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To this point in the series, the acting has been generally quite strong, with only minor lapses. Here, I'm afraid, the lapses are major and the offenses primarily belong to Shatner. In fact, his performance seriously mars what otherwise is a very fine episode.

The concept is not new, being directly descended from two episodes ("I, Mudd" and "What Are Little Girls Made Of?") in which human consciousness is said to be transferrable into robots, and numerous episodes which mention the dead/dying civilization cliche. The twist here is original, but as always, the premise isn't really the treat. The treat is in the actualizaion of the idea: the characters, the details of the situation, and the finesse in storytelling. All of that is done remarkably well, and the dramatic possibilities of the premise are nicely explored by a script which is compact and efficient, getting the whole story into 50 minutes while never feeling rushed. To start things off, the "captured" plot is neatly avoided. The Enterprise is diverted by simply following their mission and their curiosity -- a welcome relief from so many of the starting points during the second season. There is at least one remarkable scene (between Hanock and Nurse Chapel while filling the hypos) in which a few lines of dialogue explain the past and present of the characters while cleverly foreshadowing what is to come (without giving it away). When the time comes to resolve things, the solution is a surprise and thus avoids the "quick fix" label.

And the acting is fine, for the most part. Nimoy rises to the occasion nicely, stumbling over the top only in his death scene. And guest star Muldaur is really quite good in a role that may be a bit under-written (we don't know much about either character she plays). But Shatner looks like a first-year acting student as he seriously overplays Sargon's entrances and exits, and goes to town on the notion of breathing air for the first time, feeling a heartbeat, convincing the others that he trusts Sargon, the list could go on. This is really unusual for an actor who we have seen use such great subtlety on a regular basis. We also see him yelling again and even pounding the table (in the briefing room, shortly after McCoy uncharacteristically does the same), which is a sure sign that he's run out of ideas. It looks like he either didn't really like this script, or was just getting a little tired (which would certainly be understandable). The director (Senensky) should probably shoulder some of the responsibility here as well for letting things get out of hand.

The use of reverb on the voices is another unfortunate choice by the director. It's understandable to want to delineate clearly between our heroes and their alteregos, but good acting should be enough. In the case of Shatner and Nimoy, the differences were quite distinct and would have been sufficient in themselves. Echo seems a bit condescending to the viewer -- a Star Trek rarity.

The music, on the other hand, is anything but condescending. They seem to have turned to composer George Durning when the music had to be something special (previously he had done the memorable score for "Metamorphosis"), and he delivers here again. This includes a lovely interlude during the final kiss, and a moving use of the main title music in the briefing room after the decision has been made.

Most memorable about the episode is the fine way in which the love story is told, and the palpable sense of tragedy as it comes to a close. Star Trek was unique in its willingness to tackle tragedy. And even though they tried to take the edge off by using awkwardness as the final kiss ended, the sense of loss played remarkably well. It is easy to feel for these characters which we can believe have been waiting for that kiss for a long time, and will die while engaged in it. This represents a very successful story-telling outing for Kingsbridge (with an assist to Durning). It would have rated much higher but for the Shatner's posing and prancing.

Rating: Middle (4)

Comments

While I agree that Shatner overdoes many of the scenes in this episode, the great exception to this is when he shows jubilation when he states the line
in the meeting room "This is why we're aboard her! As captain I could order this..." It is one of the most compelling lines spoken in all of Classic Trek.

Posted December 29, 2011 5:37 PM by Tom

must support the sympathy towards Shatner; and the episode is otherwise amazing not least for Nimoy's version of a VERY jubilant psychopath sprung from eons in captivity...

Not middle, no.. not top, but more... upper middle. And WAY ahead of 90% of later season 2

Posted January 22, 2012 08:59 AM by Philip