|||[Boldly Going]||| Star Trek: The Original Series—Season Two: Ep. 2.2 “Who Mourns for Adonais?” – (Original air date: Friday, September 22, 1967)

TrekWhoMournsForAdonais

Welcome to my rewatching of the original 79 episodes of the series that launched the franchise. Below are the bulletpointed notes I jotted down while watching “Who Mourns for Adonais?”

  • On this date in history: The Box Tops knock Bobbie Gentry out of the #1 seat with their hit song, “The Letter.” Written by an American, performed by a thrown-together band out of Memphis, Tennessee, the lyric remains “Give me a ticket on an aeroplane.” Maybe they were trying to pass as a British band.
  • John Entwistle says “aeroplane” in The Who song, “My Wife.” The Who are a British band.
  • Joe Cocker recorded a cover of “The Letter” in 1970. It also made the Top-10, but didn’t hit #1. Cocker was from Sheffield: he was allowed to say aeroplane, too.
  • The RMS Queen Mary departed from New York City for its 500th—and last—time. Once retired, the ship would be permanently moored in Long Beach, California, where she would become a tourist attraction featuring restaurants, a museum and a hotel.
  • That would have been a long trip to California. Would’ve been quicker by aeroplane.
  • I still don’t know who mourns for Adonais.
  • During the pre-Internet decades following the first time I saw this episode, I never understood the meaning of this episode’s title. The alien-with-superior-godlike-powers in this story calls himself Apollo. Not Adonais.
  • The truth is, I still don’t know the meaning of the title. Give me a minute.
  • Ah. It’s a line from an 1821 poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, husband to Mary Shelley (of Frankenstein fame), friend of Lord Byron.
  • Sure, I’d never have gotten that one. Not really familiar with Shelley’s work, although I admit to a nodding acquaintanceship with “Ozymandias,” which struck me as Lovecraftian when I was forced to read it in English class.
  • So, I know where the title came from now, but what does it mean?
  • There seems to be some on-line debate as to whether “Adonais” is just another version of “Adonis,” which helps me understand the meaning of the title not one little bit, or is the English plural of the Hebrew name for God. If the latter is true, then the title could mean “Who Mourns for the Gods?” This makes a lot more sense to me.
  • When in doubt, accept the explanation that makes the most sense.
  • When I think of the persistent Alien-With-Superior-Godlike-Powers Trek trope, this is the episode I think about most often. In fact, this alien claims to be the god Apollo. At the end of the episode, there’s no reason to believe that he wasn’t Apollo.
  • This isn’t my favorite type of Trek episode, and it will appear again and again.
  • In the teaser, Montgomery Scott is openly flirting with Lt. Carolyn Palamas on the bridge. Palamas is an expert in archaeology, anthropology and ancient civilizations whom we’ve never seen before. She’s also a pretty blonde, and Kirk and McCoy seem to think Scotty is punching above his weight class.
  • We’ve been conditioned to think that Lt. Palamas will somehow figure in our story-of-the-week. Just as that thought occurs to me, a giant green hand appears in space near the planet Pollux IV and stops the Enterprise dead.
  • The hand is made of energy, not living tissue. This, according to Mr. Spock.
  • As teasers go, this wasn’t a bad one.
  • As Act One begins, all efforts to escape the giant hand are fruitless.
  • The giant head of a man, wearing a crown of laurels, appears on the viewscreen. It’s not green. If it were, I’d expect him to say “Ho, ho, ho” and then something nice about green peas or canned corn.
  • That was a Jolly Green Giant reference, in case I’m being too oblique.
  • The giant talking head says, “You are most welcome, my beloved children. Your places await you.”
  • He says a lot more than that, of course, most of it in elevated language. Fancy talk. Like a featured player at Medieval Times.
  • Kirk threatens the ghostly giant head with the ship’s armaments. The giant green hand begins to apply pressure on the ship and Kirk finally says, “Uncle.” I paraphrase here, of course.
  • That was your first lesson,” the alien with godlike powers says. “Remember it.”
  • The alien invites Kirk and his officers to join him on the planet. Except for “the one with the pointed ears.” Spock reminds the alien of Pan, who bored him.
