Star Trek: The Original Series episode 5 review

Our look at the very first season of Star Trek, in full high definition, moves on to The Enemy Within...

Episode: 05 Title: The Enemy Within Star Date: 1672.1 Writer: Richard Matheson First Shown: 6th October 1966

It’s a long recognised piece of Trek lore that the transporters were devised initially as a simple and inexpensive way to travel from the ship to the planets, which wouldn’t blow the effects budget each week.

But it didn’t take long for the writers to explore the science fiction possibilities that dismantling people at an atomic level and putting them back together might offer. The Enemy Within deals with the first transporter incident story, and in many respects is a forerunner for a later classic episode Mirror, Mirror.

Things start simply enough. An away party that includes Kirk and Sulu is on planet Alpha 177 when one of their team hurts his hand falling down a rocky outcrop (a foam and wood prop). He is sent back to the ship for medical attention, but the magnetic dust coating his uniform causes a transporter malfunction that creates two Kirks when he tries to come back to the Enterprise. One is a rational but indecisive version, while the other is entirely feral, in a very much Jekyll and Hyde fashion.

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They realise that the only solution is to recombine the two Kirks back inside the transporter beam or watch both of them die. The added complication is that the same thing happens to a creature they beam from the surface, but merging it with its evil twin causes it to die. Meanwhile, the sun in that system has set on the landing party below and they’ll freeze to death unless the transporter is fixed soon. Star Trek often included a race against time, and a timely conclusion. From a narrative perspective it offers an interesting perspective on the inner conflict that all personalities have, and how they must coexist in us all for our personalities to function.

What also stands out in this particular story is the music that was written by Sol Kaplan. His signature music representing good and evil in this story got heavily re-used in other stories, and became part of the show’s identity.

As for Trek characters it contains all of the original crew, and Yeoman Janice Rand again becomes the focus of unwanted affection, when she’s molested by the ‘evil Kirk’. It also has another Trek trademark element with Scotty and Spock working as a team to overcome a seemingly impossible problem. We’re told the transporter will take a week to fix, but these two guys hook it up to the impulse engines and have it operational in just a few hours.

In terms of the Blu-ray restore this is a slightly low-key fix. The planet looks better and so does the Enterprise, but there really aren’t any major effects sequences to wave a wand over. But the colour and lighting in this story are exceptionally nice, and I loved the ‘evil Kirk’ being lit from beneath like a 1930s horror movie.

The creative talents behind this story are also worthy of note. Richard Matheson, the writer, is also famous for producing the book on which films The Incredible Shrinking Man and I Am Legend were based, and he also wrote the Twilight classic story Nightmare At 20,000 Feet, which also starred William Shatner. He also wrote the Spielberg classic Duel, based on a scary incident he’d had with a big truck the day of JFK’s assassination.

In the directors chair was Leo Z. Penn, an actor and writer turned director. Having cut his directing teeth on shows Ben Casey and Doctor Kildare, Star Trek was just one of the guest directing slots he took in a career that lasted from the 50s right through to mid-Nineties. Unfortunately, this was his one and only Trek credit.

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Having been split into two in this story, Kirk’s life doesn’t get any easier when he next encounters the deceptive Harcourt Fenton Mudd, in Mudd’s Women.