148: Star Trek TOS Season 1, “Charlie X”

https://youtu.be/XSfUxokWqkY

Matt and Sean talk about reprimanding an omnipotent teen who looks like a mid-twenties adult in Star Trek: The Original Series. This is a story we’ve seen before in Twilight Zone, but how does it hold up in the Star Trek universe?

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In this episode of Trek in Time, we’re going to talk about reprimanding an omnipotent young man who’s maybe not so young, but oh well. Hi everybody, welcome to Trek in Time where we’re watching every episode of Star Trek in chronological order, and that’s chronological stardate order, which is an important distinction.

We’re also taking a look at the world at the time of original broadcast. And who are we? Well, I’m Sean Ferrell. I’m a writer. I write some sci fi, write some stuff for kids. And with me, as always, is my brother, Matt. He is that Matt behind Undecided with Matt Ferrell, which takes a look at emerging tech and its impact on our lives.

So we have the fiction, we have the tech, we have Star Trek. Matt, how are you doing today? I’m doing great. How about yourself? I’m doing okay. I’m looking forward to today’s conversation and then running outside and trying to soak in some sun before the sun decides that it hates the Northeast and decides to bake us alive, which is apparently supposed to happen this coming week.

Yes. How about you? And, uh, for yourself, do you have big plans for the weekend or are you just going to be watching your dog sun herself in the backyard?

It’s a little bit of that. We’re going to be watching Willow just kind of chill out in the backyard and enjoy the sun.

That always sounds terrific to me. I’m always jealous of the fact you have a dog.

My burden to bear. Not yours, but you’re a jerk. Anyway, before we get into the conversation about this newest episode, which is Charlie X, this is episode number two in broadcast order, which I find very interesting. And it’s eight in shooting order. So we are seeing a lot of this in the original series.

The actors, the writers, the directors, figuring out, ah, what are we doing? What is the show? What is the shape of the show? What are these characters like? What are the relationships? Let’s learn all that together. And then they shuffle it all up. And they broadcast it. So we get one episode where it’s like, it’s like Kirk is kind of learning what it means to be captain.

And then in another episode, well, why didn’t they build continuity here? Well, when you watch it in stardate order, we’re starting to see that continuity, which I think is a lot of fun and really cool. Yeah. So before we get into our conversation about Charlie X, we always like to go back and find out what you all have thought about our previous conversations.

So Matt, what have you found in the mailbag for us this week?

There’s a bunch of good comments, too many to kind of put in here, but here’s a few highlights from The Naked Time, that episode that we talked about last week. We have one from Eric Dunn3910, I had to laugh about the stupidity aspect of the character who takes off his glove because being a former service member, I have worked with plenty of people who on more than one occasion, I had to ask.

How did you ever graduate basic and end up with me here? Just remember every time you see a ridiculous safety label that is there for a reason, and it’s probably because of a quote special individual like that member of the away team.

That’s a good reminder. Yeah. When we have these moments of like, why would this person who’s supposed to be a Starfleet officer be this dumb?

And oh yeah, there it is. There are reasons why we have labels like contents hot on our coffee cups. Yes.

Then we also had one from regular commenter Dan Sims about how we talked about, um, how Strange New Worlds is affecting how we look at these new, at these old episodes a second time, and they’re actually making it better.

Dan Sims wrote, yeah, I agree. After seeing Strange New Worlds, it adds so much more weight to some of the crew, like Uhura, Nurse Chapell, and Spock. Without that context, the scenes with Chappell and Spock would probably have had me scratch my head a bit. It’s like, yeah, just out of nowhere, Nurse Chappell saying, I love you.

What? Who are you? We just met. So that he can walk into the hallway and cry about it. It was like, yeah. Watching it as a child, I was just kind of like, well, I guess this is what adults do, but as an adult watching it, like, thank goodness for Strange New World’s filling in some of those gaps.

Then we had one from Sam Higdon, 979.

Hey, great episode. I was wondering about, I was wondering about all the episodes that were made before the premiere, before the show, which would you have chosen to be the first episode aired? Like, would we, what would our air date order be if we were going to choose one to be the first episode?

I think I would go with production order because I think it works for the storytelling so well. And I do like, I do genuinely like a lot of Where No Man Has Gone Before. The, where Kirk’s old friend gains the omnipotent power and starts to lose his humanity. And that episode, if that was in fact, the first shared with an audience, I think it would have been a good

stepping Stone into the show!

So that’s an interesting question. It does make, it, it, it presents a kind of interesting mind game because there are aspects of the later episodes that we’re now, we’re not even into like the middle of the season yet. Which is interesting too. When we’re doing Strange New Worlds, by episode 8, we’re more than halfway through the season.

So, here we are, we’re, a third of the way through the season and I’m beginning to see like they are now really they’ve got a sense of who these characters are. We’ll get that in this episode in particular. I think there are lots of moments in this episode that really show like, Oh, they’re figuring some stuff out and in a really neat way.

I

want to share is from Mark. Oh, for me, for the episodes, it was the same thing. I’d probably do production order because this is the first time I’ve watched them in production order. And it holds together really well, like watching them in the airdate order or random order. It feels like the show is a kind of a chaotic mess of quality, but this does not feel that way.

