And now it’s time for Star Trek Saturdays #2!!!
This week, the episode is “The Corbomite Maneuver,” This is the start of the series proper, as it sees the introduction of the third member of the main triangle of the show, Dr. Leonard McCoy, as played by DeForest Kelley.
Unlike Dr. Piper from last week’s episode. McCoy actually leaves an impression. And the main reason behind that is because of the way Kelley, a character actor who appeared in shows like Bonanza and a variety of Western films, plays him. McCoy truly is a hard man, but hard doesn’t mean mean. He’s gruff, sure, but you get the sense–particularly in the way he interacts with Kirk–that he does care deeply about the Enterprise and the people aboard him. His exchanges with Spock are pretty great too, so I’m really glad he’s here and that they’ve brought him into the mix. I can’t wait to see him get better and bigger moments.
Now, to the plot then. While star mapping an unexplored region of the galaxy, the Enterprise comes across a strange cube, approaching them at light speed.
See? A cube.
The bridge crew–captained by Spock, because Kirk is undergoing a physical– can’t figure out what it’s made of, but they sense the danger of it when, while attempting to go around it, the cube moves with them and senses their movements. Dave Bailey (Anthony Call), recently promoted ship’s navigator, reacts vehemently to the danger. This strands the ship in space for eighteen hours.
In the briefing room, Spock theorizes that the cube is some sort of buoy or “flypaper” meant to distract them. Bailey misinterprets this as an order to destroy the cube and orders the phasers to be fired, but Kirk shoots him down and has him plot a spiral course away from the cube. They break off successfully, but nearly fail due to the cube emitting intense, eventually lethal radiation before they are able to destroy it and then break away.
But their troubles aren’t over yet. The Enterprise gets ensnared by a tractor beam, belonging to the First Federation’s flagship Fesarius and the crew meets its commander Belok. What follows is some intense drama indeed.
This episode is a master class in creating narrative tension. There are very few sets, with most of the action taking place on the bridge itself and observing the crew members as they deal first with the buoy, then Balok. Kirk says at one point that he intends to play poker with Balok during their power struggle and boy, can you feel it. The suspense is almost unbearable at some points. The final reveal about Balok, when it comes, is a relief, shocking and completely unexpected.
The way the story plays out, you really get the sense of a ticking time bomb, and a lot of that is due to Call’s performance as Bailey. He’s either foaming at the mouth, unhinged or violently scary. Several characters discuss his recent promotion and whether or not he was worthy of it and you really get a sense of contention within the ranks of the Enterprise. Eventually, Bailey is redeemed and it’s wonderful how it plays out.
A couple of firsts I forgot to mention besides McCoy: 1. Nichelle Nichols debuts as Lt. Nyota Uhura, communications officer. She’s not very notable here, but she’s here and she’ll come into her own eventually. 2. The costumes are now as we know them, with the ugly beige gone and red now the uniform color of the operations division.
This episode really does cement the series proper. All the main crew is in place–except for Pavel Chekov, who will come later. The uniforms are familiar, the main dynamic of Kirk, Spock & McCoy are in place and things all seem right. This is a wonderful piece of television and a great way to set up the series proper.
Thanks to Memory Alpha, the official Star Trek wiki for the pics and episode information, as well as Amazon Instant for hosting the show. We’ll see you next Saturday and until then, live long and prosper.