by Gwen Maddison
“The Apple” is one of those episodes I’ve always been torn about. There are lots of little things I really love about it, but there is so much more that bugs the crap out of me.
The episode is set on Gamma Trianguli VI, described as an Eden-like planet. The landing party beams down, four Redshirts and a woman in tow. Of course, that many Redshirts can only mean one thing—they brought a lot of cannon fodder. Before the opening theme even rolls Chekov gets a chance to regale us with his version of Russian history, Kirk mentions that his orders are to essentially go against the Prime Directive (which explains a lot), Spock gets to spit out some technobabble, Bones gets to be bitchy, and Ensign Ricky Redshirt eats it. It’s nice when they can get off to a good start like that, don’t you think?
Hey Ricky you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my… hey… Ricky?
But of course that’s not enough. After the break we come back to Scotty telling Kirk that there is an issue with the ship, getting his own fill of technobabble. Kirk does his standard “oh poor Ensign Ricky” while Scotty seems fairly unfazed and far more interested in the prospect of hanging out on the planet. I can’t help but wonder why a man who loves his ship more than scotch, bagpipes, and his accent combined would want to hang out on the planet when there is something wrong with the ship.
The landing party continues to poke around and Spock (in a strangely out-of-character move) tosses a rock to discover they’re explosive. Kirk gets contemplative (scary, I know) and Bones checks out the plants while Spock, apparently the only one paying any attention at all, notices that the horrible poison dart-spitting plant is gearing up to shoot Kirk. He, of course, jumps in the way and takes the darts. Fortunately for him, he’s made of sterner stuff than Ensign Ricky (who, like all Redshirts are held together mostly with tissue paper and dreams) and McCoy gets a chance to hypo him.
Kirk calls for a beam-up which is conveniently on the fritz.
Don’t worry about Spock though. This is only Season Two after all. Spock has another season and two movies to ge through before he pulls the Jesus Maneuver. McCoy’s hypo kicks in and Spock is back up and about. Kirk gives him a speech about doing stupid things like jumping in front of poison darts, skipping over any “thanks for saving my life.”
Spock steps up for the Captain several times, including giving this kissing lesson.
I want to pause here for a second to say that I love McCoy. In fact, I would have a hard time saying whether he or Spock is my favourite character. I love that he’s grumpy and unreasonable. I love that he’s argumentative and stubborn. But one thing that has always bugged me is how completely “Humans Rule!” he can get. There are times when that’s fine, adorable even. But sometimes it gets to be a bit much. He picks on Spock a lot.
So when Spock points out that the shot he was given has upset his stomach—and McCoy points out that if he had red blood rather than green, his stomach would be fine—I have to shake my head. He’s right of course, if his blood were red, his stomach wouldn’t hurt. But that’s kind of like saying if frogs had wings they wouldn’t hit their asses when they hop. Yes, it’s true, but as that’s not the situation and it never will be the statement is a little less than helpful. Perhaps accepting the circumstances you’re presented with and dealing with them as such would be a better course of action. Spock is Vulcan, Vulcans are different than humans, get over it.
But I digress. The planet continues to prove itself the most vindictive planet in the universe (or at least one of the most Redshirt-hostile) by killing more Ensign Rickys. Clouds roll in and poor Ricky 2 gets hit with a bolt of lightning (lightning which completely incinerates his fragile Redshirt body) while Kirk and the rest run for cover—you guessed it—in the trees. When the clouds clear, our heroes investigate. So when Ricky 3 calls Kirk to tell him that there’s something strange in the neighbourhood (he really aught to have called the Ghostbusters), they all run off to save him.
I’m a Redshirt. I get it. Don’t you think this is a bit much?
But Ricky 3, a man given to panicking, is already running back to them. Forgetting the explosive rocks, Ricky 3 is quickly dispatched and reunited with the Rickys that went before him. Cue melodramatic Kirk speech.
Spock points out that they’re being watched again and Kirk, melodrama still pounding in his veins, decides he needs to catch whoever it is. So Kirk being Kirk pairs up Chekov and Spock while sending Ricky 4 off by himself while Kirk dodges around the other way.
Chekov and Spock do manage to create a decent diversion (I really love Spock pretending to be angry, it’s adorable) allowing Kirk to use every ounce of diplomacy at his disposal by sneaking up on one of the planets natives (natives who have done nothing more hostile than watching strangers in their land) and punching him in the face. Kirk stands ready for a fight only to find that the man he just punched is crying. From the look on Kirk’s face, you almost expect to make some comment about him crying like a woman. Instead he makes one of the silliest statements a person can make after punching someone in the face: “I won’t hurt you.”
Um, Jim… too late.
You look quite different from that Gorn fellow. At least he wore a shirt.
Got any chocolate on you?
Upon further inspection, what remains of the landing party discovers that the oompa-loopa they found has antennae implanted in his head. He explains that they were given to him by Vaal so he can hear him. Apparently Vaal thought that a “burning bush” sounded a little too much like a terrible euphemism to talk to his people through and decided to upgrade to something a little more high-tech. He agrees to take them to Vaal so they can chat about all the collateral damage.
Scotty, who hasn’t had much to say for a while, checks in to tell them the ship is going down. Warp power is unavailable and impulse power isn’t doing it.
Since they’re stuck on the planet, Kirk carries on. Akuta, their new orange friend, agrees to take them to Vaal. Imagine their surprise when they discover that Vaal is not a who, but a what.
You got it, the oompa-loompas are worshipping a machine-god.
Spock takes some readings and informs Kirk that this is just an access point to some technobabble beneath the surface. In a move that may have been a little less careful than the situation called for, Spock walks up to Vaal only to have his ass handed to him by a force field.
“A force field?” Kirk asks. You know, because I’m sure he hasn’t had enough experience with force fields that the Federation, up to and including his own ship, use on a regular basis.
