Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Original Series, Season 3: The Lights of Zetar

The Original Series, Season 3
"The Lights of Zetar"
Airdate: January 31, 1969
74 of 80 produced
73 of 80 aired
Click here to watch at


The Enterprise is traveling to Memory Alpha, the Federation's largest library, containing the sum of information from all its member worlds. Aboard is the young and beautiful Lieutenant Mira Romaine, on her way to her first deep space assignment at Memory Alpha. To the surprise of the Scotty and the rest of the crew, Scotty has fallen head over heels in love with her. However, when they arrive at Memory Alpha, the Enterprise encounters a mysterious energy cloud, capable of tracking down the Enteprise at warp speeds, and killing the researchers at Memory Alpha. Will the Enterprise escape this latest danger, and what will happen to the cloud's next apparent target...Lieutenant Romaine?
How much is that Lieutenant in the window?


Kevin: The overall story never really grabbed me. We have another encounter with a blob of light with mysterious powers. We have another incident of body possession by the non-corporeal. The only really interesting part of the story for me was watching Scotty trip over himself because of Lt. Romaine, and that story didn't get the development it deserved. The actors had pretty good chemistry, and I think it could have sustained an episode as the primary focus. As it stands, the plot line just serves to make Scotty look a little silly.

Matthew: I thought this one was kind of a yawner, much for the reasons you mentioned. Not having an easily identifiable antagonist makes it all the more imperative to intensify conflict among the crew. Although there was some, and I enjoyed the scene in the conference room in which they essentially interrogate Lt. Romaine, it just wasn't quite interesting enough to transcend mediocrity. Was it enjoyable? Sure. I enjoy spending time on the Enterprise. Is it going to make a best of list? Nah.

Kevin: That being said, there were a lot of what Matt has previously cited as "the little things" that I really liked. I liked the idea of Memory Alpha. It was pretty forward thinking at the time that the sum of all knowledge could be stored in one place. It seems archaic now, though. Even the idea of having to go to Memory Alpha to access seems quaint. It's fun for me both because it's a really big idea for the time, but still shows how not even science fiction writers can predict the future. No one foresaw the Internet or Wikipedia. You never heard Spock say "Excuse me, Captain, while I google this phenomenon."

Matthew: Well, decentralized information net or not, it would still be a worthwhile idea to have a central repository that safeguards knowledge against disaster. Sort of the ultimate backup cache server, where the contents of each planetary or culture's data nets are stored. That's not quite where they went with this idea. I think this was more of a Library at Alexandria thing. Either way, it's a great idea and I'm glad they introduced it. I wish the episode focused on it a lot more. I can imagine a lot of great mystery stories in a massive library.

Kevin: One little touch I really liked was after killing the Lights in the pressure chamber, McCoy says they have to leave her in there to slowly come down to normal pressure. It's not a big thing, but the fact that at least one writer knew what the bends are was nice. I also really enjoyed the scene on Memory Alpha itself. I liked that the researchers were all different aliens, and combination of the lighting, the bodies and the one dying victim combined to make a really haunting tableau.

Matthew: I have to say, I didn't like how the male crew members kept referring to Lt. Romaine as "the girl." Personally, I find that a worse form of sexism than saying "she's a good officer, but I'm sure she'll find the right man and leave the service." The latter is presumptuous. The former is demeaning. Also, why is she a Lieutenant if this is her first Starlfeet assignment? This gives me uncomfortable Abrams-quakes in my stomach.

Kevin: To quell any fears you might have, in the modern Navy, if you enter with a college or better degree and go right to officer's school, you can get commissioned as a Lieutenant. For instance, if I joined the Navy with my law degree and went to the JAG office, I would start out a lieutenant. Also, I think they said it was her first deep space assignment. She may have spent time on Earth, but still in Starfleet.


Kevin: James Doohan did his usual great job as Scotty. He is absolutely charming playing lovestruck. The rest of the main cast didn't get a whole hell of a lot to do. It was just a lot of "Go faster...oh it's keeping up with us." Nothing bad, but nothing earth-shattering.

Matthew: Although I think the actors were both charming (i.e. Scotty and Romaine), I felt their dialogue was kind of weak. But that's not their fault. They did a fine job.

Kevin: Lt. Romaine did a great job too. The scene of her finding the researchers dead on Memory Alpha was particularly well done. Overall she did a pretty good job of portraying competent, but inexperienced,

Production Values

Kevin: The lights themselves rank up there with the Beta XII-A Entity for at least being varied and interesting. It reinforced the idea that they were a colony, not a single being. The chase scenes got a little tedious and repetitive. Memory Alpha itself was a pretty standard research facility, probably repurposed from some Enterprise corridors. The production highlight was the anti-grav pressure chamber. The floating was well done. No strings or obvious optical effects. It's a neat, visually complex set.

Matthew: Speaking of little things, I really liked the graphics that were used throughout the episode, both on the bridge and during the conference. It really makes the world feel real when they show an intelligible graph or chart.

Kevin: The light effects on everyone's faces was a little strange. Clearly they achieved it by dickering with color and contrast on the film, and it was visually interesting, but it left jaggy static effects that kind of pulled me out of the moment. I thought "Oh, they're fiddling with the dial I used to fiddle with on my parents' old Zenith that made everyone look purple."


Kevin: This gets a three from me. The story is a little repetitive and the action a little monotonous, but there are a couple of neat-o sets and a charming B-plot with a sadly underused actor that keep this in average territory for me.

Matthew: I think that this episode was just kind of there. There were a few very nice things, including Scotty's crush, and Memory Alpha. But where's the beef? It wasn't a completely engaging sci-fi plot, and the latent sexism was annoying. I'm going with a 2. So that makes a 5 total.


  1. I remember this one, but not all of it; I think I tuned in late and tuned back out during the scene where they were examining Lt. Romaine. It was kind of gross, no? While she was lying on the examination table they picked a camera angle that was just short of an upskirt, while she's freaked out and Scotty's trying to flirt with her. And I love Scotty, but he's a bad pick for a Romance of the Week with a woman who's young and experienced, because part of his charm is that he's very fatherly to younger officers... It does NOT work for me here. All his 'don't you worry your pretty little head' is condescending, especially when he's supposed to be in love with her. Overall, Star Trek's got a low bar, but this episode a low point for female service members.

  2. See, I liked the upskirt but loathed the sexism. What sort of feminist does that make me? ;)