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Star Trek TOS - Season 2 - Episode 22

Star Trek TOS - 2x22 - By Any Other Name

Originally Aired: 1968-2-23

Synopsis:
Extra-galactic beings commandeer the Enterprise in an attempt to return home. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

My Rating - 7

Fan Rating Average - 4.89

Rate episode?

Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
# Votes: 27 9 2 22 14 14 23 20 17 13 10

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 definitely a great story nevertheless.

Problems
None

Factoids
- This episode establishes that there are hundreds of uninhabited presumably M class planets which are presumably within the Federation's borders during this time period.
- This episode establishes that due to an unspecified cause, high radiation will make life in the Andromeda galaxy impossible in ten millennia. Although it is not specified whether or not this radiation is only deadly to Kelvans.
- This episode establishes that the mysterious energy barrier at the edge of the galaxy prohibits communication with other galaxies.

Remarkable Scenes
- The aliens thanking Kirk for responding to their distress call and then immediately demanding that Kirk surrender his vessel to them.
- Yeoman Thompson getting killed by the belt weapon.
- Kirk: "Immense beings with 100 tentacles would have difficulty with the turbolift."
- Spock trancing himself into being sick suddenly and all too authentically.
- Spock and Scotty proposing self destructing the ship to stop the Kelvans.
- Rojan announcing that he will execute Kirk's entire crew shortly after they traversed the barrier.
- Scotty's drinking scenes with the Kelvan.
- Spock defeating a Kelvan at chess.
- Scotty: "It's uh... it's green!"
- Spock: "Rojan, you are only a link in a chain following an order given 300 years ago. This is an opportunity for you to establish a destiny of your own."

My Review
Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 2 sports the following iconic line: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." The episode's namesake Shakespeare reference is a metaphor for the fact that while the Kelvans may continue to call themselves Kelvan, they've chosen to take human form and in so doing they are inevitably forced into the totality of the human experience. They begin taking on all characteristics of humanity, including those that they did not expect to adopt, like love, jealousy, and ultimately compassion.

The metaphor is a bit forced and backward given that it is usually meant to convey the idea that language can change our perception of things, but perception is subjective and all things have some objective characteristics which cannot be altered by language. Given that, one would expect the metaphor to work in reverse on the Kelvans and produce the opposite effect on the story. A more traditional interpretation of the metaphor would have left the Kelvans incapable of experiencing what it is to be human because even though they've taken on the appearance of humanity, they cannot fundamentally change who and what they are.

But setting aside literary quibbling for a moment, this is still a terrific story with well conceived science fiction elements. Due to some kind of increasing galactic radiation in the Andromeda galaxy, the Kelvans who are native to the area are preparing to flee their home due to its impending uninhabitability. The next closest galaxy is the Milky Way and they intend to conquer it by force. This is perhaps one of the most epic premises upon which an episode of Star Trek has been built so far and the plot fully explores all the implications of such a grandiose premise.

I can't say I'm happy to see the return of giant energy barrier at the edge of the galaxy which was originally featured in Where No Man Has Gone Before, but at the same time I suppose I'd have been more annoyed if it were conspicuously missing from the episode, as that would have simply been a continuity error. The writing of this episode responsibly deals with its canonical existence and even uses it quite cleverly as a plot device while tactfully not dwelling on the reason for its existence or exploring how it came to be. I'd still like to see an episode dealing with why it's there at some point, but the crisis situation in this episode simply precluded that.

Speaking of long standing issues with the realism of the science fiction on Star Trek, this episode gives us new exposition which either clarifies or complicates the problem concerning why so many aliens in the Milky Way look like humans. It's explicitly stated in this episode that chances are very much against the idea of another alien race evolving to look like humans in the Andromeda galaxy. This implies that there is an extraordinary reason for why so many aliens look like humans in the Milky Way, such as the common genetic heritage hypothesis I outlined in my review of Return to Tomorrow.

Moving onto the actual story, there's a great deal of dramatic detail to praise. For one, while I'm not one to comment much on TV trends regarding gender and racial issues, I was pleasantly surprised to see that given the choice to execute a white girl or a black man, the plot bucked the typical trend by choosing to off the white girl. I also quite enjoyed Kirk's line to Rojan claiming that the Federation has handled foreign invaders before. That threat felt more like posturing than substance; a nice piece of subtle acting from William Shatner.

