It’s time for Star Trek Saturdays #32!
This week’s episode is “Who Mourns for Adonais?” and it’s an episode that, despite some misogynistic undercurrents, manages to bring forth the humanism that’s at the heart of the franchise.
We open with the Enterprise in the Pollux system, scouting planets for any signs of life. A big part of the effort is Lt. Carolyn Palamas (Leslie Parrish), the ship’s anthropology and archeology officer, who Scotty has a thing for. Noting how late she’s been staying up working on this project, he smoothly asks her to join him for coffee. Kirk & McCoy rib him for this, with McCoy commenting that because Palamas is a woman, one day, she’ll find a husband and leave Starfleet…yeah, this is where you remember that Trek aired in the ’60s.
While approaching Pollux IV, what looks to be a gigantic hand comes into view. Chekov wonders if he’s seeing things; “Not unless I’m seeing it, too,” Sulu responds. Regardless, the hand reaches out and grabs the ship.
A transparent head, clad in a laurel, appears, then, and talks about how proud he is of humanity having left its plains and valleys and venturing into deep space. He tells Kirk that he and his people will come down to the planet. Kirk refuses and so the head has the gigantic head nearly crush the ship. Kirk relents and the head tells him to bring all his officers down except for Spock because “the one with the pointed ears…reminds me of Pan. Pan always bored me.”
Confused, Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, Chekov and Palamas beam down to see a man sitting in a temple wearing ancient robes. Kirk asks him how he knew about Pan and other names he mentioned, like Agamemnon, Odysseus and Hector. The man replies that he knew their fathers and their father’s fathers for he is Apollo.
Apollo (Michael Forrest) is immediately smitten with Palamas and transmutes her uniform into a flowing pink dress. But is he really a god, and what does he want with the Enterprise?
One of the main reasons Gene Roddenberry loved about The Next Generation was that, because that show aired in syndication, he didn’t have to deal with a network so he had more freedom; thus, TNG became the overtly-humanistic show it is. But this episode proves that the original series had that in it too. Several times, Kirk and the others assert that humanity has no need for gods, a development that ultimately ends on a very tragic note. It’s an interesting thread to follow, especially because, again, this aired in the ’60s, when, among other things, we had people longing to be like the ancient Greeks in terms of pastoral living.
As to the rest of the episode, writer Gilbert Ralston turns in an interesting script that splits the bridge crew into two and offers interesting, suspenseful stakes on both sides. More than that, he manages to build the inter-crew relationships, which is always nice to see.
Marc Daniels directs and while he’s not Joseph Pevney, he still manages to make the most use of the relatively few sets he has to work with. He also manages, in every scene with Apollo, to evoke the sword-and-sandal epics that were in vogue around this time period.
The cast is terrific, as usual. The swapping out of Spock for others in the landing party kinda stinks, but everyone gets some good lines, particularly Chekov. Forrest takes a role that could easily have been hammy–and was apparently supposed to be originally played by Jon Voight–and imbues it with a surprising amount of pathos, particularly in his final moments onscreen.
This is another strong episode that shows us how well this crew can work together and feels like a forerunner of several other examples of Trek. Recommended.
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.