Star Trek: The Original Series

"The Galileo Seven"


Air date: 1/5/1967
Teleplay by Oliver Crawford and S. Bar-David
Story by Oliver Crawford
Directed by Robert Gist

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

A shuttlecraft carrying a research team, commanded by Spock, is lost in an ion storm, rendering sensors useless. The shuttle is forced to crash-land on a hostile planet populated by large, violent creatures that would like nothing better than to kill Spock's team one by one. Meanwhile, the Enterprise conducts a desperate search for the team (sans sensors, it's a needle in a haystack), with time running out. Before long Kirk will be forced to abandon the search and proceed to a threatened colony in need of medical supplies.

So at last, here's a full-fledged character analysis of Mr. Spock. "The Galileo Seven" certainly isn't a standout science fiction outing, but so what? History has shown us that Trek's evolution was one that put emphasis on its dialog and characters rather than in revolutionary sci-fi premises. And this episode, the original Shuttle Crash outing (Voyager writers take note), is a perfect example of what makes Trek so enduring. The simplicity of having Spock and six other crew members stranded on a planet gives us plenty of time to study "Spock's first command." It's fulfilling to watch Spock engage in a logical approach to a survival situation—so logical and lacking in emotional intuition that the rest of his team nearly turns on him.

Of particular interest is the way his logic is so sensible if you think it through, yet it still doesn't work in practice. The most brilliant line: "Strange—step by step I've made the correct and logical decisions, and yet two men have died." Spock seems trapped in a paradox where succumbing to emotion may be the only solution—which it is, as evidenced by an act of desperation that he ultimately takes ... an act that itself could be rationalized as a logical one given the limited options. A most clever story.

Previous episode: Shore Leave
Next episode: The Squire of Gothos

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14 comments on this review

Fri, Apr 27, 2012, 5:59pm (UTC -5)
Just wanted to say I seconded your review eval of "The Galileo Seven". Here's a "shuttle crash" story done right! I dock 1/2 a star though for not even once showing us what life form the crew is facing (I know the studio wants to save money, but come on...)...everything "hints" as their true form but we never get to see it.
Fri, Jun 1, 2012, 2:05am (UTC -5)
This is one of may favorites because of its Spockness. The point, of course, is to see Spock learn that logic isn't always enough. But I also thought, with all those officers (Scotty, Boma, Gaetano, and McCoy, at least), the breakdown in discipline is inexcusable, and heads would roll when Kirk finds out how both junior and senior officers acted. And then, there'd be some pretending-not-to-be-emotional emotional backsplash for Spock, since his first command largely failed. Kirk and McCoy would sense it, even if Spock denied it. So, this episode seems a little unfinished to me!
Plain Simple
Mon, Feb 4, 2013, 10:44pm (UTC -5)
Overall I like the episode well enough ---it's always a pleasure to see a lot of Spock--- but I can't stand the strange way in which rationality is misrepresented here. Why would it be logical for Spock to disregard the emotions of his crew. Makes no sense at all. And the final action that saves the day was a very rational one, even though the episode made it seem that Spock was stubborn, instead of correct, in not admitting that it was an emotional one.

In fact, clips from this episode were used in the wonderful talk "The Straw Vulcan" by Julia Galef, about misrepresentations of rationality:

On a (fairly) minor note, I have to say that the character of Commissioner Ferris was highly annoying and unbelievable. The man really has nothing better to do than hang around on the bridge and gleefully count down until Kirk has to abandon his search? Not long into the episode, I was hoping they would use him as a guinea pig to test if the transporters were working properly again.
Thu, Aug 29, 2013, 12:51am (UTC -5)
I know the Enterprise didn't have an excess weight problem, but they still should have tossed the Commissioner out into space.
Paul M.
Sun, Jan 19, 2014, 11:41am (UTC -5)
Not really a fan of this episode, sad to say. The way the main conflict of the episode was structured felt very forced. Neither Spock nor those under his command made convincing cases in their use of logic and emotion, respectively.

Spock's failure to account for emotional (and inspirational) needs of his crew was highly illogical, as was the way that he chose to "impress" the indigenous species. Just because Spock is supposedly logical and non-emotional, it doesn't mean that he's unable to factor in that others can be different from him. Spock's portrayal is more akin to someone who is borderline autistic. There's also a supremely silly notion that igniting the fuel is somehow "illogical" and "emotional", and that only by embracing his humanity was he able to save his men when it's obvious that the decision was in fact the only logical alternative left.

