Star Trek (TOS) 1.2: Charlie X

I also missed this episode at the time of its 1992 broadcast, but like ‘The Man Trap’, I had caught up with it a few years ago.

It’s a good story: a 17 year old boy has been found by a cargo ship as the sole survivor of a colony whose other members died (presumably in an accident) when he was a baby. His survival defies all logic, so Spock soon comes to the conclusion that he must have had outside help, possibly from the ‘Thasians’, the virtually mythical historical inhabitants of the planet, about whom nothing is known.

The cargo ship offloads the eponymous Charlie on to the Enterprise and make a hasty departure, only to blow up in mysterious circumstances. Meanwhile, Charlie is exhibiting increasingly volatile behaviour that cannot entirely be put down to teenage hormones, although they certainly don’t help. It’s down to Kirk to introduce the young man to the nuances of 23rd century sexual politics. What could possibly go wrong? After one tantrum appears to eliminate a member of the crew, the Captain has a super-sized problem on his hands. His fatherly authority holds Charlie at bay for a time, but the teenager rebels and uses his powers to take over the ship. When all seems lost, the Thasians appear and apologise for letting him out of their sight. A howling Charlie is taken back to spend the rest of his life in well-meaning isolation.

This is a poignant episode which is the first to address the recurring issue of the corruptive and corrosive issue of power. Charlie was given his abilities at an early age to help him survive; it’s not really his fault that he can’t control them. His refrain of ‘stop laughing at me’ continues to evoke sympathy from the hyper-sensitive teenager that still resides in me. Having said that, he’s an obnoxious twat whose crush on Yeoman Janice Rand quickly turns from puppy-dog sweet to fuck off, you whiney creep. I suppose, narratively-speaking, this is a good way of ensuring Kirk’s decision to maroon him indefinitely on a far-off planet is entirely justified and acceptable to the viewing audience.

Observations

  • Ok, Spock and Uhura definitely have a thing going. There’s far too much ‘look at us’ coy lyre-playing and public crooning in the recreation room.
  • I had to laugh at Kirk’s offer to provide the crew of the visiting cargo ship with a stockpile of ‘entertainment tapes’. Yes, the Captain of the Enterprise is peddling porn.
  • His attempt to distract Charlie from his teenage passion is equally hilarious: ‘I know you’re horny as hell’ (I’m paraphrasing), ‘but let’s go and have a TOPLESS MANLY WRESTLE to take your mind off it’. Didn’t work.
  • Speaking of which, this is the first glimpse of Shatner’s bare chest in the series, soon to receive a co-starring credit.
  • I’m fascinated by the intricate threading patterns in Janice Rand’s beehive hairstyle. It’s a wonder she has any time to carry all those trays.
  • Smooth-talker of the week: ‘There are many ways to hit a woman.’ Gee, thanks, Captain. Glad you’re on hand to give fatherly advice to impressionable 17 year-olds with anger issues.
  • Technology of the week: Got to be Spock using a pile of coloured post-it notes as a voice recorder.

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