Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: “Friday’s Child”

“Friday’s Child”
Written by D.C. Fontana
Directed by Joseph Pevney
Season 2, Episode 3
Production episode 60332
Original air date: December 1, 1967
Stardate: 3497.2

Captain’s log. McCoy is briefing Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Scotty, and Chekov about Capella IV, where he was stationed for a few months. The natives are tall and their culture very much that of warriors. They were uninterested in medical assistance, as they felt only the strong should survive. We also see a kligat in action, a throwing-star-like weapon that is quite deadly.

The Federation wants Kirk to negotiate a mining treaty with the Capellans for topaline. Spock would normally recommend a heavily armed party, but McCoy cautions against that—a show of force would guarantee that they won’t sign any treaty. So Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Grant from security beam down, leaving Scotty in charge of the Enterprise, with a caution from Kirk that the Klingons have been sighted in the vicinity.

Star Trek, season 2, Friday's Child

The landing party is greeted by Maab and a bunch of Capellans—and a Klingon, the sight of whom causes Grant to unholster his phaser. That action proves fatal, as one of the other Capellans immediately throws his kligat at Grant, killing him instantly. The Klingon, Kras, asks if it’s Federation policy to shoot unarmed Klingons on sight. Kirk—who’s furious—nonetheless acquiesces to the Capellans’ desire for them to remain unarmed, and they turn over their weapons. Kras is negotiating on the Klingons’ behalf for the topaline as well.

They cool their heels in a tent. A woman comes to provide food, a gesture of friendship in exchange for their turning over their weapons. McCoy warns Kirk, however, not to touch her, or her closest male relative will try to kill him. When Kirk declines to touch her, said closest male relative enters, expressing disappointment that he didn’t get a chance to beat Kirk up.

Star Trek, season 2, Friday's Child

They are brought before Teer Akaar, who leads the Ten Tribes of Capella. They also meet his wife Eleen, who is very pregnant with his heir. Kirk objects to Grant being killed, which confuses Akaar, as it was his man and it should have been Grant’s pleasure and privilege to die for him. Maab explains that humans don’t feel that way, and Kras adds that Klingons totally do, so they’re cooler.

McCoy steps in and says that Maab is correct, and that Kras is a liar. Maab defends Kras, and the Klingon makes his case: the Klingon culture is very much like the Capellans’, and they will provide weapons and training, not useless liquids and powders to heal the sick. Kirk, however, promises that Capella will remain autonomous. The Klingons conquer—the Federation will simply trade and leave them alone otherwise.

Star Trek, season 2, Friday's Child

It’s also clear that there’s a power struggle going on between Akaar and Maab, though when Akaar out-and-out asks if Maab is challenging his rule, Maab backs down and says that such a challenge is Akaar’s to make.

Kirk tries to get the communicators back so he can call the Enterprise, but Akaar dismisses him—”The sky does not interest me.”

Star Trek, season 2, Friday's Child

Soon thereafter, Maab proves himself a liar by starting his coup. While civil war breaks out among the Ten Tribes, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy head to the tent where their equipment has been taken, only to find Kras also searching for his equipment. He claims to have no quarrel with Kirk right before he attacks with a Capellan sword. But Kirk gets the upper hand, and Kras says he has a small scout ship nearby—then Maab comes in and declares victory. Akaar is dead, and he now leads the Ten Tribes. Kras tries to convince Maab to kill the landing party, but Maab was impressed with how Kirk comported himself during the battle, including overpowering the Klingon—and he saw fear in Kras’s eyes when Kirk held his sword to Kras’s neck.

Maab brings Eleen before him. The child she carries would be Teer, and is therefore a threat to his rule. But Kirk’s not about to stand and watch a pregnant woman get killed, so he and Spock remonstrate with the Capellans—to no avail. Touching the wife of a Teer is a high crime. Eleen insists that she was willing to obey the law, and asks that she watch Kirk die for touching her.

