by Gwen Maddison
This is an episode that has become rather infamous over the years, often being cited as “the worst Original Series episode ever made” or at least the most bizarre. I’ve given my opinion on that debate, but that doesn’t really make the episode any less ridiculously weird.
But I digress. On to the review!
It’s never a good sign for the NCC-1701 crew when the cold opening starts with the dramatic music and a close-up shot of the red alert lights. An unidentified ship is headed toward our heroes. Everyone but Scotty seems concerned—Scotty is much to busy getting all doe-eyed about the ship.
Before they can even make contact, a Hot Alien Babe beams aboard (don’t get too excited, she looks like most beings in the universe—human). Jim scrambles to decide on a pick-up line, the crew looks confused and Spock raises his eyebrow. All of this can only mean one thing—time to cue the redshirts!
Two rush in to save the day (because that always works) just in time to see Hot Alien Babe use her giant bracelet to stun the whole bridge with its magical “boinga-boinga” noise. Once they’re all out, she stuns the rest of the crew (oh, there’s Bones, in sickbay) and heads over to collect what she came for.
Is it Kirk’s brain? No, that’s just silly.
Cue opening credits.
We come back to see the crew is still out cold.
I’d like to take a second to mention a few things—first, I love that Chapel totally went for the fall in sickbay but Uhura managed to stay in the most awkward sitting position ever (including keeping her arm on the console). Second, is anyone surprised that Kirk ended up showing off his ass? Third, how did Chekov end up with his leg curled up like that? Is that some kind of Russian thing?
The lights come up and nap time is over. The ship seems fine and after checking everything Kirk realises something is wrong. “Where’s Spock?” Bones buzzes from sickbay. You know something is wrong because he’s doing his strained whisper voice. Jim heads off to investigate with Scotty.
Question asked, question answered—there’s Spock and he’s sporting a lovely gold sequinned turban.
But something is wrong. Bones has fit him with some kind of futuristic iron lung. Chapel tells Kirk she found him on the table. Not like this though (perhaps he was wearing a matching gown and Carmen Miranda-esque fruity head dress). He’s on complete life support. Dead? No. Worse than dead.
His brain is gone. (I’m trying to imagine D the first time he read that line and realising he’d have to deliver it.)
Uh-oh, Kirk is so confused he’s mouthing other people’s lines.
It’s been removed surgically. (Sorry, D, they’re only going to get worse from here.)
But don’t worry, they were really, really careful about how they took it out. You know, not to hurt the body that would die without it. Which, really, makes perfect sense if you don’t think about it too much. And of course, being Vulcan and not a redshirt, for instance, Spock isn’t dead and life-support is going to keep him that way. For now.
Kirk decides Hot Alien Babe stole it and does what he’s best at, gets mad. Bones doesn’t know how long he can keep Spock going without his incredible Vulcan mind. So Kirk is going to take them all to search for Spock’s brain.
Problem—where the hell are they going to look? And if the find it, then what? Bones doesn’t know how to put it back.
No worries. The person who took it out must know how to put it back. (Just don’t think about that too much. If you do, blood with shoot out of your nose. Trust me.)
Another problem—Bones has decided on an amount of time. 24 hours or they’re screwed.
Don’t worry, Doc. Kirk will give you Scotty to help get Spock ready. You know, because engineers and doctors are practically the same thing.
Now, you’d think it would be harder to track an alien ship, but luckily for Kirk it left an ion trail. Or at least they assume it’s that ship’s trail. It could be anyone’s. But they’re off at warp 6 to find out.
There are three M Class planets in the star system and Kirk needs to pick one. None seems right. Every time I watch this episode I wait for the entire bridge crew to start yelling choices at Kirk like he’s on The Price Is Right. He goes with door number three, the least likely of the planets and heads off with Chekov and three Redshirts.
8 hours and 29 minutes left.
They beam down to a planet in its glacial period without any winter gear (clever) but luckily for them they all have some never before discussed personal atmosphere device that they can set to whatever temperature they require. (Remember, this isn’t an episode for thinking about things.) Meanwhile the primitive natives of the planet (large men all sporting the pageboy hairdos and beards) gather to sneak up on them. Apparently none of them saw “The Apple” because, as we all know, that sort of thing will get you punched in the face.
The natives attack, Kirk stuns one and the rest of them go with the King Arthur manoeuver—RUN AWAY!
