Star Trek: The Original Series episode 29 review

Mark reaches the final frontier, with his final review of Star Trek’s first series. It's Operation: Annihilate

Episode: 29Title: Operation: Annihilate!Star Date: 3287.2Writer: Steven W. CarabatsosFirst Shown: 13TH April 1967

Throughout the first season, the underlying message of Star Trek is not to assume anything about creatures you don’t understand, and that all lifeforms should be respected. But you might get the hint that such softy behaviour is ditched in favour of a more aggressive approach in Operation: Annihilate!

As is often the case in this show, the opening sequence creates something of a mystery. The Enterprise is tracking a destructive force that is leaving a trail of obliterated worlds through the cosmos. The next planet in its path is Deneva, where the captain’s brother, Sam Kirk, has a laboratory. As the Enterprise enters the system, they see a ship heading for the star. Hailing the pilot, they find he’s acting irrationally. Just before the ship vaporises he starts making more sense, but unfortunately not enough to avoid catastrophe.

An away team beams down to Deneva and discovers that it appears deserted. Four men appear and tell them “Go away! We don’t want to hurt you!”, before attacking them with clubs! Obviously, things aren’t well here, and a scream draws the away team to Sam’s lab, where they find him dead, his son unconscious and his wife Aurelan in agony. She tells them that creatures came to the planet eight months previously, and took control of the population, forcing them to build more starships so they could spread elsewhere. Having given this useful exposition, she dies.

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The creatures are discovered, and look rather like solidified lumps of coloured PVA glue. Yet even with these limitations, they can fly (badly) and are almost immune to hand phasers.

Given those odds, Kirk decides to withdraw back to the Enterprise, but not before Spock is bitten by one of the creatures. He then goes a bit bonkers, trying to take control of the ship before getting the pain the creature does through the nervous system under control. Spock beams back down to the planet and captures one of the creatures, so that they can examine on it in the sickbay. There, quite implausibly, they discover that while they can soak up phaser blasts, they don’t like sunlight, which explains why the first Denevan they encountered crashing into the sun was rational at the end of his life.

They form a plan where they intend to use satellites to emit bright light and kill all the creatures, but they need to know what it will do to infected colonists. Spock agrees to try this bit out, being infected, and he steps into a chamber where he’s exposed to bright light. He comes out free of the infection, but blind! Oops.

Then Nurse Chapel comes along with the information that he needed to know five minutes before, that only ultraviolet light was necessary, so they didn’t need to blind him. As Homer might say, d’oh!

They deploy the satellites, which in the remastered edition we actually get to see happening, and destroy all the creatures. Spock appears on the bridge, and McCoy explains that Vulcans have an extra eyelid which protected him from the worst impact and the blindness was temporary. Hooray!

It’s not the greatest story in the first season, and rather full of plot holes. There is no real discussion about wiping out a species. Presumably because this is a malevolent one and they don’t get covered in the Prime Directive.

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Steven W. Carabatsos, who wrote this, had previously worked on Peyton Place, and this was his second contribution after Court Martial, but he is also credited as script consultant on 11 episodes across the first season.

Herschel Daugherty was a prolific TV show director of the era, and would return to this series two years later when he directed The Savage Curtain. The only other detail of note about this episode is that a scene was shot where Kirk talked to his young nephew Peter about what he intends to do in the future, which was cut from the finished running time. I’m not sure Kirk’s relative is ever mentioned again in the series. I suspect not.

We are done. That’s the last of my return to Star Trek season one. It’s had high points, and the occasional trough, but I’ve found it massively entertaining. In seeing the episodes in the order they were first shown, I’ve acquired a whole new appreciation for the franchise and how it fused into the iconic form we all remember.

Live long and prosper.