The plot for this episode of Star Trek reminded me very much of an episode of the first season of, of all things, The Orville. Granted, that show comes across as something of a Trek homage, but it’s more directed towards looking like Next Generation than the original series. But both original Star Trek and The Orville did an episode about a giant ship, lost in space for ages where the passengers had no idea they were in a spaceship as it made its way to wherever it was going.
The outcomes were very different, but the central concept, at least, was similar. Besides, this is original series Trek, so you just know a malfunctioning computer running everything and the passengers not questioning anything is somewhat responsible for what’s going on.
Once again, the Enterprise is on Red Alert as someone is firing missiles at the ship. Some quick phaser work takes care of that, but Kirk does realize they need to see who’s shooting at them, but there’s a problem in Sickbay. Kirk enters to see Chapel and McCoy arguing before he can get McCoy alone. McCoy finished all the crew’s annual physicals, and there’s someone on board with an incurable disease that will prove fatal in a year or so’s time. Who has the xenopolycythemia? McCoy does.
That’s a bummer for Kirk. McCoy actually asks Kirk to keep it to himself and promises to be able to continue to perform his duties for the foreseeable future, but Kirk opts to contact Starfleet and ask for a replacement Chief Medical Officer as soon as possible.
Now, do I expect for one minute this show will let McCoy die? Of course not. But the real pleasure for an episode of a TV show like this is not wondering if McCoy will die but how his friends respond to it and how he is eventually cured.
And the latter is actually an interesting path. The Enterprise tracks the missiles back to an asteroid that, it turns out, is actually a large ship headed through space. It’s also on a collision course with a very inhabited planet. Kirk needs to move it, and takes Spock down to take a look. McCoy comes with because he won’t stay behind, and after the trio are captured by the inhabitants, including a beautiful high priestess, we get the real meat of the episode.
McCoy falls in love.
We’ve seen McCoy talk of past loves before. It’s original series Star Trek. Just about everybody gets that plot point at some point in time or another. And even if McCoy might be the unlikeliest of the three leads for High Priestess Natira to fall for, it does happen. It generally works out. The ship’s computer is thought to be a prophet because no one on board remembers how the ship was built or even that it is a ship. Hence the title of the episode. Kirk and Spock get the boot for looking around, but McCoy stays and eventually relays the necessary information to the Enterprise to change the asteroid/ship’s course. He also teaches Natira not to have blind faith in a computer or prophet.
By the by, I know we haven’t seen the malfunctioning computer running everything plot in a while, but given how often the characters are standing in barely furnished or outright dark rooms, I think we can see yet again the signs of the show’s budget cuts.
Now, Spock had translated the ship’s written language, recognizing it as an ancient language from a believed-extinct civilization. And once inside a control room that looks an awful lot like the Enterprise‘s own Engineering section (something even Spock himself comments on), he can very easily do the course correction that will bring the ship to its final destination. He even finds some medical records that include a cure for McCoy’s disease, so–surprise surprise–he’ll live.
He may even see his wife again! Yes, they got married. Yes, she stayed behind. Is that a divorce? I don’t know. We’ll have to check back in in a year when the asteroid…
Oh yeah, this is the final season.
So, yes, romance and a predictable ending saved McCoy. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to like. McCoy may have decided to live out his last days with Natira, but he didn’t abandon Starfleet. Kirk seemed rather restrained for one. Spock, upon learning of McCoy’s condition, shows support for a friend without saying a word or changing his facial expression, but just a hand on a shoulder tells McCoy all he really needs to know. This was, once again, an episode about smart, compassionate people fixing a problem for strangers without committing any violence against the strangers and making the galaxy a slightly better place a result. Basically, this is why people like Star Trek.