The Great Star Trek TAS Rewatch: Albatross

When the Enterprise pays a visit to the planet Dramia, Dr McCoy is placed under arrest for apparently having caused a plague some nineteen years earlier. In the hopes of clearing McCoy, Kirk and Spock launch an investigation – only to encounter a recurrence of the same plague.

When this episode began, I was somewhat hopeful that we’d be in for a decent story. Surely McCoy’s arrest would lead to a classic Star Trek moral dilemma, in which his past attempt to do good had had some unforeseen consequences. Obviously McCoy’s name would be cleared in the end, but he might have to live with a feeling of responsibility.

Unfortunately, this is TAS, and it soon became clear that we were headed in another direction. Kirk and Spock jet off to the planet where the plague occurred, and there they just happen to stumble upon a survivor who can attest to McCoy’s good character. On the way back to the trial, however, everyone except Spock (of course) gets infected with a second wave of this plague – a turn of events that would be deadly serious if not for the hilarious fact that the first symptom is everyone turning blue.

Anyway, with scant regard shown for any sort of containment, Spock rescues McCoy so that they can work together on a cure. At this point you might expect McCoy to put his medical training to good use in isolating and testing a cure, but for some reason this episode chooses instead to depict him as barely competent. McCoy’s research consists of him ordering Spock to look things up in the computer, and then Spock walking him through some basic deductions. To add insult to injury, after the day is saved, the episode closes with some of the least funny Spock-McCoy banter ever to have been written. All in all, it’s a soulless shell of a Star Trek episode.

Other notes

  • Why did the Dramians wait until the very moment the landing party were about to beam up to suddenly announce McCoy’s arrest? Given that they thought he was responsible for a genocide, you’d think they might have been begging the Federation for his extradition for years. At the very least, you might expect security to identify and arrest him as soon as he arrived on Dramia.
  • If the plague can be cured by antibodies, that suggests some sort of bacterial or viral infection. Given that the actual trigger for the plague was radiation from the aurora, we can only assume that the radiation caused a spontaneous mutation in otherwise harmless bacteria instead the humanoid body. This in turn led to the plague symptoms.
  • The Enterprise crew didn’t know how the plague was transmitted, so why didn’t they quarantine Kol-Tai when he started showing symptoms? Instead, everyone – even Demos, a fellow Dramian – gathered around his bedside, where they were likely to get infected. Similarly, when McCoy beams aboard, no attempt is made to isolate him from the effects of the plague so he has longer to safely work on a cure.
  • If the radiation is the cause of the plague, what happened to the other Dramians left on Dramia II? We know the plague has a near 100% death rate, so I hope someone went back and cured them.
  • Why was Demos stupid enough not to realise that the Enterprise randomly opening its hangar doors was an obvious trap?
  • Given that Demos had just tried to sneak aboard the Enterprise for nefarious purposes, why was he just allowed to stand around on the bridge?

Summary – Albatross: Captain Kirk is turning blue!

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