I felt that given the warm reception when I did Trouble With Tribbles it was a good idea to return to the Original Series (I prefer Next Gen but I’m not touching 80s sci fi regularly till 2020). I feel it’s a good idea this time to go all the way back to the first series and a classic – a tale of how misconceptions and reactions can lead to horrible atrocities. The heroes have to come to terms with thinking that maybe they aren’t on the right side as they thought they were… but all ignored cause all anyone remembers is Kirk fighting a slow moving lizard man.
The episode starts with the 3 most important people on the ship, Kirk, Spock and McCoy and a guy in a red shirt (guess who’s dying) looking forward to beaming down to the planet and be welcomed by a lovely meal. But upon landing the colony is devastated and unsurprisingly the red shirt is vaporised. They don’t know what’s bombarding them but Spock using his tricorder finds it’s not warm bloodied. Finding a survivor they find the colony was attacked out of nowhere and they devastated the people, and sent fake messages, oh and the ship is under attack but we never EVER see the enemy vessel.
The lack of seeing the vessel or the attacking aliens is actually to the story’s strength, it leads a level of mystery and suspense. When they get back to the ship Kirk determines that the only explanation is a prelude to invasion and seeks to chase after and destroy the enemy vessel thus depriving them of knowledge as to the Federation’s strength. Meanwhile Spock feels the chase would suffice.
Both ships are suddenly stopped by a race of god like beings (Roddenberry was overly fond of them, often damaging scripts to thrust them in, thank profanity in TNG we tossed them out in favour of John Delancey aka Q). They deem both races are savages, have the captains fight to the death and will blow up the losers (I call out a so called advanced race just up right blowing up people without letting them properly negotiate as completely stupid and hypocritical)
Here’s the bit now everyone remembers… and to the detriment of the rest of the story, Kirk facing off against the Gorn. The design is amazing and probably the best creature in all of the Original Series, though it’s let down by just how slow it moves. And I don’t mean walking. Its blows are slow and easily avoided. But it’s also here that we get some really good writing payoff. Throughout the encounter Kirk was talking into a device to keep a recording, commenting on how he felt the Gorn seemed to be more savage and less agile and cunning. Yet we see the Gorn looking at his own device and building something. When Kirk tries to run from a failed attempt to kill it with a giant bolder, he runs into a trap.
Then we get the bombshell, the devices given to both captains were also a communication device, and the Gorn tells Kirk that they attacked invaders into their territory. The crew, which were allowed to watch (while Spock already figured out how to win but couldn’t do anything about it) actually realize it was entirely possible they were in the wrong. The Gorn attacked people they saw as leading an invasion, much like how Kirk saw the Gorn, which has now been shown to be just as smart as he is.
Anyway Kirk builds a canon fires diamonds at the Gorn (oh later on a bunch of people from the show myth busters proved this wouldn’t work, as if you needed to, the barrel was made from bamboo). Kirk refuses to kill the Gorn realizing he could have just been defending his people from a perceived threat. The god like aliens appearing as a white person (very progressive of you there Roddenberry……. ah well not like he later went on to say in an episode women were inferior… oh wait… why do people think this was better than tng again?) is impressed with Kirk’s new mercy and let them leave saying maybe in 1000 years they too could meet and discuss things peacefully.
So yeah nit picking aside it’s a great story that has much more to it than just Kirk fighting a slow moving humanoid lizard. A shame we never saw the Gorns again outside of comics and one episode of Enterprise that specifically brought back one time aliens from the Original Series.