Mark Watches ‘Star Trek’: S03E18 – The Lights of Zetar

In the eighteenth episode of the third season of Star Trek, Scotty’s new love is affected by a bizarre entity. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Trigger Warning: For consent and sexism

Let’s talk about serialization, shall we?

I appreciate that “The Lights of Zetar” shows us a character who isn’t Captain Kirk getting a chance to be romantic. There aren’t many people on Star Trek who get more than a superficial sense of development, so it’s refreshing. I have no problem admitting that! But the very nature of how this show unfolds means that this kind of development is told to us, not shown. I know that’s a rather common idiom when it comes to writing: show, not tell. I generally stick by it, but it’s also not something that people need to commit to in order to write something that I enjoy. Star Trek is not a serialized show, so that means if the writers decide to do something as different as this, there’s going to be a lot of telling.

And it’s awkward. To suddenly thrust a romantic relationship upon the viewers like this, knowing full well that we will never get to see Mira Romaine again, is weird. It’s clear that Scotty is head-over-heels in love with Mira, but it’s something that’ll never come up again. For such a significant development, it seems silly to contain it within a single episode. I mean, we don’t even get a scene where Scotty gets to express his sadness at Mira staying behind on Memory Alpha; she’s just out of his life, and that’s it! No ramifications, no meaning beyond what this episode explores.

I admit that a lot of “The Lights of Zetar” was entertaining and eerie, but it’s by no means a perfect episode. The framing of Mira’s story is unfortunate at times, particularly since there’s less of a focus on her own characterization, and more of an attempt to show us how important it is that Scotty loves her. It’s admittedly pretty subtle, but I think you can see how this story revolves more around Lt. Scott than it does around Mira, despite that she’s the one who is directly affected by the Zetarans and is the one who expels them from her body. Instead, we get to see what Scott is like when he’s distracted by love; we get to hear about how Scotty’s love was what anchored Mira enough to fight off the Zetarans. Sure, that was an influence, but it came across less like a factor and more like the sole explanation, as if Scotty deserved credit for the whole affair just for loving Mira. Now, I don’t think this is anything intentional, and I credit it to the script not being entirely clear about these things. Still, it reduces the impact of Mira’s role within the episode in a way that’s not very satisfying at all.

As for the rest of the story? There were parts of it that reminded me of the previous episode, at least in the sense that we got a singular villain that was shrouded and mystery and was eventually revealed as ONE OF THE SADDEST THINGS EVER. (Shit, these last two episodes were grim, y’all.) At times, I found it pretty thrilling and fun. Hey, it was entertaining to shout about the Glitter Storm so often! I definitely didn’t figure out what was going on, so props on that. But at other times, the plot was a bit too sluggish for me. There’s that whole interrogation sequence in one of the Enterprise’s meeting rooms that is just completely unnecessary, especially since it goes on for so long. (Like, how many times do they need to confirm what they already know?) It’s a pacing issue, and there are a number of moments that felt artificially prolonged just so that this story could meet the running time.

It’s not one of my favorite episodes, but I also don’t think it’s as disappointing or unsatisfying as some of the other stories this season. The Zataran backstory was plausible and really unsettling, and that final scene was fantastic just to see Kirk’s amused face. That alone was worth it. I think this season in particular, though, has made me excited to see what a more modern staff of writers and crew can do with the Star Trek world. I’m wondering if there will be more serialization and consistency in the other four Star Trek shows I’m going to watch. Will the pacing not jump all around the pace like this season has? I don’t know, obviously, but I do know that Patrick Stewart being on my screen every week is IMMINENT. I’m so close!

The video for “The Lights of Zetar” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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