Many Trekkies hate this episode for a variety of reasons, but interestingly, one of the reasons is NEVER that Captain Kirk gets stripped half-naked and tortured in it (because let's face it, that's something that Trekkies always love to watch - which is probably why we get a scene like that in virtually every other episode).
McCoy gets tortured too, which is kind of an amusing oddity, but he stays dressed, because, let's face it, Trekkies don't tune in to hopefully see a half-naked Dr. McCoy every week.
As usual, the guys are thrown (against their wish and will) into a situation where they are forced to encounter a beautiful woman. She's an ethereal, angelic, hypnotically beautiful brunette with big dark-fringed eyes, and as usual, neither Captain Kirk nor Mr. Spock show any sign of being attracted to her. Those two guys hardly notice that she's a girl, as usual.
Here is an episode which features several recurring TOS plot elements and themes - 1) Kirk gets kidnapped (Gideon, Adonais, Wink, Squire, others), 2) super-being plays with Kirk (Adonais, Charlie X, Squire, others), 3) Kirk can't resist the urge to try to piss off his superior opponent although he knows he's hopelessly outmatched (Adonais, Squire, Charlie X, others), 4) Kirk gets tortured (too many to list), 6) Kirk gambles with his own life/freedom (Savage Curtain, Squire, others), 7) Kirk gets into a situation with a woman even though it's totally not his own idea (too many to list)....
This episode adds a little fuel to the K/S fire, but offers virtually NO titillating M/F action. This episode also throws a spotlight on Kirk's "creative" (some might say peculiar) problem-solving methods, adding weight to my assertion that Kirk is a full-blown masochist. Well, even if Kirk's not into S/M, it's clear the creators thought their audience ought to be... as I shall explain.
When the Enterprise stops by to retrieve the scientists from the Minara 2 research station (which is in orbit around a star which is about to supernova), Kirk, Bones, and Spock discover that everything is covered in dust and the station has been abandoned/inactive for maybe three months.
Scott calls down to warn about a massive solar flare measuring 3.51 on the "Ritter" scale. Kirk informs Scott to move the Enterprise to a safe distance until the flare passes, putting it out of communication range for 74.1 solar hours.
Meanwhile, Kirk plays a record tape to see what has become of the scientific staff.
On the tape:
Scientist one: "I don't think I can stand another week in this God-forsaken place."
An earthquake rocks the station.
Scientist two: "In his hand are the deep places of the earth - Psalm 95, verse 4. Looks like HE was listening!"
[NOTE: Well, it's now obvious why Scientist one can't stand being stuck alone in the middle of nowhere with his Bible-quoting comrade much longer. There's nothing more annoying that somebody who quotes the Bible constantly.]
Suddenly there's a high pitched whine, and the two vanish.
After reviewing the tape, Kirk and the guys hear the same sound, and they too vanish. Bones and Spock go first, and immediately after an earthquake shakes Jim and knocks him into the staircase, Kirk is taken.
They find themselves in a weird, dark place, that sort of resembles a NYC BDSM club on an off night. Spock uses his tricorder, and declares that they have been transported deep, DEEP beneath the planet's surface.
Jim got cut when he bumped his head on the stairs.
McCoy (concerned): "That's a nasty cut, Jim, does it hurt?"
Kirk (totally unconcerned): "No."
[NOTE: Don't be silly, of course it hurts. But pain doesn't bother Jim like it does other people, cos he's a masochist.]
They wander about in a spacious, gloomy warehouse, phasers clutched tight in their sweaty, nervous fists, until they discover a pretty lady lying on a platform, all alone.
Naturally Kirk springs a boner and starts lustfully humping her leg at once NO HE DOESN'T. Au contrare mon frere!
McCoy naturally starts to approach the babe du jour, but Kirk stops him.
Kirk (sharply): "Be careful!"
McCoy (puzzled): "Why, she seems harmless enough."
Spock (darkly): "The sand-bats of Manark 4 appear to be inanimate rock crystals, Doctor, until they attack."
[NOTE: ROFLMAO! Ooo! Beware of the pretty girl! Watch out! Watch out!]
She stirs, sits up, and seems startled to see them.
Kirk (still pointing his phaser at her head): "We're not going to hurt you."
She seems skeptical.
Kirk: "Is this your home? Do you live here?"
She doesn't answer, so Kirk asks for Spock's opinion. Spock's opinion is that she isn't native to that world. For some strange reason this reassures Kirk, and he puts his pistol away.
