Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 20 – Court Martial

Kirk is on trial for the wrongful death of one of his officers.  Lt. Commander Finney, the records officer, was in an ion pod (whatever that is) during an ion storm and according to the Enterprise’s computer telemetry Kirk jettisoned the pod prematurely before a red alert was declared.  The court martial featured one of Kirk’s old girlfriends as the prosecutor and Elisha Cook Jr. as his defense attorney.  We see a video clip of Kirk jettisoning the pod before the red alert status occurs.  This evidence seems to seal Kirk’s fate.  After this scene we hear Kirk telling Spock that at least Spock’s next captain might not be able to beat Spock at chess.  After hearing this Spock raises an eyebrow.

In the next scene we see Spock in his cabin playing chess against the computer.  McCoy enters and berates Spock for his unfeeling frivolous actions while Kirk’s career is in jeopardy.  Spock explains that he has just beaten the computer five times in a row.  Even McCoy recognizes that this is an impossibility.  They rush down to the trial and Kirk’s lawyer reconvenes the trial on the Enterprise where we learn that Finney is not dead but hidden on the Enterprise and is responsible for faking the accusatory video evidence against Kirk.  In a climactic scene Kirk fights Finney and after a vicious shirt tearing fight defeats Finney and saves the Enterprise from crashing by pulling loose a couple of electrical cables.

As silly as this episode sounds it was actually fun.  Seeing Shatner calmly shrug off the cold shoulder he was getting from his peers at the star base where the trial was taking place was interesting.  And Elisha Cook Jr. was amusing as the eccentric lawyer who preferred paper books to computer files.  The courtroom drama was fairly entertaining.  All in all, I’d say it was a 7.


The Shatner mockery index was low.  It really didn’t break a 4.

7 // 4

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 19 – Tomorrow is Yesterday

In this episode the Enterprise is inexplicably sent back in time by getting too close to a “black star.”  I guess that’s supposed to be a black hole.  They find themselves in Earth’s upper atmosphere above Cape Kennedy right before the first moon shot.  A jet fighter is sent up to investigate the “UFO.”  The Enterprise locates the fighter jet, and fearing that it might have a nuclear weapon, grabs it with a tractor beam.  But this destroys the plane and the pilot is beamed aboard the Enterprise to save his life.

Spock informs Kirk that the pilot cannot be released back to Earth because his knowledge of the Enterprise would alter history.  But then Spock discovers that the pilot’s yet-to-be-born son will be an important man in the future of space exploration.  Therefore, the pilot must be returned or that would change history.

After that Kirk and Sulu beam down to an Air Force base to retrieve evidence from the wreckage of the jet that would prove the Enterprise was a real UFO.  This leads to another man being beamed aboard the Enterprise.  At this point the writers put the plot mercifully to bed.  The Enterprise would fly very fast toward the sun ending up even farther back in the past and then “slingshot” back out and start going forward in time.  Somehow, when they reached the time where each of the men captured from the past had been affected by the Enterprise they would be beamed into the spot where their bodies were.  So, we see the pilot in his plane and suddenly we see the appearance of someone being beamed into his location.  But somehow after the beaming occurs the pilot no longer remembers anything about the Enterprise and goes about his mission and returns to Earth.

And the Enterprise hurtles into the future at faster than Warp Factor 8 and in order to prevent overshooting their “present,” Scotty puts on the brakes and the crew pitches back and forth in their chairs.  They’ve made it home and everyone is happy.

So, this is the first-time travel episode.  So that’s something.  But it’s kind of meh.  The pretense of a rationale for how they went back in time and the even flimsier logic for how they retuned wouldn’t convince the lowliest of geeks.  Spock and Bones bickering about the fate of Kirk during his burglary is kind of contrived and silly.

As for Shatner mockery points, he does get a scene where he has a fist fight with three or four Air Force servicemen.  He gets to roll around a bit and throw some pretty phony looking punches.  But it’s also nothing to write home about.

