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Star Trek TOS - Season 3 - Episode 04

Star Trek TOS - 3x04 - And the Children Shall Lead

Originally Aired: 1968-10-11

A group of children is being controlled by an evil force. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

My Rating - 1

Fan Rating Average - 2.19

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Filler Quotient: 3, bad filler, totally skippable.
- Pretty lame episode with no significant long term continuity.

- Right after the scene when Kirk begins to feel he's losing his command abilities, Spock and Kirk get into a turbolift and it starts moving without either of them specifying a destination!
- At one point Kirk reasons to the children that the entity is afraid of being seen. This is after Kirk had already witnessed the entity being perfectly content with being summoned to the bridge in front of the entire crew.

- This is the first episode in which we see a United Federation of Planets logo. Though there's no accounting for taste...

Remarkable Scenes
- Scotty going psycho on his mind controlled officers.
- Kirk accidentally beaming two men into space.
- Kirk's entire bridge crew freaking out.
- Kirk speaking gibberish to the redshirt.

My Review
This episode is essentially Miri without the absurd technical problems. That, however, does little to enhance a blatantly bad premise. The slow, plodding plot just makes most of the main characters look stupid, as it takes 39 minutes into the episode before it finally dawns on Kirk and Spock that the children must be having some kind of mind control effect on the crew and thus must be neutralized in order to regain control of the ship.

Ten minutes before that scene, I was already shouting "just phaser the damn kids already!" at the screen, as by that point the crew had more than enough evidence to draw that conclusion themselves, not the least of which was the scene when the children summoned the entity in front of the entire bridge crew, prompting him to rattle off his entire secret plan to all the main characters. That's the moment when I'd have phasered the kids right there.

But we didn't even get that moment, as all it took to neutralize the children was to show them a video of their bizarre behavior from the beginning of the episode so that they'd finally face the fact that their parents are dead, start crying, and deprive the entity of its power over them. McCoy had been clamoring for them all to do something like that since the beginning of the episode, and yet nobody ever bothered to try the video thing until Kirk got desperate. No wonder McCoy was insisting that they take the kids to a starbase for a proper psychological examination. Maybe they've got counselors over there worth a damn.

But thanks to the converging interests of both Kirk and the evil entity, neither of which wanted to go to the starbase for no coherent reason, they never did. Kirk should have authorized going to the starbase to gain access to the child specialists that were there. The entity should have authorized going to the starbase to attempt to fool the specialists and to gain false legitimacy so the children could less conspicuously request transport to a Federation colony. A better story would have shown us these competing tactics, but alas, that would have required more sets, more characters, and more entertainment value. We can't have that.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Orion on 2011-03-06 at 7:21pm:
    This episode has no entertainment value, expect for a few unintentional laughs. You have child actors who come across as brats. Yeah, I know, they were being controled by an outside force, but man, these kids are annoying. Later on, in a forced scene the kids become sad, which is unintentionally hilarious due to all the fake crying.

    After two crewmembers die, there'e really no sign of remorse. Also, nodody helped Uhura when she "saw her own death." She spent the whole episode staring into the mirror and crying.

    Of course, the most chessy thing about the episode is the mind control via fist pumping.

    On a quick note, the Blu-Ray upgrade didn't change too much. The knives floating through space still look the same, even though the disc seems to indicate otherwise (it prompts you to change toggle between old and new effects, but the knives look the same either way)
  • From Bobby on 2011-08-21 at 6:45pm:
    That bit where Mr. Spock says, "we may have to kill the children" ...

    Nonsense! Just cut their arms off where they can't make that motion with their fists. :) That'll fix it.
  • From Abigail on 2012-05-31 at 11:27pm:
    At the end of this episode, I had reached a few conclusions:
    - Children are obviously much easier to manipulate than I'd ever realized. Now I'm unsure why teachers struggle so much with classroom management. Clearly it takes very little to convince them of something, and then of the exact opposte.
    - Children from the future are always incredibly annoying. A great many Star Trek episodes have shown me that.
    - I need to know where the girl with the blonde pigtails got her jumpsuit. I think it would look remarkably good on me.
  • From Strider on 2012-06-25 at 2:43pm:
    Every bit as bad as I'd read it would be. There was one nice moment in the turbolift when Jim was having his "I've lost command" breakdown, and for some reason begins to strangle Spock, and Spock just says, "Jim." Jim gets himself together and breaks the spell. I live for those moments of connection between characters.

    But right before that...what was Spock seeing/experiencing that made him defy Kirk's orders? All he said was "I don't think we need to trouble Starfleet" or something. If Spock's fears came alive on the bridge, I would expect to see either Jim dying or Spock's emotions burst out of control.

    And why does the Communications Officer have a mirror at her console as big as any one of her computer screens? Seems unprofessional at best.

    Anyway, I spent a good 2/3 of the episode thinking "Stun them with your phaser! Use the Vulcan nerve pinch! Sedate them, for God's sake!" I may have yelled it to the screen a time or two, actually.
  • From Glenn239 on 2012-09-26 at 2:04pm:
    A ‘2’. A bad episode of Star Trek is like a plane crash; a series of unrelated errors cascading into catastrophic failure. No doubt with a longer production schedule and better judgment this episode could have been much better. Perhaps Freiberger was more inclined to step on mines that Roddenberry may have avoided.