Star Trek, season 2, Friday's Child

On the Enterprise, Chekov picks up a ship at extreme range—it could be a Klingon ship. But once it goes out of range, Uhura gets a weak signal that seems to be a distress signal from the S.S. Deirdre, saying they’re under attack by the Klingons. Uhura can’t raise Kirk, so Scotty has no choice but to break orbit and render assistance. But when they arrive at the source of the distress call, there’s nothing there—no ship, no debris, no sign of any activity whatsoever.

Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Eleen are being held in a tent. Spock hypothesizes (correctly) that the Enterprise has been otherwise engaged, else Scotty would have beamed down a search party after they didn’t check in. McCoy tries to treat Eleen—she burned herself earlier—and the guards are so appalled at his brazenly touching the wife of a Teer that Kirk and Spock are able to take them out. While Eleen is prepared to die, she does admit that she would prefer to live, and so the four of them set out into the rock formation outside the settlement. They manage to retrieve their communicators, but their phasers are nowhere to be found. (Maab has taken both the phasers and Kras’s disruptor for himself, as he’s intrigued by them.)

Star Trek, season 2, Friday's Child

Kirk feels the rocks are a “nice place to get trapped in,” but Spock says that it’s also defensible. Meanwhile McCoy struggles to get Eleen to let him fix the burns on her arm. Then he checks the fetus (over Eleen’s objection; she slaps him twice, and after the second time he slaps her back, which shocks her enough to let him finish his exam), and says it’ll come any time now. Eleen is impressed with his medical skills, which are far beyond those even of Capellan midwives.

The most direct path to the plateau where they’ve set up is a narrow passageway. Kirk and Spock are able to use their communicators to make a sonic pulse that causes a rockslide. Now Maab, Kras, and what’s left of their attack party must go around the long way. (In the confusion, Kras finds a Federation phaser on one of the Capellans and takes it, stabbing the Capellan to death.)

Star Trek, season 2, Friday's Child

McCoy is understandably concerned about the possibility of giving birth to a cranky Capellan on a rock. They move to a cave, which is a much more defensible position. Eleen refuses to allow anyone other than McCoy to touch her as he struggles to help her into the cave.

The Enterprise has performed an exhaustive search, but found no sign of the Deirdre. Scotty has Chekov play back the recording of the distress signal—and he realizes that they asked for the Enterprise for help by name, which makes no sense in a general distress call. Scotty is unwilling to risk being wrong and leaving the freighter screwed, so they finish the search, then bugger back to Capella at warp six. As soon as they head back, Uhura gets another distress call, this from the U.S.S. Carolina. Scotty ignores it on the fool-me-once-shame-on-you-fool-me-twice-shame-on-me theory, and accepts responsibility should it prove to be real.

Star Trek, season 2, Friday's Child

McCoy cares for Eleen, who’s in pain, either from her exertions or something wrong with the pregnancy. He tries to convince her to want the child, but she insists that it belongs to the Teer—and with him dead, she cedes the child to McCoy, much to his annoyance. However, she does deliver the child with McCoy’s help. It’s a bouncing baby boy, whom Eleen refers to as “our” child, meaning hers and McCoy’s, which rather intrigues Kirk and Spock. (McCoy says he’ll explain later.)

Meanwhile, Kirk and Spock use the local vegetation to fashion bows and arrows. Capellans never developed the bow, so it should catch them off-guard. (This almost makes up for the fact that the bows they fashion have an effective range of about thirty feet, maybe.)

Star Trek, season 2, Friday's Child

As the Enterprise approaches Capella, a Klingon ship intercepts them. Scotty calls battle stations. Uhura tries to hail the Klingons to no avail.

Eleen renders McCoy unconscious with a rock and sneaks out of the cave, leaving her baby behind. While McCoy tends to the baby and the lump on the back of his head, Kirk and Spock lie in wait for Maab’s party with their makeshift bows.

Maab is surprised to see a no-longer pregnant Eleen come down to meet him. She claims the child and the landing party are dead, that she killed them while they slept. Maab knows she’s lying—his scout already saw Kirk and Spock—but he lets her go out of respect for her status as wife of the Teer.

