In which the metaphor is telegraphed before the episode even starts and we reflect on the sad truth that they can’t all be winners.
The entire senior staff beams down to a planet that has had strange sensor readings, so of course the first thing they start doing is digging around and touching strange planets.
The planet has an average temperature of 73 degrees and is very eden-like, except for the poison darts that it fires into a hapless redshirt. I think I know what that clipboard they keep making Kirk sign is. It’s a form letter to the families of all the dead redshirts. Although to be fair, Kirk does look upset by this one, doing that famous Shatner dramatic… pause and intensity.
They call the ship to have the crewman who’s been killed by an unknown biological agent into the ship, and the ship is also losing antimatter potency. Which I guess means that the antimatter matter is slowly becoming matter? Also, literally the first thing Kirk does after contacting the ship is pick a flower and stuff his face in it. This is not going to be one of those episodes that’s underrated but has some really interesting elements to it, I bet. There’s explosive rocks and some beam is turning off all output from the Enterprise main reactors. Looks like they’re going to have to go find the beam and turn it off, but then Spock gets shot by another flower, and they’re all trapped on the surface.
So, this seems fairly predictable. They’re going to have to go find the MacGuffin and assuming it’s an insane god-computer powering some sort of planetary nature preserve, Kirk will talk it to death. Then they’ll all beam up and have some introspection about being kicked out of Eden.
Rather more interesting is that when Spock wakes up after having been shot with the thorns (their poison apparently doesn’t work on copper-based blood) there’s a brief exchange in which it’s revealed that Starfleet still uses money, at least to keep track of how much effort is invested in training up crewmen. Spock is apparently woth ~122,200 whatevers.
This episode was written by Max Simon Ehrlich and is one of the three lowest rated episodes in this season, according to IMDB. It may be a little unfair to judge because Star Trek is one of the shows that basically invented all the tropes that seem, fifty years later, too obvious and overdone in science fiction. I will not say that this is a bad episode, only that it very much doesn’t hold up the way “Balance of Terror” and “The City on the Edge of Forever” do.
No, you know what, never mind. This episode is objectively, timelessly bad. On the ship problems just keep piling up, and the lines they’re giving Shatner feel like the Exposition Faerie had a zesty breakfast burrito and shat on a typewriter. In general, I would be gratified if I heard from my readers that I’d imspired them to rewatch an episode and view it in a new light (not that I have yet, ingrates) but seriously just skip this one.
Vaal is the name of the god of this planet, and it is apparently a dinosaur-shaped cave generating a lot of power and trying to murder the Enterprise. Also it has a force-field which Spock decided just to walk into. So far, I’m happy with my prediction, but unhappy with all the red-skinned natives living a half-naked tribal lifestyle in a village where Vaal has forbidden sex and children and nobody grows old. The undertones are so thick here they’re just tones now. What’s worrying is that Vaal gets hungry occasionally, but it looks like he’s just eating fruit sacrifices.
Kirk appears to be contemplating murdering one of the natives in order to force Vaal to teach the natives how to have sex, or something. Fortunately, it looks like they may not have to sink to such depths – Chekov and Yeoman Marta are getting it on in a field and showing off the method for creating the beast with two backs. Vaal doesn’t like this, so they’re going to round up a posse and kick Kevin Bacon out of Elmore City. Or something. Who even knows at this point.
Well, I was wrong. Kirk isn’t going to talk it to death. He’s just going to starve the machine until it runs out of energy for its force field, and then phaser it to death. To be fair, Kirk tried to negotiate and it shot lightning at Spock, so it’s not like he’s shooting first per se. It’s still a bad episode that ends with Kirk encouraging unplanned pregnancy.