Kirk beams down to Gamma Trianguli VI with Dr. McCoy, Ensign Chekov, Spock, Yeoman Martha Landon (a pretty blonde named Celeste Yarnall) and several expendable red shirts. We’re really not sure why the hell they’re there but we find out it resembles a tropical paradise that contains plants that shoot poisonous darts and rocks that explode if you step on them. In fact, three red shirts die in these fashions and one of the plants almost gets Kirk but Spock pushes him aside and gets the darts in himself. Of course, Spock survives but while attempting to beam back to the ship to help him, we find out that some force on the planet has neutralized the transporter and is also pulling the Enterprise toward the planet with a tractor beam.
We now meet the inhabitants of the planet. They look like some combination of non-violent sheep with surfer dudes sporting platinum blond hairdos and wearing towels around their waists. They work for a godlike idol named Vaal that inhabits a rock formation in the shape of a dragon’s head. It has a force field around it and seems to be the power that is attacking the Enterprise. Spock states that is some kind of machine. The People of Vaal feed it the exploding rocks once a day and that seems to be the source of Vaal’s power. Vaal controls the people and forbids them to procreate but feeds them and controls the environment so that they virtually live forever. They are childlike and annoying.
When Yeoman Landon finds out that they don’t have sex she wonders how they would replace someone who dies by accident. And the male members of the landing party look around sheepishly at each other until Spock hems and haws through a statement that Vaal will provide some kind of instructions. McCoy makes a sarcastic comment to the effect that he’d like to see a machine try to provide those instructions.
While the situation of the Enterprise becomes more critical Kirk and Spock try to figure out a way to neutralize Vaal. Spock warns that destroying Vaal would violate the prime directive. Kirk indicates that he’s not concerned about that. Meanwhile Chekov and Yeoman Landon are observed kissing by a couple of the People of Vaal. Luckily, it’s 1967 so they are a man and a woman and when they experiment with this new behavior, I don’t have to turn the tv off. But Vaal is not equally as happy about this behavior as I am and instructs his people to kill all the Enterprise personnel. When the male People of Vaal attack the crew, they manage to kill one red shirt from behind by bashing his head in with a big stick. But without the element of surprise these lame losers are quickly pummeled and disarmed by the Enterprise crew. Even Yeoman Landon is able to kick the butts of these feeble skirt wearing sissies.
Now Kirk comes up with a plan. He imprisons the People of Vaal thus preventing them from feeding Vaal while simultaneously he instructs Scotty back on the Enterprise to fire its phasers continuously at the force field of Vaal. Sure enough Vaal quickly runs out of reserve power and is destroyed by the phasers. Kirk tells the People of Vaal that they will learn to enjoy life without Vaal and will learn to take care of themselves and have their own lives and families as men and women are supposed to.
The final scene on the Enterprise has Spock trying to make the point that destroying Vaal is equivalent to forcing the People of Vaal out of the Garden of Eden. Kirk counters by saying that essentially Spock is equating Kirk with Satan. Kirk follows up by asking Spock if anyone on the Enterprise even remotely resembles Satan to which Spock guardedly says there is not.
This is sort of a companion piece to “Who Mourns for Adonais.” Once again, a godlike creature holds a group of humanoids in thrall to serve it while providing the people with a life of ease. And in both cases the Enterprise destroys the alien power source with its phasers. There are definitely more humorous passages in this episode than usual including the first time that Kirk has to “fire” Scotty when he can’t perform the impossible. And of course, he rehires him when he performs some other technical miracle instead.
There are a few scenes where Kirk displays anxiety over the death of some of the red shirts. He whines about how he should have seen the dangers coming. This is the extant of the Shatner mockery points. Also, he gives Spock some grief for saving his life and there is the Satan shtick at the end. There is a pretty girl in the episode and Chekov manages to get a few jokes about Russia into the script. But it’s a relatively silly plot and the People of Vaal are like wimpy pajama boys so it does have a certain annoying quality.
Taken all in all I’ll call it a 7 // 5.