Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Animated Series, Season 1: One Of Our Planets Is Missing

Airdate: September 22, 1973
7 of 22 produced
3 of 22 aired


"Captain's log, stardate 5371.3. A huge cosmic cloud has been reported moving into the outer fringe of our galaxy. Nothing like it has ever been seen before. Starfleet Command has sent the USS Enterprise to investigate, as we are the only vessel in the vicinity of the phenomenon. Our present position is in the Pallas 14 system, which contains Mantilles, the most remote inhabited planet in the entire Federation." Mantilles is put into mortal danger by a planet-eating cloud, which may or may not be intelligent. The Enterprise rushes in, and discovers that the cloud is indeed sentient, and appears to be a giant space-borne organism with a brain, a digestive system, and antibodies. Spock initiates a mind-meld with the being in order to ascertain its level of intelligence. At the last moment, he convinces the creature to return from whence it came and to spare inhabited planets from its hunger.

She who smelt it dealt it, Enterprise!


Matthew: This is one of those stories that, if expanded out to a full hour long show, could probably be a great Trek episode. As it stands, there is still a lot to recommend it. On the one hand, you have some concepts which are very similar to those already used in TOS. We have a space-borne planet-eating organism that looks like cloud, and attacks the Enterprise as with an immune system. Sound familiar? Sure it does (The Immunity Syndrome). But it is used to interesting and different effect in this story. We get enzymes, a digestive system, and a nice story idea with Scotty cutting a piece of intestine lining and use as antimatter. Sure, we have the colony that is threatened by the planet-eating entity (similar to Doomsday Machine). But we have the added fun of its governor being a retired Robert Wesley (who presided over the M-5 fiasco in "The Ultimate Computer") and a fun ethical quandary - should we tell the planet that it is doomed in 4 hours, at the risk of a planet-wide panic that could kill millions, in order to save a few thousand? We also get a good moral debate over whether it is justifiable to kill a sentient creature in order to save others (similar to TNG episodes with the Crystalline Entity). Spock argues for preserving life (like a good Kantian) and while Kirk sides with the colony (like a good utilitarian), he is morally conflicted over it.

Marc Daniels, the writer of this episode, directed 15 TOS shows, and appeared in costume in a photo as "The Changeling's" Jacksom Roykirk. Perhaps this explains his familiarity with various TOS concepts, and his ability to push them a bit further than they went in TOS. Some technical notes: Arix gets speaking role, done by Doohan, while the entity is translated by the Enterprise computer, voiced by Majel Barrett. We get a nifty look at the warp engine, kind of deep in the cutout set we only see through a window in TOS.

In my book, this episode is everything a TAS episode should be. It expands and develops things we've seen in TOS, and it still packs a good story with some big ideas into a 22 minute teleplay. I'm not going to call it a 5, as it doesn't go quite far enough in developing concepts or characters. But it's a definite 4 for me.

Kevin: This is a 4 for me as well for a total of 8. There's nothing wrong with playing a familiar song as long as you play it well, and they certainly do here. I don't have much substantive review to add to Matt's. I will say I liked almost all the artwork of the cloud creature. Anytime it ends up with just clear pencil marks swirling on screen is a little odd, but overall, the effect was well done.

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