Sunday, November 10, 2013

Star Trek: Operation -- Annihilate!

Today I take a look at the final episode of the first season of the original Star Trek.
I think a better title would have been Stop the Insanity, don't you? Anyway, Operation -- Annihilate! is not an especially happy episode and in spite of the odd creature effects it does offer some interesting sci-fi story elements and, while it is not an elite Trek episode, it isn't a turkey either.
The story begins with crew of the Enterprise following the path of mass insanity that has been moving across the galaxy from planet to planet. It has led them to the planet Deneva, which also happens to be where Kirk's brother and his family lives.

But before they arrive at Deneva a one-man spaceship is spotted heading straight for the Denevan sun.
They try to warn him off but he continues to head straight for the sun and just before he burns up can be heard to say, "I did it. It's finally gone. I'm free. I'm--." I wonder if that means anything?
Just like in The City on the Edge of Forever, there's a new planet model that was used for the special effects. That's two new ones in the last two episodes. It almost makes up for using the old ones over and over and over. This one looks pretty good too.

Anyway, they beam down to the surface (where the location shots were filmed at the TRW Space and Defense Park) and are attacked by some people who are shouting things like, "Go away! We don't want to hurt you!"
McCoy, Kirk, YU no phaser?
They examine the locals and then head inside to look for Sam Kirk and his family.
Alas, Sam is dead but his wife Aurelan and his son Peter are still alive.
Speaking of Peter, who doesn't do anything here except lay around, he was played by the actor Craig Hundley would later return as Tommy in a rather bad season 3 episode (And the Children Shall Lead). I am rather much more fond of Hundley's other Star Trek connection. He was the inventor of the Blaster Beam, a musical instrument that was featured in Jerry Goldsmith's magnificent musical score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Things don't go well for Aurelan Kirk. She goes through a lot of pain and then suddenly dies.
Captain Kirk heads back down to the surface where they meet up with the alien invaders that have been causing all the ruckus. They turn out to be extremely resistant to phaser fire but after a prolonged burst they get one of the creatures to fall while the others flee by "flying" (well, they were on strings) away.
Yeah, they look pretty fake, but it's okay as even Yeoman Zahra says, "Captain, it doesn't even look real." Honestly, she really says that. It kind of feels like a line put in by the writers to admit that, "Yeah, we know they don't look real. Just accept it and roll with the story."
As the landing party leaves the area they turn their backs on the flying alien creatures. One flies and attacks Spock. They bring him up to the Enterprise where McCoy operates on him but there's nothing he can do. As he explains, "Evidently, when the creature attacks, it leaves a stinger much like a bee or wasp, leaving one of these in the victim's body. It takes over the victim very rapidly, and the entwining is far, far too involved for conventional surgery to remove."

Spock is forced to endure huge amounts of pain. At one point he flees sick bay, heads for the bridge and tries to take control of the ship. He is subdued and restrained back in sick bay where he attempts to control the pain.

In a Frankenstein moment he later breaks free from his restraints and heads for the transporter room so that he can retrieve one of the creatures for them to study.
They put the creature through some tests and Spock comes to the conclusion that it is a "one-celled creature resembling, more than anything else, a huge, individual brain cell." Spock then asks, "Do you understand what I'm suggesting, Captain?"  I guess he doesn't think too highly of Kirk's reasoning skills or, more likely, they needed to explain some things to the audience.

Kirk replies by saying that, "This may be one cell in a larger organism. An incredibly huge organism, in fact." Spock then adds, "And although it is not physically connected to the other cells, it is nevertheless part of the whole creature, guided by the whole, drawing its strength from the whole, which probably accounts for its unusual resistance to our phaser weapons" and that, in a big leap of logic, that it may have come, "From a place where our physical laws do not apply. We may therefore find it difficult to destroy, Captain."

So if they can't kill the creatures the infesting Deneva, Kirk reasons that he'll have to stop the insanity from spreading by killing everyone on the planet - over a million people. In Conscience of the King Kodos was alleged to have killed 4,000 people in order to save 4,000 more. That's what earned him the nickname "the Executioner." How would Kirk be remembered if he killed everyone on Deneva?

Needless to say, Kirk isn't thrilled about that option. Which brings us back to the beginning of the story when the Denevan flew his ship into the sun and announced that he was free.

In an attempt to figure out what will kill the creature they try using the stuff that suns are know for: heat and radiation. Eventually figure out that they should also try light.
So in an attempt at doing a science experiment they put the creature into the test chamber, don their snazzy goggles and blast it with light at an intensity of one million candles per square inch. It kills the creature. Huzzah!

Spock points out that they need to do a test on someone who is infected. McCoy hedges but Kirk pushes that they have to do the test now.
The trial works but Spock is blinded. Just as we learn that he is blinded Nurse Chapel rushes in with the test results of the first experiment. Somehow they have determined that they didn't need to use the full visible spectrum at the creature - ultraviolet alone would have worked. Spock need not have been blinded. I am not sure that an intense blast of UV would have done him much good either, but that's their story. They deploy some satellites to blast the planet and kill off the invasion.
The good news is that, because Spock is an alien, the writers can invent something about Vulcans to get him out of the bind they put him in - an inner eyelid. The day is saved and, as 60s TV needed to be, no one is changed by the experience.

There was no new music written for this episode but, don't worry, there's some great stuff coming up in Season Two.

You can watch the full episode here from

More Star Trek is coming up. I may post a Season One retrospective before I launch into Season Two.

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