If you’re interested in the nostalgia of seeing the Enterprise interact with 1960s Americans, I could throw an extra point in and call this a six.  Put that together with the Shatner score and I’ll call this a 6 // 5.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 18 – Arena

The Enterprise reaches the Cestus III Outpost and after Kirk and company beam down, they find they have been lured into a trap.  The outpost has been destroyed and the enemy attacks the Enterprise landing party.  Kirk and Spock fight off the attack and once back on the Enterprise chase the enemy into unexplored territory.  But before they can overtake their target both ships are frozen in place and a voice announces that an outside entity, the Metrons, is putting a stop to the fight.  Because the Metrons consider the violence exhibited by the Humans and Gorns (the name of the race on the enemy ship) as barbaric they will minimize the destruction.  Kirk and the Gorn captain will be transported to a barren planet where their personal combat will decide which of the two ships will be destroyed and which will be spared.

The Gorn and Kirk show up on a barren planet that looks a lot like southern California.  The Gorn looks like and is a man in a really phony rubber dinosaur suit.  It turns out the Gorn is inhumanly strong and tough but pathetically slow.  Kirk rolls a boulder on him but to no effect.  And just to put some drama into the situation, Kirk runs into a trap and injures his leg so the possibility that the Gorn might eventually catch him won’t seem completely implausible.

Kirk was given a device to record his thoughts during the trial but the Gorn is able to hear his every word and thereby judge how badly Kirk is hurt.  The Gorn offers to kill Kirk mercifully if he will stop running.  Kirk exchanges insults with the Gorn over their treachery at the   Cestus III Outpost.  But the Gorn claims that the base itself was an act of war by invading their territory.  Eventually the Enterprise bridge is also given an audio-visual transmission of the combat.  And so, Spock is able to annoyingly claim that the humans deserved to be wiped out for unknowingly settling Cestus III in enemy territory.  Also, he cheers on Kirk’s gradual identification of the ingredients for a weapon.  Kirk finds a bamboo cylinder, a rope-like vine, potassium nitrate, sulphur, coal and large sharp diamond crystals.  He converts these into a makeshift firearm.  Just in the (painfully slow} nick of time, he shoots the Gorn.  But instead of finishing him off with the Gorn’s own stone knife, Kirk calls to the Metrons and refuses the kill.  An effeminate young man in a khiton shows up and congratulates Kirk for only being a semi-savage.  He tells Kirk that he will release the Gorn ship and promises to check back with humanity in a few thousand years when they may be ready to dialog with his people.

Kirk returns to the Enterprise and the ship mysteriously finds itself 500 parsecs away from their former position.  Kirk and Spock muse on their changed ideas about the definition of civilization.

Okay, so this is mostly an amusing episode.  The only thing that really annoys me is the idea that Kirk, Spock and McCoy think that if humans accidentally colonized an uninhabited planet that turns out to be in some other race’s home range that they deserve to be massacred.  This is just so self-hating that I would expect it to come from Picard but not Kirk.

That aside, watching Kirk fight a man in a rubber dinosaur suit in slow-motion can’t be anything but comedy gold.  Shatner rolls around and grimaces and gives us a great show.  The Gorn hisses like a snake so he can be heard like a half a mile away.  It’s wonderful.

I’ll give this episode a 9 // 8.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 17 – The Squire of Gothos

I’ve liked this episode since the time I saw the original broadcast.  The story can be considered science fiction but I prefer to think of it as comedy.

The Enterprise is in route to some star base when in the middle of a starless void they detect a planet where none should be.  Attempting to avoid it both Sulu and Kirk disappear from the bridge.  Spock assumes command and even the planet has a poisonous atmosphere he beams down a rescue party headed by McCoy.  They find themselves in an Earth-normal environment and enter a building that appears to be a medieval castle.  There they find Sulu and Kirk statue-like in an apparent stasis.  Then they hear someone playing the harpsichord and someone calling himself General Trelayne, the Squire of Gothos, introduces himself to them and releasing Kirk and Sulu to consciousness invites the crew to be his guests.  But guest is just a euphemism for captive.  He toys with the crew members but meanwhile Spock has located Kirk and company on the planet and beams them to the Enterprise.  Trelayne shows up on the bridge of the Enterprise and returns Kirk and the landing party back to Gothos.  He also adds Spock and Kirk’s new Yeoman Teresa Rose who, of course, is a fetching blonde played by an actress named Venita Wolf.

