Star Trek Re-Watch: “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”

“What Are Little Girls Made Of?”
Written by Robert Bloch
Directed by James Goldstone

Season 1, Episode 7
Production episode: 1×09
Original air date: October 10, 1966
Star date: 2712.4

Mission summary
The Enterprise arrives at planet Exo-III in search of Dr. Roger Korby, a famed archaeologist who disappeared there five years ago after discovering underground caverns on the freezing planet. More importantly, he’s Nurse Chapel’s fiancé, which is why she’s on the bridge anxiously awaiting word from the surface. They don’t expect to make contact with Korby because two other expeditions have already failed to locate him, but the third time’s the charm; he answers their hails with an odd request. He asks Captain Kirk to beam down alone, as he has an important discovery to discuss with him. Spock is puzzled, but Kirk is willing to give the “Pasteur of archaeological medicine” (which means he translated some old Orion medical records) the benefit of the doubt. When Korby finds out Christine Chapel is on board, he agrees to let Kirk bring her along.

Things get off to a rocky start. Kirk and Chapel beam down, but Korby isn’t there. Worried about the change in plans, Kirk orders some decoys beamed down from the Enterprise. Security officer Rayburn stays behind at the landing site, while Matthews tags along as they explore the extremely well-lit underground caverns. Instead of taking the lead, Matthews falls behind the others, looking around him nervously as though he expects something to happen to him at any moment.

Suddenly a bright spotlight shines on Kirk and Chapel and a man steps dramatically in front of it. He presses a button and the spotlight turns off, replaced by normal lighting so they can see it isn’t Korby, but his assistant, Dr. Brown. Before he can explain why he doesn’t know how to work the light switch, they hear Matthews scream—and from the way his cry dwindles away, it’s obvious he’s falling a great distance. While Kirk and Chapel look into the “bottomless” pit with concern, a tall grey man in a pink dress and gray robe slinks away. Could he have had something to do with Rayburn’s accident?

Kirk reports Matthews’s death to Rayburn, evoking an “Oh crap, I’m next” reaction. He asks Matthews to tell the Enterprise to ready a security team in case anything happens, but before he can do so, the same gray man sneaks up behind Matthews and kills him. Kirk and Chapel blithely follow Dr. Brown on his expository tour of the caverns:

Doctor Korby has discovered that as their sun dimmed, the inhabitants of this planet moved underground from an open environment to this dark world. When you were a student of his, Christine, you must have often heard Doctor Korby remark how freedom of movement and choice produced the human spirit. The culture of Exo-III proved his theory. When they moved from light to darkness, they replaced freedom with a mechanistic culture. Doctor Korby has been able to uncover elements of this culture which will revolutionize the universe when freed from this cavernous environment.

This doesn’t make much sense, but it’ll have to do. They finally arrive at Korby’s study, but of course the man isn’t there. Instead, they find Andrea, a beautiful woman in a skimpy outfit whom Chapel immediately finds suspicious. Korby himself finally appears and kisses Chapel as Kirk and Andrea watch avidly. It’s been five years, after all. Kirk next attempts to contact Rayburn but fails to reach him. Before he can report to the Enterprise, Brown pulls a gun on him and Korby orders Andrea to grab Kirk’s phaser. Kirk grabs her instead and uses her as a shield, then fires at Brown. The big guy from earlier bursts into the room and slams Kirk against the wall like a doll. Chapel screams and Kirk notices a large hole in Brown’s torso, which reveals burning electrical components, the universal sign that he’s an android.

Korby has Ruk, the big guy, mimic Kirk’s voice and report back to the Enterprise, buying him some time to convince the Captain to trust him. Kirk, understandably, thinks Korby is nuts, but persuades him into ordering Ruk to follow Chapel’s orders. Then the doctor continues to show off his toys, trying to make them see the promise of this technology. Chapel accuses him of creating Andrea as a “mechanical geisha,” but he protests:

KORBY: You think I could love a machine?
CHAPEL: Did you?
KORBY: Andrea’s incapable of that. She simply obeys orders. She has no meaning for me. There’s no emotional bond. Andrea, kiss Captain Kirk. Now strike him. You see? There’s no emotion in it, no emotional involvement. She simply responds to orders. She’s a totally logical computer. A thing is not a woman. Now do you understand?