[NOTE: There's no reason that I can think of why that fact alone would be enough to calm Kirk. Many of their deadliest enemies weren't native to the world where they were encountered.]
Kirk kneels, and begins to interrogate the lady.
"Are you responsible for bringing us here!?" Kirk barks.
She recoils fearfully, looking distressed.
"Don't be afraid!" Kirk orders.
Her wonderfully expressive face now changes, indicating that she magically senses somehow that Kirk is more bark than bite, despite his aggressive manner and tone.
[NOTE: It's certainly NOT her softening up because of Kirk's seductive manner and tone. I mean, this is certainly NOT a case of the mythical playboy-Kirk smoothly seducing his way past a woman's defenses. Heck no! Anything but! If anything, this is one more example of how Kirk is as smooth as a cinderblock when it comes to women. Seductive my ass, he's in fact very rough and clumsy with women. The truth is, the only time Kirk actually gets anywhere with women is when they like his looks well enough to forgive his blundering. Romantic hero? In A Pig's Eye.
But I digress...]
McCoy examines the silent lady, and tells Kirk that she's a mute. She has no sign of vocal cords whatsoever.
[NOTE: This apparently is her natural state: it's not that she was surgically silenced.]
Kirk wonders how he will communicate with the woman unless she is a telepath. Spock remarks that this is unlikely, since 98% of known telepathic species send as well as receive thoughts, and she's made no attempt to contact their minds.
McCoy wants to call her something, so he dubs her "Gem".
[NOTE: His reason for preferring this moniker is never properly explained. I personally don't like it because it sounds too much like "Jim".]
Jim abruptly barks to "Gem", "I wanna know why we're here!"
"Gem" cringes, once again repelled by Jim's manner.
Kirk (softer): "I wanna know what's going on... and she knows!"
Suddenly, two butt-ugly armed alien dudes in silvery bathrobes appear.
Kirk immediately faces them and starts to introduce himself, as he normally would do... as it is his job to do.
They know who he is. They introduce themselves as Vians. When Kirk tries to approach they shoot him with invisible rays that knock him back hard on his ass. Doesn't faze him.
[NOTE: Because I know Kirk well, Kirk's reaction is exactly what I expect. Because he is a masochist, he immediately gets up and tries to approach them again, apparently asking for more of the same treatment that he just got. I'm sitting here, watching, shaking my head, and thinking to myself, "Oh Jeez, Jim, that is so completely typical of you!"]
Kirk starts to explain that they came in peace (with a phaser in his hand, once again sending a mixed message).
[NOTE: It's SO INSANE that the Vians are warning Kirk to not interfere, and that Kirk's quoting the PD to assure them that he's not there to interfere. I mean, they didn't come in peace, they came because they were brought there by force against their will, for crying out loud. Kirk and the guys are kidnapped by an obviously technologically savvy gang of thugs, and the VIANS have NO RIGHT to claim the protection of the PD in this instance, sorry!
OK, there: that's one GOOD reason to hate this episode. Let's see if we can find some others.]
The Vians trap McCoy, Spock, and Kirk in a force field. They fuss with Gem a little, doing God knows what, leave her lying as she originally was, then vanish, releasing the landing party.
Kirk shows concern for Gem. He lifts Gem and ask if she's OK. Gem recoils, rejects Jim's attention, twisting herself out of his grasp.
[NOTE: Jim Kirk, heap-big ladykiller. LOL.]
Gem then, in a very formal manner, softly touches Kirk's injured forehead, magically transfers the wound from there to her own head, and then magically heals the wound she adopted.
They are all astonished at this.
"She must be an empath", McCoy declaims.
Kirk (softly, to Gem): "Thank you."
[NOTE: And then horndog playboy Kirk kisses her passionately on the lips NO HE DOESN'T. But he's sure to eventually, isn't he? NO, He Isn't.
Get to know Kirk really well, and you will see that the safest bet is that he won't kiss/hug/hump/pork the girl, because he usually doesn't.]
Spock reports that his tricorder now reveals a collection of machinery which did not appear to be there before. When they go to investigate, Kirk takes Gem by the hand and urges her to come with them. They walk together chastely side by side, holding hands like brother and sister.
They discover their kidnapped scientists dead, encased in plastic cylinders. In addition, they find three empty cylinders, labelled "Subject McCoy," "Subject Kirk," and "Subject Spock."
[NOTE: Uh oh. That looks, I dunno... premeditated!]
One of the Vians then reappears. Kirk distracts him while Spock Vulcan-pinches the Vian into insensibility. Kirk takes the Vian's weapon, and, interestingly, promptly hands it over to Spock.