When they go to talk to their new captured friend he’s surprised to find that they aren’t “the others” despite being “small like the others” (who are givers of pain and delight—so, sadists I guess). They come for all like them, these others. But when Kirk mentions women (yeah, like we’re all really surprised that he’s the first one to bring that up) Pageboy Caveman doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
You can see the panic starting to set in on Kirk’s face—a planet with no women? What fresh hell is this? No women, no females, no mates—I keep waiting for Kirk to make the universal hand sign for boobies.
While Kirk goes through the list of possible explanations of what women are, the landing party find a door to an apparent storehouse of goods and a doorway to a buried city.
Yeah, this is going to go well.
Before they go anywhere, Kirk send for Bones and Spock. They beam down, both up and walking around. Spock has been fitted with headgear that allows Bones to move him around via remote control (I’d put money on it that Bones wishes he had one of those things all the time). Kirk, Scotty, Bones, and Robo-Spock move in to the room, the door slams shut and the room drops. Chekov, hanging out with the redshirts, is not alarmed and heats up some rocks for them to hang out around.
The room stops, the door opens and there’s another Hot Alien Babe. Kirk, being a gentleman, shoots her before she can get to her ugly bracelet. Bones shoots her up with something to get her back up on her feet and Kirk, coming from a planet with TOTAL EQUALITY demands to be taken to the MAN in charge.
Hot Alien Babe #2 tells them they are neither Morg or Eymorg and she knows nothing about a brain. Kirk insists she’s lying.
Bones steps in. She’s not lying. She has the mind of a child (otherwise known as “a woman’s brain”).
But wait, Scotty is getting something on the communicator! It’s… it’s… SPOCK’S BRAIN! And it’s happy to hear from them all. But unfortunately it doesn’t know where it is what with not being connected to Spock’s eyes any more. Stay there, brain, we’re coming to get you!
Hot Alien Babe #1 is headed right for them. Kirk starts yelling rather than reaching for his phaser and soon they’re all on the ground. (Side note—I love how Kirk and Bones fall together.) Well, not Spock. He’s brainless which leaves you immune to being stunned.
Taken captive, still out cold and wearing a snazzy new belt, Kirk still manages to make a Captain’s log entry. Hot Alien Babe #1 wakes them all up with her “Boinga-Boinga” bracelet and they’re all a bit confused (even Kirk who must have forgotten the unconscious log entry already). Kirk checks to make sure that his new belt doesn’t make him look fat and then gets down to business.
Where’s Spock’s brain?
But none of them know who Spock is or what this “brain” thing they keep talking about is. Remember, they are only women. She doesn’t even recall being on the Enterprise. (I think Kirk is really upset that she doesn’t remember him, especially since he had the good sense to fall with his best feature showing.) Bones explains that the silly girl really doesn’t know what he’s talking about and Kirk takes a seat.
Hot Alien Babe #1 tells them that if they want to return to the ship they can go. Kirk, being the the committed Starfleet officer he is, tells her they’d rather stay to learn from them and to teach them of his ways. (I can hear the Prime Directive crying from here.) Bones and Scotty ask about simple things, like the difference in temperature between outside and down below, the power supply and the fresh air. Kirk, however, is back to asking who’s in charge. Despite all indications, he’s still not ready to believe that a woman is the leader.
But who controls everything?
Controller. Controller controls. I bet you wouldn’t have guessed that. (You may also note that never once does Hot Alien Babe assign a sex to “Controller” but Kirk still insists on calling it “him.”) No one is permitted to see Controller, however. Our landing party isn’t so good at taking no for an answer. They just want to talk to someone about Spock’s brain.
This brings up one of the best lines in the episode. “Brain and brain! What is brain!?”
No, I didn’t make that up.
But that’s the ticket, isn’t it, Jim? Spock’s brain is the Controller. “Spock’s. Brain. Controls.”
So Kirk does what any rational human would do. He throws up his hands and starts doing his best imitation of what I can only assume is praising of the leader and pleading to see the Controller.
Hot Alien Babe isn’t having any of it though. She hits the “Boinga-Boinga” bracelet again. This time it’s set to maximum overacting and turns Kirk in to a flopping twitching mess on the floor before heading out to do woman things, I guess. When they manage to get back up, all three agree that none of the women could have created anything so complex. Kirk tries to go for his communicator but one of the guards blocks his way.
This of course leave them with only one option.
Kirk takes one guard while McCoy and Scotty take the other. McCoy lasts about five seconds before hitting the floor and Scotty only fairs slightly better. Kirk on the other hand takes out his guard and then comes to save the day by taking out the other. I think it’s the patented Kirk flying kick that does it.
