(airdate: October 13, 1967)
Writer: Max Ehrlich
Director: Joseph Pevney
Akuta: Keith Andes
Makora: David Soul
Yeoman Martha Landon: Celeste Yarnall
Stardate: 3715.3 [and not, as the video release says, 3715.0]
Captain's Log: The Enterprise is on a mission to survey the planet Gamma Trianguli VI. Beaming down, the landing party discover a paradise, but one with many dangers, and three of the party are subsequently killed. Meanwhile, the Enterprise begins losing power - apparently because of something on the surface. Kirk and company discover a primitive village populated by people who never age and who are subserviant to Vaal, a machine that looks after them in exchange for food to power itself. It is Vaal that is draining the Enterprise's power and dragging it toward the planet. In order to both save his ship and free the natives from their servitude, Kirk orders the Enterprise to destroy Vaal. The Enterprise is freed, as are the natives, who must now learn to live without Vaal.
Whoops!: There's a huge flaw at the center of this story: namely, what possible reason could Vaal have for destroying the Enterprise? All right, maybe Vaal is worried about cultural contamination, but why not just let them leave? It's not like Kirk hasn't already tried to beam everyone up once before, after all. And Vaal isn't worried that, after destroying the Enterprise, someone's going to come looking for them and go through the whole thing again? [Actually, some - although not all - of this goes away if you just assume that Vaal's programming doesn't allow for the possibility of mercy. Except that Vaal's described as having "rudimentary intelligence", so even then there's really no excuse.]
Of course, then there's a related problem. Why does Vaal teach the Feeders how to kill? Never mind meeting some strangers, this should create major problems for the Feeders, especially since they don't even know what killing is, and therefore have no conception that it's wrong. But this makes even less sense when you consider that we've already seen Vaal incinerate Kaplan with a lightning bolt. Clearly Vaal has the power, so why doesn't it simply kill the landing party that way, without introducing dangerous concepts to the Feeders? Maybe it doesn't think it will be able to kill them all before they find some shelter, but it doesn't even try.
The law of Vaal forbids physical contact. But, while it's not common, the Feeders are vaguely familiar with the concept of creating "replacements". So when this happens, do they not find it pleasurable? Or are they so afraid of breaking the law that they're never willing to try it again?
The idea of a rock that explodes like a landmine when you step on it seems highly dubious, since it would need to have significant residual stress - an unlikely prospect in the first place - and have survived being outside for more than ten minutes. That's slightly more likely, if we assume that Vaal's keeping the weather constant - except we've just seen it create a big storm in the same area as the exploding rocks. Hmm.
Spock no longer has the deadly thorns in his chest once the landing party prepare for beam up.
Classic Lines: Kirk reprimanding his crew: "Mr. Chekov, Yeoman Landon. I know you find each other fascinating, but we're not here to conduct a field experiment in human biology."
"Scotty...you're my chief engineer. You know everything about that ship there is to know - more than the men who designed it. If you can't get those warp engines working...you're fired."
McCoy, after hearing that Vaal has outlawed love: "Well, there goes paradise."
Cringe Lines: Once again, it's an alien culture with no concept of love: "'Love.' Strange words - children, love. What is love?"
However, it should be noted that, despite what some publications have said elsewhere, David Soul never says, "Tell me of this Earth custom called kissing."
Technobabble: McCoy fills Spock with enough "Masiform D to make the whole crew turn handsprings." Vaal is generating "alternating cycles totaling 10020 Wortham units."
Don't Wear a Red Shirt: A decent headcount this time: first Ensign Hendorff is killed by a poisonous plant; then Lt. Kaplan is incinerated by a bolt of lightning; next Lt. Mallory snuffs it when he steps on an exploding rock; and finally Lt. Marple is murdered by the Feeders by a blow to the neck. And the best part? They're all wearing red shirts.
Alien Love: How can there be? Vaal has forbidden love. But at least Chekov seems to have a thing going with Lt. Landon. And then Makora and Sayana copy them, which leads Vaal to conclude that the "strangers" must be killed. Nice going, guys.
