Star Trek: The Original Series

"Requiem for Methuselah"


Air date: 2/14/1969
Written by Jerome Bixby
Directed by Murray Golden

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

While scouting a planet's surface for the necessary medicine to combat a plague, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy encounter a social recluse named Flint (James Daly) who had long ago abandoned Earth and now lives alone with his enigmatic pupil and companion, an apparently young woman named Rayna Kapec (Louise Sorel). Flint subtly manufactures a series of situations that brings Kirk and Rayna together until a mutual attraction develops. Unfortunately for Kirk, Rayna's attraction to a third party was intended by Flint to awaken her senses beyond the intellectual patterns of thought—so that she and Flint could be united.

The implications of the episode are interesting: Flint isn't seeking merely a lover for companionship; he's searching for one who is also intellectual equal. He has literally built Rayna—an android—using the sum of his experiences. The story asks how useful a person is once he has outlived his own sense of purpose—and for Flint, a life of hundreds of years has produced everything from music apparently written by Brahms to artwork apparently created by da Vinci.

Admittedly, I couldn't quite understand how Kirk was so taken with Rayna so quickly (perhaps I should remind myself that this is Kirk we're talking about), but the triangular relationship that develops and ends in a tragedy (Rayna's inability to cope with her feelings causes a fatal shutdown) is best utilized in the show's final scene, where Spock uses a mind meld to relieve Kirk of his burden of grief. These are characters who feel for one another more than the plots often let on.

Previous episode: The Lights of Zetar
Next episode: The Way to Eden

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17 comments on this review

Mon, Feb 18, 2013, 9:40am (UTC -5)
To me, this is one of the most disappointing -- though not among the worst -- episodes of TOS. It's an amazing premise, but the love story derails it. It would have worked a little better if Kirk hadn't fallen head over heels with Rayna in like 90 minutes. At least with Edith Keeler, he spent a couple days around her.

Beyond that, the TOS cliche of Spock explaining why Rayna died at the end was really annoying. How did he know she didn't die because of an unrelated mechanical problem? How did Spock figure out what happened while Flint (who built Rayna) seemed clueless? And, really, why was the explanation necessary?

Also, Kirk's line to Spock about how they "were fighting over a woman" seemed really out of character for the supposed advanced sensibilities of 23rd century humans.

This could have been a really great episode if it stretched out over a couple days, if the guy playing Flint was a better actor and if less time was spent on Kirk falling in love and more time spent on the idea that one man had been such an important part of human history.
Tue, Mar 5, 2013, 9:37pm (UTC -5)
I agree with Paul, above, about the "fighting over a woman" comment, and would add that Kirk seemed to run Amok way too easily.
Thu, Nov 14, 2013, 12:25am (UTC -5)
This is disappointing. It's one of the worst episodes of Trek. It's just so utterly appalling how Kirk "fell in love" with someone, especially since she's supposed to be the companion for someone who can't die. Oh wait, Flint doesn't need a woman anymore because he's going to die. Problem solved!

