Star Trek: The Original Series (1966) – Dagger of the Mind and The Corbomite Maneuver

Captain’s Log: Stardate 2712.4

I didn’t understand what the penal colony on Tantalus was exactly when I was child. I understood that it was a prison, but the why and wherefores of the inhabitants escaped me. I do know that Dr. Simon van Gelder (Morgan Woodward) freaked me out – there was a scariness about his performance that I didn’t understand at that age, but knew it was something to be afraid of. His performance is enhanced with a number of close-ups, and his huge eyes!

Dagger of the Mind was written by Shimon Wincelberg and had an airdate of 3 November, 1966. It explored the concept of prisons, as well as the idea of controlling the inhabitants, mentally. And it seems that some of the people may have been on the wrong side of things. We also get an introduction to the Vulcan mind-meld!

Kirk (William Shatner) and the lovely Helen Noel (Marianna Hill) beam down to the penal colony to investigate the going-ons there. It’s also a fun moment when Kirk realises that he and Noel had a bit of a thing at the ship’s Christmas party. Oh dear.

Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and McCoy (DeForest Kelley) make a number of comments about human nature, the violence we deliver on one another, and the treatment of those who employ it for personal reasons.

While a lot of the subject matter of prisons and penal colonies was over my head when I was a child, I understood the concepts of mind control and through the episode saw how terrible such a thing could be; how one could be exploited, and forced to live in their bodies like a prison.

Spock and Kirk dig into the mystery when they learn who van Gelder is, and Dr. Adams (James Gregory) is happy to show Kirk and Noel around the colony, and unfortunately the pair fall under the deadly beam, the neural neutralyzer, that Adams and van Gelder created to control the population.

And it just goes to show how captivated by the show I was… there aren’t a lot of action beats in this episode at all, but there are a lot of things going on that I found, well, fascinating.

Kirk finds himself in some serious trouble, and that remains one of the things I’ve always liked about his character; the risks he takes for his ship and for his crew. Happily, Noel, Spock and McCoy effect a rescue for the trapped captain, and that in the end, van Gelder’s sanity is restored, and the neutralyzer is destroyed.

I like the introspection at the end of the episode; the hold on Shatner’s face as he sits in his chair and recalls what he went through. Those moments became just as important to me as the action beats. I loved things like that which expanded and affected the character.

But man, van Gelder was creepy…

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Captain’s Log: Stardate 1512.2

Ah Balok, man his avatar was creepy when I was a kid, especially when I watched the show’s credits and it would show it, but I hadn’t seen the episode yet. That one made me anxious.

The Corbomite Maneuver originally aired on 10 November, 1966 and was penned by Jerry Sohl. It got to show Kirk and company at their best aboard the Enterprise. Featuring appearances by a young Clint Howard and Anthony D. Call as Lt. Bailey the episode is strongly written and performed (though for some reason, Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) is in command gold).

When the Enterprise destroys a marker buoy left by Balok’s giant ship, the Fesarius, that is interfering with their own explorations, they are brought into confrontation with the massive vessel, and Kirk and crew must figure a way to out maneuver the alien, without violence, and confrontation.

The episode deals with the fear of the other, and deals with it in a realistic and strong way, from fear to exploration, it’s all explored.

When I finally saw the episode as a child, this one really caught my attention, it was the first episode I saw that took place almost entirely aboard the Enterprise, specifically the bridge.

You can imagine then, that this episode served me very well at my school desk, when I started to daydream.

Call’s Bailey is is very much the representation of the every man in this episode. All the other characters are already established, we’ve seen them be heroic, Bailey can react as the common person would when confronted with the unknown.

I love the character moments with Kirk and Spock, and Kirk and McCoy, and for once, I feel, we get a real look at how things work on a starship. There are tests, procedures, routines, and character beats that truly bring the universe to life.

Poor Nichelle has five lines in the episode, and they are all the same thing… “Hailing frequencies open.” No wonder she thought about leaving the show at the end of the first season.

I love Kirk’s communication with his crew, reminding them, and us, of their mission, and why they are out there, exploring. And in true Federation fashion when Balok needs help, even after threatening them, the Enterprise comes to the rescue.

This one episode deals with fear and the unknown wonderfully, and illustrates Star Trek at its best.

This one is still a favourite.

…and the Human Adventure continues…

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