Oh boy. “Spock’s Brain”. When people talk about the worst episodes of Star Trek, usually they mean “Spock’s Brain”. This is one goofy episode, often put on worst episode lists and cited as just being a bad episode. I mean, it isn’t hard to see why so many fans consider this episode to be bad.
And…I kinda like it.
Look, I won’t pretend for a minute this is a good episode of Star Trek. It isn’t. The network changed the time slot, cut the budget, and may have pushed Gene Roddenberry back a bit. The plot is blatantly ridiculous, the script sucks, and even Shatner’s acting seems worse than usual. Many people who made the episode consider it terrible. Shatner said it was meant at a swipe at the network after the timeslot change. Leonard Nimoy said it was the most embarrassing episode of the series, and Nimoy found a lot of season three to be embarrassing.
I wonder if it was while making season three that Nimoy accidentally wandered onto the set of The Lucy Show in full costume and make-up…
How could I ever like this one? Even I recognize just how bad it is.
Well, in short, I look at this one as a parody of the show itself.
I watch this and think whoever made it maybe never did more than skim the show because it looks like what people who’ve never seen Star Trek think Star Trek is.
Look, this episode doesn’t even follow its own rules. When a mystery woman beams onto the bridge of the Enterprise, she uses a wrist device to knock out the entire crew. Later, after she and her people have captured Kirk, McCoy, brainless Spock, and Scotty, they attach belts to the men to do…what the device seemed to do before? Why did she need to put belts on them?
Then there are deliciously bad lines like “Brain? Brain? What is brain?”
Spock’s body is now on a remote control. Spock’s disembodied brain talks through the communicator. Kirk finds a trail very easily when no trail exists. McCoy gives himself a brain blast to start putting Spock’s brain back, but when he forgets, Spock helps out by talking the good doctor through the rest of the surgery.
And somehow, this episode was the season three premier.
Now, season three of Star Trek is often seen as a weak batch of episodes. The only thing that kept the show on the air were fans petitioning the network by mail. I have already mentioned the cut budget and new timeslot. NBC may have been (barely) willing to renew the show, but that doesn’t mean they were going to help the show stay on the air for a fourth.
But then we have this and wonder if anyone wanted the show off the air.
And yet…I somewhat like this episode.
The very premise of the episode is ridiculous. A woman appears on the bridge, doesn’t say a word, and steals Spock’s brain. Why isn’t Spock dead? McCoy mutters something about Vulcan physiology. Cue Remote Control Spock.
I think the reason I like this episode is because it’s simply weird. How many times has Star Trek used plot lines involving godlike beings or computers controlling far too much? And if I don’t think this episode is the worst, it’s in part because there are other episodes I think are far, far worse.
So far, my pick for worst is “The Alternative Factor”. Stupid Lazurus…
Beyond that, there are much, much worse TV shows out there than Star Trek, even if the script is bad, the cast more or less knows their characters by now, and the cast’s general chemistry still mostly works. Sure, we may have Chekov waiting outside the caves for no clear reason, but we’ll still check up on him a couple times all the same.
Essentially, I think I like this one because I can laugh at it. Star Trek uses humor, sometimes quite well, but this one is hilarious in such an unplanned sort of way.
And, quite frankly, if this is the worst Star Trek has to offer, then I think I’ll be OK with the last season.