Star Trek: The Animated Series


2.5 stars.

Air date: 9/14/1974
Written by David Gerrold
Directed by Bill Reed

Review Text

The Enterprise takes aboard a Pandronian passenger, Commander Bem, an independent observer and undeniable eccentric, who has spent most of his time aboard the ship not doing any observing or going on missions. But he wants to go on the latest mission with Kirk's landing party — to study the indigenous primitive species living on a planet slated for extended Federation observation.

Bem is an intriguing character — strange and different and with a personality and actions that keep you guessing. Immediately upon beaming down to the planet surface, Bem — a "colony creature" who splits his body into multiple parts — pickpockets the communicators and phasers from Kirk and Spock and replaces them with replicas. He has an eccentric way of speaking (always referring to himself as "this one"), and reacts to situations in ways that are all his own: To study the indigenous tribe, he runs off and lets himself be intentionally captured so he can study them from his holding cell. Bem's antics are troublesome for Kirk and Spock, who end up captured themselves when they go after Bem to rescue him, since his safety is their responsibility.

I'm not entirely sure what to make of the other major piece of this story, a TOS-style superbeing who is like an overseeing but kindly Mother Nature God of this world. This superbeing intervenes and takes Kirk's weapons when he tries to escape the village. She calls the natives her "children," which she watches over with great wisdom, and insists the humans not interfere.

This entity has a lot of lessons to impart, like her philosophy on not "punishing," as when Bem believes he should be "disassembled" for being defective and making so many errors on this mission. But making mistakes is how we learn, the entity exclaims. These proclamations are an okay message for kids, I suppose, but this feels like one of those episodes that's not sure who the target audience is.

This story would've been better served, I think, focusing on Bem, and maybe making him unexpectedly wise beneath all his weirdness and incompetence, instead of concluding he's an "eggling" that has the most to learn. He's an intriguing alien creation by scriptwriter David Gerrold (in a concept originally meant for TOS), but Bem's story gets hijacked by the all-knowing superbeing, which by this point feels like a cliché out of the TOS playbook.

Previous episode: The Pirates of Orion
Next episode: The Practical Joker

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4 comments on this post

    Another one where I agree with Jammer. I like David Gerrold's writing, and I am interested in seeing more about Bem. I love it when he takes himself apart and his legs and stomach run around in one direction while his arms are doing something else and his head is spinning around. Or whatever. I would have liked to have seen him developed much more as a character. The episode should have been only about him. We didn't really need the multicolored, soft-voiced God entity. That just took the story off on too much of a side tangent.

    There are some Trekkian lessons here and Bem is an unusual character with strange ways of doing things. He's got his own way of testing Kirk and Spock on behalf of his people, but Kirk and Spock just think he's unwise to say the least.

    The idea of a higher power nurturing a less advanced species is a common trope and it is done reasonably well here as compared with "The Apple", for example. Kirk and Spock are also humbled by the entity and realize they have a lot to learn.

    There's an interesting examination of the Prime Directive here as well. It's a bit hard to understand why Bem thinks he has failed, but this at least gives the entity an opportunity to teach him something as he was so sure Kirk and Spock had failed to impress him.

    Uhura has an important role to play here, as she basically commands the ship and NN is the voice of the God-like entity. The episode felt like it spent too much time on the wrong things, like search and rescue instead of analysis of what has been learned. It could have had more depth and meaning, but instead felt a bit silly at times.


    I say 3 1/2 stars for this one. Bem is a fascinating character who subdivides physically and only works in animation; and he’s annoying! Lower Decks later brings back his race, which has appeared only on animated Trek. Clever use of the animated format overall here.

    It's really hard to get through these episodes. But there are some great ideas.

    Given a better plot it could make a great story.

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