The Great Star Trek Rewatch: The Immunity Syndrome

Kirk and crew are looking forward to some well-deserved shore leave, but their break is delayed when they are sent to investigate the destruction of fellow starship the USS Intrepid. What they find at the Intrepid’s last known location is a dead zone, an area of space devoid of matter and energy – and at its heart, a massive space amoeba, feeding on everything it encounters. Will the Enterprise be its next meal?

Of all the episodes I’ve rewatched so far, this was the one I remembered least of, and it turned out that was because I just didn’t find it all that interesting. There’s too much overlap here with things that happen in other episodes – a giant space creature destroying things, the Enterprise in peril as its power drains away, antimatter being the answer to killing the creature before it reproduces. On the other hand, my viewing companion said he rather enjoyed the episode, so maybe I’m just being unnecessarily harsh.

Of course, from a more flippant perspective, this is perhaps the most Freudian episode of Star Trek we’ve encountered thus far. There’s lots of talk of penetration, thrust, entering the unknown dark area and encountering particularly sensitive regions. Make of that what you will.

Starfleet facts

  • Obviously, to demonstrate that the ship is in peril, the crew are always getting thrown around on the bridge – which is rife with sharp surfaces, shoddy consoles that spark and explode because no one can afford circuit breakers, and a complete lack of seat belts. It’s a health and safety nightmare! What’s worse is that way back in Journey to Babel, even sickbay was subject to turbulence, and during a delicate operation, no less! Why isn’t sickbay in the most buffered area to prevent exactly this from happening?
  • The Intrepid is, or rather was, a starship crewed entirely by Vulcans – in fact, we saw its exterior briefly at the beginning of Court Martial so we know it’s the same class as the Enterprise. I’ve always believed that Spock was the first Vulcan in Starfleet, yet on closer inspection, this appears to be non-canon. Nonetheless, are these Vulcans Starfleet officers in their own right? Presumably they don’t hold Sarek’s disdain for the organisation, but perhaps they are unwilling to mix with humans and other species. Spock could probably have been assigned to the Intrepid if he wanted to, so despite all his complaints, he must actually like living with humans aboard the Enterprise.
  • In this episode, Kirk refers to Spock as a full commander rather than a lieutenant commander – either he was abbreviating (although he had just said “lieutenant commander” for Scott and McCoy), or Spock has been promoted for all his good work.
  • Even though Vulcans can usually only sense thoughts when in physical contact with others (as pointed out by McCoy), Spock is able to sense the deaths of the 400 Vulcans on the Intrepid from across the vastness of space. This is convenient for the plot, but somewhat farfetched otherwise.
  • Apparently Vulcan has never been conquered in its history, and Vulcans have no concept of being conquered, even though their bloody history must have involved local warlords and the like. This also puts paid to the early episode suggestions that Vulcan was somehow conquered by Earth, which, as we know, never really made it to being canon. Let’s assume they were just the result of human crewmembers teasing Spock.
  • Spock claims that the fact that he can sense the deaths of other Vulcans is a factor in making Vulcans more peaceful than humans, who cannot sense the pain of others. But again, Vulcan had an even bloodier past than humanity, so whilst Spock can argue that this empathy ultimately drove them to logic and pacifism, he cannot claim that Vulcans had a more peaceful history.
  • I’m not sure it’s worth going into the physics of “everything’s backwards here, when the engines reverse it makes us go forward”. I’ll briefly touch on the fact that the Enterprise is said to be completely out of power, but then power levels “return to normal” almost straight away at the end – maybe we can put this down to the fact that the generators/warp core could now start producing energy without having it drained as quickly as it was produced.

Summary – The Immunity Syndrome: The area of penetration will no doubt be sensitive.”

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