Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Star Trek -- Season 1 Episode 5 (The Enemy Within)

Some personality traits are considered good.  Others, not so much.  Most people would be a combination of both sets.  You’d be hard pressed to find someone who is completely honest and forthcoming.  You could find a little of each in just about everyone.

The Enemy Within starts with Captain Kirk falling victim to a transporter accident.  He’s split into two versions of himself:  One passive, the other aggressive.  The duplication is discovered, but Evil Kirk is able to roam the ship freely.  He demands brandy from Dr. McCoy.  He forces himself on Yeoman Rand.  Meanwhile, Good Kirk is unable to make decisions.  He relies on Spock for guidance, but something must be done, and soon.  The two halves can’t exist separately.

There’s also the issue of fixing the transporter so that the rest of the away team can be brought up.  Yes, the ship is supposed to have shuttlecraft.  No, there’s no reason given why they can’t be used.  They hadn’t been introduced to the series yet.  Aside from which, it does add a sense of urgency to the episode.  The planet gets cold enough at night that there is the threat of death.

To say that the episode is a product of the 1960s is true to some extent.  Good and evil are presented as absolutes.  Evil Kirk is over the top, even for William Shatner.  He barges in, makes demands, takes what he wants and leaves.  Good Kirk is forgetful, passive and relatively benign.

There were a few things that I thought were over the line, and I’m not the first to point them out.  Spock’s comment at the end that Evil Kirk was “interesting” was unnecessary and out of character.  To say something like that to the victim of assault is insensitive.  It may be reflective of attitudes at the time, but it still comes off as odd.  For that matter, I also found it odd that Kirk was present while Rand was being questioned.  It probably would have been appropriate to have him wait in another room.  (This second point may have been done for expedience.)

Rand’s reaction is believable.  She doesn’t want to get Kirk in trouble, but it’s not the kind of thing you let pass.  (Not everyone in her position would be forthcoming, even though she had a witness.)  I do like the depiction of good versus evil, even if it’s simplified.  It’s a topic that would be revisited later in Star Trek, notably in Voyager’s Faces.  Even boldly going outward, we can’t seem to escape ourselves.

(For the record, I’d say Voyager handled it better.) 

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