Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 2 (Who Mourns for Adonais?)

Space is vastly empty.  Consider that it takes light four years to get to from our star to the next closest one and there’s nothing in between.  It seems odd that a spaceship would be able to find interesting planets every week.  Granted, there are a lot of stars out there, but there’s no promise that any of them would have inhabited planets.  They could all be barren wastelands.  Not only that, but the Enterprise has a propensity for finding god-like creatures.

In this case, it would appear that they’ve actually found the Greek god Apollo.  He reaches out with a hand-like projection and holds the ship in place, demanding that the bridge crew come down to the planet.  Once there, the landing party is informed that they will stay and worship Apollo as humans once did thousands of years prior.  Likewise, the humans will tend sheep and do other things humans have long since given up.

It would seem that the Enterprise is trapped, but Apollo has some sort of assistance.  He also conveniently gets tired very easily.  This, of course, presents an opportunity.  Once the details are worked out, it’s just a matter of removing that assistance and the crew is off to the next planet.

This would make for a better episode if it didn’t seem so similar to The Squire of Gothos.  You have what appears to be an all-powerful being intent on keeping the Enterprise crew captive for its own ends.  It needs assistance which, once destroyed, incapacitates the being and allows the crew to leave.

What makes this different is the ancient-astronaut theory, in which several aliens came to Earth and set themselves up as deities.  (A few even had kids with the locals.)  It’s not clear why Apollo has a thing for humans or what he did for 5,000 years.  He states that worshipers give him some sort of power, but it’s not clear if other races would have the same effect.  Even if Apollo headed straight back to his home planet, he and the others of his kind had to explore the galaxy to find Earth.  They might have found another planet that would have been close enough.

The episode is just a little too uninspired for me.  It might have been more interesting to explore what Greek gods had done on Earth.  (I’m sure Apollo would have a few tales to tell.)  Instead, Apollo is intent on regaining his former glory.  All of the other members of the Greek pantheon knew the game was up and moved on.  It basically takes the Enterprise destroying his source of power for Apollo to take the hint.

I definitely think there was a lot of wasted potential here.  I get that it was a product of a different era.  The network may have assumed that the audience wanted more of an action show.  The episode might have been able to do more with the philosophical element had it not been for this.  The show even seems to have a 60s-era attitude towards women, even.  Take, for instance, that Scotty is interested in a female lieutenant.  It’s assumed that if she marries someone, she’ll leave the service.  I’m assuming that this attitude was adjusted by the time The Next Generation came around, as Starfleet had no problem with married couples serving on different ships.   You‘d think that we would have moved on in the next 300 years.

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