I know. It’s been almost a year. You thought I’d forgotten about my TOS quest, didn’t you?
Well, I haven’t. And now that Year of Monsters is over, it’s time to begin anew! Today’s episode: “The Apple.”
. . . oh Christ, this is gonna be some awful Garden of Eden shit, isn’t it?
There will be SPOILERS for this episode and probably the Star Trek franchise in general. You’ve been warned.
WHAT GOES DOWN, BASICALLY
Kirk leads an away team to some beautiful planet. (I mean. It’s okay, like, a few lousy plants doesn’t a paradise make, but whatever.) Said beautiful planet keeps killing all the red shirts with deadly spores, lightning strikes, exploding rocks, etc. And unfortunately, the team can’t escape to the Enterprise, which is having its own problems, i.e., they’re being inexorably pulled towards the planet’s surface.
Soon, the away team discovers a village. The aliens who live there are all very nice, but they don’t age or grow at all, and don’t understand concepts like “children” or “love.” They live only to serve Vaal, their Dragon-Turtle Cave God, who–it quickly becomes clear–is a super computer that’s been mistaken for a deity. Vaal tells Akuta, the village leader, that the away team is a danger to them and must be killed. Akuta agrees after catching two of his fellow villagers kissing. (They saw Chekov and the One Girl on the Team making out, and decided to test out this new, bewildering behavior.) Alas, the Last of the Red Shirts–a great band name–is brutally murdered with a giant stick that, I swear to Christ, looks like a giant wishbone.
The Enterprise still can’t get free and is in imminent danger of crashing; however, their various struggles have weakened Vaal, enough that he requires feeding. (Or recharging, I guess.) Kirk, realizing an opportunity, prevents the villagers from giving Vaal his rock-food; he then orders the Enterprise to fire on the cave. Eventually, said cave goes dark and Vaal dies. Akuta, understandably, is concerned about what this means for his people, but it’s cool because Kirk assures the villagers they’ll learn to enjoy their newfound freedom. Really, it’s all for the best.
This . . . is not a great episode of Trek. It’s ridiculous, not particularly self-aware, and utterly unoriginal. How many super computers is this now? How many so-called paradises? “The Apple” is pretty middling stuff, but if you enjoy unintentional humor–or if you’re interested in making a drinking game out of terrible biblical puns and references–there are worse ways to spend your time.
Some delightful and/or delightfully terrible things in this episode: the Dragon-Turtle Cave God, any supposedly ominous plants, the bouffant hair styles of the alien men, Spock’s face after he collapses (the first time), lightning that vaporizes people, the colorful and very explosive rocks that look like they were made out of foam, How To Murder People: A Lesson With Akuta . . . I mean, the list goes on. There are also several moments of banter between Spock, Kirk, and Bones that work well, as they nearly always do.
That being said, a better episode would be able to indulge in these silly things and still have time for honest character moments, especially for characters besides our Holy OT3. Like when Scotty, still on board the Enterprise, tells Kirk, “I could do with a nice walk in a garden” about fifteen seconds after one of his fellow crew members has died on this terrible planet. Come on, man, what the hell. Kirk, for that matter, only manages to work up the tiniest bit of sorrow for one of the four officers who bites it, which–while typical of this show–still makes our captain kind of an assclown. He is concerned about Spock, of course, who miraculously keeps surviving the death traps that kill everyone else, including the vaporization lightning. Yeah. One dude gets vaporized. Spock gets a black scorch mark on his shirt. (Hm. Fried Vulcan is a flavor of Trek cosplay I have yet to try out.)
This is also an episode that desperately needs a better discussion of the Prime Directive. Like, okay, Bones and Spock do discuss it (although not by name) while arguing about how this society functions:
Spock: “Doctor, you insist on applying human standards to nonhuman cultures. I remind you that humans are only a tiny minority in this galaxy.”
Bones: “There are certain absolutes, Mr. Spock, and one of them is the right of humanoids to a free and unchained environment, the right to have conditions which permit growth.”
Spock: “Another is their right to choose a system which seems to work for them.”
