Weekend Trek “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”

I think I’ve seen every episode of the original Star Trek before.  I know I’ve seen all the movies.  I even taped and rewatched some episodes back in the days of the VCR.  Why, then, does this episode not ring much of a bell?  It’s got a script from Psycho writer Robert Bloch.  That must account for something, right?  And yet, when I saw the episode title and even a bit of the description on my Netflix queue, I couldn’t really remember what it was about or anything along those lines.  Had I seen it before?

The short answer seems to be I do remember at least the back half of the episode.  Maybe I’ve just never seen the first half before.  I don’t know.  I will say this is not a particularly memorable episode.  So, why is that?

As far as the story goes, the Enterprise is checking in on an icy planet, particularly on the lone scientist doing experiments down there, one Dr. Roger Korby.  Korby apparently was once engaged to Nurse Chapel, so my guess that Chapel’s only narrative purpose is to have unrequited love for Spock has been dashed since apparently she also has been in love with another guy at some point in the past.  When Korby finally calls in, he basically asks that just Chapel and Kirk beam down, but once they get down to the planet’s surface, Kirk finds some things a little suspicious and asks for a security team.  Yeah, that means two redshirts, and yes, they both die.

So, here we have the first problem with the episode:  it relies on Kirk and Chapel’s being something of a good team.  And, well, they aren’t.  Kirk plays well off of Spock, McCoy, even Scotty, and the latter two aren’t even in this episode.  Spock is, but his screentime is rather limited as he mostly stays on the ship.  And even if Chapel and Kirk did work well together, Chapel spends most of her time in this episode with Korby instead of Kirk, and Korby is the next in what is probably a long line of ex-lovers that aren’t up to any good that the Enterprise keeps running into.  And that still doesn’t change the fact that Chapel doesn’t have much of a personality.  That’s not really a knock on Majet Barrett.  God knows other characters she played on other Trek series made up for Chapel’s lack of personality and then some.  It’s more to do with the fact that episodes that feature Chapel seem to be limited to her love life or lack thereof, and rarely is she the main focus of anything.

Case in point:  Korby at one point refers to Chapel as a scientist.  Now, Chapel is a nurse, and my mother was a nurse before she retired.  I’ve got more than a few nurses in my family.  I have the deepest respect for nurses.  You know what nurses generally aren’t?  Scientists.  Did Chapel have some sort of career path change that would explain how she went from one profession to a completely different one?  Does Dr. McCoy count as a scientist in this universe?  Heck, does Scotty?  Well, I don’t think the episode explains it very well, so there you have it.

That’s just the sort of generally baffling things that are going on in this episode.  Korby basically figured out how to make lifelike, completely logical androids.  He has three at the start, a normal-sized man, a woman, and a giant brute.  The brute, Lurch, is the one responsible for killing the security guards and he can copy any voice.  And calling him Lurch isn’t really an insult here.  I was a tall kid.  I got called “Lurch” a few times by other kids.  No, the android here, real name Ruk, really is actor Ted Cassidy, Lurch from The Addams Family TV show, and he may be one of the episode highlights.  As for the other two androids, the male one is taken out pretty early, revealing the mechanical parts inside while the woman walks around wearing what amounts to a pair of coveralls, kissing Kirk on request from anyone, and generally proving herself to be the one that I guess gave the episode its title.  It might make sense if Korby was only producing female androids, I suppose, and it isn’t much of a surprise at the episode’s end when it is revealed Korby himself is now an android after he had to download his memories into an artificial body after contracting an otherwise fatal case of frostbite.  Chapel doesn’t believe it’s really him though, and ultimately, neither does Kirk.

Lt. Commander Data might have some different thoughts on that subject in another century or so.

I don’t think we should be at all surprised that Korby isn’t human anymore.  He may or may not still be the same man.  He insists he is.  But he isn’t a flesh-and-blood human being anymore.  That may be why he had this genius plan to replace people with androids, starting with Kirk, and that actually leads to what I did like about the episode, namely how Kirk gave Spock the message that it wasn’t really him beaming up to the ship.  Since the android would have all of Kirk’s memories (he’s got a brother!), he just puts some lines into the android’s head about calling Spock a half-breed.  And sure enough, Android Kirk calls Spock a half-breed, provoking suspicion where, even if Kirk hadn’t somehow saved the day himself by then, well, at least Spock was ready with a back-up plan.

And that leads to the best part of the episode.  Spock isn’t really offended by Kirk’s use of the term “half-breed”.  Nope, not in the slightest.  He’s actually disappointed that that was the best Kirk could come up with.

This is why you should always take Spock with you.  He’s got a different perspective from everyone else where, even if the episode itself may not be that memorable, at least makes things a bit more interesting.

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