Ando: While this episode has a rather deep topic that I know we’ll spend most of the post discussing, I’d like to open by pointing out that this is another early example of Kirk using his wits to get himself – and Christine Chapel this time – out of a tight spot. Not only does he set up the mental hook to alert Spock that the man who goes back to the Enterprise is an impostor, he also manages to fritz out Andrea’s android brain with love and re-awaken Ruk’s frustration with humanoid life. Quite an accomplishment, considering he had no idea the danger he was in at the start of the mission.
KM: I don’t think I recognized the dominant theme of this episode until the last scene. Kirk’s casual dismissal of android Dr. Corby’s legitimacy made me realize that the story is essentially about humanity. “What are little girls made of?” What makes a person a person? What makes us human?
Ando: Indeed – Roger’s insistence that he was “in here” and that his android body should not have changed Chapel’s feelings toward him goes to show that at least he felt that the consciousness makes the man. He obviously believes that his original human body’s death did not change who he was, since his consciousness – his “soul” lived on inside the android body.
KM: It’s an interesting philosophical question: is a human mind in an inorganic body still a human? Kirk obviously has a very strong opinion on the matter, but the other characters display a level of ambivalence that I personally consider more relatable. This is why Kirk’s response left me with a sour taste. I think the matter is far more gray-area.
Ando: In the end, I think Kirk had to be a bit strict in his definition – and likely his report to Starfleet – precisely because he’s the captain, and he can’t really afford to let himself be seen as letting sentimentality overcome judgment, and in order to protect not only his crew but every human Corby would have replaced, he had to dismiss android-Corby as not the “real Corby”, although I can see how that pains Chapel. He made a command decision, rather than a human one.
KM: This episode is just the first of many throughout Star Trek canon that deals with the definition of humanity/sentience. Most notably, Data (from Star Trek: The Next Generation) is an android who often struggles with the concept of humanity and his own desire to be human. This episode gives a different slant (a human brain being put inside an android rather than a completely inorganic android from the beginning), but deals with similar concepts that I know we will give much more attention to later on in our voyage.
Ando: The one thing about this episode that’s always bugged me a bit is how Ruk literally forgets about why the “old ones” were gone. I mean, he’s an android, and when Kirk starts asking him questions about the “old ones”, Ruk even says in his eureka moment that the information was there in his memory banks, it’s just that it had been so long that he had forgotten (and earlier in the episode, Corby demonstrates that Ruk essentially lost track of time until he got there). Why? An android shouldn’t have senior moments, especially not one who describes himself as “superior” to the models he helped create (Brown, Andrea, Corby, and Kirk). I can’t shake how much that bothers me. However, in the grand scheme of things, this episode is very good, so I suppose I can forgive. It’s the human thing to do.