As if we didn't have enough duplicated crew members last episode ...
On a desolate planet, a federation archeologist named Crater (yep), befriends a shape-shifting shalt-craving creature that takes the form of his dead wife. (who happened to Be Dr. McCoy's Ex-Girlfriend) The Enterprise shows up for a routine medical checkup when the creature quickly begins terrorizing them.
Since the creature can change it's shape at will, one wonders why the backstory with McCoy was necessary, as it could change into your mom if it wanted to.
In any case, it's a very dramatic showdown as Kirk shows up to kill the creature, whom McCoy is emotionally inclined to protect. Tension mounts as the creature turns on Kirk, who drops his phaser.
It's up to McCoy to save Kirk! And if the situation wasn't clear enough, Spock runs in and says, "It's killing the Captain! Shoot it Doctor!" "I won't shoot Nancy!" McCoy Insists!
So what does Spock do? In an unbelievable -- are they actually doing this? -- moment, SPOCK BEGINS TO BRUTALLY BEAT THE WOMAN, to demonstrate that it isn't really her.
Only on Trek.
So after a brilliantly displayed turmoil from DeForrest Kelly as McCoy, he accepts that it isn't really Nancy, and shoots. Damn. Tough stuff.
The drama is played very well on all counts. The direction is as intimate as the situation warrants, and the music is a complimentary addition to McCoy's situation. In order to make the killing of the creature even more morally difficult, it was the last of a dying breed. Like killing the last Dodo. (or Buffalo,a s the episode cites.) But if the last Dodo was picking off members of my crew, I'd kill it.
This episode was a good mix of the fantastical science-fiction elements and adventure/drama. The writers may have tried a little too hard to make the drama character-based. The effort is appreciated, but other episodes were able to handle the balance a bit more naturally. The priority towards the main characters seems to be making it's shift away from Kirk and towards the whole of the crew, but it may be a bit premature to begin detecting patterns.
Great creature design solidifies the memorability of this installment, and a great bit of comic levity is thrown in early on. (On the bridge, Uhura flirts with an unreceptive Spock. Classic.)
Stay tuned tomorrow for "The Naked Time."