Realizing that Trelayne doesn’t intend to release them Kirk figures out an escape plan.  He guesses that the device that Trelayne uses to perform the various miraculous transformations of matter and energy is hidden in the ornamental mirror in the castle hall.  Kirk uses Trelayne dancing with Yeoman Ross as an excuse to challenge Trelayne to a duel.  When Trelayne fires his pistol into the air Kirk diverts his own shot to destroying the mirror and the mechanism behind it.  Transporting back to the ship while Trelayne is powerless Kirk orders the Enterprise depart the vicinity of Gothos at top speed but before he can warp out of the system, they observe the planet Gothos somehow in front of them again.  After several more futile attempts at escape Kirk heads back to the planet instructing Spock to wait a short time and then leave the system at full speed.

Trelayne is dressed as an English magistrate and he condemns Kirk to death for treason.  But Kirk convinces him that hanging would be boring and instead Trelayne should hunt Kirk for an exciting experience.  While Kirk is hiding, he tries desperately to call the Enterprise on his communicator and tell them to run while Trelayne is distracted but the signal is blocked.  Finally, Trelayne traps Kirk and prepares to kill him with a sabre.  But Kirk knocks the sword out of Trelayne’s hand and slaps him in the face calling him a child.  Just then two voices, a man’s and a woman’s, are heard and Kirk and Trelayne look up to see two shining globes of light.  The voices come from these globes and they turn out to be energy beings and in fact Trelayne’s parents.  They berate Trelayne for mistreating his “predators,” meaning the enterprise crew, and tell him that play time is over and he must come home.  Then Trelayne assumes the tone and diction of a petulant child who doesn’t want to quit playing.  He tells his parents that they promised him he could have Gothos for his plaything and that he was winning against Kirk.  The voices continue to berate him and repeat, “No Trelayne,” to all his entreaties. At least he keeps repeating, “But I woulda won,” over and over again as he slowly fades away.  Afterwards, the voices apologize to Kirk for their son’s misbehavior and promise to let him return to the enterprise without further interference.

Back on the bridge Spock asks Kirk how Trelayne should be characterized in their report.  When Spock rejects the title of God of War, Kirk suggests a little boy, and a very naughty little boy at that.

As I stated above, I’ve always enjoyed this episode as a pure comedy and nothing else.  The Trelayne character is enjoyable as a selfish petulant child who loves play acting and posturing.  There’s nothing much to this story but the clash of Trelayne’s and Kirk’s personalities and even that is just a pretense to allow Trelayne to perform his tour de force.  There is the pretty girl hanging around which is nice.  But these things and the payoff joke at the end are enough.  I give this a 9.  On the Kirk side, he does a shoulder roll or two and some minor acrobatics but nothing really embarrassing so let’s call it a 9 // 2.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 16 – The Galileo Seven

The Enterprise is on a mission to deliver medical supplies to a planet that is being ravaged by a plague.  But on route they find a quasar-like object and since these are a high priority of the Enterprise, they send out a shuttle craft (the Galileo Seven of the title) with a crew that includes Spock, McCoy and Scott.  But as soon as the shuttle craft nears the object, the radiation from the quasar drives the shuttle craft off target and damages its communication and navigation controls.

Meanwhile back on the Enterprise Kirk is aware that the shuttle craft has gone missing and that locating and rescuing the crew will be extremely difficult.  On top of this they have on board, Commissioner Farris, whose mission it is to ensure that the Enterprise delivers the medical supplies on time and he has put Kirk on notice that one minute past the scheduled time Farris will assume command of the Enterprise and force it to leave the shuttle crew to perish.

Meanwhile the shuttle craft has crash landed on a planet that is inhabited by twelve-foot tall cave men who hurl equally gigantic spears with deadly force.  Within minutes of landing one of the red shirts is speared.  Spock shows no sorrow for this death and gains the animosity of most of the crew.  When a second crewman is killed by the cave men because of Spock’s ineffective leadership there is almost open revolt and Spock is almost shocked by how poorly his logical approach has fared.