Chapel understands all too well. Finally, Korby decides the best way to explain himself is to show them how to make an android. Kirk is strapped naked onto one side of a round table, while a man-shaped mass of clay is strapped to the other side. The table begins to spin like a dreidel while Dr. Korby technobabbles the process of copying Kirk’s physical form to the android. While duplicating the mental pattern, Kirk wakes up and begins repeating the lines, “Mind your own business, Mr. Spock. I’m sick of your half-breed interference, do you hear?” Then he loses consciousness and the android Kirk awakens. Now there are two Kirks, one evil, the other… no wait, that was last week.

Kirk and Chapel discuss Korby in the dining room, and he tests her loyalties to her ship and her fiancé. She begs him not to force her to make that choice, then he reveals that he is actually the android Kirk. The real Kirk walks in (now in a stylish blue and brown jumpsuit, the current fashion on Exo-III) and joins the conversation, testing his double’s memories. Korby finally explains that he could have transferred Kirk’s consciousness, his very soul, into the machine if he’d wanted to—effectively offering him immortality. Kirk objects to this lofty goal, insisting that it’s nothing but programming.

KORBY: Can you understand that a human converted to an android can be programmed for the better? Can you imagine how life could be improved if we could do away with jealousy, greed, hate?
KIRK: It can also be improved by eliminating love, tenderness, sentiment. The other side of the coin, Doctor.
KORBY: No one need ever die again. No disease, no deformities. why even fear can be programmed away, replaced with joy. I’m offering you a pracical heaven, a new paradise, and all I need is your help.

Korby wants Kirk to take him to a planet with the resources to allow him to create more androids to infiltrate society, thinking this will make it easier to accept their existence. Kirk escapes, with Ruk in hot pursuit as Chapel orders him not to harm the captain. In the caverns, Kirk tears off a Styrofoam stalactite and fights Ruk with the phallic club, before falling over the side of a cliff. Ruk considers, then helps him up.

On the Enterprise, the android Kirk makes plans to take Korby and his equipment to the planet he needs, ignoring Spock’s questions. He ignites Spock’s suspicion when he snaps, “Mind your own business, Mr. Spock. I’m sick of your half-breed interference, do you hear?” Very clever, Kirk! Spock gets a security team together to go down to Exo-III after the android beams down.

Back in captivity, Kirk starts to work on Andrea and Ruk, trying to get at the emotions beneath their programming. He kisses Andrea, but she gets flustered and refuses him: “No. Not programmed for you.” Ruk engages him in a discussion of logic versus emotion, and Kirk convinces him that like the “old ones” on Exo-III, human emotions are incompatible with machine logic. As the android’s creators became afraid of their creations and turned them off in response, the androids determined that the old ones had to be destroyed for their own survival. Ruk suddenly remembers that “survival must cancel out programming,” which allows him to challenge Dr. Korby, who he now sees as a threat.

Ruk accuses Korby of “bringing the evil back” and ignores his commands, and Korby disintegrates him with a phaser. Kirk attacks him and Korby injures his hand in a door, tearing the skin and exposing electrical wiring. (Did everybody see that coming?) Korby explains that his original body was damaged by the freezing temperatures on Exo-III, so that only his brain was left intact; but he insists that he is not a computer, he’s the same person he always was. (Sure, and Davros isn’t a Dalek.) Chapel and Kirk argue that everything he’s done, the ease with which he kills, proves that he isn’t. Kirk asks him to prove his humanity by handing over his phaser, and the stunned doctor complies.

