Director: Herb Wallerstein
Writer: Lee Erwin
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Steve Ihnat, Yvonne Craig, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Richard Geary, Gary Downey, and Keye Luke
Composer: Fred Steiner
Air Date: 1/3/1969
Production #: 60043-71
Kirk and Spock travel to Elba II—the galaxy’s only remaining asylum for the criminally insane—in order to deliver medical supplies that can cure the facility’s most incorrigible patients. Upon arrival, the captain and first officer are greeted by the ostensible Dr. Cory (Keye Luke); however, further investigation reveals that former starship commander Garth of Izar (Steve Ihnat) and an Orion woman named Marta (Yvonne Craig) have freed their fellow inmates and taken control of the institution.
Though somewhat lacking in philosophical substance, “Whom Gods Destroy” benefits from a number of entertaining interactions between Kirk and Garth. Also commendable are the villainous attributes stemming from the latter character’s brilliant but dangerously unstable mind, which generate a most intimidating atmosphere that would not have been possible had a less sophisticated actor played the part.
By offering an elegant and restrained performance, Steve Ihnat exemplified a convincing manner of psychosis to make credible the concept of a starship captain driven mad by an insatiable thirst for power/revenge. Additionally unnerving is Garth’s ability to mimic the appearance of anyone he chooses, thus preventing Kirk and Spock from trusting each other throughout the entirety of their predicament (that being said, a logical problem arises from the fact that Garth performs a Vulcan nerve pinch while assuming Spock’s form).
As indicated previously, Garth embodies a formidable sense of realism due to the nuanced fashion with which Ihnat portrayed the character. While imitating Captain Kirk, however, Garth fails to maintain his sinister presence given that William Shatner seemed incapable of conveying maniacal laughter and blind rage without resorting to the very antics for which he is so often parodied.
On more than one occasion, Kirk/Garth attempts to beam aboard the Enterprise only for Scotty to request verification via the captain’s reply to a chess move. Certain viewers may attribute this unique security feature to Kirk’s ingenuity as a captain, though others will likely question why such measures are never implemented on other missions involving would-be imposters.
Within the Star Trek universe, mankind has presumably progressed beyond primitive and selfish desires in favor of more noble pursuits, hence allowing Gene Roddenberry’s futuristic vision to guide the human race on their spacefaring adventures; therefore, one can infer that a megalomaniacal tyrant such as Garth serves the purpose of contrasting the enlightened principles upon which Starfleet was founded with the more archaic motivations that hindered people from realizing their full potential in centuries past. While the outward manifestations of Garth’s insanity may be less subtle than those of Khan Noonien Singh, Gary Mitchell, or other Star Trek antagonists of a similar disposition, “Whom Gods Destroy” nonetheless makes a compelling case for Roddenberry’s thesis as outlined above.
Shatner’s goofy acting aside, “Whom Gods Destroy” presents a captivating scenario based upon an otherwise clichéd trope centering on a madman and his quest for vengeance. In addition, an unintentionally amusing outburst from Kirk/Garth will appeal to viewers who enjoy Star Trek for its campy elements.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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