Director: Herschel Daugherty
Writer: Steven W. Carabatsos
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Joan Swift, Maurishka, Majel Barrett, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Craig Hundley, Fred Carson, and Jerry Catron
Composer: Alexander Courage
Air Date: 4/13/1967
Production #: 6149-29
While tracing the path of an interstellar plague, the Enterprise crew travels to the planet where Captain Kirk’s brother, sister-in-law, and nephew are stationed. Upon arrival, the captain discovers that a neural parasite has infected and killed many of the Deneva colonists, including Sam and Aurelan Kirk (William Shatner and Joan Swift). After one of the spongy organisms attaches its claws to Spock’s spinal cord, Captain Kirk finds himself tasked with finding a cure before his nephew, Peter (Craig Hundley), and first officer succumb to the virus.
Though the somber impact of Steven W. Carabatsos’ story is hampered by goofy special effects, “Operation
-- Annihilate!” benefits from resonating performances and strong character interactions. Notably, Leonard Nimoy’s harrowing portrayal of a man at war with himself should be commended for closely paralleling Spock’s ongoing struggle between his Vulcan and human halves.
The vulnerabilities of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are presented in a most realistic and disturbing fashion, lending credibility to an otherwise silly execution. Whereas Kirk normally remains levelheaded in the face of adversity, the captain’s desperation to save Peter and Spock leads to uncharacteristically poor decision-making on his part. The captain’s sloppy command choices are understandable, however, given the prospect of losing a young relative and a cherished friend. Likewise, McCoy’s haste in performing a risky procedure on Spock can be excused when considering the risk of delaying, while the “blinding” aftermath gave DeForest Kelley a rare opportunity to convey the doctor’s true feelings about Spock.
The fact that the neural parasites resemble giant suction cups may be forgiven in light of certain budgetary and technological constraints. That being said, without having known Aurelan or Sam prior to their affliction, audiences can hardly be expected to share in the pain Kirk feels upon losing his sister-in-law and brother.
Though Kirk’s tragedy should hypothetically make him the most sympathetic character in this outing, Nimoy effectively steals the show by capturing Spock’s inner struggle through a series of ticks, mannerisms, and convulsions that are bound to unnerve sensitive viewers. Especially disturbing are the similarities between Spock’s attempts to ward off insanity and crippling pain, and his more constant efforts at balancing his emotional and logical sides. By drawing comparisons between the neural parasite predicament and a pervasive character conflict, both Nimoy and Carabatsos successfully utilized a science fiction theme for the purpose of shedding light on the human condition.
-- Annihilate!” combines mystery and science fiction elements with gripping character exchanges, resulting in a layered, albeit occasionally flawed, Star Trek offering. Viewers with an eye for realism may find Kirk’s jovial attitude upon signing off to be distasteful given his extraordinary losses, though minor incongruities such as the above fail to diminish the gravity of the preceding narrative.
Overall Quality: 8/10
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