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Recap / Star Trek S1 E2 "Charlie X"

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If Charlie makes this face, you are unfathomable levels of screwed.
"Do you know about being with somebody? Wanting to be? If I had the whole universe, I'd give it to you, Janice. When I see you, I feel like I'm hungry all over. Do you know how that feels?"

Original air date: September 15, 1966

The Enterprise takes on a passenger, being that they are commonly in the habit of ferrying civilians. The boy is Charlie, an orphan with a Mysterious Past and really bad social skills. The people dropping him off seem in quite a hurry to leave.

Charlie becomes infatuated with Yeoman Rand, stalking her and delivering presents she doesn't want. In the rec room we get to see Spock and Uhura make music together, which annoys Charlie because it distracts everyone (and especially Yeoman Rand) from him.

The ship Charlie arrived on blows up mid-transmission, with Charlie making a snide remark. Everyone is somewhat concerned, especially as odd things continue to happen upon the ship. For instance, Charlie loses chess and causes the chess pieces to melt. Nobody connects this to him (yet). Kirk is given the responsibility of talking to the boy and attempting to explain how to be normal.

Which he does by teaching him to wrestle. (Obviously.) When Kirk's training partner laughs at Charlie, Charlie makes him disappear. Kirk is upset and orders him to his quarters, where he goes after making several threats. Charlie goes on a rampage when Kirk refuses to bring him to the human colony he was planning on going to. The aliens that taught Charlie his powers appear to take him back, apologizing for the damage he's caused. He is brought back to live with them and the people that were attacked are brought back to normal.

