|||[Boldly Going]||| Star Trek: The Original Series—Season Two: Ep. 2.5 “The Apple” – (Original air date: Friday, October 13, 1967)

TrekTheApple

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 “The Apple.”

  • On this date in history: The #1 song in the US is still “The Letter,” but it’s the last week we’re buying a ticket on that aeroplane. The UK has a new favorite in The Bee Gees’ “Massachusetts,” a tune that has me longing for disco.
  • The American Basketball Association played its very first game. The Oakland Oaks won over the Anaheim Amigos. The ABA and NBA would merge in 1976, introducing the 3-point shot line to the NBA, as well as other such innovations as the slam dunk contest. Unfortunately, the red-white-and-blue basketball didn’t carry over.
  • Sticking with a basketball theme here, the Chicago Bulls will play their first game as a new franchise (in the NBA) the following day, Saturday, October 14. They will lose to the Boston Celtics.
  • All things considered, I might have been better off watching a basketball game than this episode.
  • Kirk is wearing that damned green wraparound tunic again in this episode. No gold applique on the shoulders now, though. A miniscule improvement.
  • There is an abundance of redshirts in this episode. And, perhaps for the first time, they all die. This may be the episode that cemented the doomed “redshirt” trope in the memories of most viewers.
  • The planet is Gamma Trianguli VI.
  • The landing party initially consists of Kirk, Spock, Chekov, the standard-issue pretty female yeoman, and two red-shirted security officers. Later, Dr. McCoy beams down with two additional security officers.
  • Our Starfleet personnel find that this planet is a virtual paradise, which, considering their track record with paradises, should have put them on high alert.
  • Some witty banter with Chekov (who’s no longer wearing a wig, I see) follows. The Garden of Eden was apparently just outside of Moscow.
  • Then one of the redshirts is murdered by a killer plant.
  • I’ve watched enough Trek to know that all “paradises” and plants are suspect.
  • End of teaser.
  • In Act One, we discover from Scotty—who has command on the bridge, as he should—that the ship is losing potency in its antimatter pods. The electromagnetic field of the planet is a “wee bit abnormal,” which may have something to do with it.
  • I have to add here that the music seems odd in this episode, jarringly inappropriate and too loud in spots, and the appearance of everything is extremely low budget.
  • Mr. Spock detects, on his tricorder, subsurface vibrations for miles in all directions. Strong, fairly regular, artificially produced.
  • Kirk wants to avoid contact with the village that lies immediately ahead. Unfortunately, there’s a humanoid shadowing them.
  • While they travel through this paradise, in a single file line, Spock discovers some rocks that have explosive tendencies. He surmises that, in large quantities, they would be a considerable source of power.
  • They’re still being watched as they move along, and they know it.
  • Scotty reports that the antimatter pods are now completely inert because of something on the planet surface that seems to be draining their power.
  • Another of the poisonous plants attacks, but Spock puts himself in harm’s way to keep Kirk from being killed. Spock is still alive, and McCoy is treating him. Kirk calls for a retreat.
  • Too late. Scotty says the ship’s power systems are being drained. They can’t even transport the landing party back aboard. End of Act One.
  • As Act Two begins, following a brief supplemental Captain’s Log, we find out that, with the incidental aid of one of McCoy’s “potions,” Spock is able to shake off the effects of the poison plant thorns. Spock is a tough, pointy-eared, green-blooded SOB.
  • Immediately after, a sudden storm comes up. A lightning strike kills one of the redshirts, reducing him to ashes. Afterward, the storm passes as quickly as it came.
  • The scouting party discovers a primitive village with rounded huts. Another redshirt, Mallory, contacts Kirk and attempts to give him the coordinates, but something is interfering with their communicators. Kirk and the rest rush to find Mallory, but Mallory steps on one of those exploding rocks Spock discovered earlier. It kills him instantly, like a land mine.  That’s three redshirts, if you’re keeping score.
  • Spock notices that the native who was watching them before has returned. Our landing party ambushes him. Kirk punches him in the face.
  • Then, the native does something completely unexpected: he begins to cry.
  • The crying native says his name is Akuta, and that he is the leader of the feeders of Vaal. He is the eyes of Vaal, and the voice of Vaal. Vaal, of course, is Vaal. Vaal is everything.
  • I hope this clears things up for you.
  • Akuta has metal wires sticking out behind his ears. Antennae. Akuta explains that these are his ears for Vaal, given to him in the “dim time” so that Vaal could speak through him.
  • Fascinating. Akuta offers to take the visitors to Vaal.
  • Scotty tells Kirk that something is holding them in orbit of the planet and they can do nothing to break free.
  • Akuta leads Kirk and the landing party to Vaal, which is the mouth of a cave with a rock entrance in the shape of a giant serpent’s head, with green and yellow eyes, and what looks like fire in its mouth.
  • Again, this looks like special effects on a budget. “Vaal” wouldn’t have looked out of place on Land of the Lost. I half-expected to see Sleestaks come out of it. 
  • In fact, I would have liked to see Sleestaks come out of it.
  • End of Act Two.
  • Spock determines that the center of Vaal is deep in the earth beneath them. The serpent’s head outcropping is just an access port.
  • Spock steps forward and is repelled by a force field. It extends thirty feet beyond the snake-head in all directions, and, by Spock’s estimates, is “quite formidable.”
