By T'Laina Ariennye
Thanksgiving is a time, well, to give thanks. One thing I am sure we are all thankful for is Star Trek. And in honor of that I decided to review the TOS episode “Charlie X,” which actually takes place at Thanksgiving.
It’s Stardate 1533.6 and Kirk’s Captain’s Log is filled with mystery and intrigue. The Enterprise is en route to a rendezvous with a cargo vessel called Antares to receive an unusual bit of cargo.
As Kirk walks down the corridor to the transporter room, I can’t help but notice that he’s wearing his green fat suit. He must have been anticipating a large Thanksgiving meal later on. Kirk meets the captain and navigator of the cargo vessel, and is introduced to… Charlie Evans. Cue dramatic music. The Captain and the navigator look nervously at each other as Kirk and Charlie meet, and try, rather unsuccessfully, to convince Kirk that Charlie is a wonderful little boy.
It seems that our Charlie is a bit of a wonderkid, growing up all by himself on some planet. The other people of his planet all were killed, and Charlie was the only survivor. Apparently he taught himself how to talk by listening to the few tapes that were still around.
During this discovery, Kirk reveals that there are 428 crew members aboard the Enterprise. Obviously this was the number of crew members before any of the Great Redshirt Massacres. As a matter of fact, this episode marks the first of the weekly redshirt sacrifices.
Charlie interrupts Kirk one too many times, and Kirk puts him in his place. Charlie wanders over to the door to the transporter room and freaks out when the door opens on its own. I suppose cargo vessels don’t have such high-tech equipment. Or it’s a Cardassian cargo vessel in disguise. While this is happening, we hear Kirk trying to give the other captain some Saurian brandy. The captain says no, you’ll need it a few episodes from now.
And then… Charlie sees his first woman. Naturally, it just happens to be Kirk’s yeoman, Janice Rand. I can’t help but notice Charlie’s blatant staring at Rand’s chest. And her legs. I suppose Rand should be thrilled, since Kirk never pays her any mind. Which means Rand must be the first girl that Kirk has never had any interest in. When Charlie asks the question of Rand “Is that a girl?” I suppose Kirk should have known he was going to have some trouble on his hands.
Charlie is then put through a series of Dr. McCoy’s tests in sickbay. He checks out perfectly normal, for an adolescent human boy. Charlie wants to know if McCoy likes him. The crew of the Antares didn’t like him too well, so he hopes that he will find people who like him on the Enterprise. McCoy tells Charlie it’s natural for 17 year old boys to want to be liked, but the dramatic music tells us there’s more to it than just that.
Charlie ditches McCoy and walks down the corridor to see a man feeding some tube thingy down a hole to another part of the ship. It looks really important. He tosses his jacket over to a corner and follows some of the crew around. It seems Charlie somehow found one of those putrid yellow-brown uniform shirts that is supposed to be used in the next episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”
Then Charlie begins to chase Janice Rand down the corridor. He hands her a present, which was from Rand’s quarters to begin with. Nice to know that the art of regifting is still alive and well in the 23rd century!
Now, all goes fine until Charlie and Rand are about to part ways. But then Charlie decides he is going to slap Rand on the bottom. Why he thought that was a good idea, I’ll never know. Must be a bad combination of teenage hormones and miniskirts. Janice Rand calls him out on it, but then tells Charlie to go ask McCoy or Kirk why going around slapping girl’s bottoms isn’t such a swell idea.
We cut to the bridge, and Kirk tells McCoy that it is to be his duty to inform Charlie about the birds and the bees. McCoy seems to think that Kirk would be the better choice, seeing that Kirk is such a strong, family man and all. I think McCoy must have his Kirks confused.
Next we cut to a recreation room, where Spock is enjoying some downtime by playing his Vulcan lyre. We even get to see a rare smile play across his normally sober face. Uhura starts humming, and annoys Spock, which is again, quite unusual. Ah, to be a young, yet-to-be-developed character! Rand encourages Uhura to sing to Spock’s tune, which she does gladly. About this time, Charlie walks through the door. He tries to get Rand’s attention, but she shoos him away so she can listen to Uhura’s song. When Uhura finishes the first song, she starts singing one for Charlie, but Charlie doesn’t seem to appreciate the gesture. Instead of liking the song, he does some Vader-esque choking technique to Uhura to make her stop singing. Then he is finally able to show off to Rand some card tricks that he hopes will make her like him.
The next scene is when we discover that on Earth, it is Thanksgiving. Apparently there is no real turkey aboard, but the crew is going to get some synthetic meatloaf that looks like turkey. Now, there must be some sort of magician in that kitchen, because from my limited knowledge of cooking meatloaf, cooked meatloaf is in no way going to look like a turkey.
Charlie walks through the door to where Kirk is, and begins to ask him why he can’t slap girls on the bottom. Only he doesn’t ask, he demonstrates to Kirk how he slapped Rand on the bottom. Yes, a guy just slapped Captain Kirk’s bottom. I’ll bet Kirk doesn’t get that very often. Then Kirk stumbles through an awkward speech about how there is no right way to hit a woman. Kirk then makes a dash for the bridge, obviously uncomfortable with the situation. Charlie slips in the turbolift behind him.