Star Trek, season 2, Friday's Child

Kras isn’t so forgiving. He insists that they verify her story, and pulls out his purloined phaser, to Maab’s annoyance.

Kirk chooses that moment to attack, firing an arrow into Kras’s leg. It becomes a three-front fight. The Capellans fight Kirk and Spock, the former with kligats that never strike their target, the latter with arrows that somehow always score kill shots. Kirk and Spock try to stop Kras. And Kras fights the Capellans, disintegrating the one whom Maab sends after him.

Realizing he made a mistake getting into bed with the Klingons, Maab gives Eleen her life back and raises a weapon toward Kras. As Kras shoots, killing Maab, another Capellan kills Kras with a kligat.

Star Trek, season 2, Friday's Child

Only then does Scotty show up with a security detail. The Klingons apparently had no stomach for a pitched battle with a starship.

Kirk is able to negotiate mining rights with the new High Teer’s regent: Eleen, who will represent her son until he comes of age. McCoy then reveals the Teer’s name: Leonard James Akaar. At this revelation, Spock says that Leonard McCoy and James Kirk will be insufferably pleased with themselves for at least a month over that.

Star Trek, season 2, Friday's Child

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Topaline is used in atmospheric domes—how is never made clear, though James Blish had Kirk provide an in-depth explanation (one that was lost on Akaar) in his adaptation in Star Trek 3.

Fascinating. Spock is totally incapable of properly holding a baby, and evinces no interest in learning.

I’m a doctor not an escalator. McCoy has visited Capella before, and his past experience is useful. Plus, he utters the phrase that gave this category its name when he helps Eleen up a ridge. Oh, and he delivers a baby, who is then named after him.

Star Trek, season 2, Friday's Child

I cannot change the laws of physics! Scotty handles himself well in command of the ship, figuring out the Klingons’ trick distress call, though still doing his duty to make sure it is fake before heading back to Capella. Of course, the trick still works, as Scotty doesn’t arrive until it’s all over…

Ahead warp one, aye. Sulu gets a new toy! The gooseneck scanner that dramatically rises from his console makes its first appearance here.

Star Trek, season 2, Friday's Child

Hailing frequencies open. Uhura constantly points out that the distress signals could be real and that they’d be abandoning people in need if they broke off.

It’s a Russian invention. As with McCoy, so too with Chekov: we get the source of the navigator’s category as he claims that “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” is actually a saying from Russia. His silly smile after he says it indicates that he knows he’s full of shit, a level of self-awareness of his own foolishness he will abandon before too long….

Star Trek, season 2, Friday's Child

Go put on a red shirt. Poor Grant gets only two words of dialogue—”A Klingon!”—before he’s kligat target practice. Kirk remains cranky about his death for most of Act 1, but has totally forgotten about him by the time of Maab’s coup.

Channel open. “How did you arrange to touch her, Bones? Give her a happy pill?”

“No, a right cross.”

Kirk advocating drugging a pregnant woman, while McCoy expresses his preference for violence against pregnant women.

Star Trek, season 2, Friday's Child

Welcome aboard. Tige Andres plays Kras, only the second (major) Klingon we’ve met, and he’s much less impressive than Kor, though still quite slimy (he’s only referred to as “Klingon” in dialogue; his name comes from the script and the closing credits). Michael Dante, Ben Gage, Cal Bolder, and Kirk Raymone all do the big strong monotone routine as assorted Capellans. Robert Bralver plays the ill-fated Grant, while recurring regulars James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, and Walter Koenig are all present, the latter officially becoming recurring with his second appearance here.

But the big guest is Julie Newmar as Eleen. Best known as one of the three women who played Catwoman on the 1966 Batman (and the one who appeared the most), Newmar was probably at least partly cast due to her great height (as were most of the men), but she brought a tremendous gravitas to Eleen.

Star Trek, season 2, Friday's Child

Trivial matters: The episode’s title comes from an old children’s rhyme, first printed in Harper’s Weekly in 1887, assigning a child to each day of the week. Friday’s child is full of woe, according to the poem, which James Blish quoted in full as the epigraph of his adaptation of the episode in Star Trek 3.

