Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: “That Which Survives”

“That Which Survives”
Written by Michael Richards and John Meredyth Lucas
Directed by Herb Wallerstein
Season 3, Episode 14
Production episode 60043-69
Original air date: January 24, 1969
Stardate: unknown

Captain’s log. The Enterprise comes across a planet the size of the moon and which is only a few thousand years old, but somehow has an atmosphere and vegetation. Kirk takes down a landing party that includes McCoy, Sulu, and D’Amato, a geologist. As they’re about to beam down, a woman named Losira appears in the transporter room warning them not to beam down. Then she just touches Ensign Wyatt at the console, who collapses, dead.

Star Trek, the original series, season 3, That Which Survives

A major earthquake hits the planet, a seismic disturbance unlike any D’Amato has seen before. The Enterprise is also majorly shaken up. After the quaking dies down, the Enterprise is more than 900 light-years away, according to Lieutenant Radha at the helm. Meanwhile, the landing party is stranded. Kirk orders the others to forage for food and shelter.

On the Enterprise, Wyatt is discovered dead, and M’Benga reports that he died of a major cellular disruption. Spock orders Radha to set a course back to the planet, and Scotty promises warp eight or better to get them there as fast as possible.

Star Trek, the original series, season 3, That Which Survives

On the planet, D’Amato encounters Losira, who says that she is “for you.” He recognizes her from the transporter, and then she kills him. Even as she does so, McCoy picks up a powerful life form—which then disappears. D’Amato’s energy reading also appeared and disappeared like that, as did a magnetic disruption Sulu detected.

McCoy examines him, and he died the same way as Wyatt. Kirk tries to dig a grave, but it turns out that the entire planet is covered in igneous rock that even phasers can’t cut through. They bury D’Amato in a tomb of rocks.

Star Trek, the original series, season 3, That Which Survives

The Enterprise powers forward at warp 8.4, though Scotty thinks the ship feels wrong. Spock admonishes him for his emotionalism (not for the first time). Scotty sends Engineer Watkins to check on the matter/antimatter valve, which he thinks might be overheating. Losira shows up, says she is for Watkins, and kills him, too, though the engineer is able to warn Scotty about her before he dies. M’Benga reports that Watkins died the same way Wyatt did, though he has no idea of the cause.

Sulu reports that the planet is actually made of an alloy, one that is impossible to have evolved naturally. It’s getting dark, so they get some rest. Sulu takes the first watch, and encounters Losira. He pulls a phaser on her, but it proves ineffective. Sulu calls a warning, and Kirk and McCoy come running. She says she is only for Sulu, and manages to touch his shoulder, which disrupts the cells in his shoulder. She touches Kirk and nothing happens, and all she can say is that she has to touch Sulu himself. After a moment, she seems to fold herself into space and disappear.

Star Trek, the original series, season 3, That Which Survives

Apparently Losira managed to sabotage the engines, as they’re now running hot and speed is increasing, with nothing that Radha or Scotty can do about it. Spock suggests going into the service crawlway to bypass the sabotage, but the crawlway isn’t meant to be used when the engines are running. Spock is willing to risk it, since they’ll die if they do nothing, but then Scotty volunteers, since he knows the systems better than anyone. Scotty crawls in and gets to work even as the ship accelerates past warp thirteen.

On the planet, the landing party encounter Losira again, and this time she’s for Kirk. McCoy and Sulu interpolate themselves between her and Kirk. She identifies herself as the commander of the station, and says she’s sent to touch Kirk, but she doesn’t want to kill anyone. Kirk manages to squeeze information out of her, notably that there are none left. It’s possible that she’s all alone.

Star Trek, the original series, season 3, That Which Survives

An entrance opens in one of the rocks. It may be a trap, but at this point, the only possible source of food and water is through there, so in they go.

The computer finishes an analysis Spock put it through establishing that the Enterprise went through molecular dematerialization that put the whole ship slightly out of phase. That was why Scotty thought the ship felt wrong. Spock orders Scotty to reverse the polarity on his tool and that does the trick. The ship is saved.

Star Trek, the original series, season 3, That Which Survives

The landing party enters a console room and encounter Losira, who once again says she is for Kirk. Then two more show up, one saying she’s for McCoy, the other saying she’s for Sulu. Spock and a security guard show up, then, and Kirk orders the latter to fire on the computer.

The Losiras disappear, but then a recorded message of Losira plays: she is the last of the Kalandans on this outpost, the rest having died of a disease that they created when they built the planet. She says she set the automatic defenses to stop any non-Kalandans from claiming the planet, which certainly seems to have worked.

Star Trek, the original series, season 3, That Which Survives

McCoy and Kirk make some sexist comments and they all beam back, never once even mentioning to Spock that D’Amato is dead, nor does Spock ask.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Scotty solves the problem by actually reversing the polarity! It’s awesome! We also get to see him climb into the access crawlways and fix stuff.

Star Trek, the original series, season 3, That Which Survives

Fascinating. Spock spends the entire episode admonishing the crew for being emotional, having apparently forgotten with whom he’s serving. My favorite is that he takes the time to pedantically correct Scotty and lecture him when they’ve got less than fifteen minutes before the ship blows up and time is of the essence. He also bitches out Uhura, Radha, and M’Benga for not acting exactly like Spock himself.

