Season 1, Episode 16
Production episode: 1×13
Original air date: January 5, 1967
Star date: 2821.5
The Enterprise is enroute to the New Paris colony on Makus III to deliver medical supplies to victims of an ongoing plague, when Captain Kirk gets distracted by a shiny quasar, Murasaki 321. Galactic High Commissioner Ferris, a grumpy officer in fancy duds, objects to stopping to investigate, but Kirk insists his mission includes scientific study of cosmic phenomenon. They dispatch shuttlecraft 7, the Galileo, to take a closer look with seven crew members on board: Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, Mr. Scott, Lieutenant Boma, Mr. Gaetano, Mr. Latimer, and Yeoman Mears. It shouldn’t take long to get some readings and return to the ship and resume their journey to Makus III.
No one expects radiation from an ion storm to interfere with the shuttle’s instruments and pull it into the quasar. The so-called Murasaki effect also renders the Enterprise’s sensors useless and they lose contact with the shuttle, unable to locate it through conventional scans. Kirk knows that blindly finding one 24-foot-long shuttle in the vastness of space will be almost impossible; in comparison, “(f)inding a needle in a haystack would be child’s play.” They’re at least able to narrow the search down to an M-class planet near Murasaki, Taurus II, which is habitable for humans.
Indeed, the downed shuttle has landed safely on the planet’s surface and everyone seems relatively unharmed, though a bit bruised since Starfleet doesn’t believe in seatbelts. Lt. Boma rattles off some technobabble to explain why they crashed, and Mr. Spock takes charge, though he seems a bit snippier than usual, even given their dire situation. They can’t contact the Enterprise through the ion interference, and Scotty has more bad news: they don’t have enough fuel to reach escape velocity from the planet’s gravity, and they only have enough power to reach and maintain orbit for a short while if they can ditch 500 pounds—the equivalent of three men. Since there are no red shirts on board, aside from Yeoman Mears who is wearing a red nightshirt aka minidress, Spock will choose the sacrificial lambs purely by logic. This doesn’t make any of the men particularly happy with him in command.
McCoy points out that this is Spock’s chance at command, to demonstrate that logic is superior to Kirk’s more emotional methods of leading. Spock claims:
I realize command does have its fascinations, even under circumstances such as these. But I neither enjoy the idea of command, nor am I frightened of it. It simply exists. And I will do whatever logically needs to be done.
But he doesn’t deny that this is an opportunity to prove his quality. He sends Latimer and Gaetano to check the area while he helps Scotty fix the shuttle.
On the Enterprise, Grand Poobah Commissioner Ferris pressures Kirk to leave his men behind and complete his delivery to New Paris, but Kirk refuses. He has two days to search before they have to leave, and Ferris is determined to linger on the Bridge and count down every second. The transporters are unreliable due to the radiation interference, so the captain sends out another shuttle, the Columbus, to painstakingly check the surface for survivors by sight. This could take a while.
Gaetano and Latimer have blundered into a foggy and rocky landscape where they hear strange noises, a kind of scraping sound. Suddenly a giant spear lodges into Latimer’s back and he goes down screaming. Gaetano freaks and begins firing his phaser seemingly at random. Spock and Boma hear Lattimer’s death cry and run to assist. Gaetano insists that he shot a giant ape (perhaps a gorilla in the mist?) while Spock is strangely fascinated with the weapon that killed Latimer, which makes him seem like a bit of a jerk to the others:
There’s a remarkable resemblance to the Folsom Point discovered in 1925, old world calendar, New Mexico, North America. A bit more crude about the shaft, I believe. Not very efficient.
The Galileo seven six manage to strip enough equipment from the shuttle so they will only have to leave one man behind, since Latimer is conveniently out of the running. Odds are Spock will logically select Boma, given how antagonistic he’s becoming to Spock’s command. In fact, none of them respond well to the Vulcan’s cold leadership; Spock won’t even take a moment to say a few words at Latimer’s burial, preferring to work to fix the shuttle. Unfortunately, his and Scotty’s efforts inadvertently drain the rest of the fuel, leaving them truly grounded. Spock says “There are always alternatives,” and leaves it to the engineer to think one up.
