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Star Trek TOS - Season 1 - Episode 29

Star Trek TOS - 1x29 - Operation: Annihilate!

Originally Aired: 1967-4-13

The Enterprise crew saves Deneva from deadly parasites. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

My Rating - 6

Fan Rating Average - 4.85

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Filler Quotient: 2, filler, but an enjoyable episode nevertheless. You can skip this one, but you'd miss out on some fun.
- There's no essential plot or exposition in this episode that renders it unskippable, but it's a decent episode, even though it could have been better.

- Spock refuses the goggles during the intense light experiment on the grounds of precisely duplicating the conditions the colonists will experience. The logic being that the colonists won't have goggles, so he shouldn't have any either. His desire for scientific precision is admirable, but misguided. There is no good reason why they could not have tried the experiment with the goggles first then, if it didn't work, try again without goggles (in desperation) to see if the goggles for whatever reason make a difference.

- This episode establishes that Vulcans have an inner eyelid to protect them from extreme brightness. This evolutionary peculiarity is a consequence of the extreme brightness of the planet Vulcan's star.
- Kirk orders Sulu to reduce the ship to sub-warp speeds while moving away from the star. This line implies that the Enterprise is capable of using its warp drive inside of a planetary system.
- Scotty spent some time in the Deneva system doing cargo runs for the asteroid miners.
- This episode establishes that there are 14 science labs aboard the ship which feature the finest equipment and computers in the Federation.

Remarkable Scenes
- The Enterprise flying too close to a star.
- Kirk losing his brother.
- The landing party engaging the parasites.
- Spock getting messed up by a parasite.
- Spock on a rampage.
- Spock resisting the parasite with his Vulcan discipline.
- Kirk revealing that his duty may require him to kill over a million people on the colony in order to prevent the parasites from threatening more colonies.
- Kirk proposing that radiating the parasites with light is the solution to their woes based on the star incident at the beginning.
- Spock volunteering to be blinded.
- Spock's nonchalant reaction to becoming blind.
- The Enterprise deploying the parasite-killing satellites.
- Spock casually explaining why he was able to recover from his blindness much to Kirk's and McCoy's astonishment.

My Review
Following up on the quick aside in What Are Little Girls Made Of establishing that Kirk has a brother named Sam, this episode opens quite dramatically with with the death of Sam along with Sam's wife. While the dramatic potential in such a momentous event in Kirk's life could have been better harnessed rather than killing off both characters so unceremoniously, it was nevertheless quite effective in setting rather unusual stakes; especially given the plot's focus on Kirk's struggle to balance saving Sam's orphaned son with saving over a million colonists from the ravioli pancake parasites. The ravioli pancakes themselves weren't the most terribly effective props, but I nevertheless admire the ambition and originality of the attempt. It sure beats another god-like alien.

The next most remarkable feature of the story is Leonard Nimoy's dynamic performance as Spock. Right from the moment the poor guy is invaded by the ravioli pancakes, he instantly becomes the most interesting character on the screen. Rather than subjecting us to the already tired trope of watching a character violently struggle against affliction of the week, Spock rapidly gains control over both his emotions and his actions while still exhibiting subtle visible signs of the intense pain he is experiencing. This allowed for an excellent opportunity to contrast Kirk's and McCoy's reactions to Spock's behavior under this kind of pressure, which added fantastic texture to the story.

Likewise, aside from the goggle logical mishap noted in the problems section of this review, the plot point pertaining to blinding Spock in the interest of scientific research was also nicely done. You feel bad for Spock even though and perhaps especially because he takes it so well. Then to make matters even worse, McCoy discovers after the fact that visible light wasn't even necessary to kill the parasite! So Spock is blinded needlessly. Finally, at the last moment, Spock reveals the details surrounding his inner eyelid to the astonished Kirk and McCoy; he was only temporarily blinded. This plot point borders on a lie to the audience as it's easy to wonder why Kirk and especially McCoy would be so ignorant about this anatomical feature of Spock, but it's just so damn charming that it's easy to forgive their ignorance.

The episode isn't all sunshine and rainbows though, as several aesthetic choices diminish the enjoyability of the story. In addition to the aforementioned goggle problem, the underutilized dramatic potential of the deaths in Kirk's family, and the almost-but-not-quite lie to the audience about Spock's blindness, we also see the recurrence of the just plain annoying cliche where a clearly unstable person confined to sickbay (Spock in this case) is simply allowed to walk out with little to no resistance.

Another bad aesthetic choice centers around Kirk and Spock speculating as to the origins of the ravioli pancakes. Kirk presumes that because their anatomy is so unusual they must be from another galaxy, a deduction that doesn't follow at all. Spock then builds upon this faulty logic by suggesting that they must come from a place where "our" physical laws don't apply. These throw away lines don't really affect the plot, but they are annoying examples of plainly pseudoscientific reasoning unbecoming of a science fiction show. Finally, while the deployment of the UV ray emitting satellites was a cool detail, it seems like yet another overwrought capability for the Enterprise to possess. Imagine the destructive potential for misuse of that power!

