Star Trek (TAS) “The Terratin Incident” (part 3 of 3)

Down in Transporter Room 3, Spock hands Kirk a jury-rigged mini-communicator. See what I mean about him being the science guy with a planet-sized brain? He had, what, five minutes to slap this thing together, en route? Without tools? Kirk takes the communicator as if he expected no less (and really, after three seasons of Spock’s awesomeness on TOS, he shouldn’t. In fact, I’m surprised Kirk doesn’t ask why Spock didn’t build a tiny tricorder while he was at it), and tells Scotty to rig the transporter for an automatic ten-minute return. Scotty activates the transporter…

Star Trek (TAS) "The Terratin Incident" (part 3 of 3)
Star Trek (TAS) "The Terratin Incident" (part 3 of 3)
Star Trek (TAS) "The Terratin Incident" (part 3 of 3)

…and let me just say with all honesty, I’m lovin’ the visuals in this episode.

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Kirk beams down… and finds himself normal size again. He calls back up to the Enterprise on that magnificent work of art Spock constructed, and lets him know that there’s a solution to their height problem.

Star Trek (TAS) "The Terratin Incident" (part 3 of 3)

He explores a bit, and shit gets seriously real as the nearby volcanic eruptions increase in intensity. Kirk then spots what looks like a miniature alien city.

Star Trek (TAS) "The Terratin Incident" (part 3 of 3)

And that’s when the automatic return transport whisks him back up to the Enterprise, where it appears Kirk is now alone. He makes his way up to the bridge, where he finds Scotty and a pack of redshirts and…

Wait, how the hell did Scotty and the redshirts (sounds like a ‘60s band. I can imagine them singing tunes like “Landing Party Blues”, “Red Is the Loneliest Color”, “Your Phaser’s Set for Stunning”, and “Captain, Save a Girl for Me”) get all the way up to the bridge, anyway? Kirk was on the planet for ten minutes. That means Scott and Co. had to figure out how to activate the electric eyes on all the doors, run full tilt to a turbolift, then exit the turbolift before the doors closed. I mean, I guess maybe it’s possible, especially if Spock constructed tiny mopeds in his spare time (and after seeing the communicator, I’m not about to rule out the possibility), but why not just have Scotty meet Kirk in Transporter Room 3?

Kirk asks Scotty if everyone is accounted for, and almost deafens them with his voice.

Star Trek (TAS) "The Terratin Incident" (part 3 of 3)

And just how the hell would Scotty even know if everyone is accounted for? But apparently he does, because Scotty explains everyone’s on board except for the bridge crew, who got whisked away. Ah, now we know why Scotty had to be on the bridge: exposition.

Kirk orders the gang to head to the far bulkhead so he doesn’t accidentally step on any of them (I wonder how many people he accidentally stepped on already as he made his way to the bridge?), and then puts in a call to the planet below to contact that miniature city. He tells the inhabitants that if he doesn’t get his crew back he’s going to blast their town into oblivion, and to prove his point, he disintegrates what would be to them a mountain of crystals.

Star Trek (TAS) "The Terratin Incident" (part 3 of 3)

Kirk’s bluff works, and the inhabitants respond.

Star Trek (TAS) "The Terratin Incident" (part 3 of 3)

The man in front forbids Kirk from destroying his city, and for some reason he sounds like a robot. Ah, it’s James Doohan Voice #4. He explains that he’s the “Mandan” of his city, which is like a mayor, I guess. He says his people never apologize, and then he apologizes for turning the crew into ants and assures Kirk it’s all good, because they have plenty of dilithium to replace the crystals that got messed up. The Mandan explains their communications systems had been buried by lava, and the only way to get in touch was to hit the Enterprise with their shrink ray defense system.

The Mandan then shows Kirk what the Enteprise’s bridge crew is currently up to on the planet.

Star Trek (TAS) "The Terratin Incident" (part 3 of 3)

Yeah, of course the first thing the womenfolk want to do is ogle someone’s baby. Man, the ladies are seriously getting treated like crap this time out. I guess we now know that needle and thread we saw earlier was Christine’s, used for those times when she has to darn McCoy’s socks.

