Friday, January 30, 2009

What Are Little Girls Made Of?

Sugar and spice, and everything nice?

At the conclusion of this episode, I feel it may have bitten off more than it could chew. It ponders a variation of the question "What makes a human?" In the decades since, visual fiction has given its own insight, but looking at the version told here, of 40 years past, I see some interesting things.

Captain Kirk beams down with Nurse Chapel to meet a scientist that was presumed lost. This scientist was also Chapel's former lover. Therein lies the only disparate aspect of this episode: The emotional attachment betwixt the scientist and our Nurse Chapel seemed terribly transparent -- as if screaming out "THIS IS CHARACTER-BASED DRAMA!" Unfortunately, her relationship with him was of too little consequence to the subsequent efforts of the episode to deem them "entwined".

And just what are those efforts? What, exactly, is this episode dealing with? It's dealing with the thing it took Ridley Scott over two hours and the Wachowskis three movies to do: Define humanity. What is the function of your memory? What is the extent of your body's purpose? Tall questions for an hour-long adventure show in the 1960s, and I can't blame them for trying to throw in the romance. (Though I do love romance, when it is a natural extention of the task at hand.)

Here we meet a character who believes that the body is an imperfect device in need of perfecting. It's right there, in his rejection of mortality itself, that he loses his humanity. (In the realm of this episode, anyway.) He believes that your "consciousness" can be transferred into a more perfect, infallible vessel ... essentially granting immortality and limitless potential for power.

This is, of course, exploited by way of android attacks, and -- get this -- another excuse for DOUBLE CAPTAIN KIRKS! The sheer gimmickry of this makes me hesitate to recommend the episode. The ambitions are commendable, but, more than ever before on Trek, they are so obviously beyond the grasp of the show in its current form.

I can't say my peace about this episode without mentioning one last bit that grabbed me: Andrea the android confesses her "robot" love for her robot creator. Amidst his protest, he triggers his own pistol, disintegrating them in their embrace. It's a powerful image, that last confession. The belief of a man that he can perfect humanity, and a robot who is beginning to develop her own human qualities.

Kirk observes the conundrum, the seeming paradox and complexity of the issue at hand. Again, as before, we end on an introspective and doubtful look from Kirk. He's survived another look into the bottomless heart of humanity.

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