EPISODE TWENTY-NINE: Operation–Annihilation!
Worst. Title. Ever. This is a solid episode to end the season on; high stakes for all involved, personal cost for Kirk, and a generally interesting plot which is a microcasm of the later Borg episodes (once again, I can imagine Original Series fans being frustrated that a plot that was kinda played out in one episode became a big running plot in Next Generation). Essentially, Kirk and Co. beam down to the latest in a line of planets that have been consumed by madness, madness which is caused by Brain Slugs (that look a little like undulating fried eggs) which infect the human nervous system and add them to their hive mind; using their bodies as tools to spread their being across planets. Unlike the Borg, the human mind remains intact and fighting, often leading to the host dying.
Public enemy #1
The stakes are raised quite considerably, as Kirk’s brother’s family lives on the planet. When they arrive, his brother is already dead and his nephew and sister-in-law are infected. She manages to warn them of the nature of the creatures with her dying breath and Kirk is left with a comatose nephew who will die if revived. This adds some good emotional depth to the first half of the episode, but aside from a couple moments of mourning, the nephew just becomes a name leveraged in the raising of the stakes. It’s never resolved, there are no scenes between the two, and one can, I suppose, just assume he was jettisoned into space following the episode.*
*Okay, so there was actually a deleted scene where Kirk and him discuss how he’ll go live with his father’s business partner. Deleted because, you know, who needs emotional closure to a central storyline involving the main character’s family?
Things worsen with Spock becoming infected and a “good of the many” vs “good of the few” argument starting up between Spock (kill everyone, himself included to stop the spread to other worlds) and McCoy (I really care about my patients to the point I’m willing to let this infect everyone) and finally being resolved by attacking the creature’s weakness to a certain kind of light (not before accidentally blinding Spock…then getting back test results that say they didn’t have to). Anyway, Spock gets his eyesight back when Sleeping Beauty cries into his wounded eyes…or rather, he has weird Vulcan extra eye-lids, one of the many genetic deus ex’s that the Vulcans seem so adept at evolving.
All-in-all, a good little episode that once again focuses on the characters’ relationships under fire. And it led to the fantastic Futurama Brainslug arc. So that’s another plus.