EPISODE FIFTY EIGHT: Is There Truth in No Beauty?
This episode is all kinds of strange. The premise is neat, there’s a cool twist, but there’s also waaaaaay too much space madness and a lot of vaguely unnecessary subplots, but hey such is life.
The aforementioned neat premise revolves around the ambassador of a race dubbed by Earthlings as ‘Medussans,’ beings so hideous, that to look upon them encites madness (very Lovecraftian) however, they have evolved to be the most pleasant thinkers in the galaxy and thus are quite highly regarded, if regulated to transport boxes. The only two people who can interact with the ambassador are Spock (wearing a nifty red visor) and a beautiful doctor with telepathic abilities who trained on Vulcan. We discover that she is mad jealous of Spock, her rival for the posting of liaison to the ambassador and later discover additional jealousy as she is blind and thus can’t see the madness enducing creature she has fallen in love with. What’s neat about this plotline is her reluctance to reveal her blindness (only revealed halfway through the episode and well hidden until then, as she has a sensor laced dress; the fashionista precursor to Geordi’s visor). It implies an interesting (though unexplored) facet of the future: that stigma still exists regarding disability, even in a time when sensors completely make up for her lack of sight.
Beyond this, the badness begins: there’s an extended discussion of the nature of beauty that is frankly annoying and belittling to women, as McCoy argues repeatedly that someone as beautiful as her shouldn’t waste her beauty on something so hideous. There’s a nod to Greek conceptions of beauty, but it’s fleeting and thrown away. Then there’s some random liason who is in love with her, looks at the ambassador to spite her, gets space madness, and treats us to our first ‘trippy vision first person fist fight’ (but not our last, we get one from Spock too) Crazy pants flies the Enterprise into an anomaly, leading to a Spock merges with alien adventure ending in space madness and Kirk yelling a lot. It’s a bit of a mess.
But again, the attention paid to handicaps is interesting and Nimoy gets to act with personality for a bit, which is always fun. Nevertheless, a weird little episode. Also gets bonus points for the Medussan pointing out that humans labelled it as such and that it’s race has a different name. That always bugs me and I’m glad they acknowledged it.