World’s Worst Trekkie: The Mark of Gideon, That Which Survives, and The Lights of Zetar

“The Mark of Gideon”

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(I usually try to get GIFs or videos from the episode in question, but I’m having difficulty with that lately,  so the excellent Swear Trek will have to do!)

Like a lot of TOS episodes, “The Mark of Gideon” starts out really fun, and then just kinda . . . falls apart. The Enterprise orbits the planet Gideon for some “join our cool Federation” negotiations. Only Kirk is allowed to beam down, though; once he does, he mysteriously goes missing, ending up on a duplicate Enterprise with a bruise on his arm and a small gap in his memory. Excellent! The only other person aboard is Odona, who says she has no memory of how she got there. Meanwhile, Hodin (the Gideon leader) won’t let anyone beam down to search for Kirk, and Starfleet Command orders Spock to play along, even though they know Hodin is behind Kirk’s abduction. Spock isn’t allowed to interfere unless he has definite proof that Jim is in imminent danger.

It turns out that the people on Gideon are functionally immortal: they live an extremely long ass time, have an ability to regenerate, and live on a planet with absolutely no germs. Since they apparently don’t believe in contraception (life is sacred, gah), Gideon is suffering from critical overpopulation. The Gideons kidnapped Kirk specifically for his blood, so they could inject it into Odona and hope she dies from some terrible sickness that Kirk once had. (Odona, BTW, is Hodin’s daughter and a willing participate in this whole experiment). They also hoped that Kirk would fall so hopelessly in love with Odona that he’d agree to stay behind on Gideon and spend the rest of his life giving a fatal disease to anyone who wants it—which, IMO, is not exactly a foolproof plan. Spock goes against Stafleet’s orders and rescues Kirk, Kirk saves Odona despite the fact that she chose to die, and Odona survives to fulfill Kirk’s role of infecting anyone who wants to sacrifice their lives.

The initial mystery is pretty entertaining, and there are a few moments here or there that I enjoy: Scotty’s indignation on behalf of the Enterprise, David Hurst’s performance throughout the episode. But the writing is pretty bad, and it’s pretty bad in multiple ways. Overpopulation anxiety is . . . fine, I guess, but one of the reasons it exists at all is because humans don’t have anywhere to go if we overrun Earth; this is not a problem for people in TOS, where there are thousands of cool places to explore, not to mention a deserted, livable planet for every five you come across. No one would have to engineer a whole ass alien plague if some of the people on Gideon just moved. (It’s also pretty hard to take overpopulation seriously when it’s represented by roughly 12 people wearing hooded unitards bumbling around a room, like, I know Season 3 had basically five bucks for a budget, but damn.)

Starfleet’s decision to ignore Kirk’s kidnapping also makes no sense because this episode never bothers to establish why Gideon is so important to the Federation. Maybe they’d be willing to sacrifice a legendary starship captain if Gideon had, say, a fleet of planet-killing starships or if dilithium crystals grew on trees there, but as presented, this is just nonsense. Likewise, Spock’s cynical dialogue about diplomacy feels deeply inauthentic. Leonard Nimoy’s line deliveries are beautifully disdainful, but from the bottom of my soul, I do not believe that Spock would bitch about diplomats only being useful to prolong a crisis. There’s a real world cynicism on display in this episode that just doesn’t feel true to the characters or institutions of the story. Combine all that with the usual BS romance and the complete lack of consequences for Spock disobeying Starfleet, and . . . yeah, this isn’t one of my favorites.

Chief Asshat: Hm. Hodin, I suppose, but there’s certainly an argument for that shitty Starfleet admiral.

MVP: David Hurst, who gives a very solid performance despite the weak material. (The serious moments are good, but I particularly like him when he’s being infuriating and hilariously snotty.)

Grade: Rocky Road

Line of the Episode: “Very well, then. You shall test the skill of your very excitable repairman.”

“That Which Survives”

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This episode begins with the Enterprise coming across a “ghost planet,” that is, a planet which doesn’t fit any proper categorization and basically defies all the laws of science. Kirk, Bones, Sulu, and Soon-To-Be-Dead D’Amato happily beam down to investigate. Their good cheer does not last, partially because they immediately get stranded on the planet while the Enterprise gets knocked across space, partially because Losira (Lee Merriweather, AKA Catwoman!) keeps popping up to murder people left and right, and partially because, IDK, someone pissed in everyone’s replicated Corn Flakes, I guess? Kirk snaps at Sulu multiple times for no reason; Bones also cuts off Sulu once, and Spock, well, he’s a pedantic asshat to basically everybody he talks to: Scotty, M’Benga, Uhura, etc. (Uhura, at least, gives Spock a Look, which I definitely appreciated.) This is the second episode in a row where Spock’s dialogue has come across as surprisingly inauthentic, like, being a dick is one thing, but Spock is weirdly over literal here, in a way that just doesn’t ring true for his character at all. He kinda feels like a Spock written by somebody who’s heard about TOS but never actually seen it.