You can feel it building and growing over the production order. So definitely would choose that for myself as well. The next comment is from Mark Loveless, and this is the last one. Uh, Mark wrote a What’s the next episode about? Wrong answers only. He wrote, The next episode, Charlie X, is about how Charlie Brown from Peanuts has a prophetic dream about how horrid the social media platform X is and how he decides to create competing online platforms under different pseudonyms.

One of his pseudonyms has a distinct level of success using the name Jeff Bezos. Obviously, Charlie Brown did not try to change his appearance as Bezos.

I love how rich and never ending that was. That was, that was wonderful. I really, really loved that. It kept going. Yeah, it kept going and it went in directions I couldn’t have anticipated, but once we got there, I was just like, well, of course this makes sense. So thank you so much for that. That was really terrific.

But he zagged. Yeah, really terrific. So that noise you hear in the background, once I’ve stopped laughing, is of course the read alert, which means it’s time for Matt to tackle the description. And Matt, this week, we’ve returned to form with it is full on Wikipedia, but it is also a somewhat summary of some of the key components of the episode instead of it just being a deep dive into the plot.

So please take it away.

All right. Charlie X is the second episode of the first season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek. This makes, gives me flashbacks to all the other Wikipedia entries, Sean ’cause we always have to have that first sentence describing what the show even is written by Dorothy C Fontana from a story by Gene Roddenberry and directed by Lawrence Dobkin.

It first aired on September 15th, 1966. In the episode, the Enterprise picks up an unstable 17 year old boy who spent 14 years alone on a deserted planet and lacks the training and restraint to handle his superhuman mental powers wisely.

Hits all the notes it needs to, to be a good summary. Yep. Directed by Lawrence Dobkin, story by Gene Roddenberry, teleplay by Dorothy C.

Fontana, who went by D. C. Fontana, because of sexism. So it’s easier to get your name on the TV screen if everybody assumes you’re a man. Originally broadcast on September 15th, 1966, a little bit about D.C Fontana. I love D.C Fontana. I think she is a fantastic writer and she is responsible for many of my favorite episodes of Star Trek, which includes original series, but also includes one of my all time favorite episodes of television ever, which will be a Deep Space Nine episode that she was responsible for.

It is the episode where Sisko has the experience of going back into the life of a 1950s sci-fi writer and oh yeah, that’s a good one. He write, he cannot shake the fact that the experiences that he’s been writing about, which are the deep space nine stories, he is committed to the idea that these are real.

It is a heartbreaking episode, and it is a terrific, terrific writing. She is absolutely one of the foundational creators of this series, and her footprints are not only in the original series in Deep Space Nine, but they’re everywhere in between. A little bit of a bio about her. She was born in 1939. She was an American television scriptwriter and story editor, best known for her work on the original Star Trek series.

After a short period working for Samuel Peoples as a secretary, Fontana moved to work for Del Reisman, a producer of The Lieutenant, The Lieutenant’s creator was Gene Roddenberry. That’s how they met. The Lieutenant was soon cancelled, Roddenberry began working on Star Trek, and Fontana was appointed as a series story editor, but left after the second series to pursue freelance work.

She later worked with Roddenberry again on Genesis 2, which would eventually morph into Next Generation. And then she worked as a story editor and associate producer on Star Trek, the animated series. During the 1970s and early eighties, she worked on a number of TV shows, including the Streets of San Francisco, Bonanza, The Six Million Dollar Man, Logan’s Run, The Waltons, and Dallas.

Roddenberry hired Fontana to work on Star Trek Next Generation, but while she was given an associate producer credit, the experience soured their relationship and resulted in a claim to the Writers Guild of America. She later wrote an episode of Deep Space Nine, And an episode of the Star Trek fan made series, Star Trek New Voyages.

Her relationship with Roddenberry effectively boiled down to during the next generation, Roddenberry’s lawyer was cruel to her in ways that were unprofessional. And she had complaints about Roddenberry rewriting her scripts. And that was the complaint to the Writer’s Guild is that Roddenberry was taking scripts, changing things effectively beyond what is allowed under the Writer’s Guild rules.

So that was what soured their relationship. This episode, of course, has the main cast. We have William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelly, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Majel Barrett, and Grace Lee Whitney. Some of them don’t appear in this episode. This is mainly focused on, we have McCoy, we have.

Kirk, we have Spock, and we have Nichelle Nichols, of course, as Uhura, who has a key scene in this. I don’t recall seeing Sulu, I don’t recall seeing Scotty, and the Nurse Chapel does not appear, but we do see Janice Rand as a key component of this story, which I really liked guest stars include Robert Walker as Charlie Evans.

This is something that we’re going to touch on in our deeper conversation, but he was 26 year olds, 26 years old when they filmed this episode. I found myself distracted by the fact that it was clearly a guy in his mid twenties playing a 17 year old. I couldn’t figure out why they just didn’t find a good 17 year old actor to play this part.

Anyway, Robert Walker as Charlie Evans, and also in this episode, we have Charles Stewart as Captain Ramart. Dallas Mitchell as Tom Nellis, Don Eitner as The Navigator, Patricia McNulty as Tina Lawton, John Bellah as Crewman Number One, Garland Thompson as Crewman Number Two, Abraham Sofaer as The Thasian, and Gene Roddenberry

as the voice of the chef. September 15th, 1966. What was the world like? Well, Matt, I can’t wait to hear your rendition of this song. The number one song of the week was You Can’t Hurry Love by the Supremes, take it away. Good. And at the box office, this doesn’t happen anymore. The number one film this week was a little film called The Sound of Music.

