The poster child for bad Trek, "Spock's Brain" isn't really Trek at all, as evidenced by the near total lack of the usual cliches. It appears to be a script that somehow escaped being produced into a B-movie some 10 years earlier, and finally made its way to a desperate Trek creative team.
To their credit, all of the actors make the most of the bad material. Shatner manages to avoid over-acting and seems to be trying to take the material seriously. Kelley brings his all to the proceedings, trying to interject his usual charm and turn this into a more normal episode. Even Doohan provides a series of concerned grimaces. And poor Nimoy is left to wander vacantly, responding only to commands from a remote control. One can imagine him relieved that he didn't have to memorize the crappy dialogue, and pretend to be interested. His zombie-Spock could easily be seen as a chorus whose silence is a constant comment on the value of the proceedings.
The list of unfortunate decisions is quite long, but most of them are in the content, not the execution. In fact, it's a real shame that some of the crew's best efforts were wasted on something this dumb. The bridge scenes looking forward finally reach the level of execution Roddenberry originally envisioned. The costumes for the Morgs are hopelessy cheesy, but the Imorgs are remarkably well-done and every bit as mysterious as Theiss' best work. The alien ship has something of a Jules Verne quality to it (which is pretty un-Trek), but the Imorg briefing room and teacher helmet prop are both very effective (the less said about the controller's container, the better). The glacier-covered planet is nicely indicated by Westheimer in the establishing shots. The score labors a bit, but that just reflects the amount of work put in trying to save this episode.
The failures here are the result of a new creative team beginning to run out of ideas left over from their predecessors. With no solid idea of what Trek is, they revert to the hack-sci-fi which preceeded it. In other words, it's possible that this premise could have become reasonable Trek if the team knew what Trek was. Then again, if the team had that much knowledge, they wouldn't have even begun work on such a stupid premise. This one should have been rejected from the first draft.
Maybe the biggest shame is that this episode was picked to be broadcast as the season premiere. The new creative team bypassed the much finer episodes created by the outgoing team, suggesting that they were pretty proud of this. With that in mind, we should be very thankful that they eventually got over themselves and made some good Trek.
Rating: Very Bottom (7)