December 7, 2023

Gabbing Geek

Your online community for all things geeky.

Weekend Trek “How Sharper Than A Serpent’s Tooth”

An alien returns, claiming to be the parent to humanity, and Kirk needs to figure out how to change its mind.

The writer for this episode is one Russell Bates.  A Kiowa Indian, Bates worked some Native American legends into the episode.  That’s actually rather cool.

The episode itself actually works pretty well too.

A probe went up to Earth, scanned the place, then flew off and exploded.  The Enterprise is tracking it back to its source, possibly by playing whale song, but not this time.  They do find a large ship that easily snags the Enterprise in a spherical forcefield, and a voice comes through asking why no one remembered him and how disappointing it was people forgot his lessons.  Kirk doesn’t know what’s he’s talking about, Spock doesn’t have it in his records, and when the Enterprise tried to shoot its way out of the mess the larger ship’s scanner was causing, well, that just makes things worse.

But there is one guy who recognizes the other ship.  It’s a new guy, one Ensign Walking Bear, a Native American who researched old Native legends from all over the Americas, and this one reminded him of the Mayan legend of Kukulan.

But this would be about the point Kukulan decides to make his move, so he zaps four members of the crew out of the Enterprise and onto his own ship:  Scotty, McCoy, Kirk, and Walking Bear.  The last was because Walking Bear actually remembered Kukulan when no one else did.  Besides, Spock’s people didn’t upset the advanced alien being.  He can stay on the Enterprise.

By the way, this episode ends with the standard Spock-McCoy bickering exchange, where McCoy asks Spock if advanced aliens ever visited the Vulcans.  Spock replies that they did, and the visitors left more enlightened as a result.

That is so Spock.

Anyway, what it comes down to is Kukulan visited Earth ages ago and instructed the people he spoke to to build a city to his specifications, and then he would return.  That never happened, and Kukulan’s own holodeck shows the city he wanted, where Walking Bear recognizes that the city has elements from multiple ancient cultures, suggesting the reason Kukulan never came back was multiple civilizations tried but none of them got it exactly right.  Kukulan finally got tired of waiting, set up a puzzle for the four men to solve, and they more or less do.  Four snake-headed pillars sit around what looks like a Mayan pyramid.  Walking Bear figured out what was going on, Scotty found a groove in the pillars that could move the snake heads, and Kirk climbed the pyramid to give everybody else directions on what to do.

McCoy, um, he has a medical kit that will be needed later.

Point is, Kukulan is actually a large, winged alien snake, and he wants humanity to go back to being his children.  You know something?  He’s not good at arguing.  Kirk points out keeping people as children means they never grow up.  Kukulan argues that the humans shot at him and have weapons.  Kirk argues that they were defending themselves.  Kukulan complains they forgot him, and Kirk counters by asking why they should be punished for not following rules they forgot.

And this happens in Kukulan’s alien zoo, where all the animals sit in very small, clear cages but think they are in their own natural habitats.  Scotty actually suggests this is cruel because the spaces they are in are very small.

I did not expect an anti-zoo message in a 1970s cartoon, and I cannot say I disapprove.

As it is, humans would be the first sentient race for Kukulan’s zoo, but he does have a Power Cat, a large cat with an electrical charge that hates captivity.  So, McCoy and Kirk pop the VR tubes and wake it up.  Then Kirk uses a hypodermic from McCoy’s medical kit to make it pleasant.  And now Kukulan can listen.  Yes, he helped humanity once, but they don’t need his help now.

He accepts that.  He isn’t happy, but he accepts it.

By this point, Spock broke out the Enterprise out of the forcefield because that’s what he does.

So, really, this was one of those episodes that seems very Star Trek.  It brings up the idea that humanity isn’t as savage as it used to be, and it’s always trying to make itself better.  It doesn’t need gods anymore, no matter how many cultures said gods inspired.  They need to find their own path, and anything that tries to make decisions for them is automatically wrong no matter how well meaning.

You know, I mentioned to a friend that some of these Animated Series episodes aren’t bad in the script form.  They usually fall apart when it comes to so-so animation.  He asked if these stories could work better if they just had more modern animation instead of the cheap stuff they had then.  It was an interesting idea, and episodes like this one strike me that maybe that could work if someone would just do it.

Then again, I only have one episode left of this particular show, so it’s a bit of a moot point.