Fri, Dec 6, 2013, 2:10am (UTC -5)
I just have to point out one thing... Flint was watching them on a flatscreen TV with a soundbar. Straight out of 2013. Hell, maybe even 2014 or 2015. It was a little bit flatter than the ones around today. It never fails to amaze me how well Star Trek predicts technological advances.
James T
Sat, Mar 8, 2014, 4:40pm (UTC -5)
Good idea but poorly executed. How many episodes are based on transporting medicine for some planetary outbreak? Kirk falling in live with an android was totally absurd as was Spock doing the mind meld at the end to make him forget.
Sat, Apr 26, 2014, 2:11pm (UTC -5)
Alternative episode title: Kirk's Got The Feevah! Who wouldn't..? Louise Sorel as Rayna, is absolutely stunning in her, snug, aluminous dress. But how out of character does Kirk seem, here? Quite clearly, and for less than noble reasons, our virile captain wants to be, ahem, in like Flint. Of the many times I saw this episode years and years ago (edited 70's era butchered airings) - though I understood she was an android I have no memory of the scene where Kirk reveals that unfortunate reality... Rayna is just one of many copies. By the way... Data (whose Lal and pre-Lal units had nothing on Rayna) wouldn't even need an emotion chip to experience some serious human envy - Flint's version is THAT impressive. The episode expects us to believe that in the short time between cold sonic showers, Kirk has fallen so deeply in love that he's willing to beat up a creepy, one thousand year old man - who once could have been Hercules. Did not Kirk witness Hercules' power to shrink a thirty foot film production Enterprise into a twelve inch AMT model?? - and freezing Scotty solid in the process? Ultimately, the landing party's visit to Holberg 917-G (weird name if you ask me) in search of an antidote results in the death of everyone on the planet (Da Vinci, Brahms, Alexander, et al) - probably a TOS "first." Not a first is James T. Kirk's innate ability of forcing a robot into suicide. Spock's use, at the end, of a sort of katra reset button was sweet... he probably thought it was only appropriate what with all the suffering Kirk went through after he murdered Edith Keeler with a Packard.
Thu, May 15, 2014, 9:15am (UTC -5)
Strangely I liked this one a lot better than All our yesterdays even though it included yet another instant love story.
William B
Sat, Jan 3, 2015, 2:56pm (UTC -5)
The episode owes a lot to the movie "Forbidden Planet," which in general TOS owes a lot to, which also means this owes a lot to "The Tempest." By having Rayna literally be both Flint's creation and the woman he loves, the creepy possessiveness of Prospero/Morpheus over his daughter is explored a little more directly. There is definitely something poignant about this story: Flint has lived so many lifetimes that his only equal is someone he can program himself, but his ability to create her as life basically means that it's impossible for a romantic relationship to blossom. Whether or not the weird father/daughter stuff surrounding Flint and Rayna was intended (I think so), it's still difficult for Rayna to shift from Flint-as-creator/mentor to Flint-as-lover. And so Kirk is brought in as a ringer. Flint starts off absolutely denying contact of Kirk etc. to his planet, before suddenly insisting that Kirk and Rayna spend time together in the hopes that this dashing captain will find the right combination to let her tumblers fall and her lock open. I'm not sure whether Flint changes his mind because he is mercurial (or the episode is poorly plotted), or if something Kirk does demonstrates his superior studliness, or if Flint had been faking his reticence all along and had always been planning to bring Kirk in. Kirk has a certain vitality that Flint has lost over the years (a common theme in depictions of extreme longevity) and maybe he can awaken something in Rayna, after which Flint can have that awakened, vital Rayna be his "life line" to give his own life meaning again.

The tragedy around Rayna is that Flint and Kirk both want something from her, and while they do both care for her to an extent, neither sees her fully. Kirk wants to "free" her to "love," and Flint wants to give her everything he has to offer, which is quite a bit, on his terms. It's appropriate that one of Flint's past identities is Solomon, because I'm reminded a little of the story of Solomon suggesting splitting a baby in two to give to warring mothers, and the "true" mother being the one willing to let the baby survive with the other. Neither Kirk nor Flint pay enough attention to how badly this situation is tearing Rayna apart to stop their warring, and she dies. It's a decently effective strategy. I think that too much time was spent on the "mystery" of Flint's ancient origins, of his being Leonardo and Brahms, but given that Flint doesn't come across very well in the episode it's worth establishing why Rayna might think well of him -- his genius stretches back human centuries.

The big weak link in this episode is the Kirk/Rayna "romance," which is unconvincing. It might have worked had Kirk just gotten passionate about Rayna's need for freedom, but he's in love with her as a person, which given Kirk's character needs a fair bit more setup than is given here. Contrasting this with, say, Edith Keeler, that episode spent a great deal of time setting up the nature of Kirk's feelings for her and why she was special to him; and it also came at a point in the series in which Kirk's womanizing had not gone into overdrive. It's hard to say what Kirk likes about Rayna; Spock admires her intellect, but does Kirk? Does he think she's a good dancer? Is hot?

The last scene is interesting in its implications. McCoy suggests Spock is incapable of love, and then Spock administers the "forget" to Kirk, which is framed by the episode as an act of love. It is also nonconsensual, and even if it had been consensual it is an odd choice, one that goes counter to a lot of Kirk's usual gusto. I hate to bring up Star Trek V, but "I need my pain!" seems to define Kirk much more than an overwhelming desire to forget; for an in-series example, see "This Side of Paradise" for a quick demonstration of Kirk's absolute preference of messy reality over fantasy. Spock is somewhat defying Kirk's moral stance and violating his will because he doesn't want to see his friend in pain, which is also (possibly) a purely logical decision that whether Kirk would ascribe meaning to his suffering or not in the long term (he certainly doesn't seem to at this very moment), it probably is not worth the pain that he is going through right now. That the episode ends with something of a criticism of Kirk -- for throwing himself into "save the girl" to the point where the woman in question gets killed, and his bravado leading to heartbreak he couldn't recover from himself -- and Spock having to violate personal boundaries to save him suggests something a bit like the direction the movies will go in, in examining these characters' flaws and questioning the assumptions of their virtues.

