Star Trek "Charlie X" (1966.09.15) - In Review
Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2016 12:37 am
What makes a hero?
Star Trek (1966) season 1, episode 2
TELEPLAY: D.C. FONTANA
STORY: GENE RODDENBERRY
DIRECTOR: LAWRENCE DOBKIN
AIR DATE: September 8 1966
The original titles suggested by Gene Roddenberry for the episode were "The Day Charlie Became God", "Charlie is God", and "Charlie’s Law". The latter title was retained for use as the title of the novelisation of the episode, written by James Blish. Incidentally, "Charlie’s Law" is a pun referencing a scientific term “Charles’ Law” describing how a volume of gas expands or contracts when heated or cooled. Of interesting note, the director of "Charlie X" episode would later play the role of Ambassador Kell in “The Mind’s Eye”. This is also the first Star Trek writing credit for Dorothy Fontana who would become story editor for future episodes.
It is stardate 1533.6 and the Enterprise rendezvous with the Antares to pick-up seventeen year old Charlie Evans, the sole survivor of a crash which left him alone to survive for 14 years. The Captain and first officer of the Antares attempt to hand their passenger over, then say nothing more until Charlie rolls his eyes back into his head for an instant, then they won’t stop praising their young charge. They then hastily leave without accepting any provisions. Yeoman Rand enters the transporter room, and Charlie sees a girl for the first time.
The overlaying question of how Charlie survived all those years slowing comes to light as strange things begin to happen all over the ship. With the growing revelation that Charlie has unknown hidden powers, and that Charlie develops an infatuation for Rand, you know the crew of the Enterprise is in for another exciting ride.
Everyone does their best to accept Charlie like any other teenager, but they don’t offer any outstanding attention. It is understandable that he, not having grown in the company of other people, would be wanting more attention than normal but the crew don’t give in and reprimand him, gently, when he steps out of line but little do they know of the incredible powers he has hidden. He eventually destroys the Antares before they can warn the Enterprise of the danger they have on board. He begins to deal with anyone who he decides are against him in various ways and eventually attempts to take over the ship in order to ensure they take him to Colony 5.
We are still relatively early in the run of Star Trek with this, the second episode to air but the eighth episode chronologically. “Charlie X” became the second episode to air out of necessity and simplicity. With just about all of the principle photography completed and the outer space scenes recycled from the two pilots, it was finished before any of the other episodes. Because of this rush to completion, some planned scenes were not shot including one of the Antares which was to be shown as much smaller than the Enterprise. The Antares eventually made an appearance in the remastered edition of the episode.
On a side note, what was the purpose of the Antares? In the opening log, Kirk indicates that it is a cargo vessel. Kirk refers to it as a transport ship while speaking with Captain Ramart. After the ships destruction, Kirk describes it as a science probe vessel when reporting its destruction to UESPA. When playing chess with Spock, he calls it a survey ship. It is of little consequence to a short lived, small vessel, but still…
In any event, being early on in the series there are a few items of note and inconsistencies in the episode. Here are a few:
The crew of the Antares wear turtle-neck uniforms. The costumes are left over from the pilot episodes.
Captain Kirk tells Charlie that there are 428 crew aboard the Enterprise.
Charlie stops to watch a technician feed tubing into a floor grate. The floor grates disappear in later episodes.
Spock smiles of his own volition in this episode as he plays his harp while Uhura sings about Charlie. He also becomes briefly annoyed with her interruption of his playing. Also of note are the boldly coloured backgrounds, particularly in this shot (even more so in the remastered editions). This was encouraged by NBC, owner of RCA, to maximize sales of colour television sets.
A portion of the audio from Uhura’s song was recycled at the beginning of "The Man Trap" as Nancy Crater enters her dwelling on planet M-113.
The cards Charlie alters in this episode incorporate publicity stills of Grace Lee Whitney.
When Captain Kirk takes the turbo lift to the bridge with Charlie he is wearing his gold uniform, but when he exists the turbo lift he is wearing his alternate green uniform.
When Spock uses the Enterprise probe scanners, they produce the same sound as the Metron transmission in "Arena".
