Mark Watches ‘Star Trek’: S03E16 – The Mark of Gideon

In the sixteenth episode of the third season of Star Trek, Captain Kirk is shocked when it appears his entire crew has disappeared after the transporter malfunctions. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek. 

Trigger Warning: For talk of disease

WELL THIS WAS DISTURBING. I think the ending falls apart a bit, and I’m so tired of Captain Kirk romancing every woman who he comes across, but goddamn, this was unsettling! And surprising! And for once, both scenes – the ones on the fake Enterprise and the ones on the real Enterprise – were compelling. LET US DISCUSS.


In a lot of ways, this felt like a classic science fiction scenario, one that’s explored through the personal and the political. We’re tricked right from the start into believing that Gideon is a paradise, and therefore, it’s understandable that Ambassador Hodin is standoffish. His aloof behavior can easily be explained by his reluctance to work with the Federation. It’s reasonable for him to assume that the Federation would want access to the resources his planet can provide, so it’s clear that he’s not willing to sign up for anything anytime soon. Of course, once Kirk appears on the Enterprise and the crew is gone, we start to question everything.

For me, that’s the most fantastic part of this episode, and the bulk of the video that accompanies this review features me YELLING IN CONFUSION. As each new detail was revealed to me, this made LESS AND LESS SENSE. That works in favor of the story because of the suspicion we have of the narrative itself. What’s true? What’s an illusion? How deep does this manipulation go? And, of course, why is this all happening? Given what had happened in past episodes, I started cycling through options. Maybe this was a parallel universe! The transporter had done that before. But why send Kirk to an alternate reality where his ship is the same, but his crew is gone? Plus, once it became clear that Ambassador Hodin had an ulterior motive, I had to accept that this was all part of some sort of manipulative plot.

BUT JESUS CHRIST, I HAD NO CLUE HOW MESSED UP THIS PLAN WAS. Y’all, that reveal of the faces in the monitor on the bridge WILL HAUNT ME FOREVER. It’s just so unsettling, particularly when we find out that the only reason that they’re there is because there’s nowhere else for them to go. I mean… I can’t stop thinking about how fucked up this is. Gideon truly was a paradise, but a number of factors – the lack of germs, the high regenerative capabilities of Gideon’s population, and their utmost commitment to the sancity of life (and the creation of it – lead Gideon to become an overpopulated nightmare. Here’s a perfect example of how less equals more, too! The show only barely demonstrates the horror of overpopulation through that glimpse of writhing bodies outside the fake Enterprise. All we know about the place is from the words of Odona and Hodin, and those are fucking TERRIFYING. There is so little room that no one can lay down and sleep; no one has ever had the chance to be alone; and the planet is practically an unending, writing mass of bodies. On top of it all is the cultural compulsion to procreate. God, perhaps that is the most damning part of all of this. The Gideons are not flawed for appreciating life or sex or love; those are not bad things in and of themselves. But they’ve evolved to appreciate the very things damning them to a life of endless shuffling and eternal disruption. How do you abandon the love of life? That’s not an easy task!

Hodin’s plan, then, is about inspiration. As equally horrifying as it is, he knows that he must compel the people of Gideon to abandon their comfort. They have procreated to a degree that puts them all in danger; they have become used to a life free of germs and sickness, and in an ironic twist, this doesn’t leave them happy and fulfilled. That being said? He still kidnaps Captain Kirk, and Odona deceives him in a bizarre attempt to get him to remain behind and INFECT THE GIDEON POPULATION. Kirk is a cog in a plan for population control.

I do think this episode falls apart a bit because the end is so sudden. I was bored by the Odona/Kirk romance, but I at least understood why she felt the need for that type of companionship. Even if her goal was to manipulate Kirk, she definitely desired the type of space and loneliness that an empty ship provided her. Still, there was no way Kirk would stay on Gideon. So the solution is to let Odona give her disease to everyone? So… a lot of people are going to die on Gideon and no one seems to care about this? Granted, Odona and Hodin want this, but what about the rest of the population? Are they just going to unknowingly infect people, or will it be a volunteer system like Hodin said? I suppose that could work out and avoid the ethical nightmare of population control without consent. But, again, the story fizzles out. Not a great resolution, but certainly not enough to make me dislike it.


OKAY, SO SPOCK AS A NEGOTIATOR IS REALLY GREAT. He’s used so brilliantly throughout “The Mark of Gideon” because we get to see him go toe-to-toe with both Ambassador Hodin and Lt. Brent. It’s two sides of the same coin. He runs into frustration with the ambassador on Gideon, who is clearly trying to twist his words into one loophole after another. Then he’s met with the brick wall of Federation red tape, an unending bureaucracy that severely limits his choices. So, while the rest of the crew becomes increasingly irritated by the situation, you can see how Spock is quietly calculating the perfect plan. It’s so goddamn fun to watch, particularly when he reasons that it’s better for him to defy Starfleet orders than allow his friend to suffer some horrible fate on Gideon. Yes, let us all acknowledge that in Spock’s knowledge, saving Kirk is more sound than obeying orders.


The video for “The Mark of Gideon” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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