Written by Max Ehrlich, Gene L. Coon, and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Joseph Pevney
The Enterprise finds itself in a first contact situation with the inhabitants of the planet Gamma Trianguli VI. A landing party beams down to a beautiful setting complete with lush, vibrant plants as it explores the area around where the planet’s inhabitants live. As they are extolling the virtues of the beautiful setting, one of the crew is killed by a poisonous plant.
Back on the Enterprise, Scotty is seeing problems in the antimatter pod. They become completely inert and Scotty says it’s something coming from the surface.
Captain Kirk (William Shatner) orders the landing party to approach the village but not make contact with the villagers. However, they themselves are being observed by a humanoid in the shadows. When Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is struck by spores from the same plant that killed the other crewman, they are unable to beam back up to the ship.
Spock’s biology helps him survive the plant spores, with a little help from Doctor McCoy (DeForest Kelley). Soon after, a freak storm kills another crewman. Another is killed by stepping on rocks that explode. The planet that seemed like “paradise” doesn’t seem quite as pleasant any more.
Eventually they flush out who is following them. He is a white-haired humanoid who calls himself Akuta (Keith Andes). Captain Kirk greets him with a punch, and he begins crying, having never been hit before. He tells Captain Kirk they are the People of Vaal. After some discussion, he agrees to take the landing party to meet the other beings on the planet.
They eventually meet Vaal. It looks like a lizard head in the side of a mountain from which there eminates a great deal of energy. The people of the planet are like children. They are cared for by Vaal and he forbids them to do things that would endanger them. McCoy argues that the culture has been stagnating for ten thousand years while Spock takes the position that if it works for them and they are happy, who are we to tell them it’s wrong?
This is really the first test of the prime directive, which Captain Kirk speaks of in different terms.
The complication is the Enterprise being stuck in a degrading orbit and the landing party stuck on the planet. Will the crew of the Enterprise provide “the apple” to take the People of Vaal out of paradise?
It seems to take a long time for Captain Kirk to come to the conclusion that the mission is “hazardous.” Spock tries to counsel him that he was under orders to explore it, but at this point they have lost three crewmembers. Granted, they are the typical “red shirts” of Starfleet – nameless actors for the day that viewers are not invested in. The first crewman dies, the planet is still beautiful. The second crewman dies, Kirk is still extolling how beautiful the planet is. The third one – suddenly his views are different. I would have thought there would be some caution advised after the first one was killed by the plant spores or when Spock discovered the exploding rocks.
The People of Vaal deliver food to Vaal when he is “hungry” which doesn’t make sense. If it’s a machine, it has no use for nourishment. This would hint at some kind of biomechanical being, but that’s never explored further.
The acting here is pretty good, even with the faults in the writing. There’s a definite camaraderie among the regular crew of the Enterprise now. Spock and McCoy bicker affectionately with each other. The guest cast does what it can with what they have. Being human-like beings with just a little bit different hair and makeup can make it tough to be convincing as an entirely different species. Keep a sharp eye out for David Soul as one of the People of Vaal.
The Apple is an interesting episode that falls somewhere in the middle rating of Star Trek episodes. It’s not one people will seek out, but I wouldn’t turn it off, either.