In the desert of the third season this is a brief oasis, despite the fact that it represents something of a remake ("Dagger of the Mind"). The concept certainly rises to the level we've come to expect of Trek, and the script is quite fine. It stumbles in a couple of areas, but ultimately succeeds.
The asylum concept, while not new, is nicely executed here, complete with a well-done gaseous planet surface beyond the control room window. Asylums should probably have some guards which needed to be subdued (they're mentioned briefly but never seen, a major oversight). But starships, while visiting asylums, should definitely have code words, a wonderful concept which fuels the drama (and maybe was learned in that previous episode).
The Garth character is certainly interesting, and his backstory is laid out with unusual skill. Typically, we get it all in one long burst at the beginning of the episode (say, in a Captain's log). But there is so much story there that it simply wouldn't work. So parsing it out in little bits was the only way to do it, and it has the side benefit of keeping the fear of the character growing throughout the episode. Ihnat's performance of the character (along with Shatner's, although not Nimoy's) gets a bit over the top at times. While portraying madness was certainly the goal, controlled madness is always more scary than uncontrolled. The most dangerous and creepy insane villains are the ones who are smart and seem sane. In this regard, Craig's insane Orion dancer (a nice nod to Trek history) is much more convincing because she seems sane at times. The concept of insanity is most frightening when it is portrayed as just over the line from sanity.
Kirk and Spock get a nice brotherly moment, one of the small touches that keeps the characters interesting and growing. The discussion of the relationship, as moderated by a crazy man, reveals differences between the characters based on their reactions (Kirk's is instinctive, Spock's reasoned), but also the fact that 71 episodes together have created such a bond between the characters. Without saying it, the concept seems extended to shipmates not present. It's a nice bit of subtlety.
The coronation scene gets a bit much, but the random destruction of a character we've come to have some sympathy for is wonderfully merciless. Unfortunately, evil-twinism then takes over -- rarely a welcome concept. Thankfully, this time it's done pretty well. Shatner's double looks enough like him that we actually get shots of both faces while they fight -- and it works. Unfortunately, their bodies aren't that similar, and the shots from behind of them just standing are much less convincing.
But the real capper for the episode is a scene which typically has been thrown out during the third season: the fall-out. Garth, now subdued and humbled, meets Kirk and offers his hand. We actually see that there is some tragedy in the character, and feel just a little bit sorry for him. Of course, this is all broken up by a joke. A year earlier, this episode might have been written as tragedy because the creative team would have allowed us to feel for the loss of someone once-revered. The third season team is more interested in happy endings. It really sums up the difference between the two.
Rating: Middle-Upper (3)
One of my favorite scenes in all of Star Trek wasn't mentioned here. Spock has helped free Kirk and recommends that he beam up to the ship immediately and stands there calmly waiting for Kirk to give the chess code. Shatner's acting here is supreme...the expression on his face...the small inkling of suspicion that sparks in his mind...that this may not be Spock... he then says "Mr. Spock will give the countersign"....then they quickly move away from each other with phasers aimed...I love that scene...can't believe you didn't mention it. I love the way Kirk plays out his sudden suspicion on his face. I wait for that scene and replay it and replay it. I think it is superb! :)
Posted July 28, 2011 05:56 AM by laura Glasgo