Season Three - TOS

Star Trek: The Original Series – Requiem for Methuselah – Love During the Time of Plagues

Written by Jerome Bixby, Arthur H. Singer, and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Murray Golden

Watching this episode after having viewed all that came after it, I was immediately struck by the opening that it reminded me of Arsenal of Freedom.

The Enterprise is dealing with an outbreak of Rigelian Fever. The only known cure is ryetalyn. The sensors locate a deposit on a planet in the Omega system. Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and Doctor McCoy (DeForrest Kelley) beam down to secure the ryetalyn. There were no life forms on the ship’s sensors, but Spock soon finds a human life sign. Before they can seek it out, they are attacked by a floating robot known as M-4. It is called off by a man who identifies himself as Mr. Flint (James Daly).

At first, Mr. Flint orders them off of the planet and refuses their requests to secure the ryetalyn. Doctor McCoy pleads their case and he relents, seeming to recall another time of plague on Earth. Spock asks if he is a student of history, which he acknowledges, but the viewers know there is more to it than that.

While the ryetalyn is being processed, Mr. Flint invites the three men to his home on the planet. He introduces them to his “ward,” Rayna (Louise Sorel). She is immediately taken with the humans, and especially with Mr. Spock. However, it is Captain Kirk that she dances with, while Doctor McCoy supervises the processing of the ryetalyn.

Yes, while the crew of his ship are sick and headed towards death, Captain Kirk dances with a pretty woman.

For all her seemingly youthful innocence, Rayna is quite intelligent and not all that she seems. Mr. Flint seems to be pushing her towards Captain Kirk and he seems to be forming a quick attachment to her as well. It is Mr. Spock who begins to notice some unusual items in their surroundings and reaches a few conclusions. It would seem that Mr. Flint is a lonely immortal who has visited Earth numerous times in the past as various historical figures. His lonely existence propelled him to create Rayna, who is an android. He loves her, but she seems incapable of loving him back. Flint’s plan is to have Captain Kirk stimulate her so she understands what love is, then when Kirk leaves she will turn her attention to him.

The ryetalyn is the bargaining chip Mr. Flint has, and he’s not letting it go too easily. The first batch ends up contaminated. Doctor McCoy isn’t sure if it’s on purpose or not, so he sets out to try again. Meanwhile, Mr. Flint’s robotic guardian takes its assignment all too seriously.

There’s a lot that’s good in Requiem for Methuselah, and it seems like a number of ideas from this episode made it into very good storylines in Star Trek: The Next Generation. In addition to the concept of Arsenal of Freedom, Rayna being an android who is sufficiently advanced and yet cannot process emotions would seem to be a precursor to the character of Data. Her reaction when dealing with emotions and their consequences is reminiscent of The Offspring. Mr. Flint looking upon Rayna not as a sentient being but as his property is revisited in The Measure of a Man.

Those great ideas, unfortunately, do not get handled properly here. The idea that in just a few hours a starship Captain can fall so madly in love with a woman that returning to the Enterprise leaves him with a debilitating sadness is just wrong. His feelings don’t even change when he realizes she is not human, but an android. There could be time to explore that, but it isn’t even addressed. Instead, it is up to Mr. Spock to save the day as he erases any memory of Rayna from Kirk’s mind. It’s convenient that for the first time in three seasons we see he has the ability to alter his crewmates’ minds. You have to wonder how often he’s done that.

Likewise, the idea that Mr. Flint is some sort of immortal is never addressed again. You would think Starfleet would start investigating the historical characters he’s admitted to being and look for others as well. However, when daVinci later shows up in Voyager, there’s no mention of these events at all. Once again, we have episodes that seem to be forgotten in terms of creating a canon for the series.

Requiem for Methuselah is one of the better episodes of the third season, which really isn’t saying much. There are some good ideas here which will get better treatment later on. However, it feels like a bunch of ideas cobbled together with a thin thread tying it all up. I’m kind of disappointed they didn’t build on the character of Mr. Flint and have him be Data’s creator as he continued his work trying to build a human-like companion. It’s not an episode I would shut off if it came on, but I wouldn’t necessarily seek it out, either.

Previous episode of the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – The Lights of Zetar

Next episode of the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – The Way to Eden

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