Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Star Trek--"The Enemy Within"

You know, with all the problems the transporters causes, it is a wonder anyone willing uses them. “The Enemy Within” features the first of many transporter mishaps that will occur over the forty year run of trek, in every television series, and the first movie. It is also the first time we have a Kirk double. The plot will be repeated several times--including a couple episodes down the line--but this is probably the best of the lot.

This is also the closest we ever get to TOS featuring concurrent stoyrlines in a single episode. A transporter accident splits Kirk into two people. One is timid while the other brutish. The crew cannot use the transporter again until they figure out how to prevent the accident from occurring again. It is a race against time as the landing party are trapped on a planet below at risk of freezing to death.

I have to note the glaring plot hole: no reason is ever given why the Enterprise cannot send a shuttlecraft for their stranded comrades. A simple line added in that the blizzard made a shuttle landing impossible would suffice, but we got nothing. The idea of a shuttlecraft coming to the rescue had to be ignored for the sake of drama.

Speaking of drama, it is this episode where William Shatner earns his perhaps undeserved reputation for overacting. He really hams it up as Animal Kirk, but in all honesty, a man who was nothing but the pure dark side of human nature would act exactly the way Shatner played him.

The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde theme was done well here. In the classic novel, Dr. Jekyll hoped to purge himself of his evil nature. Here the Timid Kirk is embarrassed the Animal Kirk was ever a part of him. Timid kirk realizes he needs both parts of himself in order to be a complete person. As one who believes in the sinful nature of man, I do not buy the argument. One’s brutish natural instincts are a detriment with no value whatsoever. I gather no Christian theology went into the writing of “The Enemy Within,” so there is really no point in discussing it further. Obviously in Trek philosophy, the dual nature of man is necessary as long as the good can sufficiently suppress the bad.

I cannot avoid mentioning the most uncomfortable scene. Animal Kirk accosts his assistant, Yaoman Janice Rand, with the intention of sexually assaulting her. She gets away before he can do so. The actress, Grace Lee Whitney, only appears in eight of the first thirteen episodes before she was released from her contract. Her firing was related to her alleged sexual assault by an executive attached to the show she still refuses to name. All things considered, it is an unfortunate scene to have in one of her few appearances.

Aside from the introduction of transporter accidents to Trek lore, we also learn much about Spock. For the first time, we see him use the Vulcan nerve pinch. We also learn he is half human as he uses his struggle to suppress human emotions as a metaphor for Kirk’s split personality. It is interesting because Vulcan emotions are supposedly much more intense than human. One gathers it is not so much the power of the human emotions, but the self-loathing Spock feels because he is a half breed. The theme will come up several more times in the first season alone.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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