Star Trek Re-Watch: “Friday’s Child”

“Friday’s Child”
Written by D.C. Fontana
Directed by Joseph Pevney

Season 2, Episode 11
Production episode: 2×03
Original air date: December 1, 1967
Star date: 3497.2
Mission summary

The Enterprise arrives at Capella IV to negotiate for mining rights to a rare mineral called topaline, which is essential to colonial life-support systems. Doctor McCoy has spent some time on the planet, so he briefs the senior crew on the Capellan culture: they are a large, warlike people who believe “only the strong should survive” and have a lot of taboos. Sound like anyone we know? Worried about showing force by bringing an armed security team, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beam down with a lone red shirt, and a “young and inexperienced” one at that. Grant is also excitable; when they discover a Klingon hanging out on the planet, he draws his phaser and is instantly killed by a kligat, a knife the Capellans can throw up to a hundred yards. Too bad Kirk failed to warn him that Klingons were in the area…

The Capellan Maab, egged on by his Klingon friend Kras, requests that Kirk’s team surrender their weapons and communicators. They agree, and are unable to contact the ship to update them on the situation. As they wait in a tent, Kirk demands an explanation from McCoy for their shoddy treatment—the Capellans are supposed to be “unusually honest” and “dangerous if lied to,” but Kirk and his crew haven’t done anything wrong. Except for trigger-happy Grant, that is. Kirk’s also worried about Kras, since there’s probably a Klingon ship around too.

Indeed there is: Chekov detects a ship just outside of sensor range. Sulu and Scotty naturally assume it’s Klingon, but decide not to bother the Captain yet. He has his hands full anyway, when a woman brings a bowl of fruit to their tent and offers some to him. But McCoy warns the captain that if he, uh, touches her fruit, “her nearest male relative will have to try to kill you.” They find combat more pleasurable than love.

They’re finally brought to see Akaar, Teer of the Ten Tribes of Capella, and his very pregnant wife Eleen. Kirk complains about them killing Grant, and Maab points out that the humans have strange customs. When Kras suggests that the Klingons have more in common with the Capellans, McCoy calls him a liar in the Capellan fashion:

What Maab has said is true. Our customs are different. What the Klingon has said is unimportant and we do not hear his words.

Kirk also points out that the Klingons are more likely to conquer Capella, but the Federation will respect their right to rule themselves. Maab implies that some Capellans won’t bargain with Earth, and Akkar asks if he wants to fight.

Meanwhile, the Enterprise picks up a distress signal from the freighter S.S. Dierdre, which apparently is under attack by the Klingon ship. They can’t contact the landing party because their communicators were confiscated, so he decides to leave orbit to assist the ship in distress.

On Capella, Maab launches a coup against Akaar. During the fray, Kirk discovers Kras ransacking the Teer’s tent, with the same idea he had of locating their weapons and communicators. He overcomes the Klingon, but Maab arrives to break it up, proclaiming himself the new Teer. When Eleen enters, Maab trips her and she burns her arm in a brazier. Kirk pulls her to safety before Maab can kill her and her unborn child, which threatens his claim as leader. “No man may touch the wife of a Teer,” Maab says, and Eleen agrees:

I was proud to obey the laws. Kill him first. He laid hands upon me. It is my right to see him die.

It was only a matter of time before Kirk’s grabby hands got him in trouble! He and the others are imprisoned with Eleen. McCoy is determined to treat her injured arm, but she refuses to let him touch her. The guards are distracted by the argument, allowing Kirk and Spock to overpower them. The captain invites Eleen to escape with them: “You said you’re prepared to die. Does that mean you’d prefer to die?” She decides to leave with them and also reveals that she hates her unborn baby.

Somehow they manage to recover their communicators and flee into the mountains, where they make their stand in a narrow canyon as the Capellans pursue them. McCoy finally convinces Eleen to let him heal her arm, but she protests when he puts his hand on her belly to check on her child.

ELEEN: You will not touch me in that manner.
MCCOY: You listen to me, young woman. I’ll touch you in any way or manner that my professional judgment indicates.

She slaps him a couple of times and he slaps her back, which wins her respect. She consents to his hands on her and he tells her that the baby is due imminently. Spock seems unsurprised when he sees her cozying up to the doctor.

Kirk comes up with a crazy plan to use their communicators to generate a sonic disruption and create a landslide when the Capellans enter the canyon. They successfully produce a sympathetic vibration that makes the rockface explode down onto the Capellans. Kras uses the opportunity to steal a phaser from a fallen Capellan (who happens to be wearing a red uniform!) and kill him with his own sword.

The Enterprise can’t find the Deirdre and there’s no sign of any debris. Scotty plays back the distress call and realizes they’ve been tricked away from Capella IV. After continuing their search for a while to be sure, he decides to head back to help the captain, ignoring another phony distress call. They discover the Klingon ship directly ahead, between them and the planet, and Scotty plays chicken with them.

