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Recap / Star Trek S2 E5 "The Apple"

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Original air date: October 13, 1967

Kirk and company beam down to Gamma Trianguli VI for exploration. It looks like a nice place with flowers and chirping birds and perfect weather. Then, a Redshirt gets a chest full of poisonous spines. Still, they must press on and explore. There is, for example, an alien village worth observing.

Another Redshirt bites the dust when a lightning bolt seems to strike at random. Yet another has the bad fortune to trip over an exploding rock. They have the feeling they're being watched and discover Akuta, the local priest, who seems shocked that anyone would react violently towards him. Akuta takes the remaining crew to his village, which seems to be a perfect Utopia, were it not for the social stagnation and sex being forbidden. All this is due to their worship of a strange god they call "Vaal".

While Spock and Bones debate over whether or not to let the natives have their silly superstition, things get personal when Vaal seizes the Enterprise, putting everyone aboard in grave danger. No more debate. Vaal must be destroyed, even if it means forcing the childlike aliens to grow up.

The Tropple:

  • Action Girl: Yeoman Martha Landon knows judo (though this is likely to demonstrate how inept the Vaalians are at fighting) and is the only redshirt on the planet to get out of this episode alive.note 
  • Ad Hominem: By the episode's end with Vaal destroyed and the Enterprise free to depart, Spock points out that with their interference, everything that the plant's natives had - basically everything that made it a "paradise" may not be sustained for very long by using the analogy of the Garden of Eden. Kirk asks Spock if he's suggesting that he played the role of Satan, and the latter insists that he isn't. Bones walks up and Kirk (jokingly) asks the two if there's anyone on board who bears a resemblance to Satan, with the two looking at Spock. Spock (perhaps obliviously or brushing off Kirk's ribbing) replies that there isn't. This doesn't address anything that Spock said, and was a blatant dig at Spock's looks.
  • Adam and Eve Plot: Since some find it hard to believe that an entire race could grow from only two people, we're given a mid sized village. Still, it's the same plot and the Biblical story is alluded to.
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: Spock points out that Starfleet may not approve of Kirk's actions because of this trope. He himself argues that Vaal society is working fine for them, so it's wrong to judge them by human values.
  • Angst: Poor Kirk is having a bad day. He's torn between following Starfleet's orders and doing what he feels is right. The Redshirt body count is 4 by the episode's end. Spock nearly got himself killed twice. Spock and Bones are arguing... again. And as if that wasn't bad enough, an AI gone mad is trying to destroy his ship.
  • Anger Born of Worry: Kirk scolds Spock for putting himself in danger. He tries to make it sound like Spock is just too valuable to Starfleet to lose, but his quiet "Thanks" reveals his true feelings. Kirk, you Tsundere, you!
  • Attack Pattern Alpha: Kirk orders Formation L, which involves everyone trudging through the jungle in single file. Presumably it's a small "l" instead of a capital "L".
  • Being Watched: Justified as Spock uses his tricorder to detect Akuta nearby. He's said to "move like a cat", but it's not like the natives have an incentive to learn stalking skills to hunt game.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality:
    Spock: In my view, a splendid example of reciprocity.
    McCoy: It would take a computerised Vulcan mind such as yours to make that kind of a statement.
    Spock: Doctor, you insist on applying human standards to non-human cultures. I remind you that humans are only a tiny minority in this galaxy.
    McCoy: There are certain absolutes, Mister Spock, and one of them is the right of humanoids to a free and unchained environment, the right to have conditions which permit growth.
    Spock: Another is their right to choose a system which seems to work for them.
  • Cargo Cult: A misplaced AI has found its way on this planet and now the natives believe it's a god. Either that, or it's the remnant of an older, much more advanced civilization that has crumbled, leaving the natives we see as the only survivors.
  • Cave Mouth: The feeding mouth of Vaal is a cave shaped like a dragon's head, complete with glowing eyes.
  • Childless Dystopia: No need for "replacements" when you live forever. Curious that Kirk questions the absence of children here when he never has before when meeting a civilization seemingly comprised only of adults. Typically, civilizations solely made up of children concern him more.