Maybe a few of you have heard of it. The Sound of Music returned to number one in its, have you looked at the notes, Matt? Don’t look at the notes. Take a guess. How many weeks had this been in theaters?

Well, at this time, movies would be out for months, so I’m going to guess it’s a very long time.

It’s 80th week.

That’s over a year. What? It was in theaters for over a year?

It was in theaters over a year. Oh

my gosh.

Wow. And it was the number one film after 80 weeks, so, I mean, come on, they don’t do that anymore. Now we’re lucky if a movie stays in theaters for six weeks before it’s on Netflix. And on television, we’ve been looking at the Nielsen ratings, and we know that Star Trek in its first season was about a 12 on average, which puts it mid, low, mid of the various television shows that were on the air, and we’ve seen some of the competition that was at the top of the charts, which included Bonanza, Red Skelton Hour, Andrew Griffith Show, The Lucy Show, Jackie Gleason Show, Green Acres, and now I know this show, Matt, is going to be one of your favorites, Daktari.

Do you want to tell us a little bit about Daktari? I’ve never heard that show. What is that? Here is the moment that Sean realized that he had slipped through a wormhole into a parallel universe where there was a show called Daktari. Because what? At a 23 in the Nielsen Ratings, it was getting almost twice as many viewers as Star Trek.

And what is Daktari? Well, Daktari, which is Swahili for Doctor, is an American family drama series that aired on CBS between 1966 and 1969. The series is about The work of Dr. Tracey, his daughter Paula, and his staff, who frequently protect animals from poachers and local officials. Tracey’s pets include a cross eyed lion named Clarence, and a chimpanzee named Judy, who are also popular characters.

Uh, I encourage everybody, go to your Wikipedia machine, type in Daktari, which is D A K T A R I and read about this show. Never knew it existed. It sounds absolutely awful. And the information about the lion that was a performer in the show, and the lion’s stunt doubles is really worth a read.

And in the news on this day, in September of 1966, news articles include articles about the, ongoing conflict in Vietnam, President Johnson getting support from the Philippines in the effort to fight in Vietnam, which is not too surprising given that at that point, the Philippines was a full blown protectorate of the United States.

So I’m not sure how this becomes a news article without people saying like, well, what else were they going to say? There was also an article about the president getting voter support in polling for his approach to Vietnam. This is, of course, 1966, relatively early days there. There was also a KKK Klan leader who was convicted of contempt of Congress.

And in an interesting story about the Gemini space program, astronauts soar 850 miles, spin tethered with Agena from Cape Kennedy, Florida, September 14th, the Gemini 11. The Gemini 11 astronauts set an altitude record of 850 miles today, they took photographs of stars through an open hatch, and they spun in tandem with their Agena companion vehicle at the end of a 100 foot tether.

Really quite remarkable to look back at the kinds of headlines that were capturing New York Times front page space compared to what we just take for granted today. Oh yes. Another satellite put into orbit, another astronaut sent to the international space station. And oh yeah, we’re trying to go to Mars anyway.

On now to our discussion about this episode. Just to get this out of the way, Matt, were you distracted at all by the age of the actor? It really, I just found myself every time he was on screen saying like, Oh, he just comes across like a really whiny adult as opposed to a conflicted teen.

I, The age didn’t distract me as much as it did you, but yes, it was a kind of a jarring, you gotta be kidding me, this guy is so not 17.

Um, but there was also, for me, it was more distracting the head move he kept making when he would do the mind games.

The eyes were laying on the back of his head and putting his head down. It was like, that was an odd choice to make. Yeah.

I think without the advantage of doing some kind of special effect, like eye wipe, like I imagine a show today would just have the actor look like he was focusing and then they would do something to his eyes to make the eyes go all white without it being like literally doing it physically. And I thought it was interesting too, that this is Very similar to what we talked about in Where No Man Has Gone Before, which is the growth of an omnipotent being and the lack of control, whereas that was about mature adults becoming arrogant in their godlike powers.

This is, instead, the story of a child who never knows rules having to figure out how to fit back into human society. So it’s a slightly different take, but this is a refrain that Star Trek will go to again and again and again. It’s not the last time we’re going to talk about it. The Enterprise crew coming across an omnipotent being who could do anything that they want.

And if that sounds familiar, yeah, we have the quintessential version of that in Next Generation, of course, with Q, but we’re going to see it quite a bit in the original series as well. So here we have our second go around with that. And I like the angle here of looking at it from the perspective of somebody who’s never known rules.

Never known anything about behavior in society, and doubling that with the changing drives of an individual from childhood into adulthood, and that being an additional wrinkle. How did you feel about this compared to that earlier episode, where you have the mature adult Arguably mature because in that one, the gentleman who’s going through the change is kind of a jerk from the beginning.

But the, the aspect here of it being Charlie’s not to blame for the fact he doesn’t know rules and Charlie’s not to blame for the fact he can do anything. So it becomes where does compassion stop and rule setting and boundary setting begin. That’s the gist of this episode for me. How did you feel about that as a, as a tension within the show?

