When Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam over to the abandoned USS Exeter, they are horrified to discover that the entire crew has been turned into a white, crystalline powder. After learning that they too are infected with whatever caused this grisly end, their only hope is to beam down to the planet below, where an immunising agent will keep them alive. But even as McCoy starts researching a cure, Kirk and Spock encounter Captain Ron Tracy, the commanding officer of the Exeter. In flagrant disregard of the Prime Directive, Tracy has interfered with an ages-old conflict on the planet, and he isn’t about to let Kirk stop him.
Before we started watching this episode, I couldn’t remember what it was about, and as it progressed, it became clear to me that my mind had forgotten about it for its own good. For here we have a potentially good premise ruined by being stretched beyond all credulity. This seemingly primitive world is actually the aftermath of a horrific biological war that left both sides having to rebuild their society from scratch, with the seemingly dumber and more savage of the two sides actually being more intelligent than they first appeared. It seems like a decent enough allegory to set in front of viewers in the middle of the Cold War, except that the episode goes a step further by making this essentially a parallel Earth. Whilst the Kohms are of Asian descent (and described as ‘yellow’ by Captain Kirk – go tolerance, unity and lack of racism), the Yangs are so American that they even worship exact duplicates of the US flag and the Constitution. This gives Kirk a chance to wax lyrical at the end about life, liberty and the pursuit of freedom, whilst those of us outside the US can eyeroll about how, in this united future, USA is The Greatest. I could have lived with a world that was similar-but-not-identical, like Miri’s world, for example, but an exact duplicate of the US flag and constitution hundreds of light-years away? Give me a break!
Other bits and pieces
- Spock once again gets magic mind powers purely for plot purposes (try saying that after a few drinks) as he is once again able to influence someone’s mind from afar. This time he is able to plant a suggestion in someone’s mind and essentially remotely control them. Convenient much?
- Are we ever going to meet a commanding officer other than Kirk and Pike who isn’t a complete arsehole? Believing that he has discovered the fountain of youth on this planet (rather than a race who have a naturally long lifespan), he breaks the Prime Directive and goes off on his own, phaser in hand. I guess the death of his entire crew didn’t do much for his mental state, but even so, that’s yet another captain and crew lost to the vagaries of space. A while back, we were told that Starfleet had twelve Constitution class starships, but by this point we’ve lost the Intrepid, the Exeter and the Constellation. I hope they’re building replacements.