I have to remind myself that every episode is potentially someone’s favorite for all manner of reasons. But these aren’t mine.
S03E17 – “The Mark of Gideon”
Kirk finds himself alone on what he believes to be the Enterprise while Spock attempts to determine exactly what has befallen the captain.
Imagine a world so crowded that there’s nowhere you could go to be alone. That’s my definition of hell. You know what else fits that definition? The asinine idea that I’m supposed to believe that a world not yet in the Federation has the technical plans to recreate a ship of the line in such exacting detail so as to fool her captain. It’s bad writing, pure and simple, made worse by stretching thin a 20 minute plot into 50 minutes. At least the B-plot of Spock dealing with the Gideon council is somewhat entertaining. I’m with Bones and Scotty on this one: “Get on with it!”
I’m not really certain why this never occurred to me before, but this story essentially takes the ending of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds and spins it on its ear. All those alien-killing Earth microbes could actually be of use to cause a plague to thin out that population that stubbornly refuses to die. You know, it hurts worse trying to justify it than it does to watch the episode. It’s not that the episode is all that bad, it’s just simply not that good. What’s infinitely scarier to me is that if humanity ever makes it into the cosmos before we grow up as a species, we know exactly how we’ll devastate other worlds. Not exactly the message I want in my Star Trek.
S03E18 – “The Lights of Zetar”
A disembodied alien life force attempts to take over the body of an Enterprise technician with whom Scotty has fallen in love.
In the previous episode, the aliens of the week wanted to die. This time, they persistently want to live at the expense of someone else. While Scotty fawns over Lt. Mira Romaine — who would otherwise be bright spot on the episode and a good addition to the crew — the audience has to suffer alongside the lovelorn engineer, though for completely different reasons. As with “The Mark of Gideon,” this one is 20 minutes of plot padded out to 50 minutes.
With all of the drama going on behind the scenes, it’s sometimes amazing to me the series still managed to keep to a schedule at all. Sadly, you can see the shortcuts taken to make that happen. Lament as we will, the fact remains that consistency of production value was not one of the finer points of the third season. I think it hurts more when you can tell it could have been something special and came up short.
S03E19 – “The Cloud Minders”
Responding to a planetary emergency, the Enterprise travels to a world to secure a mineral that will stop a botanical plague. But securing the mineral is far more difficult than it needs to be on a world divided by class.
After a couple of episodes of “meh,” writer David Gerrold returns us to something far closer to Trek classic, for which I’m grateful. The basic setup is essentially borrowed from H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine, but with far more immediate ramifications to our modern day class system of haves and have-nots. See if it sounds familiar to you. The labor class does all the work and gets none of the benefits, living in squalor and poison while the leisure class get fresh air, refinement, education, and all of the benefits of the work they don’t have to do.
Truly, if life’s class and production problems were so simple as this episode, it would be a far better world. But then, maybe that’s the point. Maybe they really are that simple, but those in power never seem to let it be that simple. Bureaucracy was created to enforce the status quo, not to liberate the masses. This is why we need heroes like Kirk and Spock, to cut through the red tape a little faster without making things worse. They make it look so easy, don’t they?
S03E20 – “The Way to Eden”
I need to call this out first. The stolen ship, the Aurora, is a Tholian vessel with some warp nacelles slapped on. C’mon, special effects team. You can do better! I know, not without a budget. And at this late stage in the game, that was never going to happen. Still, what is seen cannot be unseen. Also what is seen, there are a couple of close-ups of Kirk that are inexplicably mirror image. You can’t do that by accident, so… what’s up with that? Once is a mistake. Twice or more is just sloppy.
This episode is far deeper and more troubling than its surface belies, which is typical when dealing with either hippie culture… or a cult. And that’s the crux of this episode. On the surface, we’ve got some peace loving hippies, and all that goes with it, from breaking out into random song to speaking in lingo that only they would want to tolerate. Annoying at times, but harmless enough, and centered on a message of peace and oneness. That part, I can get behind, and clearly, so can Spock. Beneath that, we’ve got a cult. Blind obedience to a seemingly charismatic leader is dangerous. This episode aired on February 21, 1969. A few months later… the Manson family murders happened.
I’ll also point out that the Enterprise being commandeered by a dangerous and charismatic cult leader in search of the mythical planet Eden is the plot for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. You know, because an idea that lame needs to be recycled. I have trouble believing nobody pointed this out during production. At least we got a better musical score out of it. Thank you, Jerry Goldsmith.
And this brings us to the final four episodes in the classic series. Stay tuned.