Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: “By Any Other Name”

“By Any Other Name”
Written by Jerome Bixby and D.C. Fontana
Directed by Marc Daniels
Season 2, Episode 21
Production episode 60350
Original air date: February 23, 1968
Stardate: 4657.5

Captain’s log. The Enterprise responds to a distress call on a Class-M planet. A landing party consisting of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Lieutenant Shea, and Yeoman Thompson beams down to investigate, and encounter two Kelvans, Rojan and Kelinda. Rojan thanks them for their quick response and then informs them that they’ll now surrender themselves. The Kelvans press a device on their belts that paralyze the landing party, and Rojan announces that he’s their commander now, and they’re heading to another galaxy. Their lives as they know them are over.

Star Trek, season 2, By Any Other Name

Kelinda takes all their equipment and then frees them. The Kelvans are from the Andromeda galaxy. They were scouting the Milky Way as a possible place to conquer, as Andromeda will be uninhabitable in the next ten millennia. But their ship was damaged by the galactic barrier, so they’re taking the Enterprise. Even as Rojan talks to Kirk, three more Kelvans, Tomar, Hanar, and Drea, take over the ship with ease.

Rojan explains that they’ll modify the engines so the journey will only take three hundred years, rather than the thousands it would normally take for the Enterprise. Even so, they expect to die en route, with their descendants taking over the mission, just as they were born in the intergalactic void and took over the mission from their ancestors.

Star Trek, season 2, By Any Other Name

Kirk tries a diplomatic approach, to work with the Federation to find suitable uninhabited planets for the Kelvans, but Rojan says that the Kelvans can only conquer.

The landing party is imprisoned. Hanar reports to Rojan that the ship is being modified. Rojan is looking forward to being in space—a planet is too chaotic, too open for him. Also he doesn’t like all the sensations that the humanoid form provides. It turns out that Kelvans look much different, but they encased themselves in human form because that is the atmosphere of the ship they’ll be living on the rest of their lives.

Star Trek, season 2, By Any Other Name

The landing party discuss options. Spock tries the same mind trick he used on Eminiar VII, but Kelinda’s mind is too strong. However, when she enters the cell to determine what just happened, Kirk jumps her and takes her belt device. However, Rojan and Hanar capture them in short order. As punishment Rojan turns Shea and Thompson into tiny dodecahedra. Rojan crushes the one that was Thompson, but restores Shea.

Kirk needs McCoy and Spock back on the ship, so Spock goes into a trance that makes it look like he’s lapsed into a coma. Hanar inspects Spock, and agrees to have the two of them beamed aboard. Tomar accompanies McCoy and the comatose Spock to sickbay. McCoy gives him two shots of stokaline—which is harmless—and spins a story to Tomar about a Rigellian flu that flares up periodically.

Star Trek, season 2, By Any Other Name

The ship is modified and they set out at warp 11 toward the galactic barrier. Kirk goes to sickbay, ostensibly to check on his sick first officer, and Spock, McCoy, and Scotty are endeavoring to jam the Kelvans’ power source. Unfortunately, it’s too well shielded to jam. Spock and Scotty provide an alternative: destroy the ship when it goes through the barrier. However, Kirk refuses to go through with it, going with the where-there’s-life-there’s-hope philosophy.

They slam through the barrier and into intergalactic space. Now that they’re through, the Kelvans don’t need all four hundred people. They can’t guard them efficiently with only five of them, and the food synthesizers can’t feed everyone for three hundred years, so all nonessential personnel—basically, everyone except for Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Scotty—are reduced to dodecahedra. Rojan also reveals that he knew about the suicide plan as well.

Star Trek, season 2, By Any Other Name

As the four of them share an awkward and tense dinner, Tomar asks why they eat food when pills can handle the task of nutrition just fine. Kirk says don’t knock it until you try it, and Tomar finds that food is actually quite yummy.

The images Spock saw in Kelinda’s mind are starting to coalesce. The Kelvans apparently only have sight as a sense—their other four are stunted to the point of uselessness. But now that they’re in human form, they’re enjoying things—as witnessed by Tomar’s snarfing down his meal.

