Director: Murray Golden
Writer: Jerome Bixby
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Daly, Louise Sorel, James Doohan, and Nichelle Nichols
Composers: Fred Steiner and Ivan Ditmars
Air Date: 2/14/1969
Production #: 60043-76
Hoping to cure the Enterprise crew of Rigelian fever, Captain Kirk travels with Spock and McCoy to Holberg 917G in order to collect ryetalyn—without which an antidote cannot be manufactured. After beaming down to the planet’s surface, the landing party is greeted by an old man named Flint (James Daly). While Spock attempts to make sense of the authentic paintings and compositions contained in Flint’s collection of ancient Earth artifacts, Kirk falls in love with the vastly intelligent and stunningly attractive Rayna (Louise Sorel).
“Requiem for Methuselah” is hampered by Kirk’s bizarre reaction to the romantic interest of a female android. Its goofy characterization of the Enterprise captain notwithstanding, this episode provides an insightful perspective on a topic of tremendous philosophical controversy.
James Daly should be commended for his portrayal of Flint, who must bear the burden of wartime conflicts, personal losses, and otherwise painful experiences spanning six thousand years. In complement to the lens of tragedy through which Flint has come to view even the most beautiful of life’s offerings, Daly’s performance exudes a level of gravitas that one would expect the quintessential Renaissance man to possess. Although the concept of a single human assuming the historical roles of Methuselah, King Solomon, Alexander the Great, Johannes Brahms, and Leonardo da Vinci is likely too fantastic for even the most open-minded Star Trek fans to accept, the above premise is made somewhat credible thanks to the combination of elegance, dignity, and passion with which Daly endowed his character.
(Spoilers beyond this point)
It should be noted that Captain Kirk’s infatuation with an android is not without precedent (e.g. “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”); however, by resorting to fisticuffs when challenged for Rayna’s affections, Kirk displays a contemptible disregard for the principles by which a Starfleet captain is required to live. Kirk’s uncharacteristic behavior also leads to a hackneyed conclusion, wherein Rayna—unable to reconcile her feelings for Flint and the captain—dies an abrupt but strangely underwhelming death.
Within science fiction, the thesis that immortality would inevitably lead to perpetual boredom is often presented (see my review of The Twilight Zone’s “Escape Clause” for an example of such). “Requiem for Methuselah,” however, offers a more nuanced exploration of the potential positive and negative factors that eternal life may involve. On one hand, an education encompassing six thousand years’ experience has allowed Flint to amass a body of knowledge so immense that even Spock himself cannot help but envy his remarkably erudite host. Nevertheless, Flint discovers that no amount of intellectual prowess can substitute the warm companionship that only another person can provide. Jerome Bixby’s narrative therefore posits a conception of immortality that is not altogether tedious, but rather a condition that entails many benefits in addition to drawbacks.
While a poetic as opposed to literal association between Flint and the famous individuals mentioned earlier might have strengthened the credibility of Gene Roddenberry’s premise, “Requiem for Methuselah” should nonetheless be commended for its philosophical profundity. Also praiseworthy, Rayna exemplifies an almost childlike innocence to contrast her amazing aptitude, thereby countering those cynical attributes whereby her eternal companion defines himself.
Overall Quality: 8/10
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