I really hate all the veiled racism (or is it speciesism?) often present it Trek where only human way is the right way and all the alien have to be benevolently enlightened by our heroes.

On the other hand, McCoy, Boma, and others who crash-landed were insufferable and borderline mutinous, second-guessing every single thing Spock does, no matter how rational. For example, they are appalled by the suggestion that it may be needed to leave someone behind, when that was in fact the only possible solution (before two guys conveniently died). How else would the shuttle hope to reach orbit? It was hilarious how belligerent everyone was once the first guy was killed - even McCoy, a doctor, voted to go in and just kill the bunch of those man-apes and they all looked at Spock as if he was a crazy robot for suggesting that they look for a more peaceful solution to the problem.

Galileo Seven is one mess of an episode with both sides behaving ludicrously and unprofessionally. In fact, Scotty was the only one with half a brain.

Two stars.
Fri, Feb 28, 2014, 7:17pm (UTC -5)
Truly a fascinating episode. Logic in context.
William B
Mon, Mar 3, 2014, 12:05am (UTC -5)
I just rewatched this episode for the first time in a long while. Put me fully in the "pro" column. With regards to the criticism of Spock's illogical failure to take into account the emotions of his crew: I agree, but I actually think this is part of the point. It may well be that the writers of the episode intended Spock's position to be wholly logical and misrepresented it by failing to account for the way a logical person would take into account the emotional reactions of those around them. However, the episode plays out very clearly/explicitly as a story of Spock's first "real" command, and his difficulty dealing with those around him are based in part in his command inexperience. It is very difficult to take into account that other people have different set of beliefs, while also trying to hold onto a situation which is spiralling out of control. If anyone can do it, it's certainly Spock -- but he is unprepared for it, and has spent so long basically rejecting human etiquette and the necessity of reaching those around him on an emotional level that he does not have the ability to turn it on on a whim.

Indeed, Spock has spent so much time bolstering his somewhat contemptuous attitude toward human values that it would be something of a betrayal of himself if he were able to immediately reverse course and start factoring in his crew's inspirational needs. I think it's also somewhat clear that Spock really is overwhelmed by the situation, by the rapid deterioration of the situation, and by his decreasing handle on his crew; however, for him to become a more Kirkesque inspirational leader would not only be somewhat dishonest, I think it would just not work. They would see through him right away.

A moment I find instructive is when Spock goes to find Gaetano and says that he has a "scientific curiosity" in what happened to him. He passes his phaser to McCoy and Boma and says to take it in case he doesn't return. McCoy and Boma stare at him in disbelief, and McCoy admits that he doesn't understand why Spock is going to risk his neck to find Gaetano when, if he finds him alive, he might just tell him to stay there anyway. Spock "should not" abandon his crew when they need them, when it might well risk his life; I think it goes counter to the logical organization that Spock seems to want, for him to risk leaving the crew without a leader. However, in the process, he does go and get Gaetano's body, and the away team crew are glad to have resolution on Gaetano's fate, even if it sparks another outraged debate on whether he should be buried or not. It is good for the crew to know what happened to Gaetano so that there is no question of whether or not they are leaving a living man behind.

I can't tell for sure whether Spock goes to find Gaetano because he is himself concerned about him, or because he suspects the crew will be concerned about him. If it's the former, I think it's Spock's emotional (human) side peaking through, his concern about the people who died under his command. And in this case, I think he is rationalizing his reason for going to find him as "scientific curiosity" because he does not believe he should be dwelling on the fruits of his command decision. If it's the latter, I think Spock may well have stated that he is going to find Gaetano for scientific curiosity as a way of even maintaining his "cover": Spock consistently, stubbornly denies that there is an emotional component to his actions when he can help it. I think it's worth wondering why that is. I think that this was a tactical miscalculation on Spock's part, either way -- whether it was a rationalization, or deliberate misrepresentation. (It was not a *lie*, because I think Spock did have genuine scientific curiosity, but I really do not believe that was his primary reason.)

Similarly, I don't think it actually is the case that Spock genuinely could not imagine how those apelike beings would react to the display of force because he couldn't understand irrationality. I think it's possible that's a component of it. But mostly, I think Spock (correctly, to my mind) made the risk-benefit analysis that they had a good chance of keeping the apelike beings away without killing any of them, and took that option over the option which had a greater chance of success for keeping the apes away but which led to lives lost. Spock's risk-benefit calculation looks much different from McCoy et al.'s because he values non-human lives more. It also probably is true that, being less bloodthirsty than the others on the team, he tends to expect bloodthirst less than others do.