Communicator back in hand, Kirk touches base with Spock’s brain. He explains to the brain that they brought his body along for the ride so they could reunite the two. Spock doesn’t sound too enthusiastic. He also doesn’t seem to trust Bones all that much. Nothing personal though, right? It’s just that there is no known technique for restoring a brain.
Kirk goes back to insisting that if it could be removed, it can be put back in.
Even the disembodied brain thinks you’re a bit off on that one, Jim.
Regardless, the brain gets them directions and off they go. Kirk mentions that he doesn’t like his snazzy new belt but doesn’t know how to take it off. The brain tells them to press the red button on a bracelet.
That shouldn’t be too hard.
Once in the Controller’s room, the landing party finds once more that hell hath no fury when Hot Alien Babe zaps them with her bracelet again. Cheesiness on maximum again, they all hit the floor except Spock. McCoy, despite the pain, points it out to Kirk who goes for Robo-Spock’s remote control again. He fights through the cheese and gets Spock over the Hot Alien Babe to press her little red button.
Off pop the belts (you knew Kirk wouldn’t abide anything impeding his ability to gets his pants off).
Hot Alien Babe begs them not to take controller. Not just because she’s greedy but because THEY WILL ALL DIE.
Kirk’s response? “You will find another controller.” So we can’t have your friend, but we can get someone else? Anyone you would recommend?
He carries on demanding that she put Spock’s brain back. Despite having agreed numerous times that these women folk are farto dumb to do much of anything, he’s still sure she can do it. Her, but not McCoy. I love it when he gets all rational like that.
She explains that she doesn’t know (again) and that she got the know-how the first time from “the teacher” which she “put upon her head” (uh huh). The teacher being a super futuristic salon hair dryer that zaps information into your head.
Hot Alien Babe insists that there is nothing she can do. She can only use it at the command of the ancients. Kirk insists that he can protect her. You know, because nothing has ever or will ever slip past Kirk’s defense to hurt people he has promised to protect. She is hysterical by the time Kirk forces her in to the teacher because she will be punished, but Kirk carries on. He’s cool like that.
The teacher does it’s job and kick starts her simple brain. Unfortunately for Jim, she’s also clever enough to have stolen his phaser. And it’s… SET TO KILL!
Tricked by a woman!
She’s also unwilling to give up the Controller. Don’t worry though, Scotty psychs her out with a fake faint and Kirk gets his phaser back. Silly woman.
Since she’s not giving up the secrets of brain-put-back-in-ness, McCoy is up to bat. Spock’s brain points out that the teacher may very well kill him but he seems less concerned. After all, he may be able to retain the knowledge and let the universe know how one may remove and then replace a brain.
I guess that sort of thing would come in handy.
Teacher gives McCoy a splitting headache but manages to get the message across. He jumps in to the surgery with both feet but no one is sure how long he’s going to be able to hang on the the knowledge. Another trip to the teacher will kill him, so that’s no damn good and I guess Kirk and Scotty aren’t really in to that academic stuff because I certainly don’t see them volunteering for the next time around.
While Bones operates Hot Alien Babe is still going on about how her people are doomed. Kirk is unfazed and in accordance with the Prime Directive tells her that her people and their society as it is will have to make drastic changes in order to survive so he can save one person. That’s what the Prime Directive says, right?
But wait! Bones is starting to forget! And his pessimism is coming back with a vengeance! No one can restore a brain! No one!
Kirk points out that he could, just a little while ago. “It was child’s play.”
Cue montage! My god, but Bones’ eyebrow is getting a hell of a workout this episode!
Kirk, ever helpful, makes a log entry and tells Bones to hook up the talky part of the brain so Spock can help Bones replace the rest of his own brain.
Can I pause here to tell you that I really do wish I was making this up? Really I do.
Once the chatter box bit is back up and running, Spock doesn’t hesitate to get on with the technobabble. This scene is… painful. I love Bones and I love Spock, but sweet Jebus.
With Spock’s brain back in his brain box, Spock is up and about again, chattering away like an excitable 12 year old Vulcan girl. Bones makes a crack about how he should never reconnected the speech centre again and we fade to black with Spock still babbling and everyone else (minus Hot Alien Babe, who’s still a bit worried about her people being doomed) having a good chuckle.
And finally, for your viewing pleasure—“Spock’s Brain: Condensed.”
“Spock’s Brain” is something that really must be witnessed. As much as I can write about it, it just isn’t the same as seeing it. I’ve seen every episode of TOS and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t chalk full of cheese and weirdness but there are a few that stand out from the crowd.
This is one such episode.
It takes my #2 spot for bottom TOS episodes. But it’s certainly something you’ll remember forever.