Star Trek, season 2, By Any Other Name

Kirk decides to try seriously stimulating their senses. Scotty takes Tomar to his quarters for a wee nip of the good stuff. McCoy declares Hanar to be anemic and encourages him to eat solid food instead of pills, and also gives him a “vitamin shot” (really formazine, which will make him irritable and cranky) three times a day. Kirk, naturally, tries seducing Kelinda—it actually works, but more as an academic curiosity for her than any particular response to Kirk’s manliness. Spock plays chess with Rojan and discusses how humans are silly—and he’s apparently jealous of Kirk’s attentions to Kelinda, since Spock beats him at chess.

Rojan storms to Kelinda’s quarters and tells her not to fraternize with the humans, especially Kirk. Kelinda wants to know if he gave that order to the others (he didn’t), and he’s obviously brimming with jealousy. Hanar mouths off at Rojan, Kelinda comes to Kirk to ask for more research on how humans interact with each other (involving smooching, of course). Spock informs Rojan that Kirk and Kelinda were in the rec room together. Rojan angrily goes to the rec room, and he and Kirk get into a brawl. (At one point, Spock and McCoy walk in and catch Kirk after Rojan tosses him across the room. Kirk says, “I’m stimulating him,” and Spock and McCoy shrug and toss him right back into the fight.)

Star Trek, season 2, By Any Other Name

Kirk points out that they’ve only been human for a few days and they’ve already been corrupted—they’ll be unrecognizable by the time they reach Andromeda. Kirk again offers the Federation’s help—they wouldn’t welcome invaders, but they would welcome friends. Spock points out that this is a chance to form their own destiny instead of following orders their ancestors got three centuries ago.

Rojan agrees, and turns command back to Kirk, who orders Drea to turn the ship around and go back home. The crew of the Enterprise has won the day by use of sex, booze, and drugs. Woo hoo!

Star Trek, season 2, By Any Other Name

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The Kelvans have a nifty little machine that powers their belt devices, which can either paralyze someone or reduce them to a dodecahedron.

Fascinating. Spock’s brief mind-meld with Kelinda through the walls of the cell prove valuable in gaining intelligence about the Kelvans.

Star Trek, season 2, By Any Other Name

I’m a doctor not an escalator. McCoy basically lies about injections throughout the episode, first regarding what he’s giving Spock to Tomar, then to Hanar about what he gives to the Kelvan.

Hailing frequencies open. Uhura coordinates the damage control reports after the Enterprise goes through the barrier, then gets turned into a dodecahedron for her trouble.

Star Trek, season 2, By Any Other Name

It’s a Russian invention. Chekov navigates through the barrier, then gets turned into a dodecahedron for his trouble. 

I cannot change the laws of physics! Scotty gets Tomar drunk. At one point, he pulls out a drink and is too swozzled to remember what it is, so he drunkenly identifies the libation to Tomar: “It’s green.” This scene will be echoed when James Doohan guest stars as Scotty on TNG‘s “Relics” when Data serves an unlabeled bottle to Scotty and can only say that, “It is green.” 

Star Trek, season 2, By Any Other Name

Go put on a red shirt. Shea gets turned into a dodecahedron, but then gets turned back—though presumably he got turned into one again back on the Enterprise, since 425 of the 429 people on board did. Well, 428, thanks to poor Thompson getting killed. She’s the first female redshirt… 

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Kirk’s seduction of Kelinda is hilarious. (“I don’t usually go around beating up beautiful women?” “Why not?”)

Star Trek, season 2, By Any Other Name

Channel open. “You have more?”

“All I have is a bottle of very very very old Scotch. Whiskey!

“I will try it!”

“I’ll get it!”

Tomar and Scotty’s booze-up.

Welcome aboard. The Kelvans are played by Warren Stevens (Rojan), Barbara Bouchet (Kelinda), Robert Fortier (Tomar), Lezlie Dalton (Drea), and Stewart Moss (Hanar), the latter having previously appeared as the ill-fated Joe Tormolen in “The Naked Time.” Enterprise crew are played by recurring regulars James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, Majel Barrett, and Walter Koenig, as well as guest stars Carl Byrd as Shea and Julie Cobb as Thompson, the latest and most ill-fated member of the post-Rand yeoman derby.

