Monday, August 6, 2007

TOS Rewind #7: "What Are Little Girls Made Of"

9/23/2015 update:  Our belated podcast can be found at this link

Tonight's show, What Are Little Girls Made Of? (10.20.1966).  Tonight's drink, vodka and lemonade (sorry no real connection there).

First, Eric's review:

“What Are Little Girls Made Of?" is another original Trek episode I’ve always liked. It has a claustrophobic feeling that I find appealing, and the director did a good job of immediately conveying, and maintaining, a feeling that things aren’t quite right. In that respect, it reminds me of John Carpenter’s remake of “the Thing". The story is also good science fiction, but it occurs to me that the theme of a civilization moving underground (by choice or due to necessity) is hardly original. It was used in other original Star Trek episodes, including the first pilot, “The Cage", and it was
originated, as far as I can tell, by H.G. Wells in his story “The Time Machine". So what is it about living underground that appeals to science fiction writers? It provides a good way of analyzing how
humans are affected by being deprived of open spaces, sunlight, and natural surroundings. And this is an interesting ponder-able (given that the human race evolved under such conditions), but there must be more than that. Any ideas, John?

Anyway, another reason I like this episode is the character Ruk. He looks outlandish, maybe even campy, but Ted Cassidy did a great job with the role. Ruk is immensely old and there’s a wonderful sense of menace and mystery about him. In fact, the mysteries hinted at in this episode are probably a major reason I like it. Who were the “old ones" Ruk refers to? How long ago did they live? What were the circumstances surrounding their extermination at the hands of their android servants? (Hmm, is it just me or does that sound a bit like the new Battlestar Galactica?)

McCoy was absent, but the interaction between Kirk and Spock is great. (Shatner does a good job—no overt overacting.) What I like best is the way Kirk deduces what’s going on, and, as he’s being duplicated in android form, intuits how to tip off Spock. And Spock, of course, picks up on the clue immediately.

Now to be fair, there are several reasons that I like this episode, but there is one problem I noticed—a main plot point is that nurse Chapel is searching for her lost fiancé, whom she is still very much
in love with. In production order, however, this episode comes after “The Naked Time" in which she confesses her love for Spock. So is she totally fickle, or does she just conveniently forget about loving
Spock when her fiance turns up alive?

Finally, we’re left with the idea that machines cannot have emotions and feelings as humans do. There is something special about inhabiting a human body that cannot be transferred to or duplicated
in an artificial life form. (This is an issue that will be dealt with both in later episodes and in The Next Generation with Data.) I have to wonder if this isn’t a product of the zeitgeist of 60s, but I’m
not an expert on 60s culture. I do know that the question of whether or not machines can be alive, or sentient, or have feelings or a consciousness like humans is a very common one in science fiction. It
is interesting, however, that this episode purports that androids can’t have feelings because Gene Roddenberry created Data who obviously could feel emotions (once he had an emotion chip).
Roddenberry also has said that transferring a human consciousness into an android is a viable alternative to living in a human body and that it would be possible to have sensation and feelings in such an existence. This would seem to be an inconsistency, but then again, it’s a complex issue—one science fiction is uniquely well-suited to examine. (Take that you literary snobs!)

Hi, I'm back!

I believe this episode marks the first time that Trek dealt with the robots/computers replacing humans idea.  I'm sure Eric can refresh us all on the "robots are people too" canon of sci fi literature, but much of this has been at least written before.  That is, the loss of "humanity" when machines become a replacement for us.  Throw in a dash of good old mad scientist and mix in some drama with the TOS cast, and you have this episode.  This one was better than I remember, on the whole.  I think at the time, the ideas expressed must have been somewhat novel to the TV audience.  The acting is decent and Kirk has finds some clever ways out of situations.   Some observations:

Ted Cassidy (he also played Lurch in the TV Addams Family), who played the android Ruk, is great.  He might be my favorite thing about this one.  Not only is he a giant and has that growling deep voice, but the way he's made up makes him look like some freaky undead-like guy.  The eyes alone do the trick.

How about that giant turntable with the paper mache' "blank" android?  They really do whip them up fast (maybe Dr. Soong from TNG should have checked this place out).  Speaking of Kirk's double, couldn't they have found a closer double for him?  There's one scene where you see that back and it's obviously not him.

What a dramatic ending!  Kirk, for the first time, convinces a machine that it needs to commit suicide (along with his girlfriend).  Rinse, repeat.

Speaking of firsts, this marks the first episode where guys wearing read shirts get offed. 

And finally, how about the android Andrea's (Sherry Jackson) outfit?  Thus begins a long tradition of scantily-clad alien/robotic women and you can even see her nipples on this one (probably not noticed by the TV audience at the time).

Eric asked me to comment about the "aliens moving underground" theme.  The only thing I can think of is the perhaps unconscious (to the writers) ideas in the 60s about the cold war and the fear of nuclear holocaust.  The example that comes to mind is "Dr. Strangelove."  Particularly, when they're talking about having to move the survivors underground.  The cold war had a pronounced effect on many science fiction writers (obviously, Trek is loaded with examples).

Next Time:  "Miri"