February 27, 2024

Gabbing Geek

Your online community for all things geeky.

Weekend Trek “That Which Survives”

Kirk, McCoy, and Sulu are trapped on a planet with a mysterious woman who can only murder one of them at a time.

What the…here’s another episode, the third of the past four or so, with a guest appearance by an actor associated with the 60s Batman series.  This time it’s second Catwoman Lee Meriwether.  And if you’re worried some of the men of the Enterprise won’t comment on the physical beauty of a woman who once won the Miss America pageant, then you must be new to Star Trek.  Of course someone will call her beautiful.  It’s, like, a requirement.

But she’s not really there in terms of the story.

What we have here, in a script written by the recently deceased D.C. Fontana under a pen name, is a story where Kirk, McCoy, and Sulu go down to investigate a planet that doesn’t make a lick of sense scientifically speaking.  It’s fairly new but also has a fairly diverse biodiversity.  That just doesn’t happen, but just as the three men and a geologist who you have never seen before and therefore know is doomed, a mystery woman (Meriwether) appears out of nowhere, warning them not to beam down.  She then touches and more or less instantly kills the transporter operator just as the surprised foursome beams down to the planet’s surface.  Once there, the planet shakes in a way that looks both impressive and fake for this era of television while an unknown force blasts the Enterprise under Spock’s command many lightyears away.

By the by, you know this is a D.C. Fontana script by how Spock behaves.  She was very instrumental in crafting Spock and Vulcan culture in general to what we recognize today, so he spends a lot of time correcting estimates for Scotty and Uhura when he doesn’t think they are precise enough and seemingly to misunderstand common idioms.

Don’t ever change, Spock.

That ends when Scotty, pointing out he rounded a number off for a countdown to when the Enterprise will explode or something if they can’t slow the ship down when it somehow hits Warp Factor 13.2 (remember, maximum warp is usually 9 at best), reminds Spock that, given the time left, it doesn’t much matter because if he can’t fix the engines they’ll all be dead and no one will care regardless.

Don’t ever change, Scotty.

So, most of this comes down to the mystery woman Losira.  She seems to appear and disappear at will, often with a power surge that Sulu or McCoy’s tricorders can pick up like someone opened or closed a door.  She can appear either on the planet’s surface with Kirk’s away team or on the Enterprise as it tries to speed back to the planet as quickly as it can.  So, really, she can appear there over a distance of multiple lightyears.  However, while she does seem to know an awful lot about whatever man she talks to (we never see her talk to another woman), she can only use her deadly touch, something that causes massive cellular disruption, but she can only kill that one man.  Anyone else can touch her without harm.  She’s also immune to phaser fire, something Sulu learns when she comes for him after killing the fourth guy we never saw before.

Now, all this is very interesting.  I’ll even admit to liking the effect used to transport Losira in and out of the shot as she flattened out to a thin black line that then collapses inward.  It may not be the fanciest effect, but it could be one of the most creative ones.  Here we have a woman–or, more accurately, a computer program/projection–that knows an awful lot about select people, learns from its mistakes, and even has enough of a conscience to see what it is doing is wrong.  Or, again more accurately, she’s doing something that is somewhat right or at least understandable because the planet is a lot more dangerous than it lets on.

See, eventually the crew finds a recording from the real Losira.  Her people had built the planet as a science experiment, and she was part of a scientific expedition to occupy the place.  But doing so created a disease that infected all the colonists.  Losira programmed the computer to create copies of herself to make sure the quarantine stayed put, but McCoy suspects the ships sent to warn the rest of Losira’s people probably carried the disease back home and wiped them out too.  The whole purpose of the projections was to make sure no one spread the disease, so beaming down would have been a death sentence if the disease still existed.

So, really, that’s a cool sci-fi premise.  But I do have one question:  if this computer had to kill intruders or visitors to prevent the spread of the disease, why did it seem to only be able to kill one person at a time?  It’s not like this woman kept reappearing very quickly.  She popped up only sporadically, and if she could appear on the Enterprise when it wasn’t even in planetary orbit, why couldn’t it take out the away team’s members more quickly?  I realize that there’s no story if Losira’s copies kill Sulu, McCoy, and Kirk inside of five minutes, but it wasn’t a terribly efficient method, particularly if she stops to talk to her targets.  And she always stops to talk to her targets.

If anything, when three Losiras appear, one each for Kirk, Sulu, and McCoy, that shows someone learning.  Only Spock’s timely arrival with an armed security officer to phaser blast the computer saves the lives of the others.

But that’s a fairly minor complaint for what was a fairly solid season three episode.