And on the Enterprise the crew has been carrying out a systematic but hopeless search for the shuttle craft on the planet.  Commissioner Farris spends all of his face time badgering Kirk and performing a countdown to their departure time.  He truly is an annoying jerk.  Finally, time runs out and Kirk begins leaving the solar system at slowest speed.

After discovering that their fuel is depleted, they have Scotty repower the shuttle with the phasers they’ve been using to fight off the cave men.  They determine that the power will allow them to reach orbit.  But when the cave men start to attack the ship, they sacrifice some of the power for a high-powered lift off and now barely have enough power to reach orbit.  Based on schedule they know that the Enterprise has already left orbit but Spock decides to forfeit their ability to stay in orbit for a chance to attract the Enterprise’s attention with a rapid burn off of their fuel, basically a flare.  And of course, it works and at the very last minute as the shuttle craft is burning up in re-entry, the shuttle crew is rescued by the transporter.

The episode is centered on the shortcomings of a leader who does not have empathy in his psyche.  Spock is unable to inspire confidence in his crew and his lack of understanding of how the illogical cave men will react results in the death of one of his men.  But finally, when fiery death was staring him in the face he resorted to a desperate intuitive plan and succeeded.  All of this was slightly interesting.  But at the end of the episode when Spock and McCoy are on the bridge with Kirk and he refuses to admit that he acted illogically they accuse him of being stubborn and he agrees.  Then they all start laughing as if this was something hilarious.  This looked incredibly phony.

Alright, so what do I do with this episode?  This is one of those psychological episodes so I should probably go easy on the set up.  But the planetary scenery and the cave men and their artifacts look as incredibly hokey as anything seen on Star Trek.  Then there is the annoying Commissioner counting down the minutes and Kirk snapping back at him in frustration.  But the crew growling at Spock and his incompetent leadership are kind of amusing.  Let’s say a score of 6.  As for Shatner, his only chance for bad acting is the fake laughing at the end of the episode.  But that’s hardly a stellar performance for him.  I’ll say 6 // 4.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 15 – Shore Leave

Shore Leave is sort of a fantasy episode wrapped in a sci-fi costume.  It was written by Theodore Sturgeon who was a very good, very unconventional science fiction author of the time.  But from my point of view this story is just an excuse to allow the cast to run around and emote.  Accordingly, it will have a lower episode score but a higher Shatner mockery score.

The Enterprise is exploring a new planet that needs cataloging.  The crew including Captain Kirk are extremely weary from recent emergencies that they have encountered during their extended mission.  Kirk is considering using this seemingly idyllic planet as a location for shore leave for the crew.  During the exploration the landing party encounters some inexplicably strange things.  McCoy meets the White Rabbit and Alice from Wonderland.  When Captain Kirk beams down with his new yeoman, a fetching young woman named Tonia Barrows who is a worthy successor to Yeoman Janice Rand, they also begin to run into impossible things.  Yeoman Barrows is manhandled by a swashbuckling man who resembles her idea of the womanizer Don Juan.  Kirk meets his nemesis from Starfleet Academy, an upperclassman named Finnegan, who back then, tormented him with practical jokes.  Sulu finds a pistol that he has always wanted to try and meets a samurai who chases him with a sword.  Other landing party members are chased by a tiger and strafed by a WW II fighter plane.  And finally, after Yeoman Barrows puts on a medieval princess’s ball gown Doctor McCoy is run through with the lance of a knight on a black charger.

Mr. Spock beams down to inform the landing party that a mysterious force is draining the Enterprise of energy.  He surmises that the strange encounters are some kind of manufactured creations meant to give life to the thoughts that the various crewmen are thinking at the time.  Finally, Kirk chases down Finnegan and they have an epic fist fight after which Spock notes that Kirk very much enjoyed giving Finnegan the comeuppance he earned long ago.  Spock theorizes that the phenomena are meant to be amusements for the participants.  But Kirk reminds him that McCoy is dead.

