The first serious misfire, two things work against this episode: a very bad script, and some very bad acting. Bloch, well-known and well-respected, gives us a turkey which, admittedly, probably doesn't look much like his original concept. The idea of android intelligence, something of a hackneyed sci-fi concept even by the time this was made, would be fodder for some interesting Trek much later, but here it's the root of a dumb story, poorly written, and poorly executed. Worst of all, someone decided to center the whole thing around Nurse Chapel.
Barrett, a minor liability in the first pilot and in her only other appearance to this point ("The Naked Time"), is a major liability here because she's in almost every scene. All she manages to prove is that the NBC executives were right to question her abilities. She manages to look worried on occasion, but primarily conveys nothing but blankness through most of the action. Her "everything's alright now" delivery in the first act (along with Uhura's hand clasp) is some of the best high school acting the series ever saw. It doesn't help that her role feels articifially inserted into the story, but this is no excuse.
Of the guests, only Jackson as Andrea (gee, what a name for an android) manages anything approaching depth, conveying in a couple of short scenes the confusion of an android in love (crazy as that sounds). But her character is only there for eye candy. Michael Strong as Corby does not have the sheer magnetism attributed to the character in the setup. He is a disappointment from the moment we meet him, but mostly because he is miscast. The character never seems very menacing, very visionary, or even very interesting, though Strong does redeem himself somewhat in his closing sequence when he realizes he may not be everything he thought he was. Cassidy is certainly large (with some help from a gigantic padded suit) and memorably creepy, but the character is so superfluous that he ends up being essentially a simple goon.
Evil twinism also returns, allowing Shatner another take on his character. He does not disappoint, though it's something of a throwaway. And whoever penned his android's signature line ("Mind your own business, Mr. Spock...") should have been banished from the lot. It is inexcusable at this point (9 episodes into the first season) to reduce all of the character development which has occurred to one misguided image. It's a serious setback for the Kirk/Spock relationship which will, thankfully, be completely ignored going forward.
The set and lighting designers, as well as Finnerman, have had a field day with the caverns. They have managed to make what must have been one or two corridors look like a labrynth. These are also probably the most colorful frozen subterranean caverns you'll ever see. It lends the episode a "candy" quality which, believe it or not, actually helps take the viewer's mind off of the bad dialogue, bad plot and numerous bad escape attempts. In fact, these are the most lame miraculous escapes TOS would ever do. A rope from a chair leg?? Please!
Theiss' minimalist outfit for Andrea also serves as a fine distraction, if a bit chilly for a supposedly frozen, dead planet. Oh wait, she's an android -- probably doesn't get cold. My bad. Cudos also to the sound designers whose work makes the android creation sequence come alive, despite some very weak dial-fiddling by the guests (and one wonders just how long poor semi-nude Shatner had to go around on that turntable). And Cassidy's make-up for Ruk, while it looks like it belongs in a different series (over on CBS), is certainly memorable.
The story might be attempting to address some supposed trade-off between immortality and emotion, but it never quite gets deep enough. Given its deeply flawed structure, I'm not sure just how it might have been fixed. Perhaps the story could have revolved around Corby's belief that he still had emotions, with Kirk and crew revealing to him over the course of the episode that this wasn't the case. It is a missed opportunity to get Spock in on the act, given his burgeoning battle with emotion. And certainly McCoy would have had something to add. If Chapel must be used, she might have had some personal conversations during which she realized that he no longer had the emotional depth she once knew. By exposing Corby to the emptiness of the life he has chosen, his self-destruction would have, perhaps, yielded some emotional power.
Rating: Bottom (6)