Written by D.C. Fontana, Jerome Bixby, and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Marc Daniels
Although better than the previous episode, we still are in the midst of a series of lackluster episodes of the original Star Trek. This one could have been a lot better, but the uneven writing kills it. That’s possibly due to the fact that D.C. Fontana was brought in to do rewrites on Jerome Bixby’s original script and the two approaches don’t quite gel.
The Enterprise responds to a distress call from a distant planet. A landing party consisting of Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Dr. McCoy (DeForrest Kelley), Lt. Shea (Carl Byrd), and Yeoman Thompson (Julie Cobb) beams down and find two humanoid beings who immediately take over the ship, saying humans face the end of existence as we know it.
They call themselves Kelvans and are an advanced scouting party for a race that conquers the worlds and galaxies they enter. Rojan (Warren Stevens) is the leader of the scouting party and needs the Enterprise to return to their galaxy and begin the conquest.
The Kelvans have devices that can freeze the humans as well as reduce anyone they feel unnecessary to geometric blocks that can be picked up, and easily destroyed. This is their way of forcing Captain Kirk to go along with what they want, or they could destroy the entire crew.
The story seems to be the typical “monster of the week” in humanoid fashion. It’s a tool to put the crew of the Enterprise in a seemingly unwinnable situation and watch them wriggle their way out.
Halfway through the episode, it seems to take a shift from a dark episode to a lighter one. The problem is, it’s hard to laugh at the humor after you’ve watched them murder a member of the Enterprise crew by crumbling their essence into powder. Oh yes, ha ha ha. it’s so funny now how the Kelvans start behaving now that they’re trapped in human bodies. Let’s ask them to join the Federation and forget what they’ve done up until now.
There’s also the matter of the Captain’s lack of decisiveness when it comes to taking out the Kelvans. While they are crossing the galactic barrier, Kirk has the opportunity to destroy the Enterprise and the Kelvans along with it. Instead, he waffles. In the end, all is good, but the point is he had an opportunity to destroy advanced scouts for a more powerful race that said they are going back to their planet and will then begin an invasion and he doesn’t take it. It’s no surprise that he couldn’t face death in the Kobayashi Maru. In a sense, this does work with Kirk’s character, but not for how someone would qualify to captain a starship.
There’s some speculation that the Kelvans are the reason we see such a jump in technology between the end of the Original Series and the first of the Motion Pictures. Of course, that has to do with advancements in special effects and having a larger budget to work with. Bringing the Kelvans in makes for a plausible difference, especially when later series’ look back at this time such as in Relics or Deep Space Nine: Trials and Tribble-ations.
There are the usual skimpy outfits on the women. They walk around in halter tops with no backs. I imagine Kelinda (Barbara Bouchet) was well-acquainted with boob tape during this episode. Of course, Kirk makes the “sacrifice” of trying to seduce her to help her embrace her humanity.
By Any Other Name is an uneven episode with many bright spots. It just doesn’t work trying to be both humorous and dramatic at the same time. If the story was darker, to begin with, it should have been left dark rather than adding levity to it.
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – Patterns of Force
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – The Omega Glory