Okay. So I’m going to take us on a little tangent in just a second. I, it did hit me that this is basically just another version of that same story, but I didn’t have a problem with that at all. I thought this was very interesting because it’s coming from, as you pointed out, a very different perspective of here’s a grown adult

getting corrupted by ultimate power. And then here’s one where it’s a kid has an ultimate power and he’s just immature, doesn’t know how to use it properly. Um, that just doesn’t know the rules, the proper way to interact with people. So I thought that was interesting, but I got really distracted, Sean. I don’t know if you did too, because this is straight out of Twilight Zone.

Like this is a, this full episode is a Twilight Zone episode. Literally, like in the Twilight Zone movie, there is an entire sequence in the Twilight Zone movie about a young boy who can do anything he wants. And he forces his family to like eat ice cream and do all this kind of crazy things. And everybody’s terrified of him and doesn’t want to make him upset because this immature boy is like Q.

He can do whatever he wants. And that in the movie is a remake of an episode from Twilight Zone from 1961 called It’s a Good Life. Yep. And. This distracted me. I know we just paid, we just said DC Fontana, amazing. What distracted me was this is a straight up basic ripoff. It’s a Star Trekified version of that story, which came out years before this.

And for me, that was so disappointing. It was like, there was the lack of originality around the concept. had already been visited by a very popular TV show. And there’s a lot of Twilight Zone in Star Trek at this point. And the fact that it was so close to a Twilight Zo Twilight Zone episode felt like this is just a rip off.

This is just a, an echo. of something that came before it, and for me, that was distracting, but story wise, I thought it was really well done, and so for DC Fontana, brought that humanity to the show, and her writing is fantastic. I was disappointed at the lack of originality. Around what this was,

yeah, we remember back to the show notes that I started at the beginning of the episode where story by Gene Roddenberry with teleplay by DC Fontana.

I think she did the best possible job she could have done with what was probably Gene Roddenberry saying, let’s do an episode like that episode of Twilight Zone. Where we have a kid with omnipotent powers and how does the crew deal with it? So we take that as our starting point. And like you said, it’s a tangent, a bit of a tangent, it very clearly relates to what we’re talking about.

But if we take that and set it completely to the side, what are we left with? We’re left with, I think, the more we talk about the original series, the more we talk about Strange New Worlds. The relationships between the characters presented in this one, for me, were the best part of the episode, and I will want us to return a bit to talk about Charlie himself and his attempts to figure out, like, how do adults relate to adults?

How do you relate to somebody you care about or think you care about all of that? I think is, is the second half of our conversation, but right up front, I’d like to talk about, uh, Uhura singing. I’d like to talk about Spock smiling and playing the instrument and I’d like to talk about chess. So if we could just visit a few of those things.

Uh, do you want to jump in on one of those in particular, just off the bat?

Uh, the, the singing and the smiling that, that whole sequence in the dining hall, it felt like, and I know this is completely backwards, but it felt like it was lifted from Strange New Worlds.

Yeah.

I don’t know if you felt that way.

Like this came first, by a huge margin, decades, but it felt like this was lifted from this newest show because the newest show has done such a good job retconning all of this and building all this out. It’s like, yeah, of course, Spock is smiling at this point in his life because he’s still kind of embracing some of that humanness in himself.

And yes, Oh, we’ve, we saw him get the instrument on Strange New Worlds and there he is playing it. And Uhura, we know loves to hum and sing. And so of course she’s breaking into song. So all of that, that stuff for me, I was just sitting there going, yes, this is excellent. Again, Strange New Worlds has forever changed the original show for me completely.

Absolutely. It’s remarkable how the retconning from Stange New Worlds has made this scene not just palatable to me, but wonderful. This was a scene that whenever I would watch it, would make my skin crawl. I couldn’t stand it prior to this. And I’m talking about like, I’m not talking about last year. I’m talking about when I was a kid.

I would sit through this scene and be like, Oh, I don’t like that when they do stuff like this. And now I’m watching it, I’m just like, this is these characters. This is the way Uhura is singing to Spock. He is the first officer of the ship and she is teasing him. We’re having devil ears and that look in his eye that makes him mysterious.

They were literally using moments in this song that would bear fruit later in the fact that Leonard Nimoy as Spock and Spock as a character became a big draw for the show. He became the sex symbol that nobody anticipated for the show. So here you have this, this woman singing this song to him in a way that is.

Reflective of, she’s clearly known him for a long time and feels comfortable literally teasing him in public and not only does she feel safe doing that, he’s willing to accept it. The human side of him smiles back. He is, like you said, I think it’s beautifully demonstrated, he is still got a humanity that will rise up more often than what my memory tells me, which is based on the movies.

My memory of Spock, his depiction of Spock in the movies is where he is like, cull this humanity from me, get it out. And then we see in Next Generation, the Spock who has the wisdom to say, I am Spock. This is what I am. And we have the nice moments to come in the far future with that. But this Spock right now, smiling like while he’s playing, and we know he’s playing that instrument because it’s about anxiety

yeah, management. I loved all of that. Pulling that from the Strange New Worlds, while I’m watching it this time, it changes the moment completely. Interestingly, the original setup of this was going to be that she was going to be a mimic. And she was going to imitate people. And tease them in that way, but they knew that Nichelle Nichols had a lovely singing voice, so they went with singing instead.

