Star Trek: By Any Other Name

Kirk: "Immense beings with a hundred tentacles would have difficulty with the turbolift."

This is probably the best entry in the "aliens corrupted by carnal human bodies" theme.

As I've mentioned before, Star Trek didn't have the budget to do truly alien aliens, so they took the logical short cut of having those aliens take on human form. (It's also easier to find a human actor in Los Angeles than one with a hundred tentacles.) Of course, those body-stealing aliens just weren't expecting to deal with hormones, and Kirk and company decide to take them down much like they did the androids in "I, Mudd."

Predictably, Kirk immediately went for the sex. I actually enjoyed Kirk's seduction follies for a change, though, mostly because Kelinda's reaction made it a lot of fun. I particularly loved that Kelinda did "supplemental reading" about sex before that second liplock.

But, of course, the highlight of the episode is Scott getting Tomar drunk. I'm not fond of drunk scenes, but James Doohan did a wonderful job as Scott sacrificed several of his beloved bottles to the cause, while Tomar remained disappointingly conscious for way too long. One of Doohan's best scenes in the series, without a doubt.



The Kelvans neutralizing the crew by turning them into a handful of dry chemicals was also particularly effective. The block thingies (apparently, they're called cuboctahedrons, and that's my word of the week) made the elimination of the crew tragic and creepy, but not permanent. If the Kelvans had shoved the crew en masse out of an airlock, it would have been pretty hard for Kirk to forgive. And of course, the comical aspects of the plot wouldn't have worked at all.

Another thing I always liked about this one was the way they handled the distance between galaxies with a multigenerational crew and enhancements to the Enterprise just to make it in three hundred years. Plus we got a nice message about finding your own destiny instead of following your parents' orders, as well as the wisdom of making friends out of your enemies.

 Not everything in this episode came off, though. The "central projector" and the devices on the Kelvans' belts were a lot like similar devices in "The Squire of Gothos" et al., but that entire storyline evaporated after Scott got the device off Tomar and promptly passed out. They never followed through with the results of the shots McCoy was giving Hanar, either. Maybe they just ran out of time.

I also thought that Kirk was way too indecisive about the self-destruct. Indecisiveness has never been Kirk's problem. I rather wish they'd just gone with it, since Rojan already knew about it and would have easily foiled their plan.

Ben says...

Ahh, the Kelvans, so brilliant and yet so foolish. Fact: they had mastered the ability to reduce humans to bouillon cubes, and during the 1960s the ability to reduce anything to an easily stored "keeps forever" form was the highest goal of science (during the 1950s it was building nuclear weapons, during the 1970s it was appearing on the Newlywed Game). One need only witness the popularity of the Twinkie which was never greater than in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Second fact: the ultimate demonstration of male virility during the period was ability to pick up a Playboy Bunny (in this case Julie Cobb). If an alien had appeared in the form of a young Hugh Hefner, he would have easily conquered the Earth. But their fatal misunderstanding was that they believed they could simultaneously accomplish both by turning the playboy bunny into a bouillon cube and then crushing her (RIP Yeoman Red Skirt). They were clearly doomed from the start.

That aside, this was actually a pretty good one although we have seen the theme a number of times. It is essentially the whole "the flesh is corrupting" theme again, last seen two episodes ago in "Return to Tomorrow." Now I have made a lot of the fact that many of these recurrent themes are weak, but I think this one is the exception. It's a rejection of the perfectibility of the human condition, that idea that human potential (individually or collectively) can be maximized and perfected. It is that idea that underpins so many of the really bad ideas of the 20th century (fascism, communism, breast implants, the list goes on). We are imperfect and muddle along and that's just how it has to be, as the Kelvans discovered.

Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

— Stardate 4657.5. We never got the name of the Kelvans' future new home planet, although this might have been the only time we saw a planet with a pink sky.

— The title of the episode is from Romeo and Juliet. Its obvious meaning is that an alien in a human body is still a human being. A difference that makes no difference is no difference.

— Did the Kelvans remove the enhancements they introduced to the Enterprise? I assume they must have.

— Two red shirts are in the landing party. Yeoman Thompson, a female red shirt this time, is dry-cubed and crumpled into pieces. Not your everyday sort of death.



— The brightly colored jumpsuits were reminiscent of the miners in "The Devil in the Dark." They certainly got a lot of use out of those costumes, didn't they?

— There is some nice continuity with mention of Vulcan traits introduced in "Shore Leave" (a Vulcan vacation) and "A Taste of Armageddon" (remote telepathic suggestion). Kirk also tells Rojan they had already encountered the galactic barrier ("Where No Man Has Gone Before").

— While Spock and Rojan were playing chess, Spock talked as if they'd played before and the voyage had been going on for awhile. But the rest of the episode suggested that the four Enterprise officers decided on their tactics right after their first meal on board after the takeover. Oh, well.

— This episode is the second of four written by sci-fi author Jerome Bixby. All four are favorites of mine. The other three are "Mirror, Mirror," "Day of the Dove" and "Requiem for Methuselah."

Quotes:

Kelinda: "We call them 'sashir'."
Kirk: "A rose by any other name."

Kirk: "Look for any way to stimulate their senses."
Scott: "I can think of one way right off."

Kelinda: "Is there some significance to this action?"
Kirk: "Among humans, it's meant to express warmth and love."
Kelinda: "Oh. You are trying to seduce me."

Kelinda: "This business of love. You have devoted much literature to it. Why do you build such a mystique around a simple biological function?"

Scott: "I found this."
Tomar: "What is it?"
Scott: "Well, it's... ah... (Scott sniffs the liquor) It's green."
There was an homage to this scene and this particular line in the Next Gen episode called "Relics." It's classic.

Three out of four bottles of futuristic booze,

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

3 comments:

Juliette said...

I loved Kirk's expression when he realised it was the female redshirt, not the male, who'd been crushed. Way to make poor old Guy Redshirt feel loved!

Anonymous said...

Kelinda's matter of factness when Kirk was seducing her was priceless. Poor Scotty having to sacrifice his best booze..ah well it was for a worthy cause.
Anna

tinkapuss said...

This episode is special to me because it captured my adolescent heart and introduced me to Shakespeare. And that Kalinda! Out of all the beauties on Star Trek, she is the most beautiful.