Momentarily safe from the Capellans, Eleen goes into labor in a cave and Spock and Kirk fashion rudimentary bows and arrows from sticks and remarkably “tensile” bark—since sulfur, charcoal, potassium nitrate, and diamonds are in short supply. After McCoy delivers the child, Eleen knocks him out and runs away, leaving three men and a baby. Kirk and Spock pursue her, planning to ambush the Capellan warriors among the rocks with their primitive weapons. Eleen convinces Maab that her baby is dead and she killed the humans in their sleep, but Kras won’t take her word for it. Kirk shoots an arrow into his leg and then everything goes Reservoir Dogs; a Capellan throws a kligat at them, Spock shoots him, and Kras fires his phaser at Spock but misses, then disintegrates a Capellan.

Eleen offers to draw Kras’s fire so Maab can attack him, shaming the leader into sparing her life in exchange for his own. He challenges the Klingon and is immediately disintegrated for his trouble. Moments after Kirk complains that “the cavalry doesn’t come over the hill in the nick of time anymore,” a cavalry of red shirts shows up; apparently, the Klingon ship flinched before the Enterprise. McCoy appears with Eleen’s baby and subjects everyone to his embarrassing baby talk, which is too much for the universal translator, and Spock.

SPOCK: Oochy-woochy coochy-coo, Captain?
KIRK: An obscure Earth dialect, Mister Spock. Oochy-woochy coochy-coo. If you’re curious, consult linguistics.
SPOCK: Well, at any rate, this should prove interesting.
KIRK: Interesting?
SPOCK: When the woman starts explaining how the new high teer is actually Doctor McCoy’s child.

The explanation is never given, but Eleen grants them the mining treaty as Regent for the new Teer, Leonard James Akaar.

MCCOY: Has a kind of a ring to it, don’t you think, James?
KIRK: Yes. I think it’s a name destined to go down in galactic history, Leonard. What do you think, Spock?
SPOCK: I think you’re both going to be insufferably pleased with yourselves for at least a month. Sir.


I had absolutely no recollection of this episode until Eleen starts calling the doctor “MacCoy” and he says “I’m a doctor, not an escalator!” For a while I was wondering if I’d ever seen it at all, which is one of the problems—it just isn’t memorable, even with Julie Newmar guest starring.

The Capellan culture was one of the more interesting aspects of this episode. Though they don’t go explore it in great detail, it’s always fascinating to see civilizations different from our own, and how the crew generally tries to respect their laws. The Capellans are patriarchal warriors, but at no point does anyone from the Enterprise mock them or, in this case, try to change their ways—something with which Kirk often has trouble. They simply accept their customs and try to work within their guidelines. As a story about negotiating with an indigenous people, “Friday’s Child” mostly succeeds. It’s also an unexpected pleasure to have McCoy featured so prominently in this adventure, as the only person able to interpret their actions and respond accordingly. I’d really like to know more about how the Capellans can track them by scent…

This appearance of the Klingons is reminiscent of their previous interactions with the Organians, but adds a decent element of tension and conflict to an already difficult situation. The scenes on board the Enterprise mainly serve to leave Kirk, McCoy, and Spock to fend for themselves, and yet there’s at least one interesting moment. When the Klingon ship slips out of sensor range and they can’t find the Deirdre, Scott comments, “A vessel doesn’t just disappear.” But as we find out in later episodes, some Klingon ships are equipped with cloaking devices. Perhaps this foreshadows that later development? There’s also another throwaway line in the teaser, when Kirk says, “While we’re negotiating down there, we don’t want the Enterprise to become an incident up here.” D.C. Fontana, the writer for this episode, would later contribute a third season script titled “The Enterprise Incident,” which concerns… a cloaking device.

There are some other interesting events on the Bridge. It’s unusual, but we see Scott actually recording his Captain’s Log entry, and he’s even interrupted in the middle of it to sign some paperwork. When they go to red alert, there’s a deliberate shot of some scanner rising from Sulu’s console. What the heck is that? And in one scene, I heard the turbolift doors open and noticed some random crew member slipping onto the Bridge in the background and moving offscreen, for no apparent purpose—an extra bit of detail, like Engineering reporting on the status of weapons before the battle, that make the ship seem busy and realistic.

Far less realistic is the idea that Spock and Kirk could make bows and arrows that actually work as well as they do. On top of that, instead of building a normal fire with wood, McCoy produces a “magnesite-nitron tablet” that bursts into flame on sharp impact, which I don’t believe we ever see again because it’s ridiculous. It’s generally easier to heat up rocks with phasers, if you have them. Why did Kirk bring such a green red shirt down to the planet, and not warn him about Klingons?

It’s also extremely odd that they gloss over so much in the episode, so it seems like we’re missing some scenes that are filled in with exposition. Kirk says, “Before leaving the Capellan encampment, we managed to retrieve our communicators.” How? Later Scott tells them, “Well sir, we had a wee bit of a run-in with a Klingon vessel, but he had no stomach for fighting.” That doesn’t sound very Klingon, and it also would have been more interesting than most of the scenes we did have on the Enterprise. Most frustrating of all, McCoy promises to explain why he’s the father of Eleen’s child, but he never does.

Speaking of McCoy and Eleen, I found their relationship both awesome and bizarre. McCoy knows how to be tough with her, and she seems to like it. I was stunned when she was telling him where she felt pain, and then Kirk left the cave and we can hear her giggling inside. But I found his attempts to psych her into having the baby a little groan-worthy, though it’s worth it when he realizes they aren’t strictly doctor and patient anymore.

