This episode leaves me very conflicted. Because of the enormous amount of awful acting by a plethora of characters this should be and is a highly rated episode on the mockery index. But having to sit through it is challenging. There really is a limit to how much insipid tv you can watch before your skin starts to crawl.
Let’s dispose of the plot, such as it is, first and then look over this train wreck. The Enterprise has been sent to Psi 2000, a planet whose star has “gone dark” and is now apparently collapsing in on itself from the cold. They are tasked with rescuing a crew of four scientists that, for some inexplicable reason, were left in a highly dangerous and unstable environment and after the rescue they are to observe the collapse of the planet at extremely close range in a highly unstable and dangerous orbit. Sure.
Spock and Lt. Joe Tormolen (hint, hint, dead man walking) beam down to the surface in isolation suits and find that the scientists seem to have died violently from the effects of insanity. Tormolen’s nose is itchy so of course he takes off his glove and immediately becomes infected with what ever strange infection killed off the scientists. Tormolen spreads the infection to the ship and for the rest of the episode the whole cast except McCoy engage in random acts of imbecility that somewhat mimic drunkenness. Of course, the ship ends up in great danger of crashing into the unstable planet and a last minute “Hail Mary” by Spock and Scotty saves the ship but hurls the ship three days back into the past and then the show ends. That’s not much of a plot.
Okay, so this is kind of a stupid plot but what is truly notable is how many creepy behaviors are on view by the crew. Sulu takes off his shirt and swash buckles around the ship menacing the crew with a fencing sword. Nurse Chapel starts whining at Spock declaring her empathy and love for his poor neglected emotional life as a half-Vulcan. She even starts pawing at him and infects him whereupon he also starts blubbering and whining about how sad he was as a child. Spock infects Kirk during a fist fight and then Kirk starts describing his unrequited love for the Enterprise. All in all, it’s a nauseating spectacle but Spock and Nurse Chapel crying together and then Spock crying by himself in his cabin has got to be the low point. It has to be seen to be believed.
There is an important scientific moment. When the shut down engines won’t be available soon enough to save the ship if a normal start up is used, Kirk orders Scotty to engage in a full power restart, to which Scotty exclaims apoplectically, “ye canna mix matter and anti-matter cold!” I fully expected him to preface it with an exclamation like, “Are ye daft man?”
Majel Barrett, who played Nurse Chapel was Gene Roddenberry’s main squeeze and soon to be wife. But she is just such an annoying character that she comes close to making the episode unwatchable. The hair style or wig she has in this episode is weird and off-putting. The hair on the back of her head is dark and the front is grey and the whole thing is sort of swirled around. It looks like something went terribly wrong during the hair and make-up prep.
So, my verdict is this is a must see because of just how heinous the acting is. But at the same time make sure you aren’t in a weakened state during the viewing. It will lower your vitality and it’s entirely possible you will break out in hives. And it is completely out of the question for the mentally unstable.