Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Star Trek at 50: The Enemy Within

Season 1
Episode 4: The Enemy Within
Filmed: June 1966
First Air Date: October 6, 1966 (5th episode aired)

Karen: I have to admit, when it came time to review this episode, I approached it with a somewhat dismissive attitude. It had always seemed to me to be one of the weaker episodes, a sort of goofy Jekyll and Hyde story. But I wanted to give it a fair shake, so I watched it again and tried to keep an open mind. I also read Marc Cushman's entry on this episode in his book These are the Voyages (our unofficial guidebook for this series of posts). And although it's still not one of my favorite episodes, I appreciate it more than I did before.

Karen: Of course, the episode shows us what happens when a man's 'good' and 'evil' sides are separated. In this case, it's Captain Kirk's, and we find that the 'evil' side is the one that carries many of the characteristics necessary for command. Of course, that's also the side that attempts to rape Yeoman Rand, so...yeah, there's some real nastiness in this one too. This episode was based off a story written by Richard Matheson, who was already well-known, and had provided scripts for other shows like The Twilight Zone (including "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", which starred William Shatner). Matheson's draft was revised by both John D.F. Black and Gene Roddenberry. Roddenberry is the one who came up with the idea that the 'good' Kirk would lose his ability to make decisions -giving him all the more reason that he would have to take back his brutal side, despite his ugliness. Roddenberry and his staff also came up with the 'B' plot about Sulu and the other crewman being stranded on the freezing planet, to give even more urgency to the plot.

Karen:The attempted rape of Yeoman Rand (Grace Lee Whitney) by the evil Kirk is a difficult scene to watch.Although Shatner plays the evil Kirk with a vicious glee, this scene is more serious than the others. Kirk's invasion of Rand's quarters, his emerging from the darkness to confront her -one has to complement the work of series director of photography, Jerry Finnerman, for the way he used shadows and lighting, and colors, to highlight the scene. As I watch these first season episodes the unique look of the show that was developed through the lighting is very evident -it sets it apart from any other show. But back to this particular scene. Shatner plays this in an understated way, quietly, and then explodes, grabbing Whitney and struggling with her, then attacking a crewman in the corridor who Rand has flagged down. Cushman quotes Whitney as saying, "It's a violent, scary scene. Bill is a very physical actor and extremely strong...Bill picked me up like a twig and threw me around the room." Despite getting battered for her art, Whitney was a fan of the episode. "I love 'The Enemy Within' because it gave me a chance to really react and act with Bill Shatner." Looking at this (below), it is a wonder it got past the censors.

Karen: I'd like to say after watching several of the early season episodes that the much maligned Shatner was actually a very good actor, at least in these first season episodes. He had the ability to play scenes with subtlety and restraint -except in this episode! As the evil Kirk, he just goes completely over the top and screams lines. "I'M CAPTAIN KIRK!" the double yells at the top of his lungs. He roams the halls, swigging Saurian brandy and looks like a cosplaying convention goer. Absolutely too much! Stuff like this certainly doesn't help Shatner's rep. He did tone it down for the scene with Rand but otherwise, hoo boy.

Karen: While the attack itself was an effective scene, the follow up, where good Kirk, Spock, and McCoy question Rand, was a sad reminder of how different things were in the 60s, even on a futuristic show like Trek. The cowering Yeoman is treated with little sympathy by her superior officers, who seem more intent on questioning her assertion that the Captain attacked her than seeing to her well-being. What's even worse is the close-out of the episode, after everyone has discovered the truth about "the intruder", when Mr. Spock says slyly (and completely out of character) to Yeoman Rand, "The imposter had some interesting characteristics, wouldn't you say, Yeoman?"  Terrible.

Karen: Despite all of this, I come away from it feeling that there were some ideas here worth examining. We have to accept ourselves as imperfect beings, with all our flaws, and sometimes what we see as weaknesses maybe provide us with some inner strength. But always when held in check by our better halves, our moral side. Not a fantastic idea, but they did it well. 