Tropes X

  • Adaptation Title Change: When James Blish adapted it as a short story, the title was "Charlie's Law", as he adapted it from an earlier version of the script, with that name.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Charlie doesn't want to go back with the Thasians, as they aren't physically present like Kirk or Rand. Kirk even argues for a chance for Charlie to stay if he can be rehabilitated. However, the Thasians point out they can't undo the talents they'd given Charlie to survive on their world, and he's returned to them despite his desperate begging to stay.
  • Artificial Meat: Kirk orders the food workers to at least make the synthetic meatloaf the crew is having for Thanksgiving look like turkey. Charlie obliges by putting real turkeys in the oven.
  • Berserk Button: Never laugh at Charlie if you value your life.
  • Big "NO!": Charlie screams it when a Thasian ship arrives to take him home to his kind.
  • The Blank: Charlie erases several random crew members' faces while having a tantrum.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Charlies says he needs Kirk alive to help him run the Enterprise, as it's a lot bigger and more complicated than the Antares.
  • Characterization Marches On: Spock is smiling throughout Uhura's performance serenading him, merrily strumming along on his Vulcan lyre without so much as a quip or a sarcastic comment when she's finished. This is unquestionably the most laid-back we ever see Spock (without mind-altering devices being at work), and rings very false for him— contrast Spock and Uhura interacting the previous week in "The Man Trap". This is a case of Ship Tease on the part of Nichelle Nichols, Leonard Nimoy, and the writing staff. When the show first started, they wanted to drop hints that Uhura and Spock would end up together. Nichols and Nimoy played it this way even into the third season (watch Spock whenever Uhura gets zapped or falls out of her chair). Of course, NBC couldn't allow it to be any more explicit than that, as interracial romance would have cost them the all-important southern affiliates. There's more What Could Have Been in the recap for "Plato's Stepchildren".
  • Chiaroscuro: In the gym when Kirk and Charlie are facing off, the lighting somehow changes mid-scene to make both Charlie and Kirk appear as though they are in a typical Film Noir scene with Venetian blinds. Also, their eye areas are highlighted to emphasize the drama and tension.
  • Continuity Nod: This happens after "The Enemy Within", so Kirk's "romance has to be two-sided" also serves as guilt for what his evil half did to Janice.
  • Creator Cameo: Gene Roddenberry provides the voice of the Galley Chief amazed at the appearance of real turkeys.
  • Cut Phone Lines: Charlie cross-circuits Uhura's instrument panel when she tries to send a warning to Colony Five.
  • Death Glare: Charlie has one using his powers. Kirk gives him one of his own after he breaks Spock's legs.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Kirk grabs the sociopathic man-child with superhuman powers and throws him out of his chair. Moral: Do not take the captain's chair!
  • Dirty Coward: Charlie, after smugly tormenting the crew with his psychic abilities, freaks out when the Thasians appear to collect him, with his fear mostly based around how his abilities do nothing to them and they can easily undo the harm he's done.
  • Disconnected by Death: The Antares ceases transmitting to the Enterprise when Charlie destroys it.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Due to his uncontrollable temper, Charlie uses his powers on people who did harmless things to him. He makes a crewmember in the gym disappear because he laughed at him getting thrown on his ass by Kirk. A gaggle of anonymous crewmembers are rendered faceless because they just happened to be laughing when Charlie stormed past. One female crewmember is turned into a lizard after expressing genuine concern for him. And Charlie wonders why nobody likes him.
  • Don't Make Me Destroy You: Charlie seems genuinely reluctant to vanish Kirk, even though by that stage Kirk is deliberately provoking and even assaulting Charlie. Fortunately, the Thasians intervene before he overcomes this reluctance.
  • Downer Ending: Charlie only wanted to be liked and accepted by the crew. His temper and "talent" make it impossible, but it's not his fault (entirely) since he'd been alone since age three.
  • Dub Name Change: Charlie's name in the Japanese dub is Peter as Scotty's name was changed to Charlie. One-Steve Limit is to blame.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • The Antares crew's tan, ribbed-collar tunics, which were reused from the two pilot episodes.
    • Kirk & Co. work for the United Earth Space Probe Agency.
    • The rank insignia on Kirk's green tunic are on his shoulders instead of around his wrists, where they would appear later in the series.
    • The destination is alternatively referred to as Colony Alpha 5 and Earth Colony 5. As the show progressed, Federation colonies would receive proper names.
    • Having to convert meatloaf to turkey for Thanksgiving. This suggests that they didn't have food synthesizers and their onboard food wasn't far ahead of astronaut food of The '60s. Accordingly, this is also the only episode that features or makes mention of a galley chef.
    • Spock smiles while he's with Lt. Uhura in the crew lounge. This contradicts his characterization throughout the rest of the series, during which he almost always acts in a completely emotionless manner.
  • Eldritch Starship: The Thasians' ship resembles a nebulous mobile cloud of glowing green gas (in the original version); in the Remastered episode, it is similar looking, but with some kind of lighted tubes inside the gas cloud. The Thasians themselves are noncorporeal aliens who appeared to the Enterprise crew as floating, ghostly green humanoid heads.
  • Explosive Instrumentation: The communication console emits a shower of sparks and burns Uhura's hand. Justified in this case because it's Charlie using his powers to prevent communications with anyone outside the ship; Uhura states that there wouldn't normally be any reason for it to do that.
  • Expy:
  • Some may have noticed the title "Charlie X" and a connection to a certain Charles Xavier. The debut of the comic book X-Men does predate this episode by three years, but Professor X (who rarely if ever goes by "Charlie") is of course a mature man with telepathic (not telekinetic) powers that he only uses for the good of mankind. Also, at the time of this episode, the X-Men were one of the more obscure Marvel titles. It's most probable that any similarities were coincidental.
  • Also might be an expy of Charlie Gordon, in Flowers for Algernon, as a young man unable to cope with the powers he has been given.
