Though this is by no means a good episode, there are some very important things at work. The plot is, to be kind, thin. And it contains a distinctly anti-communist message. That's not a surprise given the context in which it was made. But some aspects, such as the lack of sex, death, thinking, in the society are unforgivable. The inconsistencies in Vaal's character (it can kill with plants, lightning, or exploding rocks, and yet it needs to teach the people how to kill to get rid of our heroes) are too obvious to ignore. Also unforgivable is the hair. And the face paint. And the buckets of body paint which must have been used. (One can only imagine the casting call for these extras.)
But this episode is only nominally about the effort to understand and destroy Vaal (and thus save the ship). That serves as the appetizer for what is really going on here: the final maturation of the three lead characters. During longs breaks from the scant action, these characters finally get all of their subtext in place. This makes them ready for the truly remarkable episodes which are at hand.
Kirk, who has frequently spoken of his sense of duty to the lives of his crew, finally is placed in a position where he clearly made the wrong choice (despite Spock's rationalizations). In making the wrong choice, and having things work out alright, his character is laid bare. He learns, he grows, he reveals who he has become.
Spock, in providing the aforementioned rationalizations, reveals his loyalty to the captain even to the exclusion of logic. His character does not realize it yet, but we are able to see that he will do the most illogical things in defense of his human friend. That he can have friends at all is of immeasurable value to his character. Without it, he would be as expendable as a red shirt. It should be noted that he takes quite a licking in this episode, both physically (the plant and the lightning strike) and verbally (as he is compared to Satan).
McCoy, who we have recognized for some time as the irrational one of the bunch, curbs his rhetoric somewhat to actually have discussions with Spock instead of arguments. This will not always be the case, but now that we (and the actors) know it is possible, there can be acknowledged respect between the three.
Most of all, they are clearly bonded by this point. Much of what comes next will depend on those bonds.
All of these things have been visible before this point. But this episode -- in search of a reason to exist -- brings them all together and makes the final statement for what Star Trek will be about: this trio of friends, colleagues, brothers.
We're nearly at the halfway point in the series run, and the table is set. All of the cliches are in place, but so is the subtext. Let the story-telling begin!
Rating: Middle (4)
The episode is a parable about the garden of Eden. Extremely subversive for its time. The title says it all.
Posted June 11, 2013 9:28 PM by