  • Corrupt Church: If Vaal must teach its followers to murder to protect him, so be it.
  • Crisis Catch And Carry: Kirk picks up Spock after he's been struck by lightning and carries him on his shoulders until he finds Dr. McCoy to take a look at the second-degree burns Spock received.
  • Cultural Posturing: McCoy preaches the superiority of human culture over the natives. Kirk's speech at the end assures the natives they will enjoy Federation culture more than their old one without ever giving them a choice. Spock is the only one to call them out on this.
  • Cut the Juice: Enterprise fires on Vaal's forcefield with its phasers, while the others stop the Feeders of Vaal from bringing it more fuel. Having already used up a lot of power for its Tractor Beam, Vaal is quickly drained.
  • Cyborg: Akuta has radio receivers implanted in his head so he can receive commands from Vaal.
  • Dawn Attack: Akuta tells the villagers to kill Strangers when the sun returns in the morning. However, they're already awake by then, having gone to investigate when Spock realises the villagers have gone missing. Maples is the only one taken by surprise.
  • Disposable Vehicle Section: When Vaal catches the Enterprise in its tractor beam, Kirk orders Scotty to, if necessary, jettison the warp nacelles and escape with the center section.
  • Distracted by the Sexy
    Kirk: Mister Chekov, Yeoman Landon. I know you find each other fascinating, but we're not here to conduct a field experiment in human biology.
    Chekhov: I was about to take some readings.
  • Diverting Power: Scotty diverts everything except life support to the impulse engines, through he warns that it's dangerous to do so. Unlike other examples in Trek where this is done with a push of the button, it takes eight hours to make the necessary modifications.
  • Diving Save: When a plant is about to shoot poisonous thorns into Captain Kirk, Spock pushes Kirk out of the way and takes a chestful of thorns himself.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Akuta, while not necessarily dumb - just naive and a product of extreme isolation - points out that Kirk's promise not to harm him ring hollow since he just struck him in the face mere seconds before. So Kirk instead promises not to do it again.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Scratch four Red Shirts.
  • Eye Lights Out: How we know Vaal has been 'killed'. Justified as their attack involves draining its power.
  • A Father to His Men: Kirk angsts over his dead redshirts, and the decision to break the Prime Directive is made a lot easier by Vaal trying to destroy the Enterprise as well.
  • Frequently-Broken Unbreakable Vow: Never interfere... unless the celibate natives run around in loinskins worshiping a papier-mache dinosaur head.
  • Gallows Humor: Kirk threatens to fire Scotty if he can't save the ship, and does so when his attempt to break out of orbit fails. In both cases, they're clearly making a grim joke to hide their horror at the situation.
  • George Jetson Job Security: Kirk tells Scotty his job is on the line when he tells him to get the Enterprise away from the planet. When he fails, Kirk fires him. Considering Scotty's life was also on the line, it's a moot point. Scotty is rehired when he destroys Vaal with focused ship's phaser fire. It's all just Casual Danger Dialogue in any case.
  • Girl of the Week: We've never heard of Martha Landon before and never will again, but Pavel is head over heels for her!
  • Halfway Plot Switch: It starts with a dangerous forest which Kirk quickly loses multiple crew members to. Then they find the people of Vaal, and the episode takes a sharp left turn into a discussion of the Prime Directive.
  • He's Dead, Jim: Played straight with Hendorff, which makes it incongruous when Bones injects Spock with a massive dose of antitoxin after he receives the same injury.
  • Hypocrite: McCoy denounces Vaal for taking away the "choice and freedom" of the natives by making them entirely dependent on it and wants to destroy Vaal. Kirk seriously considers destroying Vaal even before it became necessary in violation of the Prime Directive. Only Spock points out McCoy's hypocrisy of projecting his own values on to an alien culture or that Kirk has sworn not to interfere. Never mind, both McCoy and Kirk were planning on not giving the natives a choice and arbitrarily deciding for them nor that without Vaal the natives are now entirely dependent on the Federation for survival. McCoy and Kirk are guilty of the very things they accused Vaal of.
    • This is all brought out in a 1987 Mike Carlin comic book, "Return of the Serpent".