The Klingons are firmly established as recurring antagonists in this episode, following their debut in “Errand of Mercy.” This is the first of three appearances the Klingons make this season; they’ll be back in “The Trouble with Tribbles” and “A Private Little War.”

Star Trek, season 2, Friday's Child

All the scenes on Capella were filmed at the famous Vasquez Rocks (see also “Arena,” etc.), where it was upwards of 110 degrees, making it very uncomfortable, particularly for the people playing Capellans and their thick garb.

The character of Leonard James Akaar will be seen quite a bit in the tie-in fiction. In the TOS movie era, he shows up as a young adult in issue #11 of DC’s second monthly Star Trek comic by Peter David, Gordon Purcell, and Arne Starr, part of the “Trial of James T. Kirk” storyline. Later, he appeared in The Sundered by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin, part of the “Lost Era” series, as the chief of security on the U.S.S. Excelsior under Captain Sulu in the late 23rd century. Starting in the post-finale DS9 novels, and continuing into the Titan series, as well as various other 24th-century novels, not to mention the Star Trek Online game, he has been a high-ranking admiral in Starfleet, having been exiled from Capella.

Capella is also seen in the novels Invasion: First Strike by Diane Carey (shortly after this episode) and your humble rewatcher’s A Singular Destiny (in the 24th century).

Topaline is seen again in the Enterprise episode “The Shipment,” and is also referenced in numerous prose stories.

Star Trek, season 2, Friday's Child

To boldly go. “The child is mine.” Objectively, there’s not a lot to recommend this episode. We start with the Capellans, who are all played with the same “ignoble savage” style common to contemporary portrayals of Native Americans, mistaking lack of technological sophistication for stupidity, and all of them talking like not-too-bright ten-year-olds. Michael Dante is the worst offender, as his Maab shows even less emotion than Spock, draining the interest from his verbal sparring with Akaar, his change of heart toward Kirk and against Kras, and his sacrifice at the end.

Then we have a confrontation between the Enterprise and a Klingon ship all nice and set up—which is then resolved off camera. Buh? The Klingons we met in “Errand of Mercy” never gave the impression of not having the belly for combat, and either way, that was a gun placed on the mantelpiece that was never fired.

Star Trek, season 2, Friday's Child

And then we have Eleen. There’s a lot of puerile humor involved in McCoy’s treatment of her, from Spock walking by just as Eleen is holding his hand to the whole “the child is mine”/”yes, it’s yours” bit, which results in lots of tee-hee nonsense from Kirk and Spock that just makes me cringe. Not to mention the slapstick idiocy with McCoy and Eleen hitting each other.

Don’t even get me started on the selective marksmanship. Somehow, Kirk and Spock can fashion perfect bows with plant life in a couple of hours and then get perfect kill shots on several Capellans with bows that would have trouble killing a bunny rabbit at fifty paces. Somehow, the Capellans are always unerring with their kligats until they throw them at either Kirk or Spock, when they miss by a country mile.

Star Trek, season 2, Friday's Child

Yet, with all that, I enjoy the episode. Part of it is that it’s a good vehicle for DeForest Kelley, both in terms of his serving as native guide early on, and later when he treats Eleen, as the character’s trademark competence and snarkiness serve him in good stead. Julie Newmar helps, too, as she imbues Eleen with a gravitas in excess of what the script gives her to work with. She’s also the only one who makes the me-welcome-Earthmen-to-planet affect of the Capellans actually work when spoken out loud.

The politics of the Capellans are also compelling, with Kirk and Kras caught in the middle of the tensions between Maab and Akaar, and the tension of the siege on Vasquez Rocks is well played. It’s one of those episodes that I enjoy watching while I’m watching it, even if my stomach hurts when I think about it afterward.

 

Warp factor rating: 5

Next week:Who Mourns for Adonais?

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be a guest at 2050 Events this weekend in Daytona Beach, Florida. He’ll have a table, and will also be doing some panels, including a Farscape panel alongside Gigi “Chiana” Edgley. His full schedule is here.

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