  • Famous, Famous, Fictional: When Charlie forces Spock to recite poetry, he quotes from William Blake's The Tyger, Poe's The Raven, and what appears to be a future poem.
    Spock: I'm trying to— Saturn rings around my head, down a road that's Martian red.
  • Flirtatious Smack on the Ass: Charlie slaps Janice on the rear after seeing one crewman playfully do it to another (not realizing it has different connotations when one of the people is female), but he is so horrified at her offended reaction that she just mildly reprimands him.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: The Thasian who speaks to the Enterprise takes on a copy of the physical form he had centuries ago in order to better communicate with the crew.
  • Gaussian Girl:
    • Yeoman Rand gets the fuzzy treatment in all her close-ups (and not just the ones that are representing the infatuated Charlie's point of view).
    • So, for some reason, does William Shatner.
  • His Name Is...: The Antares tries to contact the Enterprise to warn them about Charlie (presumably after they felt they were a safe distance away), but Charlie destroys their ship, trying to pass it off as being a result of the ship being poorly built. Nobody buys it at this point.
  • Instant Costume Change: While Kirk fumbles his way through The Talk with Charlie, he is wearing his command gold tunic. When he responds to an urgent call from the bridge in the next scene, he's back in the green tunic. The most likely explanation is that Kirk had so many shirtless scenes they couldn't fit them all into the show.
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: Charlie wants to make friends and to be loved. Unfortunately, his lack of social skills and his violent temper make him quite dangerous. Based on how he reacts when the Thasians take him back, it seems like he didn’t receive the love that he’s so desperate to have.
  • It's the Only Way: Charlie is steering the Enterprise to an inhabited planet, and Kirk's hold over him is growing increasingly tenuous, so he forces a final confrontation despite both McCoy and Spock advising him against it.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: The captain of the Antares (along with his entire crew).
  • Logic Bomb: Realizing that Charlie may be at the limit of his power, the bridge crew turn on every system in an attempt to drain him.
  • Mind Rape: There's a bit where Charlie is making Spock recite poetry instead of say what he wants to say on the intercom. Charlie comments that he could make Spock spin around, dance, or laugh. A couple of seasons later, the Platonians do just that.
  • Mood Whiplash: In-Universe during the wrestling scene; the moment Charlie makes someone vanish in front of Kirk he realizes he's not just dealing with a Hormone-Addled Teenager but an Outside-Context Problem.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Kirk has an extended scene where he wears nothing but a pair of tights.
  • Never My Fault: Charlie's reasoning is exactly like a child's, with the reality warping powers of a Thasian behind it. "No, it wasn't Charlie who made Sam disappear, Sam laughed at Charlie - Sam MADE Charlie make Sam disappear!"
  • Nightmare Face: How do you know Charlie's about to ruin somebody's day? He tilts his head down and his eyes roll up to fixate on his target, making him look like he has Blank White Eyes, with that "that wasn't very nice..." frown on his face. There's a Scare Chord and a dramatic zoom-in as well, to heighten the effect.
  • Not So Above It All: When Uhura interrupts Spock's lute-playing with her singing, he plays the lute for her instead, and has a wry smile as she teases him with the lyrics.
  • No Social Skills: Charlie, having lived with no human contact since he was three years old (and is now 17), has insufferably poor social skills.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Kirk first sees evidence of Charlie's supernatural ability, making Crewman Sam disappear for laughing at him - he suddenly recognizes that he, and the Enterprise, could be dealing with an exceptionally powerful being with the body and temperament of a child. He recovers after a few seconds.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: The crew of the Antares leave as quickly as possible, refusing an offer to take on supplies from Kirk's Starship Luxurious, which he muses is unprecedented.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When the Thasians show up to take Charlie away, Charlie begs the crew not to let them. Seeing the Spoiled Brat who'd been nothing but arrogant and cocky throughout the whole episode completely break down at the sight of his foster parents is jarring, to say the least.
    Charlie: Oh, please, don't let them take me. I can't even touch them! Janice, they can't feel. Not like you! They don't love!
  • Parental Substitute: McCoy suggests that Kirk would make a good father figure for Charlie. Kirk tries to shove the task back onto McCoy, but when Rand approaches him about Charlie's behavior Kirk realizes he can't just let things lie. After Charlie reveals his powers, this is the only hold that Kirk has over him, though they all know Charlie will reach a point where he'll refuse to submit to Kirk's authority.
  • Percussive Therapy: Realizing Charlie is suffering from an excess of teenage hormones, Kirk helps him burn some off by teaching him wrestling. It's working well enough until Charlie makes a nearby crewman who laughed at him vanish.
  • Psychic Powers:
    • Charlie can do lots of things, including transmogrification and making people involuntarily recite poetry.
    • He can also reach into Yeoman Rand's head and discover her favorite perfume. Ew.
  • Psychopathic Man Child: Charlie, an impulsive and unhealthily needy teenager with an ability to make people vanish.
  • Rapid Aging: Charlie does this to a pretty crewmember in retribution for Kirk trying to trap him behind a forcefield.
  • Reality Warper: From affecting people and objects close to him, to those far away in space, Charlie definitely has some dangerous powers - fortunately, their effects (when directly caused by his powers) can be reversed, and are at the end.
  • Red Shirt: The one guy in the gym that laughs at Charlie. Charlie starts his rampage by making him disappear. Interestingly, he's wearing a red dogi. Other crewmembers of all uniform colors suffer in some way or another for offenses both great and small.
