Apologies for the unexpected, month-long pause on TOS recaps. Dr. Ian Malcolm tells us that life finds a way, but sometimes life just gets in the way. Also, other TV: I’m behind on SO MUCH right now. I did finish watching Jessica Jones, Season 2 last week; unfortunately, I’m so upset with something they’ve done that I’m having a hard time focusing on the things I actually enjoyed about the season.
But we aren’t here to talk about Jessica Jones. We’re here to talk about Star Trek, specifically Captain Kirk, Nurse Chapel, and, as always, what it means to be human.
Oh, and killer robots, too.
There will be SPOILERS for this episode and probably the Star Trek franchise in general. You’ve been warned.
WHAT GOES DOWN, BASICALLY
The Enterprise goes to yet another abandoned planet to try and locate Dr. Roger Korby, a scientist who’s been presumed dead for the past five years. He’s also, by the by, Christine Chapel’s fiancee. Turns out, Korby’s been living underground with a handful of androids, including a pretty girl robot, Andrea, and an alien robot left behind by the previous civilization, Ruk.
Per Korby’s not at all concerning instructions, Kirk and Christine go to visit Korby alone. (Well, mostly alone. There are a couple of red shirts, but of course they swiftly die.) Korby has Kirk forcibly restrained and makes Android Kirk: an identical robot who has access to all of Kirk’s memories. Korby sends Android Kirk back to the Enterprise, hoping to locate a good planet for his imagined robot utopia. Spock isn’t fooled by Android Kirk, though, because while being duplicated, Real Kirk focused on some racist shit about “half-breeds.” Android Kirk repeats this shit to Spock, and our logical dude knows something’s up.
Back down below the surface, Real Kirk turns Korby’s androids against him. He seduces Andrea, naturally, because no android can resist the siren call of Jim Kirk’s lips. Strangely, he takes a different approach with Ruk, manipulating the robot into believing that Korby will turn against him. Ruk attacks, and Korby is forced to kill him. Meanwhile, Andrea murders Fake Kirk because she think he’s Real Kirk, and she’s angry that he won’t kiss her back. Cause sure. That seems legit.
During all this nonsense, Korby gets injured, revealing that he’s been an android all along. Years ago, he transferred his consciousness on a robot body in order to survive. Predictably, Christine is horrified. Korby insists he’s the same person he always was, but every time he tries to prove it, he pretty much just sounds like a computer. He then vaporizes both himself and Andrea. Meanwhile, completely failing to arrive in the nick of time, Spock asks where Doctor Korby is. Dramatically, Kirk replies, “Dr. Korby was never here.” Which, debatable, but okay, Kirk.
My favorite flavor of sci-fi has never been “robots are inferior because they can’t FEEL” or “he achieved a version of immortality, but at what terrible cost,” so it’s probably no surprise that this episode doesn’t totally do it for me. In some ways, though, I do like that Kirk so easily turns the robots against their own programming; it’s supposed to prove that they aren’t the perfect beings Korby insists they are, which is true, but it also proves that they’re more than just their programming, that they can make their own decisions, even when those decisions work against their own self-interest. I mean, really, what the hell is more human than that? Unfortunately, “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” isn’t particularly interested in that distinction, and I find its definitions of humanity a bit prescriptive for my tastes.
Per usual, though, my biggest problem with this episode is the women. Like, Andrea could potentially be a really interesting character, you know, an android who becomes in touch with her own wants and desires and goes on a journey of self-discovery following the events of this episode. (Seven of Nine’s arc, basically, but with considerably less Borg.) Instead, of course, Andrea is mostly just an easily seduced, breathy sex robot. (Yeah, Korby. Absolutely no one believes that you weren’t banging her, you total creep.)
And Christine, I mean, goddamn. Talk about an episode that should really center on her emotional arc but instead manages to give most of that time to Kirk being a crafty, beguiling devil. Don’t get me wrong: Christine gets more time in this episode than most of the crew (Spock gets a brief moment, Uhura gets a line, and Scotty, Sulu, and Bones all get vacation time), but notice how she never does anything remotely active in the plot? Mostly she’s around to glare jealously at Sexy Andrea. Also, this exchange:
“Nurse, if I gave you a direct order to betray him . . .”
“Please, don’t ask me to make that choice. I’d much rather you push me off the same precipice where Matthews died.”
