Friday, December 9, 2011

The Eye Of The Beholder

** (2 stars out of 5)

From 'Night Court' to 'Ben 10', "The Eye of The Beholder" is a very common name for a TV episode. It crops up twice more in 'Star Trek' alone. Small wonder it does not really stand out in my mind.

Come for the monsters, stay for the zoo on Lactra VII, an Earth-like planet where scientists from the Starfleet vessel Ariel went missing 5 weeks, 3 days ago according to Spock, who seems extra pedantic and disdainful of humans today.

A pink monster attacks, then a grey one. (Or, given Mr. Sutherland's colourblindness, maybe they were both grey.) One of them falls on Dr. McCoy when it's stunned. Later, Bones gets sand in his shoes. It's a typical day at the office, but I do like the dramatic throat-clutching collapse of the dinosaur.

The environments here are unnatural: deserts plopped down right next to rainforests.

Phylosian swoopers put in another irritating, squealing appearance. Strangely, Kirk says they look like the dragons of Maravel. If the notion that at least four places have creatures that make that hideous sound upsets you, think how I feel!

Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are imprisoned by giant orange slugs. The Lactrans are telepathic, but they think too quickly for Spock to understand.

They are very advanced beyond humans. "I find them strangely attractive," says Spock.

Oh my.
If that seems like an unfortunate turn of phrase, consider the unhappy report of captive Lt. Commander Markel. "All we've been able to arouse in them is a sort of quivering motion." Well, he has been in this menagerie more than a month. Gotta make your own fun.

Three of the scientists are already dead, and Ariel navigator Randolph is ill with malaria. A concentrated thought-request from the whole group wins them back their medical kit so Bones can save her.

A young Lactran instantly learns the history of the Federation and the little slugger tells its folks. Perceiving the humans to be simplistic but advancing, they let them all go, with a final message that they will be welcome back in 20 or 30 Lactran centuries.

As with the Metrons, I don't completely understand this reasoning. If you figure humans will be worth talking to in 3000 years, won't you STILL be 3000 years beyond them? Don't call us, we'll call you (only we won't).

More to the point, I hope humans have done away with zoos long before 2269. I consider trapping beings to gawk at them while they pine away in their own filth to be a uniquely Victorian habit we should have repented of already. We have the amazing technology to observe creatures in stunning detail on cameras in what little natural space they have left to them. Watch 'Planet Earth' and be content. Don't make elephants live in Canada. Even Canadians don't want to live in Canada.

If you need to feel superior to animals, perhaps a little one-on-one without the guns, nets, and tranquilizers is in order. Then we'll see who makes a quivering motion.

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