Now, I just want to make a side note here. It seems Kirk had some wardrobe issues that day, because he continues to change his shirt throughout the episode. And I would personally love to know what happened on that turbolift ride. Kirk goes in the turbolift, and he has his yellow command shirt on. Kirk comes out of the turbolift, and he has his green shirt on.
When Kirk reaches the bridge with Charlie, there is a transmission from the captain of the Antares. He is about to warn Kirk about something when the transmission goes dead. Then Charlie says “it wasn’t very well constructed,” which seems odd because the ship hasn’t been confirmed as destroyed yet.
Then Kirk gets a message from the Enterprise’s chef, who’s voice is the legendary Gene Roddenberry himself. He says that the ovens suddenly have real turkeys, not meatloaf in them. Charlie makes a hiccupping sound and leaves the bridge, leaving Kirk to wonder if Charlie has something to do with all these strange happenings.
We also notice that the Antares is now being referred to as a science probe ship, not a cargo ship. The Antares must have an identity crisis.
Kirk and Spock then take some time to relax by playing some 3-D chess. Charlie wants to play, so Kirk leaves so Charlie can play with Spock. Spock beats Charlie within a matter of seconds, and Charlie gets mad. So when Spock leaves the room, Charlie melts the chess pieces with a really creepy roll of the eyes. Now, when I was a kid, I was always told not to roll my eyes like that, that they would get stuck up in my head. I suppose that the database on Charlie’s home planet didn’t tell him not to do that.
Charlie then storms out of the room and runs into Janice Rand. This time she has a young girl around Charlie’s age with her. Rand wants the two to become friends, but Charlie rudely ignores her. It seems that Charlie only likes girls in red shirts and big hairdos. Then Charlie starts telling Rand about how pretty she is, and how he feels hungry all over when he sees her. At this moment, my mind automatically starts singing Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like The Wolf”.
Rand complains to Kirk again about Charlie, and Kirk has another talk with him about girls. Really, Kirk is the best and the worst person to ask about girls, given his track record. After their talk, Uhura confirms with Kirk that they are going to be changing course.
Kirk then takes Charlie down to the exercise room for some Kirk-fu lessons. But first, we see some people fighting with giant Q-tips and other people doing acrobatics. All in red shirts. These people have a death wish, it seems. Even Kirk has red tights on. No shirt, of course. We wouldn’t expect any less from him.
Kirk begins to demonstrate to Charlie how to fall. Looks easy enough. I do that enough on my own without trying. Guess I’m a Kirk-fu master already. Charlie thinks he’s a Kirk-fu master too and wants to fight. So Kirk grabs a guy that’s been hanging around and asks him to throw a few punches at him. Captain’s orders…
Then it’s Charlie’s turn to fight. Kirk has Charlie down on the floor practically immediately, which makes Charlie mad. It doesn’t help matters much when the guy who fought Kirk begins to laugh at Charlie. And it doesn’t help the guy much when Charlie makes him disappear with his creepy eye roll thing. Kirk doesn’t like that very much, so he gets security to come so they can take Charlie to his quarters. When security gets there, Charlie makes the guards fall down, and he makes their phasers disappear. Now this really makes Kirk mad. Thus beginning The Great Kirk and Charlie Staredown, which Kirk also wins. Man, Charlie just can’t win anything!
Kirk, Spock, and McCoy meet to discuss Charlie’s less-than-normal human behavior. Spock theorizes that it is possible he is not a human afterall, but a Thasian (a mysterious race that supposedly has these same powers as Charlie). Kirk then requests Charlie be brought from his quarters so he can find out what exactly happened to the Antares. It’s little surprise at this point to find out that Charlie destroyed the ship.
In light of that, Kirk decides to change course from the place they were headed to drop off Charlie, so Charlie wouldn’t end up destroying that planet. But Charlie has taken over the Enterprise, and Spock, as it seems, for he makes Spock recite poetry for all to hear. Kirk is less than amused. Charlie goes off and turns Rand’s young friend from earlier into a lizard. I guess you don’t have to travel at Warp 10 to become a lizard…just get on Charlie’s bad side.
Charlie then tries to get Rand’s attention again, one final time. When Kirk and Spock come to help her, Charlie rolls his eyes and sends them into the wall. Then Rand slaps Charlie, and Charlie makes her disappear. After that, Kirk tries to capture Charlie in a force field, but even that won’t hold him. And that makes Charlie even more angry.
Kirk then comes up with a brilliant last-ten-minutes-of-the-show plan: overload all the systems of the Enterprise, so that Charlie will be so busy running the ship in his mind that it would tax his powers. The plan works, and suddenly something is off the starboard bow. Charlie panics, and begs to stay on board the Enterprise, and that he will be good from now on.
Suddenly, a face appears in the middle of the bridge. It looks like the Wizard of Oz has come to pay a visit. Charlie tells Kirk not to pay any attention to the man behind the curtain, but Kirk wants to hear what the visitor has to say. The visitor is a Thasian, here to take Charlie home. Kirk feels sorry for Charlie, and tries to convince the Thasian to let them keep the boy, but to no avail. The Thasian takes Charlie away with him.
This really is quite an interesting episode to watch. It is kind of an underdog episode, one that people usually discount as being really odd. Which it is, but it is really good too. Watching Charlie X actually makes me thankful that I don’t have any powers that might make growing up that much harder.
I give this episode 3 stars out of 5.