“That Which Survives” is an okay episode. Weird planets are fun, and I like Lee Merriweather. The mystery surrounding her character is intriguing: why is she killing people, why can she only hunt one person at a time, all that “I am for you” stuff, etc. (Plus, she’s got a fun outfit and fantastic eye shadow; I’d cosplay her in a hot second if I was a more confident person.) I’m happy to see Sulu have something to actually do for once, although the fanfic writer in me is dying for some post-ep H/C goodness here—like, disrupting/exploding all the cells in one’s shoulder should probably have some lasting effects, yes?) I also enjoy seeing Scotty literally reversing the polarity to save the ship, as well as M’Benga’s return. And there’s an Indian lieutenant with a bindi who has actual lines and everything. (It’s really cool for about two seconds, until you realize that Lt. Radha is definitely being played by a white woman.)

Unfortunately, the mystery does kinda fall apart for me at the end. It turns out that all the people who once lived on this artificial planet died, and Losira is basically just an old super computer defense system, which isn’t terrible; it’s just that we’ve done this sort of thing before. Plus, it doesn’t really explain Losira’s whole “I am here for whoever” bit—a defense system that can only attack one specific person at a time does not strike me as particularly well considered. (Yes, yes, she eventually multiplies, but not until the end of the episode and is pretty easily defeated, besides.) Also, Spock’s constant pedantry gets pretty annoying. I like that he refuses to sacrifice Scotty, and how he points out that Losira’s beauty wasn’t what made her remarkable (unlike Kirk, Bones, and Sulu, who all keep pointing out how gorgeous she is whether it’s relevant or not—it never is), but man, Spock feels off, and it gets very grating after a while.

Chief Asshat: Spock, although I wanted to slap Kirk around, too. You don’t get to be snippy to my man Sulu, Kirk. That is not allowed.

MVP: Probably Lee Merriweather, who I think does the absolute most she can with kind of a limited role.

Grade: Vanilla

Line of the Episode: 

“Question is, why are you alive?”
“Captain, I’m happy the way it turned out.”

“The Lights of Zetar”

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The Enterprise is on its way to drop off new equipment to Memory Alpha, which is basically a whole ass Library Planet. (Okay, fine, a Library Planetoid. Still.) This is awesome for multiple reasons: one, a whole ass Library Planetoid, and two, Memory Alpha is the name of this excellent Star Trek wiki which I reference all the damn time. Lt. Mira Romaine is onboard to supervise the equipment transfer, and—very unfortunately—she and Scotty are in love. I say unfortunately because despite being extremely competent 99% of the time, Scotty is apparently the Absolute Goddamn Worst when he falls in love, completely unable to prioritize, do his job, or answer basic questions. Also, it’s important to know that while Mira has both a name and a rank, rarely does anyone but Scotty actually use it. She is continuously and maddeningly referred to as “the girl” by everyone—or, in Scotty’s case, “the lass.”

The Enterprise encounters a very strange, very colorful phenomenon—let’s call it Space Fireworks—that incapacitates everyone in different ways. Mira is the only one who gets hypnotized, though, and weird sounds come out of her mouth after she collapses. She’s also unreasonably agitated by her mandatory checkup in Sickbay, but Scotty decides it’s just nerves because this is Mira’s first deep space assignment. Soon, the Space Fireworks appear again, this time attacking Memory Alpha. Everybody on the planetoid dies, and the memory archives are completely destroyed—a tragedy that is noted once and then never mentioned again. Mira has a psychic vision of the corpses (I swear to God, I initially thought one of them was a werewolf), but even when she finally tells Scotty, he insists that it’s just Space Hysteria, or whatever, and that she’s under no obligation to tell anyone else. I want to murder him. I want to cut his heart out with a spoon.

Turns out, the Space Fireworks are actually the last survivors of Zetar—or what’s left of them, anyway. (Kinda like TNG’s “Power Play!” Okay, not really—those guys were prisoners—but still. I’m having a lot of TNG nostalgia here, maybe because the aliens’ voices also remind me of Possessed Troi in “Clues.”) Communicating through Mira (which Spock unnecessarily explains for the audience—it’s an embarrassment), we find out that the aliens are looking for a compatible corporeal host, and that they’re fully prepared to kill everyone if they don’t get it. To their credit, though, our heroes never suggest giving up on Mira, and even more refreshingly, Mira doesn’t offer to surrender herself, either. I genuinely like the moment when she says, “Life was given to me. It is mine. I want to live it out. I will.”

Scotty puts Mira in a pressure chamber, which kills the aliens, and the day is saved. It’s decided that Mira doesn’t need any additional time off for further medical or psychological evaluation (Mira, herself, doesn’t seem to have any voice in this decision), as she fought back well against psychic invasion, and also because’s Scotty’s love will undoubtedly help her recovery. FFS. Instead, they head back to Memory Alpha because Mira’s got a lot of work ahead of her—the understatement of the fucking century, since the computers are apparently forever fucked and everyone there is dead, but you know. Let’s not worry about that now; this is Holy OT3 Banter Time!

Chief Asshat: Scotty, no question.

MVP: . . . I think I’m giving MVP to the Space Fireworks. They’re hilarious and delightful.

Grade: Rocky Road

Line of the Episode: “Somehow, I find transporting into the darkness unnerving.”

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