Perhaps the best dramatic moment of the episode is when Kirk struggles with whether or not to self destruct the ship, ultimately choking on the decision; being unable to go through with it. In my view what we see here is a rare moment of weakness in Kirk. In that moment he had an opportunity to sacrifice his ship to protect the entire galaxy from a formidable threat, but something prevented him from being able to give the order. My suspicion is somewhere in the back of his mind he remained confident that he could thwart the Kelvan threat without destroying himself in the process. This confidence may well have been hubris, or perhaps in that moment Kirk simply feared death and couldn't bring himself to give an order that would take his life and the lives of everyone under his command.

However Kirk arrived at his decision, it ended up being the right course of action. Amusingly, the Kelvans had detected Spock's and Scotty's subterfuge and could have prevented the self destruct if necessary, so all of Kirk's fretting was for nothing. But that removes none of the suspense from the moment, since there's no way Kirk could have known that at the time. After the ship cleared the Milky Way, Kirk seemed to waste no time finding the most beautiful woman in the episode to seduce, as usual. Meanwhile, Scotty's quest to drink a Kelvan under the table provided perhaps the most entertaining scenes of the episode.

Ultimately the resolution of the story was both a piece of clever writing exploring the idea that the Kelvans could be exploited by their newfound humanity as well as true to the spirit of Star Trek in that Kirk refused to abandon his peace proposal throughout the perilous conquest of the Enterprise. The story ends on a note indicating that automated vessels will be sent to the Kelvan homeworld to propose Kirk's peaceful solution, but I have my doubts about that plan's potential for success, even with an endorsement from real, live Kelvans since it is well established that these Kelvans arrived on a generational ship, disconnected completely from a home they never knew.

All in all, this episode has sequel written all over it. I'd love to see a future Star Trek production tackle the return of the Kelvans some time later after having received the message, still bent on conquest. Since few episodes of Star Trek leave me wanting to see more of the aliens of the week, I'd say this episode has earned itself a well deserved place in the above average episodes club.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Orion Pimpdaddy on 2010-07-07 at 12:08am:
    I completely disagree with the scores people are giving for this episode. This is one of the best episodes of the original series. Why? Well, I'll try to prove my point:

    -The villian, Rojan, is a very effective opponent for Kirk. Almost as good as Khan. He's cunning and calm, until he starts having feeling of jealously. He's vicious as well, having crumbled one of the redshirts in his hand.

    -The crew is completely defeated and faces a perilous situation. In one of the most tense moments, Kirk was about to blow up the ship to stop the Kelvins. The usual sci-fi gimmicks to resolve the situation are thrown out the window at that point, so they have to resolve the situation without the use of technology.

    -The takeover by Kirk, Scotty, Bones, and Spock is skillfully done. Each using their own personality to overwhelm the adversary.

    -The description of the Kelvans by Spock adds much needed depth, and eliminates the "alien of the week" problem.
  • From Alan Feldman on 2012-12-19 at 11:06pm:
    "By Any Other Name"

    Great episode, in spite of all its problems.

    What's with the energy barrier? What is its origin? I'm with Kethinov on this. And why in blazes can't they just go "over" or "under" it? OK, maybe the barrier envelops the entire galaxy somehow. Nope! Rojan says it's at the rim of our galaxy. Just another absurdity to add to the list.

    More "remarkable scenes":

    The two that center on the following lines:

    KELINDA: Oh. You are trying to seduce me.

    KELINDA: Yes. I was wondering: Would you please apologize to me again?

    It's pretty amazing seeing our heroes sitting at the table so badly defeated. The hopelessness, despair, anger, and near total resignation about their fate. But then they come up with their brilliant plan for defeating the Kelvans and carry out that plan brilliantly, making this a really fun episode.

    But . . .

    I really don't think you can have a moon that big so close to the planet. You'd have some serious tidal forces, for one thing.

