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Star Trek: Operation - Annihilate!

Spock: "Pain is a thing of the mind. The mind can be controlled."

I didn't remember much about this one when I sat down to rewatch it and write this review, so I can personally attest that this is not an episode that stays with you.

The best part about this one is Spock. And even Leonard Nimoy couldn't pull off flying jellyfish, pun intended. The fact that Spock can (mostly) control pain without the assistance of extra strength Advil makes him even more superhuman than before, although Nimoy was careful to let us see that it was a constant and not entirely successful struggle on Spock's part.

What I didn't like about this one is how wooden Kirk was when he should have been either emotionally distraught, or trying unsuccessfully to cover being emotionally distraught. Kirk seemed to barely register the loss of his brother Sam and Sam's wife Aurelan, and showed more concern about Spock. Yes, one could argue that Kirk had to stay in control of his emotions in order to save an entire planet from the creatures, but it's inconsistent with his strong reaction to Kodos in "Conscience of the King," and a huge opportunity missed for some serious drama. Not Shatner's fault, I imagine. Most likely the writer and/or the director.

I was also bothered that Kirk and McCoy let Spock go ahead and be the test subject without protective goggles. If Peter Kirk had been the only viable test subject, would they have done that to him? What made it worse was that McCoy could have waited five more minutes for test results that would have saved Spock from blindness. Of course, that blindness was almost immediately retconned by the existence of a Vulcan vestigial inner eyelid, of all things.

What happened to Peter Kirk? He lost both of his parents. Where did he go, and who will raise him? And how could Kirk bring himself to banter with McCoy and Spock at the end? When I lost my sister, I was a basket case for months.

Frankly, if they had to rip off Robert A. Heinlein, they could have done a much better job of it. In fact, later on in the series, they did.

Ben says...

Even as a ten-year-old boy I remember thinking, gosh, maybe they should have gotten the full results back on the flapjack-killing light show before trying it on a human (well, Vulcan) subject, particularly since it seemed to be a matter of delaying the test for five minutes. Come to think of it, McCoy actually had a habit of whipping something up in the lab and trying it on crew members. Y'know, I am beginning to wonder if maybe McCoy was practicing medicine out on the edge of the galaxy for reasons other than a love of exploration and adventure. More of a "no longer licensed to practice in civilized society" sort of vibe going here, and more in a Doc Holliday as opposed to a Simon Tam sort of way.

McCoy never did quite fit in, did he? Every time an alien plant or amusement park comes along, he somehow manages to scare up a mint julep. The only back story we ever get on him is that he's kind of vaguely southern. I hadn't really thought about it, but he is really is something of the drunken man of mystery. Just don't let him try out his new "treatment" on you.

Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

— Stardate 3287.2. Earth colony planet Deneva.

— Kirk's brother Sam was mentioned earlier in "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" Except that he and his wife were supposed to have three children, not one.

— The creatures not only looked like flying jellyfish or fried eggs, they also buzzed like bees. When phasered, they whimpered instead of dissolving. The whimpering was really weird.

— Christine Chapel was back after a long absence, with slightly darker and more normal looking hair.

— The Deneva scenes were shot in what looked like a campus or an industrial park, which was an interesting change.

— The people on Deneva were wearing solid color jumpsuits, much like the miners in "The Devil in the Dark." No purple, though.

— The Vulcan sun is apparently pretty strong.

— There are fourteen science labs on Enterprise.

— The Robert A. Heinlein novel I'm referring to is Puppet Masters, originally published in 1951 and still in print. Heinlein refused to allow television or movie adaptations of his work during his lifetime, but gave posthumous permission to his widow to make money from his work in any way she chose. His novels haven't translated well to the movies, unfortunately. And it's a shame, because despite his political and sexual weirdness, he's one of the greats.


Spock: "My first sight was the face of Doctor McCoy bending over me."
McCoy: "'Tis a pity your brief blindness did not increase your appreciation for beauty, Mister Spock."

A not so great ending to a strong first season. One out of four whimpering jellyfish,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. Wow! For maybe the very first time, I have to really disagree with you on this one Billie. While this is certainly not in the upper echelon of TREK episodes such as Balance of Terror, City on the Edge, or Amok Time; I truly believe this to be an interesting and highly entertaining episode. I can rattle off at least 3 dozen episodes that are far worse.

  2. The fact the loss of Kirk's brother never seemed to rattle him has bugged me, too, for years. It seems that Shatner shoulda at least had one of those "Shat Theater" moments where he does a three-quarter pivot turn and delivers a deep, emotional line or two. Of course, the budget didn't even allow for another actor to play Kirk's brother - it was Shatner in a different make up.
    Another episode that fell short due to shooting skeds and budgets.

  3. I never can tell if my affection for some episodes over others is based on repeated viewing, rollicking good story-telling, or some other factor entirely. But I have watched this one over and over due to it being one of the episodes my brother recorded in the early 80s when he bought a massive VHS player. I have always enjoyed "Operation -Annihilate!" and I was surprised to see that your review was not so favourable.

    A few things I enjoyed: Firstly the aliens. I actually found them quite scary and believable. Flying jelly-fish aside, the thought of them attaching themselves to your back and embedding tentacles throughout your nervous system is a really good little horror motif. Secondly, the noise they made; it was bordering on cute so I also felt a bit of sympathy for them! Thirdly, I enjoyed very much Shatner's acting in this one. I watched scenes over and I have to say that I found him suitably restrained but still appropriately emotional. I really felt for him on seeing his brother dead. I know he is known for his over-acting (which I love) but I thought he produced a decent amount of pathos in that scene and throughout the episode which was balanced and made more effective by his need to control himself in order to do his job. To me, his concern for his brother was suggested in his concern for saving his nephew. And, in that, he was unwavering. Fourthly, I feel that this is the pivotal episode for the relationship development between Kirk, Spock, and Bones; it shows their strong affection for each other whilst playing on the lovable bickering that happens between the Dr and Spock. I liked it very much and it remains one of my favourites.

  4. I don't recall this one well either to be frank, that doesn't bode well for my opinion on it.

    I have read a couple Heinlein books, most notably Friday and Starship Troopers. I also have the old Avalon Hill war game for the latter. I have not seen the movie since it sounds like it butchers the book though.

    Ben, your take on McCoy reminds me so much of TF2's 'Meet the Medic'! Which I'm sure you've seen, but just in case: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36lSzUMBJnc

    Can't add much without a re-watch. Maybe I should grab these on DVD or Blu-Ray and watch them through like I did with Doctor Who, and catch the good and the bad!

  5. Ben, I took a screenshot of your review and I come back to it from time to time for a good laugh. Pure gold. I'm new to TOS and I eagerly anticipate reading these reviews every time I finish an episode. Thanks for the laughs guys!


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