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Episode 74 – TOS 3×19: “Requiem for Methuselah”

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So I nearly didn’t bother writing a post for this episode, because Corene’s intro basically… covers it all.

You’ll see.

But essentially this week’s story is a lecture on why no one, especially white dudes, should actually be immortal. It’s bad for everyone. You, your family, your friends, passing starships, the super-intelligent robot daughter you built in a lab…

Rayna the secret robot
Being an immortal robot is the only way you can have 17 university degrees and still look like you’ve ever slept.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary: the Enterprise crew (through yet another catastrophic failure of standard biohazard protocols and vaccine management) has fallen ill with a terrible space-fever that will kill everyone within four hours unless they track down a source of magic space rock to make anti-toxin. Is it a bacteria? A virus? Poison? Who cares! Certainly no one who wrote this episode, because it’s all just a contrivance to get them to beam down to this guy’s planet.

Flint, on his throne
Once you pass your two thousandth birthday, brocade and a cape are mandatory dress at all times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, you heard that right. This guy – Flint, by name – owns his own planet. Yeah, I’m looking forward to 24th-century star trek where they’ve worked out the whole socialist-Earth-people-confused-by-space-capitalism system to a point where there’s any kind of internal consistency, but for the purposes of this episode, he purchased the planet through shady means and a fake ID and btw is also 6,000 years old. He’s also got a castle full of antiques – that are not antiques because they’re all brand new – that he may or may not have sculpted, painted, and written himself.

We couldn’t decide whether the most irritating part of this was the fact that some Gary Stu writer on the staff seized the opportunity to cram this character full with every single Highlander-esque storyline that ever passed through his head but mostly failed to imbue the man with a pathos score of greater than 17%, because it turns out that this dude was the secret identity of every interesting historical figure, from Shakespeare to Brahms to Da Vinci to Alexander the Great, but still hasn’t worked out that treating people like things is Not Okay.

Instead, he’s spent his entire tenure on Planet Asshole trying to build himself the perfect daughter-slash-girlfriend.

Yeah, it’s… unclear. Rayna is introduced as a member of Flint’s family, and everything we see between them pre-robot reveal makes it super, super clear that Rayna considers him a father. In fact, Flint says he raised her from infancy. But then suddenly, when her neural net wakes up upon exposure to Kirk’s devil-may-care smile and she realizes that feelings are a thing, Flint’s all: “sweet, let’s get married and live together forever as man and wife.” It’s… jarring, at best. Creepy, at worst. And Kirk’s behaviour is not much better; it appears that robot with feelings is enough to drive everyone out of their damn minds.

Rayna, undergoing cascade failure
Wow, I think I’d rather undergo cascade failure than listen to any of you speak for another goddamn minute.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This episode is supposed to be about how sad it is that some old dude has outlived everyone he ever loved and was therefore, somehow, driven to exploit and mistreat and discard everyone he meets from then on. But surprisingly, we don’t really care about Flint’s manpain! Rayna’s story is much more interesting, though it’s not given nearly enough attention in-story. Somewhere in here, there’s a genuinely interesting conversation about self-determination: what makes one human, and whether or not human rights apply to artificial life, and the importance of free will to the nature of humanity, but, let’s be serious: it’s a conversation that’s better approached, contextualized, and executed, in every possible way, by later franchises, basically from the introduction of Soong-type androids like Data. In fact, there’s a Next Gen episode with a similar internal plot to this, and one that treats the subject with far more intelligence and sensitivity.

Also at no point in the TNG episode does it become necessary for anyone to explain that no, it’s probably never cool to put the moves on your wards, even the ones you built in a lab.

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