Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Star Trek: Charlie X

This article was first posted on August 7, 2010. It is presented in its entirety with some minor changes.

The Kirk-Spock-McCoy triumvirate begins to take shape in Charlie X, the second episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, and we see the seed of the bickering that will characterize the relationship between the coldly logical Spock and the emotional humanist McCoy. We see more of Uhura and Yeoman Rand, who also had quite a bit of screen time in The Man Trap. I get the impression that in these early episodes, the writers were experimenting with what to do with the characters so a lot of the people who were relegated to the background in later episodes seem to get quite a bit of screen time while others, who later became emblematic of Star Trek: The Original Series, are scarcely to be seen; for example, Lieutenant Commander Montgomery "Scotty"Scott is noticeably absent in both Charlie X and The Man Trap.

Once again, I get the impression that Uhura is flirting with Mr. Spock, or at least teasing him flirtatiously, in this episode, as she accompanies him in song as he plays his harp. Speaking of Mr. Spock, again he shows emotion in this episode, smiling rather pleasantly as he strums along to Uhura's vocals.

Mr. Spock with a very noticeable smile on his face as he jams with Uhura – and no, he isn't possessed by anything in this episode, except maybe by a muse

There are some aspects of this episode that made me chuckle: When Charlie Evans is handed off to the Enterprise's crew, he is informed by the Antares's captain that the Enterprise is like a city in space, with a crew of almost 400. Apparently, cities in the 23rd century are a lot smaller than the ones we have now. And when teaching Charlie Judo, Kirk, for some odd reason (well, maybe not so odd, given Kirk's predilection for showing off his pecs at the least provocation), decides to go shirtless, while Charlie wears a gi jacket; anyone who's done Judo will tell you that there's a world of difference between throwing a person who's wearing a gi jacket and someone who's not; the latter task is significantly harder! Captain Kirk cheats at Judo!

Kirk teaches Charlie Evans Judo...and feels compelled to show a lot of skin while doing so

Unfortunately, the story of Charlie X is rather uninspired; it's almost the same story as Where No Man Has Gone Before but instead of a fully grown man gaining god-like powers and getting drunk on his new-found abilities, we have a teenager, insecure and bewildered in his new environment on board the Enterprise after ostensibly spending the first 17 years of his life alone, running amuck with god-like powers that were gifted to him by the race of beings native to the planet on which he had been marooned. His only kryptonite seems to be someone (like, say, Kirk) giving him a stern talking to in a command voice but eventually, he learns to shrug off the effects of this devastating weapon. How will the Enterprise's crew deal with this diabolical adversary (for what could be more dangerous than a desperately horny teenager with god-like powers)? Kirk ended Gary Mitchell's rampage (with a little bit of Dr. Dehner's help in the form of lightning bolts) in Where No Man Has Gone Before by blasting a rock with a phaser rifle, causing the rock to fall and crush his deranged friend. How will he deal with Charlie X?

The episode's conclusion is unsatisfying; the race of beings who had given Charlie his powers come to the rescue of the Enterprise's crew and take him off their hands and reverse the effects of his rampage save for the destruction of the Antares and its crew.

Even in the 23rd century, deus ex machina is a cop out.

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