More scraping sounds draw them outside the shuttle; Spock suggests it’s the unmistakable sound of “wood rubbing on some kind of leather.” Boma, Gaetano, and McCoy recommend a preemptive strike against what he thinks is a tribal culture. Mears, of course, has no opinion. It doesn’t matter anyway, because Spock isn’t interested in the majority’s rule. He’s loath to kill indiscriminately and orders Gaetano and Boma to scare them off with some phaser fire. Confident his tactic will keep the ape creatures away, he leaves Gaetano behind to stand watch alone and returns with Boma to the shuttle, where Scotty has come up with a brilliant plan to power the shuttle using energy from their hand phasers. This will leave them defenseless against the planet’s natives and will only buy them enough power for a brief orbit. Spock says they won’t need to orbit for long, since the Enterprise will be leaving in twenty-four hours anyway. He collects everyone’s phasers and Scotty begins the slow process of draining them.
Kirk finally gets a break on the Enterprise: the transporters begin working again and he prepares to send some landing parties down to scout the surface. The transporter chief points out that it’ll be a stroke of luck to find anything on the planet that way, but Kirk says, “I’m depending on luck, Lieutenant. It’s almost the only tool we have that’ll work.”
Down below, Gaetano’s luck runs out, or is at least no match for sticks and stones. The creatures attack him with a rock and he drops his phaser. One of them follows up with a spear then approaches him one-on-one. And then there were five…
Spock, McCoy, and Boma arrive on the scene later and discover Gaetano has gone missing. Spock tells them to take his phaser back to the shuttle, then goes off alone with a “scientific curiosity” to find out what happened to him. McCoy’s confused: “I don’t know. He’ll risk his neck locating Gaetano and if he finds him, he’s just as liable to order him to stay behind. You tell me.”
Spock discovers Gaetano’s dead body spread out on a rock in the open, which doesn’t look anything like a baited trap, and hauls him to his shoulders. He takes him back to the shuttle at a leisurely pace, with clumsily-thrown spears following him the whole way. Spock tries to puzzle out the creatures behavior:
SPOCK: Most illogical reaction. We demonstrated our superior weapons. They should have fled.
MCCOY: You mean they should have respected us?
SPOCK: Of course.
MCCOY: Mr. Spock, respect is a rational process. Did it ever occur to you they might react emotionally, with anger?
SPOCK: Doctor, I am not responsible for their unpredictability.
MCCOY: They were perfectly predictable to anyone with feeling. You might as well admit it, Mister Spock, your precious logic brought them down on us.
The creatures then start bringing rocks down on their hull, shaking the shuttlecraft with each blow. Spock seems caught in a loop, grasping for the comforts of logic and analysis. He admits, “I do seem to have miscalculated regarding them, and inculcated resentment on your parts. The sum of the parts cannot be greater than the whole.” Yeoman Mears helpfully suggests, “We could use a little inspiration!”
Spock has Scotty use the shuttle’s battery power to electrify the hull, which fends the creatures off and buys them more time for Scotty to drain the phasers for fuel. Spock tells them they’ll have to leave Gaetano’s body behind and grudgingly agrees to a burial, though it puts them at risk of attack.
On the Enterprise, a landing party returns with casualties, attacked by the same huge “anthropoid” creatures that Spock’s making friends with. Grand High Exalted Commissioner Ferris tells Kirk his time is up and he must abandon the search. Once the landing parties and Columbus are back aboard, the captain orders that they head for Makus III at “space normal speed” (aka impulse power), with their sensor beams directed back toward Taurus II, still hoping for last minute contact with his lost crew.
The Galileo is finally ready to lift off. Spock, McCoy, and Boma bury Gaetano outside of the shuttle and the creatures attack them with large rocks. Spock’s leg is pinned and he orders them to return to the shuttle and lift off, but they risk their lives to save him. He berates them for ignoring his orders while the shuttle tries to take off, but the creatures are holding them down. They have no choice but to burn a lot of fuel and use their boosters to escape, which means they’ll only have enough power for one complete orbit. Moreover, they won’t be able to land safely back on the planet. Spock continues to rub it in: “Gentlemen, by coming after me, you may well have destroyed what slim chance you had for survival. The logical thing for you to have done was to have left me behind.”
The situation seems fairly hopeless. Unable to make contact with the Enterprise and certain that it’s well on its way to Makus III, Spock abruptly jettisons their remaining fuel and ignites it. They think he’s lost his Vulcan mind, because he’s only shortened their time before orbital decay and burn-up in the planet’s atmosphere. Scotty realizes it was a distress signal, “like sending up a flare.” And in fact, unknown to them, the Enterprise’s sensors picked it up and are on their way. But will they get there in time?
MCCOY: It may be the last action you’ll ever take, Mr. Spock, but it was all human.
SPOCK: Totally illogical. There was no chance.
MCCOY: That’s exactly what I mean.
Unfortunately, it seems the gamble didn’t pay off because they’re beginning to burn up. Mears wails, “It’s getting hot.” At the last moment, transporter beams lock onto the five crew members. Phew! With them safely on board, the Enterprise zips off to Makus III at a brisk warp factor one. Plague victims are awaiting!
