box? If not, how the hell does it put him back together again on arrival? Think these things through, writer S. Bar-David (if that is your real name)!

Captain James T: An especially good performance by Shatner in this episode. He’s torn between the opinion of his trusted friend Dr McCoy, and his respect for Tantalus administrator Dr Tristan Adams. Nonetheless, he heeds McCoy’s warning that things don’t “ring true” about van Gelder’s accident, and makes up a spurious regulation that means he has to beam down to the penal colony to investigate. He has a history with psychiatrist Dr. Helen Noel, and is clearly uncomfortable to find her on his staff (evidently he doesn’t usually have to meet his conquests again). He takes the incredibly foolhardy step of trying out Adams’s neural neutraliser himself, almost getting his mind wiped and ending up conditioned to be madly in love with Helen. He displays incredible force of will when fighting the process (Adams is suitably impressed). At the end of the episode, he is clearly haunted by his experience - and as far as we know, still infatuated with Helen Noel.

Sexy Trek: So, just what happened between Kirk and Helen? We never find out the extent of their fling at the science lab Christmas party, but knowing Kirk… Helen’s clearly still smitten with the Captain, and takes the opportunity to play with his head a bit when he’s in the chair. She’s still appalled when Adams makes him fall in love with her. Not that it’s such a terrible thing - she’s gorgeous. She also wears the shortest Starfleet minidress ever, nicely showing off her uniform blue knickers.

The Real McCoy: Clearly distrusts these new-fangled penal colonies and their mind-altering techniques. He displays real compassion for van Gelder, who has just snuck onboard and attacked a crewman in a violent craze.

Green-Blooded Hobgoblin: Spock’s hilarious in this one - Nimoy gives the cattiest, most withering looks to Shatner every time Kirk says something awkward. As well as a nerve pinch, Spock gives us the first Vulcan mind meld. He specifically says he’s never melded with a human before, let alone a clearly disturbed individual like van Gelder. It’s clearly a big deal for him, an incredibly intimate sharing of minds. Compare this with Spock in later years, who’s just melding willy-nilly with anyone.

Future Treknology: Adams’s neural neutraliser is capable of emptying a subject’s mind of all thoughts, making them susceptible to suggestion. Prolonged exposure at high intensity can permanently erase memories and leave the subject insane. When left alone in the neutraliser room, Adams’s mind is completely wiped, and he dies (of loneliness, McCoy says).

Future History: So, they’re still celebrating Christmas in the 23rd century, at least in science departments.

Trek Stars: Morgan Woodward puts in an incredibly intense (some might say OTT) performance as van Gelder.

Cliché Count: This is the first episode to take its title from a Shakespeare play. It certainly won’t be the last.

Verdict: An excellent episode, often forgotten amongst the more memorable stories around it. Lacking an alien presence, it focuses on humanity’s ongoing struggle with crime, punishment and insanity.

TOS 1.11: Miri


Captain Kirk vs. Inappropriate Touching

The Mission:
Locate the source of an anachronistic Earth-style radio signal.

Planets visited: Miri’s planet is an exact duplicate of the Earth. The planet is never given a name. No explanation is given in the episode of the seemingly impossible appearance of the duplicate world. It is described as being the third planet in its system (is the whole solar system a duplicate of our own?) The original version of the episode had an unrealistic globe of the Earth standing for the planet; the remastered version uses a more accurate version with cloud cover and weather patterns.

Alien life forms: The people of the ‘other Earth’ are clearly human. Three hundred years ago, in their version of the 1960s, experiments in life prolongation led to a plague which spread throughout the population, killing all the adults. Only the children remain - hence their name for themselves, Onlies. They call adults Grups. The life prolongation worked, after a fashion; maturation has been slowed down to a crawl, so that childhood lasts centuries. Once a child reaches puberty, he or she begins to show symptoms of the plague. It starts with blotches on the skin, eventually leading to hideous disfigurement, violent behavioural problems, and death.

Captain James T: Gains Miri’s trust by flirting with her, telling her she is pretty and so on. It’s all very inappropriate, what with her being about thirteen (OK, she’s actually three hundred odd, but still). This leads to serious complications when she becomes jealous of Yeoman Rand. When attacked by someone who is clearly severely ill, Kirk punches him hard in the face, and doesn’t seem to perturbed when he drops dead. He shows genuine concern for the kids, though.

Green-Blooded Hobgoblin: Proves resilient to the plague, due to his hybrid biology, but is nonetheless a carrier. He seems a bit freaked out by the children scurrying around out of sight (and who can blame him).

The Real McCoy: Is able to find an antiviral for the plague, but almost cracks under the strain of working against the clock whilst battling the illness himself. Without a computer to check the dosage, and with time running out, he tests it on himself. Luckily, it works.

Sexy Trek: Rand fancies Kirk, and admits to him that she used to try to get him to look at her legs. The poor girl starts to break down now that, finally spending time with him, she is hit by a disfiguring, terminal illness.

Trivia: Several of the children who appear as extras in this episode are the children of cast and crew members, including William Shatner, Grace Lee Whitney and Gene Roddenberry.

James Blish’s novelisation of this episode in Star Trek 1 ignores the duplicate Earth concept and instead makes the planet a lost human colony, and identifies it as the fourth planet of the 70 Ophiuchi system.

Trek Stars: Kim Darby, who plays Miri, was almost twenty when this episode was filmed. She appeared in plenty of shows around this time, mostly westerns, such as Gunsmoke - not the Shatner episode, sadly, although they did work together again on The People in 1972.

Michael ‘Spud’ Pollard, who plays Jahn, is immediately recognisable; you may recognise him from later performances in Bonnie and Clyde or Scrooged, among others.