The episode to me is about Spock's poor PR -- he is unable to communicate with his human crew, because he is unwilling to admit that emotions have value, and further because he is unwilling to lie. I think that Spock's unwillingness to admit value in emotion is actually a very complicated subject, and one on which I don't think Spock actually *is* fully rational. This is the guy who admitted in "The Naked Time" that when he felt friendship for Kirk, he felt ashamed; I don't think that's a very logical, rational position. Given that Spock *does* feel emotions, it would be logical to accept them at least on some level, so that he does not end up letting emotions cloud his judgment because he is too busy denying their existence. I think in this episode, Spock's refusal to deal with the crew's emotional demands is related to Spock's inability to tap into his own emotions or deal with them when he does, which in turn is related to the intensity of Vulcan emotions.

Relatedly, while Spock *knows* that Kirk is an illogical human, he also does have respect for him...which in turn makes it hard for him to really believe that Kirk would do something genuinely illogical and foolish. I think part of the package of Spock's disbelief that the Enterprise would be coming for them is the fact that Kirk *absolutely should not* be endangering the New Paris colony. And that is part of what makes his final action even more desperate. On some level, in order to take the chance of the Enterprise seeing them, he has to convince himself that his mentor, whom he respects, will behave illogically. From a purely logical perspective, there is no contradiction here -- Kirk just acts as Kirk will -- but I think Spock has difficulty reconciling Kirk's emotionalism and Spock's total respect for the man, in such a way that I think it would cloud his judgment enough that it's hard for him to think 100% logically around this point.

When Spock makes that desperate action at the very end, I think it was in some sense an emotional decision. It was the only option left, yes, but the chance of it succeeding was so infinitesimal that I think Spock really believes that it would be much more logical to live for 45 more minutes than to live for 6 more with the slight chance of rescue. What is really happening is that there are competing logical imperatives, one which states that every second of life lived is worthwhile, and one which states that any chance at long-term survival, no matter how slight, must be taken. How do you do that cost-benefit calculation?

Spock is a fascinating character, seldom more so than in this episode -- but I think it's important that it's not *just* because he's a logical guy, but because he tries to be a perfectly logical guy, while he is also dealing with strong emotions brimming under the surface, which in turn affect the kinds of logical thinking he does.

I have some thoughts on the crew's increasingly mutinous attitude, but I'll have to save it for another time.
William B
Mon, Mar 3, 2014, 1:22pm (UTC -5)
Cont'd from above

I actually do think there is some racial component to the way the goldshirts and especially Boma react to Spock. The way I look at it is that the crew clearly was not all that used to non-humans as part of the crew and command structure, in the case of Boma and the goldshirts. We see this type of fairly blatant racism in "Balance of Terror," too. However, some of it is that the crew is in a life-and-death situation and they simply don't trust their science officer to get them out of it. Spock *is* the ship's first officer and so should be trusted, but Starfleet also encourages critical thinking. I think Boma et al. also anticipate that they can say whatever they want to Spock *because* he's a logical Vulcan and is not going to get angry at them; it's very unprofessional, but some of the usual things leading to holding back from criticism of a superior officer really is the threat of punishment, or the threat of making the superior officer angry and throwing them off their game. These are not really in play here, and Spock fails to inspire them, and fails to inspire confidence that he is able to make good command decisions (as opposed to science officer decisions), and this concern about Spock's greenness as an officer combined with their racist concern about the greenness of Spock's blood eventually get them really heavily opposed to him.

Along those lines, I don't think that Boma et al. are *really* that angry just about the fact that Spock is saying someone will have to be left behind. Boma suggests they draw lots to see who makes it off the planet, for example, and it seems as if he would be "happy" with that result. I think the officers are very concerned that Spock is going to make decisions without sufficient regard for the value of the lives of the people in the party. They are consistently appalled at Spock's ostensible lack of concern because they are afraid they're going to die, and they have a vague sense that their superior caring more about their fate would make them more likely to survive.