    • Kirk punches Akuta in the face, after the latter sneaks up on the Enterprise crew. He then right after tries to persuade him that he means him no harm. Even Akuta, as simple as he is, points out that Kirk had just struck him ten seconds before using that line.
  • I Come in Peace: Kirk is angry because three of his men have been killed, so when he sees a Giant Mook lurking in the bushes spying on them he sneaks up and throws a mighty punch, only to be surprised when Akuta bursts into tears. Kirk then changes tactics to this trope, promising not to strike Akuta again. He tries to assure Vaal of his peaceful intentions too, to no avail.
  • Informed Attribute: Spock is impressed with the "very high order of workmanship" involved in the giant papier mache Cave Mouth.
  • In the Original Klingon: Chekov again claims credit on behalf of Russia, this time for the Garden of Eden.
  • Innocence Lost: The villagers in the latter half of the episode, starting when Vaal teaches them to kill.
  • It Can Think: Dramatic Thunder rumbles the moment Kirk and Spock try to slip past the forcefield while Vaal is being 'fed'. They quickly back off.
    Spock: This is no ordinary machine, Captain. It may well possess a rudimentary intelligence.
  • It's All My Fault: Kirk blames himself for the Red Shirt deaths because he was Just Following Orders.
  • Just Following Orders: Kirk is angsting over his dead men, but Spock points out he's following Starfleet orders to investigate the planet. Kirk however points out that Starfleet allows him the discretion to modify those orders according to circumstances. This foreshadows his later decision to break the Prime Directive on his own initiative.
  • Kick Chick: Landon does a high judo kick that verifies she's wearing regulation matching panties to go with her red uniform.
  • Liberty Over Prosperity: The crux of the discussion between McCoy and Spock. The natives live immortal lives of happiness, but are wholly dependent on Vaal. Of course, they do not know of any other way. Kirk takes the decision out of their hands without ever discussing it with them.
  • Living Is More than Surviving: Kirk destroys a computer that was keeping a planet's people in a stagnant, mollycoddled existence, and argues that this isn't a Prime Directive violation because the people didn't really have their own culture at all.
  • Made of Explodium: The rocks on this planet. In the scene where the natives are feeding Vaal, they're shown throwing rocks down its throat into whatever furnace lies inside. Spock earlier suggests the rocks may be a useful power source, as they contain radioactive minerals like uraninite in a highly unstable form.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Oh yeah. This episode has a whopping five Redshirts, four men and one woman. The woman survives; the men might as well have signs on their backs saying "Kill me."
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: In-Universe, by order of Vaal.
    Bones: Well, there goes paradise.
  • Not My Lucky Day: It's just not Spock's day, as he's shot by a poisonous plant, laughed at by natives, bounced off of a force field he didn't notice, pulled into a very... awkward conversation, struck by lightning, and in the end called Satan by Kirk and Bones.
  • Not So Above It All: Spock has a rare moment of it when asked his opinion on how the aliens breed when the need arises. He really doesn't want to talk about it.
  • Obliviously Evil: Akuta when he's told to kill Kirk and his officers. He has no understanding of the immorality of murder; to him, it's simply "...a thing to do, like feeding Vaal".
  • Over-the-Shoulder Carry: How Kirk moves Spock after he gets struck by lightning.
  • Pass the Popcorn: Kirk goes all Gadfly on Spock by getting him to give The Talk while smirking and eating an apple.
  • Perfect Pacifist People: Deconstructed with the aliens: They have lived for millenia, eat a simple yet sustainable diet, live in bamboo huts, and are (at least initially) very friendly. However, they are completely dependent on Vaal, the AI that they believe to be a god, have no idea how to express attraction to another (it's implied that they haven't even so much as shook hands with one another) because Vaal forbade it, and produce no children - partly because they don't need to... again because of Vaal. It's eventually subverted when Vaal teaches them how to kill - introducing (well, apart from Kirk punching Akuta) violence into the society.
  • Plot Armor: Spock's got it in this episode, surviving an attack by something that twice killed a Red Shirt outright. The poison darts Spock presumably survived thanks to his different biology, while the lightning bolt is a near miss, striking a nearby rock instead.
