The Antares is variously referred to as a cargo ship, transport ship, a science probe vessel and a survey ship. That's one handy little vessel!
Robert Walker was a method actor who went to great lengths to give a good performance in this episode. When he wasn't filming he refused to interact with the rest of the cast or crew, remaining alone and isolated as much as possible so as to create a sense of Charlie being estranged from the Enterprise crew. Everybody involved thought that he gave a tremendous performance as a result, projecting a mix of vulnerability and innocence combined with menace.
This is one of only six original series episodes that is set entirely on board the Enterprise.
The scene where Kirk tries to confine Charlie is the first time we ever see a brig in Star Trek.
Kirk states that it is Thanksgiving on Earth, placing this episode on the 22nd of November 2266.
Charlie finds life on the Enterprise very strange. He's only met a handful of people since leaving Thasus, all of them male, so seeing the female crew of the Enterprise is quite a shock for him. He quickly develops a crush on Janice Rand, but is rather clumsy in expressing it as he has had no experience. At the same time, strange things begin to happen around Charlie. In the recreation room he is looking for attention whilst everybody watches Uhura sing. A moment later she finds herself choking slightly, unable to continue. Charlier draws a crowd by performing seemingly impossible card tricks
On the bridge the Enterprise picks up a signal from the Antares. It seems to be an attempt to warn them about something, but before there are any details the contact is lost. Charlie simply comments that the ship was not very well constructed - and a moment later, sensors report that the ship has exploded.
Later, Kirk is in the recreation room when Charlie asks if he can play chess with Spock. Spock wins the game very easily, angering Charlie. When Spock leaves the boy grimaces, and suddenly the chess pieces melt on the board. Subsequently Rand introduces Charlie to Yeoman Tina Lawton, who is rather closer to Charlie's age, in hopes of deflecting his crush. Charlie completely ignores Tina, prompting her to leave and Rand to comment on his rudeness. Rand goes to Kirk and says something will have to be done about Charlie's crush, and that if it continues she will have to end it herself by hurting his feelings. McCoy and Spock suggest that Charlie needs a strong male role model to help him through these kinds of things, and nominate Kirk as the obvious choice. Kirk reluctantly agrees, and takes Charlie to the gymnasium for a little training session. They do some throws and rolls, but Charlie becomes frustrated at how superior Kirk is in skill. When an observer laughs at his awkwardness, Charlie grimaces - and the man simply vanishes.
It is apparent that Charlie has some sort of special ability. Kirk speculates that he might be an alien Thasian. Spock has speculated on the possibility of Thasians existing, as a possible explanation for how Charlie survived on such a barren planet, but McCoy insists that the boy is Human. Charlie informs the stunned Kirk that he destroyed the Antares by making a warped baffle plate on the energy pile vanish. He regards his actions as justified since the plate would have given way eventually anyway, and because the crew were not "nice" to him.
Charlie uses his powers to take control of the Enterprise, demanding that it proceed directly to Colony 5. He lashes out at the crew whenever they anger him, including turning Yeoman Lawton into an iguana. When rand refuses another advance from him, he makes her vanish too. Upset, he begins to inflict his powers on the crew more and more in the aftermath.
The officers speculate that controlling a ship of the size and complexity of the Enterprise must surely be taxing for Charlie. They decide to try and overload his abilities by activating every system on the ship simultaneously, giving him more and more to have to control. Charlie struggles with the task, clearly having difficulty, but remains in control. However, at that moment a strange energy reading closes on the ship and a glowing green face appears on the bridge claiming to be a Thasian. The alien apologises for the trouble Charlie has caused, explaining that the energy beings which live on Thasus gave him the abilities in order to allow him to survive on the planet. They never intended others to be exposed to him, and will now take him back.
The prospect terrifies Charlie, who begs to be allowed to remain on the ship. He explains that the Thasians cannot feel anything or be touched, have no concept of love - remaining with them will be a sterile, empty life for him. The Thasian explains that there is no way to remove the power from Charlie, and that if he remained he would destroy those around him or they would be forced to kill him. The Thasian restores those Charlie caused to vanish and make Charlie himself fade away, presumably transported to their ship.
That said, this really didn't sell itself to me. I'm not quite sure why, but in the end Charlie's story didn't really grab me as much as it might have. The whole just seems to be a little less than the sum of the parts.
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