Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: “The Infinite Vulcan”

“The Infinite Vulcan”
Directed by Hal Sutherland
Animated Season 1, Episode 7
Production episode 22002
Original air date: October 20, 1973
Stardate: 5554.4

Captain’s log. The Enterprise is surveying a planet at the periphery of the galaxy. A landing party consisting of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Sulu beams down. Sulu finds a plant that can get up and move around, while Spock finds a power source. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy investigate the power source, while Sulu fails his saving roll versus dumbass and picks up the flower. He’s stabbed with a thorn and is poisoned.

A group of natives arrive, who appear to be sentient plant life. They cure Sulu (over McCoy’s initial objections, though he’s impressed with the speed with which the antidote works on Sulu). The leader of the natives, Agmar, identifies the planet as Phylos.

Agmar shows the landing party where the previous generation of Phylosians are interred. They died when a human visited them. McCoy realizes that staphylococcus strains aren’t native to this planet, so the Phylosians were all killed by staph infections. Agmar says, however, that the same human was able to cure them.

Winged creatures called Swoopers suddenly attack the landing party. The building they’re in has a dampening field that deactivates their phasers, and the Swoopers fly off with Spock. Agmar reveals that “the master” has waited a long time for a specimen like Spock.

Star Trek, the Animated Series, The Infinite Vulcan

And then a giant human wanders in. The Phylosians genuflect to the man, who identifies himself as Dr. Stavos Keniclius 5. Keniclius 5 orders Kirk to return to his ship, which Kirk only does under threat of being attacked by the Swoopers again. However, he does not leave orbit, as he will not depart without his first officer.

Sulu is able to adjust the sensors to pick up the sentient plant life on the planet, but he’s unable to detect Agmar and his fellows, or Keniclius 5 or Spock—indicating that they’re in a shielded location. Kirk orders Sulu to fire on the building they were in, but the phasers dissipate a thousand feet over the building.

Uhura is able to track down info on Keniclius: he was a scientist during the Eugenics Wars, working on cloning. He was cast out of the scientific community and disappeared without a trace. Given that Keniclius identified himself as the fifth one, and given how long it’s been since the Eugenics Wars, Kirk figures he’s been cloning himself to prolong his life.

Star Trek, the Animated Series, The Infinite Vulcan

Kirk has McCoy synthesize his great-grandfather’s weed-whacking spray, while Scotty whips up a delivery system. Then Kirk, McCoy, and Sulu beam down, and Scotty under Kirk’s orders leaves orbit, hoping that Keniclius 5 will think they’ve given up and left.

The landing party ducks the Swoopers and find an armada of rocket ships, but they’re covered in moss and other plants. Agmar and his people are clearing them off, possibly so they can be used—but for what? Migration? Invasion?

Kirk kidnaps Agmar, who explains that there are only a handful of Phylosians left now. It will be left to Keniclius and Spock to carry on their work. Agmar takes them down to their tunnel system—made up of a material sufficiently dense that sensors couldn’t penetrate it from the surface—and then abandons them in the darkness to the Swoopers.

Star Trek, the Animated Series, The Infinite Vulcan

They run to a light at the end of the tunnel (that trick never works!) to find Spock in some kind of clear case, and according to McCoy, he’s dying. But Keniclius 5 has cloned Spock in giant form, and is draining his original body’s mind. (Gee, if only they had experience with something like that…………)

The Swoopers attack, and the landing party whips out Great Granddaddy McCoy’s weed spray, which also drives Keniclius 5 and Spock 2 from the room. But they can’t beam back thanks to the thick walls.

Keniclius 5 returns to reveal that Spock’s mind isn’t being drained, it’s being transferred to Spock 2’s gigunda body. Kirk tries to convince Spock 2 that there’s no logic in allowing Spock to die so his clone can live on. Then Uhura manages to punch through a tight-beam communication long enough to reveal further research: Keniclius wanted to create a master race to pacify the galaxy, and he’s been searching for the perfect specimen.

Star Trek, the Animated Series, The Infinite Vulcan

He considers Spock to be it: he wants to create an army of Spocks to bring peace to the galaxy. But Kirk points out that there is peace in the galaxy—the Federation has achieved peace, not by imposing it, but by agreeing to it like civilized folk. Kirk also reminds Spock 2 of the IDIC philosophy. Keniclius 5 counters with the aggression of the Klingons, Romulans, and Kzinti, and mention the Eugenics Wars as well.

Agmar reveals that the Phylosians had intended to use their armada to impose peace in a similar manner, but Keinclius showed up and nearly killed them all before they could enact it.

Spock 2, however, gets his brain meats back together, and mind-melds with his original body (by putting one giant finger on Spock’s forehead), thus restoring Spock’s mind.

Star Trek, the Animated Series, The Infinite Vulcan

Keniclius 5 agrees to put his plans for a master race on hold. He and Spock 2 will stay on Phylos and work to restore the Phylosian species.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? On Scotty’s order, Uhura is able to plow a tight-beam communication through the thick walls of the Phylosian tunnels, even though it risks draining the dilithium crystals. 

Fascinating. So now there are two Spocks roaming around the galaxy, and one of them is about twenty feet tall. Okay, then.

I’m a doctor not an escalator. McCoy is very cranky about Agmar trying to cure Sulu right up until the point where he actually cures Sulu. He also comes up with a way of dealing with the Swoopers via chemical warfare.