Karen: Of note, this is the first episode where Spock exhibits the Vulcan Neck Pinch, when he uses it on the evil Kirk. This was Leonard Nimoy's suggestion, as he felt the scripted punch was far too uncivilized for Spock. We all know how that worked out. 

Karen: People always wonder why a shuttlecraft wasn't sent down to save Sulu and the others. There's a very practical reason. The life-size prop and the miniature hadn't been built yet as Desilu (the studio that made Star Trek) was putting off construction of both until they were sure the show was going to get a full season. So there wasn't any shuttlecraft to send!

Karen: Finally, we can't close out the post without saying something about the truly awful dog with the horn on its head. They had to have some sort of animal to use as an example, but this orange yapper with the horn on its head (and antenna?) was just the silliest thing ever. It belonged with Bloop the monkey off Lost in Space, not on Star Trek.


B Smith said...

Before everyone dives in with a comment, how about we do a quick vote about the "remastered" Trek with the CGI Enterprise etc? I have to admit I feared the worst, but with the digitally cleaned up footage, combined with the newer bits i think it works quite well.

Other opinions?

Edo Bosnar said...

Haven't seen that new stuff you mentioned, B Smith, so I can't really comment on it.

Karen, thanks for linking that Evil Kirk/Rand scene. This isn't among my favorite episodes, either, but that is a really well done, if disturbing, sequence. I agree that Shatner could (can, actually) really act when he put his mind to it.
Otherwise, though, I always found that silly costumed dog the most eye-rolling aspect of this episode.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know there was a remastered Trek with a CGI Enterprise. Only the first of those two clips would play for me - the second was blocked due to copyright. At least evil Kirk didn't have a goatee :D

J.A. Morris said...

"the much maligned Shatner was actually a very good actor, at least in these first season episodes."

I agree 100%. I've never understood the origins of the jokes about Shatner being the worst actor ever. He's no Olivier, but he's good actor, definitely the right actor at the right time for Kirk. By season 3, there's no budget and scripts were phoned in, I can't blame Shatner for half-assing it a bit, knowing the end was near.

Slightly off-topic(sorry if I've brought this up before here):Is everyone here familiar with Shatner's 2004 music album 'Has-Been'? It's legit good music, produced by Ben Folds, featuring guests like Henry Rollins, Adrian Belew and Joe Jackson. Here's Shatner's "spoken word" cover of Pulp's 'Common People':

Anonymous said...

J.A. - "He's no Olivier"...a few years ago there was a survey of young British actors and most of them thought Laurence Olivier was a ham actor and the perfect example of how NOT to act.

Humanbelly said...

Heh-- Olivier's pals Gielgud & Richardson lovingly referred to him as "The Acrobat", in reference to his reliance on physicality and sometimes over-the-top choices. Hunh-- when you think about it, the comparison between Olivier & Shatner might be quite apt, but with Olivier clearly the superior master of his own preferred technique.
But no, Shatner as a young actor had some great traits that he was able to use very well, although he kinda never got out of the narrow-ish range they limited him to. He had a terrific, innate quality of self-assurance & self-certitude; a wonderful focused intensity; and always conveyed a clear sense of thought. . . of wheels turning. He could also surprise one with interesting in-the-moment choices that could be the opposite of what was expected (In Star Trek:TMP, when he seems poised to blow up at poor Decker, and instead tells him he's absolutely right, f'rinstance. Really terrific little moment that you don't see coming.). The hamminess and over-acting are tough to swallow at times-- but the one thing I can say in their defense is that they at least show an actor who is more than willing to go "big" and risk looking foolish in the moment. What's lacking is perhaps the discipline to recognize when it's not working and to look for other ways to bring life to a moment.

Great post today, btw, Karen. Man, this was really a rape about to happen right there, wasn't it? I think the censors "got" that a scene like this was going to be an inherent aspect of adult drama, though. It's something that you could also come across on Bonanza or Gunsmoke, really.


Steve Does Comics said...

