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Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Retro TV Round-Up: Star Trek
"That Which Survives"
For many shows, it's easy to create a checklist of certain elements that will crop up in a majority of the episodes. Some will have more, some will have less. If you were to sit down and create a check list of things that happen in a typical episode of classic Star Trek, "That Which Survives" would be able to check off a good number of them.

And yet, it's still able to be a fairly entertaining episode that while it's not exactly top tier Trek, it's not exactly the bottom of the barrel. It's certainly more watchable than "And The Children Shall Lead," for example.

While exploring space, the Enterprise encounters a planet the size of Earth's moon but with the mass and atmosphere of our planet. Kirk orders the ship into orbit and he, McCoy, Sulu and Lt. D'Amato beam down to investigate. D'Amoto is a geologist whom we've not seen before and since we don't get any red shirts beaming down, we expect his life expectancy to not extend beyond the first act.

During the beaming process, a beautiful woman appears in the transporter room, killing the transporter tech. Kirk calls the ship to discuss this, but the planet is rocked by a violent earthquake and the Enterprise disappears from orbit. This leaves the landing party stranded and they begin to work on ways to survive on the planet, hoping the Enterprise hasn't been destroyed and will come back for them.

As you guessed, the ship hasn't been destroyed, but merely flung through space 990 light years away. Spock orders a full diagnostic of ship's systems and when it comes back green, heads back toward the planet at warp 8. Scotty calls up to say the ship doesn't feel right, but Spock initially says that the engineer is being too emotional since all the instruments say everything is working perfectly. That is until the mysterious woman appears back in engineering, killing another guy and fusing one of the vital ship components. The Enterprise begins hurtling through space, beyond the tolerance limits of the ship and the engines.

Spock is eventually able to figure out that the ship was beamed there and not put back together right. He and Scotty devise a plan to use a device to reverse the polarity in the anti-matter/matter regulators. They've got 14 minutes to do it before the ship is space dust. Of course, they succeed at the last second. (About the only part of this plotline I don't like is that Spock calculates how long they have left only to see the deadline pass with no destruction. It's done for dramatic purpose, obviously, but there is a large chunk of time that Scotty's sitting in an access vent, just twiddling his thumbs apparently...)

Meanwhile, back on the planetoid, the landing party is trying to find food, water and shelter to survive. That is until the woman, named Losira shows up and wants to touch D'Amato. She does and he dies. She then vanishes again before showing up for Sulu, then Kirk and another copy for McCoy. The three figure out that she can only harm the one she's sent for and intend to stand between Losira and her intended target, but this plan goes awry when the computer running the planet sends three copies. Thankfully, Spock shows up in time to shoot the computer, shutting it down and we find out what really happened. Losira was a leader of her people, waiting on colony ships to arrive. But her people were overcome by a great plague and died, leaving the computer to carry out the final orders.

As I said, there's a lot of classic Trek threads in there from a computer run amok to Scotty worried about the ship. Thankfully, no one takes over the ship and there aren't any red shirt deaths, but D'Amoto quickly bites the bullet in act one. Sadly, the poor guy doesn't even get a first name as his headstone is carved out to only say Lt. D'Amoto. (Interestingly, the engineering tech gets a first name).

"Survives" features the second appearance of McCoy's back-up, Dr. M'Benga. He first appeared in "A Private Little War" and was well versed in Vulcan medicine. Here he's a fill-in for McCoy whose stuck on the planet. M'Benga has been expanded in several of the tie-in novels and he's an interesting recurring character. His banter with Spock is nice and it's different from McCoy's. I've said it before, but if there were a modern Trek, I have a feeling we'd see more of M'Benga as a recurring character (kind of the way O'Brien started out on TNG possibly).

As for the story itself, it's a fairly straightforward one, but it's well told. There's a couple of mysteries here and the show addresses them fairly well, solving them in an interesting, credible way. No great leaps are required to get to a resolution, though it does end up being little more than blasting the computer. I know we've seen Kirk talk a lot of computers into self-destruction in his time and maybe I was expecting to see that here.

"Survives" is a nice little gem in the midst of the final run of episodes and looking at this disc of the set, may be the last story I truly enjoy on the disc. The next two are "Lights of Zetar" and one of my least favorites, "The Way to Eden." But I've not seen either of those in years and am trying to approach them with an open mind...

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 7/21/2010 12:01:00 AM | |
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