Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Star Trek -- Season 1 Episode 25 (The Devil in the Dark)

It’s no fun having to meet a quota.  There’s always that pressure to perform.  Falling behind often entails a lot of worry and stress.  When the miners on Janus VI come across a deadly creature, their operation has to come to a halt.  Thus, the Enterprise is called in to investigate.

The enemy is a mysterious one.  Anyone who has gotten a good look at it has died.  (50 people have been turned to a stain on a cave floor.)  Thus, it’s impossible to formulate a good defense, much less any sort of offense.  Kirk and Spock are at odds on how to handle the situation.  Once it’s realized that the creature is the last of its kind, Kirk is determined to kill in self defense.  Spock, knowing that it’s a silicon-based life form, wants to study the creature.  The problem is that the creature has taken a vital component.  Without it, the mining facility will run out of air.

When the time comes, Kirk doesn’t kill.  Instead, Spock is able to use the Vulcan mind meld to communicate.  It turns out that the creature is the last of its kind, save a lot of eggs.  Every generation, the species lays eggs.  All but one of the adults die, leaving the sole Horta to care for and protect the newborns.  An agreement is made wherein both parties will leave each other alone, for the most part.  The Horta will do most of the mining and the humans will collect what they need.

This is one of those episodes where the messages were somewhat clear.  First, there can be a balance between business and the environment.  Second, aggressors aren’t always bad guys.  For the second time during the first season, it appears that the Federation was encroaching on someone else’s territory.  A simple conversation could have avoided a lot of conflict.  (Ok.  So, the conversation isn’t so simple here.)

A few thing stand out.  First, how does a mining operation allow 50 people to die?  I would think that they’d evacuate the facility after only a few deaths.  I would call it irresponsible to let that many people die.  Yes, they have a quota and all.  Still, I think there would have been a revote by that point.

Another thing that confused me was how the Horta evolved to reproduce like that.  I would think that it’s not a very good survival strategy to entrust the entire population to one individual.  If anything had happened to Mother Horta, all would have been lost.  I’m assuming that there is at least one other population on the planet.  It would also make sense that there are no predators for the Horta to worry about.

There were some things that Star Trek did well.  Some things, like costumes and props, not so much.  The costume for the Horta was a bit obvious.  It seemed very much like a guy with a carpet over him.   One thing I will say is that Janus is a very appropriate name for the planet.  According to Wikipedia, Janus was responsible for the beginning and the ending of conflict.  We get to see the miners transition from a warlike state to one of cooperation.

This was probably one of the better episodes in terms of message.  It didn’t get too preachy and you could see both sides of the story.  The miners just want to do their job and the Horta is trying to protect the next batch of Horta.  It’s definitely one of the episodes I’d recommend watching.

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