[NOTE: It's interesting that Kirk does this, because he's done it before, more than once. For example, when Kirk gets a weapon away from the Nazi that first pestered them in Patterns of Force, he gives the guy's uniform and weapon to Spock, and Spock then pretends that he's a Nazi who has captured Jim as his prisoner. Hmm. And in Catspaw, Kirk manages to snag his antagonist's weapon, and he immediately hands it over to Spock, who proceeds to train it on the dame-du-jour. Hmm.
It's not just odd that Kirk does this (and that Spock never questions it) but it's definitely a pattern of force, I mean _pattern of behavior_ with those two.]
They run and run and run, up and out, and then across rocky terrain for miles, until they see the research station. They see Scotty, smiling and waving. They run to meet him, but it's all a mirage.
Vians decide that Kirk is their favorite "specimen."
[NOTE: Oh, big surprise. Gee, that comes as a total shock. NOT.]
They promise to let the others go if Jim will willingly submit to their experimentation. Jim quickly agrees.
[NOTE: Oh, big surprise. Gee, that comes as a total shock. NOT.]
Spock, McCoy and Gem start to walk away, then vanish.
Kirk (outraged): "What happened to my men!?"
[NOTE: He doesn't ask about the woman.]
The Vians tell Kirk that "They are safe".
The Vians strip Kirk half-naked, hang him high, and torture him. They cold-bloodedly torture him for a long time. They're really really mean to Jim. It goes on for a long time. Gosh, Jim suffers a lot. He hangs there, helpless in all his shaved-chest glory, suffering very prettily, for, oh, gosh, the longest time.
[NOTE: but not long enough, which is why they invented the rewind button.]
[NOTE: Kirk demonstrates once again that he has a remarkably high tolerance for pain. All his private sessions with Spock have no doubt built his tolerance levels up to a super-human degree. Obviously having a high tolerance for pain comes in handy in this line of work, which is probably Spock's logical justification for his private experimentation on Jim.]
During the torture scene, Kirk remains totally lucid and articulate. Heck, he's positively chatty. He asks the Vians all kinds of questions:
Kirk: "What is it you want to know?"
Vian1: "We seek no information as you mean. Your civilization is yet too immature to have knowledge valuable to us."
Kirk: "You don't need any knowledge from us, yet you're willing to kill for it. Is that what happened to Linke and Ozaba?"
Vian2 "We did not kill them. Their own fears killed them."
Kirk: "Well, what did you expect from them? And what do you want from me?"
[NOTE: Isn't it obvious that they are already getting what they want from Jim?]
Vian1: "We've already observed the intensity of your passions and gauged your capacity to love others. Now we want you to reveal to us your courage and strength of will."
Kirk: "Why? What is it you hope to prove? If my death is to have any meaning, at least tell me what I'm dying for."
[NOTE: Hey! Let's all play WHAT IS JIM DYING FOR!? Choose one answer:
1) A Klondike Bar
2) To be set free
3) More discipline, less bondage
I say the smart money is on 3.]
Kirk is unceremoniously dumped back on the platform where they first encountered Gem. He finds that McCoy and Spock are still subterranean prisoners, trapped in a force field.
McCoy: "Jim! What have they done to you!?"
[NOTE: Well, for one thing, they gave him his shirt back.]
Gem generously cures Kirk's torture-related injuries with her supernatural powers, but then faints from the strain.
The Vians come back, and ask for Kirk's permission to use another of the men. Kirk adamantly refuses this time.
[NOTE: Why are they even asking? They obviously can just take what they want.]
The Vians give Kirk the "choice" of selecting McCoy (who will probably be killed) or Spock (who we're told will likely suffer permanent brain damage).
[NOTE: Close up on Kirk's face as he reacts in shock to the threat against Spock. Noo0ooo! NOT MY POCKIE!
Now see here, Kirk already made his choice. He chose to sacrifice himself to spare the others. The Vians broke their promise. Nobody participating or watching should imagine that the Vians will actually honor any agreement that is struck. This choice-giving act of theirs is just another form of torture, IMHO.]
Bones tranquilizes Kirk. Spock says he's grateful that McCoy spared Kirk such an agonizing choice. He points out that (with Kirk unconscious) he is now in command, and that he's decided to offer himself for the Vian's experimentation.
[NOTE: K/S alert!]