A rare item in this episode is a chef cooking for the crew and there is mention of searching through ships stores. Replicators have not yet been introduced. The voice of the chef would be supplied by Gene Roddenberry himself, the only time he would provide a speaking role on the series. The reason for the appearance of the turkeys in the ovens in the place of the meat loaf placed into them is that it take place in November at Thanksgiving.
The organization responsible for the Enterprise’s mission is noted as being the United Earth Space Probe Agency (UESPA). This was established as a precursor agency to the United Federation of Planets which would be introduced in a later episode. The UESPA is mentioned again in “Tomorrow is Yesterday” and many years later during the run of Enterprise (2001)
Three dimensional chess appears for the first time here with Spock playing against Charlie. When Charlie loses he melts the white pieces on the board.
Costumes are still problematic in this episode as the colours do not properly correspond to expected departments. For example, Lawton wears blue rather than the expected red of a Yeoman’s.
Captain Kirk has a smooth chest in the gym. William Shatner shaved his chest for this episode, which is evident when audiences get the chance to watch "Where No Man Has Gone Before" which occurs before this episode chronologically. This is one of two episodes where Kirk wears tights, the other being "Errand of Mercy". Although it was planned to be used in further episodes, the gym which appears in this episode does not appear again in the series.
Sam is removed from existence while sitting on a bench in the gym. Sam is restored at the end of the episode, and the bench will return in "Court Martial" with a wrench sitting on it which Finney grabs to attack Kirk. It appears again in "This Side of Paradise" with a metal tray sitting on it which Spock grabs to attack Kirk. Kirk should stay away from this bench.
It is fortunate that Sulu appeared in ”The Man Trap”. His only ‘appearance’ in this episode is as a disembodied voice over the ship’s intercom in the gym. In this instance, the audio is also recycled from ”The Man Trap”.
When Charlie forces Spock to quote poetry he chooses "The Tyger" (1794) by William Blake and "The Raven' (1845) by Edgar Allen Poe. The narrative bit about Mars is, apparently, original to the episode.
The noise Tina Lawton makes after Charlie transforms her into an iguana are recycled from 'Catspaw". These were the sounds Sylvia and Korob made when then were reverted to their true forms.
In one scene, Charlie lashes out against Spock, smashing him against the wall cracking it, which should not be possible on a starship. In subsequent shots, Leonard Nimoy is positioned in front of the crack to hide it. Charlie also hurls Kirk into a wall in Rand’s quarters punching a hole in it which should not be possible.
The brig appears fort the first time in this episode. The bars which protrude from the doorway appear only in this episode and are simplified by replacing them simply with lights in later episodes.
The female officer Charlie ages wears slacks rather than a skirt.
In the final confrontation between Captain Kirk and Charlie, the shot is performed from floor level revealing that the floor is carpeted to act as a noise dampener.
When Charlie, an arguably extremely powerful being, is defeated he fades away with his final words echoing as he disappears. This concept will be used again with the similarly powerful beings Trelane in "The Squire of Gothos", Apollo in "Who Mourns for Adonis?", and Gorgan in "And the Children Shall Lead".
This is a great episode of Star Trek and would have certainly grasped viewers at the time with its simplicity of execution and, essentially, unforeseen story conclusion. Everyone’s performances were great, but Robert Walker Jr. is the standout of the episode as Charlie Evans, who was actually 26 at the time. His awkwardness really makes to feel for the character, and the costume (which appears to be an alternate wrap-around tunic of William Shatner’s) being a bit too big may have been a production error, but it fits making him appear just a little smaller, a little more fragile, and just that much more out of place. Perhaps the crew could have been more sympathetic to his discomfort among the crew. Being seventeen is difficult for just about anyone, let alone someone who, until recently, spent the last 14 years alone, but Charlie certainly needed more guidance than he was offered. Even if they has been more understanding of his difficulties with adjusting, I truly believe that the Thasians were right. With his granted powers, Charlie would always be a danger to everyone around him. It is likely Kirk wouldn’t have been able to do anything to stop these almost omnipotent beings from taking Charlie at the end in any case. No, unlike the M-113 creature which had an eventual release in death, Charlie Evans had a fate arguably worse than death.
3½ / 5