The Great Star Trek TAS Rewatch: The Eye of the Beholder

a family of Lactrans

The Enterprise heads to the planet Lactra VII in search of a missing team of Starfleet scientists. However, Kirk’s landing party soon discovers that the planet is home to a zoo of a interplanetary life forms – and that they are destined to be the newest exhibits.

At this point in time, it feels as if the “advanced aliens capture humans to be exhibits in their zoo” storyline has been done to death. Star Trek itself led off with such a storyline in its original pilot, The Cage. Even in recent years, it was used for an episode of The Orville’s first season. With that in mind, while this episode is decent enough, it hardly feels like a bastionof originality. In fact, the only real things the episode has going for it is that it features a bit of classic Kirk-Spock-McCoy banter, and that the sluglike Lactrans are strangely cute. Oh, and I suppose I shouldn’t neglect to mention that William Shatner gets to do his particular brand of Acting when the Lactrans telepathically probe his mind.

While it’s still true that the series includes elements that would have been hard to include in a live action show at the time, this is becoming less appealing with each passing episode. Maybe it’s the need to save budget by reusing designs and animation frames, or perhaps it’s a lack of imagination on the part of the writers, but yet another episode of winged monsters and giant reptiles really isn’t doing much for me at this point.

Other notes

  • Kirk makes a big deal about Starfleet captains absolutely needing to do things by the book, even though Kirk’s own approach seems to be to just do his own thing. Or maybe Kirk is in fact always following Starfleet rules, it’s just that those rules are massively vague and inconsistent.
  • Despite being highly advanced, the Lactrans don’t seem at all concerned with the fact that Randolph is ill. Human zookeepers usually take care to learn all about their charges and how to keep them healthy.
  • Spock is able to telepathically sense impressions from the Lactrans, despite usually needing physical contact in order to use his telepathy. Of course, this is the TOS era, where Spock’s telepathic powers frequently change with the demands of the plot.
  • I guess there wasn’t time to explore this, but Kirk and crew didn’t seem at all concerned that the other races captured by the Lactrans might also be sentient.

Summary – The Eye of the Beholder: Humans become zoo exhibits for an advanced alien race – again.

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