  • Reset Button: The Thasians undo everything Charlie did on the Enterprise, but are unable to do anything for the crew of the Antares, who were killed by a warp core breach (caused by Charlie) rather than merely being transformed or disappeared.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Rand attempts to invoke this by setting Charlie up with a cute blonde crewmember closer to his age, but Charlie is utterly disinterested.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Supernatural Powers!: Charlie Evans was given superpowers by the Thasians after his ship crashed and everyone else was killed. When the Enterprise picks him up, he has an obsession with being liked and "removes" people from reality if they piss him off. Eventually, the Thasians show up to take him back and repair the damage, but they're too late for a ship he destroyed that was trying to warn the Enterprise. While Charlie repents in the end and promises never to use the powers again, Kirk and the Thasians agree that it's too much of a temptation.
  • Shipper on Deck: The latter part of Uhura's song comes a bit across as if she is this for Charlie and Rand. But maybe she, like everyone else at first, merely considers this amusing without taking it all too seriously.
  • Significant Reference Date: The episode was initially intended to air around Thanksgiving, hence the turkeys reference. However it ended up airing earlier due to it being the only completed episode at the time.
  • Sore Loser: Spock crushes Charlie at chess, so Charlie uses his creepy mental powers to melt the pieces.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: The episode can be seen as an antithesis of Robert A. Heinlein's novel Stranger in a Strange Land, which was published just five years before that episode aired. The plots of both works are essentially the same: an orphaned young man with nigh-omnipotent psychic powers is forced to adjust to human society after living his entire life among aliens, and finds himself entranced by the mysteries of human women. But while Heinlein's Valentine Michael Smith is a blissfully innocent figure who tries to use his powers to rid the human race of everything holding it back, Star Trek's Charlie Evans is a chillingly amoral figure whose alien upbringing leaves him incapable of using his powers responsibly. While Mike ends up successfully founding his own religion and social movement, Charlie is forcibly banished from human society for life.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Charlie is one to Janice. He follows her around on the ship and drops by her room to confess his love for her only to be rejected by her. He also reads her mind so he knows what she likes.
  • Stalking is Love: That's what Charlie thinks, anyway. Kirk admirably attempts to explain why this is not the case.
  • Stepford Smiler: The captain of the Antares and his navigator, though eager to leave as soon as possible, are otherwise acting as if everything is fine. This may be partly so that Kirk doesn't get suspicious, but maybe also out of fear that Charlie will make them vanish too if they don't keep up a good mood.
  • The Stoic: Spock doesn't think having his legs broken is worthy of mention until Kirk asks him to stand up.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: The Thasians, who put everything right — except for the fate of the Antares — in about two minutes.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Charlie begs not to go, and while none of the crew likes him, they're all pretty tearful at his fate.
  • The Talk: Charlie's social awkwardness around girls is bad enough that Bones decides the boy needs to learn the rules. So he convinces Kirk to give it. And Kirk, despite his experience with women, gets too embarrassed to give it straight at all.
    Kirk: There's no right way to hit a woman.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Charlie is a teenager, with all the insistence that he's old and mature enough and the frustration at not getting what he wants that entails. With his power to mutilate other objects and people, he becomes a threat to entire ships.
  • Thanksgiving Episode: According to Kirk's line "On Earth today it's Thanksgiving", the beginning of this episode takes place on 22 November 2266 (assuming American Thanksgiving is meant). The reference to Thanksgiving was included in the script because originally the episode was supposed to air in late-November.
  • There Was a Door: Spock tries to trap Charlie behind a Forcefield Door, but he simply vanishes the entire surrounding wall.
  • To the Tune of...: Uhura's song is the public domain tune "Charlie Is My Darling" with new lyrics.
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: Kirk demonstrates it for Charlie, and insists it's important when Charlie just wants to learn how to fight. Justified because Kirk is actually showing him how to fall safely when hit, which is just as important as being able to return the blow.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Charlie shows Yeoman Rand a "card trick" in which he tosses a card aside and makes it reappear down the front of her low-cut uniform. She's understandably startled and perhaps annoyed, given that the crew doesn't yet know about Charlie's powers and she can only assume that he pulled a rather naughty bit of sleight-of-hand.
  • Why Did You Make Me Hit You?: Whenever Charlie makes someone vanish it's Never My Fault, but theirs for provoking him. When called out on what happened to the Antares, Charlie says that a baffle plate on the warp drive was buckled and would have destroyed the ship anyway. "I just made it vanish."
  • Wild Child: Everyone assumed Charlie took care of himself from a very early age, explaining his horrible social conduct. Well, he did indeed have no human contact, so that does basically explain it.
  • Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Shown in the scene where Uhura jokes about Spock's devilish appearance and pretends he's someone female astronauts have to be afraid of, while being ignorant of the actual danger in the room. On singing about Charlie and getting to the verse, "We know not what he'll do--", Charlie abruptly mutes her voice.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Charlie has No Social Skills, desperately wants to be liked and have friends, and has no sense of proportion when people don't treat him the way he wishes them to. Oh, and he is omnipotent. Picture a corporeal version of Q with No Sense of Humor and you have Charlie in a nutshell. The result is a maladjusted teenager who everyone is afraid of, who tries to make people like him by punishing them whenever they make him unhappy.
  • Your Favourite: Charlie gives Rand a bottle of her favorite perfume, despite there not being any in the ship's stores. And how did he know what perfume Rand liked most anyway?


Video Example(s):


Uhura Sings

Nichelle Nichols gets a chance to show off her singing talent.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (16 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheCastShowoff

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