Well, here we are again with a Star Trek planet where a machine of some kind controls everything. I’ve seen that a few times already. I’ll give the show this much: the way these computers control everything is always a little different. Granted, this is Star Trek, so Kirk will have a problem with that. But at the least, it’s always a different take on a common plot.
Though I do think this one may be the most batspit insane I’ve seen so far.
No, really, this one is a little bit messed up. Kirk and an away team beam down to a planet on orders from Starfleet to do the exploration thing. The team consists of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Chekov, a female officer-of-the-week, and four redshirts. All four of the redshirts will be dead by the end of the epiosde. Scotty, meanwhile, is back on the Enterprise dealing with a different problem. Something is draining the ship of power, and it will crash within ten hours or so.
Oh, and the redshirts are all killed by stuff on the planet. Poison darts hit one from a plant. Precision lightning disintegrates another. One guy steps on an explosive rock. And the overall ineffective natives manage to kill the last one.
That said, Spock gets absolutely zero respect in this episode. He’s hit by more poison darts and grazed by a lightning bolt. The planet’s natives laugh at him for reasons he doesn’t understand. Kirk asks him to maybe explain sex to the woman officer, making him very uncomfortable. He loses the philosophical debate to McCoy, and even gets joshed a bit by KIrk over his resemblance to Satan. Really, Spock should have just stayed in bed for this episode.
As for the episode itself, much of it deals with a planet that different members of the crew compare to the Garden of Eden. Is it paradise? Considering how rocks explode if you step on them and plants shoot poison darts, I would think not. That doesn’t stop Scotty from requesting permission to come down after the first redshirt dies. Then again, Chekov keeps flirting with the woman officer, too. About the only person bothered by the deaths seems to be Kirk.
I mean, there’s a weird moment when Kirk stops to mourn one of the redshirts because the man’s father is a family friend. The speech felt like filler, truth be told.
But here we have an episode where there seems to be no concerns over things like the Prime Directive and First Contact. The sarong-wearing natives do whatever the machine-god thing Vaal tells them to. That means no sex or reproduction. Granted, they may be more or less immortal. They feed it from time to time and don’t question orders to murder the crew. The only upside to the murder order is these guys suck at it. They only take out the last redshirt.
However, I do mean that on the Prime Directive and First Contact protocols. Spock takes the side of the Prime Directive. The locals are happy, so what right does the crew have to interfere? McCoy takes the side that there’s no growth and therefore no freedom. Kirk more or less does agrees with McCoy, but he also has to act before Vaal’s interference forces the Enterprise to crash and kill everyone on the ship. As such, Kirk actually tells the natives, few of whom seem all that upset, that they’re going to like freedom, love, and (implied) sex.
But here’s the thing: I am inclined to think Spock may be right this time. And not just because he’s my favorite character. If the Enterprise was not in danger, how much does the crew have a right to decide whether or not a people are free? I think Star Trek does a good job generally of giving the characters a reason to interfere. Usually the ship or at least some of the regular characters are in some kind of danger. Maybe they were brainwashed or they’re expected to commit suicide. But still, future Trek series will be a lot more careful with interference on native cultures.
And I know there’s a good episode in another future series that deals precisely with First Contact protocols. This series just has the crew walk into a village where the huts and the stock storm footage wouldn’t look out of place on Gilligan’s Island.
But then again, these people don’t understand much of anything. They’re like big children. If anything, the apple here allows people to grow up. Maybe, in this analogy, losing paradise is a good thing. That’s an angle on the Bible most people don’t take. Perhaps we need to ask two questions. The first would be whether or not we are better off without paradise. The second would be asking who has the right to make that decision for us.