This episode features a heroic effort by Leonard Nimoy to convince us that his leg is pinned by a heavy rock, when in fact it is very obviously just a lump of polystyrene that is so light he has to hold it in place.
So let's talk about shuttles. Specifically, what powers a shuttle. One would imagine that it is some version of an impulse engine, yes? Now there's no canonical description of exactly how an impulse drive works, but it appears to essentially be a fusion rocket. So there's a fusion reactor which is supplied by a suitable gas - probably deuterium. The impulse drive would compress and heat this until it fused, then squirt fusing plasma out of the back end to generate thrust. (There's possibly some wizard-tech mass lightening effect there, but let's skip that.)
Now when the shuttle crash-lands, Scotty informs Spock that "We've lost a great deal of fuel. We have no chance at all to reach escape velocity." But eventually they overcome this difficulty when Scotty decides that "I can adjust the main reactor to function with a substitute fuel supply... Our phasers. I can adapt them and use their energy."
So, my question is this. Are the phaser power packs really supposed to have some kind of fuel inside them? I always took a phaser power pack to be some kind of high capacity battery. But if it's a battery, how can that energy possibly be used to power a fusion reactor?
The only conclusion seems to be that phasers are themselves miniature fusion reactors, and the "power packs" are actually little bottles of deuterium or other fusion gas. Although even then, wouldn't Scotty talk about draining their "fuel" rather than their "energy"?
The mention of Ensign O'Neill is the first time that rank is ever referred to in Star Trek.
In the non-canon novel Dreadnought!, we find that after their rescue Scotty insisted that Boma be charged for his insubordination towards Spock. Although Spock had mentioned nothing of the matter in his report charges were indeed brought, and Boma was court martialled, convicted, and discharged from Starfleet.
However, once it enters the area around Murusaki the shuttle encounters turbulence and is knocked off course. With sensors and communications rendered useless by the huge interference in the area the shuttle manages to crash-land on a nearby M Class planet, Tarsus II. Kirk now has two days to find his missing crew before the Enterprise will be forced to depart.
Everybody survives the crash landing. Spock sets Scotty to work trying to repair the craft whilst Latimer and Gaetano scout the area. Up in space the Enterprise comes to the planet as the logical place to search, but is hampered by the sensor and communication interference. Kirk is reduced to sending shuttle missions out to the planet to search visually, a daunting prospect. Matters are not by Farris, who insists on reminding Kirk at every opportunity they they will soon have to leave, and that under his authority he can and will order Kirk to do so. Kirk makes it equally clear that he will spend every second that he can trying to find his lost shipmates before he is forced to depart.
On the planet, Scotty has bad news for Spock. The ship has lost a great deal of fuel, making it impossible to reach escape velocity. Even getting into orbit is out of the question unless they can shed at least 500 pounds of weight before taking off. Spock comments that this is the weight of three men, prompting everyone to wonder if he is actually going to order people to remain behind. Whilst Spock makes no decision on this, he seems to think that it would be perfectly logical and reasonable to do so. They set about removing whatever extraneous equipment they can from the shuttle to lighten it, although there is little aboard that is not required for normal operation. The crew gradually become unnerved by the purely rational way that Spock is approaching his command of the mission.
Whilst on their scouting mission Latimer and Gaetano hear strange rasping sounds nearby. They cannot identify the source at first but then a huge furry apelike creature looms out of the mist towards them. They retreat, but a giant spear catches Latimer in the back, killing him. Gaetano fires with his phaser to drive the creature off. The sound brings Spock and Boma to the scene. Boma is horrified when Spock casually disregards the dead officer to examine the spear and comment on the construction method used to create it. When he expresses his anger Spock simply replies that his concern for the dead will not bring them back to life. When Spock offers to help the two men carry the body back they bluntly decline his assistance, obviously frustrated and angry with him.
Kirk increasingly desperate, orders the shuttles to begin widening their search pattern over the planet. This will leave large gaps uncovered in the search area, but will at least result in the bulk of the surface being covered in the time they have.
On the surface McCoy and Mears have managed to dump 150 pounds of machinery. Spock accepts this but comments that with the loss of Latimer they still have a good 150 pounds left to lose. McCoy is disgusted by the idea of leaving somebody behind and tries to talk Spock out of it, but they are interrupted when Boma returns to ask Spock to come and hold Latimer's burial ceremony. Spock seems uninterested in doing so, suggesting that McCoy would be a better choice, but finally agrees to hold the ceremony so long as they continue with the repairs during it. Although he does say that his policy of expending all possible effort on the practicalities of their situation is aimed at ensuring the survival of the remaining crew, his attitude continues to provoke increasing hostility.
