Welcome the second installment of my Star Trek watch through! You can find other posts in this series linked at the bottom, and the original post – including my watch order – here. Without further ado, let’s jump into the episodes.
Episode #2 – “Charlie X”
The episode starts out with Charlie Evans, a seventeen-year-old from a planet called Thasus, where he was orphaned when the ship he was on crashed. He has strange powers – the transmutation of objects and people – and causes a lot of trouble for the crew of the enterprise as he fumbles his way through his first human interactions since the age of three. He supposedly taught himself to speak by talking to his old ship’s onboard computer, and he becomes irrationally angry whenever anyone doesn’t like him. After making a crew member disappear into thin air in front of Captain Kirk, Charlie and the Captain begin to butt heads, and Charlie attempts to take control of the ship when Kirk tries to derail their course away from Alpha V, where Charlie’s closest relatives live. The natives of the planet Thasus, the Thasians, arrive in very cool glowy green ships to retrieve Charlie, who ran away without their knowledge. In order for the boy to survive on their planet, they had to grant him his powers, but they cannot be taken away, and his having them makes him too dangerous to live amongst humans. Charlie immediately begins pleading with the crew of the Enterprise to let him stay, despite the fact that he’s been trying to murder them for the past few days.
I enjoyed this episode quite a bit, as it felt very true to traditional science fiction. The taking of one element and exploiting it, whether by making it cease to exist or making it the sole reason for something – in this case whether or not people liked Charlie – to me is the essence of science fiction writing. Charlie had all of this power, but none of the wisdom to use it safely. Watching his blunders and antics reminded me of the many children’s books involving the dangers of untrained magic. Training without power may seem silly, but power without training typically means certain death no matter what your age is. The fact that we had this boy at the height of puberty with a ton of power and no training in human interaction lent an idea for a very interesting storyline. Also, I’m pretty sure I’ve had nightmares involving people with powers like these, but that’s probably a story for another day.
Overall it was very well done. The fact that Yeoman Janice, Captain Kirk, and Doctor McCoy all attempted to explain puberty, men/women, and general human interaction to someone without saying any of the words they actually needed to use because those words weren’t allowed on cable in the 60s was cracking me up, but it was also a very good lesson in story writing.
Pilot #2 / Episode #3 – “Where No Man Has Gone Before”
This episode was originally produced as a second pilot for the series and actually takes place at an earlier stardate than the first two aired episodes, despite this episode being aired third. As I just looked up, the stardates, while allowing the creators to build a rough timeline, were just an arbitrary mix of numbers that weren’t meant to correspond to a specific year so that viewers couldn’t make snide comments about whether things would exist the way they do on the show at that future date.
The first few things I noticed were Leonard Nimoy’s crazy eyebrows and the simplified detailing on the sleeves of the command shirts. It was much fancier in episode #2. Also, this was Scotty’s first official appearance! Although I’m not all convinced that was James Doohan. After that, the biggest things were the lack of Uhura’s presence and the general treatment of women, which really stuck out when Yeoman Smith clutched Gary Mitchell’s arm as the ship flew through a strange forcefield. Honestly, if you’re part of a space crew whose mission is to explore uncharted areas, why would you be so easily scared of a space-storm/forcefield? Dr. Dehner wasn’t scared at all, but then again nothing scares her throughout the episode, so maybe she’s just made of sterner stuff. Plenty of characters made cameos in the episode, including Sulu, but just about everyone felt flat. Kirk was overemotional in part to compensate for Spock’s decided lack of emotion – which is a huge point of contention in this episode – and it made him come off as whiny. The episode ends with Spock admitting that he was sad about Mitchell’s fate, and Kirk responding that there is hope for him yet.
Unlike “Charlie X”, which I enjoyed specifically for the storyline, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” felt like a string of ideas strung together. Like “The Cage”, every action had multiple meanings, and you could see and feel what was contrived for the show itself and what allowances were made for the studio in order to get the show green-lit. It is strange to me that two episodes of the same show could read so differently to me, but there you have it.
I’m really enjoying the special effects! The way they make things disappear and reappear is pretty awesome. Both of these episodes had actors and lighting doing strange things with the characters’ eyes, and entire walls and people disappeared! Having a background in production, I am especially curious as to how they are doing the disappearances specifically. I don’t think it’s green screening, but I also don’t think it’s two pieces of film being merged together somehow. I’ll try to get to the bottom of it for my next post.
I’m still enjoying the series. Every episode feels like it’s own universe, and while I’m only a few episodes in, the cast already feels diverse to me. I can only imagine what people thought of it in the 60s!
Until next time,
Other posts in this watch through:
Star Trek: The Original Series
“The Cage” and “The Man Trap”
“The Naked Time” and “The Enemy Within”
“Mudd’s Women” and “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” (COMING SOON)