Director: Lawrence Dobkin
Writer: D.C. Fontana
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Walker, DeForest Kelley, Grace Lee Whitney, Nichelle Nichols, Charles J. Stewart, Dallas Mitchell, Don Eitner, Patricia McNulty, John Bellah, Garland Thompson, and Abraham Sofaer
Composer: Fred Steiner
Air Date: 9/15/1966
Production #: 6149-08
During a rendezvous with the cargo vessel Antares, Charlie Evans (Robert Walker)—a seventeen-year-old human who spent most of his life alone on the planet Thasus—beams aboard the Enterprise. Before long, Charlie develops inappropriate feelings for Captain Kirk’s yeoman, Janice Rand. Despite his efforts to influence the boy in a positive direction, Kirk remains unable to prevent Charlie—now revealed to possess alien powers—from harming or killing those who irritate him.
A monster-of-the-week episode, “Charlie X” lacks an insightful message to complement its generic, horror-themed subject matter. That being said, the interactions between Charlie and Kirk, who conducts himself like a father figure while in Charlie’s presence, redeem this entry from the formulaic premise on which it operates.
Robert Walker deserves praise for his portrayal of Charlie, whose telekinesis is made especially frightening due to the mental immaturity, absence of restraint, and childlike petulance that he exhibits during his stay on the Enterprise. It should also be noted that as opposed to Anthony (a child with similar abilities as demonstrated in The Twilight Zone’s “It’s a Good Life”), Charlie commits terrible crimes out of frustration (implied to stem from his limited understanding of human relationships) rather than pure malevolence, thereby allowing him to remain sympathetic from the perspective of the audience.
By progressing at a languid pace, “Charlie X” fails to generate a satisfactory level of tension.
(Spoilers beyond this point)
The trials of Charlie Evans seem almost symbolic of the adapting process that children must undergo upon entering adolescence. Specifically, Charlie never attempts to bridle his phenomenal talents with the self-control of a responsible adult, eventually prompting the Thasian people to remove him from the company of his human peers—a veiled commentary on the fact that teenagers must learn to govern their impulses, sexual or otherwise, in order function within society.
“Charlie X” puts a scientific twist on the trope later popularized by Carrie, the Stephen King novel about a high school student who experiences telekinetic rage on her prom night. Fans of the sci-fi/horror crossover genre may therefore wish to view this offering, which benefits from a compelling, if remarkably slow, execution.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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