In which everything is fine on this prison planet, really, we promise, McCoy endangers the Captain’s life out of a petty sense of vengeance, and the implications of personality death are approached before we make a slingshot maneuver and change direction at an alarming and possibly time-travel-y pace. You know, like they did in that episode we talked about? See, it’s a continuity joke? Oh, never mind.
What the hell are Infra-sensory drugs. whatever they are, that’s a lot of them. Presumably, what with the reference to the Scottish Play, this episode will have something to do with hallucinations and coercive murder. Seriously, though, that’s like two drums and a couple of boxes full of some very psychedelic looking stuff. And the redshirt forgets to notify the penal colony they the cargo is coming. Fucking redshirts, amirite? No wonder they keep dying. Then again, Kirk deserves some of the blame leaving him alone with a box that says “CLASSIFIED MATERIAL DO NOT OPEN.” Which contains an escaping prisoner. Excellent to know that a penal colony does routine things like have their cargo transporters issue a warning if people use them. How, exactly, is the Federation even still around by the 24th century?
I guess the other question is: what do the penal colonies have that’s Eyes Only? What was supposed to be in that box? Black project research? Is this a Section 31 project? It’s unlikely you’d have prisoners doing intelligence analysis or building weapons, so the only thing I can think of is human experimentation for medical research. All that shiny technology aboard the Enterprise D, do we dare intimate that it has its origins in sinister Mengelian experiments? Is Mengelian a word?
This bit of worldbuilding is a bit clumsy. Honestly, Star Trek is really good at
two of the three kinds of worldbuilding – implicit and accidental. Allow me to elaborate. Occasionally, they’ll drop a line which either assumes a cultural context that we no longer have in the 21st century because of the march of technology since the ’60s or the march of culture. So they’ll drop a line that assumes a 1960s context and it’s up to the modern viewer to either ignore it as ‘of the time’ or, more interestingly, to puzzle over how that archaic bit of culture resurfaced in the 23rd century. Because it’s fun. Or they’ll use some bit of technobable or a throwaway line to set the scene and we, the fans, will latch on to it because, again, it’s interesting. But what has not survived the test of time is those moments when they specifically want to tell us something, like about how Vulcans used to have a violent and bloody culture, but they adopted a path of “pure logic” (this is bullshit, but now is not the episode to go into that) and overcame it. That’s why the human space exploration agency is called Starfleet and the Vulcans call theirs the Science Academy. Keep a lookout for others. Spock has to tell this to McCoy because somebody on camera needs to be ignorant so Spock can explain it, and it might as well be the person who’s supposed to be most familiar with the species under his care.
Okay, how much sense does it make to position your guard at the entrance to the bridge facing away from the entrance? Is Starfleet Academy trying to end an overpopulation crisis through poor military training for the bottom quartile of the population? Actually, I really like that, but I await a better explanation.
Oh well, at least the prisoner, Simon Van Gelder, escaped prison beause he’s sane, calm, and totally together. Oh no wait, he’s sweating, manaiacal, and twitchy. McCoy doesn’t detect schizophrenia or trauma, but McCoy, as we discovered in “Miri,” is not the best of all the doctors. Every time Gelder tries to convey information he goes into a seizure, which is totally not suspicious at all. He’s trying to say something about being a Director at the penal colony. There’s nothing fishy going on there at all. From an in-universe perspective, do you think they ever have days where something apparently weird happens but it turns out to be simple? Like, a prisoner escapes from a penal colony, but he turns out to be actually just a prisoner who got lucky and everything is on the level? Because just going by the days we see, Kirk should be running around armed at all times and with a secret doppelganger password for every member of the crew.
…Wait a minute, he did have a doppelganger password for Spock in “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” Fair play to you, Kirk.
Anyway, Van Gelder is in the computer banks as staff of the colony, so we’re about to hear some fancy footwork from the disembodied voice at the other end of the comms. McCoy is present to let us know that the story about a ‘rehabilitation ray’ is bullshit, but he can’t explain why. What’s worrying is that the guy at the penal facility, Doctor Adams, is preempting every concern the enterprise has without prompting. So with that successful Diplomacy check, Adams has convinced
Kirk to beam down basically alone. Because that’s the best way to visit a penal colony – one psychiatrist in a miniskirt and no guards. Not that the guards are particularly useful people, I guess. And Kirk has even slept with her before. Awesome.
So here’s a question – if you’re potentially going to spend weeks between planets, months between starbases, and years before getting some actual R&R, what are the policies for shipboard romance?
Doctor Adams is friendly and genial, but nothing good is ever in the works when the phrase “The person I was no longer exists” is uttered. The episode is still going, but I’m still going to hazard a guess that Babylon 5 did it better in the episodes “The Quality of Mercy” and “Passing Through Gethsemane.” Of course, Straczynski had this framework to build on, so no judgement. In this case, however, instead of actually submering a violent personality, this one just applies Skinner conditioning to cause pain when the patient/victim remembers it. Which is exactly what Van Gelder is experiencing. This is also a secret from Kirk. Shhh.
Oooh, here comes the Mind Meld! This is a Hidden Personal Thing to the Vulcan People. And while Spock is exploring the mind of a madman to determine what danger Kirk is in, Kirk sits down in the neutralizer chair voluntarily. This seems like a great idea and nothing could possibly go wrong with it. Now that they know it works, Kirk tells his ex to implant an ‘unusual suggestion’ in his head.
Yeah, that’s not going to come back and bite anyone in the ass. Like when the neuralyzer tech and Doctor Adams take this suggestion farther and start suggesting that Kirk has loved her for years and now she’s dead. Still, a Redshirt wouldn’t have helped.
A Thrilling Action Sequence commences, which mostly consists of Noelle creeping around in ducts until she can turn off the power and then kicking someone into a transformer. Which is a nice moment of badass. Now SPock can beam down, although why he switches the brainwipe ray switch back on is anyone’s guess. It’s not like he knew it was the hoist-the-evil-doctor-by-his-own-petard lever. And as Noelle and Kirk meet up again, Kirk gives her a passionate kiss as befits someone who just confessed their love of many years, while Spock just stands in the doorway. Watching.