So, Strange New Worlds owes those elements to the fact that Nichelle Nichols in particular had a lovely singing voice, and that’s the origin of Spock playing an instrument so that she can sing along to it. I think that that’s fantastic. Moving on to chess. I love the use of chess in this episode for a couple of reasons.

First, It does tie back, once again, to the way chess is used in Strange New Worlds. They picked up on elements of it in the original series, embedded it beautifully in Strange New Worlds. But also for what they do with it with Charlie. The scenes between Kirk and Spock and then Charlie and Spock are both very powerful scenes.

So, quickly, first, how did you feel about, Kirk is distracted, and Spock knows Kirk is distracted, your game is, your mind is not on the game, Captain, and then in two moves, Kirk is like, checkmate.

How did you feel about that? That was, that once again, the whole thing of, It’s the lore of Kirk. Like, we have the privilege to look at 50 years of Kirk, and it’s like, that is so Kirk.

It’s like, he’s supposed to be this amazing tactician, he’s really good at chess, and they reiterated that in Strange New Worlds, which again, Impacts this scene directly of like, he’s the best chess player. He always beats Spock. So of course he beats Spock. Even if he’s quote distracted, he still beats Spock because it’s Kirk.

Um, I loved it. I thought it was great. It was a great way for this show at this point. It’s establishing here’s this guy who’s incredibly smart and he’s a very good tactician. It’s a throwaway scene. I mean, it’s a complete throwaway, but it does help establish him as a character and what he’s good at.

And so it’s like, it’s building the captain up as this guy who’s going to be like 15 moves ahead of everybody else, which I thought was this very clever and fun way to do it.

It’s also nice too, because we haven’t yet seen Tactician Kirk in Tactician mode. We’ve seen the Corbomite maneuver, where they’ve gone into battle with an alien vessel in the form of, We gotta get around it, we gotta get away from it.

And he’s done everything he can to like, negotiate space in that way, which is a kind of tact, but We haven’t seen combat and we will next week. And I think it’s interesting from the continuity perspective that we talked about production order. They have an episode in which they demonstrate that Kirk has tactical prowess to be able to clearly be distracted,

he is thinking about Charlie while he’s playing the game. And next week’s episode, we’ll be talking about them going into space battle where he will have to use this tactical mind of his, in a sequence of cat and mouse maneuvers with another ship.

I would actually say it does come up in this episode at the end, like the whole way he figures out Charlie’s limits.

Yes. At the end he’s like, you can’t handle this. It’s like that’s a little bit of his tactician aspect of he’s figuring out the game. He’s figuring out the rules. As it goes. So it does come up a little bit in this one.

What I meant is it doesn’t come up in a way that looks like a direct correlation to chess, but yes, you are right.

It has come up a number of different ways. And it came up in the Corbomite maneuver and his like, Oh, we’re playing the wrong game. It’s not chess. It’s poker. Like he does have that ability and he’s demonstrated that time and again. But when you look at chess as a, Move, countermove, do I win, do I lose? We haven’t seen that in a combat scenario yet, and we will in the future.

We then have the sequence with Charlie, and Charlie not knowing the rules, and Spock managing to, uh, demonstrate. He tries teaching him. He tries to say, like, well, you shouldn’t move that way. Like, that’s not a, that’s not a good move for you. And he’s like, yeah, but it’s what I want to do. And then Spock’s like, well, you’re going to lose.

That’s, The way the game works. And for Spock, it is kind of a gentle teaching moment that he then just ends the game and like, well, that was that. And we see Charlie do, as Matt pointed out, the rather intense acting move of, of making the eyes roll back and very clearly camera switchery, but I think it’s very effective.

They focus on Charlie’s face and when they pull back, all the chess pieces have been melted. We’re beginning to see that it’s a monster that they have on the, on the ship.

That is something that, I mean, it’s 1960s TV, so there’s a little hamminess to it. I thought they did a good job with Charlie setting him up from the beginning of you feel like, okay, there’s something a little off, but is it just that he’s an awkward teenager or is there something else here?

Because the, when he first shows up, he’s saying things and acting in the room in a really weird way and the transporter room in a weird way. And those guys are like, we got to get out of here, which was, they know what’s up. And I like the fact that they don’t even help the captain. They’re like, he’s your problem now.

They’re just getting out of there because they want to get away from the kid. So you get a sense that something’s off, especially with the forward thing, like when he does that forward look at those guys that terrifies them, but you don’t get a sense of, oh, he’s got special powers or something like that.

I thought they did a good job in the show where it’s like, they kept making it a little more uncomfortable. And a little more awkward and you start to go, something’s not right here. And this is the first moment where we’re like, Oh, okay. He can do things with his mind. So it’s like, it’s the first moment where they let that tip again in a kind of a hammy 1960s way of doing it.

But at the same time, I still think in context of the time period, I think they did it pretty well.

Yeah. And they, they do wrestle with the most major difference. And Matt pointed out the Twilight Zone episode that this is effectively just lifting from, um, that original Twilight Zone was about a boy who was a boy.

He’s like 8 years old and he has this omnipotence and is terrifying and it ends in a catastrophic way. I mean, it just like that episode of Twilight Zone is one of the classic episodes that ends with like, and we’re not giving you a happy ending. It’s just like, tension is going to remain and you’re going to think about this for a while and how terrible it is for the people involved.