Then Spock seats himself next to the slumbering Kirk, and hovers over Kirk protectively. Gem, with her insightful empathic powers, suddenly senses an unfamiliar and interesting emotion. She turns, surprised, and gazes wonderingly at Spock.
Spock, his telepathic Vulcan senses tingling, catches her looking and throws her back a LOOK. He's all, wanna make sumthin' of it, bitch!?
Gem, with a tender expression in her wide, innocent eyes, obviously doesn't have a problem with it. She's totally cool about it. She seems to think it's kind of nice, in fact. She was just surprised, that's all!
Spock shrugs and decides to ignore her. She softly tiptoes over and rests a tender, supportive hand lightly on Spock's shoulder.
Smiling reassuringly, Gem radiates something totally positive Spock's way. Now it's Spock's turn to be surprised.
[NOTE: I mean, the whole reason Spock and Kirk are discreet about their relationship is probably that they don't expect a positive reaction from people. So yeah, Spock's surprised!]
While Spock's distracted by Gem, McCoy decided to sneak up on Spock and tranquilize him, too. When the Vians come, McCoy volunteers to be their subject.
Of course, McCoy gets tortured. He bears it all very bravely. He's not quite as good of a sport about it as Kirk is, but then, nobody else ever is.
When Spock awakens, he uses the Vian's device to transport Kirk, himself, and Gem AT JIM'S REQUEST ~to the torture chamber~, instead of far away from it.
Kirk: "The best defense is a strong offence, and I intend to start offending right now."
[NOTE: Oh, gee, Jim, come on, is that smart? Won't that just get you more of what the Vians have given you already? Come to think of it, isn't that just like you?]
They find McCoy, still hung up and almost dead. They take him down, Spock and Jim show concern, but can't do much.
[NOTE: Brace yourself to behold one of the rare occasions when McCoy actually compliments Spock.]
McCoy (weakly): "You've got a... good bedside manner, Spock."
The Vians appear and watch the spectacle, locking Spock and Kirk inside force fields so they won't try to persuade Gem to help McCoy. NOW the Vians explain themselves:
Vian1: "Of all the planets of Minara, we have the power to transport the inhabitants of only one to safety [from the impending nova]. If Gem's planet is the one that will be saved, we must make certain beyond any doubt whatsoever they are worthy of survival."
[NOTE: Oh, BROTHER! So the lives of a whole planet full of people depends on whether this one woman repeatedly volunteers to endure horrible pain and risk death to save the lives of complete strangers? What makes these BASTARDS fit to conduct and judge such a cruel contest?
The Vians talk about how Kirk et all are Gem's teachers, but they actually didn't seem to teach her anything. Whatever she knows now is something she apparently always knew. The whole premise is so incredibly, maddingly BOGUS!
What about the 2 scientists? Did they die because Gem failed? No. We are told TWICE that it was their own fears that killed them - whatever that means.]
Gem hesitatingly attempts to save McCoy... but stops before the process is complete, obviously in an act of self-preservation. Then she tries again, but this time McCoy pushes her away, obviously because he refuses to let her kill herself for his sake.
While the Vians watch, Spock manages to release himself from the force field by suppressing all emotion.
He takes one of the control devices away from the Vians, hands it to Kirk (which is inexplicable) and Kirk, realizing he doesn't know how to use it, offers it back to the Vians, saying "You must save the life of our friend." WhaAaaat!?
[NOTE: Oh, BROTHER! Jim, What Are You Thinking!?]
Naturally they refuse. Quelle surprise!
Kirk (handing all weapons over to the to the Vians: "If death is all you understand, then here are four lives for you."
[NOTE: Again, Jim, What Are You Thinking!?]
Jim now insults the Vians in an undisguised, sickeningly obvious attempt to provoke them into more acts of heartless cruelty. The shocked Vians suddenly realize that they are being manipulated by a bottomlessly greedy pervert, and they want no further part of it. For those psychos, it's no fun to torture people when they actually are honestly asking for it.
[NOTE: Come to think of it, maybe THAT is what Jim was thinking.]
They heal McCoy, grab the still unconscious Gem, and beat feet out of there, pronto!
Against all odds, Kirk's bizarre tactic worked! The guys are apparently now free to go. No apologies or anything - the bad guys got away with all of it. For all we know, the saintly Gem is still in captivity. The fact that our three guys survived this ordeal and managed to escape with their lives is the closest thing to a happy ending that we get.
But don't be sad. We're not walking away empty-handed. We can play that scene of a gorgeous, half-naked Kirk being tortured over, and over, and over again _any time we want_. That's some consolation, eh, what?
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