January 4, 2017
Season 3 of TOS is a strange, unpredictable beast, in that there are utterly bananas episodes that make no sense and are exhaustingly bad, like “And The Children Shall Lead,” and then there are episodes like this one, which could have stood in for a 60s/70s contemporary standalone sci-fi film and honestly have better internal logic than a lot of them. In other words: we all pretty much liked this one.
I mean, it’s a story about a generation ship, which we all love. But it also features Natira, High Priestess of the Fabrini, and probably the best (only?) standalone female leader on Trek so far.
The wild thing about the Fabrini – and the root of the danger and conflict and danger in this episode – is the fact that they don’t know they’re living on a spaceship. Apparently their ancestors, pre-supernova, decided to send them off on a generation ship hidden inside an asteroid, but decided to make the inside of the asteroid look like a planet and not tell them that they’re on a spaceship. This turns out to be a questionable decision, because it apparently led to the foundation of a religion hinged on absolute obedience to the ship’s computer, and sometimes-fatal head pain if you either disobey or think bad thoughts that question that authority. It also doles out unlimited electric shocks for all nonbelievers.
It’s into this society that Kirk, Spock, and Bones arrive, mostly because the ship is on a collision course with a populated planet and they need to either correct its course or destroy it.
But seriously, we love Natira. She’s smart and committed to her people, she knows how to make high-stakes judgement calls and, despite her questionable – and really really fast, but hey, lady knows what she wants I guess? – choice of Leonard McCoy as her mate, a fair and even-handed leader, even under the duress of the Oracle (their authoritarian ship’s computer).
There are actually some really interesting conversations about the prime directive and the development of a closed society under utterly bizarre conditions, and in the end, our heroes’ Did We Break The Prime Directive This Week score comes out looking pretty good, even taking into account Bones’ decision to move in with Natira and leave Starfleet (he thinks he’s dying of an incurable disease at the time; it’s a whole thing). Natira even gets to choose whether or not to be told the truth about her world, which is a refreshing change from Kirk unilaterally deciding, justified or not, to dismantle an entire set of cultural rules. We’d love to know more about what happened to the Fabrini, planetary winner of the 2017 Most Agency in a Female TOS Character award.
June 23, 2017
June 14, 2017