I’m a doctor not an escalator. McCoy doesn’t actually have a lot to do in this one, aside from explain how D’Amato died (which we already knew from M’Benga) and treat Sulu’s shoulder. 

Star Trek, the original series, season 3, That Which Survives

Ahead warp one, aye. Sulu gets to be on the landing party, and while some of his suggestions are shot down out of hand by Kirk, he does figure out that the planet was constructed.

Meanwhile, his sub, Rahda, is the one who figures out that the Enterprise shifted position by the changed star patterns. 

Star Trek, the original series, season 3, That Which Survives

Hailing frequencies open. At one point, Uhura asks what the odds are that the landing party survived, prompting Spock to snidely say that they aren’t gambling. Uhura also is the one who keeps an eye on the magnetic containment when Scotty is futzing with it.

I cannot change the laws of physics! Scotty figures out that something’s wrong with the Enterprise before anyone else does, and gets slapped down by Spock for it. Then he volunteers for the suicide mission, and accomplishes it, because he’s just that awesome.

Star Trek, the original series, season 3, That Which Survives

It’s a Russian invention. While Chekov isn’t in the episode, he’s name-checked, as Sulu mentions the Tunguska event when a meteor struck Siberia, prompting Kirk to say that if he wanted a lesson in Russian history, he’d have brought Chekov on the landing party.

Go put on a red shirt. Hefty body count in this one, as we lose Wyatt, Watkins, and D’Amato. None of them are security, as it happens, and we see a security guard at the end who actually lives through the episode. 

Star Trek, the original series, season 3, That Which Survives

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. The landing party all feel the need to comment, several times, about how beautiful Losira is, as if that’s in any way relevant. 

Channel open. “But as to the cause of death, well, your guess is as good as mine.”

“My guess, Doctor, would be valueless.”

One of the many times Spock’s literalism leads to his bitching out one of his subordinates, in this case M’Benga.

Star Trek, the original series, season 3, That Which Survives

Welcome aboard. Booker Bradshaw reprises his role as M’Benga, having last appeared in “A Private Little War.” Naomi Pollack (Rahda), Arthur Batanides (D’Amato), and Kenneth Washington (Watkins) all do just enough to give their characters their own distinct personalities (and in the latter two cases, making their deaths more meaningful). Brad Forrest plays Wyatt, and George Takei, James Doohan, and Nichelle Nichols in their usual roles.

But the big guest is Lee Meriwether as Losira and the various replicas of her. The former Miss America is possibly best known for playing Catwoman in the 1966 Batman movie.

Star Trek, the original series, season 3, That Which Survives

Trivial matters: Susan Wright’s novel One Small Step picks up right after this episode ends, with the Enterprise investigating the Kalandans further. The first book of the Gateways saga, Wright’s novel ties the Kalandans to the Iconians (from TNG‘s “Contagion” and DS9‘s “To the Death“), with the Enterprise being sent 1000 light-years away by a device that’s an early version of the gateways seen in the 24th-century episodes.

Sulu makes reference to the Horta from “The Devil in the Dark” when discussing the possibility that the rock that makes up the planet might be sentient.

Star Trek, the original series, season 3, That Which Survives

The Enterprise apparently has at least three doctors, since we not only have McCoy and M’Benga, but also Dr. Sanchez, who is not seen, but who performed the autopsies on Wyatt and Watkins.

“Michael Richards” is a pseudonym for former story editor D.C. Fontana. She would use this nom du plume again on “The Way to Eden.” The script is the last by former show-runner John Meredyth Lucas.

Star Trek, the original series, season 3, That Which Survives

To boldly go. “I am only for D’Amato.” This episode is a delightful throwback, as we actually get an episode that remembers that there’s an entire crew on the ship. Yes, three of the four crew members we meet die, but you can’t have everything. Still, it’s really wonderful to see Rahda, Wyatt, Watkins, and D’Amato, and see a landing party that isn’t just the three guys in the opening credits.

I also like the mystery elements. On the planet, we have Kirk and the gang trying to figure out what the planet is, while on the Enterprise, we have Spock and the gang trying to figure out what happened to them and then how to not let the ship blow up.

Star Trek, the original series, season 3, That Which Survives

Lee Meriwether also does an excellent job as the various iterations of Losira, who has a fascinating (sorry) mix of the preprogrammed defense with the humanity of the template, as the more she’s questioned, the less she seems to want to do what she does. Doesn’t stop her, of course, and the three bodies she drops makes it clear that she’s a force to be reckoned with.

And in the end, it’s not an attack, it’s a defense: the replicas of Losira are there to protect the planet, and while it’s a particularly brutal form of defense, it’s also a very old outpost, and we don’t know anything about the Kalandans.

Star Trek, the original series, season 3, That Which Survives

This is far from being a great episode, but it’s also one that has no particular flaws, either, except maybe for Spock’s endless pendantry, which really is on overdrive here to the point of self-parody. Just a solid science fiction story. And in a season that is full of a lot of dross, it’s a welcome relief.


Warp factor rating: 6 

Next week:Let That Be Your Last Battlefield

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at “Star Trek Mission New York” at the Javits Center for a panel on the impact of Trek this Sunday afternoon. He’s also curating a special New York Review of Science Fiction reading on Trek‘s 50th anniversary on 8 September at the Brooklyn Commons alongside best-selling authors Steven Barnes and David Mack and’s own Emmet Asher-Perrin.


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