Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Original Series

"The Lights of Zetar"

**

Air date: 1/31/1969
Written by Jeremy Tarcher and Shari Lewis
Directed by Herb Kenwith

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Lt. Mira Romaine (Jan Shutan), whom Scotty has fallen for, takes an important role when she is somehow connected with the bizarre non-corporeal entities called the Zetarians, who were responsible for deaths on a Federation outpost. Romaine suddenly begins having visions of the future, including one in which Scotty is dead.

While "Lights" is not an incredibly insulting episode, it is surprisingly devoid of substance. Really, there's not much that happens in the story. The lights appear, cause strange visions and take control of Romaine's body, and are destroyed when Kirk puts Romaine in a high-pressure chamber to expel them from her body.

Much of the episode consists of lackluster scenes where the crew attempts to determine the nature of the Zetarians and their hold over Romaine, and a few scenes analyzing Romaine herself as a crew member having trouble adjusting her attitudes to her new assignment. There's simply not much here worthy of mention for good or ill (though the inability for an understanding to be reached between humanity and the Zetarians is perhaps a telling sign of the decline of the series' idealism). Overall, a tolerable but fairly pointless episode.

Previous episode: That Which Survives
Next episode: Requiem for Methuselah

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7 comments on this review

Grumpy - Mon, Jan 7, 2013 - 10:57pm (USA Central)
Y'know what might've given this episode a smidgen of substance? If it had been the Uhura vehicle that fans were promised in 1967. I mean, who cares about a guest character??

For that matter, wouldn't it have been cool to see *Sulu* think his way out of the trap in "The Mark of Gideon"?
Lorene - Wed, Sep 18, 2013 - 8:55am (USA Central)
Excellent insight, Grumpy. Perhaps the reason this series died was the unwillingness to develop any other characters besides the big four.
Stallion - Wed, Apr 23, 2014 - 2:27pm (USA Central)
I was thinking the same thing. A lot of episodes would had be better if they rewritten a whole bunch of roles in season 3 for sulu, chekov, and uhura instead of having an unknown crewmember. That would had made season 3 better. Despite the behind the scene changes im surprise the writting staff didnt suggest instead of having an unknwown crewmember play this part why not make it someone the audience know and care about like sulu, chekov, or uhura.
Grumpy - Wed, Apr 23, 2014 - 5:43pm (USA Central)
According to Memory Alpha (named, of course, for this episode), Shari Lewis -- yes, the ventriloquist -- wrote the story so that she could play the lead. So there was never any contemplation of putting a regular cast member in the role.

Although Trek fanfic had been printed since 1967, this story is, in a way, the first to become canonical. Even has a classic Mary Sue!
Alex - Sat, May 3, 2014 - 2:06pm (USA Central)
The theme of non-corporeal beings invading the bodies of living people is a major Trekkian theme, so it's interesting to compare it to other episodes like this.

On a different note, I found it kind of annoying that they kept referring to Mira as "the girl". Seems unnecessarily patronizing, especially given that the actress who portrays her is closer to 30 than to a more obviously youthful age.
William B - Mon, Dec 8, 2014 - 2:47pm (USA Central)
A dead civilization "takes over" and finds new life on the Enterprise -- taking over a crewmember in the process. If this sounds familiar, it's because I'm not just describing "The Lights of Zetar," but also "Return to Tomorrow," and, frankly, "The Inner Light." The crew member also happens to be a librarian, which means that one could read the episode as a metaphor for, um, becoming lost in long-dead worlds through, uh, books; one could read "The Inner Light" the same way, given Picard's interest in archaeology. Still, the difference is that "Return to Tomorrow" is a decent episode and "The Inner Light" is a classic, and "The Lights of Zetar" has nothing to say. What does it mean for the Zetarians to be extinct? Who knows or cares.

About all I can say about the Scotty/Romaine romance is that it makes me glad there weren't any other Scotty romantic subplots. (I guess there's also that scene in Star Trek V where Uhura hits on him.). It is somehow dispiriting that the only official "Scotty-centric" TOS episodes are this and "Wolf in the Fold," which focuses on how he maybe murdered a woman (but don't worry, he didn't!). Scotty's version of love means speaking patronizingly, speaking for Mira, ignoring Mira's repeated concerns that there is something wrong with her and some degree of prescience even in the wake of her unexplained fainting and unexplained (even by the episode!) near-loss during transport. Scotty's affection is meant to be endearing, but wow is it ever not. It's stated as a joke by Chekov that Scotty didn't even notice that Mira *has* a brain, but joke or not that's more or less how he acts, that Mira is a dumb but pretty bag of sweetness who needs to be protected from the world and her own hysteria by Scotty. The episode *almost* moves into criticism of Scotty for this, when it's revealed that Kirk et al. heard about her premonitions and connection to the "storm" hours late because Scotty kept telling her not to come forward, but at the end Kirk, Spcok and McCoy basically all agree that Scotty gets lots of, or maybe all of, the credit for Mira's recovery because he's so supportive. This fits with, as Alex points out, the continued patronizing way they all refer to her as "girl."

It is a shame, because I like Scotty and wish that there were a good Scotty vehicle in the series; his support role as captain in a few episodes works pretty well and he gets to show some nice comic shading in eps like "The Trouble with Tribbles" and "By Any Other Name." Apparently James Doohan's favourite episode is "The Doomsday Machine," and Scotty's intense, excitable nature helps build up the tension there, too, and there are other episodes like "Mirror, Mirror" and "The Galileo Seven" which succeed very well and benefit from Doohan's support work. But "Wolf in the Fold" doesn't really reveal much about Scotty at all, and this episode just puts him in a terribly annoying light.

The episode is padded and substance-free. Ron Moore reportedly picked this as his worst episode of the series. I wouldn't quite go that far, but it is pretty hard to get through. 1 star, maybe? I could see going lower, but I'm not sure if it has that extra edge of awfulness.
William B - Mon, Dec 8, 2014 - 2:56pm (USA Central)
Oh, right -- I should say, I did like that Scotty was sure that Mira wouldn't hurt him, and that this faith turned out to be justified. This does somewhat help with Scotty's annoying, patronizing behaviour earlier in the episode, because his initial misplaced faith that there is nothing wrong with her becomes a better, more precise kind of "faith" that she is strong enough to not hurt him, even though she fears she would. That moment did help and was a good moment for the character.

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