Written by Jean Lisette Aroeste, Arthur H. Singer and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Ralph Senensky
Back in the episode Friday’s Child, writer D.C. Fontana said her goal was to present a woman who had no desire to be a wife and mother and was a strong female lead. I think her ideal might have been watered down in the presentation. However, Is There In Truth No Beauty? does manage to hit that goal.
The Enterprise is charged with transporting the Medusan ambassador, Kollos, and his entourage back to the Medusan homeworld. The Medusans are non-corporeal intelligent life that resides inside a container. No one is allowed to look upon the ambassador, as the Medusans are considered to be so repulsive that looking at them drives people insane.
The entourage consists of Larry Marvick (David Frankham) and Doctor Miranda Jones (Diana Muldaur, again.) Doctor Jones is a human telepath who studied on Vulcan to learn to control her telepathic powers and be able to block out the cacophony of people’s thoughts. This gave her the ability to work with the Medusans when no other humans can. She’s decided to spend her life working with Ambassador Kollos as she’s come to admire him and his work so much. This grates against Marvick, who makes a last-ditch proposal to Doctor Jones that she turns down.
Marvick then attempts to murder the Ambassador, something Jones senses. Although he is prevented from murdering the Ambassador, Marvick has seen enough to go insane and hijack the Enterprise, taking it way off course and to the outer reaches of the known galaxy.
There are many things going on in this episode, and that detracts from what would otherwise have been a very good one. There’s the story of the unrequited love Marvick has for Miranda Jones that is the first hint that either her abilities or the presence of the Ambassador are an added stressor to the situation. Normally in control of those kinds of emotions, Marvick reacts violently out of character for someone this revered in Starfleet.
There’s also a secret Doctor Jones manages to initially hide from everyone beyond her telepathic abilities. This makes sense later on when thinking about why she would be so desirable as someone who could work with the Ambassador. Jessica Walter was the initial choice for the role of Miranda Jones, but Diana Muldaur stepped into the role when Walter was unavailable. She appeared in the second-season episode Return to Tomorrow and was a favorite of director Ralph Senensky. Her performance here makes it very obvious why. The episode hinges on her and she more than holds her own in the role surrounded by men.
That Doctor Jones is a woman surrounded by men is another dimension to the episode. They all seek to dismiss her on some level. Captain Kirk (William Shatner) sees her mostly as someone to be flirted with to see how far he can go. Marvick, of course, sees her as someone who should give up all she has worked for and choose him. Even Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) initially dismisses her. Doctor Jones is somewhat jealous that as a Vulcan, he can mind-meld with Ambassador Kollos and reach him in a way she can’t. It makes for great fodder near the end of the story when the survival of the ship (and in particular Mr. Spock) hinges on her.
Add into all this putting the Enterprise in peril at the hands of a madman at the edge of the galaxy and it’s a lot to get through. Still, after the disastrous episode before this, Is There In Truth No Beauty? is a bit refreshing. There are no great battle scenes nor are there much in the way of special effects. It’s character-driven and the right actors are in the right roles to make the story work for the most part. It’s a bright spot in the third season.
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – And The Children Shall Lead
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – Spectre of the Gun
Wow, I never realized what a difference the right actress could make in a role, but reading your explanation, it does make sense. And that Fontana as a writer was working on the script and got the right actress into the right episode is pretty cool, especially for that era!
Thank you, Patti, for showing us how yet another TV show can actually make a difference.
Ok, Trek is not just any TV series, but still…
Fontana didn’t work on this script, but it captured better what she was going for than her script did. I guess I didn’t make that clear. Mayba at the time, if she had written a strong woman like this, it would have been rejected.
Ah, good point.
I guess good ideas still have to wait for the right times…