Pros: interesting story
Cons: too many gimmicks, and why does a machine eat fruit? Nothing new
This is the fifth episode in the second season of Star Trek, originally aired on October 13, 1967.
The screenplay by Max Ehrlich presents a pastiche of bits and pieces of other Star Trek episodes, framed by the main story of H. G. Wells novel The Time Machine and sprinkled with bits of that blockbuster science fiction film The Day of the Triffids.
The actors amaze me with their ability to deliver corny lines with a straight face in this string of cliches.
The Enterprise finds a planet where the people live forever and never suffer from aging or disease. All seems peaceful in this paradise, until rocks start exploding like land mines and plants shoot out spores that kill people. The native villagers are all followers of Vaal, the despotic demigod of this poor imitation of the Garden of Eden. Later, one of the gentle natives with orange skin and white hair picks up a stick and shows the others how to beat members of the landing party to death.
Vaal turns out to be a machine inside a skull-shaped cave. Vaal uses a tractor beam to snatch the Enterprise, and it also stops the transporter from working. Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy are trapped on the planet, and the four red-shirted members of their security detail are being killed off, so they must put an end to Vaals power.
Kirk figures out that the people are feeding the machine, so the landing party must stop them. It turns out to be very easy to round up the natives, who give little resistance beyond whining and fussing about how hungry Vaal is. Without trays of food supplied by the natives, Vaal loses power and goes silent.
The people are lost without their god, but Kirk assure them that they are capable of taking care of themselves. They have lost paradise, but that is a good thing, since Vaal has kept them stagnant as individuals and as a culture.
Lets see, senior officers join the landing party, which never would happen in the real world. Captain Kirk falls in love, Mr. Spock is the only crew member who can survive an attack by killer plant spores, the guys in the red shirts get killed, the Enterprise is in danger, and once again Kirk ignores the Prime Directive not to interfere with developing civilizations. At least the woman who falls in love with Kirk doesnt die in this episode; she gets a broken heart, but not a broken neck.
What I Dont Like
Perhaps this episode is where the movie producers got the idea for Zardoz, which features a flying machine that looks a lot like Vaal, the huge boulder shaped like a head, whose mouth leads into a cave. However, this episode stole all of its ideas from other Star Trek episodes, as well as other writers books and movies, most notably H. G. Wells novel The Time Machine and that blockbuster science fiction film The Day of the Triffids.
In this case, the people going down into the cave area feeding their god with fruits and vegetables, whereas the Eloi in Wells novel were being eaten by cannibals. Now, I could understand it if Vaal drew his power from the exploding rocks, but really, how much electricity can you get from a plate of food?
The spores, shot by the plants that look just like Triffids, kill people. (Note: Never wear a red shirt in a Star Trek episode.)
This episode is, quite unintentionally, a series of low comedy routines punctuated by exploding rocks and killer plants. The few attempts at humor fall flat. It is funny when it should be serious, and lame when it should be funny.
What I Liked
I did enjoy seeing David Soul running around half naked, orange skin, white hair and all, as Makora. This was before he became famous as one of the stars of Starsky and Hutch, a TV show that I barely remember, except that we used to affectionately call it Husky and Starch, and David Soul was the blond guy.
I dont know why I like this episode. Maybe its because it is still better than the infamous third season of Star Trek, which was so bad.
Star Trek fans might like this episode, but even the most loyal fans would never rate it above three stars. I give it two stars, but I recommend it anyway.
Thank you so much for reading my review!