Watching Star Trek is always an exercise in déjà vu, because I was nine years old when it premiered, and because just about everything in it is borrowed from something else. Maybe the borrowings are on purpose, maybe they are just accidental in the sense that some themes are always “in the air” at certain times, but the shows are always a bricolage of themes and images. Part of the fun…
In this episode from the first season, Kirk is trapped on a planet with a lost scientist who has transformed himself into an android to preserve his mind when his body was dying of frostbite. (Mind-body issues run rampant through Star Trek). It takes a while for the doctor’s true nature to come out, but he is surrounded by androids he has constructed as part of his insane scheme to overrun the universe with superior beings, you know the drill. Andrea is one of them, clearly designed for more than protection and conquest, much to the chagrin of the doctor’s erstwhile fiancee who has joined Kirk on his search for the missing scientific hero.
Ruk, an android surviving from the old days of the planet, looks like he escaped from a local production of Pagliacci, is played by Ted Cassidy, aka Lurch, who, it happens, lived just a few minutes from where I was growing up in Woodland Hills, and whose ashes (he died prematurely) are scattered in the house’s back yard. He is easily befuddled and tricked by Kirk’s superior logical wit.
Kirk on the run, after flummoxing Ruk, makes use of a handy phallic formation for protection. You have to wonder if he’s just playing hard to get. The episode is filled with “transgressive” same-sex kissing and fondling, as is the norm for Star Trek’s intrepid exploration of racial and sexual taboos.
The android love nest gets to be too much for Andrea, who “loves” her maker, and who can’t abide rejection. Another correspondence: The Strange Love of Martha Ivers comes to mind.
Barbara Stanwyck and Kirk Douglas (hey, another correspondence!) are locked in their love-death embrace in the finale.
Not exactly clear who pulls the trigger, but it’s curtains for the two of them, the only way it could be.
A final correspondence: As Captain Kirk is being duplicated into an android Kirk, he shouts out an insulting phrase about Dr. Spock being a half-breed, knowing that the android will then repeat the sentiments when he is sent to the Enterprise to impersonate himself. Of course, Spock, receiving the insult, realizes that the “Captain” is an imposter, and takes proper action. It’s all reminiscent of the “Rolo Tomassi” sequence in L.A. Confidential, the best part of that flick, I think.