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Trivial matters: Like “Dagger of the Mind” and “The Conscience of the King” before it (and “All Our Yesterdays” and “How Sharper than a Serpent’s Tooth” after it), the title comes from Shakespeare, and Kirk actually quotes the bit from Romeo and Juliet whence the title derives to Kelinda.

The galactic barrier was last seen in “Where No Man Has Gone Before” and will be seen again in “Is There in Truth No Beauty?” Kirk and Spock reference the mind-meld-through-a-wall he employed in “A Taste of Armageddon” and try it again, to weird effect.

Star Trek, season 2, By Any Other Name

John Coffren wrote a sequel to this episode called “Gone Native” for Strange New Worlds 9.

Your humble rewatcher always thought that the Kelvans were a handy explanation for the major leap in technology that Starfleet made between the end of the five-year mission and The Motion Picture, but he was never able to put that into a piece of fiction.

Star Trek, season 2, By Any Other Name

To boldly go. “We do not colonize—we conquer, we rule.” This episode would be considerably more effective if the Kelvans didn’t come across as such total morons. I mean, they’re supposed to be this amazing badass intergalactic conquerors and they fall for the sick prisoner trick?

Not that the crew is much more impressive. We’re supposed to believe that three of them managed to completely overtake the Enterprise without resistance? Yes, they have the belt device that paralyzes people, but we’re talking four hundred people against three (remember, Rojan and Kelinda stayed on the planet—heck, Hanar was on the planet a lot too, so it was just Tomar and Drea up there). At no point did they even try to take the ship back?

Star Trek, season 2, By Any Other Name

Also, while the continuity hit with “Where No Man Has Gone Before” and the galactic barrier was appreciated, how’d they get through this time when they couldn’t get through last time? And why weren’t crew members with ESP affected this time?

We’ve been down this road before: aliens who take on human form and are overwhelmed by the sensations of being human, and it wasn’t any less absurd in “Catspaw” than it is here. Okay, it was more absurd in “Catspaw,” but still, it’s just goofy here. (Although, we’ve got references to giant tentacled creatures, who sound a lot like Lovecraft’s Old Ones, which both “Catspaw” and “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” referenced.) At least they sow the seeds of it with Rojan and Hanar’s discussion on the subject of how oogy being human is, but still.

Star Trek, season 2, By Any Other Name

The real oddity here, though, is Kirk’s unusual indecision. Spock and Scotty have given him a perfect opportunity to stop an alien invasion of the galaxy, and he doesn’t take it. Throughout all of Star Trek, our heroes have had a willingness to sacrifice for the greater good, and even though they don’t often make that sacrifice due to being regulars on television shows, they’re always willing. So Kirk’s waffling on the subject just rings completely false.

This is an episode that could have worked better as a more serious tale. (Allegedly, Jerome Bixby’s original script was darker, and D.C. Fontana was charged with lightening it up. This was probably a mistake.) Actually having a serious examination of the difficulty the Kelvans had transitioning to human form, making it a true conflict instead of fodder for childish humor, might have made for a more compelling story. Instead, it’s a pointless bit of fluff.

Star Trek, season 2, By Any Other Name

The episode was so irritating that after it was revealed that Thompson was killed while Shea survived, all I could think was, “Wow, usually it’s the black guy who gets killed first.”

 

Warp factor rating: 4

Next week:Return to Tomorrow

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be a guest at (Re)Generation Who 2 in Cockeysville, Maryland this weekend. Other guests at this delightful Doctor Who convention include former Doctors Peter Davison and Colin Baker, as well as actors Michael Troughton, Nicola Bryant, Sophie Aldred Henderson, Wendy Padbury, Deborah Watling, Anneke Wills, Terry Molloy, and Frazer Hines, Big Finish’s Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs, musicians Cat Smith and Dominic Glynn, podcaster Dr. Arnold Blumberg, LEGO designer Andrew Clark, performers Antipode and Hannah Harkness, artist Kelsey Wailes, and fellow writers Robert Shearman, Nev Fountain, John Peel, Darren Watts, and Walt Ciechanowski. Keith will have a table where he’ll be selling and signing books; his full schedule is here.

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