Aug 17, 2021
Star Trek (TAS) “Beyond the Farthest Star” (part 3 of 3)
Spock reports a slight magnetic fluctuation, and Kirk notes the steady rhythm is like the beating of a heart. Before he can further wax poetic, Uhura announces decks five and six report loss of life support systems. Hey, that’s what happens when you don’t pay your utility bills, deck five and six! Stop spending your money on booze and lottery tickets. The red alert goes off, and Spock turns from his…
…now-invisible viewfinder to state there’s trouble in Engineering. Kirk orders McCoy to get down there, and then he orders an engineer to get on that life support problem. Without sarcasm, I have to say Kirk sounds pretty darned captain-y in this scene. Kirk and Spock then join McCoy to find Scotty wedged inside some sort of massive access hatch.
Only the force field of his life support belt is protecting him. So the life support belt not only protects you from the harsh environment of space and provides you with air to breathe, and not only does it provide its own gravity field and allow the captain to record logs. And not only does it allow you to see in the pitch blackness of space, but it also can defend you from gross physical harm? Awesome!
The circuits are jammed and magnetized, and Kirk orders up the cutters.
But seeing as how the guy on the right is a giant, I would think he could tear the hatch off with his bare hands.
The crewman manages to cut the hatch open, and Scotty is saved! But before he can celebrate with a bottle of whatever’s handy (alcoholic Scotty jokes never get old), Sulu reports the ship’s phasers have activated themselves, and the alien vessel has been destroyed. On the bridge again, Kirk gets a report from Sulu and—
For Christ’s sake. If drawing the bottom half of Kirk and Sulu’s other leg were so hard, couldn’t they just have shown Kirk getting out of the turbolift, and then do a close-up of Sulu’s face as he makes his report? This sloppy animation is killin’ me.
Kirk notes that “mutual override” didn’t work. What the hell is mutual override? Was he trying to say “manual override”? Is this some kind of Canadian thing? Did Shatner botch his lines and they couldn’t afford to have him come back in to fix it?
Spock notes the pattern going on, of ship systems activating themselves, and everything but key systems being shut down, and Scotty being prevented from rigging the self-destruct. Uhura reports something is going through the ship’s computers. In the face of all this, Kirk asks Spock to rig a shield like the one they saw on the ship around the navigation console. After Spock does this, McCoy points out that all this thing has to do is outlast the crew.
Kirk points out that this thing is bound to the dead star, and it needs a ship to break free, as well as a crew to man it. Why? Why does it need a crew to man the vessel if it’s able to take over key systems? And what’s the point of Kirk putting the field around the navigation console? There’s an auxiliary control center where the ship can be controlled from, as seen in “The Changeling” and “The Way To Eden”. Unless Kirk had auxiliary control converted into a cigar bar or something.
What follows is a jumbled mess. The alien reveals himself by speaking, seemingly through the bridge’s defense system, and insists everyone obey him. He wants Kirk to remove the field from the navigation console. And then he shoots Kirk when he disobeys.
Love those life support belts; they’re even immune to energy beams! Why aren’t landing parties wearing the things every time they beam down to a planet? Hell, why aren’t these people wearing these things all the time?! I would be sleeping with mine on. Slip in the shower? Don’t worry, my life support belt protected me! Slept with a diseased prostitute on Deneb IV? It’s cool, my life support belt was on!
So after Kirk and Spock get shot, Kirk agrees to obey, but instead he throws his activated life support belt over the navigation console and apparently that… breaks it? The alien in response… does nothing. Really, why not shoot Kirk dead to make an example of him? Leaving an unprotected Kirk alive after he disobeyed him makes no sense!
So Kirk, apparently without the least bit of fear that the alien is going to shoot him for his impertinence, tells Scotty to fix the controls, and then asks Spock what they’re dealing with. Apparently, it’s an energy-based symbiotic life form that now uses Enterprise as a host body. Kirk asks Spock if he can calculate the slingshot equation in his mind, because if they attempt to use the ship’s computers, the alien will know. Spock suppresses an urge to say “bitch, please” and proceeds to show why Vulcans are superior to humans in every way by working out the calculations while helping Scotty fix the navigation console at the same time. Spock warns that the creature can reproduce by mitosis. And how the hell does he know—
Oh. Right. He’s Spock. Never mind.
Kirk tells the alien that the now-fixed console can only be worked manually, and the creature sees he’s right. Kirk then promptly aims the ship at the dead star, while using his miraculous life support belt to protect himself.
The creature freaks out and leaves the ship before they crash. Kirk manages to pull the ship out of its suicide dive, and Enterprise escapes both the star and the alien.
And the episode ends pretty much with the same words it began with, which suggests that to Kirk, all the insanity the crew had faced—negative star mass, three hundred million year old space ship, alien intelligence that could take over his ship—was just another Tuesday.
This episode was written by veteran television writer Samuel A. Peeples. Peeples cut his teeth writing Westerns, much like Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. He had written the original series’ second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” (which explains the pretentious title for this episode). That’s the episode where Kirk’s friend Gary Mitchell gains god-like powers, and the two have an epic fistfight at the end. Gary Mitchell is one of the characters people are speculating Benedict Cumberbatch is playing in the new Star Trek movie.
Peeples helped to shape Kirk and Spock; he wrote “Above all else, a god needs compassion!” Later, he worked on Space Academy and Jason of Star Command, both gloriously cheesy live action Saturday morning fare. He then went on to write for the animated Flash Gordon series. And…
My God. He even did work on the script for Star Trek II: The Wrath of—
This episode is awful! The production is terrible, and the plot is nothing we haven’t already seen before. Oh sure, that’s not such a bad thing, if handled correctly. When I recapped “How Sharper than a Serpent’s Tooth”, I pointed out it was actually better than the original series episode with the same plot. And I realize there are only so many ideas to go around. But this one, with the alien being trapped on a distant world, searching for a spacecraft to free itself from its prison? It could not have been handled any worse.
…On the other hand…