Written by George F. Slavin, Stanley Adams, Arthur H. Singer, and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Jud Taylor
Sometimes a story sounds great on the surface; I can hear the pitch for this one now: “You’ve got this planet that’s overpopulated because they’ve eradicated disease and they concoct an elaborate ruse to steal Captain Kirk’s germs…”
Okay, maybe not all that brilliant….
The Captain (William Shatner) prepares to beam down to the planet Gideon. They are debating joining the Federation, so this is an exercise in diplomacy. However, instead of finding himself on the planet, he ends up back on the Enterprise. It is seemingly deserted. It takes a few moments, but he finds one other humanoid on the Enteprise, a female who calls herself Odona (Sharon Acker).
Meanwhile, Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is contacted by the Gideons who claim Captain Kirk never arrived there. There is a lot of circular talk by the Gideon Ambassador which boils down to them not allowing Spock or anyone else to beam down and search for the Captain.
The Captain arrives on what seems to be the bridge of the deserted Enterprise. He sees that they are still orbiting Gideon, but he is unable to contact anyone on the ship except for Odona. Later, he looks at the viewscreen and they have apparently left orbit. He has no idea where they are.
Odana describes her planet in a way that sounds like it is very crowded. When she and the Captain are kissing, there appear faces on the viewscreen, but he doesn’t see it. He then hears a noise coming from outside the ship. He opens a viewing port and they see people outside the ship, before they disappear to a starfield.
There are so many obvious problems and plot-holes, I have to address some of them. How would the Gideons know what a Federation Starship to create such a complete and convincing replica? They aren’t even members of the Federation. Second, on a planet that is supposedly so crowded people are packed together like sardines, where did they find the room to build this elaborate replica?
Wouldn’t the story make better sense that they are reaching out to try to find different worlds for their people? There seem to be a lot of Federation colonies out there – maybe the Gideons can join them or start a few of their own.
The ability to completely duplicate the Enterprise in such detail would seem to suggest the Gideons are quite intelligent. However, nothing else they do this entire episode suggests the same thing.
If the purpose of The Mark of Gideon was to suggest what would happen on a world with overpopulation and little disease, it misses the mark. Yes, we are generally living longer as a society thanks to medical advances, but the depiction here is unrealistic. Depletion of our natural resources would doom us to starve or die of exposure long before it got to the point that we were packed onto the planet like sardines. Also, they revere life too much to consider anything like abortion or birth control, yet they are willing to basically Jim-Jones a healthy portion of their population. This episode actually makes the case that perhaps Thanos had a point and was more humane than they were.
The best part of The Mark of Gideon were the verbal dances between Spock and Ambassador Hodin (David Hurst). Spock must have worked retail or hospitality at some point in his life as he exhibits the patience of a saint with
a stupid customer the ambassador. The dialog between the two is well-written and executed.
However, The Mark of Gideon is flawed in too many ways to suffer through the episode merely for the verbal sparring. I know some of it had to due with writing stories that would work under the budget constraints, but this one really suffers for it.
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – Let That Be Your Last Battlefield
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – That Which Survives
Best. Use. Of. Strikethrough. Ever.