Thursday, July 26, 2018

Episode Review - Operation: Annihilate! (Original Series, Season 1)

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

Overview – The Enterprise is heading towards the planet Deneva to try to establish contact with the colony stationed there. They are investigating a pattern of mass insanity that is moving on a straight line towards the colony. They pick up a ship on sensors that is headed towards the system’s sun. After a mysterious message from the pilot, the ship burns up. It is then revealed that Kirk has a brother on the planet. As they beam down to the planet they begin to investigate. They are attacked by group of men who are yelling at the away team to go away. After stunning the group. Kirk and his team find Kirk’s brother, George “Sam” Kirk, dead. His son is unconscious, and his wife is n hysterics. Beaming them back to the Enterprise, Kirk’s sister-in-law, Aurelan, tells Kirk of “things” that invaded their colony, and then she herself dies. They find some strange creatures, one of which attacks and infects Spock. Kirk is left with the difficult decision of destroying the colony to prevent the spread of the parasites, and he demands another alternative. A method is found, but it extracts a heavy cost on Spock.

Score: 8/10 – A good, solid episode to end the first season of Star Trek. There is mystery, humor, and risk all interwoven. James Kirk faces a great loss as his brother and most of his family die from the neural parasites. The parasites themselves are a cool alien prop and concept, and they add a great deal to the eerie feel of the episode. The method of killing the parasites has a few twists and turns and shows that our crew are not entirely infallible. When they use the bright light to kill the parasite that is living within Spock, it blinds our favorite Vulcan first officer. The revelation that it is UV light that kills the parasite makes Spock’s sacrifice seem in vain. Being the last episode in the season, it adds a certain amount of suspense, although in the 1960s it would have been uncommon to have such a major change to such a major character.

Relevance – 2 points. The inner eyelid of the Vulcans is mentioned in the Enterprise episode “The Forge”. While some might classify this anatomical feature as being akin to the deus ex machina solution, it does become an important feature of Vulcan physiology. I will also score a point for showing George Samuel Kirk’s family, which was mentioned in the episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”.

Continuity – 1 points. Character-wise we have one little issue. Kirk has some tough calls to make and is dealing with the very recent loss of his brother’s family, save Peter. Yes, as a Starfleet captain he must be tough against the trials that life in Starfleet brings. It is expected that Kirk show composure in light of this tragedy, but I did find it odd that there was very little shown about the captain’s handling of his loss. I get that Jim Kirk was closer to Spock and McCoy then his own brother, but I did expect some sort of extended emotional response to his loss. Universe continuity had to be deducted as well. While it was a cool feature of the neuroparasite, the biology teacher in me has to call out the idea that each floating fried egg was a single cell is not scientifically feasible. Cells are microscopic for a reason, and the scale of these organisms is just not going to cut it. So, while I like the organisms as a concept, and I get that not all scientific laws can be readily adhered to in science fiction, but I have to make a call, and the call is to deduct the point. Fortunately, the story continuity is fully intact, so the point is scored here.

Character Development – 2 points. Spock shows he is willing to give himself for the greater good by going to the planet alone, after being infected, to obtain one of the creatures. McCoy shows his deep respect for Spock when he refers to him as the best first officer in the fleet. Kirk has to make some tough choices after losing his brother. All of them see some growth in this episode, and yet it is all stuff that has been previously established. Still, it’s a good episode that highlights the three of them.

Social Commentary – 2 points. Here we see the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few. Kirk having to make the difficult choice to destroy a million lives to prevent these parasites from expanding throughout the galaxy. Spock going to the planet to prevent the anyone else in the crew from being infected by the parasites. This is the usual “taking one for the team” attitude that we quite often find ourselves in. While we do not have to do this on the scale that Kirk and his crew do, it is still significant. It means we put off the things we would rather be doing to help those in need. It means we allow for the greater good to override a minority group. It may not always be the most ethical choice, and sometimes we go the route of the needs of the few outweighing the needs of the many.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. There is no way that I am not giving a point for the neural parasite. For a science fiction show in the 1960s, it was a cool creature that has a cool premise. Each one being like a cell of a larger entity is different. I also imagine being one of the set workers whose job was to move the parasite around the scene on a string, like some sort of weird puppetry act. If memory serves me correctly there is a blooper scene that is out there that shows the scene where Spock is infected by the parasite, except instead of being hit in the back, he is hit in the butt. I also want to score a point for having William Shatner play Sam Kirk, complete with distinguishing moustache. This, to my knowledge, marks the first time that a main actor plays a second character in the show. True, Sam is dead and has no dialogue because of it, but it is a cool feature.

Rank – Captain (17 points). This is a great episode that is a fan favourite. The effects of the creatures work well even today, and we get to see some great dialogue between the core three characters. Definitely a strong finish to a good first season.

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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