Star Trek - Episode 5

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Good Kirk, Bad Kirk, Star Trek, The Enemy Within

Feb 25, 2008
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Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

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Pros:a good psychological study, suspenseful action

Cons:Shatnerís hammy acting, a few minor flaws

The Bottom Line: a fascinating psychological study of those parts of our character which we repress in order to participate in polite society - beam me up, Scotty!


Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

Richard Matheson’s script is one of the finest. On the other hand, the title does not fit the story. And unfortunately, the acting falls short. There are a few other flaws, but they are minor, in my opinion.

This episode introduces the “Vulcan nerve pinch”, which Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) uses to render people unconscious. Nimoy has said that Spock was originally supposed to beat people up, but he suggested pinching their necks instead, since it would be less work for the actor. This is the beginning of Spock’s evolution as a spiritual character, making the Vulcans a peaceful race, as opposed to the violent Klingons.

Plot

While gathering geological samples from the planet Alpha 177, a crew member transports up to the Enterprise with magnetic ore stuck to his uniform. Then a transporter malfunction splits Captain Kirk (William Shatner) into two people, one good and one bad. These two halves of his personality must be put back together, or both will die. The problem is that the bad side, who has been repressed for many years, likes his freedom does not want to go back.

Chief Engineer Scotty (James Doohan) sees that Kirk is stumbling and weak when he transports up from the planet, so he helps him to sick bay. When the bad side appears a few minutes later, nobody is there to see what has happened. They must figure it out after they learn that someone is “impersonating” Captain Kirk.

The situation is complicated by the fact that the remaining crew members on the planet cannot be beamed back up until the transporter is repaired. They are freezing as night falls and the temperature drops below zero, so they must be rescued. If you wonder why they did not send a shuttle craft to rescue them, that prop had not been introduced yet when this episode was made. In fact, they had decided to use the transporter instead of a shuttle craft because it would cost less money. Besides, rescuing them with a shuttle craft would have reduced the narrative tension that keeps the viewers involved.

They send down blankets, but they do not dare send people through the malfunctioning transporter. Lieutenant Sulu (George Takei) uses his phaser (laser gun) to heat the nearby rocks and keep the stranded crew members warm, but the phaser is running out of power.

At first the good Kirk believes that an impostor is on board. The bad Kirk does not care. He is more interested in satisfying his animalistic desires than in running the ship. He demands Saurian brandy, tries to rape Yeoman Rand (Grace Lee Whitney) and stirs up trouble wherever he goes.

The good Kirk is sweet and gentle, while the bad Kirk is angry and aggressive. The good Kirk is always tired and asks others to help him make decisions, while the bad Kirk acts wild and sweats a lot.

As the story progresses, we learn that the good Kirk needs his bad side because he is weak-minded and has great difficulty making decisions. At the end we learn that the bad Kirk is wounded and needs his good side to offer nurturing support. Mr. Spock analyzes the situation and determines that Kirk draws his strength from the darker side of his character. They must convince the bad Kirk that he needs his good half, or both will die.

They learn, and viewers learn with them, that the human personality is complex. In fact, each half is neither completely good nor completely evil. Each half has its own strengths and weaknesses, and both need each other to form a complete person.

Even though both Kirks look the same, Spock can tell the good Kirk from the bad Kirk by observing their behavior and listening to what they say.

Analysis

First, I would have changed the title to “Impostor”, since it would fit the plot better. This futuristic version of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde is brilliant in conception but flawed in execution. The human condition forms the bedrock of good storytelling, and this episode focuses on the very human paradox that good people have an evil side, and evil people have a good side.

Problems

As in so many episodes, senior officers - Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Sulu - get transported to a planet’s surface for a routine mission that does not really require their presence.

I do not understand why they didn’t send down tents or phasers or portable heaters to the crew members who were freezing on the planet.

I also do not understand why Scotty had to put Kirk back together first, instead of rescuing the crew members first. Once he had fixed the transporter, why didn’t he beam them up right away, instead of working on Kirk’s problem?

They don’t seem to understand how planets are named. “Alpha 177” would be the 177th planet in orbit around a star called Alpha. It is highly unlikely that a star would have that many planets, or that number 177 would be near enough to the star to see it as more than a pinpoint of light.

William Shatner hams it up. He does not seem to take his role or the program seriously. In Shakespearean terms, and he did train as a Shakespearean actor, he is playing Falstaff (the clown) when he ought to be playing Hamlet (the tragic hero).

Highlights

The transporter is tested by putting a dog-like pet through it, and it comes back as two dogs. When it dies, that shows them that Kirk is also going to die. This is the first time of many when we hear Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) say, “He’s dead, Jim.”

Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley and George Takei play their roles competently, and Grace Lee Whitney shines in the role of Yeoman Rand, which she played several times before the actress was sidelined by substance abuse problems. She did return for some of the “Star Trek” movies.

When the good Kirk and the bad Kirk embrace, the scene displays the universal psychological human need to comfort, support and accept all the parts of ourselves.

Recommendation

Flawed as it is, I do recommend this episode. It is entertaining, and it has meaning and suspense. I can overlook the flaws and enjoy the story that it tells.

~~~

Thank you so much for reading my Epinion!

~~~


Recommend this product? Yes


Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV


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