In which I had a busy weekend, so you get a prequel to One Little Ship.
Haven’t done one of these in a while, so let’s swing back to some of the plotlines they wanted to do early on but the budget for a live-action representation couldn’t make happen. Today, Kirk is approaching a burned-out supernova, having been dispatched to a survey mission. Despite the state of cold war between the Federation and the Klingons, this still happens regularly. Now, because this is an episode, their survey is getting anomalous readings from a nearby star, which includes a 200-year-old code called Intersat. Note that this ought to be in use approximately now, by this timeline. The word they receive is Terratin, and then goes dead. Kirk goes to investigate, and Bones, stepping back into his pre-Horta role of turd-kicking rube, expresses shock that a Federation ship would want to go investigate an Earth code from an unknown system.
Some research shows that the planet is an active one, but with a crystaline core and lots of volcanic activity. A beam activates on the planet and hits through the ship, but there seems to be no effect on the ship or its lab animals, which they seem to keep on board as coal-mine canaries, These include Gossamer Mice, a rodent species that’s mostly transparent, and a Halo Fish which stops glowing if you so much as mean-mug at it. However, while Arrex explains the layout of the planet, the ship is suddenly bombarded by a much stronger wave. Still no damage, except for all the diithium crystals. Which we know that Scotty doesn’t know how to regenerate. In fact, the crystals are unpeeling, an incredibly unexpected reaction for the very high-hardness dilithium crystal formation.
At this point, one of Scotty’s engineers bursts in with even weirder news than that the space-diamonds are unrolling. All their tools are now too big. In fact, the same effect is noted all over the ship and everyone seems horrified except for one guy staring down a cup of what one can only assume is the right amount of whisky.
With the engines out, the ship is stuck in orbit, nor can they call for help. However, McCoy now has definitive answers – they’re all contracting, although they retain the same mass. The space between their molecules is shrinking. Don’t ask how that interacts with the normal-sized air molecules, maybe they’re shrinking too.
Spock notices that while Chapel’s jewelry remains the same size, all their clothing made of algae-fibers still fits. The pattern of organic shrinkage holds true, but it also seems to have messed up their dilithium. It has a chiral molecular pattern – like DNA. As their DNA shrinks, so do they. Which means at a certain point it will be completely wound and they won’t shrink any more, and also that Voyager doesn’t have the worst science writing.
Particularly since, having established that they all still have the same mass, Spock now decides to mention that soon they won’t be able to press switches. I assume because they’ll break the consoles by concentrating 80 kilograms onto less than a square inch of area. Or maybe it’s just about not being able to climb the buttons to press them.
Sulu wants to fire phasers at the planet to try to disable it, but as he sets the timer, the countdown that he set against orders knocks him off his console and breaks his leg. Also, the emanation of the wave comes from about a sixth of the planet – too large an area to take out with their limited power.
Kirk goes to take Sulu down to Sick Bay himself, and shenanigans occur first with the door-opening motion sensor, then with Sulu being too small for their medical devices, then with Chapel tripping while working to heal a broken leg and falling into the animal tank. You may wish to turn your sound off here, it’s very repetitive.
Spock has the results of how small they’re going to get, and it is, essentially, too small. Kirk’s last-ditch effort is to beam down to the center of the wave emanation, with no help and no escort. But there’s a glimmer of hope – the transporters records might allow them to return to their normal size. Similar things will certainly work later.
And thus, Kirk beams down to a volcanic hellscape, but back at his original size. At least that’ll make for a shorter walk. The vulcanism takes out his communicator, but in the midst of the chaos he locates a tiny city before the automatic return beams him back and he is more-or-less alone on the ship. At some point, someone beamed away the bridge crew. Now that Kirk has full control of the ship and a target location, he calls the city and threatens to kill them all.
That gets their attention, and they open comms. Their leader explains that their planet is dying from the volcanic action,and their antenna was buried under lava so they had to shoot the Enterprise with their defensive shrink-ray to get their attention. The Terratin transporters apparently don’t cause height restoration, either. Which makes sense. The people of the city are old Earth colonists, and have been living here for so long that they’re just genetically small now.
Now that it’s all worked out, Kirk agrees to help, as long as they can re-power the ship with the native dilithium, and it’s a race to restore the ship before the city gets buried. For some reason, Kirk needs to hit the city with phasers to beam it up for transplant to another planet, hopefully one without local fauna.