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After "Tribbles," "Khan," and "Mirror, Mirror," here's Part 2 of the second tier episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series.
Despite all the compelling and highly competent officers on the Enterprise, Tholian Web shows how much we need our captain. That's even if we're afraid to admit it.
Spock still holds his own as the Tholians take hold, though. But the Captain's chair is empty, and it's deeply felt.
The remains of the holy trinity are the most in need, and it’s up to McCoy to do the honors. Bones marks his turf, and makes his typical case that starships don't just run on dilithium crystals. “The Captain's last order is top priority, and you will honor that order before you take over,” he implores Spock.
The dire situation put on reset for the combative duo, Kirk’s insight re-establishes the crucial midpoint between Vulcan logic and human emotion. This allows them to step back and right the ship. As such, Kirk can only be taken aback by an unfamiliar truce. “Oh, we managed. Mister Spock gave the orders, and I found the answers,” Bones deflects.
Or maybe just paused, so Bones and Spock could go their corners and remain in wait for Captain Kirk to keep them centered. Yes, we really need our captain.
Patterns of Force
In George W. Bush’s lesser days, he commented that it would be nice if he could be a dictator every once in a while. People got pretty mad and overreacted to the frustrated musing of leading the free world. For better affect, he might have quoted Churchill instead. ("Democracy is the worst form of government — except for all the others.")
So you get an understanding of what John Gill was up to when the Enterprise arrives at Nazi Germany on the Federation planet, Ekos. Actually you don’t at first, and along with Kirk and Spock, wonder what the heck Gene Roddenberry has up his sleeve. History and Gill remind us of the reemergence of Germany under the Third Reich. “Took lesson from Earth history,” he defends his choice. “Most efficient state Earth ever knew.”
Unfortunately, the unifying principal that enabled economic success is a “fragmented planet,” and the losers were made to pay. “Because without us to hate, there'd be nothing to hold them together. So the Party has built us into a threat, a disease to be wiped out,” Isak voices the repression of the Zeon minority.
Even so, Spock goes in search of the logic. “Perhaps Gill felt that such a state, run benignly, could accomplish its efficiency without sadism,” he reasons.
Such a comparison could be drawn to the success post war Japan and Germany had under the tutelage of the United States. So credit due in our ability to resist natural human inclination. “What he's saying, Spock, is that a man who holds that much power, even with the best intentions, just can't resist the urge to play God,” McCoy lectures.
But no more Nazis - OK.
Oh, the tragedy of Star Trek, strangled in its infancy after only 79 episodes. Well, at least we’re not Firefly, but what might have been includes the loss of a recurring character that only had one extra turn.
Harry Mudd rules a heaven replete with androids ready to engage his every whim, and the thief, swindler and con man cannot stand it. So who better to rescue the self-proclaimed entrepreneur than the crew of the Enterprise.
His lack of appreciation holds no bounds either. “It's really a very, very nice place, and you're all going to be here quite probably for the rest of your lives,” he decrees from the foot of his fiefdom.
The set up obviously leaves the Kirk, Spock and Mudd to spar as co-equals.
MUDD: Do know what the penalty for fraud is on Deneb Five?
SPOCK: The guilty party has his choice. Death by electrocution, death by gas, death by phaser, death by hanging.
MUDD: The key word in your entire peroration, Mister Spock, was, death. Barbarians. Well, of course, I left.
KIRK: He broke jail.
MUDD: I borrowed transportation.
KIRK: He stole a spaceship.
MUDD: The patrol reacted in a hostile manner.
KIRK: They fired at him.
MUDD: They've no respect for private property.
But the enemy of my enemy is my friend and forces are joined around the laws of logic. “He lied. Everything Harry tells you is a lie. Remember that. Everything Harry tells you is a lie,” Kirk sets “Norman” up so Mudd can knock ‘em down.
“Listen to this carefully, Norman. I am lying,” Mudd remains on his roll.
The androids falter and order is restored to the universe. Mudd reassumes the throne (next to Stella 500), and the start of a beautiful friendship… was not to be.
That really hurts.
The Deadly Years
Nothing really thought-provoking in "The Deadly Years," but once again, we see how much we need our Captain. Only this time there’s nothing symbolic about the empty chair. Kirk, Bones and Spock indisposed, the vastly incompetent Starfleet Commodore over exaggerates the importance of Kirk’s swivel at the center.
“The Romulans don't take prisoners,” Chekov accentuates Enterprise’s dire incursion in the Neutral Zone.
But the set up still feels good and nothing says command presence like the bridge crew’s reaction to Kirk’s reemergence. Of course, he has to follow through, because we didn’t drop all our toys as kids to play along with a Captain who believed in no win scenarios.
“Code 2,” Kirk delivers the goods, and it’s just another day in the neutral zone.