Written by D.C. Fontana and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Joseph Pevney
When the original Star Trek series was able to shift focus and give characters other than Captain Kirk a chance to do something, it often resulted in a great episode. Friday’s Child is one that gives a chance for Doctor McCoy to steal a bit of the limelight.
The Enterprise arrives at the planet Capella IV where Doctor McCoy (DeForest Kelley) was once stationed among the Capellan people. The Capellans are primitive and tribal. Captain Kirk (William Shatner) is there to negotiate a mining treaty. When they arrive, they find the Klingons are already there. A red shirt is promptly killed after drawing his weapon.
At first Captain Kirk is outraged. The Capellans demand they surrender their weapons and refuse to let the landing party contact the Enterprise. Later on, Kirk softens. Some negotiations take place, during which the Capellans are split. One faction appreciates the Klingon way of doing things more than the Federation. This leads to an uprising against the leader Akaar (Ben Gage) and Keel (Cal Bolder) takes over.
Akaar’s wife, Eleen (Julie Newmar) is very pregnant with his child. Their culture demands that she die now that he is dead. The child also would be in line to lead them and threatens Keel’s claim as leader. The landing party consisting of Kirk, Spock. and McCoy make off with Eleen to hide in the mountains. There, they try to hide from the Capellans pursuing them with the Klingon while defending their position. Doctor McCoy announces that Eleen could give birth at any time.
The Enterprise has been led away from the planet by a series of distress calls from ships that aren’t there once they arrive. Despite having their communicators, the landing party cannot reach the ship.
Again, this episode raises the question of how much interference is too much interference? There has been first contact with the Capellans and obviously some interaction prior to this. Yet Kirk promises that signing the mining treaty with the Federation means Capellans would still be recognized as an independent planet while they would be considered conquered under the Klingons. However, the landing party already injects their own standards onto the Capellan people when they stop Eleen from killing herself in accordance with their law.
D.C. Fontana wanted an episode about a strong woman who didn’t want children, and Eleen is representative of that, For much of the episode she hates the child she is carrying and wants nothing to do with it. Their culture forces her into this position, just as many women were throughout the ages.
There is suspense with the threat to the landing party, as well as if the Capellans will sign a treaty with the Klingons instead of Earth, especially once the landing party violates their laws.
There’s not much here in the way of effects. It mostly consists of fake rocks that look entirely too light to harm people the way they do and the occasional phaser blast. The Klingons still have the Fu-Manchu look. The setting for the episode uses what obviously is a California outdoor setting to be the backcountry of the planet Capella.
There’s a few cringe-worthy moments that speak to the time this was made. I can’t believe that even in the 1960’s it would have been okay to slap a pregnant woman, even one as hateful as Eleen is here. Yes, she is over the top, and she slaps McCoy first in an act of defiance, but he’s supposed to be a doctor in a more enlightened time. If this hadn’t been written by a female writer, I would have written it off to the misogyny of the age. That D.C. Fontana wanted to display a “strong” woman who didn’t want children and sees this as an okay response to her is troubling. I’ve always been a fan of her writing, but this is one moment that gives me pause.
Otherwise, the interaction between DeForrest Kelley and Julie Newmar is excellent. Other than the above incident, he helps her rise in the moment from someone who is ready to die for the simple transgression of having a deceased husband to someone who is ready to lead their people. It really makes the episode, while Shatner and Nimoy are off running around the California countryside.
One incident aside, and the budget limits of a planetary setting do take away from this episode a bit, but not enough to make it unwatchable. The story is interesting and the acting is good.
I wonder if McCoy ever went back for a visit?
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – Journey to Babel
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – The Deadly Years