The Great Star Trek Rewatch: The Mark of Gideon

When the Federation opens negotiations with the secretive planet of Gideon, Captain Kirk is the only representative from the Enterprise allowed to beam down. But instead of arriving in the Gideon council chambers as expected, he finds himself aboard an Enterprise devoid of all crew – and in their place, a single, mysterious girl. Just where exactly is Kirk? And can the crew of the real Enterprise track him down?

This is another episode that has a good idea, but doesn’t really go about implementing it very well. The secret of Gideon is that the standards of life and health became so high that, for a time, it was a paradise – until the death rate dropped to practically nothing whilst the birth rate continued to rise. Now, the surface of the planet is a writhing mass of people, never able to get away from each other or have any space. As a pacifist race who consider themselves unable to kill, they decide to seek outside help, by introducing an alien infection from Kirk’s blood into the populace. All in all, I like the ideas of how paradise could go wrong, and the nod to the fact that birth control is a good and useful thing, but the end result is a little hard to swallow. Could people really live like that? It seems unlikely, for reasons I’ll detail below.

Planet Implausible

  • First and most obviously – if the planet Gideon is so rammed with people, where did they find the space to build a full-size replica of the Enterprise. For that reason, why did they need to? Being aboard a fake Enterprise gave Kirk and Odona some space, yes, but they didn’t need a massive amount. Either the infection was airborne, in which case just having Kirk in a room with her (or anyone) was enough, or it was sexually transmitted, and again, a hotel room would do. Even if Kirk was supposed to stay there forever, it’s a bit of an extravagance for one person.
  • For that matter, why would Kirk have had to have stayed forever? Just take a blood sample from him, infect a few people with it, and let him go on his way – none the wiser.
  • If Gideon is so full of people, where is there space to grow food for them all? Obviously raising animals is now too costly, so they must have basc vegetarian diets, but plants still need space to grow.
  • The people of Gideon are said to be pacifists, which is why the situation hadn’t led to war, but would everyone retain their peaceful nature under such conditions. All it would take was a few angry young people to start a revolution over resources, and the mass bloodshed would be its own form of population control.
  • I should note here that sterilisation was not an option on Gideon, as the people are so healthy that any removed or damaged organs would just grow back.
  • If the leaders of Gideon are okay with putting their pacifist principles aside to steal an infection from an alien, it’s surprising that no one was driven to developing some kind of biological virus or weapon in the meantime. Not that there would be space for a research lab on the planet’s surface, I suppose.
  • The planet is shielded from the Enterprise sensors, but with exact coordinates, beaming down is still possible. What kind of shield blocks sensors but allows transporters? It also doesn’t block Scotty from locking onto Spock’s communicator signal and beaming up the three nearest people.
  • On a similar note, in the last episode, Spock was able to track Lokai precisely through the ship. Once again, I guess the sensors have been really upgraded since Court Martial.

Other Notes

  • Spock shows a very cynical attitude towards bureaucracy in this episode, which seems quite un-Vulcan of him. Perhaps he considers bureaucratic process illogical, in which case the Vulcans should probably get in and make the Federation more lean and agile.
  • Here we see the Federation and Starfleet as two distinct entities, with each passing off responsibility to the other. UESPA, the United Earth Space Probe Agency, is not mentioned. The Federation has an office similar to the Department of Administrative Affairs – I look forward to a Star Trek/Yes Minister mash up some day.

Summary – The Mark of Gideon: How much you enjoy this episode is entirely down to how much you can swallow your disbelief.

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