Star Trek: The Apple

Akuta: "Ah, yes. The holding, the touching. Vaal has forbidden this."
McCoy: "Well, there goes paradise."

There's an actual, interesting Biblical dilemma presented in this truly awful episode.

Here we have a very small, happy group of immortal primitives worshiping a weird mechanical god that eats fruit. Spock argued quite logically that they were happy and healthy and should be left as they were. Yes, they weren't going to build starships or write the great American novel, but they were also never going to succumb to disease and starvation, or die in childbirth. Kirk insisted that they be freed of Vaal so that they could have sex and make progress and die like we do. And that's what happened.

The source of the culture was never established. Where did Vaal come from? How could this situation have ever occurred in the first place? Were the people the remnants of an ancient civilization that gave up sex for immortality? That could have been interesting. If that were the case, Spock was right to talk about the noninterference directive.

Unfortunately, it's hard to take it all seriously when a great deal of this episode is unintentionally hilarious. Spock was whacked not just once but three times (pointy flower darts, a force field and artificial lightning), and each time he hit the ground with the comic timing of Chevy Chase. The scene where Spock broke the flimsy rock in half, tossed it aside and it blew up was too Bugs Bunny. And the costumes -- big white wigs, white and red makeup, and ripped white towels decorated with plastic flowers -- were an unfortunate decision on someone's part. Especially the women's tops that looked like someone tore up dishtowels and sewed them on to cross-your-heart bras.

How could this episode have been better? Almost anything would have helped. What if Vaal had been eating people? That could have been interesting, sort of making it the Morlock to their Eloi. Immortality made the equation too uneven, too. Would I give up sex for eternal youth and good health? Just ask me. No one asked the people of Vaal. The unthinking religious cult aspect could have been an interesting direction, too. Were they trying to say that unquestioning religious belief stunts a culture? Was sex the apple? Or was killing?

This was a classic red shirt episode. Five red shirts beamed down to the planet. One was killed by the same darts that didn't kill Spock; one was vaporized by lightning, leaving only a smoking circle behind him; one died after tripping over an explosive rock; and a fourth got whacked by a native. (All those bodies, and McCoy didn't once say, "He's dead, Jim.") Red shirt number five was Yeoman Landon. Female red shirts don't get killed, do they? That doesn't seem quite fair. There were attempts to explore Kirk's guilt and despair over the deaths of his red shirts, but as I said before, unintentionally hilarious. Especially the lightning.

And the denouement was the Enterprise taking out Vaal much like Trelane's mirror or Apollo's temple. Frankly, it's amazing that Star Trek could be so incredibly good and so incredibly bad. "The Apple" is incredibly bad.

Ben says...

Season 2's entry into the beloved "Hey, you damn hippies get a job" series (on which I have already ranted). Let's re-cap: Kirk discovers a bunch of stoned white-haired counterculture types hanging in their commune. Somehow, they have discovered the secret to living without problem in a world so dangerous that it kills redshirts faster than a Horta/Salt Monster all-you-can-eat buffet and salad bar. Kirk doesn't care for that nonsense, or the little flower bracelets they are giving out. Then he discovers the secret of their happiness is evil hair gel, abstinence and hurling rocks into a hole. So it's time to open a can of old testament-style whoop-ass on them and their paper-mache graven images.

But allow me to share a bit of little known trivia about this episode. David Soul is on the set of Starsky and Hutch, he is at the peak of me-generation cool. He's feeling his oats and high on the 1970's, when he shouts abusively at the crew. The next morning a white wig appears in his dressing room, photos of him as Makora are all over the bulletin board, and finally this episode is screened to jeers and howls of laughter. Two weeks later, Starsky and Hutch is canceled. True story*.

(*actually a complete imagine-actment)

So the moral is: Kirk don't like hippies, David Soul don't like wigs, and oh yeah, and Spock looks like the devil... moving on.

Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

-- Star date 3715.3. Planet Gamma Trianguli VI.

-- The sky was red during all of the action. Except when everyone looked up, it was either overcast grey or Earth blue. Oops.

-- The conversation in the tent or shelter or whatever where the guys were all sort of smirking as Yeoman Landon tried to have a serious discussion about reproduction was outright painful.

