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Monday, June 21, 2010
Retro TV Round-Up: Star Trek
"For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky"

One of the problems with the self-contained, episodic nature of Star Trek is it means the reset button has to be firmly pushed by episode's end. So, you know going in that despite being given a diagnosis of only a year to live, McCoy will be fine by episode's end. You also know he's not going to leave the Enterprise for a sustained period of time.

With one of the longest titles in all of Trek history, I'm often curious to see if a story like "For the World is Hollow..." would be more successful today when it could be given a multi-episode arc. Because there are some interesting character ideas here--the biggest being McCoy's diagnosis and only having a year to live. It clearly has an impact on not only McCoy but also Kirk, Spock and Nurse Chapel. Unfortunately, the episode also has to tell the story of Yonada, a ship inside an asteroid that's on a collision course with an inhabited Federation world. It's not exactly a dire threat given that it will be least a year before Yonada hits the planet, but it's still there to give the episode some sense of conflict and a driving narrative.

In many ways, the whole Yonada plot is a greatest hits of some of the big themes of classic Trek. There's some debate over the Prime Directive and there's also the Kirk vs a computer plot. In this case, the computer controlling the world has gone a bit amok, creating a cult of worship around it as well as being Big Brother with thought-monitoring and punishment for lack of obedience.

The problem with the story is that it's gone enough ideas for three scripts, but only 50 minutes to tell it all. McCoy beams over with the crew and in a matter of hours is falling in love and deciding to stay behind. It might work given his condition but the whole love plot comes out of left field and then goes back there too quickly. The fact that Natira never learns his first name makes the whole thing seem a bit forced. I know we're pressed for time here, but surely before she chooses him as her mate and he gets the obedience device inserted into his skull, he might volunteer his first name. I'm just saying....

Then once the computer is defeated, McCoy decides to head back to the ship. He's decided life is worth living and that he can pursue a cure for his disease. Natira can go along, but she says her life is on Yonada. So, the two part and all is back to as it was.

Except for the disease. Oh but there's a magical cure that the Fabrini people (they live inside Yonada) have in their databanks. Yes, they happen to have a cure and all is well again. Of course, there's the whole thing with Kirk saying in a log entry that he's asked for a new medical officer (this despite McCoy saying he can stay on the job for a while and he doesn't want anyone else to know), but it's easily forgotten.

All of it makes the episode seem pretty inconsequential and light. At least "The Paradise Syndrome" tried to make it feel like more than a day or two had passed in Kirok's going native. Not so the case here.

But there are some decent elements here. A scene of Kirk getting dressed down by Admiral Komack for wanting to stay near Yonada is nicely done. Again, it makes you wish this was produced today where we could see Kirk and the Enterprise warp off, leaving McCoy for an episode or two on Yonada. Unfortunately, the script mandates that McCoy discovers the secret of the world just as Kirk is getting ordered to leave. That way he and Spock can beam back and fix everything.

The problem is a huge lack of focus. DeForest Kelly is so good as McCoy in the show, it would have been nice to see him get a better showcase for Dr. McCoy than what we get here.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/21/2010 01:30:00 PM | |
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