For the first time, but not the last, Star Trek goes into creepy mode. Not scary like a monster or disturbing like a friend gaining godlike power and trying to kill you. Creepy like making your skin crawl. The disturbing descriptions of death on the frozen colony, and the strange actions of the now-dead science team leave your Poore Trekkies with a freaked-out feeling, partially due to the striking similarity to the Dyatlov Pass Incident of 1959. We did a little digging, and couldn’t find anywhere else that drew this parallel. Maybe it was partially inspired by the real-life incident, maybe not.
As the alcohol-water spreads throughout the ship, some of the creepy factor is lost, as even the crisis of the disintegrating planet takes a back seat to the antics of Sulu and Riley. While the whole episode is not intended to be funny, there are some moments that do elicit a laugh, especially as Sulu runs around the ship thrusting his foil at the crew. Which sounds…nevermind. I’m leaving that alone.
Once Sulu and Riley are subdued, the tension returns and the rest of the episode does manage to recapture that feeling of dread. There really are some wonderful moments, especially with Majel Barrett and Leonard Nimoy. First, Nurse Chapel’s declaration of love for Spock, which not only sets up many interesting moments between them in later episodes but also is heartwrenching as he apologizes for not being able to reciprocate. And then Nimoy’s flawless (and unscripted) portrayal of Spock’s emotional breakdown is very powerful, and sets up the conflict between his human and Vulcan sides.
A few other notable moments include the famous Scotty line, “I can’t change the laws of physics!”, as well as the most lines spoken by my favorite redshirt, Lt. Leslie (as played by the lovable Eddie Paskey).
Even if you laugh a bit at a shirtless George Takei halfway through, give this episode a chance to creep you out a bit. It’s well worth it.