Written by Richard Matheson and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Leo Penn
You’d think with the number of issues with the transporter through the years, there would have been a recall. I can’t imagine in our day and age using something like this which seemed to seriously malfunction so much of the time. This is especially of concern considering it is taking someone’s cells and disassembling them, sending them through space on some sort of wave, and reassembling them at a different point.
In The Enemy Within, the Enterprise is orbiting the planet Alfa 177 collecting geological samples. After a crewman is transported up to the ship with magnetic ore all over his clothing, Captain Kirk (William Shatner) beams up and feels a bit disoriented. Chief Engineer Scotty (James Doohan) takes him outside. While they are away from the Transporter Room, a duplicate of Kirk appears on the pad.
This is not an exact duplicate, but rather a more primal version of the Captain. It wanders the ship, demanding Saurian Brandy from Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) and assaulting Yeoman Rand (Grace Lee Whitney). The “good” Kirk begins to sound weaker and indecisive, that primal part of his personality having been taken away.
Of more concern is the fact that there are still men on the planet below where the temperature will dip to 120 below at night and they can’t be transported back to the Enterprise until they are confident the transporter is no longer malfunctioning.
Even taking out the issues with the transporter, since this was the first episode that plot device was used in, there are issues with the story. Blankets are beamed down to those on the planet as the temperature drops, and Mr. Sulu (George Takei) uses his phaser to heat up rocks and generate heat. However, after a while that isn’t done. Why not? I mean, even if his phaser has stopped working, can’t they just send down more? The transporter issues didn’t affect the blankets – why not send down more? Or a shelter? Anything?
However, the story is good as it examines two sides of people’s personalities. In the 1960’s people were delving into psychology and beginning to break through some of the preconceived notions about how our psyche works. It’s an interesting take on the two sides of a person, one primal and one more compassionate and nurturing and just how much they need each other to survive.
What The Enemy Within also does do, and quite successfully, is set up the bond between Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. Kirk depends on Spock here to keep his crew from seeing him weak, and Spock is not afraid of challenging his Captain when he feels the need to. Shatner actually shows some terrific acting ability as he portrays both roles and shows why series creator Gene Roddenberry picked him to be Captain Kirk.
Leonard Nimoy as well is finding his footing as Spock. There’s not as many times when he seems to catch himself from emoting too much in the role. Spock seems much more calm, cool, and reasonable than he has in earlier episodes. I can imagine it was something new to have to act and show things like intense concentration and concern without having that come through as being an emotion, and Nimoy seems to be getting on track here.
Grace Lee Whitney’s role is pretty substantial here as it was in another recent episode Charlie X. The indication seems to be that she would be a regular female crewmember along with Uhura, but problems with alcohol and addictions put a halt to that. It’s a shame because she was a strong character and a good actress. Fortunately for fans, she reprised her role when the movies began filming and appeared in three of them.
There were a couple of firsts for the series in The Enemy Within. When a crewman’s pet is put through the transporter as a test (it was affected the same way Kirk was), Dr. McCoy utters “He’s dead, Jim” for the first time. Spock first uses his Vulcan nerve pinch to subdue the primal version of the Captain. It’s also the first appearance of a casual uniform for the Captain in green, rather than the yellow/goldenrod uniform shirt he usually appears in.
All in all, The Enemy Within is a strong episode for the series which was still in its infancy when it was aired. It’s not dumbing itself down to the audience and has a strong script which only the few nitpickers like me who spent years watching the re-runs will find fault with. For anyone who wants to see some of the good episodes from the original series, you can’t go wrong with The Enemy Within.
To view on Prime Video or to buy the blu-ray, click on the picture below to be directed to my Amazon Associates account. I receive a small commission if you purchase through this link.