Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: “Albatross”

“Albatross”
Written by Dario Finelli
Directed by Bill Reed
Animated Season 2, Episode 4
Production episode 22019
Original air date: September 28, 1974
Stardate: 5275.6

Captain’s log. The Enterprise has just delivered medical supplies to the planet Dramia. Just as the landing party is about to beam up, though, the Supreme Prefect’s aide Demos issues a warrant for McCoy’s arrest. He is accused of being responsible for a plague that ravaged Dramia II nineteen years ago. McCoy was part of an inoculation program, and shortly after the program concluded, a plague wiped out hundreds.

Spock investigates, but records from the era are spotty. However, Vulcans are immune to the plague in question. Kirk takes the Enterprise to Dramia II. Demos follows, and Kirk permits him to sneak on board. Kirk then impounds Demos’s ship, since he stowed away. They’re too far from Federation space for instant subspace communication and Demos is now trapped on the Enterprise, so he can’t travel to a starbase to report Kirk’s investigating out of his jurisdiction.

They come into orbit and discover an aurora nearby that emits radiation. Kirk, Spock, and Demos beam down. A Dramian spies on them and then runs off. The landing party gives chase, and then the Dramian ambushes Kirk, though they take care of him easily. That Dramian is one of the locals who was offworld when the plague hit. The only actual survivor of the plague is Kol-Tai, an older Dramian whom McCoy treated for Saurian flu.

The landing party beams back with Kol-Tai and the Enterprise heads back to Dramia, flying through the aurora on the way. As they approach Dramia IV, Kol-Tai, Demos, and the entire crew save for Spock come down with the plague—the first symptom of which is pigment changes in the skin, so everyone on the ship has blue skin. Before collapsing from the blues, Kirk leaves Spock in command—he engages General Order 6, which means the Enterprise will be destroyed if everyone on board is killed.

Spock asks the Supreme Prefect to temporarily release McCoy so he can work on an antidote, but the prefect refuses, especially since Demos and Kol-Tai are (Spock claims) too weak to speak on their own behalf. So Spock beams down and breaks McCoy out of prison. By the time they beam back, the crew’s skin has turned green. It’s not easy, but McCoy figures out that the aurora causes the plague. Spock tells McCoy about Kol-Tai, and so the doctor injects Saurian flu antibodies into Kirk, Kol-Tai, and Demos—they’re cured, and soon so is the rest of the ship.

McCoy is vindicated, and now the Dramians can protect themselves from the plague the next time the aurora comes through.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Kirk, Spock, and McCoy figure out that the aurora is causing the plague because it changes skin pigment and McCoy tells Spock to filter that out and then they figure it out and—I gotta tell you, I found the logic utterly incomprehensible.

Fascinating. Spock mentions early on that Vulcans are immune to the plague, almost as if that would be an important plot point later.

I’m a doctor, not an escalator. McCoy is insistent on letting justice play its course. For all that Kirk is pushing to free McCoy, Bones himself wishes to stand trial as he’s not 100% sure that he didn’t cause the plague in question.

Hailing frequencies open. Uhura gets to open hailing frequencies and turn green.

Ahead warp one, aye. Sulu gets to fly the ship and turn green, and also enact General Order 6 while severely ill.

I cannot change the laws of physics! When Kirk beams back with Kol-Tai, identifying him as a friend of McCoy’s, Scotty gets this really creepy smile. Seriously, Filmation’s character design for Scotty has a pretty permanent dour expression, so the smile just looks wrong.

Channel open.

“What if he attacks, sir?”

“Why should he? We haven’t contacted him, so we must not have detected him. He’d have to explain an attack. Besides, he’ll probably prefer to sneak aboard, seeing that we carelessly left the hangar doors open.

“But the hangar doors aren’t open, Captain.”

“Ah yes. Take care of that oversight, will you, Mr. Sulu?”

–Uhura and Sulu being slow on the uptake to realize that Kirk is setting Demos up to be an illegal stowaway.

Welcome aboard. James Doohan provided the voices of the Supreme Prefect and Kol-Tai, as well as Scotty, while Lou Scheimer did other secondary voices. Nichelle Nichols and George Takei were Uhura and Sulu as usual, while some uncredited person is the voice of Demos.

Trivial matters: Writer Dario Finelli is one of those people who has left almost no footprint on the world wide web. He only has two credits listed in IMDB—the other one is a 1970 movie called Scorpio ’70—and no biographical information is readily available…

At the end of the episode, McCoy says that if he’s ever in jail again, to not let Spock release him. The next time McCoy is imprisoned will be in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, and it’s Kirk who springs him—of course, Spock is believed dead, and McCoy has Spock’s katra at the time…

The title is likely a reference, not just to the bird, but specifically to the albatross that was the burden bore by the title character in the Samuel Taylor Coleridge epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

To boldly go. “Hippocrates would not have approved of lame excuses, Doctor.” This is a remarkably unremarkable episode. It’s a bog-standard falsely accused drama that hits every cliché, every beat, every everything in utterly predictable fashion. Every plot twist is pretty well telegraphed, as you know that the crew will get the plague, since they wouldn’t have bothered mentioning that Vulcans were immune if they didn’t need Spock to not get it so he could function while everyone else was sick.

Virtual unknown writer Dario Finelli actually did a decent job with the script, for the most part, as the dialogue is snappier than usual for the animated series. If only the same could be said for the hoary plot complete with a resolution that I watched twice and still can’t figure the hell out. It’s like he figured, “it’s Saturday morning, the kids won’t care as long as everybody’s saved in the end.” And they went a bit far in making Demos and the Supreme Prefect a bit too nasty—they had a legitimate beef with McCoy, something even McCoy admitted to, they didn’t need to resort to rushed trials and sneaking on board the Enterprise.

Anyhow, this is a completely middle-of-the-road episode. Not bad enough to be one of the true stinkers of Trek, but nowhere near good enough to rise above the fray, as it were.

Warp factor rating: 5

Next week: “How Sharper than a Serpent’s Tooth”

Keith R.A. DeCandido is celebrating his 48th birthday today!

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