Written by Edward J. Lasko, Arthur H. Singer, and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Marvin J. Chomsky
It’s episodes like these that make me think canceling the original Star Trek series after just three seasons was really more of a mercy killing. I mean, if they had continued in this vein, would the series have become as highly regarded as it was with a huge cult following? The world may never know.
The Enterprise is summoned to the planet Triacus by a distress call from a colony there. They arrive to find all of the adults dead, save one, who collapses and dies in front of them. Doctor McCoy (DeForrest Kelley) states they have poisoned themselves.
The adults are dead, but the children are not. Five children arrive on the scene where the landing party is, somewhat oblivious to their presence. No, they are not incredibly distressed by their parents’ deaths. They are running around and playing in between the dead bodies as if there is nothing wrong.
McCoy diagnoses them with amnesia resulting from the trauma that they’ve been through, but of course, that’s not it. Still, Captain Kirk (William Shatner) sees it as a rescue mission for the children to bring them to the nearest Federation outpost after humanely burying the dead.
However, Captain Kirk has no intention of leaving Triacus until he figures out what happened there. However, the children have brought on board with them a mysterious friend that only they can see. Gorgan (Melvin Belli) has them under his spell and wants them to bring him to Marcos XII. With Gorgan’s help, the children manage to take over the Enterprise and force the crew to do their bidding.
This could have been a decent story except for, well, the story. And the acting. And the effects. The idea of a children’s imaginary friend being a nefarious alien isn’t a bad one (and is, in fact, done much better in The Next Generation episode Imaginary Friend.) However, the way it’s done here is particularly bad. Gorgan isn’t particularly threatening. All he has going for him is the mind control over the children and that is enough for him to be able to take over the Enterprise. Captain Kirk can outwit Klingons. He can out-maneuver Romulans. He can’t outwit five children and their alien “friend”.
The story has holes in it all over the place. Hey, I can deal with some suspension of disbelief – it’s required to enjoy science fiction. There’s a point, though, where this story just seems like the writers were lazy about making it the least bit plausible. I could sit here and run through a list of questions the episode never answers, but the episode really isn’t worth that much consideration.
There are no real effects that make this story work, either. When the children “do their thing” to exert mind-control over the crew, there are things like a ring of knives appearing on the viewscreen that paralyze Sulu (George Takei). It doesn’t make any sense. This experienced crew should be able to reason that it’s some sort of hallucination and act accordingly. Gorgan appears as a large humanoid to the children in a shimmering image. Again, he’s nothing threatening or particularly compelling either.
Finally, there’s the casting of the children themselves. None of them are convincing. I think they were hired for their ability to cry on command, as that’s required for the final scene. Either that, or blame must be placed on the director, and I hesitate to do that based on how bad this story is. Sometimes when you’re handed dreck, you can’t make it any better.
If it weren’t for Spock’s Brain, I think this would be the worst episode of the original Star Trek series. There’s absolutely nothing to redeem it in any way, shape, or form.
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – The Paradise Syndrome
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – Is There In Truth No Beauty?