Like, WTF? No. First off, suicide? Not a preferable option to choosing between any two men, thank you very fucking much. But also, like, if (Secretly Android) Kirk ordered Christine to murder Korby, I could get this. If, OTOH, the choice is between a) non-fatally betraying your fiancee in some fashion, and b) being loyal to a guy you haven’t seen in five years and has, in a very short period of time, lied to you, inadvertently gotten two of your crew members killed, and physically restrained and duplicated your captain without his consent? Like, the choice is pretty clear. I’m not saying you can’t have complicated emotions about it cause obviously, but for Christ’s sake. How do you even know this fucker is your fiancee at all? Cause you could sense it when you two made out for ten seconds? Honey, no.
I’m honestly not sure why this episode is titled “What Are Little Girls Made Of,” considering the episode seems more concerned with general humanity than specific questions about gender, but based on what I just watched here, TOS apparently thinks little girls are made of poor decision making skills, bad intuition, and smoochies.
When the Enterprise first makes contact with Dr. Korby, there are these two excited extras standing on the bridge, listening in. And while it’s lovely that the crew is happy for one another when they get good news, I mean. These two feel super random here. It’s kind of like watching a scene with silent cheerleaders jumping in the background.
Alas, I see Christine’s wig has improved not at all since we saw her last.
FASHION REPORT: Except for Ruk, who apparently favors giant blue robes (that may or may not have been made from car upholstery) with pink, Count Dracula-esque high collars, matching pink floral shirts, and–presumably–hidden shoulder pads intended for giant football players, the androids all wear either jumpsuits or overalls. The jumpsuits and overalls all have the same color scheme: one green shoulder, one blue shoulder, and the design is cross-body, so it’s the opposite leg that has the same color. Noticeably, the men get to zip up their clothes and/or wear long-sleeved black shirts underneath them. You may also notice that Andrea is not afforded such opportunities.
First Time We’ve Encountered: “Sam” or George Samuel Kirk, who we didn’t so much encounter, I suppose, as heard referenced. Regardless, I was delighted, mostly because I only know who this guy is because he occasionally comes up in Kelvin Verse fanfic.
I see that this is the second Duplicate Kirk we’ve managed to have in TOS, seven episodes into the first season. While I’m discussing Duplicate Kirk, though, here’s how to make an android of your very own:
A. Get yourself a playground roundabout without the bars.
B. Strap a faceless robot body to one side and a human person to the other.
C. Spin the roundabout real, real fast, and boom! The human’s features and memories will now also appear on the faceless robot body.
The process seems dubious.
For several episodes now, Spock has either been my favorite or least favorite character in any given episode. He’s actually neither here, probably because he’s barely in this episode. My problem with this: Spock mentions that he was, understandably, disturbed to hear the term “half-breed” out of his friend’s mouth, to which I assumed Kirk would explain why he did it or apologize that it was necessary or say something too-on-the-nose but well-meaning about racism. Instead, Kirk pretty much blows the whole thing off, all, “Well, I won’t use it next time something like this comes up, ha ha,” or whatever, and I’m like, “Wait, what? That’s all we’re going to say about this? Seriously?”
Also, I notice that there’s absolutely no mention of Christine’s passion for Spock in this episode, though if that’s because nobody thought it was an important detail to mention or if this episode just filmed prior to “The Naked Time,” I’m not sure and don’t really care to look up right now.
Whilst fighting Ruk, Kirk holds an incredibly suggestive looking stalactite. It’s hilarious.
Ruk could also be an interesting character because he’s an alien robot, and I find I’m fascinated by what alien robots would be like: is he made in the image of the Old Ones? Are those ugly upholstery robes what the Old Ones wore? Do we really expect alien robots to conform to our ideals of human robots? Alas, this episode has no time for any of that.
For all this talk about immortality, killing an android is super easy. Vaporize button, boom, you’re done. Being honest, though, I wasn’t initially sure if it was Korby or Andrea who decided to push said button. On the re-watch, it definitely looks like Korby, but it’s worth pointing out that while Memory Alpha agrees with me, the Tor.com recaps don’t.
Finally, Christine’s response to Korby saying he’s still the man she loves? “Everything you’ve done has proved it isn’t you.” I actually rather like this line because it implies that it’s your actions that define you, not just your wiring. I’d also like it a lot better if Christine showed even a glimmer of this horror before she knew the dude wasn’t flesh and blood.
LINE OF THE EPISODE
“Eating is a pleasure, sir. Unfortunately, one you will never know.”
“Perhaps. But I will never starve, sir.”