Verdict: A trippy, creepy episode. The scenes of the feral children chanting and yelling are quite unsettling, especially when you consider that they’ve been living like that for three centuries. The parallel Earth concept is interesting, but frustratingly is never explained, or even theorised about, in the episode.

TOS 1.12: The Conscience of the King


Captain Kirk vs. Hamlet in Space

The Mission:
Get food to ease the shortages on Cygnia Minor - but make sure you check out that new acting troupe first.

Planets visited: Planet Q: probably my favourite name for a planet in the series. Nothing whatsoever to do with Q or the Q Continuum, it would seem (although we can but wonder). Planet Q is the location of a human colony. Kirk describes the Karidian Players’ piece as an “Arcturian Hamlet,” so Planet Q is probably in the Arcturus system (the novelisation certainly thought so). It’s three light years off the Enterprise’s course to Cygnia Minor, and not far from Benecia Colony, where the ship ferries the Players (we see it from orbit at the end).

Firsts and Lasts: Grace Lee Whitney makes her final regular appearance as Yeoman Rand. We’ll see a selection of Yeomen over the remaining episodes of the season.

Future History: Twenty years before the episode (i.e. around 2246) the Earth colony on Tarsus IV was subject to a terrible famine. The governor of the colony, Kodos, ordered the death of half of the population - four thousand people - to conserve the food supplies. He selected the victims according to his personal theories of eugenics (McCoy notes that this wasn‘t the first such experiment - we’ll come back to this in ‘Space Seed.’). Once relief forces arrived from Earth, he was presumed dead, but the burnt body found was never confirmed as his. He became known as Kodos the Executioner. Only nine eye-witnesses to Kodos’s reign survived, including James Kirk, Kevin Riley and Thomas Leighton.

The organisation that operates the Enterprise is referred to as “the Star Service” by Kirk (it still hasn’t settled down to Starfleet yet). McCoy makes a jokey reference to Vulcan having been conquered, which doesn’t fit with anything else we hear about the planet.

Captain James T: So, Kirk was on Tarsus IV twenty years ago? It’s hard to fit this with the rest of backstory, which consistently has him growing up in Iowa. The script apparently stated that he was stationed there as a midshipman, but this clashes with his age - he’d have been in his teens twenty years earlier, too young even for the Academy. Riley must have been even younger.

Kirk is torn throughout this episode between his need for justice - or vengeance - and his commitment to his ship and friends. He abuses his position as Captain, bending the rules to allow him to follow Kodos/Karidian and get in with Lenore. He utterly uses Lenore, seducing her to get closer to the truth - something that can’t have done her pretty fragile sanity any good. McCoy seems convinced that he had real feelings for her - we could take his silence when questioned either way. Personally, I think he’s just a cad.

The Real McCoy: Likes a drink - no surprise there. Perhaps surprisingly, he acts as the voice of caution and reason, while Spock sides with the Captain and backs up his judgment.

Trek Stars: Arnold Moss gives a fantastic performance as Kodos/Karidian, a man driven to despair by the guilt of his actions in the past. He’s the perfect choice for a Shakespearean character - just listen to that voice!

Sexy Trek: Kirk might totally abuse Lenore’s feelings, but it can’t be denied the girl’s gagging for it from the moment she sees him. She asks Kirk if he’s like the ship, “surging and throbbing!” For his part, Kirk doesn’t seem to have any qualms when it comes to romancing a nineteen-year-old woman, whose father he suspects to be a mass murderer. You’d think he’d care about his own safety a little. He uses some pretty tragic chat-up lines, and cranks his smarm factor up to maximum. Yeoman Rand gives Lenore one hell of a look when she enters the bridge.

Future Fashion:
Lenore has a different outfit in every scene, all of them pretty outlandish. My favourite is the frankly bizarre furry minidress with suede gloves.

Musiks: There’s a slow jazz version of the theme tune playing at Leighton’s cocktail party. Uhura entertains the crew again with a song, this time a space ballad called ‘Beyond Antares.’

Links: Lt. Kevin Riley previously appeared in ‘The Naked Time.’ Kodos inspired the name for one of the two aliens in The Simpsons - the other being Kang, after the Klingon from ‘Day of the Dove.’

Space Bilge: Lenore is clearly off her trolley, so we can accept that she thinks it’s a better idea to hunt down the nine remaining people in the entire universe who might recognise her father as Kodos, instead of simply avoiding them, which should be a lot easier. Still, it’s a wonder she managed to find all of them - and did no one else make the connection about these murder victims all having met Kodos on Tarsus IV? How did Lenore have time to kill Leighton, between Kirk making his excuses to the party’s host (i.e. Leighton) and the two of them going for a walk and stumbling across his body? What sort of injury did Leighton get on Tarsus that means he has to cover half his face with a black Phantom-style mask? Don’t they have cosmetic surgery in the 23rd century? And, in retrospect, from the standpoint of the modern era - why the hell don’t they just do a DNA test on Karidian to see if he’s really Kodos, instead of fannying about with voice prints and whatnot?

Cliché Count: McCoy drinks Saurian brandy - or at least, a drink from the same kind of bottle. Kirk snogs his way to victory again. This is yet another episode with a Shakespearean title, but at least this time it fits the theme.

Verdict: A strange episode, basically trying to retell Hamlet in space with even crazier characters. Shatner gives a great performance as Kirk; it’s interesting to see him becoming alienated from the crew and his responsibility. The continual Shakespeare quotes get annoying after a while, particularly by Lenore’s big breakdown scene, whereupon they leave ‘annoying’ and reach ‘excruciating.’ Kirk should just backtrack a few light years and dump her on Tantalus with the other crims.

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