In which Kirk falls for another pretty face, prejudices are cast aside, and we end with some very satisfying action sequences.
Despite his captain and his friend being sentanced to prison forever, Spock is undeterred. He claims that an ancestor of his stated once that when you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. I’m not sure whether he thinks one of his ancestors was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or whether some Vulcan once said that as well, but either way, we gots a genuine mystery on our hands. Scotty reminds all present that every torpedo is visually accounted for – a fact that does not appear to have made it into the trial. Spock remembers the radiation surge just before the Incedent. It is in this scene that the existence of a ship that can fire while cloaked is derived from known axioms. And the fact that the ship’s database shows evidence of firing means that one way or another, there’s evidence aboard the Enterprise.
Kirk and McCoy are transported to Rura Penthe, where if you flout the rules they throw you out onto the surface in your underpants. The prison’s only security measure is that it’s underground and impossible to survive for long on the surface, and that there’s a shield that prevents beaming. Kirk, on his first day inside, appears to be having problems with an inmate. Fortunately, he’s rescued by Matia, who, one way or another, has sufficient respect in the prison to tell an eight-foot brute to go screw off.
She seems remarkably loquacious, and in-the-know regarding the politics of the prison. There’s a bounty on Kirk’s head even in prison. As investigations aboard the Enterprise continue, Kirk is getting into scuffles and brawls with the locals trying to keep his head attached to his body.
Some notes about security aboard the Enterprise-A: the ship keeps track of whether phasers are fired aboard the ships and will raise alarms, which conveniently lets us know the boots must still be aboard the ship. A better question might be ‘how will we tell one set of magnetic boots from another’ since the Enterprise ought to have several pairs for when maintenance sorties to the outside of the ship are required.
Conveniently, Martia knows a way out of the prison (well, it is a mine that relies on the hostility of the surface to keep prisoners contained) and even out from under the shield (more surprising, since it’s the only line of defense) but needs Kirk to get them actually off the surface. She is apparently clued in enough to know the Enterprise is still nearby, or well-versed enough his his career to make that guess. Kirk confirms that he might have some method, and then they snog for a while, because Kirk. Even McCoy is exasperated at Kirk’s magic cock at this point.
Briefly, we see Sulu woken from repose to lie to Starfleet about their information on the whereabouts of Enterprise. Loyalty is a fine thing.
Chekov finds traces of Klingon blood on the transporter pad, and another shipwide search is instigated, this time for blood on uniforms, and a magnetic boot is located in the storage locker of one crewman Dax, who they call in for questioning. Unfortunately for Chekov and the ‘Russian story of Cindarella,’ this appears to be a dead end. Likely, the culprit put the boots there so that if they ever were found, it would be obviously a dead end, all though this doesn’t actually make sense. If you let the investigators believe they’ve found the real assassin, they’ll be that much less inclined to keep looking for you.
Kirk, McCoy, and a giant creature who is also Martia make their way through the mine and into a tiny access shaft. That Martia is a shapeshifter appears to be fairly advantageous, and she shifts down to child-size to escape a pair of manacles given to her by someone who obviously didn’t read her file. She finds a stash of blankets and leads our heroes through a cavern past a bunch of frozen dead guys and onto the surface. Kirk and McCoy, still wearing their own shackles, trudge across the barren frozen waste behind her. They manage to to get outside of the shield and are detected by the Enterprise thanks to a homing patch.
The Enterprise speeds towards Rura Penthe, and Uhura has to recite Klingon herself, without the help of the Universal Translator, because the UT is apparently very recognizable. So recognizable that her horrible grammar and stuttering pauses are less suspicious to the Klingon listening post, apparently. Then again, they might just think she’s drunk. Martia pulls out a camping flare, which is the
final straw for Kirk, who decks her. She’s out to collect the bounty on Kirk and McCoy, and a two-person accident would have been too suspicious, so in exchange for a full pardon she’s out to get them killed while attempting escape. Then she shifts into being Kirk, although she still doesn’t have the shackles. Shades of “Whom Gods Destroy,” I’m sure. This scene is pretty wonderful, with MartiaKirk getting in a few shots about how Kirk always wanted to kiss himself. However, given that the plan was for Kirk to be killed by the guards, perhaps staying in that shape was a terrible idea. Of course, apparently the Klingon guard wasn’t going to leave any witnesses anyway, it doesn’t matter much. Kirk and McCoy get beamed up just before the guard gives them the good old ‘since you’re all going to die, I might as well tell you” routine.
