A bit of a mixed bag this time around. You can tell me if you think I’m off base on how I’m seeing some of this.
S01E10 – “Dagger of the Mind”
When a madman escapes from a penal facility, an experimental mental treatment is called into question.
The first appearance of the Vulcan mind meld! And what a way to introduce it. Spock took an extraordinary risk trying something like that on a man whose brain had been scrambled. Not that I fault his logic – I would never presume to do that – but he knew going in that his mental disciplines might not be enough to overcome whatever Dr. Van Gelder had been exposed to.
To center a story around the future of mental science was incredibly brave storytelling in that time. McCoy points out “a cage is a cage,” and he’s right. I would go so far as to say the mind is the ultimate prison. There is so much we’ve learned since this episode first aired, and so much we still have to learn, but as simplistic as this story is on the surface, it’s quite remarkable for generating a conversation about such matters.
The idea that someone could die of loneliness… I’ve seen this happen. There was a time in my life I feared it would happen to me. And there was another time in my life when I accepted it would happen. There are worse fates, of course, but most would require a third party to inflict them. This is a personal hell, “with not even a tormentor for company.” Not something I’d wish on anyone. Not a day goes by that I’m not thankful for those friends and loved ones in my life.
S01E11 – “Miri”
On a duplicate of Earth, the Enterprise encounters the remains of a society where the children age slowly over centuries, but die rapidly once they hit puberty.
Overlooking the pointless setup of a duplicate Earth (the first of a few we’ll see), this episode is essentially a lightweight version of The Lord of the Flies. How these kids lasted 300 years without killing each other over food or a tricycle or anything else is beyond me. All I know is I’ve never liked this episode. It’s obnoxious. I’ve never liked kids, even when I was one. Kids can be unspeakably cruel, especially when left to their own devices, without morals or guidance. The implications of this story are far greater than its execution. And that’s all I have to say about that.
S01E12 – “The Conscience of the King”
The Enterprise is diverted off course under false pretense. An actor stands accused of atrocity, and there are only a few witnesses left who might identify him. Captain Kirk is one of them.
Count this one as my very first encounter with William Shakespeare. Not the most traditional of introductions, I grant you, but it opened a door. It took a lot of years to fully appreciate it, helped along by Captain Picard and a little animated series from Disney in the 90s called Gargoyles that, ironically, featured a number of the crew from Star Trek: The Next Generation. As a result of learning how to appreciate the Bard, even under such unorthodox terms, this episode gets better and better every time I see it. Bonus points for Uhura singing again, and she plays the Vulcan lyre herself this time. And even better, Lt. Riley didn’t get to “render again ‘Kathleen’… one more time!” lol
A few months back, I had the privilege of reading the second in the new line of Star Trek: Discovery novels, Drastic Measures by Dayton Ward. It filled in the full story on the backstory events alluded to in this episode. This is the first time I’ve watched this episode since reading that novel, and it stands even more powerful as a result. Ah, the power of a prequel done right…
It’s interesting to note that this is the first time we get a reference to the shuttlecraft hanger deck, which really would have come in handy on some of the previous episodes. For a series that was being pushed on screen faster than production could keep up, that’s a pretty big ask to add in some extra sets and set up the use of more. That shuttlecraft will feature prominently in the next episode.
S01E13 – “The Galileo Seven”
The Enterprise is carrying medical supplies that will potentially save the lives of those being ravaged by a plague. When a detour to study astral phenomena strands the shuttlecraft Galileo, both Kirk and Spock are put to tests of command against a time clock.
Anytime the guest-starring bureaucrat is right, and Kirk is wrong, there’s a problem. This might be one of the sloppiest setups in the history of Star Trek, remembering that years down the road we’ll deal with a laughing Vulcan and a search for a god who apparently needs a starship after enjoying a rousing refrain of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” Cringing yet? Good, because this setup makes that look smart. There’s a plague, the ship has medical supplies that can help, and it’s three days to the colony in need. But because the meet is scheduled for five days out, Kirk decides that no matter who might die in those days that could be saved, it’s more important to send out a shuttle to study a quasar. Two of the most incompetent decisions a starship commander can make are committed in one fell swoop in the opening moments of the episode. The quasar will still be there after the colony is saved, and if it’s all that unpredictable and dangerous, wouldn’t it make more sense to use the far more powerful sensors, shields, and engines of the Enterprise to study it? Isn’t that what a Constitution class starship is for? Wait… the ship’s sensors and other operations are offline now too? Of course they are. So the logical answer to finding a lost shuttle where “finding a needle in a haystack would be child’s play” is to… send out a second shuttle. *head/desk* After so much positive and highly effective characterization, I cannot fathom why or how the writers thought this would work. And just to compound that, the Galileo‘s compliment includes not only the ship’s first officer, which makes some sense as he’s also the chief science officer, but also the ship’s chief engineer and chief medical officer. This tells me that either Kirk is reckless with his department heads, or he assumed everything that could go wrong would. Did he get a copy of the script in advance? Everything about this undermines Kirk’s credibility as both captain and character on so many fronts in record time for any TV episode for any series you can name. Stupid, stupid, stupid! GAAAAH!
That said, if you can ignore the setup, it’s otherwise one of the better episodes. It’s Spock’s chance to exercise a command of his own. And that means it’s a survival situation where those under his authority are questioning his lack of humanity, and thus his effectiveness as a leader. Bigotry in the face of danger? What are they teaching in officer’s training at the Academy? In short, it’s Spock time to shine, and he gets to do so opposite McCoy, a couple of extras, and Scotty, so it’s essentially a character study put into place by assassinating the character of the captain who allowed it to happen. *thumbs up* Not Kirk’s finest hour, but Scotty comes across as one of the most professional officers in the fleet, to say nothing of cementing his reputation as a miracle worker. But hey, all eyes on Spock. He learned a lot in this one.