And a few minutes later:
Bones: “This isn’t life. It’s stagnation.”
Spock: “Doctor, these people are healthy and they are happy. Whatever you choose to call it, this system works, despite your emotional reaction to it.”
There are interesting ethical concerns being raised by both sides here; the problem is, Kirk doesn’t give a shit about any of them. Instead, he puts the philosophy debate on hold until the Enterprise is out of danger, which is to say, he goes with a different philosophy, namely, “my people come first, and everything else can be worked out later.” It’s an understandable course of an action for a starship captain to take, but it also means that “The Apple” raises serious questions about moral imperative and the function of society, and then doesn’t even bother to try and honestly answer them. Kirk doesn’t so much decide that Bones is right; more, he has Vaal killed to save his own people, then acts like it was some magnanimous gesture he made for the villagers’ sakes.
Yes, once again, Kirk “saves” a bunch of people without any sort of useful advice or plan in place for how these people will survive now.
Oh, sure, Starfleet is probably sending help, you know, eventually, but all we see is Kirk unsympathetically telling the aliens that they’ll learn how to care for themselves. And after a smug speech about how there’s no trick to putting fruit on trees (um?), and how they’ll learn to enjoy the freedoms of having unsafe sex and raising babies (UM?), Kirk fucks off back to the Enterprise, where he can blow off all of Spock’s ethical concerns with a bad joke about his first officer looks like Satan. Which, just, God, when will this show learn how to land an episode, already?
The Enterprise Doesn’t Stick the Landing: see everything above. Also, Spock questions what they’ve done by referencing Genesis, which is just some ethnocentric nonsense.
Credit where credit is due: I didn’t hate every biblical reference in this episode. “Garden of Eden . . . with landmines” is an obvious joke, but I have to admit, I still snorted at it. The best bit, though, is definitely this exchange between Bones and Chekov:
“It makes me homesick. Just like Russia.”
“More like the Garden of Eden, Ensign.”
“Of course, Doctor. The Garden of Eden was just outside Moscow.”
I’m just saying. Chekov is a cheeky little shit, and thus kind of the best.
Kirk, kind of the worst today, brings us some very 60’s heteronormative/amatonormative nonsense in his speech: “And you’ll learn something about men and women, the way they’re supposed to be, caring for each other, being happy with each other, being good to each other. That’s what we call . . . love. You’ll like that, a lot, too.” He then references all the baby-making that’s sure to happen soon, and it’s just a thought, but perhaps people who literally don’t know what children are shouldn’t be raising them on their own? Maybe?
The One Girl on the Team, Yeoman Landon, is apparently dating Chekov. She’s mostly around to quiver in fear–and, in one particularly painful scene, to awkwardly ask how the aliens are reproducing without using the word ‘sex.’ Everyone is embarrassed in this scene, including Spock. It’s terrible. However, Landon does have one Shining Moment of Awesome, where she actually takes out two of the attacking villagers. She high kicks one and judo throws the other, and it is incredible. Naturally, this character will never appear again.
What’s Up, Uhura: Alas, Uhura is not in this episode.
Sulu Report: Also, Sir Not Appearing in this Movie
FASHION REPORT: I mean, obviously, there’s the whole villager situation, with the goofy white hair and the flower leis and a wardrobe that’s essentially all towels and coconut bras. If I was a lot more comfortable with my body, this would also be a great cosplay for a post-pandemic DragonCon. Then again, I kind of just want Kirk’s green wrap shirt. Like, it looks comfy.
Finally, I don’t have a single favorite line of dialogue, but I do have a favorite bit of banter:
LINE OF THE EPISODE
“Just what did you think you were trying to do?”
“I surmised you were unaware of the plant, so I–”
“Stepped in front and took the thorns yourself.”
“I assure you, Captain, I had no intention of doing that. It was merely my own clumsiness which prevented me from moving out of the way.”
“I see. Well, next time just yell. I can step out of the way as quickly as the next man.”
“I shall do so.”
“Trying to get yourself killed. Do you know how much Starfleet has invested in you?”