Kirk spots Spock and asks him to explain. Spock says the inhabitants are descendants of Earth colonists who showed up here a long time ago and got shrunk, and who are now genetically predisposed to being tiny. They named their planet “Terra Ten” and the name eventually got corrupted into “Terratin”.

…Why the hell would anyone call their planet “Terra Ten” in the first place? People name colonies after people, like Virginia, or places they’re from, like New England or New Amsterdam, or they give ‘em descriptive names like Iceland. The only people who would name a place “Terra Ten” would be robots.

Huh. Guess that might explain the Mandan’s voice, after all.

The Terratins weren’t looking to keep in touch with anyone, which makes sense; last thing they wanted was to become a living display sitting on some Klingon kid’s desk. The Mandan requests that Kirk save as many of his people as he can from all the volcanic eruptions they’re experiencing, and Kirk realizes the only way to do that is with the replacement dilithium.

Kirk beams up the bridge crew, along with the crystals, then orders them to the transporter room so he can beam them down and then back up to restore them to normal size. Normally, I’d joke and say it should take a week for everyone to make the trip down to the transporter room, except Scotty and the Red Shirts proved it can be done in just five minutes.

Star Trek (TAS) "The Terratin Incident" (part 3 of 3)

Soon, the Enterprise crew is restored, and Spock asks Kirk what they should do about the Terratin people, since their city is about to get lavaed. It’s not a real word, but it should be. Kirk orders Sulu to direct phasers on the Terratin city. Guess the Mandan should’ve groveled a bit more, because now it’s judgment day, and Kirk is about to drop the gavel!

Oh. Actually, Kirk just has Sulu use the phasers like a laser sight, so they can beam the Terratin city up. Dammit.

Star Trek (TAS) "The Terratin Incident" (part 3 of 3)

Kirk tells the Terratins that they’re headed to a new home on the planet Verdanis. Kirk assures the Mandan that it’s a very beautiful place, and with a name like “Verdanis”, I should hope so. I mean, it’s not like someone would give a place a totally misleading name, right?

The Mandan is grateful, and he names the Enteprise crew as honorary Terratins, and soon the tiny city is placed on a “fertile and well-watered plain”.

Wait. What? “Well-watered” implies rain. So… what happens to the city when there’s a flood? Is Kirk ever going to bother to come back and check on their progress? Will there soon be a ship full of tiny aliens looking for revenge?

Star Trek (TAS) "The Terratin Incident" (part 3 of 3)

Eh, that plot still would have been better than Star Trek Into Darkness.

I love this episode for many reasons, chief among them the unique problem the crew is presented with. Once again, we see a plot that’s easy to do in an animated show that would have been impossible with the original series’ budget. (Though, several years later, Deep Space Nine was able to pull off a similar concept.)

I also liked the solution to the problem being the transporter, because in later Trek, the way to fix problems always seemed to be to the use of lots of technobabble. Here, the means to fix the problem was already at hand. Besides, in the past, the transporter was always waiting to cause a problem; here it fixed one. And yeah, I thought the women got short shrift this time out, and I’m not happy with it, but Nurse Chapel did actually contribute. Also, the writer avoided the obvious TAS cliché of the crew being terrorized by comparatively giant insects or animals.

As mentioned earlier, the screenplay was penned by Paul Schneider (who passed away in 2008) and yes, he wrote two of the Original Series’ best episodes (in my opinion, anyway). Paul often collaborated with his wife Margaret and was writing TV episodes up until the 1980s.

Multi-Part Article: Star Trek (TAS) "The Terratin Incident"
TV Show: Star Trek (TAS)

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  • Sardu

    Wait- cages? What happened to force-fields? I thought they had, y’know, evolved past cages. Also, I’m no science guy but when you make they space between atoms it messes with temperature n crap. Makes ’em bounce faster. Or something.