At this point a man in a long funny robe shows up and tells them he is the caretaker of this world and that his people use it as an amusement park on which to relax.  When Kirk complains that McCoy is dead, of course, McCoy walks back into the scene accompanied by two chorus girls wearing some feathers here and there and each holding onto one of his arms.  Yeoman Barrows who has shown some proprietary interest in McCoy demands an explanation for the girls and McCoy confirms that he happened to be thinking of a cabaret and the dancers just showed up.  The caretaker confirms that no permanent damage will happen on this pleasure world and offers to Kirk the opportunity for his crew to take a greatly needed shore leave and he agrees.

I am of two minds about the intrinsic merits of this episode.  It is somewhat amusing in a broad and casual way.  But I think it goes overboard.  The plot is clearly absurd.  And it’s a departure from the story arc of the series.  The thin plot is fleshed out with the landing party running back and forth reacting to all the strange people and things they encounter.  I’d give it a score of 6 for the episode rank.

But for Shatner mockery it gets points for the fist fight with Finnegan.  Shatner gives of his best.  He rolls around in the dirt and flips and tumbles all over the place.  He even manages to rip away half of his shirt.  And while he doesn’t give us any of his most spastic facial expressions, he does give us a fair number of overwrought expressions and exclamations.  Let’s give it a 7 on the Shatner scale.

So, there we are,  6 // 7.  That’s makes it a fairly balance experience for the Star Trek connoisseur.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 14 – Balance of Terror

Another good episode with no Shatner mockery score worth mentioning.  In this episode, the Enterprise is operating close to the Romulan Neutral Zone and has to come in aid of the border surveillance bases that the Federation maintains there.  The Romulans have been quiet since a war fought a century ago but a distress call reveals that an invisible ship has destroyed three of the bases.  Surveilling the mystery ship at a distance Kirk discovers that the Romulans have a cloaking device that makes their ship almost indetectable and they have a super weapon that no shield can stop.  But he also finds their weaknesses.  While cloaked the ship cannot use its weaponry and the Romulan ship does not possess warp drive but must proceed at the slow speeds of an impulse engine.  While eavesdropping on a Romulan transmission they discover that Romulans look like Vulcans and are indeed an offshoot of Mr. Spock’s home planet.  And he informs Kirk that these people are not like the modern logical peaceful Vulcans but instead are fearsome warriors.

Kirk and the Romulan commander play a cat and mouse game in which each tries to anticipate the actions of the other and get the advantage needed to survive.  There are several twists and turns and also tension within the Enterprise as an officer whose family was decimated during the century old war with the Romulans suspects Mr Spock of loyalties toward his distant kinsmen.

For fans of old WW II submarine movies, you’ll see some of the same tactics used here.  At one point the enemy jettisons some materials as debris to fool the Enterprise into thinking the Romulan ship had been destroyed.  In another scene silent running is used to fool the enemy into thinking the Enterprise is incapacitated.

The whole episode is very capably scripted and the acting is some of the best seen in the series.  The actor who plays the Romulan Commander, Mark Lenard went on to play Spock’s father in a later episode and in several of the movies.  The interplay between Kirk and the Romulan Commander is the highlight of the show and the final conversation between them is an excellent set piece that Shatner performed admirably and in an unusually understated style.  No exaggerated emoting going on.

This is a 9//0 episode.  Well done.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 13 – The Conscience of the King

This episode is essentially a murder mystery story.  Kirk is the detective and the members of the crew and a band of traveling Shakespearean actors are the props.  The leader of the acting troupe is suspected by Kirk of being a mass murderer who slaughtered four thousand of his citizens where he was a colony leader.  The only surviving witnesses who can identify the murderer are Kirk and Lt. Riley of the Enterprise.  The biggest complication is that, of course, the suspect’s daughter is a buxom blonde that has caught Jim Kirk’s eye.

Other than the love interest, which is slightly tedious, the Shakespearean motif is relatively amusing, with chunks of Macbeth and Hamlet slung around at slightly appropriate moments.  Spock is alarmed by the Captain’s secretive and erratic behavior and McCoy is his usual contrary self.  Outside of the plot we are regaled with Lt. Uhura singing something Star Treky and we are given one last walk through by Yeoman Janice Rand on the bridge.  Apparently she was fired shortly before this episode and this was her swan song.  A pity.  She was pretty.

