Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Original Series

"That Which Survives"


Air date: 1/24/1969
Teleplay by John Meredyth Lucas
Story by Michael Richards
Directed by Herb Wallerstein

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

When a landing party beams down to investigate a planet, a mysterious woman named Losira (Lee Meriwether), armed with a deadly touch, begins attacking several members of Kirk's crew, both on board the ship and on the planet surface. The problem is magnified when the Enterprise is hurled far away from the planet and its engines are sabotaged, causing a countdown to the ship's destruction.

"That Which Survives" is as close to nothing that you can have on the screen and still have some semblance of a Star Trek episode. The familiar two-tiered story structure does nothing here, failing on both counts. The landing party's lobotomized attempts to uncover the mystery of Losira have precisely zero urgency and thought put forward. Meanwhile, the technobabble-heavy Enterprise jeopardy plot is completely insipid; not one character on the ship seems to really believe that they're going to "blow up in 15 minutes."

And on top of the uninteresting nature of the story, we have to put up with one of the most irritating utilizations of Spock ever conceived. Spock's sarcasm is entertaining when wittily and subtly developed, but here his quip one-liners are so needless, pervasive, and annoying that I simply wanted to strangle him. (Just how many times can we listen to him snidely telling Scotty to forego emotionalism and get to work?) The finale uncovers a mystery that is not remotely worth the effort required to get there.

Previous episode: The Mark of Gideon
Next episode: The Lights of Zetar

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11 comments on this review

Stubb - Thu, Apr 14, 2011 - 2:12pm (USA Central)
Here's one lonely cheer for "That Which Survives". When I was a little kid watching this episode in the early 70s, it absolutely scared the bejeezus out of me. I used to sneak up on my brother and touch his shoulder like Losira. Then we'd both run away screaming.
Rosario - Sun, Nov 4, 2012 - 12:34am (USA Central)
"That Which Survives" is as close to nothing that you can have on the screen and still have some semblance of a Star Trek episode."

HA! thank you
Lorene - Fri, Sep 13, 2013 - 9:17am (USA Central)
I would give this episode 2.5 stars. True, Spock's rationalism was overdone, but I liked Scotty's character on this show a lot. The Jeffries tube scene in the anti-matter chamber was great, and the special effects inside it excellent. The film technique for Losira to come and go was neat - looked like a door opening and closing and for I appreciated a female leader that wasn't a romantic interest for Kirk and was strong and competent (contrast Spock's Brain). The concept of her being a computer enhancement of a person long dead was a nice surprise at the end.
rick - Sun, Apr 27, 2014 - 2:46pm (USA Central)
The one thing not mentioned in this episode was Sulu and his child-like questions on the planet. You could make a drinking game everytime he asked Kirk a question and you would never make it around for the end. IMO, one of the worst written tos episodes for this and Spock's new cocky attitude.
dgalvan - Wed, Jun 4, 2014 - 4:54pm (USA Central)
Where did this version of Spock come from? It seemed like they were trying to resurrect some of the story elements from the Season 1 episode "Galileo Seven", in which Spock is in command of the landing party and struggles with keeping loyalty from a crew that sees him as too unemotional and unintuitive. But instead, in "That Which Survives", Spock just ended up looking like a jerk. He was just written very differently in this episode than in any other. Didn't seem like him.

Also, how come the computer-generated Losira could exist on the Enterprise, 1000 light years away from the computer generating her?
Markus - Sun, Aug 17, 2014 - 8:54am (USA Central)
The Voyager should have gotten the Enterprise's engines... Imagine it: 1.000 lightyears in about a day? Voyager would have been back in a matter of weeks!
William B - Mon, Nov 17, 2014 - 3:05pm (USA Central)
This is one of my favourites of Jammer's "bad episode" reviews -- as usual, funny, and funny in that same kind of way that Roger Ebert's (whom I know Jammer really values) negative reviews are funny.

So, uh...Kirk suggests early on that this is a Ghost Planet, and then it turns out that the planet really is haunted, albeit by a computer-created ghost. Trek has a few episodes like this, where there's something of a gothic fantasy story justified at the last minute by some technobabble; an episode for which this works well is "The Tholian Web," and an episode for which this works terribly is "Sub Rosa." This one isn't quite at "Sub Rosa" depths, because Kirk and Sulu don't end up sleeping with the fake Losira, but it's pretty terrible. Still, I feel like this episode could have worked; the ghostly apparition leading visitors to death becomes something of a trapped spirit, with pale reflections of Losira doomed to live out on the planet for centuries to kill intruders to protect a set of people who will never come. It's sort of poignant if you think about it; the episode's failure is of course, that it fails to present this in an interesting way, and it certainly fails to portray the Losira spirits convincingly as being somewhere between computer program programmed to destroy and Real Person created. (TNG's "The Arsenal of Freedom" does something a little bit similar, this time focusing not so muh on spirits of the dead and more on the tech side of weaponry destroying civilizations and outliving them; and in general it's a far, far better episode.) But hey, it's kind of a cool idea, I think. The sci-fi explanation sort of works -- it's plausible that the computer could create Losiras, I guess, if it's sufficiently advanced -- though it falls apart, as other commenters mentioned, with the idea that it can both launch the Enterprise a thousand light years away and then project a Losira onto that ship. Nor is there an explanation of how the computer cube can produce person-specific cellular poisons and know their names, and so on.

Anyway, there is so little tension in the episode; none of the landing party seem concerned when they believe the ship blew up, nor do any of them remember that they saw Losira kill the transporter chief right when they beamed down until they see another Losira. The stuff on the ground is so inept. My favourite Sulu line is, and I can't believe this actually was said on air, "How can such people be, Captain? Such evil and so, so beautiful." My second favourite is probably his "I don't want to kill a woman!" exclamation. My favourite general concept is the idea of crew members interposing themselves between Losira and her intended victim, and then, once there are three Losiras, Kirk's exclamation, "Shift positions!" so that they stand in a slightly altered permutation of their standing in a line.

The Enterprise stuff is indeed terrible. Spock really is intolerable in this ep, isn't he? Since when does Spock correct every single calculation people say? And Spock of course shuts down anyone who "speculates" or "guesses" and then engages in wild, unreasonable speculation himself. I think the worst Spock episode in the series. Scotty's excitability I usually find cute, but it's really hard to take in this episode, too. Just overall pretty disastrous. 1 star -- mostly for the poignant idea behind the Losira "ghost story."
Durandal_1707 - Sat, Feb 7, 2015 - 4:34am (USA Central)
This one really anticipates a lot of Berman-era features, doesn't it? Technobabble-heavy plot, crawling around in Jeffries tubes, ticking countdown to the technobabble destroying the ship, last second resolution via more technobabble, and of course the Vulcan is an asshole. This must have been Berman's favorite episode.
Grumpy - Sat, Feb 7, 2015 - 1:46pm (USA Central)
Durandal_1707: "This must have been Berman's favorite episode."

You think Berman watched enough TOS to have a favorite episode. That's cute.
Dave in NC - Sun, Feb 8, 2015 - 5:32pm (USA Central)
Grumpy: "You think Berman watched enough TOS to have a favorite episode. That's cute."

OK, that was funny.
Robert of ST-v-SW - Mon, Feb 23, 2015 - 9:41am (USA Central)
The Kalandan defense system beamed a million-ton starship a thousand light-years . . . I'm pretty sure sending in a Catwoman fembot projection afterward was a cakewalk.

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