    • Thomas Stockel

      Yeah, that’s what I mean regarding the science. I don’t know, at least Schneider was trying to come up with a good explanation and he wasn’t attempting to toss technobabble at people. I guess for a half hour children’s show it’s all right. The whole “we weigh the same” and obviously they don’t thing irks me a bit.

      And would you want to rely on force fields to house your pets? What if the power goes off? Sometimes simple works best. 🙂

      • We’ve seen how well the forcefield door on the brig works.

        • Thomas Stockel

          This is true. Then again, any time someone touches the thing they get a nasty shock. I know I wouldn’t want to accidentally fry my gerbils because they were roughhousing.

        • Muthsarah

          I’m surprised they don’t separate power sources for stuff like that. Powered by space D-cells. Ship gets bombarded by a ray, and seemingly EVERYTHING goes down at once.

          • Thomas Stockel

            You are talking about the show…the franchise(!) that didn’t have seatbelts installed in their chairs, so don’t ask for common sense. ;p

          • danbreunig

            It’s a dim day when we have to look for reality in our favorite fictions when fan theories don’t suffice enough.

    • Muthsarah

      If you move the atoms closer together, you’d produce a ton of energy (and would thus require a ton of energy in order to do it), and easily fry the shrinkee before anyone notices any shrinkage. Unless they make the atoms themselves smaller. And that would just be a whole different kinda wrong, since they would cease to be atoms. They either lose a ton of whole atoms and disintegrate, or they explode and die.

      “I think maybe the way to fix all these errors would have been to say the crew is retaining the same mass, not the same weight. I think if the mass is the same but they’re smaller, then there’s less gravity acting on their bodies, right?”

      Mass is mass. It doesn’t matter how much surface area you have, gravity doesn’t hit you like wind in a sail. You have mass, something else has mass, boom, there’s a gravitational force between the two of you, determined only by their respective masses and the distance. Of course, I’m not sure where any gravity would come from. Probably depends what that weird field is made of, and the size of the planet they’re hovering over. If there no other major masses nearby, people would be banging into each other and anything else with mass like they were popcorn. I’ve never understood how Trek’s artificial gravity is supposed to work. Even if they make the floors super-heavy to draw people downwards, they’d always be drawn up by the floor in the level above them. And what about the non-organic matter in all of our bodies, metals especially? Why do they shrink too? And why do starships always face each other with their tops up, like that would matter in space? Is it like chicken? The first one to re-orientate their ship to match the other is the loser? EDIT: Although, if the ships were constantly rotating, barrel-rolling through space…yeah, that could possibly answer both questions. Sure would look silly, though.

      Why is it relevant that they have the same mass/weight here after shrinking? Why even include something like that?

      • Thomas Stockel

        Well yeah, saying they weigh the same did complicate the issue, and you raise an excellent point; what about fillings in people’s teeth? Unless future medical technology is so evolved that they can make your teeth regenerate. I think like a lot of things in sci-fi it tends to fall apart if you look at it too closely and the more you enjoy the story the less it bothers you.

        • Muthsarah

          Not just teeth fillings, we have metal in our blood (magnesium and iron and copper and all those other things you see on the side of your cereal box). The calcium in our bones is metal, and inorganic. We couldn’t live two seconds without sodium and potassium. If we shrink and they don’t, we would die. Hell, water is inorganic. WATER.

          Eh, I still remember, was it Nimoy?, making a big deal about Star Trek having a science advisor on-set, to make sure everything depicted made sense and was up-to-date. But I guess if it sounds sciency, that’s plenty. It’s fiction, obviously, but you’d think they’d at least know what a first-year chemistry or physics student mighta learned. Or run it by someone. The show’s nonsense can get rather embarrassing sometimes. I prefer Star Wars’ way of going about these things: Don’t mention how it works (especially if you don’t know the first thing about it), just show that it works. The more you explain it, the more likely you are to say something wrong, and the more time you waste in the process.

          • Thomas Stockel

            It’s a valid point. Just have McCoy and Spock say something is making them shrink, don’t try to explain all the details because it’s just going to trip you up eventually.