Andrea, who has destroyed the android Kirk after it refused to kiss her (a woman scorned…) now confesses her love to Korby. She approaches him, only able to speak in Cormac McCarthey-esque sentence fragments (“No. Protect. Protect. To love you. To, kiss you. Love you. Kiss.”). She kisses a confused and astonished Korby, who pulls the trigger of her phaser between them, disintegrating them both. Then the cavalry arrives and Spock asks where the doctor is. Kirk replies, “Doctor Korby was never here.”

Analysis
For some reason, I didn’t remember this episode much at all until I started to rewatch it. I kept confusing it in my memory with the next episode, “Miri,” which actually has some little girls in it. In any event, this is a strange but interesting episode, however uneven it may be. Here again, we have debates between logic and emotion, an attempt to improve on the human race, the desire for knowledge and immortality, and the pursuit of love. We also have a brilliant person who has gone completely off the deep end when faced with his own mortality, which will happen again and again in several incarnations of Star Trek. Despite the fact that Korby’s obviously crazy, he seems to have the best of intentions, which lend this episode elements of tragedy, especially for Nurse Chapel.

Kirk constantly struggles to reconcile Korby’s reputation with the reality of the man he meets on Exo-III, and we have to wonder what circumstances could have caused such a change in the famous archaeologist. Kirk posits that it’s his lack of humanity in its android body, but it seems he must have had questionable judgment before the transfer. What happened to the real Brown? He must have been a real person once, since Chapel remembers him; did they kill the original after building the android duplicate? Korby makes it sound like he had no choice but to transfer his own consciousness into a machine body, since he was frozen and dying, with his legs gone—but he obviously relishes the thought of immortality. And then there’s Andrea. How much are we meant to sympathize with Korby’s situation and choices? He ultimately kills himself, either because he can’t face what he really is, or to prove that he’s still human after all.

The episode suffers because despite the massive info dumps to sell us on the premise, it’s inconsistent and hard to follow. Korby’s motivations are completely skewed, as he keeps changing his mind about what he wants to do. His theory that the androids would be seen as mere “objects of curiosity” is feeble justification for his plan to replace people. And remember, he was clearly planning to duplicate Kirk from the beginning, when he asked him to beam down alone. Obviously the extensive show-and-tell is just another way of explaining things to the audience, but it delays the opportunity to engage in real questions of identity and the nature of humanity. In some ways, this episode is a nice sendup of Asimov’s robot stories, with Ruk finally breaking his programming to protect Korby in order to protect himself. This isn’t the last time Kirk will outreason a computer mind to save the day.

The most interesting aspect of “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” is its focus on the relatively minor character, Christine Chapel. This is a rare episode to prominently feature the Enterprise’s nurse, played by Majel Barret, who of course later married Gene Roddenberry. She even gets a card all to herself in the end credits, perhaps as a consolation for the loss of her much more impressive part as Number One in the original pilot, “The Cage.” Whatever the motivation for giving her this showcase for her role, it was well deserved because she’s terrific. And it’s nice to get some background information on her character. Kirk mentions that she “gave up a career in bio-research to sign aboard a starship,” but it’s never made clear if she’s just done this and been assigned to the Enterprise to search for Korby one more time. However, her decision to remain onboard makes this seem like her first episode, which is naturally confusing to viewers, though this can’t be blamed on the air date order since this episode was produced after her initial appearance on the show.

Shatner is also terrific, as Captain Kirk gently reassures the concerned Chapel throughout the episode. One of my favorite scenes in this episode is his conversation with his android via the magic of split screen, which is every bit as convincing as modern day special effects. Notably, we also get some back story on Kirk’s family in that scene, learning about his brother George Samuel Kirk and his nephews, who figure into a later episode.

In another bit of setup for later episodes, at one point Nurse Chapel asks Spock if he’s ever been engaged. Though he doesn’t answer, we’ll find out in “Amok Time” that actually, he’s still engaged. But this little moment does raise some questions about Chapel’s admission of her love for Spock in “The Naked Time,” if she still hoped that her fiancé was alive…

This episode has a couple of moments of real surprise: when the android Kirk reveals himself to Chapel, and when we learn that Korby has been an android the whole time. Since I’ve seen this before, I can’t gauge their effectiveness today and I don’t recall what my original reaction was. If anyone has just seen this for the first time, did you see these twists coming or were they predictable?

