Star Trek (TAS) “How Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth” (part 4 of 4)
Kukulcan is humbled by the ass-whooping from Spock and getting saved from the power cat by his “children”. Kirk and Bones use this opportunity to state mankind’s case to the now humbled alien. Yes, they concede they were like Kukulcan’s children once, and he was there when they most needed him. But “we’ve grown up… now. We… don’t need you… any more…”
God, I love Shatner’s style of delivery. It never gets old.
Kukulcan concedes defeat. He’s a parent at last realizing his kids no longer need him, and that instead of waiting for the kids to call, he should have gotten off his ass to see how they were doing, so he lets the four humans go. Later, back on Enterprise, the crew watches Kukulcan’s ship head off into space. McCoy recalls a line from Shakespeare, but Kirk literarily cock-blocks him and quotes it first.
“Indeed,” Spock says, as he suppresses a manly tear. His man is back in the captain’s chair. All is right with his world, the end.
This episode was written by David Wise, a TV writer specializing in cartoons, although he did write one of the best Buck Rogers episodes, “Space Vampire” (like this TAS episode, it used the theme of Earth superstition having a basis in extraterrestrial fact). He was also the guy who wrote the first animated Transformers episodes.
Russell Bates was his co-writer, who only wrote two television episodes: this one, and an episode of Isis (“The Lights of Mystery Mountain”). It was directed by Bill Reed, who’s been involved in a wide variety of animated TV shows over the last thirty years.
But here’s something I find very interesting: The concept of this episode? It had already been done before.
We already saw the god-who-was-an-alien story in “Who Mourns for Adonais?”, including the part about the alien grabbing Enterprise with a force field.
And it turned out pretty much the same way, with the alien being upset that humans weren’t going to kiss his ass. But strangely enough, the cartoon episode handles this concept far better. Legends about snake gods are much cooler than some guy in a loincloth chillin’ with a bunch of sheepherders in Greece. And while it’s only implied in the Original Series episode, there’s no doubt in my mind Apollo rapes Lieutenant Palamas.
Not cool, Rodenberry. Not. Cool. That episode was written by Gilbert Ralston, by the way, his only contribution to Trek. I can see why. Marc Daniels was the director, who was involved in everything from the awesome “Space Seed” to the awesomely bad “Spock’s Brain”. “Adonais” sort of falls somewhere in the middle.
This episode of TAS was also likely inspired by the mania going on during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, thanks to a book called Chariots of the Gods, which speculated that ancient aliens had visited Earth. It was later made into an Oscar-nominated documentary.
Finally, one of the reasons I chose this as my second episode was due to this guy.
Chakotay, generic Native American. His people and his tribe were never identified, because that would have meant the producers, directors, and writers would have actually had to do research. Instead, his “heritage” was used as a plot convenience to describe how “ancient peoples” lived, and how superior their values were. Initially, I thought of Walkingbear as the proto-Chakotay.
But that is not so! Walkingbear is Comanche, and he has an interest in various North, Central, and South American ancient cultures. Is it a little too convenient? Yeah, sure. But this is the franchise that has characters commonly running into their exes across the galaxy, so I’m giving them a pass. I just find it interesting that writers of a cartoon series in 1974 showed more maturity and racial sensitivity than a bunch of hacks in the ‘90s.