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Star Trek: The Immunity Syndrome

Spock: "Tell Doctor McCoy he should have wished me luck."

Ah, yes. The giant amoeba episode.

It was sort of like "The Doomsday Machine" but in slow motion; it even ended with them going right down the monster's "throat." But there was no exciting space battle, and like the crew, the story lacked energy. It actually felt like the crew were simply fighting exhaustion and depression, with the big blob of nothing representing an empty future, or possibly death.

The character interaction was a bit more satisfying than the monster plot. There was a human versus Vulcan dynamic that began when Spock sensed the death of the Intrepid. The shock seemed to make Spock act species-ist and almost deliberately obtuse, like, you bloodthirsty inferior humans, you. And yet, the implication was that the Intrepid didn't make it because they couldn't get past the illogic of the creature's backward existence, and that the humans defeated the Amoeba of Death because they were able to think outside the box.

Later, Kirk, Spock and McCoy practically came to blows arguing over who would have the honor of going on a suicide mission. And yes, it was very like Spock to volunteer in order to learn something new and unique. And it was very like McCoy to sacrifice himself for the ship and for his friends. But I don't think I'd throw myself at a suicide mission quite so enthusiastically.

Why did Kirk order the ship into the nothingness after what happened to the Intrepid? Okay, I suppose they saved the galaxy from drowning in depression as well as protoplasm, so I guess that justifies his decision, but maybe he should have called for help and thought about other options. While I'm complaining, perhaps I should mention that the no-seat-belt situation during the final explosion was probably their worst; everyone was throwing themselves in conflicting directions, which might be contrary to the laws of physics.

And there was no debris after the explosion. With eleven thousand miles of protoplasm, shouldn't there have been goo everywhere?

Ben says...

Let me just say, that after growing up eating food off of taco carts on the street corners of Juarez, it was particularly satisfying to see an amoeba swallowing humans and getting explosively sick. Take that, illness inducing micro-organisms. But I digress.

What I am really getting watching these episodes all in a row and in quick succession was that there really was a lot of painful repetition in plots and elements. This is the third giant space monster of season two (Obsession Cloud o'doom, Doomsday Machine's Suggestively Phallic Cylinder o'doom, and our current Amoeba o'doom), the parallel planetary development thing gets a pretty good going over as well, evil twins are sadly thick on the ground, and let's not leave out computers run amok. At the same time they sprinkle episodes between these tropes that are some of the most fun and best written science fiction to ever grace the small screen.

I think trying to produce a consistently high quality show in this period was just a huge challenge. I just don't think that either quality science fiction or quality television were really valued in the period. Now, this kind of repetition on, for example, Lost would be immediately identified and picked apart by fans. Heroes failed on exactly this repetitious redundant repeating. Now we have penetrated the amoeba of Hollywood which has threatened to drain pop culture's energy to plant a fannish anti-matter bomb of quality... or maybe there is just more money in television and SF now, hard to say.

Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

— The stardate was mentioned several times: 4307.1 to 4309.4. Enterprise was en route to Starbase 6 for shore leave. Solar system Gamma 7A was destroyed.

— Spock was able to feel the deaths of 400 Vulcans even though he was, of course, not in physical contact with them.

— It's probably happened before, but I noticed this time that both miles and kilometers were mentioned. The Star Trek Powers That Be should have picked a future system of measurement and stuck with it.

— Spock mentioned that Vulcans hadn't been conquered in collective memory.

— We saw a lot of medical staff for a change. Although all they basically did was shoot people up with stimulants.

— The shuttlecraft Spock took on the suicide mission was the Galileo.

— It's been awhile since I saw the original, but the remastered amoeba looked cooler than the original to me. Or maybe it's just that my television is a lot bigger now.

— Was that Eddie Paskey in a red shirt who passed out on the bridge?


Kirk: "A boundary layer? Between what and what?"
Spock: "Between where we were and where we are."
Kirk: "Are you trying to be funny, Mister Spock?"
Spock: "It would never occur to me, Captain."

Kirk: "Both are right. Both are capable. And which of my friends do I condemn to death?"

Spock: "Do not risk the ship further on my behalf."
McCoy: "Shut up, Spock. We're rescuing you."
Spock: "Why, thank you, Captain McCoy."

Two out of four zones of darkness,

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


  1. That was indeed Eddie Paskey who passed out on the bridge. Interesting, given that he was killed in the week-previously-filmed episode, "Obsession". I guess he hadn't gotten over that yet. He shows up again, in about four weeks, as one of the two redshirts who beam down with Sulu to arrest Captain Tracey in "Omega Glory".

  2. The best part about this episode for me is the contest over who gets to sacrifice himself for science; and the banter-turned-serious-exchange between McCoy and Spock as the latter leaves for the shuttle. I always thought it was sad that Bones could not bring himself to say at least, "good luck" in Spock's hearing.

    Also the comment in your review about the repetition of themes and tropes is valid; I noticed when binge-watching the old tv series Twin Peaks how it was not designed for such viewing. The repetition of music, imagery etc really got on my nerves. It very much relied on a week's break between episodes like the Star Trek series. Our culture's viewing habits have definitely altered over the decades, which is interesting.

  3. Some good character interactions this episode.

    "Tell Dr. McCoy, he should have wished me luck." OUCH. So much done with that one sentence. And then Kirk looks over at Bones with a "if we survive this, you two should really cut this shit out" look and it just gets worse. He rarely had something to say on their verbal rivalry, and sometimes joined in, but the possibility of them dying having parted on bad terms due to petty squabbling was very real. The first time I watched this episode I thought that line was pretty cruel, intended to make McCoy feel even worse about his friend's death, but coming back to it, now I wonder if it wasn't an expression of regret for their childish behavior and the rift between them before what could've been their final parting. (I mean, we all know logically that saying that would probably only serve to make McCoy feel bad, but we all know Spock doesn't operate on pure logic.)

  4. I could have forgiven Kirk's super skeezy joke about relaxing on a beautiful...planet, while leering at his female crew members. But then they go and repeat it again at the end. Gross, dude.

    And where was Sulu? That's been the biggest surprise of finally watching these- how often sulu isn't around

  5. A good one in my opinion, but I also agree that it's nowhere near as good as the doomsday machine. This one also has a scenario in Star Fleet Battles for a solo player, or team of players, to fight the automatic amoeba. There's also a tangentially related Avalon Hill wargame called Amoeba Wars where giant amoebas are quite the problem that all players have to deal with, while fighting each other. Giant space blobs seem pretty popular!

    I love the banter, and really appreciate it between Bones and Spock especially. That whole back and forth while they do obviously genuinely respect, and almost certainly like each other, is such a huge part of the show, and it comes out full force here.


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