The Great Star Trek Rewatch: Charlie X

So, continuing with the order of episodes on the DVDs brings us to Charlie X, an episode in which the Enterprise takes on board 17-year-old Charlie Evans, who has recently been rescued after fourteen years of being stranded on a planet. How could Charlie have survived this? Maybe it has something to do with the super powers he seems to have acquired along the way, powers that he isn’t afraid to turn on anyone who annoys him.

This episode is the first in this blog series to be set entirely aboard the Enterprise, so instead of beaming down to an alien planet we get to see interior locations such as the rec room, the gym and a variety of random corridors. We also learn that the Enteprise has ovens, and synthetic meatloaf for Thanksgiving – no replicators for Captain Kirk and crew! It’s also one of many episodes in which visitors are just allowed to wander the ship as they please, without escorts or restrictions even for the most classified and sensitive of areas.

Anyway, in terms of plot, I appreciate what the writers were trying to do in this episode – what happens when you take a wilful, petulant teenager who is eager to please and fit in, but is going through all that adolescent angst, and give him godlike powers? How do you reason with a child who can just destroy you if he doesn’t like what he hears? Unfortunately, the problem with this storyline in any setting is that the godlike child character is, by necessity, always a bit of a shit, and Charlie is no exception. You feel a bit sorry for him at the beginning, when you can see that he’s just a confused teenager who is desperate to be liked, and at the end, where he has to be permanently separated from humanity for everyone’s good, but in the middle he’s mostly hurting and being mean to the Enterprise crew.

Speaking of endings, this is one of those “deus ex machina in the last five minutes” stories that Star Trek too often relies on, with the powerful race who gave Charlie his powers returning to set things right (on the Enterprise at least, they are unable to save a lesser ship for some reason) and take Charlie away. I guess that it would have been less poignant an ending if they’d just stripped Charlie of his powers so he could stay with humans – or maybe this was just something they never bothered to research. Maybe the changes were even irreversible without killing him.

Most of the character interaction in this episode is about Kirk acting as an awkward father figure to Charlie, or Charlie getting his first crush on Yeoman Rand – if only they’d taught him to vent his teenage frustrations by having a good wank! Kirk is clearly meant to be a fish out of water in his paternalistic role, but at this point we don’t really know Kirk well enough to appreciate watching him cope out of his comfort zone. Meanwhile, Rand holds her own with Charlie, again proving that she’s spunkier than I remembered.

Other than that, the most entertaining character moment is Spock and Uhura jamming together in the rec room – Uhura on vocals, Spock strumming the Vulcan lute. I didn’t really care for the song, to be honest, but there’s definitely an interesting chemistry between those two – I wouldn’t normally quote the reboot at all, but maybe they were right to go with Spock X Uhura (Spuhura?). Spock’s emotional control still isn’t quite there – we see him exasperated that Uhura is singing along yet again, before smiling as he decides to play new tune for her benefit. I’m interested to discover if Spock is going to become visibly more detached and logical in later episodes, or whether I’ll keep noticing these emotional moments throughout.

Summary – Charlie X: Irritating teenagers in space are still irritating.

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