Saturday, August 18, 2007

TOS Rewind #9: "Dagger of the Mind"

We recorded a podcast for this one, check it out here

Tonight's episode: Dagger of the Mind (11/3/1966).  The drink:  Scotch (Glenfiddich 12 year).

Well well well, another show devoted to science gone awry.  This time, the Enterprise visits an asylum run by the famous Dr. Adams.  Adams has supposedly revolutionized the treatment of the criminally insane.  Fair enough, he has indeed.  The writers were trying to make a statement about the misuse of medicine for "legitimate" purposes.  After all, the Neural Neutralizer is really a high tech lobotomizing machine.  Just a causal look at the patients in the place makes this clear.  There is some dialogue at the beginning of the show where clearly McCoy and Kirk clearly are having some form of debate on this topic.  It sets up the show well.

When the crazed Van Gelder shows up (in a painted cardboard box), be shifts the center of the attention to his character.  After all, playing a crazy man gives an awful lot of dramatic license to an actor and he takes full advantage.  The potential menace of him is clear, yet the character gives you just enough to wonder if something odd is going on.  The most important thing that happens in this episode is the first Vulcan mind meld between Spock and Van Gelder.  Certainly one of the highlights of the episode.

Besides Van Gelder, we have the Adams character.  He's pretty well played, particularly at the beginning where he's covering up the problems at the facility.  Adams is slippery as well as charming.  The only thing I question is how he thinks he's going to get away with using this thing long-term.  Particularly after he tortures Kirk in it; it's not like no one's going to notice him either missing or being a mental case.

Other stuff:  The Dr. Noel character is a mixed bag for me.  On one hand, she turns out to be a somewhat strong female character.  For example, she sneaks into the engineering section and ends up killing one of the station security guards.  On the other hand, her introduction where she tries to embarrass Kirk in the transporter room makes her seem very unprofessional.  In the beginning, she just comes off as an naive ditz.  However, she's actually quite attractive and has a slight wardrobe malfunction (sorry!) where you see her underwear through her uniform.  Okay, so that was a sexist/objectification comment...bye bye credibility! 

And now, Eric:

I’ve got iTunes playing as I start writing. Stevie wonder is singing “Sir Duke",  so it’s an auspicious beginning to tonight’s review of “Dagger of the Mind",  which is a decent original Trek episode. Upon rewatching it, however, I was struck by its similarity to “What are Little Girls Made Of".  In fact, the plot is basically the same with the exception that “Dagger of the Mind" deals with mind control, instead of life extension, via technology. I didn’t think about it until Doc and I started doing these reviews, but those two topics are common, in one form or another, not only in Trek but also science fiction in general.

One little note about this episode is that Simon Van Gelder (played by Morgan Woodward) must have a close cousin in Starfleet, because he bears a remarkable resemblance to Captain Ron Tracey of the U.S.S Exeter. (See “The Omega Glory")

Another note that Doc will probably mention is that this episode features the first instance of Spock performing a “mind meld".  I seem to remember hearing, or reading, that Leonard Nimoy came up with the mind meld, but that may be apocryphal. He did invent the “V" shaped Vulcan salute, which was taken from a gesture he saw a Rabbi make, and he also suggested the Vulcan nerve pinch. But I digress—back to the episode.

As I mentioned in an earlier review, I’m not an expert on 60s culture, but there does seem to be a fascination, perhaps a preoccupation, with issues like mind control and brainwashing. I have
to wonder if this isn’t due, in part at least, to a lingering fear of some of the more insidious programs of this nature that were undertaken by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan during World War II.
There were movies around that time, like “The Manchurian Candidate" ,that dealt with this subject, and it was also the subject of some original episodes of “The Twilight Zone" and “The Outer Limits".  In any case, the World War II connection makes sense, since Gene Roddenberry was a World War II vet. (He was a bomber pilot stationed in Europe.)

Finally, I found the “romance" between Kirk and Dr. Noel a bit ridiculous, but overall, the episode was well-acted. Morgan Woodward did a good job with Simon Van Gelder, and I liked how James Gregory kept Dr. Adams’ sinister nature from being too overt or overdone.

So, overall “Dagger of the Mind" is one of the better original Star Trek episodes.

Next time:  “The Corbomite Maneuver"