Star Trek (TAS) “One of Our Planets is Missing” (part 3 of 3)
Kirk orders Scotty to prepare the self-destruct, and Scotty says “Aye, sir.” And when I think of the number of times they’ve done this, he should really be saying, “What, again?” Then Bob calls.
He informs Kirk that after some hysteria, everyone agreed the children should be saved. I can imagine what the former Starfleet Commodore did to get an unanimous vote. He says they can see the cloud, and I think this would have been much more effective with a shot of the citizens of Mantilles seeing the cloud in their skies. But the Filmation execs probably blew their budget hiring Larry Storch and Forrest Tucker for the live-action Ghost Busters series.
Yes, that actually happened.
Sulu reports that they’re 31 minutes and four seconds from Mantilles. Now don’t you start, Sulu! Kirk asks Spock if there’s any way to determine if the cloud is truly intelligent. He suggests a “Vulcan mind touch”. What, was “mind meld” copyrighted or something? Spock points out he needs physical contact and that’s impossible, and then quickly contradicts himself by explaining how the “mind touch” can be accomplished without physical contact by directing the ship’s sensors at the thing’s “electrical synaptic impulses” and re-routing it to the computer. That way, they might be able to read its thoughts. Uhura points out she can use the universal translator to get audio. As silly as all this sounds, they more or less did the same thing in the episode “Metamorphosis”. That’s the one where the guy has sex with a cloud.
Sulu reminds everyone he exists by saying they’ve got 26 minutes, and Kirk orders Spock to get on with it.
Seven minutes! And Spock and Uhura are working desperately to set up the mindreading translator.
Four minutes, and…
You know, they are cutting it kind of close, aren’t they? If they wait until literally the last minute to blow up the cloud, aren’t they at risk of poisoning the planet with antimatter radiation? And the cloud is immense; what if its remains pollute the planet’s atmosphere? Or it cuts off the sunlight, like a nuclear winter?
Spock reports that they’re ready, and then he reaches out with his mind.
The only thing that would make that pose more awesome is if he were doing the double-live-long-and-prosper salute.
Spock contacts the entity and explains that they are inside it, that the cloud consumed them, and that they’re tiny creatures floating around in its vast body. And the entity takes this information pretty well. That, or Majel Barrett was hitting the quaaludes pretty hard that week when she came in to read her lines.
This whole scene is giving me serious Innerspace flashbacks. You remember Innerspace? Dennis Quaid? Meg Ryan? Martin Short? Anyone?
Spock goes on to explain that there are lots of little people on the planet, and the cloud mustn’t eat it, and to drive his point home, he switches bodies with the entity. The entity, now possessing Spock’s body, touches Kirk’s face.
Kirk has Uhura show the entity images of Earth, and children, and people running through woods with a dog, and the thing leaves Spock’s body. It says it comprehends, and it doesn’t want to consume other beings. Thank goodness it wasn’t like me at eight years old, using my dad’s magnifying glass to kill ants on the sidewalk. Spock convinces it to go back where it came from, and then he tells Kirk about a grid where they can slip out, giving them a more dignified exit.
This episode is, well, not bad. It’s certainly not one of the worst. We’ve seen the giant space alien threat before, so that’s nothing new, but I liked the little things about it, such as the inhabited planet being under threat and the realism of it being impossible to evacuate them all. You get the feeling the stakes are truly high, and the death of millions is a very real possibility. And I think the idea of actually communicating with the creature and finding a nonviolent solution was a novel approach. Sure, you can argue this was only natural, given it’s a children’s television series. But this same sensibility was seen in The Next Generation when the Enterprise crew was dealing with their own planet-destroying life form.
Personally, I don’t find anything at all wrong with heroes trying to find nonviolent solutions to problems; it’s what makes Doctor Who such a wonderful character, and is one of the reasons why that show became such a popular series.
“One of Our Planets is Missing” was written by Marc Daniels, who directed fourteen Original Series episodes. His experience with the Original Series is a true strength when you pick up on the little nods here and here to old episodes. The man’s writing credits are sparse, but his career as a director is very, very impressive. He worked on episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Gunsmoke, Barnaby Jones, Mission: Impossible, Hogan’s Heroes, and Kung Fu, meaning he had his hands on just about every TV genre. But he’s mostly a TV legend for directing the entire first season of I Love Lucy, and fittingly enough, he passed away just three days before Lucille Ball.