TREK-A-DAY: What Little Girls Are Made Of?
EPISODE SEVEN: What Little Girls Are Made Of?
Robots. We basically want to be them. This comes up time and time again in science fiction and to a large degree in life as we work increasingly hard to anthropomorphisize technology (SIRI, anyone?) In this episode, Kirk, Nurse Chapel (that one who has a thing for Spock…possibly never mentioned again) and two red shirts beam down to find a missing scientist (Chapel’s ex-fiance); the two red shirts promptly die (the first proper red-shirt deaths!) and Kirk comes face to face with a giant humanoid robot and Cylon-esque human androids (I know Cylons came much later, still an apt comparison). Turns out the scientist found old alien tech that allows him to make perfect replicants and even transfer human consciousness (which -spoiler alert, time travelers from the 1960s- he has done to himself!)
This leads to questions of what makes a human and robot different and a robot Kirk being made. This is a neat instance of ‘actor playing evil version of himself’ as Kirk gets to verbally spar with himself. It’s a cool scene, because the robot isn’t evil, just programmed to be obedient. Consquently, there’s no ‘I’m evil’ business, just two Kirks who think the other is inferior. Eventually, Kirk seduces the lady-bot (nice!), gets his first on-screen kiss, and awakens emotion in her. He also fights the big robot guy with this hilariously phallic stallactite:
Sadly, this photo hasn’t been altered.
Ultimately, the robots prove to be more human than the humans, and Kirk (having imbued his robot-self with anti-Vulcan slang during the copying process) manages to outsmart the scientist and his robo-twin, leading everyone to leave the planet wiser and robotless. (Also, two men died. Anyone?)
I think this episode is kind of indicative of why the original series fans give Next Generation a lot of flak; though the Data arch over the series is one of the best character development processes I’ve ever seen on TV, the root argument is played out in this one episode beautifully. The ladybot proves capable of love, the giant robot guy overcomes his programming by considering logic (similar to Robocop) and the scientist realizes that even though his consciousness was human, he lost his humanity in pursuit of a dream of everyone being a robot. We get all facets of the ‘imperfect human’ vs ’emotionless but perfect robot’ debate and it’s wrapped up in an hour. This issue of what defines a human is a constant in all Treks, whether it’s Spock, Data, Odo, Seven of Nine, or the actress who played T’pol (still not convinced she’s human) and it’s neat to see it played out as a story of the week.
All-in-all, a neat little episode, as usually punched up by some really nice, intimate moments between characters who care about each other, be they robot or otherwise.
So say we all.