  • Red Shirt: Along with "Obsession", this episode is an exemplar of wanton killing of Bit Characters, with 3 of the 4 red shirts killed within the first 10 minutes of the episode.
    • Hendorff is poison-darted by the plant.
    • Kaplan is instantly burnt to ashes by a bolt of lightning.
    • Mallory is blown up when he steps on an explosive rock.
    • Marple is struck in the head with a club by Akuta.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: After Spock has risked his life to save Kirk:
    Kirk: Trying to get yourself killed. Do you know how much Starfleet has invested in you?
    Spock: One hundred twenty two thousand, two hundred--
    Kirk: Never mind. But thanks.
  • Scare Chord: One plays when the spike shooting flowers fire their poisonous nettles.
  • Scotty Time: Averted when Scotty says it will take eight hours to divert power to the impulse engines. When the captain says that's cutting it a bit fine, Scotty points out that if they do fail to escape orbit he'd rather it be over quickly.
  • Screen Shake: Scotty and several other bridge crew get thrown from their chairs when the Enterprise tries to break free of Vaal's Tractor Beam.
  • Sinister Minister: Played with in Akuta's case. While he does order his followers to kill, having to show them how to do it, it's difficult to call him "evil". Like Satan from Mark Twain's The Mysterious Stranger, he simply does not know what evil is.
  • Single-Biome Planet: Gamma Trianguli VI is tropical forest from pole to pole. Lampshaded when Kirk points out how unusual this is.
  • Some Kind of Force Field: Vaal is protected by an invisible force field, which is in evidence only by the flash when Spock discovers it by walking into it, and later by a glow when the Enterprise pours phaser fire into it.
  • Spike Shooter: Some poisonous plants that later get referenced in a mediocre Star Trek video game for NES.
  • The Squadette: Landon is the only female member to beam down.
  • A Storm Is Coming: And it came out of nowhere.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Bamboo Technology: Since Vaal is taking care of all their needs, the aliens haven't developed any tech beyond simple houses and bowls to put fruit in. Even the antennae that Akuta wears to communicate with Vaal came from Vaal.
  • Taking the Bullet: Spock shouts out a rather impassioned "Jim!" as he jumps between him and a spine-slinging plant.
  • The Talk: When Landon asks how the aliens could figure out reproduction, Kirk foists the question on Spock who appears reluctant to discuss a basic biological process. Later when the natives ask Kirk directly, he just says they'll figure it out themselves.
  • Understatement: When Spock is struck by lightning, Bones decrees he has "Second degree burns. Not serious but I bet they smart." Spock commends him on his talent for understatement.
  • Title Drop: Twice at the end, when Spock mentions the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: The aliens sacrifice their ability to grow and develop plus making ritual sacrifices to Vaal in exchange for immortality and a life of mindless bliss.
  • Weather Manipulation: Vaal can instantly create storms out of sunny skies and direct bolts of lightning.
  • We Need a Distraction: Spock and Chekov have a fake argument to cover Kirk's ambush of Akuta.
    Spock: Mister Chekov, your tricorder readings are totally inefficient!
    Chekov: Uh, mind your own business, sir! For your information, I have a wery high efficiency rating.
    Spock: Ensign, I will not have you address me in that tone of voice!
    Chekov: What do you want, wiolins?
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Akuta comes out and asks "What is love?" Sayana and Hutch-uh, I mean Makora are intrigued by the concept of kissing and proceed to experiment.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Averted; Kirk is distraught over the deaths of his men, and speaks of knowing the family of both Kaplan and Mallory.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Played with. The people of Vaal are immortal, but in return for stagnation and lack of choice. They do not create, or think or feel. The trio debate on whether this is a borderline-Fate Worse than Death or not.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Or perhaps "Special Effects People Cannot Do Geometry". When the Enterprise phasers attack Vaal, an exterior shot of the ship clearly shows two red beams diverging at a significant angle. At that distance, for one of the beams to hit the planet, the other almost certainly has to miss it entirely. However, the phaser beams which hit the "god" do so no farther than perhaps a meter from one another.