  • Who is transported to the planet surface with Kirk? McCoy, Scotty, Chekov, and—of course—the new apple of Scotty’s eye, Lt. Palamas. Their host (captor, whatever . . . semantics) introduces himself as Apollo. I’ve already ruined that reveal for you, of course.
  • This self-styled Apollo is draped in a gold toga. And, he makes goo-goo eyes at our pretty young female guest-star, who seems to be in soft focus in her close-ups.
  • McCoy scans him with the tricorder and says that he’s a “simple humanoid.”
  • To prove otherwise, Apollo grows to giantish proportions and in a greatly amplified voice welcomes Kirk to Olympus. This trick leads us naturally into Act Two.
  • Incidentally, the first Giant Man appearance was in Marvel Tales to Astonish #49 in November 1963. If I was of a mind to do so, I think I could find a lot of Marvel connections in Star Trek. Let’s start with the Spock/Namor comparison . . .
  • Back on the bridge of the Enterprise, Uhura announces that she can’t contact the landing party because all frequencies are jammed. Spock is still trying to figure out a workaround with the giant green hand problem. Lt. Kyle is tasked with locating all lifeforms on the planet in the meantime.
  • Back on Apollo’s Temple, the giant Apollo suddenly appears very weary and vanishes.
  • McCoy mocks Spock’s catchphrase: “To coin a phrase, fascinating.”
  • Lt. Palamas fills them all in on the official backstory of Earth’s Apollo. Twin brother of Artemis, son of Zeus . . . yadda yadda yadda.
  • Not surprisingly, our humanist Starfleet officers aren’t buying into any “god” theories. Chekov mentions that he seems to control a remarkable technology. Scotty mentions that such things would require a lot of power. Kirk tells the engineer to scout around with tricorders and find the source of the power.
  • It seems that never once do our Starfleet officers entertain the idea of magical powers or the actual existence of a god. Until—
  • To McCoy, in private, Kirk wonders if he could actually be Apollo. Whatever theory he was about to expand upon is interrupted by the reappearance of Apollo, on his throne.
  • We find out what Apollo wants. Simply put, he wants them to worship him. In return, they will get life in paradise.
  • Apollo does a lot of name-dropping. Agamemnon . . . Hercules . . .and then he compares Lt. Carolyn Palamas to Aphrodite and Athena. He says she seems wise “for a woman.”
  • As Apollo continues making his moves on Palamas, Scotty grows jealous and tells him to leave her alone. Scotty goes so far as drawing his phaser, only to have blasted out of his hand with a gesture from Apollo.
  • Chekov discovers that his phaser no longer works as well, all the parts fused.
  • Then Apollo does what the dominant male lead in every pseudo-romantic S&M fantasy always does: he gives the submissive female lead, in this case Palamas, a style makeover. He dresses her in Greek-style finery and re-styles her hair in a towering pile.
  • Palamas agrees to go off with Apollo.
  • When Scotty tries to keep Apollo from taking Palamas with him, he gets zapped by Apollo once more and hurled over a table.
  • Kirk tells Scotty, as he regains his senses, that he hopes Palamas is doing her job, trying to find out more about Apollo.
  • To McCoy, Kirk continues his earlier thought. About five thousand years ago, Apollo and a group of other similar space travelers could have landed on Earth around the Mediterranean and been taken for gods by the shepherds and tribesmen of early Greece.
  • It’s an ancient astronauts theory. Erich von Däniken would be proud of Kirk.
  • Spock and the home team continue to try to find ways to counter the green hand force field. Kyle has located the landing party. Spock then tasks Sulu with finding the source of the radiated energy pulse from the planet.
  • Next, we get some stock footage of a pond.
  • Then our half-dressed couple, Apollo and Lt. Palamas, stand there not looking at what we just saw at all.
  • Apollo tells her that, without the worship of humans, all of the other gods and goddesses vanished one-by-one until only he remained. Anyone who’s read Fred Saberhagen’s novels about the gods is familiar with the necessity of worship.
  • He claims that Palamas was fated to come to him and be forever by his side as his queen. You know, he says to Palamas, fifty centuries ago it was no big deal for gods to take mortals to love and care for.
  • Apollo and Palamas kiss. I don’t think the lieutenant is acting. I think she’s been seduced by a god.
  • Back at the Temple, Chekov also has a theory. He thinks Apollo somehow has the ability to channel the powerful energy they’re trying to track down through his body. Much like electric eels on Earth. Or the giant dry worm of Antos IV.
