Star Trek (TAS) “The Infinite Vulcan” (part 1 of 4)
Before we get cracking on this little beauty of an episode, I want to make one thing absolutely clear: I love the original Star Trek. I love it a lot. Even those third season episodes that rely rather too heavily on purple jumpsuits and songs about bananas. And yet here I am, about to piss all over it from a great height. What can I say? I’m an odd girl. Think of it as a juvenile mark of affection, like when a ten-year-old boy gives the girl he fancies a dead leg on the playground. Why say “I love you” when you can give a dead leg instead? Consider this my dead leg to the cast and crew of Star Trek.
Extra special dead leg loving goes to Walter Koenig who, despite not appearing as Chekhov in the animated series (alas), penned this episode, and thus provided me with 24 minutes of total hilarity, for which I am eternally grateful. It must take quite a mind to come up with some of the more cracked-out visual concepts in “The Infinite Vulcan”, especially one concerning a certain mythical beast crossed with a certain staple of Italian cuisine. But you’ll be hearing a great deal more about that in just a moment.
This episode is so gloriously demented, and so blissfully divorced from reality, that all the woolly science, incomprehensible plot developments, and spaced-out animation only add to the experience. So what if the main villain’s plot makes no real sense? So what if the episode suggests that cloning might be a good way to create giants? So what if unconscious characters move around all by themselves, as if propelled by mysterious forces? Just drink up and it’ll all make perfect sense.
The episode starts with a standard shot of the Enterprise basically crawling through space (hey, why hurry?). There’s a Kirk log entry VO which informs us that the crew has been assigned to explore a new planet on the periphery of the galaxy.
Now seems as good a time as any to point out, in case you’ve never seen an episode of the animated series, that William Shatner’s voice work throughout is indicative of extreme boredom. He makes it seem as though everything the Enterprise encounters during this period of time is, to Captain Kirk anyway, totally unimpressive and not worthy of expending any actual emotion on.
The animation complements this nicely; his facial expressions are limited to an occasional furrowing of the eyebrows. Even Kirk’s action sequences have a sort of listlessness about them, as though he were fighting in a vacuum. I guess once you’ve been forced to have a dwarf ride you like a horse, it takes a lot to pique your interest.
Cut to the surface of the planet, which looks like the location of a long lost episode of My Little Pony in which, say, Lickety Split starts peddling cheap acid. Sulu says that “life signs are confused” (they’re confused?) and he can’t decipher them.
Spock adds that he’s getting a power reading from a nearby building. Peculiarly, we pan over to the landing party and find they’re depicted in silhouette, despite being in a brightly lit environment. Did the animators misplace their crayons?
Everyone wanders off except Sulu, who’s fiddling about with his tricorder. He looks up at the sky, and suddenly the sun blares really brightly in his face, for no particular reason. He looks down at the ground and notices a quivering pink puffball. Being George Takei, he’s thrilled by the excitement of it all. He yells for the captain, who wearily responds, “What is it, Mr. Sulu?”
Sulu says Kirk will have to come and see for himself, and then he immediately leaves the spot and walks over towards Kirk [?]. Luckily, the quivering pink puffball sprouts legs and scuttles over right along with him. Sulu speculates that it’s a “mobile plant” and says they’re “all over the place”, although how he knows this is beyond me, because the animators could only be bothered to draw the one.
Sulu says he thinks the plant likes him, and Kirk boredly replies that he always encourages his officers to make friends with the natives. Usually those natives are at least, you know, sentient, but I suppose this is the best Sulu could do.
Spock interjects. With his tricorder blaring away, he says that the power reading they detected now includes an “electronic probe”, and they’re currently being scanned. Everyone goes off to find the source of this, except for Sulu, whom Kirk orders to stay behind.
Sulu, of course, picks up the quivering pink puffball–safety precautions when you’re handling alien flora are for wusses, right?—and immediately shrieks and drops it like a hot potato. “Must have been a thorn,” he says to himself. Yes, that’s exactly what it must have been. Right, boys and girls?
Meanwhile, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are inside the building where the probe is housed. It’s sort of like an industrialized cave, with generic futuristic devices plonked in the middle with lots of blinking lights.
Spock is giving boring exposition on force fields, when McCoy interrupts to say that he’s picking up “a humanoid reading of incredible strength!” Then they hear a sound like someone battling chronic constipation. I can only presume this is Sulu, because a wipe (was that a poor choice of words after a constipation gag?) takes us back outside, where he’s passed out on the ground.
