Monday, June 29, 2009

Star Trek-"Is There in Truth No Beauty?"

“Is There in Truth No Beauty?” is a decent installment of the fairly mediocre third season. It rarely makes anyone’s best list and it does not make mine, either, but it deals with emotional issues in a more subdued manner than most TOS efforts. I appreciate the effort.

It is another of the rare episodes in which the guest stars have a big role. Dana Muldaur appears a second time in TOS as Dr. Minerva Jones, a telepath who studied on Vulcan how to tune out emotions when reading others. She is joined by larry marvick, one of the designers of the Enterprise’s engines, and Kollos, a Medusan ambassador so ugly to human sight, he has to remain hidden in a box to prevent anyone gazing upon him from going mad. Medusans are fantastic navigators. The Federation would like to use them to guide their ships. It is Miranda’s job--one Spock turned down--to establish a mind meld in order to perfect communication.

At a formal dinner, Minerva senses someone at the table is plotting murder. It turns out to be Marvick, another Federation official who is insane. They really should improve the psychiatric exams in their recruiting process. Marvick is in love with Minerva. He does not want her to go off with Kollos, so he pans to kill the ambassador. In the attempt, he catches a glimpse of the ambassador and goes even further cuckoo. He breaks into engineering and sends the ship across time and space to a point the crew cannot figure out how to get back before he dies under the strain of madness.

I have to note the whole concet of a galactic barrier in Trek is a murky one for continuity buffs. It has been featured a couple times in all, but for most of Trek, the idea there is an edge to the galaxy that is easily reachable does not seem to exist. I like that idea better. I think you can reconcile the time travel aspect of Marvick’s actions may explain why they reached the barrier so quickly, but the less you think about it, the better.

The twist here is Minerva is blind, but has been faking sight with some sort of artificial radar sense. Well it works for Daredevil. The point is she cannot meld with Kollos because she cannot see to navigate the ship. Spock can, but he would have to wear protective goggles to do so. Spock melds successfully and Kollos leads them to safety, but Spock forgets (?!) to put on his goggles and therefore sees kollos in all his glory. Spock goes nutty, too. Minerva can meld with him to repair the damage, but she does not want to. Kirk accuses her of jealousy. Out of guilt over the realization she is jealous, she melds with spock, repairs the damage to his mind, and gains the ability to connect with Kollos in the process.

The main themes of the episode are beauty and jealousy. McCoy wonders out loud why Minerva would devote her life to seeking communication with something as ugly as a Medusan. Inexplicably, Minerva notes McCoy has devoted his life to exposure to suffering and disease. That is true, but McCoy is a doctor trying to eliminate suffering and disease, not connect with it. Before the audience can note the illogical comparison, Spock scolds McCoy, noting that not all good things are beautiful.

The jealousy theme is dealt with a wee bot more maturely, at least in Minerva’s case. She is obviously overwhelmed in dealing with the emotions of others. One can easily assume her own are immature and difficult to manage. But Marvick is just another crazy Federation official. There was not a plausible excuse why a brilliant scientist like him would develop the serial killer mentality that murdering someone a love interest values will make her fall in love with you. I wish his motivation had been more intelligent.

There were many references to The Tempest, with Minerva as Prospero’s virginal daughter and Kollos/Spock as the monster Caliban. On a less literary note, the Vulcan IDIC (pictured above) was overtly called attention to in one scene because Gene Roddenberry was trying to sell them through a toy company. In order to make a fast buck of his dying show. Classy move, that.

Rating: ** *(out of 5)

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