The plot and the love story resolve themselves as the guilty receive poetic justice and madness and death are the fruits of murder.  I’d give the story a 7.  Shatner has almost no opportunity to perform any tumbling, bare chested gymnastics or over the top histrionics.  I’ll call it a 1 on the Shatner mockery scale.  That a 7 // 1.  Not too bad.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 11 & 12 – The Menagerie

The Menagerie was a reformulating of the first Star Trek pilot episode, “The Cage.”  Jeffrey Hunter was the original pick to be the captain of the Enterprise, Captain Christopher Pike.  But the network rejected that pilot and when Roddenberry asked Hunter to do the second pilot he bowed out.  So, the original story of the Enterprise on Talos IV is embedded in the two-episode story of Spock’s mission to help Captain Pike.

The plot revolves around events that involved the Enterprise long before Jim Kirk was captain.  Chris Pike was the captain during the Talosian incident and his science officer at the time was Mr. Spock.  Fast forward to Jim Kirk’s Enterprise and Spock fakes a distress signal from a Star Base in order to kidnap a critically injured and horribly disabled Christopher Pike and hijack the Enterprise to reach Talos IV.  Captain Kirk and the star base commander Commodore Mendez follow after the Enterprise and once aboard they put Spock on trial for mutiny.  Spock provides evidence in the form of an audio-visual record of the Talosian incident which as it turns out is being transmitted to the Enterprise by the Talosians.  This transmittal explains why Talos IV is quarantined by the Federation and nature of the Talosians powers.  The resolution of the trial and Captain Pike’s fate are the climax of the story.

This story is one of Star Trek’s best.  Even though this is a cut and paste of the earlier episode with the later additions for the Spock plot it is an interesting story with characters that are at least as interesting as the normal crew.  I would say Jeffrey Hunter does an excellent job as Captain Pike and it is interesting to think what the series would have been like if he had stayed with the show.

The nature of the Talosians powers and their intentions for Captain Pike allow the storyline to include several scenes that involve Pike and the girl Vina in some fantasy episodes.  There’s even one scene where she’s painted green and dancing around in a harem outfit (and of special interest to Orion’s Cold Fire, she’s described as a green-skinned Orion slave girl).

A notable item from the story is the casting of Majel Barrett, the woman who went on to play the always annoying Nurse Chapel, as Pike’s First Officer known as Number One.  Barrett played her part as a cold logical officer.  In this part she was far more entertaining than with her Chapel character.

Since Captain Kirk has a relatively small part in these two episodes, he really had no chance to demonstrate his special acting skills.  Interestingly, the plot does have a couple of incidents where Jeffrey Hunter had to react to psychic torture with exaggerated facial expressions and spasmodic body gestures.  It appears then that the writers and directors are partially responsible for all the histrionics that Bill Shatner is so famous for.  But obviously he had a greater ability than Hunter at hamming it up.

So, with respect to scoring I’ll go with 10//2


Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 10 – The Corbomite Maneuver

This is an iconic episode.

The Enterprise is mapping a new sector of space and runs into a space buoy that is meant to warn off outside ships from entering the space occupied by “The First Federation.”  When the Enterprise attempts to evade the probe, it matches course and then begins emitting radiation that increases to a lethal level.  Because of this Kirk orders the buoy to be destroyed by phaser fire.  During this operation the young navigator Lt. Bailey is noticeably flustered by the situation and afterwards is rebuked by Kirk for his poor performance.

Later an enormous spherical star ship intercepts the Enterprise and captures it with a tractor beam.  It scans the Enterprise’s structure and reads its memory banks.  A harsh angry voice identifying itself as Balock the Captain of the Flagship Fesarius of the First Federation announces that because of the Enterprise trespassed into their territory and destroyed the buoy Balock would destroy the Enterprise in ten minutes.  Spock manages to bring up an image of Balock on the bridge viewing screen which reveals a large fierce visage that fills the screen.