However, disaster strikes. As Scotty and Spock work on the shuttle a pipe ruptures, and all of the remaining fuel leaks away. Spock asks Scotty to continue working on any possible alternative, though the engineer sees no solution. Meanwhile the rasping sounds have returned again, noises that Spock identifies as wood on leather. He suggests that there might be some sort of tribal culture at work, which would mean that the Taureans have some sense of unity. Hitting them hard with phasers might therefore drive them off. Although disapproving of the idea of using force Spock concedes that it is logical. However he insists that they fire warning shots only, intending to frighten the creatures away instead of injuring them. The plan appears to work, and the aliens retreat.
Spock orders Gaetano to stand guard whilst he and Boma go back to the shuttle.
There, Scotty has come up with a solution to their problems. With no fuel to use, they can nevertheless drain energy from their hand phasers to power the ship into space. Whilst this offers them some chance to get clear, it does mean sacrificing their only defence against the Taureans. Seeing no choice, Spock orders the procedure carried out.
On the Enterprise they have managed to get the transporters working despite the interference, and Kirk beams several landing parties down.
The Taureans soon return, surrounding the terrified Gaetano. He is attacked, losing his phaser, and tries to run. A Taurean kills him. When Spock, McCoy, and Boma arrive they find no trace of his body, promoting Spock to order the others to return whilst he searches - citing a "scientific curiosity" regarding what happened to Gaetano. He sends his hand phaser back with them, leaving him unarmed. After he leaves, a bemused McCoy comments that Spock will risk his life to find his officer, and yet if he does he is just as likely to order him to remain behind as the rest escape.
Spock succeeds in finding Gaetano's body and carries it to the shuttlecraft. The Taureans attack, but he makes it back to the shuttle. He seems deep in thought after the encounter. McCoy comments that Spock's plan has brought the creatures down on them. Spock cannot understand why the creatures are acting as they are, but to McCoy it is obvious - the phaser fire angered them, something Spock cannot understand. Spock predicts that the creatures will study them for a while but seconds later one one of them begins smashing a huge rock against the craft. Spock is deeply confused by the sequence of events, given that he has made the logical decisions at every point along the way, and yet the results have been less than ideal with two men dead and resentment from the crew boiling over. They electrify the hull to drive the creature off. When Spock states that Gaetano's body will have to be left behind Boma demands a burial, now openly contemptuous of Spock. Spock decides to allow the funeral whilst they creatures are gone.
Meanwhile Kirk gets reports of casualties from one of his landing parties, who were likewise attacked by the Taureans. Ensign O'Neill has been killed by a spear and Lieutenant Immamura is badly wounded. They state that the planet seems to be overrun with the hostile aliens, making it unlikely that the shuttle crew could survive long there. Matters are not helped when Commissioner Ferris arrives to order Kirk to depart. The Captain plays for time, saying that they need to recover their landing parties and shuttles first, but he has only minutes left.
Scotty finishes draining their phasers, announcing that this gives them enough power to attain orbit, hold it for a couple of hours, and then make a controlled landing somewhere on the planet. They go to hold the funeral but the ceremony is interrupted by the Taureans attacking again. Spock is pinned to the ground by a boulder and orders the others to leave him behind, but they refuse and manage to free him. All of them make it to the shuttle and it tries to take off, but the giant Taureans physically hold it down. Spock orders the boosters fired, and the shuttle manages to break free and ascend at last. However, the power drain means that they now cannot make a soft landing. They will fall from orbit in under an hour and burn up in the atmosphere. When Scotty reminds Spock of an earlier comment that "there are always alternatives." Spock ponders that he may have been mistaken about that.
With the shuttles back aboard Kirk reluctantly orders the ship to depart - but at "space normal" speed, a relative crawl. He has the planet brought up on the screen so they can watch as they depart.
Aboard the shuttle, Spock sits deep in thought. He finally reaches out and jettisons all of their remaining fuel in one dump, then ignites it. The others are astonished - the burn will last only seconds, and then the shuttle will fall into the atmosphere. Spock's action has, apparently, doomed them all. But Scotty realises his intent - the burn is a signal flare. Both Scotty and McCoy seem pleased that Spock has taken this illogical gamble as one of his last actions.
