Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Original Series, Season 3: Requiem For Methuselah

Airdate: January 24, 1969
77 of 80 produced
74 of 80 released


The Enterprise is in desperate search for ryetalyn, a substance which can alleviate an outbreak of Rigellian Fever on the ship. They visit a planet heretofore thought uninhabited, upon which they detect the substance. To their surprise, they discover a dangerous defense robot and its human owner, Flint. Will they be able to convince Flint to help them in time to save the ship?

You'll find captain, when you reach my age, that paisley is the only rational choice left...


Matthew: Some of the best science fiction stories ever start with the question "What If?" That's what I love about this particular episode, that it starts from a classic "What If?" scenario. What if a man could live forever? What things would he see? What pieces of history would he influence and even participate in? What would his desires be? How and when would he choose to die?

Kevin: I wasn't as on board with this one when it started, but the concept definitely hooked me by the end. I think the most successful thing the episode did was make Flint's conflict simultaneously so broad and so personal. His long knowledge of humanity and its history blended perfectly with the simple desire for companionship. Flint's humanity could have easily been lost in the scale of his story, and the writers manage to keep it at the heart of the episode.

Matthew: There is a lot of juicy dialogue, especially from Flint. His descriptions of the Earth's barbarism and his past are vivid and evocative. Kirk's defense of modern humans is interesting. McCoy gets some nice lines as well. The best and most touching scene, of course, is in the conclusion, in which [[SPOILER ALERT!]] Spock mind melds with Kirk in order to wipe the painful memory of Rayna's death from his mind. [[/spoiler]] It was really a beautiful moment of intimacy and love between the two characters. McCoy tells Spock that he'll never know what love can drive a man to do, and then, after he exits stage right, we find out in this scene.

Kevin: I am going to say that at first watch-through the end scene really bothered me. Given the ethics around a mind meld, this seems, however well intentioned a violation of Kirk's mind. As hammy as the speech is in Star Trek V and how he NEEDS HIS PAIN!!!, the basic idea is good. Kirk's broken heart will become a part of him like his good experiences. You can't selectively spare Kirk anguish without unraveling the man. That being said, your take on it is pretty illuminating. It's not about simply sparing Kirk pain; it's a quiet demonstration of their relationship. In the balance, I don't like the implication for how Spock or Vulcans treat a mind meld, but it is a lovely moment between the two characters.

Matthew: There are some problems with the story, one of them major. The major problem is how quickly Kirk falls in "love" with Rayna, and his willingness to jeopardize the crew's fate due to his apparently uncontrollable desire. Now, I might give every character one pass on such an issue, but Kirk the character has demonstrated the willpower to avoid these conflicts many times int he past 3 seasons. I don't see why this should be different. A somewhat more minor problem is the number of figures Flint is given credit for being. Brahms, maybe. Leonardo? I don't like it. Alexander of Macedon? Come ON. It would have been better if he had been one great figure, and been around or collaborated with the others. If he was from Mesopotamia in the 4th millennium BC, why is he a white guy? More minor still: Why is no one in the entire episode visibly ill with this incredibly virulent fever? Don't Kirk, Spock and McCoy carry the infection down to the planet?

Kevin: I forget where I read it, but there's this great interview with Gene Rodenberry here he says he gets annoyed at people who suggest that the pyramids are of extraterrestrial origin. It's an insult to what we are capable of. Humans are entirely capable of understanding the math and the engineering to build them. Making Flint so many historical figures comes close to that territory for me, as if a normal human in a single lifetime couldn't amass Da Vinci's skill or knowledge. I agree it would been better to make him an associate of the figures rather than the figures themselves.


Matthew: I loved James Daly as Flint. He projected a wonderful world-weariness, and he delivered his lines well. He kind of reminds me of Laurence Olivier, in terms of appearance and acting style. His performance really drew me in, and I wanted to learn more about the character.

Kevin: A lesser actor would have played it too bombastic and making it too God-like or failed to imbue it with the necessary gravity. He really sold the episode overall for me.

Matthew: I thought Shatner went a little over the top in this episode. It's hard to say whether it is him or the off characterization.

Production Values

Matthew: In the original airing of this episode, Flint's castle was represented by a very nice matte painting from The Cage/Menagerie, the castle in which Pike fought the Regellian brute. Well, they've redone this for the remaster, and the results are spectacular, perhaps even a bit too spectacular:

Anyway, it's a nice looking digital matte, even if it doesn't quite square with some of the exterior scenes.

Kevin: How did a man so dedicated to privacy get such sweet digs? Someone obviously had to help him build that. Did he spent a lifetime honing masonry skills?

Matthew: The interior set was nice, with lots of nifty artwork and set dressings. There was always something interesting to look at. I loved the flat panel TV, too! Chalk it up as another invention Star Trek "predicted."

Kevin: It's always fun to play "Where did we see that before?" and this episode provided plenty of opportunities. The robot was clearly a reuse of some various other robots, like Nomad. And one of the control panels was the same console used by the Romulan commander in "The Enterprise Incident."

Matthew: The costumes are adequate, but nothing more. Flint looked pretty good, but Rayna's dress was kind of uninspired. 


Matthew: The problem of characterization I had with this episode is a big one. But so much else about this episode is so good and so interesting, I haven't the heart to give it anything less than a 4. This is one of those borderline, dichotomous episodes that surely inspire a lot of debate. So it all comes down to what floats your boat - consistency, or inspiration. And although I have harped on the tune of consistency and logic many a time, the sheer ingenuity and originality of this episode win me over. This is, to some degree, a subjective enterprise. This episode strikes me as an "upper quartile" effort. So 4 it is.

Kevin: I agree. Kirk falling so hard, so fast, and with such disregard for consequence is pretty bad. That being said, a nifty science fiction concept otherwise executed to the hilt from writing to acting to staging makes this episode a 4 for me as well. That's an 8 from the both of us.


  1. Saw this one a long time ago, and the stuff with Rayna... I mean, they were very serious about this mind-wipe, but it's hard to TAKE seriously when Kirk does this "I have discovered my one true love who I will now loose" business every other episode (or I happened to catch a string of them.) Tom-catting is one thing, but does Spock just go in there every Spring to clean out all the Raynas, Elaans, etc.?

  2. I think this (the "forget" trick) is the use of a great idea in the wrong place. After Edith Keeler? Sure. Miramanee? Hell yeah. Rayna? Ehhh...

    Elaan was just a passing fancy. I'm sure after he shook off the Elasian tears, Kirk was like "Damn, WTF, what did I ever see in that ho?"

    But anyway, this episode has a lot of great ingredients. They're just not in the right order or cooked quite to perfection. That's why it's not a 5(10).

  3. Have I ever said how much I love the captions that you two put on the pictures? I almost always giggle!

  4. Credit where it's due. Those are all Matt. Istarted the caution craze on my Star Trek and Homosexuality post and Matt ran with it. The one from And the Children Shall Lead with Hedonismbot and the chocolate wobble still cracks me up.

  5. I think my favorite is, "The Organians respond quite favorably to the Klingons' promise of free Muumuus for all... "

  6. I had to look up the spelling on that. See, that's the level of commitment we have here.