Thursday, August 16, 2012

Star Trek TOS: Is There In Truth No Beauty?

Star Trek TOS: Is There In Truth No Beauty?

"The glory of creation is in its infinite diversity."
"And the ways our differences combine to create meaning and beauty."

- Miranda and Spock, before she departs

The Medusan ambassador Kollos arrives in a box with a beautiful woman, Dr. Miranda Jones. Medusans are so ugly that any sight of them drives people mad. Spock escorts Miranda on board, and he notes that she is a telepath who studied on Vulcan to control her ability. She comments that she, although human, agrees with the Vulcans. “Violent emotion is a kind of disease.”

The crew prepares a formal dinner in Miranda‘s honor. McCoy wonders aloud how she, as someone so beautiful can condemn herself to look upon such ugliness. Spock chides McCoy for subscribing to the "outmoded notion promulgated by your ancient Greeks that what is good must also be beautiful." Kirk naturally defends McCoy. After that, Miranda sees that Spock is wearing the Vulcan IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations) pin, and asks if he wore it in her honor, which Spock concedes.

In a subplot, an engineer named Larry Marvick falls in love with Miranda, and begins to wonder what he can give her that he can’t. So, he looks into the box without a visor, and goes mad and blind. In a fit of rage, he throws the Enterprise full speed into The Galactic Void. Since the Medusans are known as brilliant navigators, Spock reasons that he can attempt to telepathically meld with Kollos, and guide them out. Miranda objects, saying she has more training, but McCoy reveals she is blind, and can’t pilot the ship.

She says that is why she hates human emotions. Pity worst of all! Her dress is coated with a sensor web so that she can detect her environment, and she demonstrates her ability by telling the crew actually how far away the door is. Kirk takes her to the arboretum to relax her. Smooth operator, Kirk.

Meanwhile, Spock temporarily becomes Kollos, and comments on language and poetry, before guiding them successfully back on course to the Medusan homeworld: "This thing you call language though; most remarkable. You depend on it for so very much. But is any one of you really its master?" However, when Spock attempts to break the link and return Kollos to his box, she makes Spock forget to put on his visor. He too, goes mad, attacks the crew, and Kirk stuns him with his phaser.

Jones, with her Vulcan training, may be able to repair Spock's damaged mind, but she is reluctant to do so. Kirk confronts her with her jealousy and accuses her of not wanting Spock to recover: "With my words, I'll make you hear such ugliness as Spock saw when he looked at Kollos with his naked eyes! The ugliness is within you!" She successfully melds with and heals Spock and gains her desired ability to link with Kollos in the process.

Before she leaves, Kirk gives her a rose and tells her: “Every rose has its thorn.” Then, she and Spock exchange the quotes about the IDIC, and they give the Vulcan salute. ( You know it, it looks like this: |V| .) I love this episode for many reasons. One, it features a strong blind woman trying to “pass” as able-bodied and who despises pity. Two, for it’s criticism of Greek standards of beauty (which certainly would’ve been welcome in the Pike episode.) and three, for it’s exploration of the power of speech to overcome hate and jealousy.

Sometimes, I found that I agree with Miranda. I too, agree with the Vulcans. But, she became jealous of Spock when she perceived pity from the crew. Kollos speaking through Spock though is correct that to be part of a world of language means to be limited and vulnerable; Kirk knows best how to make people confront violent emotions, so he acted on Kollos’s words, using his language to make her see. That’s my captain!

All and all, it’s a great examination of disability, bodily norms, and the power of language to break through those norms. It is a bold episode, and truly stands for all that makes Star Trek great: Kirk being the romantic, Spock being logical and Vulcan, McCoy being the blunt country doctor…and in the midst, a strong blind woman, who the crew accepts, and she learns to accept herself! What could be more IDIC than that?

         (Spock looks at Kollos.)


                                                             (Vulcan IDIC "iddick" pin.)

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