As if in answer to my issues with last episode's "Kirk escapades", here comes an episode where our captain steps aside. This tale of a lost shuttle of seven passengers hones in on Mr. Spock, a character that has earned his iconic status with the fascinating tension and conflict that define him.
Up until this episode, the paradoxical nature of Spock's human/Vulcan heritage have only been used in passing. This marks the first time I can really point to it and say it was used fully, to its dramatic potential. You see, Spock being in charge of this stranded landing party gives him a command position. The storytellers have cleverly and appropriately used this as a window into the issues of logical thinking in the heightened decision-making position he finds himself in.
The adverse reaction of the other crewmembers to Spock's logical thought process bring about heated interactions. None more so than after the death of a crewman by one of the planet's natives. Spock finds himself pitted against situations that require more of him than he is traditionally able to facilitate. He finds himself puzzled when his logical deductions not only fail, but respect for him is lost in the eyes of the crew. This hits home the importance of human judgement and intuition; a subject dealt with on the show previously, and inherent to the very fabric of Star Trek.
"Mr. Spock, life and death are seldom logical."
"But attaining a desired goal always is, Doctor."
There are a lot of nice pearls like that one sprinkled throughout the episode. The beat for beat drama is played very well on all sides. From the writing to the performers, there's a lot of character dynamic being explored here. While I find this delightful, I can't help but wish that the adventure aspect of the show was as polished. The limited budget of the show can be put to blame, I'm sure. Thankfully, the prioreties of the story have been put first, allowing fo the audience to forgive any budgetary shortcomings.
The tension of the stranded shuttle's situation is enhanced by a time limit introduced early in the show. The Enterprise is en route to deliver medical supplies, so a rescue effort can only be allotted a short period of time. Kirk's search for the crew is played against the annoying protest of a stern commissioner assigned to accompany the Enterprise. This is almost too apparently placed in the episode to heighten the stakes. Most of the interludes with Kirk and the commissioner are re-iterations of the same basic concept, leaving me wanting to see what Spock and McCoy were up to on the planet.
The episode wraps up nicely, with a beautifully desperate act performed by Mr. Spock that ends up saving the crew. Mr. Spock stared into the face of death with his human comrades, and was clearly affected by their criticism of his leadership. His hard Vulcan upbringing was worn down to reveal the human half we've seen shining through the cracks. He grew to appreciate the immediacy of intuition and, to some minute degree, even if he denies it outright, the value of illogic.
As a last note, I'll say I found it bizarrely inappropriate to end on the bridge crew laughing at Spock. It seems to be a trend to end the show with everyone on the bridge laughing. It's kind of a corny thing I ignore, but this time it came off as kind of cruel.
I'm sure Spock can handle it.