  • Kirk is interested in this theory and tells Chekov he’s earned his pay for the week.
  • McCoy, not to be outdone, says Apollo’s physical condition is essentially normal, except for an extra organ in his chest.
  • Apollo reappears without Palamas. The other Starfleet officers do not bow down and worship him. Scotty gets blasted again for losing his temper. Kirk begins to rebuke Apollo, then clutches his throat and falls to the ground, choking.
  • Apollo grows weary again and vanishes. I’m sensing a pattern here.
  • Our heroes have noticed that using his powers seems to tire Apollo out and forces him to vanish for a time. To recharge, perhaps. Kirk suggests that they force Apollo to lash out with his powers, and as he is drained of energy, they can attack him.
  • McCoy suggests this is a way to get them killed. Kirk says maybe not all of them, and it may be their only chance.
  • Back on the ship, Spock has an idea about punching holes through the force field hand using M-Rays. He gives Kyle equations to run to the lab.
  • Back at the Temple, after Apollo reappears with Lt. Palamas by his side, Kirk and the rest of the landing party attempt to execute their plan to goad Apollo into using his powers.
  • A well-meaning Lt. Palamas ruins their plans by keeping Apollo from blasting Kirk.
  • After Apollo and Palamas disappear once again, Kirk says he has one more plan, but that it will depend upon Palamas’s loyalty. If she fails them, they better get used to herding goats.
  • This looks like a good place for another act break.
  • Star Trek is brought to you by . . . Polaroid, makers of the 1967 Economy model of the Polaroid Color Pack Camera . . . and, by Viceroy cigarettes, for the taste that’s right any time of the day.
  • As we begin Act Three, there can be no doubt that Lt. Carolyn Palamas has been wholly seduced by Apollo. She is to be the mother to a new race of gods. Pretty heady stuff, with more kissing, of course.
  • Palamas returns to the Temple alone, looking like she’s had her world soundly rocked.
  • As she delivers her message from Apollo, offering them all everything they’ve ever wanted, Kirk pulls rank on her and tells her she has work to do. He tells her that she must spurn Apollo’s love and reject him. All of their lives depend on her.
  • Palamas admits that she loves Apollo, but Kirk is quite insistent about what she has to do.
  • The short third act ends and we start Act Four, the final act.
  • Uhura manages to get through to communicate with the landing party. Spock has determined that the Temple itself is Apollo’s power source. The ship is on standby to fire phasers through the M-ray-punched holes in the green hand, but Kirk wants to know exactly where Apollo and Palamas are located before they are fired.
  • Palamas follows orders and tells Apollo that she’s been studying him as a specimen. She could no more love him than love “a new species of bacteria.”
  • Apollo summons lightning again. And wind. And thunder. Lt. Palamas manages to keep her breasts from falling out of her flimsy dress as she leaves Apollo.
  • Apollo goes full-on Giant Man again. Kirk orders Spock to fire ship’s phasers at the Temple. It glows red, and Apollo fights back. The Enterprise is rocking out in space, but continues firing its phaser banks.
  • Scotty rushes to Lt. Palamas’s side.
  • The green hand disappears. The Temple is reduced to rubble. Apollo is defeated and crying.
  • There is no room for gods,” he says, and then vanishes like so much dandelion fluff, joining the other gods. Lt. Palamas cries.
  • There’s no upbeat bridge outro this week. Instead, we stay on the Temple, and the following words from Kirk himself: “They gave us so much. The Greek civilization, much of our culture and philosophy came from a worship of those beings. In a way, they began the Golden Age. Would it have hurt us, I wonder, just to have gathered a few laurel leaves?”

In some ways, this reminds me of that episode with the weird plants and the Disney Ranch. “This Side of Paradise.” Where the plant spores seemed to have nothing but positive effects, but were rejected by Kirk because the captain believes men need to struggle and claw their way to survival. I don’t believe Kirk’s regret at the end of this episode at all. Kirk will always reject Paradise, in whatever form it’s offered to him.

Despite the tired Alien-With-Superior-Godlike-Powers Trope, I don’t hate this episode. It’s solid Trek. It’s earned 3.5 out of 5 stars from me on this rewatch.

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