Sunday, July 12, 2009

Star Trek--"The Lights of Zetar"

We are in the home stretch of TOS reviews. There are only six more to go after today. The writing was obviously on the wall at this point regarding cancellation. The final few episodes are a wild mix of ups and downs in regards to quality and attempts at social commentary. Thankfully, only one, ‘The Cloud Minders,’ relies heavily on the latter. But I will get to that when I get to that.

“The Lights of Zetar” is interesting for a couple of reasons. One, it was written by Shari Lewis of Lambchops fame and her husband, Jeremy Tarcher. Both were fans of the show and wanted to contribute to the mythos. The second point of note is the emphasis on Scotty. The third season was rough on secondary cast members, but Scotty in particular. He has been little more than a source of techno babble and a verbal sparring partner for Spock since ’Wolf in the Fold.” I did not care much for “Wolf in the Fold,” but in some ways “The Lights of Zetar” carries on the theme of Scotty’s loneliness from that episode. He deeply falls in love with Mira Romaine here, one of the few times someone other than Kirk, Spock, or McCoy gets to do so.

I am afraid my familiarity with 24th century Trek gets the best of me when analyzing the rst of the plot, however. When a cloud of lights attacks the Federation library planet, it kills everyone there, but goes to inhabit the body of information specialist romaine, who is particularly susceptible because of health reasons. The lights are actually non-corporeal beings who claim they have a right to inhabit romaine’s body because that is the only way they can survive. Their rationale is the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Sound familiar? Scotty will have none of that ad neither will the rest of the crew. They drive the Zetars out into space through some techno babble means where they die.

There was no moral debate over whether the Zetars are correct. In any of the series set in the 24th century, that moral quandary would have been the bulk of the story. Should you sacrifice one of your own people so a civilization can survive/ they have murdered everyone on the library planet, but is it justified in the name of survival? Scotty has fallen for Romaine, so there would be a personal touch to her loss. But we do not get any of that. It is true certain subsequent Treks probably gave too much leeway to the position most opposed to Federation ideals, but “The Lights of Zetar” went too far in the other direction.

The humanization of scotty goesa long way towards making up for the shortcomings. If there had been a greater umber of character episodes like this featuring the rest of the ensemble cast, TOS might have lasted much longer.

Rating: *** (out of 5).

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