  • Kirk asks Akuta how they can talk to Vaal. Akuta tells them that Vaal sleeps for the moment. When he is hungry, they may be able to speak to him.
  • In the village, all of the people of Vaal are adults, with white hair, wearing odd-looking sarongs. Kirk asks where the children are.
  • The Vaal-ites have no word for “children.” They are forbidden by Vaal, as is love, and love-making, apparently. Vaal is a strict fundamentalist, as most snake gods are.
  • For some reason that’s never explained, the villagers find the name “Spock” to be amusing.
  • Kirk contacts Scotty. The ship’s orbit continues to decay. Scotty can find no engineering solution. Kirk tells him to use his imagination.
  • He also tells him to discard the nacelles, if he has to, and leave with the main section. This means that the idea of detaching the saucer section has been around for a long, long time, even before TNG.  It was never done in TOS.
  • McCoy reports that the people of Vaal are not aging, and may, in fact, be twenty thousand years old, as far as he can tell.  Science isn’t an exact science for Bones.
  • Kirk and Spock watch as the villagers bring the hungry Vaal offerings of fruit.
  • Spock takes this as proof there is no living being here. It is a machine, nothing more. I’m not sure how this is proof, since living beings do eat fruit, but I trust Spock that this is a logical conclusion.
  • I don’t know why Vaal is asking the villagers to bring him fruit, since we’ve already seen that the planet is littered with rocks loaded with potential energy.  You would think Vaal would ask for a steady diet of Pop Rocks.  
  • Kirk asks Spock to estimate the total amount of energy being expended against the ship. Maybe if Vaal weakens around feeding time, they can find some way to break free.  Considering its diet, Vaal is probably very anemic.
  • McCoy and Spock have a philosophical argument about the people of Vaal. McCoy says that the villagers have a right to growth, to progress, rather than servicing some sort of god-like machine. Spock points out that the people are healthy and happy, and are not experiencing the effects of aging. Who is McCoy to insist on applying human standards to non-human cultures?
  • Kirk suggests the debate can wait until they get the ship out of danger. 
  • Seems like we’ve had this debate before, however.  What about that other planet with the euphoria-inducing plants and the Disney Ranch set?  Sure, those were humans and not aliens, but weren’t the settlers arguably better off under the control of the plants? 
  • “This Side of Paradise,” that was the name of this Season One episode.  It seems like Kirk is making a habit of travelling across the galaxy and imposing his ideas of what’s best for planets’ inhabitants.  And he thinks it’s necessary for beings—at least human beings—to experience struggle and obstacles and strife, because freedom is more important that living well. 
  • Hu-mans.  Always forcing their ideas on everyone.
  • A couple of the villagers come across Chekov and the pretty female ensign making out and decide to emulate them. This angers Vaal.
  • Akuta calls a meeting of the male villagers. Vaal has ordered them to kill the Starfleet landing party. They don’t understand the meaning of “kill,” so Akuta has to demonstrate on a piece of fruit. They are to hit them all on their heads with a heavy stick at sunrise. Here’s a good place to end Act Three.
  • Back at their guest hut, as Act Four kicks off, Spock speculates that if they do what they must to escape, they may violate the Prime Directive. Kirk says he’ll take his chances with Starfleet Command over that.
  • To Kirk, things like Neutral Zones and Prime Directives are merely suggestions, not laws.
  • Kirk contacts Scotty again. Scotty needs 30 minutes to complete the modifications to the engines needed to break free of Vaal’s powers, and he has only 47 minutes until the Enterprise is pulled into the planet’s atmosphere.
  • That dramatic clock is ticking loudly now.  Almost as if this were the final act of our story.
  • The people of Vaal seem to have disappeared. Kirk and Spock go to try to talk to Vaal, but Spock is struck by a lightning bolt for his efforts, suffering second-degree burns, but nothing life-threatening.
  • The villagers ambush them and manage to kill another redshirt, the last one, but the rest of the landing party is able to fight them off. The villagers are all locked up in one of the huts.
  • Kirk orders the Enterprise to fire all of its phasers on Vaal’s location. Vaal is killed.
  • Kirk releases the villagers, who now have the freedom to live their lives as they see fit and to love. Of course, they don’t know how to take care of themselves and will probably all die out within the year. Oh, well.  Kirk’s will be done.
  • During our outro, on board the ship, Spock suggests that the people of Vaal were driven out of Paradise, as in the Biblical story of Genesis. Kirk wonders if that means Spock is casting him in the role of Satan in this analogy. Spock says he is not.
  • Kirk then asks Spock if he knows of anyone on the ship who looks like Satan, suggesting that Spock resembles the common perception of Satan, I guess. Spock says he’s not aware of anyone who fits that description. Ha ha, hee hee, ho ho.
  • Spock should, logically, point out that the Serpent in the Garden of Eden was never actually named as “Satan,” and, even if it was, then Vaal resembles the serpent more than Spock ever could.  Just sayin’.
  • End of episode.

This episode seems to borrow many elements of the episode “Shore Leave,” which I wasn’t a huge fan of. The paradise planet, the machinery underground that takes care of the people on the surface. Plus, it’s another all-powerful computer controlling a society story, such as “The Return of the Archons.”  In addition, it also seems to borrow somewhat from “This Side of Paradise,” with the killer flowers. 

It is not one of my favorite episodes. However, I don’t hate it. 3 out of 5 stars for this one.

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