Here we are again with another episode, originally intended to be part of the original series, adapted and shortened for the animated series. Given what the character of Commander Ari bn Bem can do, that may be for the best.
Mostly, Bem is an asshole.
Also, this episode is a landmark in that Kirk finally reveals his full name is “James Tiberius Kirk,” something he’s never done before, and he says it more than once in case you missed it the first time.
Bem, we learn, is an alien from the planet Pandro on the Enterprise to observe the crew in action. And he’s…odd. James Doohan’s doing the voice, sounding a lot like Arex but Bem always refers to himself as “this one”. He has another trick the Enterprise crew doesn’t know about, but that’s enough for the nonce.
However, Kirk is about to go looking into a newly discovered M-class planet. There’s an aboriginal level native race, and Kirk and company know how to avoid such beings. But then Bem decides, for the first time apparently, that he has to go along. Sure, this mission is more dangerous than most, and Bem is the sort of arrogant that is sure to drive people crazy, but he won’t be talked out of it. He even took the liberty of setting the transporter coordinates for the away team that consists of Kirk, Spock, Scotty, Sulu, and now this Bem guy.
But there’s a problem. Bem’s coordinates are next to a cliff, and Kirk and Spock fall off into a waste-deep body of water. They aren’t really hurt, though Kirk ain’t happy about that, and Bem does leap in to help them. And that’s where his other skill comes into play: once submerged, Bem’s lower half separates from the rest of him, and two smaller hands pick Kirk and Spock’s pockets of their phasers and communicators, replacing them with nonworking replicas without either man noticing.
Oh, and then Bem runs off on his own. It seems when you can split your body into three distinct, floating parts (head, upper torso, and lower torso, possibly with each arm able to go off on its own too) that it’s really easy to get through thick jungle foliage. Kirk and Spock pursue, with Scotty and the others told to wait. Kirk wants to avoid being seen, and the natives might be dangerous.
So, you can imagine Kirk’s reaction to seeing Bem captured.
Also, Kirk’s attempts to get Bem out get himself and Spock captured.
And then when they try the phasers and communicators, they don’t work.
Why? Because Bem is an asshole.
OK, he claims it was because he was testing Kirk to see how a race that resorts to violence so quickly deals with problems by taking away his weapons, but c’mon man, they didn’t know he could slip through the bars in pieces (Spock finds that fascinating), and he was the one that got everyone caught. Bem’s people apparently believe in up-close observation.
Maybe he could have shared that information.
Now, while all this is going on, Uhura keeps popping in to say there’s some kind of anomaly on the planet’s surface. No one has seen it yet, but it’s there. She calls Scotty and the rest back but can’t find the captain. And that ain’t good. You’d think maybe sending the most vital member of the crew on potentially dangerous missions all the time might be a bad idea.
Then again, Kirk does use his phaser to escape once Bem gives the real ones back. And then he and Spock can maybe defend themselves with a stun setting to get out of the village and call for a pick-up. But then that anomaly turns out to be intelligent, thinks of the natives as her children to protect, and sounds exactly like Nichelle Nichols. It turns out that maybe attacking her children doesn’t make her very happy, and she really doesn’t like the idea of the Federation experimenting on them, which is how she sees Kirk’s explanation for their being there at all.
Back to the cages they go.
Now, Bem decides to leave on his own (remember, he’s an asshole), but Spock manages to cobble together a communicator powerful enough to talk to the entity because, maybe, reasoning with this intelligence will work out better for everyone. It actually does. Kirk can call the Enterprise, get a security team down there with tricorders and phasers set to the lowest possible settings to find Bem, and then they can leave. Sure, the entity isn’t happy they didn’t leave immediately, but Kirk’s explanation about finding Bem mollifies her and shames Bem for being an asshole. He’s further shamed when he offers to commit what sounds like suicide only for the entity to ask why he’d do such a dumb thing since her children don’t even know what punishment or revenge is.
So, that’s that. Everyone goes back to the ship, the entity wishes them a safe voyage, and no one will ever go to that planet again since a godlike alien being is watching over it. And maybe a chastised Bem will be less of an asshole.
Then again, it’s not like we’ll be seeing his green mug again.