The Great Star Trek Rewatch: Operation – Annihilate!

When the Enterprise loses contact with the colony on Deneva, Spock speculates that the colonists might have fallen prey to a madness that has spread across that part of the galaxy. Indeed, when a landing party beams down, they discover that parasitic aliens have infected the entire colony, including Kirk’s brother, sister-in-law and young nephew. And when Spock also gets attacked and infected by the aliens, it becomes a race against time to find a cure and save his life.

After the high point of The City on the Edge of Forever, this season finale feels like a bit of an afterthought – a strapped-for-budget episode that features oversized flying gel packs as the enemy of the week. Yes, we see Spock infected and overcoming intense pain to hunt for a cure, and we even get a brief look at other members of the Kirk family, but somehow even these don’t feel like enough to pull this episode out of the shadows.

Character Development

With his family involved, you’d think that Kirk would have the most on the line in this episode, but actually it’s Spock who takes centre stage, when he must overcome intense pain in order to defy the influence of the parasites and search for a cure. For once, being a Vulcan is not enough to make him immune to the infection of the week, although it does give him a chance to take his mastery of emotions to the extreme.

There’s also some excellent Spock and McCoy banter, which is worth the price of admission alone.

Life in Space

  • In a previous episode, we learnt that Kirk had a brother called George Samuel (or Sam to his brother). Unfortunately, Sam does not survive the episode, and nor does his wife Aurelan, but their son Peter does. Sam’s other two sons do not appear, but it’s possible that they were old enough to have already left home for college on another planet. Perhaps they were even at Starfleet Academy.
  • Vulcans have a third eyelid that can protect them from harsh or intense light. McCoy puts it down to their differing optic nerve, right before Spock actually attributes it to the eyelid (although perhaps the optic nerve triggers the closing of this eyelid).

Most illogical, Captain

I can’t believe that McCoy and Spock were so incompetent in this episode. When they were trying to figure out how flying into the sun cured one of the Denevan colonists (right before killing him, of course), they apparently considered heat and radiation – but it took Kirk to come up with light? Apart from the fact that light is merely a form of electromagnetic radiation, it’s inconceivable that McCoy and Spock would overlook this. Yes, visible light isn’t lethal to us, but these are strange new worlds full of alien lifeforms who react very differently.

Also, as it turns out, visible light isn’t even the cure – it’s ultraviolet, which again is just EM radiation. What’s more, not only does McCoy not think to test which wavelength of radiation is deadly to the test parasite before dosing Spock, he apparently exposes Spock to the ‘entire spectrum’ – including, presumably, gamma rays and X-rays. Can even a Vulcan survive a massive dose of high energy radiation?

Finally, why does “there’ll be no goggles down on the planet” mean that Spock shouldn’t have protective goggles? If for some reason the goggles make the cure less effective (because it has to enter the brain through the optic nerve, which it can’t if his third eyelid closes anyway), they could always try again without them.

Summary – Operation – Annihilate!: Would Spock and McCoy really be that incompetent?

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