by Billie Doux
"I will be who I choose to be."
Shouldn't that be "whom"?
What they seemed to be going for was an episode about survival, individuality, creepy alien possession, and possibly female empowerment. What they wound up with was a pointless love story and dangerously evil aliens whose motivations were never adequately explained. In other words, "The Lights of Zetar" was another season three episode with real possibilities that unfortunately, missed the mark.
Lieutenant Mira Romaine (great name) was on the bridge when the Enterprise was attacked by what first appeared to be a storm cloud in space, and got bright alien lights in her eyes (shades of Gary Lockwood in "Where No Man Has Gone Before"). The Enterprise crew took some interesting steps in trying to deal with the Zetarians. Kirk assumed they were hostile, but he still tried his best to reason with them and/or scare them off. And then everyone sat down in the conference room and worked the problem. I liked that part, because it seemed like something they should have done more of during the series.
The real problem for me was that we didn't find out enough about the Zetarians. Why did they do what they did? I sort of wish the ending had been our guys finally getting through to them, through Mira, and finding out that it was something cool. It would have been predictable, yes, but more in keeping with the Enterprise's mission. What was the moral of this story? When you're extinct, don't fight it?
When we're introduced to Lieutenant Mira Romaine, on her first assignment in deep space and to top that off, Scott's new love interest, you think she's going to be toast. I'm glad they didn't go there. But the treatment of Mira as a character was contradictory. Was she a brilliant scientist in her own right, or a brainless love interest for Scotty? She was testy and uncooperative toward McCoy during her medical exam, but then she was incredibly brave in the face of the possibility of losing her identity forever to a bunch of heartless aliens. I thought for awhile that she was possessed and the Zetarians were doing the talking, but no. At least Jan Shutan had spectacular eyes, which was convenient since there were so many close-ups of them.
Even though they've dealt with alien hijinks many, many times, and Mira was the only one on the bridge with a different and specific reaction to the Zetarians, Scott kept dismissing what was happening as her unfamiliarity with deep space travel, that she hadn't gotten her "space legs". Apparently, Mira was the first person the Zetarians possessed who was open minded and a quick enough learner to channel them -- and yet, the crew kept referring to her as "the girl" and talking about how pretty she was. In the end, Spock gave Mira credit for her courage and resourcefulness, while Kirk thought the success of their strategy was entirely due to Scott's love and support.
Okay, it was the sixties, moving along.
I liked the idea of Memory Alpha, a super library planet with information available freely to everyone. (Klingons? Romulans? The Borg?) And yet, Spock mentioned that destruction of Memory Alpha would have been an irretrievable loss to the galaxy. You'd think that making information available to all comers and yet leaving it completely unprotected would be a conflict. Even libraries have walls and ceilings as protection from the elements, doors that lock, and the requirement that you sign up for stuff so they can bill you if you lose it. And electronic library material gets backed up. I'm just saying.
When a duck of Ben's years falls in love, the loneliness of his life is suddenly revealed to him. His whole heart once throbbed only to the reviewer's schedules... sigh, but I digress. Let me say, though, that Scotty's throbbing to the ship's engines being replaced by other throbbing may actually be slightly pornographic, but again, I digress.
On a completely unrelated note, I sometimes like to try to figure out the real world equivalent of the bad guys in science fiction, and this episode particularly inspired me. Allow me to give a few examples. In the classic movie The Road Warrior the equivalent of the mutant bikers led by the Great Humungous are the loud people camping one site over from you, same noise, same partying, and same pilfering of your supplies. The Transformers Decepticons are all of the consumer electronics and cars we ever bought which seem imbued with pure evil (like that damn DVR that cuts off the end of particularly exciting episodes of your favorite show). The enemies in John Carter were restraint and common sense.
In that vein, Zetarans represent the attack of the unruly library patrons. They knock books off the shelves, eat and leave sticky fingerprints on everything, they keep returning and demanding more and more attention of the one librarian who will put up with them. Okay, it is not common for even the worst library-goers to actually kill other patrons (the Cleveland Public library system being the obvious exception). Eventually they are driven off, but it nearly kills the whole staff.
You know, this makes me think I should do a whole essay on library-themed sci-fi... coming soon to BillieDoux.com.
Back to Billie for bits and pieces:
-- Star date 5723.3. Mission to Memory Alpha, the Federation's planetary library. I really liked the remastered look of Memory Alpha. And this is probably the perfect spot to mention Memory Alpha, the comprehensive Star Trek wiki that I use often while writing these reviews.
-- Doctor Who did a planetary library episode called "The Silence in the Library." It was a little different than "The Lights of Zetar".
-- It was mentioned that the Zetarians were ten different entities. Later, someone mentioned it was a hundred. Not that it matters.
-- Majel Barrett (Christine) did a great Jimmy Doohan impression.
-- The jumpsuits from "The Devil in the Dark" made yet another appearance.
Kirk: "When a man of Scotty's years falls in love, the loneliness of his life is suddenly revealed to him. His whole heart once throbbed only to the ship's engines. He could talk only to the ship. Now he can see nothing but the woman."
Is it me, or does that seem like an inappropriate log entry? And not only that, it's disrespectful to Scotty. A man of his years? What is he, ninety? And even if he were, what's wrong with falling in love at ninety?
Chekov: "I didn't think Mister Scott would go for the brainy type."
Sulu: "I don't think he's even noticed she has a brain."
Because someone's intelligence and personality has nothing to do with why we fall in love, right?
Spock: "When the library complex was assembled, shielding was considered inappropriate to its totally academic purpose. Since the information on the Memory planet is available to everyone, special protection was deemed unnecessary.
Kirk: "Wonderful. I hope the storm is aware of that rationale."
Zetarians: "We only want the girl."
Kirk: "You can't have her. You're entitled to your own life, but not another's."
Kirk: "Well, this is an Enterprise first. Doctor McCoy, Mister Spock and Engineer Scott find themselves in complete agreement. Can I stand the strain?"
Two out of four inappropriate log entries,