Meanwhile, Scotty finds the uniforms, and Chang gets the news that Kirk escaped. Since Chancellor Azetbur as much as stated that this would be considered an act of war, it would seem like the easiest way for Chang to disrupt the peace process and get the fight that he seems to want would just be to deliver this news. Of course, that assumes he has nothing to fear from what Kirk will say in front of witnesses. Kirk, apparently, has some thoughts about who the killer might be, despite being away from the investigation. Meanwhile, the owners of the uniforms have been killed with heavy stun at close range, but in order to lure the final conspirator into covering their tracks, a call is sent out for a court reporter to take their statements.
Turns out it was Valeris, who’s also the only one to hear Kirk’s personal log that was used against him in the trial. Spock is sorely disappointed, but reminds her that logic dictates she kill him. He shows real anger and slaps the phaser out of her hand. At a debriefing on the ship, Valeris tells us how she’s acting in the interests of the Federation, because the Klingons can’t be trusted. After all, they were willing to conspire with Starfleet members to assassinate their own cancellor. With Valeris refusing to cooperate, Spock pulls out the Mind Meld, appearing to use it in anger, to pull names of conspirators. Admiral Cartwright, the guyt from the beginning, and of course Chang. Also the Romulan Ambassador, but all that tells us is that the Romulans have a stake in a divided quadrant. After all, if the Klingons and the Federation do become buddy-buddy, the Romulans would find their agenda significantly curtailed.
Sulu knows where the conference is, and gives the information to Kirk, who now has to speed to the rescue. On the way, Kirk has to talk Spock out of a deep and mournful brooding about not being able to get over prejudice. Spock mentions something profound – he and Kirk might be aging out of their usefulness. The galactic landscape no longer favors their brand of getting things done. In search for the prototype bird-of-prey, the Enterprise is looking for the telltale radiation surge that will tell them they’re about to get asploded. Chang opens the comms to taunt him, which adds a lovely layer to to tension of a good old-fashioned sub hunt.
Chang fires a couple of time, which should at least tell the Enterprise where the shots are coming form, generally. As the politicians drone on below and the assassin takes position, the Enterprise is getting hammered by torpedo after torpedo. Once again we are given to consider the relative combat capabilities of the major powers. The Enterprise-A is still more or less a battleship, but so is the bird-of-prey. Three solid hits with no chance to retalitate is knocking the Enterprise around, but she’s still in fighting condition, and the crew is not too panicked to come up with the idea of loading specialized sensors into a torpedo to detect impulse fuel.
Interestingly, this is the first time we hear about ships actually outputting exhaust basically ever. The ships clearly don’t use reaction drives, since they maneuver more like boats than rockets, but apparently they do still put out exhaust, which can be detected. One does wonder why normal ships can’t fire while cloaked, though. I mean, you still run the risk of giving away your position by visual targeting or tracking the origin point of the weapon, and I could see if the cloaking device used up too much power to be compatible with directed energy weapons, but it can’t actually take that much power to launch a torpedo. And with Chang incessantly quoting Shakespeare so that even his own officers are rolling their eyes and hammering the Enterprise and Excelsior, and the assassin planetside getting ready to strike, it’s a glorious tension broken when they fire the torpedo.
One thing that even the prototype can’t do while cloaked is raise her shields. The explosion lights up the ship and the two Federation ships immolate Chang, which clears the way for the crew to beam down and foil the plot. The assassin, seeing that the plot is rumbled, is about to kill Valeris to silence the confession when Scotty busts in and saves the day. And now Kirk, in the lull, gets to speechify with Chancellor Azetbur. All right-thinking people who value peace applaud. The final moments, however, drive home that it’s time for the Enterprise to get put out to pasture. They’re ordered to return to base, but Kirk, being Kirk, takes the ship out for one more joyride, in a coda we can all feel good about.