In which Kirk is alone, Spock is frustrated, and a planet populated by fundamentalists is not all it’s cracked up to be.
The Enterprise is orbiting the planet Gideon, which apparntly has very little interest in joining the Federation, but they’re finally willing to listen to Kirk, but only if he beams down alone. The frenzied empire-building is an aspect of Star Trek that I haven’t really noticed until now. I mean, sure, the Enterprise goes around trying to get worlds to join the Federation instead of the Klingon Empire, but that’s always framed as humanitarian. An effort to save the poor people of the Planet of the Week from the Klingon conquest, or to preserve cultural stability because the Klingons gave them gunpowder. Here, the Federation becomes transparent: they’re so desperate to have these folks join the Federation that they’re willing to send Kirk down, alone, to open negotiations. Is this genuine desire to spread democracy throughout the stars and get diversity in return? Or are we looking for resources (remember, the technology isn’t quite there for post-scarcity, at least as of “Trouble with Tribbles” when Cyrano Jones was still eminently concerned with money) or national security?
Kirk beams down, but then appears to beam right back up, but Spock isn’t there. Someone is probably fucking with Kirk as a test of character before Gideon will be willing to join the Federation. So far it’s less hostile than in “Spectre of the Gun” but then again Starfleet didn’t ignore warning boueys this time. The other possibility, of course, is that the Gideons abducted the entire crew except for Kirk. Seems less likely, but hey, you never know.
Interesting. Kirk, in a voiceover, states that he can’t find the crew but knows that some time has passed which he can’t remember, because he has a fresh bruise on his arm. Meanwhile, on the Enterprise, Spock receives a call from the Gideon council. They have not received Kirk yet, and since the planet is heavily isolationist, they refuse to let the Enterprise scan their planet.
Back on Kirk’s empty ship, he finds a blonde woman who likes dancing around while alone, who thinks Kirk brought her. Aldana was just standing in a mobbed auditorium, or so she says. That explains, if not excuses, yet another incidence of dancing on the show. This is becoming an exceedingly annoying trope.
While Spock is trying to make Starfleet and Federation diplomats provide useful guidance and actually expressing frustration, Kirk talks with Aldana and determines that she’s not from Gideon, and doesn’t know where she is from. The Gideon council is exceedingly hardnosed regarding diplomatic channels. It’s actually quite an entertaining exchange. In order to prove that the transporters are working correctly, the Enterprise beams up a member of the council, which works perfectly.
The fact that Kirk’s hails to Starfleet aren’t getting a response twigs him to the idea that he’s probably being made a fool of. Starfleet would have responded, if the testmasters could have faked it, and he doesn’t believe the shipboard instruments. He’s doing the Kirk thing of tugging at threads until the mystery unravels, and the thread he’s tugging at is about how Aldana wants to be alone, and it looks like she kidnapped Kirk so she can be alone with him.
So, she’s probably some kind of energy being and her people are screwing with the Enterprise, or the facsimile thereof. You know what, I’m just going to stop guessing, because this is weird and bizarre. That’s right. Weird and bizarre. Figures as soon as I say that, though, we get the first solid information. The Gideon council appears to be able to view Kirk and Aldana as she makes some sort of ecstatic remark about how thanks to Kirk there will finally be sickness and death on their planet. She is in fact the Gideon Council leader’s daughter, sent on a vital mission which is apparently to harvest sickness from him because their planet is at peak capacity. Like, five people per square foot peak capacity.
So Gideon, after learning that Kirk once had a disease with 100% lethality if left untreated, they have harvested Kirk for the latent form of the disease, turned it virulent, and infected one of their own in an effort to sweep a plague across their planet and get their population down to where their entire population could lie down at one time. They can’t sterilize people because their organs regenerate. They can’t use condoms because they’re too fucking religious. So instead, their reverence for life has mad them make a plague which will let them die instead of.. say… making a deal with the Federation and terraforming a fuckton of planets, colonizing the galaxy, sending generation ships to other galaxies, literally anything except release a bioengeneered plague in a population density that virtually guarantees a pandemic and genocide.