In the second episode of the third season of Star Trek, the bad taste of “Spock’s Brain” is washed away by SPOCK BEING THE GREATEST EVER. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
I love this episode so much. I LOVE IT SO MUCH.
There’s a lot that D.C. Fontana’s script does that’s surprising for a show like Star Trek, and there’s a lot here that’s just plain good. Let me start off by saying that the jarring, confusing nature of the first half of “The Enterprise Incident” is so necessary to what happens in the second half of this episode. Let the video for this episode stand as evidence to how disruptive this story felt. It was like I’d been dropped in the midst of some other story, one I never got to see. How did Captain Kirk get to a point where he was this big of a jerk? Why was he blatantly ignoring all common sense? How did this all become a hopeless disaster IN LIKE SIXTY SECONDS?
The show doesn’t give us an answer until the halfway mark, and so I spent a good portion of my time watching “The Enterprise Incident” while shouting. It’s one thing to have characters behave strangely, but there seemed to be absolutely no context to what was happening on the screen. Hasn’t everyone on the Enterprise gone weeks without shore leave or time off? Why does Kirk act so belligerent towards the crew, and why would he violate a Romulan neutrality zone so blatantly? WHY IS HE LYING OUTRIGHT TO THE ROMULAN COMMANDER?
While Kirk’s behavior is an important aspect of this episode, it’s CHILD’S PLAY compared to the journey that Spock goes on. That’s not to deny the greatness that is Kirk’s Romulan disguise. It’s a beautiful thing that should be preserved forever. Despite that Kirk and Spock are working together on this heist mission, I really think that Spock is the key to everything. Yes, Kirk provides the necessary distraction by pretending to have lost his sanity. (And dying. THAT, TOO.) But the plan still fails unless Spock can win over the Romulan commander, you know?
And it’s with this plot that we get a chance to see a part of Spock that we’ve never experienced before. I utterly believed that his actions aboard the Romulan ship in the early parts of this episode were done in the best interest of the Enterprise crew. It made sense! He was honest about what Kirk had done because he knew that he couldn’t hide the truth. It was illogical to him. The crew couldn’t be saved if he supported Kirk’s claim that it was all an accident. But then the Romulan commander – played brilliantly by Joanne Linville – begins to pick at Spock’s role within the Federation, and it is easily some of the most interesting dialogue in the ENTIRE SHOW. The audience has accepted at this point that Spock is perfectly content being the First Officer because he doesn’t have an interest in becoming Captain himself. So when the commander questions Spock’s intentions, we expect the same answers out of him as we’ve gotten before.
BUT THEN EVERYTHING BEGINS TO FALL APART AND IT’S UNREAL TO WATCH. Even though I suspected that something was up once Kirk was “killed,” I still wasn’t prepared for what Spock would go through. Even with the reveal of their heist mission, the story doesn’t cancel out the strangeness of Spock’s conversation with the Romulan commander. Did I believe he’d honestly turn against the Federation? No, and I don’t think Fontana’s script wanted me to believe that. At the same time, once the commander attempts to sway Spock’s loyalty, I was completely enraptured. Look, I don’t think that Spock is treated terribly by the crew of the Enterprise, but all of a sudden, here’s a person who is very interested in making Spock happy as a Vulcan.
Of course, the biggest surprise here is the emotional and sexual context to their interactions. Spock is not an affectionate character, point blank. While I did not doubt his dedication to this mission, his behavior seemed too real. He already knew the location of the Romulan cloaking device; he’d figured that out HOURS earlier. So why keep leading the Romulan commander on? Why touch her? Why show affection when he’s literally never showed affection before? It’s such an emotionally raw scene, and that’s including the contextual basis for his actions. I just love the way that they don’t caress one another as humans would. I love that Vulcan affection is so much more focused and deliberate than human affection. It is brilliant worldbuilding and fantastic acting, y’all.
And on top of it all, the show doesn’t go out of their way to disrespect the Romulan commander. She’s given her own agency within the story. She is allowed to be furious with Spock for toying with her and leading her own for a military mission. (Make no mistake, there’s a very imperialistic edge to what Spock and Kirk do here, and if there’s any complaint I have, I wish this was addressed a little more directly. They basically went to another country and stole their shit! That’s messed up!) She is allowed to feel betrayed, and I’d even suggest that we’re meant to feel a bit sympathetic towards her. But the best part of this all is that the scene in the elevator confirms that what Spock did in this episode was not entirely faked. The temptation was real, and some of what Spock experienced when he spent time with the Romulan commander was a genuine reaction. DO YOU REALIZE WHAT A HUGE THING THIS IS FOR SPOCK TO ADMIT? DO YOU REALIZE HOW MASSIVE THIS IS FOR HIS CHARACTER? HE FELT EMOTIONS AND EROTIC SENSATIONS AND HE WAS AFFECTIONATE AND EVEN IF IT WAS PART OF A SPY MISSION, THE SHOW DOESN’T NEGATE WHAT HE WENT THROUGH.
I’m so overwhelmed, y’all. This is a really thoughtful take on a complicated issue, and it’s so, so much better than the premiere episode. Holy shit, I know this show isn’t serialized, but I would be so pleased if we saw more of this from Spock. It was so satisfying to watch!
The video for “The Enterprise Incident” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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