Written by Robert Bloch and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by James Goldstone
I can remember going to Star Trek conventions and hearing those who worked on the original Star Trek series back in the 1960’s talk about the fact that the network censors were paying so much attention to what the women of the series were dressed in that they missed out on a lot of the social commentary alluded to in the series scripts. If nothing else, the early episodes of the original series seem to be the proving ground for stretching the limits of costuming.
The Enterprise is in orbit around the planet Exo III. Nurse Chapel’s (portrayed by Majel Barrett-Roddenberry) fiance has been stationed down there but has not been heard of in some time. Two other expeditions failed to locate him. Dr. Roger Korby (portrayed by Michael Strong) is involved in archaeological medicine and is noted for his advances in immunology. Just as they are about to give up, a transmission is received from the planet. The sender identifies himself as Dr. Korby!
Dr. Korby asks Captain Kirk (portrayed by William Shatner) to beam down alone, claiming to have made such extraordinary discoveries they may require his input. Upon hearing Christine Chapel’s voice, Korby is excited to have her accompany Kirk. When they arrive at the predetermined coordinates, Korby is nowhere to be found despite assurances he would be there to greet them. Wary, Kirk has two security guards (in red shirts) beam down from the Enterprise.
Finally, Dr. Korby’s aide, Dr. Brown (portrayed by Harry Basch), makes an appearance. Christine recognizes him, but he doesn’t seem to know her. One of the guards falls down a bottomless pit, while the other is attacked by a humanoid whom we will later known as “Ruk” (portrayed by Ted Cassidy).
When Dr. Korby finally shows himself, he uses Ruk to take Kirk prisoner. During the scuffle, Dr. Brown is shot and shown to not be human. Dr. Korby tells the story of going into the caverns and finding Ruk still tending machinery left behind by “The Old Ones”. He used that technology to learn how to build perfect androids, which is what Dr. Brown was, and what a beautiful assistant named “Andrea” is. Andrea (portrayed by Sherry Jackson) sparks jealousy in Christine’s eyes.
Unfortunately, as brilliant as Korby once was, he seems to have gone over the edge. When Kirk doesn’t buy into what he is selling hook, line, and sinker, Korby decides to take Kirk prisoner and replace him as the ship’s captain with an exact duplicate who is an android.
This is where it gets a bit silly, although it’s forgivable for the time it was in. The entire show couldn’t be just a battle of the wits between Kirk and Korby, so there has to be some action. This leads to a silly effect of how to make an android of Kirk imprisoned on a spinning table on one side with a human-like form on the other. Later on, we are treated to Captain Kirk holding what is supposed to be a rock formation he has pulled off of the cave wall to fight Ruk with – it actually looks like a giant penis!
That aside, there is some quality material here as the story raises the question of just what makes us human. That question would seem to become an obsession in Star Trek: The Next Generation, usually centered around Commander Data’s Pinocchio-like quest. I have to wonder if Dr. Soong, who created Data, was really as ground-breaking as he was made out to be or if he managed to build on technology discovered here. After all, you have androids that look and act like people except for emotions, which is exactly how Data acted. It would have been nice to tie this episode to his story and could have been done without much trouble.
But that is the future timeline. What Are Little Girls Made Of? also deals with questions of emotions and if they are a good part of our human make-up or something that prevents us from achieving our potential. Spock could have been brought into this part of the story more, but it seems like Leonard Nimoy was still finding his footing as the unemotional Vulcan.
Shatner seems to be falling into what will be Kirk’s shortcomings already. He makes a mistake and gets into a bind then manages to extract himself without any help from anyone else. I also had to wonder how long Christine Chapel would last in Starfleet when she was just standing by watching her fiancee imprison her Captain and make a duplicate of him. Surely there are regulations about that?
That’s not to say What Are Little Girls Made Of? is a bad episode. There’s lots to like here and it’s well worth watching. I still enjoy it even after years of reruns and I am sure most men will love watching Andrea walking around as scantily clad as she is. It’s just disappointing on some level that certain opportunities to use an actor better and build on the story here weren’t taken during this series or in the future.