There is a ton of content packed into this episode. Unlike the previous entry, “The Man Trap” this episode actually takes full use of its fifty minute run time. That being said, it’s not a perfect episode.
The Enterprise rendezvous with a probe ship (I assume a scientific survey vessel) that had picked up the last survivor of a crashed colony ship who had been stranded from the time he was three to seventeen. It becomes evident rather quickly that this kid has immense, dare I say Q-like, powers (Both TNG’s “Encounter at Farpoint” and this were written by Dorothy “D.C.” Fontana, so it’s not that far of a stretch to consider the possible connections). Charlie immediately recognizes Kirk to be a father figure character, but this is chiefly because of his obvious position of authority and the fact that he corrected him when he would step out of line. Of course, the status quo can’t be maintained as Charlie can’t grapple with both his powers and his role in society as he is essentially a God among mortals. It’s a pretty standard story, but it’s what Fontana does with the character’s reactions to Charlie that make this episode stand out. In addition, the dues ex machina at the end doesn’t feel forced because it would only take a God to defeat Charlie (well, that and Kirk and co. seemed to have victory in their grasp before the Phasians show up).
Charlie is a classic Trek character
When I say that Charlie is a classic trek character, I don’t mean that he’s iconic, or even that memorable in the face of other characters, but that he epitomizes so much of what comes next in Trek lore. Charlie isn’t just the classic “what would happen if a kid had god-like powers.” The conflict that occurs between him and the crew would have existed without his powers, they merely help to ratchet up the tension as the episode continues deeper into the plot. Now, Charlie is a physical being that has been raised by ephemeral ones, ones that can’t possibly fathom the psycho-chemical changes occurring within him as he reaches maturity. To them, Charlie is just as alien as they are to him, that’s why they would have made the horrible decision to imbue him with such power, they wouldn’t know what that would do to a human, to never want, and to never hear the word “No.” Nor, do they have any idea how humanity would function, instead Charlie learns everything from them, if they ever taught him at all. Therefore, when Charlie arrives on the ship he immediately attaches to Kirk and Yeoman Rand. It’s possibly because they respectively represent father and mother figures (and Charlie may be having a very … oedipal reaction), but it probably relates to how her feeling relates to his.
This is what is great about this episode, we really get to infer a lot about Rand’s character (and it’s a shame that her stay on the show is so short lived), but what is lost in this episode is since this is actually the eighth episode and not really the second, is that Rand has feelings for Kirk that she can never act on, partially because he doesn’t love her (and never could). Charlie senses this in her when he is describing why she’s different than the other women, she wants things deeply as he does. Moreover, as the episode progresses, and Charlie becomes more aggressive, there is a undertone of potential sexual violence. Before the scene where Rand is dissipated into nothingness, she comes to Kirk to get Charlie to back off, because as she said she knows where it’s going, and she doesn’t want to hurt him. The tone in her voice didn’t seem that of a woman afraid to hurt his feelings, but that of a woman prepared to defend herself from an attacker.
The tragedy underlining the whole episode is that Charlie doesn’t know any better. All he knows is that he wants to be with people he can touch and feel, he wants to be with other humans, but he doesn’t know how to handle it. It’s that tension, and Robert Walker’s performance as Charlie (silly eye twitches and all) that sells it.
This episode is by the numbers. There a lot of splashes of colors, especially in Rand’s quarters during that scene, but otherwise it’s nothing special.
This is a definitive Star Trek episode
All the previous episodes have lacked that special quality that makes them different from other scifi shows in the sixties (or today for that matter), but this show manages to capture the spirit of Star Trek quite deftly. How you ask? Well, in the final scene with the Phasians as they’re trying to recapture Charlie, Kirk objects. Even though Charlie has killed, maimed, and injured a number of his crew, destroyed a ship, and hijacked his own, Kirk’s response is to argue that his place is with his own kind. The Phasian’s rightly object to this, as Charlie would either be killed or kill all of humanity. In fact, Kirk never advocated for killing Charlie, just incapacitating him. It’s that sanctity of not just life, but believing that Charlie could be better, that makes this episode stand above the other god-child stories.
Red Shirt Kill Count: None, or at least all the deaths we see get reversed by the Phasians at the end, except for the crew of the Antares.
- There is at least one scene change where Kirk is wearing two different uniforms
- Uhura literally sings a song about how Spock is out to break women’s hearts. Yeah … they totally never hooked up.
There are seriously a lot of similarities between the Phasians and the Q. It wouldn’t shock me that this was just a silly Q experiment gone awry, or that they were trying to test Kirk for some reason.
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