Thursday, May 16, 2019

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 5 (The Apple)

The Enterprise went through a lot of security officers during it’s run.  I’ve often wondered if Starfleet ever asked why.  After all, new officers were being assigned to the ship and a death would certainly generate a report.  This was the second episode in recent memory to feature four security officers being killed.  I imagine some poor recruit getting his first assignment only to cry uncontrollably at the fact that it’s The Enterprise.  (“All this effort to get into Starfleet and this is what I get?  I’m too young to die!”)  To be fair, the crew did encounter a dangerous planet and Captain Kirk does wrestle with the loss of crewmembers.  However, there were a lot of deaths on the show.

In this episode, the crew comes upon a planet with a small tribe of people who are ruled by a computer named Vaal.  The people feed Vaal and, in return, Vaal makes the rain come down and the fruit grow.  Kirk and McCoy immediately realize that this is a stagnant society.  They don’t grow or learn or build.  All the people do is feed Vaal.  Spock, being the voice of reason, points out that it works.  It’s not humanity’s ideal society, but the people are happy and want for nothing.  Who are they to interfere with that?

Well, leave it to the writers to force the issue.  The ship is being dragged down towards the planet surface.  If Kirk doesn’t destroy Vaal, the crew will die.  It’s been said that the crew accepts this if it’s in service of The Prime Directive.  You don’t interfere with the natural development of a culture, even if it means your life.  But is it really interfering with a culture if there is no real culture to speak of?  Maybe, but the death of the crew would lead to a really short second season.  And I don’t imagine Kirk wants to be stranded on a planet where light rocks could explode under your feet.

It’s not clear how a small group of child-like immortals developed in such a way that they came under the care of a computer beyond their capacity to build.  It’s possible that they were left there by a more-advanced civilization.  Maybe it was a sort of daycare that was abandoned.  I suppose of all the possible questions, it’s not the worst to have.  It would, at least, make for an interesting novel or fan movie.

I’m also not sure why Vaal has it in for the crew of the Enterprise.  I’m assuming that the ship falling towards the planet was unintentional.  Vaal could just as easily have shot down the ship or sent the ship away.  It would appear that whoever wrote the episode was concerned more with the issues and immanent danger.  (I know.  This describes most of the Star Trek episodes.)  I suppose it at least makes for an interesting moral debate.

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