Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Original Series, Season 2: The Apple

The Original Series, Season Two
"The Apple"
Airdate: October 13, 1967
39 of 80 produced
34 of 80 aired
Click here to watch on


The crew of the Enterprise find themselves trapped on a seemingly lush paradise. But this Eden and its primitive humanoid inhabitants harbor a dangerous secret. The source of their idyllic life is a mysterious machine named Vaal, which the natives worship as a God.

"Akuta cry real tears for this episode..."


Kevin: Eesh. Where to start? The plot is a retread of almost every Star Trek trope ever. Seemingly peaceful world harboring deadly secret? Check. Redshirts dying? Check. The Enterprise slowly spiraling toward doom to be saved in the nick of time? Check.  Kirk casually destroying the way of life of a people whose way of life he disapproves of? Check and double check. And all these sins could be forgiven if the episode weren't so damn boring. I had to try three times to get through this one to write the review.

Matthew: I agree that pacing is one of this episode's principal problems. I wonder if this is what contributed to the redshirt phenomenon that pervades the story - they felt they needed to spice it up.

Kevin: They managed to take "Return of the Archons" and strip the story of what little redeeming qualities it had. The result is another people whose way of life lacks credibility and is never adequately explained. Who built Vaal? For what purpose? You could suppose a more advanced people built it to make their lives easier and it took over, but why make it look like a dinosaur?

Matthew: The premise of the child-like race is interesting, even if it betrays a bit of the "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" bias of the anthropology of the age (see the "Historical Influence" section of the preceding link). The credulity of this episode's story ends up being strained the most, in my opinion, by the egregious red-shirting going on. EVERY single redshirt in this episode buys it. Lightning, exploding rocks, death-dart plants... why would the ancient, powerful people who have locked this planet into 76-degree Edenic splendor have littered it with so many fatal dangers?

Kevin: Also lacking in this episode is any genuine character development, which can and has carried many a lackluster script in the franchise. Aside from Kirk's concern for Spock after being poisoned and struck by lightining, there is really nothing that makes these people different from any generic science fiction crew in any generic science fiction story.

Matthew: Actually, the only real character development is Chekov and his somewhat creepy romance with Yeoman Martha Landon. Now let me say, I'm a Chekov-liker. But this smokin' hot babe is WAY out of his league. And while I'm happy that he lands such a prime piece of tail, it just ends up looking creepy and unconvincing on screen. We do also have Spock sacrificing his life for Kirk. The scene doesn't have a ton of impact, though.

Kevin: The only, even remotely interesting piece of dialogue is Spock positing that the people of Vaal may be happy this way and should be allowed to continue to be so. The conversation never gets the attention and nuance it deserves, so even as a flicker of hope, it's pretty dim.


Kevin: In order to criticize acting, there actually has to be some. I won't say the lead cast phoned it in or anything, but there wasn't a lot there for them to actually, you know...act. The Vaalians were pretty annoying, but that probably isn't their fault. There aren't a lot of options for "act like a simpleton in a bad Tarzan remake."

One question. Did anyone else think Akuta totally looked like William H. Macy? It freaked me out the whole episode.

Matthew: This is the kind of episode where you can tell who the real pros are. The script is not terribly good. We know it. The actors know it. The director knows it. So how committed is everyone? I will say that our main cast turns in a workman-like performance. But if it's not on the page, it's not on the stage. Most every scene fails to gel into a cohesive, dramatically moving whole. The aliens, as you say, are beyond irritating. The sour note for me is Chekov's creepiness. He really had very little chemistry with Yeoman Landon, so it just came off as painful to watch.

Production Values

Kevin: The jungle seemed fairly expansive, which was nice, and it was certainly lush and all that. It seemed like a lot of work went into designing Vaal, but somehow, it doesn't matter. It looks kind of cheap and silly. At least Landru looked like a society co-opting computer.

Matthew: The jungle and the red sky look pretty cool in HD. But that's about it. Vaal looks like a prop from a Max Fischer play in Rushmore - great for a high schooler, but awful for a professionally produced science fiction show.

Kevin: The costumes were atrocious. Both as a Star Trek fan and a homosexual, I can say the fashions in this episode were appalling. It's not the animal skin sarongs so much as the "we'll dip you bodily in bronzer then give you platinum blond wigs we stole from this unfortunate group of Carol Channing impersonators" look. The effect is startling. It's like looking at photo negative. A photo negative from Hell. Plus, again, the whole William H. Macy doppelganger thing still freaks me out.

Matthew: I will give a little credit for trying to make these people look like aliens by giving them reddish skin. It's a nice break from the "Whaddayaknow! Aliens that look just like humans! Again!" trope. But the wigs are becoming a disturbing and unfortunate trend. We're going to see similarly be-wigged aliens in "A Private Little War," and the effect does not improve (in fact, it doubles, into two sets of wig colors).


Kevin: Well, folks, here it is. My first 1 rating here at Treknobabble. There is nothing that redeems this episode. The previous episode is Mirror, Mirror and the next one is The Doomsday Machine. The oscillation in quality is enough to give you whiplash.

Matthew: I went into this episode knowing that it wasn't good. So I was looking for redeeming facets. And indeed there were moments in this episode where I was thinking "you know, this isn't so bad..." but most of these were the scenes aboard the Enterprise. These moments were extinguished almost instantly by the scenes that transpired on the surface. There is a decent premise here (child-like society in Edenic environment controlled by ancient power), and it's a shame that it got run into the ground by poor execution. The writing is well below the standards we've come to expect of TOS to far. The acting fails to elevate the material, and the production values are lackluster to say the least. So I have to reluctantly agree. This isn't an enthusiastic 1, because I really wanted to feel good about this show, especially given its place amidst, as you mentioned, such superior shows. But a stinker is a stinker. Our scores peg this at a total of a 2, which is the nadir of our scale. Definitely in the back-most echelon of TOS, and Trek in general.

1 comment:

  1. I think these guys look like... Oompa Loompas. Except with a blond wig. ...and taller.