In the fifth episode of the third season of Star Trek, the Enterprise help transport a telepathic ambassador who is accompanying a dangerous alien. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of ableism regarding blindness and for discussion of misogyny relating to friendzoning.
Let me start off by saying that this episode is great, genuinely so. For a story that cycles through multiple plots and subplots rather quickly, I felt like everything got just the right amount of closure. That’s a difficult thing to pull off, particularly since there are like three dinstinct arcs at work in “Is There in Truth No Beuaty?” Does that mean everything works for me? No, not necessarily, but by the end of this episode, I felt like I’d watched a really satisfying episode of Star Trek. LET’S DISCUSS.
I’ll acknowledge that I’m still amused by the fact that I believed the Medusan was the actual box. IT’S SUCH A FUNNY IDEA. But once I was able to get past this (let’s be real, I never got past it, I’M STILL LAUGHING AT IT), I was able to understand what was at stake here. The Medusan race, formless and hideous, caused a loss of sanity in any human who viewed them. It’s a neat take on traditional Medusa mythology, though it’s a little hard to fully believe that random flashes of colors and shapes would cause someone’s mind to shatter. Still, I wasn’t going into this episode with a need for believability. The behavior of the characters around Kollos helped make this a credible story.
Initially, this episode focused on the conflict between Marvick and Dr. Jones. Dr. Jones, in and of herself, is one of the most fascinating characters in Star Trek history, so I was pleased that “Is There in Truth No Beauty” wasn’t solely about how Marvick chose to treat Dr. Jones. But that’s an important part of this episode because it’s an (admittedly extreme) example of why friendzoning is bullshit and absurd. While Marvick never once utters the term, his entire tantrum here is based in the same sort of entitlement. He’s in love with Dr. Jones and absolutely furious that she won’t reciprocate his feelings. And it goes beyond that, too! The lack of reciprocation is bad enough to him, but then she has the nerve – the nerve! – to want to pursue her career over romantic entanglements. (Headcanon: Dr. Jones is asexual, this is so satisfying to think about. Go watch that scene where Kirk tries to seduce with this in mind, IT’S GREAT.) She cannot return his affections and she doesn’t want to. So what does he do in response?
He tries to destroy the very reason Dr. Jones spent years training with the Vulcans.
It’s an obsessive relationship, and it’s one that is THANKFULLY portrayed as such. In the end, we’re not really meant to feel like there’s something wrong with Dr. Jones for rejecting Marvick. Truthfully, she has her own issues to deal with, which come to fruition in later parts of this very episode. But Marvick’s actions have disastrous consequences for the entire ship, given that he steers the Enterprise OUTSIDE OF THE GALAXY. (While I do get that they were at warp factor 9.5 because of Marvick, I did find it kind of funny that they left the galaxy in the span of a few minutes.)
I felt pretty much no sympathy for Marvick. GOOD BYE.
What I was fascinated by was the chance to explore Dr. Jones’s own obsession. I thought it was really compelling that the show gave us a character who studied Vulcan psychology for years, all in the hope of being able to meld with the Medusan, something no one had really done before. So I think it’s understandable that Jones would resent the fact that Spock was possibly able to achieve what she was aiming for, but without the training she went through.
That initially manifests during the awkward dinner sequence when she spots that icon on Spock’s shirt. Again, it makes sense that she’d interpret Spock’s attempt to honor her as an act of deliberate offense. It’s an area she’s sensitive about! Wouldn’t anyone potentially feel this way after you’d devoted a huge part of your life to a single pursuit? Of course, there’s another motivation to her behavior: she was born blind. I admit it’s a little difficult to parse my thoughts on how blindness and disability works within the fictional universe of Star Trek. I got the sense from Dr. Jones’s reaction that she probably spent her entire life feeling like she was disadvantaged because of her disability, so she had to go above and beyond in order to get the respect of her peers. So does that mean that ableism is still an aspect of the future that Roddenberry imagined? There are definite glimpses of a “better” future here, but I’m intrigued by where someone like Dr. Jones would fit.
I will admit that it’s nice that Dr. Jones is never magically healed by the end of this episode. She is blind at the end of “Is There in Truth No Beauty?,” and she’s given what I’d say is a happy ending. Of course, she has to work through her jealousy of Spock in order to get to that closure, and I became increasingly worried that she’d let her obsession get the best of her. Hell, didn’t that seem like this is where the story was going once Kirk confronted her and claimed that she was responsible for Spock’s condition?
I enjoyed that there was a lot more nuance to her development than I expected. Kirk has the awareness to question whether his confrontation was necessary or not, which was a HUGE surprise to me. He’s not usually that subtle, you know? And even if what he said was cruel, Dr. Jones still realized that she could help Spock regardless. She chose to mind meld with Spock in order to save him, which allowed her to mentally see what he saw when he linked with Kollos. At the heart of this is the concept of empathy: she understood what someone else experienced, and it made her appreciate her circumstances and options more than she did before. Instead of killing Dr. Jones off (which I honestly expected), she’s given a chance to move forward into the world while still pursuing the same goal she had at the start of the episode. The only difference is that she now has the confidence she always needed to succeed.
I must also give a shout out to Leonard Nimoy, who was DELIGHTFUL as Kollos!Spock. Y’all, I love it when he gets a chance to play Spock so dramatically different than what I’m used to. IT’S A GIFT THAT NEVER STOPS GIVING.
The video for “Is There in Truth No Beauty?” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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