Back on duty, a bemused Kirk questions Spock about his last minute command decision:
KIRK: There’s really something I don’t understand about all of this. Maybe you can explain it to me. Logically, of course. When you jettisoned the fuel and ignited it, you knew there was virtually no chance of it being seen, yet you did it anyhow. That would seem to me to be an act of desperation.
SPOCK: Quite correct, Captain.
KIRK: Now we all know, and I’m sure the doctor will agree with me, that desperation is a highly emotional state of mind. How does your well-known logic explain that?
SPOCK: Quite simply, Captain. I examined the problem from all angles, and it was plainly hopeless. Logic informed me that under the circumstances, the only possible action would have to be one of desperation. Logical decision, logically arrived at.
KIRK: I see. You mean you reasoned that it was time for an emotional outburst.
SPOCK: Well, I wouldn’t put it in exactly those terms, Captain, but those are essentially the facts.
KIRK: You’re not going to admit that for the first time in your life, you committed a purely human emotional act?
SPOCK: No, sir.
KIRK: Mr. Spock, you’re a stubborn man.
SPOCK: Yes, sir.
Once again, the Bridge crew has a hearty laugh at the first officer’s expense, but this time he’s earned it.
This is very much an exploration of Spock’s character, once again pitting logic vs. emotion, but it pushes further than before by raising the stakes and placing Spock in a unique position to handle a desperate situation with pure intellect. The dire results of his cool analysis of their predicament leaves no doubt as to what the writers think is more valuable in a commander; human emotion wins every time. As usual, Spock’s calculating approach is too alien for those under his command to fathom and he faces an extraordinary amount of ill will and disgust, particularly from Boma and Gaetano. Even McCoy, who understands the Vulcan and calls him a friend, is pretty much at a loss when the science office seemingly behaves callously to the crew, all in the name of efficiency.
We see Spock’s point, of course. It’s of utmost importance for them to repair the shuttle and do what is necessary to save as many lives as possible. Yes, the needs of the many may outweigh the needs of the few, but the cost need not include basic humanity and compassion. Whether it’s important to pay respect to the dead with funeral services and decent burials is a matter of personal, cultural, and spiritual preference, but even if Spock doesn’t have the same hang-ups, he needs to be aware that it matters very much to his crew. Captains aren’t out to make friends, they have to make the hard decisions that no one else is willing or capable of; I found myself wondering: What would Jim Kirk do? In the same situation, under the same stresses, he would have understood that his people needed reassurance. Keeping up their morale is at least as important as repairing the shuttle. Mears—surprisingly—says it best when she begs Spock for some inspiration. People need to feel like they matter, not like they’re another piece of equipment, just part of a machine, or merely 170 pounds of mass to be left behind.
I found it interesting that even before Spock’s uncharacteristic surrender to an act of illogical desperation, which ultimately saves their lives, he relies on the emotional response of Captain Kirk. He knows that his captain is going to hold out for as long as possible before abandoning the crew of the Galileo, which gives them a finite amount of time to reach orbit and establish contact. But this is another interesting matter for debate: should Kirk have stopped off in the first place? On the one hand, people are dying, or at least extremely sick in a freaking plague on a remote colony, in need of the medical supplies onboard Enterprise. Scientific curiosity or not, even with a mission objective to study quasars, is this really the time to go sightseeing? Granted, he had two days to get to Makus III, but wouldn’t sooner be better? And it isn’t like Murasaki 312 was going anywhere; it’s apparently still around in the TNG era (“Data’s Day”), so why not come back after saving some lives and easing some pain?
Overall this is a strong episode, presenting some interesting moral questions and creating a tense situation both on Enterprise and down on the planet. It’s extremely effective to avoid fully showing the ape creatures, since the unknown can be far more terrifying, though the flying spears (which chip off some Styrofoam from a “rock” in one scene) are as inefficient as Spock says they are. The Murasaki quasar is rendered with a beautiful visual effect, though I wish it had been purple, since murasaki is the Japanese word for purple. This is also the first episode to feature a shuttlecraft and the shuttlebay in the series. The Galileo and Columbus are appropriately named after Earth explorers, a trend that continues in the later shows (runabouts on Deep Space Nine, however, were named after Earth rivers). The titular “Galileo Seven” clearly refers to both the number of that shuttlecraft and the number of the crew onboard.