Colin, CBS Action (Freeview Channel 64) is currently showing the CGI Star Trek episodes. There's an episode shown each week-night at 6 o'clock, and all the week's episodes are repeated each Saturday morning and afternoon.

J.A, I love Shatner's version of Common People. There's a great fan vid of it on Youtube that marries the lyrics directly to clips from the show: With any luck, it can be found by clicking on this very link.

Pat Henry said...

I read somewhere that the final editing scrambled the continuity of early scenes. Apparently, the film editor thought the remix delivered a more dramatic punch going into commercial. But the scramble makes Spock’s utterance, “We have an impostor aboard!” inane because at that point, due to the scramble, they already knew about the transporter malfunction and the dual nature of the dog-thing.

Someone unscrambled this episode in a video on YouTube and it actually works very effectively—you don’t quite know, at the moment Kirk attacks Rand, quite what is going on. You don’t know if that’s really the captain, whether he’s insane, or quite what to think. And Spock’s reveal that it is clearly an impostor seems plausible to the viewer. It’s effective.

david_b said...

Few items of note..:

1) Yes, HB's correct on what you saw back then on television. Truly dramatic and harrowing scenes weren't all that uncommon on primetime television back then (some stuff on Dragnet, like the 'Blueboy' episode was more common than today). Still.., I cringe when I watch 'Law and Order' with my fiancé because while she likes the show, I have to step out of the room when young women are being attacked or mutilated.

Perhaps gratuitous violence, but nothing I'm comfortable with watching. (period)

2) Shatner always had (especially in the younger days) a very controlled intensity about him.., making any jocular or silly fare he did in other roles not all that natural/convincing to watch (Barnaby Coast, anyone..?). He's just not that type of actor. It works well in this episode, to shape an out-of-character portrayal of his character, again seen later in the final 'Turnabout Intruder' episode, one of the worst sexist entries TOS did, but for later discussion. He effectively carries it off.

3) The CGI-altered newer episodes work amazingly well with the old principle photography.., although the weaker effects episodes (the AMT Enterprise being swallowed by the 'Doomsday Machine', also used orbiting K-7 in the Tribbles episode.., etc), have their own charm.

I applaud the team producing 'em, at least they didn't go overboard like Lucas did in 'New Hope'.., uggh.

4) As for our beloved Galileo, yep it wasn't introduced into the show until the fore-mentioned AMT Company expressed interest in producing a new model (based on the success of the Enterprise kit) and funded Desilu to make a full-sized mock-up. Yay for merchandizing..!!

(CAN'T wait to head down to the Johnson Space Center one of these years and see the displayed Galileo in person.)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Shatner really chewed up the scenery in this one. And I'd forgotten about the goofy "unicorn dog".

Mike Wilson

Humanbelly said...

I just remembered (and then double-checked) that Grace Lee Whitney died this past year. Opinions on her & Janice Rand are all over the place, but one thing that I do like very much is that she wasn't a ridiculously young "chick"-- the actress herself was in her mid-30's, and came across as such. Although the prevailing sexism at that time was to make her a 35 year old "girl" as opposed to "woman", I suppose. But still-- that role today would have been cast with a model-type actress in her mid-20's at MOST. . . which makes me crazy.

I'd forgotten the poochicorn was even in this episode. The reason is sticks in the visual memory, I think, is because it's OFTEN included in the closing credits montage. Perhaps some sort of humiliating penance for the props/costume intern that was tasked with creating it on a $1.82 budget----?


Karen said...

Great to see the enthusiasm even a weaker episode can generate. Almost makes me think I should go ahead and review the second season as well! Although I don't think there's any way you could convince me to sit through the third season. I love Star Trek, but I have my limits.

Regarding Pat's remarks about the episode's editing, in Cushman's book he mentions that film editor Fabien Tordjmann wanted to try some 'experimental' techniques with this episode but was mostly shut down by associate producer Robert Justman. But one example of what Tordjmann was up to is the scene where the good Kirk and Spock enter the turbolift, and just as the doors close, there's a quick cut and then the evil Kirk's bloody hand fills the shot. These kind of abrupt cuts would have been through the entire show if Justman hadn't have put his foot down.