Ahead warp one, aye. It’s a strong episode for Sulu, who gets poisoned and cured, and then gets to fire phasers and do sensor scans, the latter in Spock’s absence, and then does a nifty body throw (probably an aikido or judo throw—hard to tell from Filmation’s clunky animation) when Agmar attacks him. At the end, Kirk asks him to teach the throw to the captain, and Sulu says that he may not be able to, as you not only have to be physical, but also inscrutable. Kirk points out that Sulu’s the most scrutable man he knows, and Sulu winks at the camera. Corny, but funny… 

It’s a Russian invention. While Filmation couldn’t afford to hire Walter Koenig to reprise the voice of Chekov (they could barely afford Nichelle Nichols and George Takei), as a make-good, they hired him to write an episode. In fact, he’d been approached to do so independently of his exclusion from the cast due to Susan Sackett, Gene Roddenberry’s personal assistant, typing up a screenplay of Koenig’s and her showing it to Roddenberry, who was impressed enough to offer him a gig writing for the animated series. However, he had to do multiple rewrites, which soured him on the whole experience, and when he was asked to write another, he declined the offer.

Star Trek, the Animated Series, The Infinite Vulcan

Hailing frequencies open. Uhura finds the Wikipedia entry on Keniclius, but it takes her a while to click on “External links” to find his obscure writings.

I cannot change the laws of physics! Scotty is surprisingly willing to sacrifice engine power to contact the landing party.

Channel open. “I am pleasantly surprised by your capacity for deductive reasoning, Captain. When you are not being bellicose, there appears to be no end to your arsenal of formidable talents.”

Spock sort of paying Kirk a compliment. 

Welcome aboard. Busy week for James Doohan, who provides the voices of Scotty, Agmar, and Keniclius 5. Nichelle Nichols is both Uhura and the voice of the computer, while George Takei just does Sulu. Walter Koenig lobbied to be the voice of Keniclius 5, but was not given the part.

Trivial matters: Keniclius was a scientist working during the Eugenics Wars, which were first referenced in “Space Seed,” and trying to create a master race. It’s not clear whether or not he was an Augment like Khan or simply a scientist working at the time that Khan reigned.

Star Trek, the Animated Series, The Infinite Vulcan

Keniclius mentions the Kzinti, as well as the Klingons and Romulans. A creation of Larry Niven for his science fiction novels, the Kzinti will be seen in the Niven-penned episode “The Slaver Weapon.”

Kirk reminds Spock of the Vulcan philosophy of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, first mentioned in “Is There In Truth No Beauty?

We’ll see a Phylosian again, on the council in “The Time Trap.”

The plant that poisons Sulu is called a retlaw, which is the scriptwriter’s first name spelled backwards.

Keniclius was modeled after Koenig.

To boldly go. “The master always speaks the truth.” This is a very ambitious episode, with a lot of really nifty ideas, and some rather heavy plot elements. It’s pretty impressive for a 1970s Saturday morning cartoon to show us a room full of corpses, though the censors probably didn’t blink because they were plants. The notion of sentient ambulatory plants is a fun one, though not as much is done with it as one might hope, and the design is nicely alien, continuing the work the animated series has done from jump in giving us truly alien designs. And given that Spock has been regularly shown to be a kind of superman, the idea that Keniclius views him as a perfect base for a clone army of telepathic soldiers with the strength of a Vulcan and the passion of a human is actually a really clever extrapolation of how Spock has been portrayed. I like that the script acknowledges something that Star Trek in general has ignored repeatedly, which is the very real possibility of bacterial contamination of the strange new worlds they visit. And it’s good to see so much contributed to the story by Uhura and especially Sulu. (The ending cracks me up every time, though I could live without the oh-so-70s wink at the camera.)

Star Trek, the Animated Series, The Infinite Vulcan

On the other hand, a lot of the episode is a mess. People just sort of wander into and out of rooms as the plot needs them to be there. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy all check the building, and leave Sulu behind for no obvious reason except that the plot calls for him to be poisoned while he’s by himself. Keniclius and Spock leave the room when the landing party sprays the Swoopers, and then just walk back in. Agmar leaves the landing party alone in the dark with the Swoopers and then do nothing to stop them just running to the lab that they wanted to go to in the first place. Nobody can agree on how to pronounce “Keniclius.”

And for what possible reason does Keniclius make his clones twenty feet tall? And for what possible reason does Kirk think it would be a good idea to just leave Keniclius 5 and Spock 2 alone with a bunch of would-be conquerors to just hang out on Phylos and do science?

Star Trek, the Animated Series, The Infinite Vulcan

William Shatner still hadn’t gotten the hang of acting only with his voice in this one, as a lot of his line readings are disastrous, particularly his speeches to Spock 2 and his being bellicose at Keniclius 5.

It’s funny, my instinct is to say that this was a promising first draft that just needed tweaking, but apparently Koenig did something like a dozen rewrites.

Still, there’s interesting stuff here. Too much ridiculous to be good, but too much good stuff to be bad. So we give it a…

 

Warp factor rating: 5

Next week: “The Magicks of Megas-Tu”

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be making his first public appearance of 2017 this weekend at Arisia 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts, alongside Guests of Honor Ursula Vernon, Stephanie Law, Greykell Dutton, and Susan Fox & Gene Turnbow from Krypton Radio, and tons of other neat folks. Keith’s schedule can be found here.

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