MCCOY: Now, you must want the child!
ELEEN: No. Here, child belongs to husband.
MCCOY: So they take all the credit here. Poppycock! Answer me. Do you want my help? Answer me. Do you want my help? All right. Say to yourself, the child is mine. The child is mine. It is mine!
ELEEN: Yes, it’s yours.
MCCOY: No, no. You’ve got it all wrong.
ELEEN: Yes, McCoy. It’s yours.
MCCOY: No. Say to yourself, The child is mine. It is mine. It is— Uh oh.

Finally, I was a bit disturbed by one brief exchange, as Kirk and Spock face off against the Capellans and Kas.

KIRK: There’s just one thing I want.
SPOCK: The Klingon?
KIRK: One of us must get him.
SPOCK: Revenge, Captain?
KIRK: Why not?

Huh? Revenge for what?

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

Torie Atkinson: What the hell was this?

Disjointed, boring, and baffling, “Friday’s Child” left me going “What? No wait… WHAT?” over and over again.

First, we’ve got a semi-Spartan culture that the Federation has nothing to offer in exchange for a ridiculously beneficial mining treaty. Kras wants to know what the Federation has to give, and all Kirk can think of is “we won’t invade”? That’s supposed to persuade them why, exactly? Then we have a girl who’s barely verbal (no one else in the community seems limited to a five-word vocabulary!) and whose motives throughout are a total mystery (why does she flee in the first place, only to return to die?), but who seems to enjoy a little sadomasochistic hanky-panky with the doctor. What?? We’ve also got Kirk and Spock fashioning bows and arrows and killing the natives, and then being warmly accepted as allies. Is that what they teach at the Academy? I was most confused by the way that Mr. Scott, who’s ordinarily sharp as a tack, took absolutely forever to figure out that the distress signal was a trap. And once he learns that it is, he promptly proceeds to continue investigating the signal. What??

In case the haphazard plotting wasn’t enough, it has no fewer than three egregiously bad edits (in which the scene abruptly shifts to a wildly different angle or position) and the absolute worst choreographed man fight I’ve seen. Even the actors seemed to be checking their watches, and Chekov’s half-hearted Russia joke was the lamest yet. There were no real characters—we get a one-note Klingon villain and a terrible waste of Julie Newmar—and absolutely nothing memorable happens that will make me recall having seen this a few weeks from now.

On the other hand, I can now point to a concrete example of “rocks fall, everyone dies.”

Torie’s Rating: Warp Factor 1

Best Line: KIRK: “Well, if you don’t think we can, maybe we shouldn’t try.” (Used to convince Spock that his plan with the communicators will work, especially funny because he uses the same tactic to prompt McCoy to action later.)

Syndication Edits: Sulu calling the briefing room in the teaser while they’re watching McCoy’s home movies, Scott’s decision not to bother the Captain about the Klingon ship, Kras pacing around Maab after Kirk and the others escape, some of the Enterprise’s search for the Deirdre, Kras approaching the fallen Capellan, Scott considering the disappearing ship, Eleen groaning and McCoy comforting her, Uhura hailing the Klingon ship, and various reaction shots, transitions, and scenes of walking Capellans throughout.

Trivia: In the original draft of this script, the planet is “Ceres VII” and Akaar and Maab are brothers. Maab plots with the Klingon “Keel” to kill Akaar, and Eleen gives up her baby in exchange for her life, while Kirk and the others try to rescue him. Maab kills her anyway for adultery, then is killed himself for working with the Klingons, and the baby becomes the new Teer with Eleen’s father as his Regent. Roddenberry reportedly changed Fontana’s ending with Eleen’s death.

This is the first production episode in which Chekov claims an Earth saying was invented in Russia (“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”), though other episodes with the recurring gag aired first. In this instance, he smiles afterward, indicating he knows he’s making a joke, though at other times he seems perfectly serious. Because this was filmed early but didn’t air until Christmas, he’s still seen in his shaggy wig.

This is the only episode where Uhura and Sulu call Mr. Scott “Scotty.”

The mineral topaline is also referenced in an episode of Enterprise titled “The Shipment.”

Other notes: The beautiful Julie Newmar (who plays Eleen here) was, of course, most famous for playing Catwoman in the original Batman series.

I had to consult the internet to figure out what this episode title is referencing. It relates to a fortune-telling nursery rhyme, which says that “Friday’s child is loving and giving,” though an earlier version claims that “Friday’s child is full of woe.” In the 1960s, this would likely have been known to many people, as many novels riffed on the nursery rhyme for their titles, including Georgette Heyer’s Friday’s Child, from 1944. Eartha Kitt, an actress who also played Catwoman on Batman, titled her 1954 autobiography Thursday’s Child.

Previous episode: Season 2, Episode 10 – “Journey to Babel

Next episode: Season 2, Episode 12 – “The Deadly Years.” US residents can watch it for free at the CBS website.

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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 blog editor/moderator. She watches too many movies and plays too many games but never, ever reads enough books.