Star Trek “Spock's Brain” (part 1 of 4)

SUMMARY: A beautiful woman appears aboard the Enterprise and renders the crew unconscious. When they awake, they discover Spock’s brain has been surgically removed from his body. Captain Kirk utilizes his Babe-Dar and follows a trail to the Sigma Draconis star system, where he finds Spock’s brain being utilized to control the workings of a society of airheaded go-go girls. Kirk once again wipes his ass with the Prime Directive as he destroys yet another machine-run civilization, “freeing” the women. Meanwhile, there’s a super-advanced teaching tool that helps Dr. McCoy restore Spock’s brain, but unfortunately, it isn’t powered by long-lasting Energizer batteries.

For this, the second installment of The Worst of Trek, I decided to take on “Spock’s Brain”. And I’ll be straight with you, the only reason I picked this episode is because of how little most Trek fans think of it. I would guess that there’s two big reasons why this episode is looked upon with such contempt.

1) This episode is goofy. Like, really goofy. Watching it, you will find yourself filled with inescapable despair once you realize this is the same cast that performed mini-epics like “The City on the Edge of Forever” or nail-biting thrillers like “Journey to Babylon”. However, as a B-movie fanatic, I can pretend this isn’t really Star Trek, but rather a futuristic take on the “lost tribe of women” genre of movies (a genre that includes The Wild Women of Wongo, Mesa of Lost Women, Prehistoric Women and Thor and the Amazon Women) and enjoy it on that same campy level. Heck, all you’ve really got to do is put the estrogenic culture found in this episode in buckskin bikinis and you’ve got yourself One Million Years B.C. In Space. (Of course, had this truly been a B-movie, the title of this episode surely would have been They Saved Spock’s Brain!)

2) This episode is incredibly sexist. Even for the chauvinist atmosphere of late 60’s TV, some could say this episode crossed the line. For only in the darkest, most patriarchal corners of Trekdom could an idea such as this one germinate and spread like a fungus to living rooms across the country. See, the message promoted here goes like this: When women are separated from men for any length of time, they will become mentally retarded. Feeble. Too stupid to breathe. And their only hope for survival lies in their ability to cravenly steal the brain of an Alpha Male in order to ensure their lifestyles of shopping, baking cookies, and picking the kids up from school in the station wagon.

Which is not to say that I disagree with either of these points. Clearly, this episode is deeply flawed, and should have never been made in the first place. But unlike the wheezing, gasping invalid struggling to reach its conclusion that was “And the Children Shall Lead”, “Spock’s Brain” is a brisk fifty minutes that never bogs down or makes you stare at the clock praying and hoping for it to end. (Your life, that is, not the episode.)

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Multi-Part Article: Star Trek "Spock's Brain"
TV Show: Star Trek

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  • Dark times!! But what we have in our reactionary present is more confusing and twice has useless!!
    I dont think we will have a healthy affection for sex for another 35 years!! Hell i feel guilty just for thinking about sex or enjoying myself!! But i will probably kill MYself before thanksgiving this year!!

  • Three points: 1. Gene Coon’s script is credited to “Lee Cronin” because Coon was under contract to Universal at the time and wasn’t supposed to be working for Paramount anymore. To get around this contractual restriction, he used a pseudonym for the scripts he wrote while he was under contract elsewhere.

    2. NBC, not the producers of Star Trek, decided in which order to show the episodes. NBC didn’t understand Star Trek very well, but they did know that Spock was popular. Hence, “Spock’s Brain” was chosen as the season premiere simply because it had Spock’s name in the title.

    3. Sulu’s recap of the situation is intended to catch up viewers who were tuning in late. It doesn’t make that much sense when you’re watching on DVD, but since these episodes were made for broadcast television, they needed a way to orient people who’ve gotten to the TV late or who’ve switched to Star Trek halfway through.

    • Graeme Cree

      Everything you’re saying is correct. But I might add that when clipping the episode for syndication, the most reasonable thing to cut out would have been a recap scene like this. But as far as I remember, they never cut that one.

      As for Point 1, one of the ways Gene Coon got out of his contract with Trek was by agreeing to finish up or let them use any loose scripts still lying around in the files. Let That Be Your Last Battlefield had been lying around since Season 1, but never used because it was a weak story where not very much actually happens. By Season 3 they were desperate enough to actually use it whether Lee wanted to or not. In fact, I’ve heard it said that old Lee had intended it as a full bore comedy episode, but Fred Freiberger, who didn’t understand Trek, tried to do it straight.

      • Brian Shanahan

        “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”

        Considering that that is in the top ten of all Star Trek episodes, you’re defeating the purpose of your post by talking about it.

  • Pissedoffatyou

    I thought I could handle the craptastic-in-my-face video adverts. I even thought I could handle the obscenly obnoxious open-every-link-in-new-tab-even-to-this-same-site behaviour. But really? Pull the same stupid tricks on the same page? I mean, first I have to ignore your “wonder women” shit, then, then I have to close extra tabs just for a damn three second sound clip? Y’all must be desperate

  • Graeme Cree

    Among this episode’s many flaws, I’m not sure that rampant sexism is as bad as the recap makes out. Granted, the Eymorg are dimwits, but the Morg are even worse. Maybe the sexism is on our side for noticing it so much more when the women do it, and it’s actually a deeply penetrating look at the viewer’s own prejudices. (Or maybe I’m reading too much into it).

    As for the phaser in the skirt, we might be able to fanwank an explanation for that. Maybe the effects of the Teacher hadn’t yet worn off (from the first time she used it) when Kirk & Co. were captured. So she still had the intelligence to know what the phasers were, and change the setting from stun to kill before it wore off.

    Of course, that begs the question of why she would put a phaser set on kill in her skirt knowing that she was just about to become a moron who’d be as likely to eat it, or shoot herself with it (like Rodent in City on the Edge of Forever), as do anything else with it. Nope, I guess we have to call BS on this one after all.

    • trlkly

      Or she stole it when she was on the Enterprise, when she still had Teacher knowledge, and put it somewhere where she knew stupid her wouldn’t look.

      Agree about the rest, though. The idea is that, without each other, both sexes become stupid. If anything, the men are worse, since they go stupid even without having something that can do everything for them.

  • Ryan Ann

    You know that this is a bad episode when Leonard Nimoy says it’s one of the worst episodes. It’s not that bad as “The Children Shall Lead” or “The Mark of Gideon” though. It’s sort of campy fun. DeForest Kelley cracks me up in this episode as Bones especially at the end when he is operating on Spock and those wild close-ups of his face. At least this episode shows that Star Trek does not have to take itself THAT seriously even though there are many episodes that try too hard to be serious and fail at every level (“The Mark of Gideon” and “Whom Gods Destroy”) and of course there is “Plato’s Stepchildren” which is all I will say about that episode. Wow.

  • Yonagonaf

    Hello Dr. Winston O’Boogie.

    This is Yonagonaf.

    In your text review of the “Star Trek: The Original Series” season 3 episode 6 episode “Spock’s Brain” you text “”Him?” the woman asks. “What is ‘him’?” Oh, boy, she’s so dumb, she doesn’t even use pronouns.”

    The word “him’ is a pronoun.