Thursday, June 8, 2017

Episode Review - And the Children Shall Lead (Original Series, Season 3)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Overview – The Enterprise responds to a distress call from a Federation outpost on Triacus. When they arrive, all the adults are dead, seemingly from killing each other. Only the five children from the colony are found, and in relatively good spirits. The away team beams the children up to the ship to determine if they have been harmed in any way, either physically or emotionally. When they are alone, the children summon Gorgon, a mysterious being who congratulates them on successfully defeating their parents on the planet, and orders them to take over the Enterprise using their special powers. As the work their influence over the crew, Kirk must face himself with the distinct possibility that to save his ship, he may have to kill the children.

Score: 2/10 – While the idea of children doing evil is not new (see “Children of the Corn” and a few Steven King stories as examples), in the 60s this may have been a relatively interesting idea. The children have been coerced into killing their parents, and have been given special powers to do so. The premise of the story is promising, but the script is the biggest problem with this show, followed by the casting of lawyer Melvin Belli as Gorgon. I found that the child actors were all convincing, for the most part, but Melvin Belli was clearly not a trained actor. His performance is wooden, lacked depth, and seemed more akin to a low grade middle school performance. Apparently, Gene Roddenberry was so upset with his performance that he ordered it to be as distorted as possible with visual and sound effects. The dialogue is pretty dull, and Shatner gives a few performances that are over the top, even for him. Oh, and the children work their black magic by pounding their fists in the air like some sort of demonic rock-paper-scissors game. Not an effective choice. Most of all, the ending of this episode bothers me. The children finally come to grips that they are responsible for the deaths of their parents, and are crying over it. By doing so, Gorgon is defeated, and as he disappears from the ship, he threatens all of them with death and destruction. When he is gone, Kirk offers a few reassuring words, and everybody is all smiles and hugs after. The kids, who have likely been through the most traumatic and frightening experience for anyone to endure (not just children), are now laughing and carefree with McCoy and Kirk smiling proudly in their midst. It just seems to me that the ending should have been much more somber. Yes, this story was never picked up again, but it was just glossed over as having been nothing more than a routine mission with no long lasting negative consequences to follow. Definitely not one of Star Trek’s finest episodes.

Relevance – 0 points. Nothing in this episode relates to anything else in any series. It is almost as if in looking back the writers decided to leave this tale alone. Can’t blame them.

Continuity - 2 points. Character continuity is intact here, but barely. As various crew members are shown their fears (aging ungracefully for Uhura, disobeying direct orders for Chekov, losing the ability to command for Kirk, and somehow an endless ring of swords on the view screen for Sulu), they react as we would expect them to. Universe continuity also is fine here. I am going to take a point for story continuity, as Kirk is the one that uses the name Gorgon first, before anyone else does. Not even the entity reveals his name. Apparently this is dealt with in a deleted scene, but slopping editing is no excuse.

Character Development – 0 points. I am really at a loss as to which characters actually progress or develop in this episode. The script really does not allow for it.

Social Commentary – 2 points. OK, one redeeming feature of this episode is that it does try to give a moral to the story. It talks of how evil often tries to either destroy or mislead the innocent, and what better way to show that than by having a malicious entity goad some children into killing their parents. Spock and McCoy, in one of the better written exchanges of the episode claim that evil seeks to maintain power by supressing the truth or by misleading the innocent. We see that happen here, and it is a timely warning today as it will likely always be. So while the message is given in words, I find that it does not live up to it in the delivery, hence 2 points instead of 3.

Cool Stuff – 1 point. I found one cool thing about this episode. One of the children is played by Brian Tochi, who will appear (all grown up) in a TNG episode “Night Terrors” as an ensign on the bridge. That TNG episode is a far more enjoyable story than this one, but it is neat to see one of the kids all grown up and still acting.

Rank – Ensign (7 points). Before I married my wife, she had not seen many of the original Star Trek episodes, so at night we would work through them on DVD. Sometimes she would fall asleep, and I would either try to keep her up or turn it off and continue it the next night if it was a good one, or let her sleep if it wasn’t. This one I let her sleep. The kids were a bit creepy, but the rest of the episode did not live up to its potential.

If you would like to read other reviews from the Original Series, click on the link here.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do.

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