Aboard the Enterprise the flare is spotted, and the ship doubles back and beams the survivors off the shuttle just as it is about to burn up. A delighted Kirk proceeds on course at warp speed with everybody safe aboard. Later, he and McCoy needle Spock about his action on the shuttle. Spock calmly replies that he reasoned that with no logical options left, an act of desperation was the only remaining choice - a logical choice, logically arrived at. Kirk characterises it as "you reasoned that it was time for an emotional outburst!" Spock, whilst dubious about the choice of words, is forced to agree.
That said, this is perhaps a good place to take a look at Star Trek and Vulcan logic. In point of fact Trek badly abuses logic quite often, with the Vulcans being the worst offenders. In Star Trek speak, being logical is the same thing as being unemotional. In point of fact those two things are very different and it is unemotionalism that the Vulcans prize, not logic.
Logic is a method of determining the validity of a conclusion - that is, whether the conclusion follows from the premises. The classic case is the example "All dogs are brown. Spot is a dog. Therefore, Spot is brown." This is a textbook case of a valid logical argument, because the conclusion that Spot is brown follows from the premises that all dogs are brown and that Spot is a dog. The reality is that the argument isn't a good one because even assuming Spot actually is a dog, it's not actually true that all dogs are brown. Spot may be black, or white, or a mix of colours, or whatever else dogs can be. But the truth of the argument has nothing to do with the logical validity of it. A valid argument is one whose conclusion must be true if the premises were true. So the above argument is logical because if all dogs are brown, and if Spot is a dog, then it would have to be true that Spot was brown.
A logically invalid argument would be one like this : "All dogs are brown. Spot is a dog. Therefore, Spot is green." In that argument the conclusion may be false even if the premise is true - if we take it as true that all dogs are brown, and we take it as true that spot is a dog, then it doesn't follow that spot must be green. See how that works?
I go on about this because it's perfectly logical to take account of emotions and to behave emotionally sometimes. For example, Spock remains almost completely indifferent to how those under his command feel during this episode. Emotions are "not logical", thus he ignores them. But how about this chain of logic : "Maximum efficiency by the crew is desirable. The crew perform more efficiently when their leader shows concern for their emotional wellbeing. Therefore, their leader should show concern for their emotional wellbeing." That is an argument that is both perfectly logical and quite clearly true, at least in this case. Yet Spock not only doesn't see it, he seems to not even be able to consider it despite the obvious signs that the attitude he is taking is inciting virtual open revolt in the crew.
This is not to say that valuing non emotionalism is wrong; that's a different argument. One can certainly say that one should not use emotion to determine whether a proposition or argument is true or not - by which I mean, for example, that one should not say something like "I feel good about a certain course of action, therefore it must be possible to achieve my goal using that course of action." But Trek and the Vulcans constantly treat logic and emotion as opposites when in truth they are different and unrelated things. And this episode is a classic example. Compare it with an example from The Next Generation, in Redemption Part II. There we have Data, a character who is incapable of emotion, who is in command of a Human crew. When one officer becomes increasingly argumentative and disrespectful, Data finally resorts to angrily snapping at him - an emotional response which Data fakes, because he reasons that the officer is in an emotional state and will best be managed by an apparently emotional response. And it works!
I have to call out McCoy's behaviour in this episode, too. McCoy is used to being able to speak his mind on the ship, and to sniping at Kirk and Spock a little. Well, a lot actually. But here he is in a very different situation with a very different leader, and yet he continually works to undermine Spock and attack his decisions. Yes, he might be outside the normal chain of command, but he is still a senior officer and a member of this mission. Yet he openly backtalks Spock constantly, and worse, he subverts his authority behind his back with Boma, a man who is already showing considerable signs of disrespect. When Boma starts to openly insult his commander McCoy reacts with shock - seriously Doctor, what did you expect to happen? Not five minutes earlier you stood with that very man and made comments about how you couldn't understand Spock's attitude and behaviour. Bones really needed to be called on his behaviour and told to shut the hell up.
Another flaw was the inclusion of Farris. Well, not so much a flaw as unnecessary and a bit of a missed opportunity. Farris is there to enforce their departure... and yet they don't really need that enforcement to be external. Kirk is a man of duty, he knows that many may die if he doesn't complete his mission. Wouldn't it be more interesting to see him war with himself over the fact that he has to leave, delaying as much as he can but ultimately giving in and departing under his own steam, labouring under the guilt of that? It would serve his character much better than having some flunky standing over his shoulder, I would think.
Still, despite all this it remains a great episode.
|© Graham & Ian Kennedy||Page views : 34,542||Last updated : 23 Feb 2017|