7/3/12

Star Trek: Asterisk "The Empath"

Vital Information
Series: The Original Series
Episode: S03E12
Air Date: December 6, 1968
Written by: Joyce Muskat
Directed by: John Erman

Premise
On their way to pick up some scientists, the crew of the Enterprise encounter a mute alien whom Bones names "Gem". Spock gets drugged.

Review
The mission: to evacuate a team of scientists on a planet the star for which is about to go nova. The problem: the scientists mysteriously disappear. When the crew arrive, they find the station empty with no trace of anyone. They consult the security recordings and find that the team literally vanished. Well, it doesn't take long until the landing party, consisting of Kirk, Spock and Bones, vanish themselves. And they awaken to find... nothing. No, really... they're in a room that's just... black.

They walk around for a while and eventually come upon a beautiful woman resting on a bed. That's a bed in the middle of nothingness. They try to speak to her, but Bones scans her to find that she has no vocal chords and, in fact, that she may be from a race completely devoid of audible communication.  Bones names her Gem because, why not? And then some other aliens appear. It's clear that the set budget has all been saved for the makeup budget in this episode, because these aliens actually look like something one would find in The Next Generation.
Or in a Marvel comic.
These guys tell Kirk and the gang not to interfere and they stun Kirk for approaching them. Before they leave, they trap the team in force fields that draw strength from the body's energy, so the more they struggle the stronger the field becomes. When they leave, however, the field dissipates. Kirk suffered a cut on his forehead from his encounter with the aliens, so when he sits next to Gem, Gem touches his forehead and does a little magic trick. The cut suddenly transfers to her forehead and then vanishes. So... she's an empath! Yay!

Kirk now healed, the team walks around some more and find the scientists they were looking for. Dead inside of some clear tubes and apparently tortured. There are also some tubes that are labeled for each member of the landing party. So that's when they try to make their escape. Spock neck-pinches one of the aliens and they grab Gem and race to the surface. They appear to see Scotty off in the distance ready to save them, but it turns out to be an illusion created by the aliens to show their willingness to survive. The aliens recapture them and take Kirk away for some good, old fashioned torture.
Kirk likes it kinky.
While they torture Kirk, they sort of goad Gem into helping him, but she never quite helps him all the way. And when they're finished, they tell Kirk that he has to pick the next victim. He's determined to go himself, but Bones and Spock also volunteer to alleviate their captain's suffering. Meanwhile, Bones gives Kirk a sedative to ease his pain. And while Kirk is sleeping, Spock takes command prerogative to volunteer himself for the next experiment. But Bones is having none of that. He trugs Spock and, with both him and Kirk down, he takes the chains next.

When Spock and Kirk wake up, they find Bones severely beaten, almost to death. And Gem standing before him being goaded on to help. But she's afraid. If she takes on all of those wounds she might die herself. That's when the aliens reveal that they're doing all of this to test Gem and her race to see if they are worthy of being saved from the star that's about to go nova. So Kirk argues that while they're testing her compassion, they are having none for her!
"My father never loved me."
Kirk's rousing speech sways them, they heal Bones and take Gem to go save her people and Kirk, Bones and Spock transport back up to the Enterprise. After all is said and done, Kirk muses on how lucky they were to come across Gem. And Scotty says she must have been like the "pearl of great price". With that comparison, Bones is awfully pleased with himself for coming up with the name "Gem".

Overall Thoughts
Not a whole lot really happens in this episode, but the moral is a good one. One that hits hard in Star Trek many times. Don't let cold, hard intellectualism take you away from good old human emotion. For only in the balance of the two will you find fulfillment. Even if you're a alien.