Underrated Trek:And the Children Shall Lead (TOS)
Welcome back to Underrated Trek,where I take a special look at Star Trek episodes that I enjoyâ€¦which may not be the most popular or even liked by most. Today I have a simple question. Is it possible to enjoy a really bad episode? Let’s discuss one of the disasters from Season 3 classic series :
Well my friends, so far in this series the episodes I have discussed aren’t so bad. They may have problems, but all in all the episodes are ok compared to others. Today I want to talk about an episode I like which is generally considered awful! Why do I like it? Ummm..let’s discuss and try to find out.
The Enterprise arrives at a planet to discover that the Federation colony has been wiped out. But they weren’t killed by something, they all apparently killed themselves! All the people are dead, except the children. But that isn’t the odd part. The children appear to be happy and want to play…around thier parents dead bodies.
Kirk brings the kids aboard the Enterprise, wondering why the kids show no sign of grief at all. Turns out the kids are in league with a….whatever he is named Gorgon. The alien convinces his kids to use the evil power he had granted to make everyone confront their “demons” as a way to seize control of the ship. Why does he need these kids? It’s never made clear.
The kids make the crew experience all sorts of hallucinations and control what they actually do. Uhura sees herself old, Sulu sees the ship about to be destroyed, Kirk and Scotty do some horrible overacting. Finally, Kirk helps the kids tap into the grief over their parents death which causes Gorgon to lose his power over the kids. He is banished from the ship while the kids finally start the road to recovery.
There is so much to talk about, let’s take it one step at a time.
We have Attorney Melvin Belli as the alien. Yes Stunt casting goes way back my friends. I know he gets a litle heat for this role, but I actually liked Melvin Belli here. The problems with the character, and there are some, are more the fault of the writing and horrible special effects (and whoever dressed him that stupid costume he wears). I think Belli did a great job being menacing and kind at the same time, and if handled a bit different think Gorgon could have been one bad ass villain. Ok, fair is fair and Belli was no actor.Â The oldest kid is played by Craig Huxley. Not only does he play Kirk’s nephew in a different episode, but he is a true villain on The Brady Bunch. He is the one who gets Greg to start smoking!!! Funny, but I just realized this episode has a “Brady Bunch” feel to it.
Believe it or not, the episode starts well. It’s a good setup, the psychological discussion is well done, and you really want to know what happened. And let’s be fair, the kid actors did a decent job and it wasn’t their fault the show sucked. Actually it’s kind of weird, the kids come off better than the adult actors! Oh we’re getting to that my friends. Also, I like the basic premise though the script clearly has no idea what to do with it.
In the midst of all William Shatner’s hamminess, we get one of my favorite Kirk/Spock moments. Spock sees Kirk struggle with what the kids do to him, and breaks the spell on himself. He then assists Kirk in also fighing the spell (I call it a spell because what the hell els is it? I mean what is it the kids do? Is it magic?). Spock doesn’t really do anything, he just kind of stands by Kirk as any friend would.Â Anyway, it’s a solid moment in the overall mess. I also like McCoy in this. Why? Because is all but absent fro the majority of the episode. It’s ironic, the one person who doesn’t face his beast here gets to be front and center when Sybok does the same thing in Star Trek V. Heck, Gorgon uses the Enterprise the same way the alien in Star Trek V would have if he had gotten it. Yes folks, I said it. Star Trek V did this concept better–how crazy is that??
Finally, I do like how it ends. There is no space fight or anything, Kirk and Spock just dump the truth onto he kids and watch as the grief finally breaks free. Maybe it’s the Psychologist in me, but I think it worked. Though it is not without flaws, how do the tapes make the kids cry but playing aroUnd their parents dead bodies had no effect??
Ok folks, let’s get into the real mess
The whole middle is just void of any common sense. The kids go about taking over the Enterprise. After the kids make Sulu and Chekov change course but believe they have not left orbit, apparently the view screen is all the evidence they need. Kirk and Spock beam two security guards into deep space and realize something is wrong, nice of them to not check before beaming the men down and killing them. They arrive on the Bridge in time to see the kids summon the alien IN FRONT OF EVERYONE. Gorgon is then nice enough to appear and give away the plot so the real fun can begin!
The acting is just awful! And what is up with some of these hallucinations? Let’s discuss this by character.Â Now apparently the powers the kids have are to make the crew battle their inner beasts or fears (and take physical control of them when convenient to the plot). Ok, so what are those beasts within? First Uhura is crippled by the image she sees in the mirror which appears from nowhere. The image is of her old and dying. And the reason she can’t look down and see that what she is seeing is fake? Then they make Sulu see swords circling the ship and convince him the ship will be destroyed if they move or change course. This always killed me; first of all does Sulu really believe the images he is seeing are genuine? How are swords going to â€œdestroyâ€ the ship, I mean Nomadâ€™s energy blasts couldnâ€™t break thru the shields but metal objects, those are deadly! He even pushes Kirk out of the way when he tries to change the course! I guess I can buy Suluâ€™s demon is fear the ship will be destroyed but, really? Showing a Klingon battle ship approaching would have at least made sense. Maybe if this power was more defined, but it is so vague what the kids are doing that it hurts the episode.
Kirk’s beast (or enemy within, whatever) is losing command of his ship. Fine, but why did Shatner have to overact so hard? Did he realize the script sucked so he decided to just have fun with it? I honesly think when people parody Kirk and his hamminess it’s this particular episode they remember, especially that one scene on the turbo lift. Scotty becomes afraid to let Kirk touch his engines or he will disturb them. Apparently the fact that Kirk is his senior officer is irrelevant, and Scotty even threatens to kill Kirk if he touches them! I mean, when Sulu disobeyed Kirk he thought he was acting in the best interest of the ship. Scotty is just being an ass. Then Chekov appears with a couple guards to arrest Kirk and Spock, apparently he got â€œordersâ€. Chekov must be scared of disobeying an order or something. And how did the children do this, it’s inconsistent with the rest of their actions. Of course itâ€™s not explained because it makes no sense! To Kirkâ€™s credit, he does send Chekov and the guards to detention after he and Spock have stopped them, maybe even Kirk realizes that there was no excuse for that one.
One last thing, it is clear that the colony was defeated over a period of time (hours or maybe days) and they all realized something was wrong, that was why they killed themselves. To keep the menance on the planet and not allow it to spread. The Enterprise crew succumb very fast, almost ridiculously so, and only Kirk and Spock manage to realize something is wrong and work to counter it. This episode really treats the supporting characters like fools.
“Fast Foward” Moment:
The scene where Nurse Chapel gives the kids ice cream is lame. Really, you can skip past act 2 and act 3 and not miss much of anything.
Final Thoughts-So, why? Why do I like this episode if it is so bad? I guess that is what I liked about it, the badness is just so thickÂ you can’t help but watch. It’s like looking at a car accident, you know you should look away but can’t help yourself. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that this is a bad episode. Unlike Spock’s Brain, which seemed to know it was bad and had fun with it, this episode tries to be serious but it is overwhelmed with silliness. There is a good message in here, somewhere, but the script just fails to deliver. And sometimes this kind of stuff works, like in Charlie X where the things Charlie does to the crew are downright chilling. Here, it’s just goofiness. Not the worst in Season 3, but it’s up there!
That’s it for today my friends, see you next time.