Overall though this episode is easily above average, as it successfully integrates a reasonably dense sci-fi plot with well executed elements of adventure, danger, drama, high stakes, and humor. A good send off for the first season.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From ScienceGuru on 2010-08-05 at 7:05pm:
    They said radiation did not kill the creatures, but they ended up dying to to ultraviolet RADIATION. Bad science.
  • From Strider on 2012-08-21 at 1:08am:
    I'm frustrated by the bad science that the science and medical officers display--they don't even wait for the results of the first test before they conduct the second!

    However, besides that, I think this is a brilliant episode. Yes, it has flaws, but there's such great acting by all three principals. I agree that the Kirk family drama seemed to go unaddressed on the surface, but it was there in the whole drama with Spock being infected. Every glance of Kirk's seemed to say "not Spock, too!" And when Spock was blinded, and Kirk's rage all went to McCoy--that was clearly an overreaction powered by his grief over his brother and his fear for Spock.

    Nimoy's acting, especially, is unparallelled in this episode. He's so subtle, so controlled, that you never forget for an instant that he's in pain and will almost certainly die.

    Plus--yay for security procedures in the transporter room! Scotty defeats Spock and keeps him from transporting just because he has orders--that's how it should be more often!
  • From Alan Feldman on 2012-09-24 at 2:37am:
    To ScienceGuru: I believe that when Bones said "radiation" he meant ionizing radiation, such as alpha rays, beta rays, gamma rays, X-rays, proton beams, and such. That is the typical use of the word in this context, and most UV radiation is not classified as ionizing radiation. On the other hand, in sufficient quantities it is not safe, so the inhabitants of Deneva would likely have been harmed by it.

  • From Alan Feldman on 2013-01-27 at 2:28pm:

    Another remarkable scene: Scotty holding Spock at bay with his phaser!

    The Ravioli Monsters make for a fascinating case of a parasite. Here on Earth there are parasites that target the nervous systems of animals to control their behavior to the benefit of the parasite, just as in this case. Nevertheless, generating the uncontrollable urge to take over a space ship to infect a new planet is pretty advanced! And then to have the crew beam them down? Still, I can go with this.

    In response to Kethinov's review: As for the "effectiveness" of the Ravioli Monster props, I thought it was good. And any monster that flies is automatically more scary, as such a creature is rather hard to run away from.

    The special effect when they shot the crazies with the clubs was very well done.

    On my response to ScienceGuru: We normally reserve the word "radiation" in this context to mean _dangerous_ ionizing radiation, in spite of the fact that sufficient quantities of UV are also dangerous.

    Regarding the blindness bit: Why didn't they wait for the analysis that showed only UV light was needed? But that, too, would be harmful to the eyes. And why does the inner eyelid allow any blindness to begin with? So it can, in this case, allow just enough light through to cause blindness that one can recover from? That's one pretty extreme case of an after-image! And why does the experiment with light make such an ear-piercing sound? And why does Spock not realize he is blind until he bumps into the desk? The whole thing is pretty silly.

    As for soaking the planet with UV rays: If they're powerful enough to kill the Ravioli Monsters, they're probably also strong enough to give the Denevans a really nasty case of sunburn!

    If they couldn't find a way to kill the Ravioli Monsters, why would they have to kill all of the inhabitants of Deneva? The Ravioli Monsters can't escape the planet without a space ship, and may well survive anyway. So why not just quarantine the place?!

    Not a great episode. And though I like watching it, I can't help but badly cringe in horror watching the experiment on Spock. And the hysterical behavior of Kirk's sister-in-law was a bit "over the top." And what are those changing black specks on the view screen in the scene with the Denavan heading straight for the sun?

  • From Alan Feldman on 2013-12-08 at 5:59pm:
    I forgot to mention that I think the location chosen for the city was pretty good! It doesn't look quite as futuristic to me as it did when I was a kid, but still pretty good. Notice how they were careful not to show any parking lots or streets. Also notice that the place has ordinary push/pull doors! I think it's weird seeing Kirk pull open such a contemporary door in a place as advanced as Deneva.

    On my previous comments about the inner eyelid: Oh, the inner eyelid must take a long time to open. I don't know why I forgot that before. Still, the whole blindness bit and the UV radiation not being considered harmful is ridiculous. I suppose they had to fill up the allotted time one way or another.

    I agree that Nimoy's acting is excellent in this episode.

    Overall, a mediocre episode (yes, up a notch from my last comment), as it does have its high points.

    AEF, a.k.a. betaneptune
  • From Scott Hearon on 2014-04-03 at 6:40am:
    I agree with all of the comments here. This was a pretty good episode, despite its obvious weaknesses. I gave it a 6/10.

    One thing that I would add to the problems for me was the notion that the ravioli monsters were "part of a much larger organism." I feel as if Spock was implying that there was some massive, multi-celled titan that was engulfing all of them at that very moment. It seems like this pseudo-scientific idea was thrown in to make the creatures sound even more bizarre, instead of just calling them a "hive," which seems more accurate.

    I share everyone's admiration of Nimoy's performance in this one. He does extremely well with the pained restraint throughout the episode, and he holds the screen in every scene. Mainly because of him, this episode carries along very nicely.

    It was a solid way to end the first season, no doubt.

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