This is focusing on the slightly older child who is beginning to become aware of aspects of himself that are new and difficult to understand, and it is attraction to the opposite sex in his case, where he is looking at women and he has not, first of all, seen women. And that is an aspect when he first sees a woman for the first time, we get a little bit of that lighthearted William Shatner comedy acting.

And the, yeah, that’s a woman. It’s, it’s a nice delivery of, of a line that seems strange when you say it out loud, but we see all the different ways that Charlie doesn’t know how to interact with the opposite sex or with other people in general. His awkwardness around anybody is evident, but it becomes even worse with Janice Rand.

And What did you think about the, first of all, the use of sexism, again, there is the 1960s sexism that they can’t get away from, even while trying to be progressive, there are certain aspects of how they talk about women, how they talk about what you can do with Women and how people can interact in public that are very dated, ignoring those elements of it, making his trying to have an intimate connection with a woman, how did you feel about how they manage that storyline and what that storyline was like to experience?

This is where I have trouble divorcing 2024 Matt from 1960s TV show. Yeah. It’s a pretty tricky episode in that regard. Yeah. Uh, I felt like they were just tripping all over themselves in their progressiveness towards women. They just kept tripping themselves up. There’s no other way to put it.

It’s like in the act of, Oh, that’s not how you treat women. They actually say things that are like cringey. Like, they’re coming to the defense of women and saying things that are like, whoa, that’s really bad about women. So it’s like, it, to me, I had trouble divorcing that. And it was, there was this dissonance and they’ve done it before in previous episodes that we’ve already watched and talked about, and they’re doing it again here.

And again, the whole story behind the actress that plays the yeoman. What actually happened to her on the show. It’s like, Oh, good. They’re putting her into another sexual confrontation with men. This is great. And, uh, this is not resonating well. Um, so for me, again, it, it, to me, it was a little bit of a fail, but it might be because I’m using 2024 glasses looking at this.

We are also in that regard with, with, uh, the actress who played Janice Rand, we are approaching the end of Grace Lee Whitney’s time on the show. It is, again, fascinating to me, the out of order experience of this program that I had as a, as a younger viewer, all the way till literally now watching it in production order.

I didn’t realize how early she would leave the series. She’s according to the research I’ve done, she was involved in production of eight episodes, and then she was, and then she exited. And she gave an explanation, which meshes with what we’ve talked about in the past. Her being in the show might prove as a distraction to Kirk in his gallivanting about the galaxy.

The presentation early on of will they, won’t they, was decided to be like, we shouldn’t be doing that. Kirk should be free to be solo in the galaxy and hook up wherever he wants to. So we end up with her exiting the

show. Which just shows the sexism in creating that character. She was only there for Kirk to oogle and be a will they, won’t they.

And once that storyline was gone, it’s like, we don’t need this yeoman. Let’s get rid of her. So it’s just, just that alone speaks volumes.

So here she is now depicting this woman who’s challenged by a young man’s interest in her. At the time she was 36, he was supposed to be a 17 year old boy. I think it would have been a different actor.

It would have added to the tension there for her of seeing what from her perspective would have looked like a child. with a crush as opposed to a very immature adult with a crush which is what it couldn’t help but keep looking like and that’s distracting for me again i feel like if you look through that to what they’re trying to do with the character and what’s being presented I think her performance in this is actually really really good. And knowing what I now know about her personal life and what happened to her, the event of the sexual attack that she underwent and then leaving the show, she effectively left acting and then became an alcoholic.

And that’s what derailed her career as a 36 year old character actress. This is the end of it. And what a terrible end for her to go through and just heartbreaking, but in this episode in particular, I thought her performance, the way she goes to the captain for help, the way that she tries to handle Charlie gently initially, the writing of this from DC Fontana to say, first, you just Be kind, but keep an arm out, and then it becomes firmer and firmer until finally there’s the sequence in her room where he has used his powers to enter without even knocking, and the door was locked, and he gives the very, very, the, everything you said about the sexism, In their progressive statements is absolutely true.

And if that hadn’t been there, Charlie would have come across as even more menacing and terrifying because he says, when he walks in on that scene, don’t lock your door on me, it is chilling some of the stuff that comes out of Charlie’s mouth, supposed to be a 17 year old is absolutely chilling. It loses its terrifying aspect because

the sexism of the era doesn’t let it stand out in the way it should. And yeah, that’s, I mean, that’s a rough indictment of the era and of sexism in our pop culture in general. How did you feel about, you’ve already said early on, they give us the like, Oh, he’s just a kind of a strange young man. And then he starts to exhibit things and then, Oh, he has these powers.

By the time we get to that sequence where he is approaching Janice, and she has to do the whole very smart turn on the communicator quietly so that the captain on the bridge can hear that she is being attacked in her quarters. How did you feel about the, the, the climax effectively of the episode in that tense moment?

You mean Spock’s legs getting broken? Spock’s legs getting broken, the captain being effectively just like, Completely neutered in his ability to act. He, Charlie is in charge and Charles in charge. Uh, sorry, couldn’t help it. Suddenly appeared. Um,

how did you feel about that sequence? That sequence I thought was fantastic.

