Monday, September 1, 2014

Star Trek: The Apple

It is time for another episode of Star Trek, today it is
While there are things I like about The Apple it certainly has more than a couple of flaws. It bears more than a strong resemblance to the season one episode Return of the Archons (a society controlled by a machine) with elements of Shore Leave (mysterious force threatening the Enterprise), This Side of Paradise (flowers that shoot stuff), and Who Morns for Adonias (phasering a structure at the end to save the day) thrown in too. Hey, they can't all be original, can they?
The Apple was written by author Max Ehrlich (with heavy re-writes by Gene L. Coon). Ehrlich was no stranger to TV or science fiction. He penned The Big Eye, a cheesy 1949 novel set a Palomar Observatory, which seems to borrow heavily from the 1933 novel When Worlds Collide, which was made into the 1951 movie of the same name.
The episode begins with the landing party, heavily stocked with Red Shirts, beaming down to Gamma Trianguli VI. Kirk explains that the previous ship in the area reported strange sensor readings and it is their mission to check them out and to make contact with the natives - basically their orders are to violate the Prime Directive, which apparently is more of a guideline than a rule.

They've beamed down a mere 17 kilometers (!), that's 10.5 miles, from the village they're going to contact, so they'd better get hiking.

I really like the planet set's orange sky that was created for Gamma Trianguli VI. Awesome stuff.
It's not a good day to be a Red Shirt, or Spock for that matter. The first Red Shirt to bite the dust, Hendorf, is killed by a flower even before the opening credits roll.
What, me worry?
Kirk calls up to report the death of a crewman and Scotty tells him that they are "losing potency in our antimatter pods" and the doesn't think it's serious, but they're looking into it.
Meanwhile Spock discovers that the rocks on the planet are explosive and he becomes the target of one of those pesky, killer flowers. McCoy can't seem to help him, so Kirk decides that the landing party, except for the two Red Shirts that have already started the long hike to the village, should beam up.
Except it doesn't work & the shuttle craft must be on the blink. It's okay though, as after the commercial break Spock is just fine.
Very suddenly a big storm rolls in and, wouldn't you know it, Red Shirt Number Two (Kaplan), gets hit by lightning and disintegrates.
Shortly afterwards, Red Shirt Number Three (Mallory), who was excitedly returning after having found the village, trips over one of those explosive rocks that Spock found while he was away, and is killed.

Marc Cushman's wonderful book These Are the Voyages TOS Season Two reports that this explosion sent the actor to the emergency room. As you can see in the shot above at right, he was directly on top of the charge. The earlier explosion, where Spock tossed the rock, was also a problem, giving the cast damage to their hearing.
We soon meet Akuta, the eyes and ears of Vaal their 'god'. When asked about Vaal, Akuta says, "He causes the rains to fall and the sun to shine. All good comes from Vaal." Spock's readings indicate that the real workings of Vaal lie deep beneath the planet's surface.
Meanwhile, things are not good on the Enterprise - they've been hit with a tractor beam and will be pulled out of the sky and burn up in 16 hours. To add insult to injury, Kirk tells Scotty that if he can't get the warp drive working he's fired. 
The people of Vaal are very friendly and welcoming. When Kirk asks about children in the village, Akuta is confused. Kirk further explains and Akuta realizes what he means, "Replacements. None are necessary. They are forbidden by Vaal." When asked about love and intimacy he gives a similar response, "The holding, the touching. Vaal has forbidden this." Prompting McCoy to say, "Well, there goes paradise."
Soon it is time for the people to feed Vaal, with baskets of fruit. There must be a Mr. Fusion in there somewhere.
For most of the episode Checkov has been trying to get close to Yeoman Landon, at one point prompting Kirk to say, "I know you find each other fascinating, but we're not here to conduct a field experiment in human biology." They finally get some alone time for kissing and are observed by two of the People of Vaal (that's David Soul on the right, who was later famous for playing "Hutch" in TV's Starsky & Hutch.), who decide to try it out for themselves. That's not something that Vaal is happy with. Akuta gets instructions from Vaal on how to kill the newcomers. 
The next morning Kirk and Spock decide to pay another visit to Vaal who zaps Spock with a bolt of lightning. Being a main character and all, he does not disintegrate the way Red Shirt Number Two did. 
Soon the villagers make their attack and are easily defeated, but not before Red Shirt Number Four is killed, certainly a more honorable death than being done in by a flower or tripping over a rock. The villagers are rounded up and locked in a hut.
Time has run out for the Enterprise. They try one big push with impulse power, but it's no use. The ship is going to burn up with everyone on board, so Kirk tells Scotty he's fired. Good move, Kirk. This likely will save Starfleet paying out some cash in survivor benefits to Scotty's nearest relatives. Maybe with the money saved they can build a new starship.
But wait, Vaal is hungry and must be fed. The landing party keeps the villagers locked in the hut and Kirk orders Scotty (who being the awesome guy he is obeys on his own time) to fire phasers at Vaal. Even though Vaal is protected by a force field, which the phasers never penetrate, and even though the real heart of Vaal is deep under ground, the phasers still manage to kill Vaal, saving the Enterprise and leaving the people totally on their own. I guess Vaal was really hungry and starved to death.
Akuta wonders how they will survive but Kirk tells them that they will figure it out and everyone, except the guy in the back on the right, seems happy to move on.
We get our happy ending and the chance to make fun of Spock by comparing him to Satan, even though it was Kirk who cast out the People of Vaal from paradise. Along the way there was discussion as to if their society was functioning or not and how this all played out with the Prime Directive but as we all know, when Kirk's ship is on the line all the rules go out the window.

The Apple is a fun episode if you check your logical brain and just go with it but doesn't hold up to well to any level of scrutiny.

There was almost no new music written for this episode. Several minutes of percussion were written and recorded for the episode but were never used. They are available on the La-La Land Records complete release of Star Trek TOS music, but nothing to write home about. Instead, why not check out the song for the episode written by the band Five Year Mission. It's pretty wonderful.

Next up, Mirror, Mirror.

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