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Monday, June 14, 2010
Retro TV Round-Up: Star Trek
Is There In Truth No Beauty?
In the day and age of entire seasons and series being available to own and watch on DVD, it's easy to gravitate toward your favorite episodes and skip over others that didn't make quite as much of a positive impression the first time around.

That's the case with "Is There In Truth No Beauty?" It's not that I didn't like it, but it's not that I necessarily loved it either. So, it felt like I was re-discovering it to see it this time around.

The Enterprise is assigned transportation of the Medusan ambassador, Kollos, back to his homeworld. The Medusans are so an alien race so unattractive to human eyes that looking on them in their true form will drive humans over the edge. Kollos is accompanied by Miranda Jones, an telepathic woman who has spent year on Vulcan learning the mental disciplines. She is set to bond with the ambassador due to her telepathic abilities and her Vulcan discipline. Also coming on board is Larry Marvick, who helped design the ship's engine.

It's revealed that Vulcans can also look upon the Medusans without any ill-effects, again thanks to the mental disciplines.

In an interesting scene, the big three and Scotty have dinner with Miranda and Marvick. It's fascinating to watch Kirk, McCoy and Scotty all working to one-up each other in their attempted flirting with Miranda. It's interesting to watch the three men falling all over each other to get her attention and watching as she responds but only to a certain point. On some level, you get the impression she might be into Spock, but that's not the case. Instead, it's revealed she and Larry had some kind of thing, but Miranda has chosen to work with Kollos over Larry. Larry doesn't take this well and tries to kill Kollos. Thankfully, the ambassador has that whole being so ugly he drives people mad if they look at him, so Larry doesn't succeed and goes a bit wonky. He heads down to engineering and sends the ship careening out control beyond the galactic barrier we saw in "Where No Man Has Gone Before." Larry then dies from the insanity.

After subduing him and taking back the ship, we find out the Enterprise is so far out they can't get any readings to get back. Thankfully Kollos' people are super navigators and Spock offers to bond with Kollos to get them back. Turns out the reason Miranda isn't driven crazy is she's blind. Spock bonds, gets them home and then make the mistake of not using his special visor to put the ambassador back in his box. Spock's human half goes a bit crazy but is subdued. Spock is able to get over it with help from Miranda and the Vulcan mind fusion.

Of course, there are a zillion little nitpicks in this one, the biggest being why there isn't security stationed outside the ambassadors door to guard him or why they didn't lock the door so Marvick can't get in.

The episode is infamous because it introduced the Vulcan concept of IDIC to the canon. The backstory is almost more interesting than the concept of IDIC. Gene Roddenberry was approached by a company about wanting to sell the IDIC symbols and asked Roddenberry to work them into an episode. Shatner and Nimoy were not pleased--especially Nimoy. And you can tell the portions that were inserted because the two clearly don't like being advertising slogans for Gene to make money and they're a bit stilted and awkward. Nimoy was becomingly increasingly unhappy with certain things being done with the show and Spock in particular during season three and this is just the first symptom of many more to come. It's also interesting that this won't be the first clash Roddenberry and Nimoy have about which party is profiting most from Trek. Nimoy is said to have been very unhappy that Roddenberry went to cons with the now infamous blooper reels.

But controversy aside, the episode is a solid one with some interesting ideas. It's not as lost as "Paradise Syndrome" or "Children" and it feels like a classic Trek episode, all the way down to Kirk trying to distract Miranda by courting her while Spock arranges the mind sharing with the Medusan ambassador. The twist that Miranda is blind is one that is foreshadowed well enough by Diana Muldaur's portrayal of the character and doesn't come totally out of left field.

Outside of "The Enterprise Incident," this has been the episode that felt most like an episode of classic Trek in this third season. It's not a classic, but it's still a solid entry and one that I've overlooked.

Oh and the remastered effects of the Enterprise going out of control though space and then beyond the barrier are really, really good. A good example of how to upgrade the effects and still keep the spirit of the originals.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/14/2010 12:01:00 AM | |
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