Saturday, July 28, 2007

TOS Rewind #5: "The Enemy Within"

8/28/2015 Update:  We recorded a podcast for this one, to be found here

Tonight's episode, The Enemy Within, tonight's drink, a Moscow Mule (no particular reason other than it's a good Summer drink).

All right, we all know the drill.  A transporter accident creates two Kirks:  one good, one evil.  If there is one episode you'd want to pick to most effectively torture someone who despises Shatner's acting, this would be the one (okay, there may be one more...).  To give him credit, he does manage to play the split personality role with a great amount of contrast between the parts.  He really pulls off the part of the character that is horrified by the side of himself he's forced to see and the loss of his command abilities.  There is some good acting (I do have an appreciation, in the right context, for Shatner's acting) and even a bit of uncharacteristic subtlety.  But my god, when he goes into "evil" mode, he goes for the dramatic jugular!  I had forgotten how, shall we say, enthusiastically gets into the part.  He must have had a ball wandering down the Enterprise deck swilling the bottle of brandy with a distinct swagger.  That reminds me, my favorite line from this one has to be, "I said, GIVE ME THE BRANDY!"  Now, why McCoy is the designated liquor distributor on board, I have no idea.  Shatner's performance isn't helped by the goofy camera angles and other "differences" placed on the evil Kirk.  The production team wanted to be absolutely sure everyone at home knew when the bad Kirk was on screen:  look for Shatner with lots of sweat and eyeliner!  OK, so some of the camera angles are fun, but they went a bit overboard on the rest. 

One of the other notable things about this one is watching Spock figure out what's going on and how he helps Kirk deal with it.  Despite the fact that he comments about his logic seeming insensitive, sensitivity is exactly what he's expressing in his own way.  It can be called loyalty, duty, or logic, but there is no doubt that the Spock character feels for Kirk's situation.  This is also the first time McCoy utters the words, "he's dead Jim" (in case Eric forgets to mention it). 

I haven't talked about the music yet, so this seems like a good time to mention it.  If you look at TOS as a whole, the music is memorable, but often gets overlooked.  It was typical of television during that time period (and still might be true today) in that there were sections of music written for the show, which were reused throughout the series (The Twilight Zone is a prime example of this method of using a "stock library" of musical cues).  They didn't have the resources to have new scores written/recorded for each episode.  TOS had, particularly once it was going, a collection of cues that were used where appropriate.  However, in the beginning, there wasn't much repetition and I heard something in the score for this episode I don't remember elsewhere.  During the scene in sickbay where Kirk is trying to figure out how to cope, there is a fairly nice cello solo in the score.  I'm sure it was used again, but seemed awfully particular to this scene.  I've always liked the music in TOS.  Sure, it was bombastic and cliched, but it had real character and seemed better than other TV shows had.  The composers who wrote for the show definitely had an old school style (old school Hollywood) of writing.  It's also the only Trek show in which the music left any real impression on me.  The later shows, whatever their strengths, didn't have memorable music.

A couple of other things:  For many years, I've always wondered why they just didn't send the shuttle down to fetch the landing party?  Oh yeah, because they hadn't introduced the shuttle (coming soon!) yet.  One thing I never thought about before was the scene where "evil" Kirk stalks Yeoman Rand (poor Janice Rand, some creep is always stalking her!) and attempts to have his way with her.  There is definitely an intent to rape here and I'm a bit surprised that NBC would have let it on the air.  It's kind of disturbing; he's got her on the floor and ready to go, but oh wait:  this is the Evil Kirk...never mind.   On that note, how about the end of the episode where Spock turns to Rand and makes a comment to her about the evil Kirk having "certain qualities?"  So Spock is implying that women are attracted to that side, eh?  An interesting observation coming from him.

And now, Mr. Shipley:

Now for “The Enemy Within". This episode has the interesting, but highly improbable, premise that a transporter malfunction splits Capt. Kirk into two versions of himself—one with the “good" part of
his psyche and the other embodying the “evil" part. But before I get to my review, the nerd in me has to point out that the transporter can’t make value judgments and therefore wouldn’t have been able to
discern between the “good Kirk" and the “bad Kirk". A transporter malfunction (as was graphically demonstrated in “Star Trek: The Motion Picture) wouldn’t have been polite enough to simply split Kirk into two living, physically complete beings; if he was lucky, it would’ve simply turned him into an unconscious pile of unappetizing goo.

But I quibble. The point of this episode is to examine the function and importance of the positive and negative aspects of the human psyche. And it does this very well. Shatner effectively differentiates between the way each half behaves--good Kirk is compassionate and intelligent and unafraid, but he’s also mild and unable to summon the strength and decisiveness necessary for command. Evil Kirk, on the other hand, is plenty decisive and strong, but he’s also brutal and aggressive and ultimately, cowardly. (Unfortunately, Shatner overacts the Evil Kirk scenes. It still works within the context of the episode, but I can’t watch this episode without remembering one time when my wife and I were watching this episode with Doc and his wife and she commented: “Gee, Evil Kirk sure does sweat a lot!") In any case, Shatner’s portrayals serve to underscore the conclusion that both Spock and McCoy come to, which is that the negative part of ourselves is necessary to our strength and
force of will and that, as McCoy admonishes, it’s not really ugly, it’s just human. And later, ever the humanist, McCoy also points out that the intelligence of the “good" half is where our courage comes
from. These differences are brought into even sharper contrast in the scenes where Good Kirk confronts Evil Kirk (which are pretty cool scenes). The scenes between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are also well done--their concern and compassion for their friend is genuine and touching.

So in the end, after observing how Kirk’s two halves fail to be able to function on their own, we see the inescapable reality that the “good" and “evil" parts of the human psyche need each other if we’re
to live and function as humans. Of course, the unspoken corollary is that these two halves must balance each other. And therein lies the rub…

Next time:  “Mudd’s Women"