I found the sound effect of the transporter whine used around the shuttle to be a bit distracting; I kept expecting someone to beam in. Speaking of transporters, I guess they just blindly locked onto the crew at the end? Sulu didn’t even know it was the Galileo at the time. And why didn’t they jettison at least two of the chairs onboard the shuttle if every ounce was precious?
Not to nitpick the crazy science too much, but if Mr. Scott drains the phasers to replace the shuttle’s fuel, which seems to be separate from the batteries, what does Spock jettison and ignite at the end?
Other ruminations: Yeoman Mears was pretty much a waste. I don’t know what she was doing in the crew, since there wasn’t a Mr. Coffee station. Maybe she just bumped her head harder than she thought in the crash and couldn’t contribute much to the serious discussions at hand.
Commissioner Ferris’ uniform reminded me a little of the Starfleet uniforms from the series Enterprise, only with little flap-things on the sleeves, befitting of his preeminence.
Eugene’s Rating: Warp 4 (on a scale of 1-6)
Torie Atkinson: This is a great Spock piece, but it also has quite a few little touches that I really enjoyed. They’re the Galileo Seven, perhaps a nod to the Mercury Seven (and maybe also seven for luck, which Kirk says he’s depending on?). The Shuttlecraft of Diversity was a nice feeling, too; seeing this group of people work together, divide up tasks, and come up with solutions and alternatives despite their differences (and even with internal tension) is the kind of uplifting vision of the future that makes me wish I could run out and join Starfleet right now.
I also really liked the parallel between the hierarchical conflicts aboard the Enterprise (what part of “Galactic High Commissioner” doesn’t say “douchebag”?) and the conflicts on the planet under Spock’s leadership. Though they seem cruel and heartless, both leaders are making what they feel are the logical choices. Every decision Spock made makes perfect sense: why waste time on a dead guy when the living people need to get off the planet? Why let everyone die when some have a chance to live? Why leave a guy alone with the wookies after someone’s already died when you can—okay, that made absolutely no sense. But for the most part I thought Nimoy did a truly spectacular job showing us that the logical choice, the most reasonable choice, isn’t always the right one. I loved this exchange in particular:
COTT: Mister Spock, you said a while ago that there were always alternatives.
SPOCK: Did l? I may have been mistaken.
MCCOY: Well, at least I lived long enough to hear that.
Spock isn’t heartless—he’s as reverent of life as any of the humans, perhaps even moreso. (It’s a chilling moment when you realize it’s the empathetic human crewmembers who want to blindly execute the creatures they don’t understand.) I think Spock received too much criticism for his command. He gets reamed by Boma and the others for being wrong about scaring off the giants with phasers, but their suggestion was to kill them outright—if we’ve established they’re emotional creatures, how would that not have angered them even more? At the very least, he exudes command and authority much more than, say, Boma or Gaetano. All the makings of a good leader are there—Spock’s comfortable with being in charge, fully committed to his duties, and absolutely no-nonsense about doing what needs to be done even if it means risking his own life—but he lacks the emotional core from which to evaluate otherwise logically equal options. He begins as someone with just the trappings of a good leader, and then emerges into someone who is a good leader. It’s lovely.
And the ending…hilarious and sincere and wonderful. Baby steps, Spock. It’ll be a while before this is the same man who refuses to complete the Kolinahr, but you can see the embers of that fire within him even now.
Torie’s Rating: Warp 4 (on a scale of 1-6)
Best Line: Spock: “I, for one, do not believe in angels.”
Syndication Edits: A shot of the shuttlecraft in the hangar bay, turning towards the doors; Spock doing a pre-flight check and Kirk ordering them to launch; a small part of one of the Spock/Boma face-offs when they discuss Latimer’s death; the discussion about bringing Latimer’s body back to the shuttle; Spock’s technobabble suggestion to “channel the second auxiliary tank through the primary intake valve” and Scotty’s rebuff; McCoy hesitating before turning over his phaser to Spock; some of the discussion between McCoy and Boma after Spock goes to find Gaetano, and part of Spock’s search; some of the giants bashing the ship.
Trivia: The role of Yeoman Mears was created to replace Janice Rand, who appeared in the first draft of the script. There were both miniature and full-sized models made of the hangar deck and shuttlecraft; the full-size Galileo exterior mockup was designed by Gene Winfield, a custom car designer who later built the police Spinners for Blade Runner.
Other notes: Don Marshall, who portrayed Lt. Boma, later continued to be dwarfed by huge beings as Dan Erickson in Land of the Giants. Phyllis Douglas, aka Yeoman Mears, appears again later as one of the space hippies “The Way to Eden.”
Previous Episode: Season 1, Episode 15 – “Shore Leave.”
This post originally appeared on Tor.com.