The episode's very slow first half and the extent to which Kirk/Rayna was unconvincing means I can't really recommend this episode, but it has its moments. 2.5 stars, I suppose.
Sat, Feb 7, 2015, 2:26am (UTC -5)
The thing that gets me about this episode is that the Enterprise crew are supposed to be dying of plague from which only Flint's antidote can save them. You'd think that saving the lives of his entire crew would be a higher priority to Kirk than getting to shtoink Flint's android girlfriend. But apparently not.

I didn't get the impression that Flint died due to the landing party's actions, though. IIRC, the dialog stated that the reason he was dying was because the unique conditions that kept him immortal were only found on Earth, and he had left it.
Tue, Mar 31, 2015, 10:08pm (UTC -5)
I found this episode interesting because in retrospect it functions very much as a precursor to themes that TNG would explore with Data. The most directly related TNG episode is "The Offspring", but there are also links to "The Measure of a Man" (Kirk showing that Rayna can be human and should be allowed to make her own decisions), as well as "The Most Toys" (an android dealing with being considered property).

Having watched most of TOS now, I can say it's surprising how much material was borrowed from it for later use in the feature films and episodes of TNG.
Joseph B
Wed, Apr 1, 2015, 4:17am (UTC -5)
After viewing this episode for only the second time in 20 years, I can only assume that Kirk's judgement was impaired by early symptoms of the onslaught of Rigelian fever. That's the only way to explain his totally out of character actions in this episode, since it had already been well established on multiple occasions that his first love is his ship. Perhaps Flint was even aware of this early symptom of the disease and decided to exploit it in his effort to unlock his android's emotions.

If that was, indeed, the rationale driving this story, I sure would have appreciated a few lines of exposition by McCoy or Spock confirming it.

Star Trek fan
Sun, Jun 28, 2015, 10:37am (UTC -5)
I think this episode is hysterically awful. The episode's premise is "we must stop the virus before it kills all the crew" and yet the story turns into a totally non-credible love story. Kirk acts like some possessed school boy having his first crush on a girl.

The pace is slow, no sense of urgency.

The Enterprise turned into a model was Irwin Allen type gimmickry.

KIrk is more concerned with loving a robot woman than saving his crew. Totally out-of-character.

It was fun to watch, all episodes of Star Trek have fun moments but I'd have to rate this episode zero out of four. Meh.
Sat, Jul 11, 2015, 9:04pm (UTC -5)
In this rare instance, I must disagree with one portion of what William B. posted about Spock in his last paragraph. The fact is both Kirk, then confirmed by McCoy, say out loud (perhaps as musing, but in a way that conveys a deep wish on both their parts), the need for Kirk to forget Rayna. Kirk says it, then McCoy, after his habit-driven and equally flawed excoriation of Spock's emotional character. My take on the scene is that Spock, and yes, in an "act of love," then grants what both patient and doctor could not do. For that reason, I think the ending was outstanding.
Lt. Yarko
Fri, Dec 4, 2015, 2:31am (UTC -5)
I noticed that toward the end of TOS there was a lot of characters somehow knowing why things happened and just explaining it to each other and, really, to the audience. Very lazy stuff.
Sun, Dec 20, 2015, 11:07am (UTC -5)
It was rather one of these dreams where someone tries to leave or go somewhere but sits in a jam an cannot leave. For havens sake McCoy, why did you not bream up as soon as you had the medicine!!!

But the story was not about saving Enterprise again, and I liked it. The two alfa men fighting over a female. Both actually just wants to posses, even if Kirk says something else. This fight though is the catalyst for Raynas development to become a human being as well as it crushes her realising its consequence.

Spock realises how senseless this is, tries to warn bit his boss does not want to listen. An excellent example on both modern and old management.

Yes this episode had potential to be something more, but I still enjoyed it as it was.
Mon, Mar 14, 2016, 12:48pm (UTC -5)
A couple things I didn't like...McCoy insulting Spick at the end for not being human seems out of character, and Spock mind raping Kirk also seems out of character. Maybe Spock could do that to me and I'd forget the last two movies.
Thu, Jul 14, 2016, 5:03pm (UTC -5)
I would like to point out the writer of this episode, Jerome Bixby further explored the concept of a immortal caveman who survived into modern times in the film: 'The Man from Earth'. It is basically a play and filmed in 2007 starring none other then Tony Todd and John Billingsley.

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