So, as I watched “The Mark of Gideon,” another somewhat forgettable episode of the original series, something struck me that the show tried to make a serious point about something but failed miserably. Oh, the point was still largely valid, but the execution left a lot to be desired. As this is mostly a bottle episode where most of the sets are the various corridors and decks of the Enterprise, I think we can be forgiven for some of the contrivances, but the episode has some presentation issues that take away from the seriousness of the episode’s ideas.
That seems to happen more in season three than any other now that I think about it.
The Enterprise is on a diplomatic mission to the planet Gideon. Gideon isn’t quite in the Federation, but it could join up provided the talks go well. However, Gideon is also somewhat isolationist and will only agree to let one person down to the planet’s surface to complete the talks. That would be Captain Kirk. But then when Spock activates the transporter with the coordinates the Gideon ambassador gave him, Kirk doesn’t seem to go anywhere. He’s still in the Enterprise transporter room, and oddly enough, the rest of the ship seems to be completely empty.
Naturally, two things happen. First, Kirk notices a minor injury to his arm, so something happened. Second, he finds a woman named Odona also on board, and she’s claiming she has no idea how she got there either, but for the first time in her life, she’s enjoying not being crushed by a crowd of people everywhere she goes.
Oh, and also this is obviously not the real Enterprise. Spock is still there, and the Gideon Ambassador is asking where Kirk is. He also won’t let Spock beam down to look on his own. Or anyone else for that matter. That leads to Uhura playing a 23rd century equivalent to phone tag and the ambassador’s use of semantics frustrating if not outright angering McCoy, Scotty, and even Spock.
They irritated Spock. These guys are good at being infuriating.
So far, so good. But then we find out what happened when, after testing the transporter by beaming one of the ambassador’s assistants to and from the Enterprise, Spock notes the Gideons gave them different coordinates for the same room. And despite being ordered not to, Spock opts to beam down by himself to rescue Kirk.
So, what was really going on? Here’s where the episode more or less lost me. Most of all this stuff is rather standard Star Trek stuff. Kirk meets and romances yet another young woman, Spock says a lot of stuff about logic, and the crew eventually figures out what’s going on. We should have gotten a hint that there were problems when Kirk said he’d heard Gideon was a paradise, and no planet that anyone on the Enterprise compares to paradise or Eden or something along those lines ever turns out to be anything but trouble.
No, see, Odona was telling the truth. Her planet is overcrowded. It’s just, as Kirk more or less knew, her planet was Gideon. Every so often starting around halfway through the episode, we see a crowd of people looking through every viewport and window on the fake Enterprise. This is how Star Trek views overpopulation: about a dozen or so people milling around in a circle in a small space. The people of Gideon managed to eradicate disease, they age slowly, and as a result, people don’t die or even have much in the way of privacy. Kirk was specifically chosen because he survived a rare form of meningitis. That’s why he has a sore arm. He was knocked out at some point, blood was drawn, and the resulting serum was injected into Odona, the ambassador’s daughter. See, if she doesn’t get treatment within 24 hours, she’ll die, and then there’s hope for a world where people don’t die.
Kirk, obviously, sees a problem with that. Spock’s timely arrival means he can get Odona to the real SickBay where McCoy can easily treat her for what she has. Kirk really didn’t think she had to die, and there should be another answer to Gideon’s overpopulation problem.
Heck, I can think of one right now. This is Star Trek. Space travel and colonizing otherwise uninhabited worlds is a thing. Gideon could, you know, let people join Starfleet or send them off to distant worlds, or even nearby worlds, so long as they aren’t still on Gideon.
Plus, even though Kirk argued loudly that Odona shouldn’t have to die, even if she did volunteer, he sees no harm with her taking his place on Gideon with her own killer blood. So, it’s OK for countless strangers to die but not the one woman Kirk met down there? That seems…weird, wrong, hypocritical, take your pick.
But hey, we saved one attractive blonde! That’s what Kirk is here for, especially as he forgets this week’s love interest next week. And surely Spock will face no repercussions from violating orders to rescue Kirk, but I don’t think that really gets addressed. We’ll have to find out when we get to the next episode at some point in the near future.