    In ‘The Thing’ a group of scientists isolated in the Antarctic stumble across a wrecked camp where, judging from the bodies, things had obviously ended quite badly. Then have to deal with a malevolent alien presence which infects their camp by way of the sole survivor, a dog. Part of the awesomeness to the story is that the dead guys from the first camp leaving a handy video log that is just incomplete enough to perfectly develop the plot.

    And the Children Shall Lead is also that story. But The Thing was magnificent while it sucked. Mistake 1 was the kids; using child actors is always a risk since most of them can’t act. Find one kid that can act, you are lucky. Find four or five? The odds of that must be astronomical, like flipping a deck of playing cards in the air and having them land all stacked in perfect sequence. Mistake 2 was the villian; he looked stupid, he dressed stupid, he had stupid motives, and he died stupidly. (Actually, with the poofy hair and cheezy plastic see-through poncho he comes across like he was always being summoned from the ghost beauty salon) He wants to conquer the galaxy? So now it’s cross-dressing ghost Hitler? Um, ok. Mistake 3 was the baffoonish interplay between the kids and the crew of the ship. I don’t care if Sulu is afraid of swords and I don’t care that he’s too stupid to figure out it must be an illusion. Next stop, catastrophic failure.

    If Star Trek ever got an ‘episode mulligan’, this might be the one. Ditch the kids but keep the premise. I think it’s Kirk who said, ‘We may have to kill the children’. Now there’s an interesting idea. Back in the 1960’s there was an awesome short story called ‘The Counterfeit Man’. In it, the ship’s doctor decided he had to murder a crew member he suspected was an alien. He had no evidence and nobody else believed him, but ‘spaced’ him anyway, (blew him out an airlock in a great sequence where the alien, still looking like a dude, pleaded with him not to). What an awesome premise – what if Kirk or McCoy concluded they had to kill a survivor who looked human based on the hunch that they were actually an alien?
  • From Alan Feldman on 2012-10-19 at 1:55am:
    "And the Children Shall Lead"

    How did Kirk know Gorgan's name? It's not mentioned at all before Kirk asked Spock to play back the tape.

    Kethinov: You ask for more sets, more characters, more entertainment value. You forgot "more money". According to what those involved said, they had a very low budget for the third season. They spoke of doing "ship shows", shooting most of an episode on the ship to save money. Speaking of money, it seems like they spent a lot more money on the pilots than on any of the regular episodes! Maybe it's because you only do a pilot once -- okay, in this case, twice!

  • From Colin Pearce on 2013-03-20 at 4:04pm:
    Although I agree that this episode is far from the best (in fact, it’s in my 3 worst episodes list), a common criticism / misconception is that Uhura has a mirror on her console.

    He reflection, both young and old, is intended to be displayed on her console screen, not a mirror. The mirror was obviously used by the production crew to save time and money rather than superimposing her young image onto her console screen, as her older image actually was. When Kirk goes to comfort her, there is clearly no mirror on her console, only readouts. Only she can see the image, just like only Sulu can see the swords on the viewscreen.

    The use of the mirror was sloppily done, but the intention of the production crew was that she was looking at her console. The remastering team should definitely have fixed this flaw, but once again they miss another instance requiring an easy fix.
  • From Alan Feldman on 2013-04-03 at 2:15am:
    More on "And the Children Shall Lead"

    Re the "mirror": Yes, the first shot clearly shows a real mirror. But it's a very short shot -- only a second or two. Plus I think it's safe to say it was assumed that people were watching it on not very large, standard def televisions from at least several feet away. So they probably thought they could get away with such a short shot. And they probably did. Watching it in my youth, I didn't notice anything funny. I think I was fixated on the image and the story and so didn't notice the mirror vs. display aspect of it. It just seemed like a mirror to me with her mirror image aged by "the beast within her".

    Interestingly, in that shot, we see Uhura centered, which means she probably couldn't see herself! (Notice also that the mirror doesn't quite line up with the console display behind it.)

    I think there's another reason they used an actual mirror for the first shot. Notice that it's used only for _young_ Uhura. By using an actual mirror it is quickly established that she's seeing a reflection of herself. It also produces an extremely accurate (!) reflection (except for the angle bit). Then the second shot shows old Uhura on the console display, and we have already assumed there's a mirror, or something functioning as a mirror, there somehow. I'm guessing this is to make up in part for the motions of real and imagined Uhura not matching up quite right. And perhaps also to make it clear she's looking at herself, as old Uhura looks so different!

    Keep in mind that they had a very small budget for the third season, or so they've claimed.

    This episode still has its fun moments.

    So what's with the food cards? How is it that with only a handful of 3-inch wooden squares you can have almost any variety of food you want? This has always struck me as rather odd, to say the least. In this episode, the last kid asks for chocolate marble and pistachio. Nurse Chapel picks a card and is about to put it in the slot when the kid interjects, "And peach". Well, she has a card for that, too -- but out of only two cards, no less!

    This happens in other episodes. For example, there's the scene in "Tomorrow is Yesterday" where Kyle asks the sergeant what he'd like to eat. The sergeant says "chicken soup". Then Kyle, who is holding only four wooden cards, just happens to have one for chicken soup. Am I missing something here?

    AEF, aka betaneptune

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