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…
…and let me just say with all honesty, I’m lovin’ the visuals in this episode.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kirk’s bluff works, and the inhabitants respond.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.