Library Computer: Gamma Trianguli VI is a reddish planet that resembles a paradise. The soil is rich and fertile, and the planet is covered in plant growth, due to a nearly constant planetwide temperature of 76 degrees [Fahrenheit]. The atmosphere "completely negates any harmful effects from the sun" [it's suggested, but not actually stated, that this may be due to Vaal]. There are, however, poisonous plants with purple petals that fire yellow thorns, the ends of which have a substance like saplin, only a thousand times stronger. There are also rocks, sometimes orange and green, sometimes more white in color, that have an extremely low specific gravity. These rocks contain uraninite, hornblende, and quartz. They are fragile, with good cleavage, but they are highly unstable, and while snapping one in half is safe [Eh? Maybe we should just assume that Spock was lucky that it didn't explode in his face...], throwing them to the ground or stepping on them will cause them to explode.
Gamma Trianguli VI is inhabited by a small tribe of people known as the Feeders of Vaal. They live in a primitive village in an apparent (albeit unchanging) utopia. They are tanned, with white or blonde hair, and they wear long white skirts and flowers on their wrists. The women also wear straw bikini tops and flowers in their hair. Each person has an individual and distinctive face paint pattern on their cheeks. Their leader is named Akuta. He has small silver antennae behind his ears that are "ears for Vaal," which were given to him in the "dim time," so that the Feeders could obey understand and obey Vaal. Akuta is the only one who can communicate with Vaal, and only when Vaal wishes it. The Feeders have no signs of aging or sickness in their bodies, and thus their age is indeterminate, although they all appear to be in their 20s. They live on a simple diet, with no natural enemies on the planet [so either Vaal keeps them away from the thorn-shooting flower, or their bodies are resistant to its poison]. They have no children, although they have a dim knowledge of the concept, but "replacements", along with "holding" and "touching", are forbidden by the law of Vaal. Akuta touches his wrists together in front of his face before leaving Vaal's presence.
Vaal is a machine, possibly with rudimentary intelligence, that governs the Feeders of Vaal. Its outward appearance resembles a giant, ancient stone snake head with a horn in the center of its head, carved out of the mountain side. It has a red, glowing cave mouth with steps carved out so that the Feeders can bring it food, and it has glowing green eyes with yellow vertical pupils. The actual center of the machine is deep in the earth, creating strong and regular subsurface vibrations for miles. It also produces a conventional but strong forcefield that extends thirty feet around the snake head in all directions. Vaal also has the power to drain the antimatter pods of a ship in orbit, as well as producing a tractor beam that can pull a ship out of orbit. This, according to Spock, requires "a sophisticated planetary defense system". Vaal is also powerful enough to control the weather, causing rainfall and bolts of lightning that can incinerate a person. Despite this, Vaal doesn't have any significant power reserves, and it requires food frequently as provided by the Feeders. It eventually uses up all its power and dies defending itself from the Enterprise's phasers.
It's possible to jettison the warp drive nacelles of the Enterprise and maneuver the "main section" on impulse drive. [This is sometimes mentioned as a precursor to the "saucer separation" in Star Trek: The Next Generation, but that's not really what's going on here. Here it's suggested as a very dangerous, unorthodox solution, and it doesn't appear to involve just the saucer, as it does on TNG.]
The Enterprise has an astrophysics lab with an electromagnetic section.
Mallory's father helped Kirk get into the academy.
Martha Landon calls Chekov "Pav" here. [Onscreen confirmation that his first name is Pavel won't come until "The Way to Eden", though.]
Starfleet has a non-interference directive that presumably forbids its officers from interfering in the cultures of other planets. Destroying Vaal is a direct violation of that directive.
Starfleet has invested one hundred twenty-two thousand, two hundred [credits? man-hours? stock shares?] into Spock.
Final Analysis: "And in a manner of speaking, we have given the people of Vaal the apple, the knowledge of good and evil, and they, too, have been driven out of paradise." Kirk destroys a culture and no one seems to care. The most frustrating thing is that "The Apple", as a production, is actually quite well done, and you can see that care has gone into crafting the script, slowly building up the threat, and making sure that it all plays out on screen. But the underlying argument for destroying Vaal is treated as the obvious and morally just solution, even though it's not necessarily either, and Spock's very valid viewpoint is presented in such a way that we're never going to sympathize with it. Plus the way in which Vaal seems to go out of its way to get itself destroyed and thus ensure the "right" ending doesn't help matters any. Then, to rub salt into the wound, the whole thing ends with a casually racist crack (assuming you can be racist about a made-up species) about Spock's appearance.
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Page originally created: March 13, 2009
Page last updated: March 11, 2018