In the seventh episode of the first season of Star Trek, Kirk accompanies Nurse Chapel to a planet to locate her missing fiancé. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
HOLY SHIT, THIS EPISODE IS SO DISTURBING.
Despite that this episode has very little interaction between Kirk and any of the regulars, I think it worked very well. Shatner has enough charisma to carry this whole thing, and framing it all around Nurse Chapel was so SATISFYING to watch. I didn’t expect to see her again, and now she gets an entire episode about her and her fiancé? YES. YES.
Right from the start, there’s a lot here to make us feel unsettled, and honestly, it’s that sense of growing ease that makes this such a creeper of a story. The Enterprise is able to make contact with Dr. Roger Korby, Nurse Chapel’s missing fiancé, down on Exo II. Despite that he hasn’t been heard from in over five years, he confirms that he’s alive – except then he says that only Kirk can come down. NO. NOPE. THIS IS BAD. ABORT MISSION. I should have realized that Dr. Korby allowing Nurse Chapel to come down to Exo II WAS A CLUE. Because now I understand why he did that: if he could trick her into validating his authenticity and his work, it would be harder for Captain Kirk to refuse his request.
Unfortunately, everything goes wrong immediately. After the Enterprise beams down a couple of redshirts (WOW, I WAS STRANGELY PREPARED FOR THAT), one is thrown into a bottomless cavern, and the other is strangled. All of this is Dr. Korby’s way of explaining that androids are totally fine and never present any problems and are perfect. I never actually saw this as a plot hole, personally. I thought it expertly demonstrated the massive issues with what Dr. Korby was trying to develop. He was so far gone into his own ego and his work that the deaths of these two men were immaterial to him. It’s a statement about his humanity, which is a key theme of “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” If Dr. Korby has lost his humanity in the pursuit of a better world, is that world better because of it? He’s certain of it. Ruk is his example of this, since apparently all you’ve got to do is dress Lurch up in muscles and put him in pajamas and THE WORLD IS INSTANTLY BETTER. (Hey, my world was better because of this!) Then Andrea, the overtly sexualized android who wears a ridiculous outfit this whole episode, is supposed to act as further proof that androids are an ideal creation that we should pursue on a mass scale.
The thing is, this whole plan lacked an endgame, at least until the big reveal at the end of the episode. What was it that Dr. Korby wanted with the androids? To populate our world with android clones? To create a working class of humanoid robots that could serve us without payment or respect? I couldn’t figure this out! I watched as Dr. Korby demonstrated his android-creating technology to his wife. (Which I do not understand how that was filmed without actually spinning William Shatner and his double.) I watched him laud his creations, despite how uncomfortable they made everyone. I watched Captain Kirk make every attempt to subvert and oppose Dr. Korby at every turn, which was such a treat. CAN WE TALK ABOUT WHAT HE DOES HERE:
1) Send a message back to Spock in case his android copy ends up on the Enterprise. It should be noted that he basically uses a slur in referring to Spock, LORD. And it worked! Spock knew that the real captain would never speak so disrespectfully to him.
2) He confuses the logical nature of Andrea by introducing the concept of physical attraction and love to her. This is done incredibly sloppily, I admit, and it’s about the only thing here that I couldn’t totally believe. I mean, he forces her to kiss him, and then this is what makes her kill his copy? And then fall for Dr. Korby? That was a stretch and kind of gross.
3) Instead of confusing Ruk, he appeals to Ruk’s logic by unearthing his programming from the Old Ones. Was that a Lovecraft reference? Did Yog-Sothoth program Ruk? REGARDLESS. He convinces Ruk that, like the Old Ones, Dr. Korby presents a threat to the further existence of the androids.
4) Not at all what Kirk does, but I will take any chance I can get to link to Daniel José Older’s “One Hundred Years of Weird Fear,” a stunning analysis of the racism and xenophobia that is impossible to ignore in H.P. Lovecraft’s work.
It’s with the final big confrontation that this whole episode comes together. I was genuinely shocked by the initial reveal that Dr. Brown was an android, but GOOD LORD, I was totally blown away by the twist that Dr. Korby was an android for years. It’s a heartbreaking resolution for Nurse Chapel, who most likely realized that she’d been part of the android’s plan all along. But it calls back to all the discussion about humanity. Dr. Korby was never a human while developing the technology he found, despite that he did his best to convince Captain Kirk and his fianceé that he was. Even that itself is proof that he wasn’t human; he had to deceive everyone in order to get them to believe him.
I hope that we’ll see Nurse Chapel again after this. I felt SO BAD for her after watching this because she got her husband back after five years of waiting. AND THEN SHE FOUND OUT SHE NEVER HAD HIM BACK IN THE FIRST PLACE. Wow, bury me right here, this is some grim shit, y’all.
The video for “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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