Spock says what we’re all thinking. “Obviously.”
Since the options are limited with the sleeping machine-god, they head to the village. All the other oompa-loompas come out to say hello and Kirk notices something is up. No children. (I’m not going to argue with him on that, there aren’t any children; but I will say that of all the planets they visit, I’ve never seen many children. Aside from planets where they are the centre of the plot.) Akuta says that “replacements” are forbidden by Vaal. But Ensign Chicky wants to know what happens when their private oompa-loompa parts get all tingly. Akuta says that’s forbidden by Vaal as well. (Makes me think it’s probably a good thing there aren’t any kids around. We’ve seen how well those rules have worked for the Church.)
Bones says what Kirk is thinking. “There goes paradise.” The only way they’re getting laid is with the garland of flowers the villagers offer them.
Akuta gives them a hut to hang out in. Bones finds that the villagers are essentially immortal, Spock technobabbles some more and Scotty and the ship are still boned. You know, just another day in Starfleet. Outside, the feeders of Vaal are doing what they do best, tossing food to their god. Kirk starts plotting against Vaal, Spock technobabbles (still managing to point out that Humans are a minority in the universe and other cultures are valid—thank you Spock) and McCoy carries on being more than a little androcentric (again, this is one of those episodes where McCoy annoys me greatly).
Scotty rings in again to clarify that they’re still screwed, Ensign Chicky gets her panties in a wad, and Kirk carries on being Kirk. No change there.
It does give way to an entirely awkward discussion about teaching the oompa-loopas to get their groove on. It’s something Ensign Chicky seems a little too pre-occupied with, if you ask me. In the most out-of-character move Kirk has ever made, he passes the ball to Spock rather than giving her a lesson himself. It goes about as well as you might expect. A little like me asking my mother to explain Star Trek to someone. (Point of interest: Spock and McCoy are both adorable in the scene. Kirk tries to hide his cocky grin behind an apple. It fails miserably.)
Captain, suggest we show these people how to get their groove on.
Can I start with the girl?
All the talk about biological functions gets Ensign Chicky and Chekov all hot and bothered, and they decide that wandering off alone on a planet that has killed four of them so far to make out in a clearing would be a super good plan. Two of the inquisitive oompa-loompas catch their act and, much like children imitating everything they see on TV, they decide to try it out for themselves.
This gets Vaal hot and bothered too. But instead of a little tongue action, he tells his people to kill the strangers. Akuta gets right on explaining it to all his buddies in an incredibly awkward sort of way. Just bash their heads open with a stick. Don’t worry guys, Vaal said it’s totally cool.
After more discussion about destroying their machine-god, Spock notices that all the villagers have taken off. Kirk figures that’s his cue to go chat with Vaal again, because that’s been so successful thus far. Vaal brings the clouds and Spock gets hit with the Redshirt-incinerating lightning. Once again Spock, with his blue, lightning-repelling shirt, escapes relatively unharmed.
Back at the village, the oompa-loompas decide to try out this nifty head bashing thing that Vaal was so keen on. Unfortunately, being a race of child-like, non-violent, spray-on tan loving people, the landing party lays the smack down. Even Ensign Chicky gets her kicks in (and for once in his life, McCoy isn’t the first one to hit the ground). Not to say that the villagers didn’t get their punches in. Poor Ricky 4 got his paper mache skull cracked before he even knew what hit him. This is really the last straw for Kirk. They’ve killed all the cannon fodder. If he doesn’t do something quick they might start attacking people who actually have names. Or the woman. Then where would he be?
So they round up the villagers and stick them all in a hut.
Wow. Vaal would NEVER let us do that! Let’s get some sticks of our own and talk to the villagers. Are you taking notes?
Scotty tries to pull the ship away and ends up blowing out most of the systems. All seems lost until they realise that fighting the hold that the planet has on the ship is draining Vaal’s power. With the feeders of Vaal all tied up, Kirk decides it’s time to spring into action.
Fire on their machine-god. What any Prime Directive-following, rational starship captain would do.
Fire they do. Vaal runs out of battery power without being able to reach the next save point in the game, the tractor beam holding the ship craps out, and Spock announces that Vaal is dead.
Kirk rejoices. The villagers that Vaal was caring for, keeping safe, making happy, and better still—making all but immortal—are just a little miffed. Thousands of years they have had Vaal to care for them and Kirk destroyed it all in just a few seconds.
But don’t worry guys, you’ll figure it out. No, I’m not going to stick around and explain it to you. I have more important things to do. Places to explore, other machine-gods to kill, green women to bang.
I’m sure you’ll be fine.
Finally, when Spock points out the similarities between what they’ve done and the story of Adam and Eve, Kirk gets a little touchy at being compared to Satan. Pointing out, very cleverly, that he lacks the necessary pointed ears to be the dark lord. It’s a good thing he’s so enlightened and living in a time without bigotry, eh?
I really wish I was making that ending up. From their ditching the villagers to fend for themselves to Kirk insulting his “best friend” again. But I’m not.
The Prime Directive in action. Kirk style!
Like I said, there are some really great moments sprinkled in there, but it gets to be like eating a bowl of boiled cabbage and occasionally getting a piece of bacon. Sure, the bacon is delicious but is it really worth eating the rest to get it? The whole premise of this episode seems so out of line with what they should be doing. Screwing up an entire culture, irreparably I might add, is so against the Prime Directive that I can’t imagine how anyone would ever justify that to their superiors.
Am I saying I want a show that doesn’t take risks? No, not at all. I just would like a show that plays by its own rules. (I know, I know… This isn’t the first or last time this kind of thing happens in the show. The Prime Directive is the rule that was made to be broken apparently.)
I’m weird like that.