Captain’s log: stardate 3287.2
Operation – Annihilate! closes out the first season of Trek. It was written by Steven W. Carabatsos and aired on 13 April, 1967.
Playing as almost straight-up horror, this episode is a lot of fun, and introduces Kirk’s (William Shatner) family, his brother, Sam (also Shatner, with mustache) his wife, Aurelan (Joan Swift), and his nephew Peter (Craig Huxley) – something never revisited in the series.
An invasion of sorts is taking place on Deneva, a pattern that seems to move from planet to planet and the Enterprise is going to find out what it is. They discover the cause strange, flying, parasitical amoeba type creatures that control their hosts and drive them to madness as they spread.
When Spock (Leonard Nimoy) becomes infected, Kirk, McCoy (DeForest Kelley) and the crew of the Enterprise need to figure out what is going on, and how to stop these creatures.
A number of horror tropes come into play – blockading yourself in to keep some Thing out, the loss of self, being taken over, and being controlled, strange creatures that will not be negotiated, understood, and seemingly impossible to stop.
Watching Aurelan panic and wail on the sick bay’s med bed, I actually remembered being a little freaked out by this episode. Something that didn’t happen until she started screaming. A scream that climaxed with her death.
That is scary stuff to a youngster, especially one who was not a fan of horror films until much later in life.
Sure, even then, the images of the flying, buzzing pancakes seemed a little goofy, but when one latched itself to Spock, I couldn’t help but be freaked out. I didn’t know what was going to happen to him, was he going to live? Was anyone going to survive the episode? Was this the end of the series?
I didn’t know anything about the way television stories worked back then – the idea that the show had to be back to square one by episode’s end so things could have a fresh start the following week – and poor Spock! Under the control of the creature he posed a threat to all my other friends on the ship, but he was also my friend and obviously under some kind of duress.
It’s a scary thought.
And as McCoy reminds us, it’s not just Spock, and Kirk’s nephew who are suffering from this, there are, in fact, over one million colonists on the planet below suffering from the same thing.
Happily, McCoy, Spock and Kirk come up with a way to drive the creatures out, though there is a tense few minutes when it’s discovered that the cure has blinded Spock – until a touch of unique biology is unveiled. This could have been avoided had they waited for the full report on the death of the first creature.
The need for drama apparently.
Still, the captain and his crew save the day, and the Enterprise journeys towards season 2!
Captain’s log: stardate 3372.7
Season two got underway on 15 September, 1967 with this classic episode penned by Theodore Sturgeon. The episode sees DeForest’s name in the title credits, and a young ensign, Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig) joins the crew.
Spock enters the Pon Farr, the Vulcan mating ritual which only occurs once every seven years.The dramatic side is that it evokes a very emotional response from him, verging on anger and violence as he suffers aboard the Enterprise. Poor Nurse Chapel (Majel Barrett), who has been in love with Spock forever gets the brunt of it in the opening teaser.
It puts a strain on the relationships between Kirk, Spock and McCoy, until the two Earthmen discover the cause of the Vulcan’s problem.
They travel to the science officer’s home planet, where he is forced to fight for the hand of his betrothed, T’Pring (Arlene Martel). Unfortunately for our heroes, T’Pring, in a devious move, chooses Kirk to fight for her, and the two friends find themselves in combat… to the death.
Cue the now iconic, often lampooned fight music. Sure it’s easy to poke fun at it now, but as a child seeing these two friends forced to fight each other was rather troubling for me. I echoed Spock’s emotional relief when Kirk is revealed at the end of the episode.
In terms of episodes this one does wonders for introducing the concepts of Vulcan society, we are introduced to the hand salute, as well as the phrase ‘live long and prosper.’ This is the first time we see Vulcans other than Spock in the series, and also hear the Spock Theme by Gerald Fried.
What a fantastic episode, and great way to open the season (though season premieres aren’t the things they are now)!
It expands the universe greatly by bringing us to Vulcan and showing us Spock’s culture, and it made an indelible impression on countless viewers. I knew I found it… fascinating.
Spock was always a great character, but never my favourite, then it was Kirk, and while the captain is still one of my favourites, I find McCoy to be more akin to my personality now.
This is arguably one of the best episodes of the entire series, it’s tense, well-crafted and features some of the best character moments for all three characters, solidifying their relationship.
I love the dialogue, the moments, the humour which is interwoven seamlessly into the story. All of it just works, and works brilliantly well.
The Human Adventure continues…