            By the way, interesting article on Cracked about why (supposedly) Star Wars is better than Star Trek:

            http://www.cracked.com/blog/4-reasons-star-wars-better-than-star-trek/

            I think a lot of it is crap, but #3 goes to the point of the argument and it is valid to an extent.

  • Gallen_Dugall

    “Eh, that plot still would have been better than Star Trek Into Darkness.”
    yes. yes it would.

  • Cristiona

    “a molten core and a crystalline surface. So, it’s sort of like a geological Hot Pocket.”

    Love it! Great to have another of your recaps, Thomas!

    • Thomas Stockel

      Thanks! It was a lot of fun to write and I’m going to try and not to have such a long break between. But man, trying to recap Magicks was like a soul-sucking experience. It’s become my white whale…No, that’s not accurate, because I’m not trying to hunt it; it hunts me! It’s like I’m Captain Hook and Magicks is the crocodile…

      • Muthsarah

        Did you actually write a recap of Magicks? Or are you stuck on it?

        • Thomas Stockel

          Dude, I can’t even finish watching it. I get about four minutes in and Shatner’s voice puts me to sleep.

          • Muthsarah

            Well, brah, I guess I gotta watch it. If you can’t.

            EDIT: I wonder if Megas-Tu’s magick is the ability to knock the Netflix window out of alignment. I can’t see the bottom fourth of the screen.

            Kirk tries to do a hard reverse at Warp 8? What the hell is his problem?

            OK, screw those rational complaints; this is too silly: Shirtless goat man blasts everyone on the bridge with his radiant rainbow beams.

            And more superficial sexism! And men’s short pantaloons!

            Oh, there are so many great screenshots here. This episode is nuts.

            …And now it’s boring. I dunno what you’re talking about, I liked the first half, especially compared with the second.

            …And now it’s fun again. Kirk is just like God. But BETTER!

            That didn’t take long.

          • Thomas Stockel

            Hmmm. Perhaps I just need to park my butt down and give it another chance. The problem is Shatner’s voice is in full drone mode, like he’s on quaaludes for the reading. I’ve seen it once before, a couple years back and I remember laughing at the Salem guy tossing punchcards around. Behold the ultra-advanced technology of the future!

          • Muthsarah

            Laughter is good. It’s TAS, not holy scripture.

  • Cheshire Cat

    (Though, several years later, Deep Space Nine was able to pull off a similar concept.)

    Yes, though for the majority of that DS9 episode, they were in an enviroment that was shrunk with them. There wasn’t a lot of interaction outside the runabout. What little there was, however, was done well.

  • Kid Charlemagne

    The “compaction beam”, as it was called in the Star Trek Log Four print adaptation by Alan Dean Foster, punched right through deflector shields as if they were Charmin and destroyed dilithium crystals quickly, far more quickly than it shrank the crew.

    Why didn’t Starfleet learn from the Terratins how to build such beam generators, and mount them on starships (and starbases, planets, etc.) for use against dilithium-dependent enemy starships? To answer my own question, maybe the Terratin’s beam only punched through the Enterprise‘s shields so easily because it had huge amounts of power (on that planet, geothermal energy would be a likely source of electricity), and the power level available on even a Constitution-class starship would not be enough to make the compaction beam practical for ship-to-ship combat. However, that would still not prevent the Federation from using it for planetary defenses, and maybe on starbases and other space stations.

    • Kid Charlemagne

      If the Feds had mounted them on starships, that would explain why the Romulans abandoned the kind of warp drive which uses dilithium crystals in favor of their “captive singularity” warp drive.

      • Kid Charlemagne

        Although the rarity of dilithium crystals (before the trick of recrystallizing them was learned) could provide sufficient explanation by itself.

        • Thomas Stockel

          Star Trek if rife with the appearance of technology that would be tremendously useful, but only appears once. An excellent example comes from Voyager, when they used “refractive shielding” in Counterpoint. You’d think if you’re trying to hide from the Borg or other enemies you might want to use something like that. Or remember the anti-cloak pulse seen in Riddles? Bet that would have come in real handy in Nemesis against “the perfect cloak”.