McCoy declares that Sulu’s been poisoned, and he’s only got “about one minute to live” unless they can come up with a solution, sharpish. McCoy tries out one antidote, but apparently it doesn’t work, because we hear him say “no good”. I say “apparently”, because while all this action is going on, we stay fixed the entire time on Sulu’s unconscious face. Also, Sulu’s whole upper body is in the shot while McCoy is allegedly administering the antidote, which leads me to wonder exactly where he’s applying that hypospray.
But that’s a happy thought for another time, because suddenly there’s a strange voice, and everyone turns to see… um…
Guys, I’m genuinely not sure I possess the skills to accurately, or even vaguely, describe the appearance of the creatures who have just shown up. Maybe it’s one of those things—like flying, or declaring world peace, or completing Final Fantasy XII in a single sitting—that seems really easy after taking a lot of mind-expanding drugs. (And I do apologize for the excessive number of drug references that seem to be cropping up in this recap, but honestly, it’s just not possible to discuss an episode of the animated series without alluding to narcotics once every twelve seconds. I can think of few televisual experiences that are as trippy and disorientating as this show. Whenever I watch the animated series, I find myself occasionally staring into my teacup and thinking “That was sweetener, right?”)
Okay, I’ll give it my best shot. The creatures are green, with heads the shape and texture of thimbles, with cress sprouting out of the top, and they each have, like, two gold antennae curling up from the centre. They have no ears, mouths or facial features of any kind, and where their arms would be are several limp tentacles that just sort of dangle there. I think they also have three legs. Look, I’m doing my best here.
They can speak, so I guess they’re also capable of cognitive thought and communication, which is bad news for Sulu—Otherwise, they’d be prime candidates for being his new best friends now that the pink puffball’s ditched on him.
The green thimblehead in front introduces himself as Agmar, and Kirk asks Spock for a reading on them. Spock says the results are “unclear” and it’ll take a moment. Are you impressed with the technological wizardry on display here? I know I am.
While Starfleet’s finest are twiddling their thumbs, Agmar bends over Sulu, and sort of plucks a drop of moisture out of his own head [??] with one of his tentacles. McCoy protests, saying he can’t let him “inject [Sulu] with some alien dewdrop!” Agmar points out that it’s Sulu’s only chance of survival, and Kirk boredly gives him (it?) the go-ahead.
Finally, Spock gets with the program and announces that the beings are of “botanical origin”. Thanks, Spock. Because the arms that look like green vines weren’t enough of a hint.
While everyone stands around stating the painfully obvious, Agmar (voiced by James Doohan, in a very slight variation on his Lt. Arex voice) says he’s completed the dewdrop treatment, and Sulu will respond momentarily.
Kirk takes this opportunity to make some listless introductions, and says, “You seem to have been expecting us.” Okay, where did he get that idea? But sure enough, Agmar confirms that they’ve been tracking the Enterprise crew, although they hung back from revealing themselves because they “have a fear of aliens.” Which comes across clearly, what with them speaking calmly and easily to aliens at this moment, and boldly rushing to the aid of a dying alien, and so forth.
They all blather on about the pink puffball, which Agmar identifies as “the retlaw plant”. And that’s “Walter” spelled backwards, as in Walter Koenig, the writer of this episode. Wow, Shakespeare himself would be green with envy at the wordplay going on here, I tell thee.
Agmar talks about how advanced their medicine is compared to Starfleet’s. Although, it must be said, even the scientific achievements of Cro-Magnon man seem advanced compared to Starfleet’s at this particular moment.
Sulu is now sitting with his head between his knees, looking like he’s trying to recover from a punishing round of tequila slammers. McCoy pronounces him healthy, and asks the thimbleheads how they knew their antidote would work. Agmar says there have been humanoid aliens here before. Why, hello there, plot point!
Spock inquires about their method of communication. It turns out the crystals they’re all wearing around their necks are translators, and not actually product placement for QVC’s jewelry hour like I originally thought. Although, why the other two guys bothered putting theirs on is beyond me, because Agmar does all the talking here. Come to think of it, why the other two guys even bothered to show up for this episode at all is beyond me, but then, that’s a question we could all be asking ourselves right now.