So again, like for me, this episode, I thought hit the escalation of him. I thought it was handled well, especially when he finally goes full on Q in the episode and is just, I’m going to do whatever I want. It’s like, you guys, I’m just going to, this is my playground now. It’s terrifying. It’s absolutely terrifying when they get to that point of, there’s nothing they can do.

I liked it. What did you think?

I completely agree. When they get thrown against the wall. Uh, the physicality of that, first of all, uh, Leonard Nimoy breaks the set behind him. There’s a hole where Leonard Nimoy gets slammed into that set because William Shatner in his acting looks like he full speed just launches himself into Leonard Nimoy, which then throws Nimoy back.

And then they are on the floor and right from the beginning, the moment Nimoy’s on the floor, he clutches his legs. And doesn’t represent anything facially, but clutches at his legs, and it’s a nice, subtle demonstration of, okay, Vulcans are cut from a different cloth. I thought the depiction of that, like, my legs are shattered.

Like, okay. Cool. Uh, that was, I thought, beautifully handled. Shatner in this, when he’s going into his paroxysms of pain is full Shatner acting, but it is great. I love it because he’s going into these things where there’s a great camera shot when they have the camera really low to the ground and he launches himself toward the camera as he is in pain on the bridge and Charlie’s in the standing in the background.

Dramatic sort of movie like framing. It’s still TV, but it is movie like framing. And I thought that that really worked well too.

We also, there is one aspect to, as things are escalating with Charlie, this takes me back to, remember one of the first episodes we talked about where Kirk’s reaction to crewman dying is like non existent and by the end of the episode they’re like, well, let’s go off again.

It’s like, well, there’s nine dead people behind you, Kirk. What’s going on? There was a little bit of that in this, and I don’t know if you picked up on it, like the scene where they’re trying to teach Charlie how to fight. And then Charlie just goes, and makes the guy disappear and Kirk’s first reaction is like horrified.

But then they never even talk about the guy again. Like he never, like when he’s like challenging Charlie and he’s like, what, you know, what are you doing? Kind of like trying to get things back under control and get the security guards to come in. It’s like, Not once do they ever mention the guy’s name again.

Nor does he ever go to Charlie you killed that guy or anything. And I was like, I was kind of surprised at like, he just made a guy disappear in front of you and you can’t even say the dude’s name. You can’t even say, what did you do to Doug? It’s like, he didn’t say anything. It’s like, they only spring up.

What are these people? Okay, Sam, they only bring up several minutes later. It’s like way later into the episode when Kirk finally asks him, are they dead? Like, in the episode, it’s like a huge amount of time has passed. It’s like, in the moment, you probably would say, did you just kill him? It’s like, nothing.

Just nothing. For me, that, that was incredibly distracting. Of like, for a captain, your first concern would be your crew, and yet you’re not really showing that much of a reaction to losing a crew member right before yourself.

It’s a little distracting. I completely agree with that. And I also feel like they tried to do a hand wavy thing at the end of, oh, they’re not really dead.

The Thacians returned them all. Like, so we can go gallivanting back into space and nobody feels any worse for the wear. Um, yeah, but yeah, it is, it is a little weird and it is a little too much silence on that topic. I feel like they, I feel like they thought they were giving it the weight it needed. But they needed more.

They needed him to say, like, I care about my crew. Like, you need that in that moment. Um, because reading between the delivery of lines, I think Shatner was trying to present that, but it wasn’t in the text. So it’s not there. And so it’s missing, um, which was Shatner can only do so much. Yeah. And like on that point, like we see, we see Kirk put into a position in this episode that We know we’ll come back in the far future of like Kirk as a dad.

Like what does that look like? Is that a position that Kirk would be comfortable with? We’ve seen Kirk in Strange New Worlds talk about his relationship to his father. His father was not really present in his life, he reveals. Again, Strange New World’s, picking up on all the details that they needed to from the original series to make it almost seamless to present us now with a Kirk who without that backstory, you watch a captain kind of scramble to figure out how to be around this teenager.

And you’re like, he’s supposed to be in charge of the ship. And yet he’s uncomfortable about a teenager. The backstory that they’ve given in Strange New Worlds of, I highly respected my dad’s drive to help other people. The subtext of that being, my dad was not around. I don’t know what a dad does. Here we have McCoy literally saying like, He needs a father figure.

He needs you. And Kirk’s response is, You think it’s so important? You do it. You do it. Yeah. You do it. You think it’s so important. And like McCoy’s response to that is an understandable like, What? Like, are you joking? Like, he’s clearly bonding with you. He’s a drawn to your power, your standing in the ship.

He clearly looks to you. You got to take the reins on this. And we are seeing a Kirk struggle with that through the episode. It is after Sam is disappeared that Kirk realizes what he’s facing and doesn’t blink. It’s almost as if being a father figure is more terrifying than facing off against an omnipotent being.

I think that is an interesting aspect. And I think it is accurate. That is Kirk. Yes. He would rather be in the room with the omnipotent being and tell it. I’m not going to let you do this. As opposed to being in a room with a 17 year old boy and saying, well, let me tell you about the birds and the bees.

That’s a more awkward conversation then you got to reign in this power, buddy. And I thought that that was a very, uh, unintentionally funny, but also like kind of like on character for Kirk. How did you think about that, that dynamic?