At this point Lt. Bailey becomes unhinged and starts shouting and berating his crewmates.  Kirk relieves him of duty and sends him to his quarters.  When Kirk consults with Spock as to a course of action Spock relates it to a game of chess where one player has overwhelmed the other and it results in checkmate with no recourse but defeat.

At this moment Dr. McCoy upbraids Kirk for treating Lt. Bailey so harshly and threatens to write a medical log blaming Kirk for the problem if he doesn’t relent.  Kirk replies angrily that he won’t allow McCoy to bluff him into something he doesn’t want to do.

Suddenly Kirk has an idea.  He looks at Spock and says the answer isn’t chess it’s poker.  He will bluff Balock.  Kirk informs Balock that all Earth ships are equipped with a substance called corbomite which has the property that if it is impacted with a certain level of energy, it reflects back that same level energy against the attacking ship thus destroying it too.  Kirk then dares the alien commander to go ahead and attack.  While the ten minutes is counting down Lt. Bailey returns to the bridge in a calm state and requests to return to his post which Kirk allows.

After the ten minutes expires Balock orders the Enterprise to prove that the corbomite device exists.  Kirk refuses.  Finally, Balock declares that the First Federation will tow the Enterprise to an earth-like planet, hold the Enterprise crew captive and then destroy the ship.  But instead of the Fesarius a tiny vessel separates from it and tows the Enterprise away.

Kirk devises a plan to overload the engine of the small craft by running the enterprise engines into overload and hope that the small craft’s capacity is less than theirs.  Barely short of the rupture of the Enterprise engines the smaller craft overloads its own engines and becomes inert.  A distress signal from the small craft to the Fesarius alerts Kirk that its engines and life support systems have failed.  And based on the weakness of the distress signal it is believed that the mother ship could not have heard it.

Kirk determines to transport into the distressed vessel with McCoy and Bailey to lend aid.  When they reach the ship, they find that the creature they thought was Balock is a puppet and the real Balock is a being that resembles in size and appearance a four-year-old boy (actually played by Ron Howard’s brother Clint).  He explains that he was testing their intentions and they passed.  He offers them a beverage called tranya and asks if an exchange program can be worked out to allow the two peoples to learn about each other.  Kirk asks Bailey if he’d like to volunteer and Bailey accepts Kirk’s suggestion gladly.

Okay, let’s talk about this episode.  First as a story, it’s very good.  The dialog is snappy and the plot moves along nicely.  And there is a clever ending that you don’t see coming.  Kirk’s idea of using poker instead of chess as the basis of his strategy plays up the difference between Vulcan thought processes and human.  The lesson is that logic alone is not always the answer.  Sometimes intuition and experience come into play.

The interplay of the characters is interesting and even the weakness of the Bailey character provides some human interest and a little redemption to the story.  One fun bit of dialog is Kirk complaining to McCoy about having been assigned a female yeoman (Janice Rand) instead of a man and being heckled by McCoy about it.  This was just after Janice had come into the Captain’s cabin and served him a salad for lunch on the orders of McCoy.  Apparently, Kirk had put on a few pounds and needed a diet.  So, on the first axis this episode is a 9.

On the mockery axis we have two areas of interest.  Once again, they’ve got Kirk’s shirt off so we can view his slightly doughy torso.  This is while he is getting a physical in sick bay.  He’s lying on his back at a slight decline with his legs pumping against some spring-loaded blocks coming out of the upper area of the wall performing a cardio stress test.  He looks utterly ridiculous.  The ironic nature of this seemingly futuristic stress test is that behind the set wall there was probably a stage hand pushing back on the stepper blocks with his hands simulating resistance.  And by the end of the scene Kirk is glistening with sweat.  It might as well have been some gladiator movie from the fifties.  The other mockable item is the enormous amount of fake quaking.  Almost continuously during the time the ship is attempting to escape from the First Federation ship the crew on the bridge is vibrating as if the whole ship was shaking.  And shots of the crew in the corridors of the ship show them throwing themselves against the bulkheads as if the deck were pitching underneath their feet.  It looked quite absurd.  But there really isn’t any wonderful Shatner over-acting.  I’d have to call this episode a 6 on the mockery axis.

So, call it a 9//6.  But that still makes it a must see.