McCoy is a slightly distinct case, though, because while Spock is unambiguously his superior officer, McCoy's position as Chief Medical Officer puts him slightly outside the chain of command structure, and he's used to not only having the captain's ear but giving him a hard time whenever he disagrees with one of his decisions. There's a similar dynamic on TNG, where both Crusher and Pulaski have few qualms about telling Picard they strongly disagree with him in a way that no one besides Riker does, but it is not really taken or shown to be an affront to Picard's command (except in "Unnatural Selection," I guess) because they don't have any particular place on the command structure; Crusher has bridge officer certification, but it's used only rarely at the end of the series. McCoy is hotheaded and his adversarial with Spock throughout the series, but part of the deal is that it's a two-way street, and as Kirk basically even says in "The Immunity Syndrome" he sees McCoy as a good counterbalance to Spock.

On the Enterprise, when McCoy ribs Spock, it doesn't actually do any real harm. Spock doesn't care, or if he does care McCoy doesn't believe he does. He can criticize Spock, or Kirk, all he wants, but the crew is going to follow Kirk regardless, and Spock is going to continue doing his job, and Kirk is not going to let McCoy prevent him from following Spock's recommendations if they are right. On the landing party, however, Kirk's absence suddenly shifts the balance of power much more heavily in McCoy's favour, in a way that I don't think he actually anticipates. Criticizing Spock on the Enterprise has no significant negative effects, but on the landing party, openly criticizing Spock helps give Boma et al. a stronger belief that Spock is not a legitimate commander, and starts to put them more and more in a frame of mind where they want to rebel against Spock's authority. I think McCoy even realizes this eventually, which is part of why he backs down as the episode goes on -- backing down after telling Boma that he doesn't know what to make of Spock going after Gaetano and telling Boma that they won't get out of there if they don't bring their phasers back to the ship, and later telling Boma that's way over the line when Boma says that he would even go back to bury *Spock*.

Scotty is a consummate professional throughout the episode, and I think in some respects this is because, unlike mostly everyone else in the landing party save Spock himself, he was *busy*. I think this is part of the point being made here, too -- the rest of the landing party eventually turn on Spock because they feel powerless against the situation they are in, and don't really have much of anywhere to direct their energies.
Thu, Mar 13, 2014, 12:40pm (UTC -5)
This is one episode that benefited tremendously from the new CGI updates.
Fri, Apr 4, 2014, 1:59am (UTC -5)
Just got this season with CGI and watched them all. Now I feel like I lived a deprived childhood.

Yup,..4 stars
Fri, Apr 4, 2014, 2:01am (UTC -5)
William B. You really oughta open up with your thoughts a bit more. ;)
Mon, May 12, 2014, 1:18pm (UTC -5)
Christopher Pike
Tue, May 12, 2015, 6:09am (UTC -5)
William B, thank you for your thorough and thoughtful analysis! I'm watching TOS for the first time; this is certainly one of the more complex episodes and very worthy of the time and effort you've clearly put into your discussion of the episode. I wish I had something fresh to add, but as a Star Trek newbie I think I'll be in read-only mode for some time yet.
G Mike
Tue, Jun 23, 2015, 5:27pm (UTC -5)
To get to the dynamic of the interplay between the characters, it is necessary to ignore a lot of holes in the plot. For example, why is the chief medical officer on board? The phenomenon they are studying has nothing to do with medicine. Doesn't have much to do with engineering, either, except maybe the effect on a ships engine.

Spock makes a big deal about respecting these ape-like creatures, and that's fine. But did they somehow only bring phasers that kill? What about the "stun" setting? Those creatures would have been slow to return after having been stunned once. And Spock's order to fire to scare the creatures? How does THAT make any sense? These creatures had no prior experience with phasers. They would have no reason to suppose that beam of light and whirring sound was something to be feared. Spock claims to have made the "correct logical decision, yet two men have died". But I think it would have been more logical for these men to have stayed closer to the shuttlecraft, and kept the creatures away with painful but non-lethal blasts of phasers on stun, until repairs could be effected. And, knowing that even if the enterprise had to leave to complete its mission, it would eventually return, someone should have asked: how are our provisions for food and water? How long can we last if we just sat tight and waited for the storm to clear, each one of us taking a turn outside with a phaser (on stun) to keep the creatures away?

Lastly, when Uhura reports that five people just beamed aboard, alive and well, everyone seems to have relaxed. Three of the original seven were close friends of Kirk, and the high ranking officers on the ship. Wouldn't Kirk have asked - who did we lose?

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