For me, it was, it was once, once again, a little bit clunky that 1960s TV feel to the way they unraveled that.

But it felt in character to Kirk to not want to be the father figure. He’d want to avoid that. And I liked the fact we were seeing him avoid that until push came to shove and it was like, oh no, I got to face off against this omnipotent power. It’s like, that felt very Kirk to me.

Yeah, I’d rather have to destabilize an unstable being as opposed to teach a kid how to not slap a woman on the back while she’s walking away.

The show ends with a very Deus Machina sort of like, Oh, we’re the Thacians. We’re super powerful. We may in fact be Qs and we’re going to take this guy back and it is a chilling ending for Charlie. In him desperately clutching at humanity, wanting to remain, and saying, you don’t know what it’s like, and it presents, it really kind of re humanizes him in a really interesting way, because he’s like, they don’t, they don’t touch, they don’t, there’s no experiences there, other than just survival, and it’s hell, and he’s desperate to stay.

But he has no control. He, we know he can’t. And the Thacians are like, no, he’s, this is not an option. We have to take him back. And they take him back. And it is very low on the special effects meter. It is literally just a projected green face. Uh, but I found all of that, like, I couldn’t imagine an alternate ending to this other than an omnipotent being showing up and saying, oops, our bad, we’ll take him back.

Um, so, it’s a kind of, like, quick bow wrapped around an episode that explores with some tension, various ideas, but it does feel like this episode struggles. More than a lot of the other episodes we’ve already talked about, with the era in which it was produced, it feels like it’s too stuck in the blind spots towards sexism to escape it entirely, and that’s unfortunate, because what ends up happening is, as Matt pointed out, a plot idea lifted from Twilight Zone, explored in a different way at a different age, Ends up being weighed down by the anchor of the era, which leaves from the episode, I think there’s a probably about 10 minutes that if you lifted it entirely, these 10 minutes would just be character moments.

And those I think are really lovely. And those are the moments that I like to hold on to for this episode. How do you feel about that?

Identical. It’s like, for me, it’s at the end of the day when it was all over, I felt like 70 percent of the episode was forgettable. Not forgettable. That’s the wrong word.

More of a kind of disposable. Like if you took this whole plot away, like we’re left here with characters that aren’t that different from where they started. So like most of the show is about Charlie, a character who’s not a regular. He’s on the show. Follows this evolution of him and then he’s gone. It’s like, but we care about Spock and Kirk and like all these other characters.

So it’s like, there’s really no difference from the starting point to the ending point that much, but that 30 percent or that 10 minutes of character stuff that happened in the episode is to me, the part that I find the most compelling. Other episodes we’ve talked about from previous shows fall into this trap too, where it’s like they spend so much time with a Third, like a tangent and like a tangent for my character from something else.

And they kind of ignore the bridge crew and the crew that we care about. And then at the end of the day, you’re kind of like, why did we go on this ride? There’s a little bit of that for me, which is why I agree with you completely that, that, that like little bit, those 10 minutes of the character stuff, I thought was fantastic.

It’s what I hold on to as well.

So viewers, listeners, let us know what you think about this in the comments. Do you agree that there are moments here that you do like to keep in your head canon? Like, I think Uhura singing to Spock is absolutely terrific now. I hated it as a kid, but I love it now. Uh, and some of the stuff about showing Kirk’s hesitation to be a father figure, I think, feeds directly into the character arc of this character that we will follow now for the next many, many weeks and months and years as we go through the series and on into the movies.

But what do you all think? Jump into the comments and let us know. And don’t forget, next week we’re going to be talking about Balance of Terror. I’ve already given a little bit of hint about what it’s about, but give us some wrong answer only versions of what that episode will be about. And don’t forget, if you’d like to support us, you can leave a comment, you can subscribe, and you can share it with your friends.

So those are all great ways to support us. Before we sign off, Matt, do you have anything you’d like to share with our listeners and viewers about what you have coming up on your main channel?

There’s an episode coming out at the time this releases about, uh, quantum dot solar panels, which is fun. Anytime you put the word quantum in anything, you’re like, what is that?

So it’s, it’s a fun exploration around what quantum dots are and how they’re being applied to different technologies with a focus in this one on solar panel technology.

Interesting. I’m more excited by the word dot. But anyway, if you’re interested in finding out more about my writing, you can check out my website, SeanFerrell.

com. You can also just go wherever it is you buy your books. Quick reminder, by the time you are hearing this, my second book in the Sinister Secrets series, wow, that’s harder to say than I thought it would be. It should be ready to drop but if you haven’t ordered it already a pre order really does help and it’s the Sinister Secrets of the Fabulous Nothings which is the follow up to the Sinister Secrets of Singe.

It’s a middle grade adventure book which has to do with robots and smugglers and a boy trying to figure out why he’s always getting into trouble which is my favorite topic. If you’d like to support the show directly, don’t forget, you can go to trekintime. show and become a supporter through the direct join button there.

And once you do that, it makes you an Ensign, which means you will be signed up automatically for our spinoff show Out of Time, which Matt and I already have plans for our next episode, which we’ll be recording shortly. And that will drop not too long after that. Thank you so much, everyone, for taking the time to watch or listen.

We look forward to talking to you next time.

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