Thursday, September 19, 2013

TOS Rewind #57: "And the Children Shall Lead"

The podcast for this episode opens with a not-too-lengthy discussion betwixt the three of us regarding the newest Trek film, Star Trek Into Darkness. Check it out

For your consideration, we have And the Childran Shall Lead (10/11/1968).

Well, I believe we've reached another low ebb of our beloved Original Series. Yes, everyone remembers Spock's Brain as being awful but it's really a few notches above this one both in terms of ideas/story as well as just plain watchability. For you see, Spock's Brain at least has its camp value and funny costumes going for it. This episode has me grasping for the Brain remote control so I can click my out of this. In the end I have to conclude that this episode is a prime example of the general malaise that took hold of the show in its last season when the network decided Trek had no future. That a script this poor managed to be considered at all speaks volumes. Really, no one cared all that much by this point and it has to be considered amazing that the actually good episodes that come later made it at all.

What we have is a basic morality good vs. evil story that doesn't have the interest or really the nerve to pursue its ideas, such as they are. Much of the time is devoted to the ridiculous way the crew is used by the children and their evil leader. It's just very hard to take things seriously when they show poor Sulu being terrified of a screen full of flying Ginsu knives. Kirk's breakdown on the bridge is also bad; I wonder if Shatner deliberately hammed up the scene beyond his usual scenery-chewing ways because he was somehow attempting to compensate for the script.

For all the silliness present in this episode, the show doesn't want to tackle the one serious matter it does actually present. The children have, directly or not, participated in their own parents' deaths. It may be too much to ask of a 60s era TV show to tackle something like this head-on but since it's the only serious idea presented, the guy who wrote this should have known better. Everything is wrapped neatly at the end, which is to be expected but the evil that humans are capable of, even children, under the right/wrong influence is not explored as a matter of human nature. Instead, the show uses this "legendary" evil alien/demon thing as the monster. Again, if you don't want to go there, make the episode a monster/alien suspense story. That would have been at least coherent, though as a traditional villain, the dude in the large shower curtain leaves much to be desired.

The sets are already beginning to be reused this season and they look cheaper; the reduced budgets continue to be apparent in the look of the show. I could go on about this episode but it doesn't really seem worth the time to pick it apart further and there isn't really a good idea, at least not an idea worthy of Trek, here to extract and analyze. Maybe next time?

The effects for the remastered version were good, though there was little added in this episode.


Eric has the floor:

"And the Children Shall Lead" is another attempt at a Star Trek horror story. And as such, it is only marginally successful. I do remember it being somewhat frightening when I was much younger, but now, it comes across as more laughable than scary.

One of the things that bothers me is how stupid and shallow the crew are portrayed. It's incredibly insulting, and misogynistic, to make Uhura's biggest fear growing old and having her beauty fade. And Sulu's fear is that the Enterprise will go off course and be destroyed by a wall of swords and daggers in space?!

I also object to the portrayal of the children. Maybe the youngest kids would play games like Ring Around the Rosie, but Tommy Starnes is shown playing with them, and he's supposed to be in his early teens. No non-lobotomized teenager in the history of the universe has or would play games like Ring Around the Rosie with a bunch of prepubescents!

And here's a quote from the Memory Alpha wiki regarding the casting of the late Melvin Belli as Gorgon:

"The idea to cast noted attorney Melvin Belli as Gorgon came when his son, Caesar Belli, was cast as Steve. Producer Fred Freiberger hoped that the presence of Belli would boost ratings. This plan failed and Freiberger realized it would have been more appropriate to cast an actor in the role."

Agreed. And when I looked up Melvin Belli on Wikipedia, I found that he had what may be a contender for most unfortunate middle name of all time: Mouron. Or perhaps it's just weirdly apropos for an attorney. I'll have to consult my lawyer friends.

One note on the production is that the set where the kids and Kirk have ice cream is an arboretum set that was constructed in the third season to emphasize the need to give crew members a way to stay connected to nature while on deep space missions. It was originally supposed to be introduced in the episode "Elaan of Troyius," (which was filmed before "And the Children Shall Lead") but the scenes where it was used were cut.

Finally, I have a problem with the title. "And the Children Shall Lead" is derived from a biblical quote (Isaiah 11:16):

"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

First, I don't see how this has any relevance to the episode, and second, being an agnostic, secular humanist, I don't appreciate the religious allusions.

So, it looks like I don't have much good to say about "And the Children Shall Lead." Oh well, the next episode should spark some interesting discussion.

Next time: "Is There in Truth No Beauty"

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