-- As mentioned in a previous review, David Soul from Here Come the Brides (and Starsky and Hutch :) played one of the natives.

Quotes:

Chekov: "It makes me homesick. Just like Russia."
McCoy: "More like the Garden of Eden, Ensign."
Chekov: "Of course, Doctor. The Garden of Eden was just outside Moscow. A wery nice place. It must have made Adam and Eve wery sad to leave."

Kirk: "Mr. Chekov, I know you and Miss Landon find each other fascinating, but we're not here to conduct a field experiment in human biology."
But actually, that's sort of what happened, isn't it?

Kirk: "A garden of Eden. With land mines."

Spock: "Dr. McCoy's potion is acting like all his potions -- turning my stomach."

Kirk: "Are you trying to get yourself killed? Do you know how much Starfleet has invested in you?"
Spock: "One hundred twenty-two thousand, two hundred..."
Kirk: "Never mind."

Kirk: (to Scott) "If you can't get those warp engines working, you're fired."

Kirk: (as a woman wraps flowers around Spock's arm) "It does something for you."
Spock: "Yes, indeed it does, Captain. It makes me uncomfortable."

One out of four exploding rocks,

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

7 comments:

Rohan said...

When you're done, it would be interesting to count exactly how many bad episodes there were compared to how many good episodes.

Going by the reviews, it seems like there's an unusually high proportion of bad episodes for a show that has endured in the popular imagination for so long.

Not saying you're wrong in your reviews, I've pretty much agreed with them all so far. Just seems unusual to me that Star Trek had so many bad episodes. Were the good episodes so amazing that they managed to transcend all these terrible ones?

Billie Doux said...

Good question, Rohan. Some Trek fans refuse to admit that any original series episode is bad. I've met a few on some boards since I started posting these reviews, and they're incensed with me. But I think many Trek fans will acknowledge that about a third of the original series episodes were damned good, a third were okay, and a third were truly bad.

The good episodes really are special, though. There was just something about original Star Trek as a whole -- despite the low budget and cheesy effects -- that caught the imagination of a whole generation of geeks. It was a vision of the future that made people feel good about being human. I completely understand why fans are passionate about it. If the original series had been produced and written the way it's mostly done today, with a group of staff writers working together to create a consistent storyline and with a specific direction in mind, it might have been even better. Or maybe it would never have taken off. Hard to tell.

Funny you should mention it -- but when we're done with the reviews, I was planning to create a list of the best episodes. It'll be interesting to see if my one-third ratio statement is actually correct.

Anonymous said...

When i first saw this episode with my partner I told him to look out for the exploding rocks. Unfortunately he misheard this as "Look out for the exploding frogs". Ever since this, our catchphrase has been "Ribbit, ribbit, boom!"
Otherwise, only memorable for an apprearance by David Soul!

Billie Doux said...

I don't have anything specific to say, but I loved your comment, Anonymous. Ribbit, ribbit, boom!

Juliette said...

Billie - I think you're right about the good/bad episode ratio, and I think that probably goes for all the Trek series (depending on taste - I'm not much of a DS9 person, but that series may have been more consistent). In fact, I think it goes for a lot of series. In a similar experiment, I've been noting how many episodes I really like from each season of The X-Files, and the number for seasons 8 and 9 isn't that much lower than for the rest of the show...

On the other hand, my brother and I have often discussed how we would much rather watch a really bad episode of Star Trek than a really bad episode of Doctor Who. We still haven't quite worked out why, though large, likeable casts probably have something to do with it...

tinkapuss said...

Oh dear...another one I have a fondness for. Apart from all the awkward allusions to sex, and the young Donald Trump look-a-likes, I absolutely love Yeoman Martha Landon's bad arse self-defence! That's the first time the audience has seen such a thing from a female character. For me, that was the highlight. That, and that I tended to agree with Spock that they did not have the right to interfere.

Anonymous said...

I found this episode kind of out of character. Kirk laments redshirt death even though it happens every few episodes, Spock gets hit by three different things that would have killed a redshirt and walks if off every time, everyone acts way too uncomfortable when sex is brought up, and there are a lot of missed opportunities for banter.