Eugene’s Rating: Warp 3 (on a scale of 1-6)

Torie Atkinson: You had to pick that picture, didn’t you, Eugene.

To directly respond to some of the questions that Eugene raises: my understanding was that Nurse Chapel gave up her career on Earth in the hopes that one day she could reunite with Korby (who’s always hopping around the galaxy), and that she was specifically on the Enterprise to seek him out at this planet. (By the end it’s noted that she’s transferred to the ship indefinitely, so I think we’re meant to infer that her presence was previously a temp gig.) You’re right, it doesn’t make sense because it implies it’s her first episode. Also, being a Starfleet nurse is clearly supposed to be a step down from bio-research, which surprises me, since I had always assumed that Starfleet was the be-all and end-all of career opportunities. Is that a Next Gen thing?

As for the reveals, I hadn’t seen this one before, but I saw them coming from a mile away and it wasn’t satisfying to me.  On the other hand, I liked the philosophical questions it raised (even if they kind of stumbled upon each other). I particularly liked that they confronted the idea of “practical immortality,” and that Kirk reminds Dr. Korby of that concept’s dark and deadly history from Genghis Khan to Hitler. I do disagree with Eugene about Dr. Korby, though—I really don’t think that he was crazy or had “gone off the deep end.” He clearly made the other androids because he was lonely, and that struck me as an entirely human thing to do. The taking-over-the-universe-and-replacing-humans part…okay, that was wacky. But the trajectory he took, from desperate for survival, to lonely, to villainously ambitious, was a realistic and mostly human one.

My favorite part of the whole episode was Kirk planting the line “Mind your own business, Mr. Spock. I’m sick of your half-breed interference, do you hear?” I think it’s crucial to note that part of Kirk’s fundamental…Kirkness…is that he would never be a racist asshole. That racism trips Spock’s detectors, because it’s so anti-Kirk and so against what this world and this culture is about. What a great touch, and what an effective way of showing how inappropriate that kind of thinking is in this world.

The other thing that truly delighted me in this episode is the brief exchange between Uhura and Nurse Chapel in the beginning. Nurse Chapel is exiting the bridge to reunite with her fiancé, and Uhura stops her, gives her a supportive little kiss on the cheek, and sends her off. It’s such a nice, touching moment, and the first instance of friendship between women that we’ve seen so far.

My question to the audience: What’s the title about?

Torie’s Rating: Warp 3 (on a scale of 1-6)

Best Line: ANDREA (to Chapel): “I am now programmed to please you also.”

Syndication Edits: None listed.

Trivia: Writer Robert Bloch, best known for his novel Psycho, pays homage to the works of H.P. Lovecraft in this episode by invoking the horror master’s subterranean “Old Ones” in dialogue and in the pyramidal doors of some of the ruins on Exo III.

Other notes: Ted Cassidy, who portrays Ruk, is probably familiar to many viewers as Lurch from the television series, The Addams Family, which ended its two-year run just before Star Trek premiered in 1966.

Echoes of “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” can be seen in many episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, including “Datalore,” “The Schizoid Man,” and “Inheritance.”


Previous Episode: Season 1, Episode 6 – “Mudd’s Women.”

 

Next Episode: Season 1, Episode 8 – “Miri.” US residents can watch it for free at the CBS website.


This post originally appeared at Tor.com.

 

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About Eugene Myers & Torie Atkinson

EUGENE MYERS has published short fiction in a variety of print and online zines as E.C. Myers. He is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop and a member of the writing group Altered Fluid. When he isn’t watching Star Trek, he reads and writes young fiction. His first novel, Fair Coin, is forthcoming from Pyr. TORIE ATKINSON is a NYC-based law student (with a focus on civil rights and economic justice), proofreader, sometime lighting designer, and former Tor.com blog editor/moderator. She watches too many movies and plays too many games but never, ever reads enough books.