I always thought Yeoman Rand was a bad idea, dramatically, for Captain Kirk, but I felt Whitney did a good job with the material here. And HB, you're right, she was in her mid-thirties and certainly no young girl. But she was also the same age as Kirk. That's also evident in 'Charlie X'. But today they would definitely cast a 20 year old in the role.

I do have the remastered versions B Smith mentioned with the CGI effects, and as David B said, they are well done. They certainly don't over do it. I'll pop back and forth between the original and CGI effects and enjoy both. The CGI Enterprise is quite beautiful. I like that the team didn't feel the need to go in a replace every effect with a new one. They left a lot of the 'charm' in place.

I love Has Been! It was a terrific album. Ben Folds understood how to get the best out of Shatner. It didn't feel gimmicky, and the songs had weight. My favorite is "It Hasn't Happened Yet."

david_b said...

Gene Coon did bring some great warmth and humor to the 2nd Season, fleshing out the characters far more than Gene was initially focused on. Unfortunately, and the books can confirm this.., Fred didn't care much for Gene's ideas and thus Gene left the production.

Apparently David Gerrold had also pitched an idea for a Tribbles sequel but Fred was against any more 'comedy episodes'. The idea eventually was used in the TAS series a few years later, which frankly I find on-par with the best of TOS's third season.

Martinex1 said...

As I've said, I have not seen any of these, but I really like the reviews.

I am assuming it must have been fun for an actor to play such extreme roles. I bet Shattner had a ball.

In fiction, I've always liked the Jekyl And Hyde motif, but one thing I am always curious about is what is the reaction to the character once he or she is back to normal. i always think ( hypothetically) that I would be suspicious or leery of somebody if I truly knew what their dark side was. In this case, could the female officer ever look at Kirk the same way...even if his bad side was in check? I feel there is a story there somewhere.

Again, I am thoroughly enjoying the discussion.

William Preston said...

Karen, I'm glad you wrote about the lighting. It's something I often comment on when talking about the early episodes. The use of sharp shadows (chiarascuro) goes back to German expressionist film and then, later, film noir. You then see the strong use of shadow and light (there are great shots in early eps (I think this may be one) in a single band of light lies over part of a face, revealing eyes when all else is dark) employed in those TV anthology shows, which often had great writing and directing. Star Trek, at least in the early days, decidedly tried to emulate some of those stronger directorial and cinematic elements from black and white work on TV and film.

Humanbelly said...

Oho, William I just popped back on here to mention the lighting as well. . . and there you were! Good job, good job. . . !

What I noticed in at least a shot or two is that "Evil" Kirk was up-lit (light shot from the floor, up into his face) to add to the impression of mania. Like holding a flashlight under your face to tell a ghost story. It's considered the least "natural" lighting position to view, so it automatically conveys a sense of unease.

Also, back in the previous post? The conversation with Mudd in the transporter room? The shots of his (Mudd's) face were just great! We're below his face, at about a 3/4 turn, and his lit pretty hard from our right. It's a neat, neat look and does a great job of keeping us watching the character's wheels a-turning. Takes a heck of an actor to maintain those long, close, full-commitment shots-- it's like we're invading his privacy, almost.


Comicsfan said...

I must say, Karen, these posts helped to put the idea in my head to start Netflixing (good lord, is that now a verb??) these classic Trek episodes (remastered), which is far more accommodating than reaching for the discs on my shelf. I'm finding myself appreciating these first season (and later) episodes for the creative product they truly were in those days; for instance, "Operation: Annihilate!", if you look beyond the buzzing hornet-creatures, has all the dramatic ingredients you look for in Trek, and so well-played by the actors. Like yourself, I'm also appreciating Shatner's interpretation of Kirk; in fact, all of the principal cast work well with their respective characters. It's a great deal of fun cycling through these shows again.

William Preston said...

HB—It's good to hear from other folks who are appreciating the same things!

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