And here we are with the fourth episode of TOS, and what an episode! We find both interesting narrative expedients and a lot of absurd things that nowadays are (unfortunately) material for ridiculous memes…
In The Baked Time, the USS Enterprise arrives, surprise surprise, at an uninhabited planet which is also at the point of collapse (Psi 2000) to check that a group of scientists who are stationed there are alive and well and also to study the imminent destruction of the planet from its orbit. Spock and the nth red shirt, in this case Lieutenant Joe Tormolen, teleport to the planet but can only report the death of the scientists which happened, it seems, in absurd circumstances, as if they all went mad. The good Tormolen is a bit naive and stupidly gets infected by an alien substance that at first only seems to provoke a strong itch, but that soon makes him behave in a weird way and then, shortly after, kills him.
But it doesn’t end here because Sulu and his colleague Riley, who had had a physical confrontation with Tormolen, also begin to show signs of mental instability. Sulu goes around ship shirtless and playing with a sword, and Riley manages to sabotage the Enterprise (singing a folk song to the point of nausea in the process) in a particularly delicate moment: if Kirk and his crew don’t leave the orbit of Psi 2000, they will make the same tragic end of the planet!
So you’ll think that it’s a ridiculous episode! But no, it’s not: in all this, other crew members are also infected by the alien substance, including Spock. And Leonard Nimoy demonstrates his acting skills by impersonating a character at the mercy of his emotions (normally kept at bay by his strong will) when he loses control. I’ve seen a lot of Star Trek, but nobody like Nimoy has ever managed to interpret a Vulcan so well!
And then another point of interest is the technobabble with which Kirk and Spock save the day. Not so much for the technobabble itself, but rather for its implications: our heroes learn how to use the warp drive to travel through time! This trick will be used many times from now on (for example, in the beautiful Star Trek IV : The Voyage Home)!
And finally, here comes Mrs. Roddenberry in person: Majel Barrett, here playing nurse Christine Chapel who confesses her love to our favorite Vulcan! We’ll meet Majel again, of course, of course: she’s the voice of the Enterprise D computer and also the mother of Deanna Troi, Lwaxana! But this is another story… ciao!
PS: thanks to Giuseppe, now I remembered that the same concept was re-used in the third episode of season 1 of The Next Generation, The Naked Now! And I just re-watched it, of course… I love these endless net of Star Trek references! And I did remember one thing from this episode: the romance between Tasha Yar and Data!!!
Previous episode: Where No Man Has Gone Before
Next episode: The Enemy Within