    Converting from 100-limb creatures to humans -- that's quite a feat! And how did they find out so much about humans and the Enterprise and such? And they turned themselves into "textbook humans". And they have the paralysis device. And they can transport themselves around at will with it. And shrink people into polyhedral shapes. Yeah, they're far superior and all that. Yet the energy barrier destroyed their ship. But it's worth going with all this just so that we can have this fun story.

    Kelinda's mind, despite now being only "human", can nevertheless propel Spock across the cave. But barely 10 seconds later Kirk grabs her, administers a gentle karate chop to the shoulder, and down she goes.

    How can five Kelvans control the entire Federation? Rojan just plainly states it and somehow that's enough. And even if they can, what about the Organians, Klingons, Romulans, Talosians, Metrons, Tholians, Trelane's parents, etc.? Can they control them, too? OK, drop the Tholians.

    The Kelvans modify the engines so the ship can go at warp 11. But the ship cannot go that fast in later episodes.

    Good luck surviving on just vitamin pills! Really. They're "textbook humans", after all.

    Rojan was calm, cool, cold, cruel, plain, straightforward. Well done.

    Watching Spock subtly noodge Rojan into jealousy combined with Captain Kirk's fun efforts to push him into a full blown jealous rage was great! I also enjoyed, of course, Scotty drinking Tomar under the table.

    Speaking of which, when do enemies like these simply sit down and play a casual game of chess and engage in friendly conversation?

    Why did Hanar permit McCoy to give him the shots? And it seemed like a kind of random, out-of-the-blue moment when Hanar confronted Rojan on the bridge. Sort of pointless -- kind of its own self-contained subplot -- but needed somehow. I suppose they had to give Bones _something_ to do.

    When Drea neutralized three of the crew on the bridge, one of them was holding one of those Etch A Sketch clipboard things. Actually, I guess its screen is more like a wrinkled version of the gray thing from the same era that you can write on with a stick pencil and erase by pulling up the clear plastic sheet, or something like that. Whatever it is, it didn't make any sound as it hit the floor.

    So we have three male and two female Kelvans. And they were going to reproduce for their multi-generational trip back to Andromeda. So that would have been three men sharing two women -- or two women sharing three men. Either way you put it, it doesn't sound like a good idea to me! Maybe Tomar is gay.

    Definitely a fun episode.
  • From Alan Feldman on 2013-12-20 at 11:34pm:
    More on "BY ANY OTHER NAME"

    Man, it didn't take long for the Kelvans to explore our galaxy! They were lucky just to get to that planet in a "life craft". And, while stranded on that planet, with only their life craft, they somehow managed to quickly find out all they need to take over the not just the _Enterprise_, but entire galaxy, to boot! How in blazes did they do that?

    More about the energy barrier: Hey, we know there's "dark matter" and "dark energy" in the universe, but we don't have much of a clue as to what they even _are_. If there really were an energy barrier at the rim of our galaxy, we might not know much about it, either. But we presently have no indication that there is such a thing. But assuming it's there, as I said in my last comment, why can't you just go over or under it?

    They should send the robot ship just outside the barrier, communicate with the Kelvans in the Andromeda Galaxy from there. Then it can shuttle back inside our galaxy and relay the response to us, and so forth. That should save a lot of time!

    Again, this is definitely a fun episode.

    AEF, a.k.a. betaneptune
  • From Scott Hearon on 2014-04-10 at 3:24pm:
    This has been one of my absolute favorite episodes, so far. And for some unexpected reasons.

    The science-fiction aspects of this story are excellent. The Kelvans are a very interesting race, and the way they are revealed through Spock's thwarted mind-meld was an excellent device. The Kelvans almost conjure up images of Lovecraft's "Great Old Ones," which is terrifying.

    The threat that the aliens pose is about as severe as any I've seen in earlier episodes. The sense of powerlessness among the command and crew of the Enterprise is palpable, and the cold-blooded execution of the female red-shirt drives the point home.

    The element that I surprisingly enjoyed in this one is the humor. I really haven't been a fan of the humor in Star Trek, since it's almost always exceptionally cheesy and campy. For some reason, though, I thought the gags in this one were great. Scotty out-drinking that ogre of a Kelvan and Spock coolly stoking Rojan's jealousy were comic gold.

    One of the best all-around tales of the series, no doubt.

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