Thursday, June 21, 2018

Star Trek -- Season 1 Episode 2 (Charlie X)

I never really considered how many omnipotent or extremely powerful adversaries the Enterprise faced over the years.  In the original pilot, Christopher Pike faced a race that could put any image in his mind.  The he and the ship managed to get away because the race in question realized that humans weren’t worth the effort.

The second episode of the first season had the Enterprise, this time under James Kirk’s command, transporting Charles Evans to a Federation colony.  At first, he seems like any normal 17-year-old male human.  He somehow survived on a planet called Thasus, alone since the age of three.  It’s highly improbable, given that the planet had no humanoid life and that the food rations should have run out in about a year.  However, he seemed to do just fine.  He’s well nourished and is able to easily communicate with the crew.

Most of his problems seem to be interacting with the crew.  He becomes infatuated with Yeoman Janice Rand, which is understandable.  What bothers her is that Charlie has no impulse control.  He’s aggressive towards her and he doesn’t like having to compete for her attention.  It isn’t until someone laughs at him that the extent of his powers become evident.  Charlie can make people and objects disappear.  He can injure someone with little effort and heal them just as easily.

There are legends of a Thasian race, but all that is known is speculation.  It would seem to be the only viable theory, which is confirmed at the end of the episode when the Thasians come to take Charlie back to their planet.  They know that he’ll either destroy any world he’s on or be killed in self defense.  The only way out is for the Thasians to take care of him.

It’s a decent episode, but it never really sat well with me.  Part of it is the crew having to deal with an all-powerful teenager.  As with any antagonist with that kind of power, how does a mortal crew stop him?  It would be extremely difficult at best to integrate Charlie into society and would take so long that he’d pose a real danger to anyone making the attempt.  The resolution here is basically deus ex machina.  The crew can’t contain or kill Charlie, so the gods who created him have to resolve the issue for them.

I do wonder, though, if the Thasians could at least make the attempt.  They can’t take Charlie’s powers away, but they could have at least been a guiding force over the years.  I suppose they would have had no expectation that anyone would be along to find him, but they seem to have made no attempt at all.

I’d say the episode had potential, but it’s kind of difficult to say how to improve it.  It’s difficult to build tension when the power imbalance is so great.  The crew has to live in fear of Charlie, who would eventually kill anyone who he comes in contact with.  It’s not easy to make something like that believable.  Charlie is tempered only by his inexperience.

As if one omnipotent being weren’t enough, the very next episode is the second pilot, Where No Man Has Gone Before.  We end up with not one, but two humans that develop god-like powers.  Fortunately, most of the rest of the series wouldn’t be dealing with this kind of plot.  It’s a good thing, too.  I’d hate to think that the galaxy is filled with all-powerful creatures.

No comments :