When the Enterprise visits a research station on planet Triacus, they are horrified to find that all the members of the research team have killed themselves. Even more bizarrely, their children are not only perfectly unharmed, but seemingly unaffected by this tragedy. But this is no mere delayed reaction – the children are under the control of a powerful alien life form seeking to expand its control across the galaxy.
A little reading reveals that in some circles, this episode is considered the “worst of Star Trek”, a title which I usually reserve for Spock’s Brain. I consider it merely averagely dull, but perhaps that’s just because the mere mention of season three is enough for me to set the bar pretty low.
On the one hand, the idea of exploring the psyche of these seemingly completely unruffled children is quite interesting – do they know their parents are dead? Do they care? Have they blanked out the emotional pain? But this is just a small facet of an otherwise pedestrian episode. The children themselves are quite annoying, the bad guy is a tedious pontificator (his poor acting is due to the fact that he isn’t even an actor), and after crawling along at a snail’s pace, suddenly Kirk magically figures out how to get everything wrapped up in the last two minutes. He even magically learns the villain’s name just in time for the final scene, despite it never having been mentioned anywhere before.
Overcoming your fears
One of the methods the children use to control the Enterprise crew is to show them their worst fears.
- Kirk’s greatest fear is of course that he would lose command of the Enterprise – I bet he never chooses to be submissive in the bedroom. Using the same magic Kirk powers that let him overcome the spores in This Side Of Paradise, he manages to get over his fears, and this somehow renders him immune to any future mental manipulation by the children.
- Uhura suddenly has a mirror at her station, and in it she sees herself as old and decrepit – because everyone knows what we women fear most is losing our looks.
- Sulu’s fear appears to be flying through giant knives in space, which, er, seems a little ridiculous. I guess it’s a metaphor for the dangers of space, but seeing giant knives on the viewscreen doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that would stop Mr Sulu.
Life aboard ship
- Admittedly the children have evil powers of mind control, but even so, once again there don’t seem to be any restrictions on them going to the bridge or Engineering. Do they have clearance for every part of the ship?
- Putting cards of different flavours into the food slots lets you order up pretty much any ice cream flavour combination you can imagine. Presumably the Enterprise has a massive freezer full of either different flavours of ice cream, or plain ice cream which is mixed with flavoured syrups right before serving. Remember, there are no replicators at this time.
- Auxiliary control down in Engineering can be used to override the bridge, which means that Scotty could stage a mutiny any time he felt like it. Never mind that he already holds the ship’s engine hostage to his whims!
Summary – And The Children Shall Lead: Hail, hail, fire and snow. Call the angel, we will go. Far away, for to see, friendly angel come to me.