In which there is a medical emergency, a military emergency, and family therapy.
Fanfare! Dress uniforms! A diplomatic event on what is, let us not forget, still a warship. Later incarnations of Star Trek will see the flagship as much more an ambassadorial ship that”just happens” to be armed with enough firepower to go toe-to-toe with ships-of-the-line from all other major governments. The current Enterprise is primarily a ship-of-the-line, however.
Ambassador Sarek is aboard, with his wife, and does not deign to be escorted around the ship by Spock, his son. There’s a really awkward reveal that does a great job of building out the personal relationship between the two of them. Children of the fabled Jewish and Asian parenting tradition can relate. “Ah yes, my son is here. Could’ve been a surgeon ,or joined the Science Academy, but no… he went into the military.“
This awkward moment could have been avoided if Kirk read the personnel files on his crew, or on his guests. It very much fits with his character that he doesn’t – we’ve seen before that he’s incredibly intuitive but tends to captain by the seat of his pants. Not bothering to look up that Ambassador Sarek has a son serving aboard the Starfleet flagship is fitting. His repeated attempts to get Sarek to acknowledge Spock’s existence is not, however, making things any easier. There’s a lot of really good stuff here. I can’t promise anything about the rest of the episode, but the first ten minutes already tell you everything you need to know about Spock and Sarek.
There’s a bunch of different species sending representatives all trying to decide on whether to admit some planet into the Federation, We get some species steryotypes – as Vulcans are logical, Tellarites are argumentative. Meanwhile, the Mystery of the Week is some small, fast ship that refuses to communicate.
It seems Sarek needs to take pills for which alcohol is not contraindicated, and the Tellarites are suspected of illegally mining dilithium crystals on the planet they’re considering admitting. There’s an altercation between the Tellarite ambassador Gav and Sarek, following which, Gav is found dead and Spock concedes Sarek could have done it. Sarek has no alibi and a weak heart. The alien probe is communicating with someone aboard the ship. It’s actually really hard to summarize this one because there are a number of plot threads interleaving their scenes in a fairly complex story. I like this one. Go watch it.
Sarek’s heart condition reveals that Starfleet Medical has no clue about how to treat Vulcan physiology. Starfleet Medical apparently still has a scarcity factor when it comes to medicine. This makes sense. Humanity has been spacefaring for a few centuries at the outside, and how many Vulcans would put themselves under the care of a human physician if they could avoid it. In that light, McCoy’s (and indeed, Starfleet instrumentation’s) utter incompetence when it comes to Spock makes considerable sense. It’s not going to be until the full development and dispersal of holodeck technology, which will allow realistic reproductions of all species to be worked on in ‘live training’ simulations that we’ll start to expect every Starfleet doctor to have familiarity with every species they work on. The mind boggles at how much time Beverly Crusher must spend in the holodeck practicing. (Bashir, of course, has certain advantages in that regard and for Voyager’s Doctor, the question is of course academic.)
Meanwhile, looks liek Kirk thinks he found whoever that probe was talking to, and decided to punch them in the face. The Andorian pulls a knife and stabs him right in the kidneys, to which Kirk knocks him out and doesn’t even bother asking for medical help before conveying the rest of his report, and passes out before he can manage it. This serves to force Spock to take command which prevents him from undergoing a procedure to boost his blood production so he can give a transfusion to Sarek. Kirk runs a con on Spock, going to the bridge just long enough to convince Spock to go to Sick Bay. He’s about to turn command over to Scotty, but something happens with the alien ship, so Kirk stays in command. The ship attacks, and the Enterprise can’t hit it because of how maneuverable it is.
This begs the question – why doesn’t Starfleet use figher craft? While Kirk cuts power to play dead in the water, because Kirk is a goddamn legend at military subterfuge, it seems in the 23rd century, firing solution and tracking technology are not so great. Despite having a weapon that’s essentially hitscan, the Enterprise couldn’t hit the ship with phasers or a torpedo spread, and had to wait until they suckered it into coming straight in for the kill.
And then Spock and Sarek get to bond over calling Amanda an illogical, emotional person. Particularly in contrast to the last few, this is avery satisfying episode indeed.