Star Trek: The Original Series

"The Apple"

2 stars

Air date: 10/13/1967
Written by Max Ehrlich
Directed by Joseph Pevney

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

While scouting what seems to be a planet of "paradise," the landing party encounters trouble that results in several of Kirk's men (read: red-shirts) being killed. The party subsequently stumbles upon a primitive but peaceful civilization that lives to serve Vaal, a machine worshiped by the planet's inhabitants as a god.

Where did Vaal come from and why was he put there? Beats me. "The Apple" doesn't seem to know or care, either. This is a lackluster analysis of a stagnant, naive society whose existence is dictated by a machine. For once, however, Kirk doesn't make this machine blow up by offering it a circular argument; instead he has Scotty open fire on Vaal with the phasers.

The only real aspect of any real interest in "The Apple" is the wonderful (but regrettably brief) Spock/McCoy debate on the Prime Directive, proving that Trekkian polemics can be interesting. Other than those few short scenes, the episode is basically a bore. Everything from the ship being put in routine jeopardy to a half-baked theme about physical love, "The Apple" just doesn't work.

Previous episode: Mirror, Mirror
Next episode: The Doomsday Machine

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23 comments on this review

Mon, Aug 19, 2013, 3:26am (UTC -5)
You know, after watching this recently, I think it edges out "Spock's Brain" as one of the worst. Kirk is at his most Zap Brannigan-esque here. They had me at "exploding rocks."
Thu, Oct 17, 2013, 8:02am (UTC -5)
I have to agree with Spock here. I find it strange to see anyone in the Trekkian universe preaching capitalist and imperialist propaganda. The people on the planet were happy, healthy, and lived forever. So what was the problem then? Oh, right. They didn't act like Americans. Lordy.
Sat, Mar 8, 2014, 4:33pm (UTC -5)
The worst ever.
1. Spores kill 1st redshirt and Kirk continues mission.
2. Planet has same atmosphere globally. Non-sequiter.
3. Exploding rocks.
4. Kirk threatens and then fires Scott. Is that what a captain does to his top guy when the ship is under attack?
5. Vaal has almost infinite power by eating a few heads of lettuce.
6. Scotty uses every last power source on the engines, yet, amazingly the next minute phasers blast away on Vaal.
Mon, Apr 7, 2014, 1:12pm (UTC -5)
This one was goofy for sure, but oddly I actually enjoyed watching it. Would have preferred they delved into the origin of Vaal, rather then wasting time on the spore-shooting plants and exploding rocks, which had nothing to do with anything else.

I will say that, as kid, I played the 8-bit Nintendo Star Trek game, and one of the levels was essentially this episode, which I hadn't seen at the time. So it was kind of fun to see the origin of that video game level in this show.

(I took the firing/re-hiring of Scotty as essentially a running joke between Kirk and Scotty. Not to be taken seriously.)
Tue, Jul 29, 2014, 11:15am (UTC -5)
Why the hell did they not take down a shuttle to rescue the away team? It is again so obvious.
Tue, Sep 9, 2014, 12:02am (UTC -5)
This is another TOS that worked for the kids.

I loved this one growing up -- LOTS of action, various ways to get killed, etc. It was very adventurous.

As an adult, yeah, this pretty well sucks.
Wed, Dec 3, 2014, 5:54am (UTC -5)
The entire episode from start to finish was unbearably hokey.
Star Trek goes to Gilligan's Island. "Vaal" is obviously "Baal."
Actually there were two great moments: 1) when the woman crew member did those Aikido throws of the two guys wearing beach towels, and 2) when Kirk and Bones suggested that Spock looked like the devil (he does, sort of).
Thu, Dec 18, 2014, 11:46am (UTC -5)
I hated this episode when I first saw it, and I still hate it. It's only fun is for a few good Red Shirt deaths, and the Yeoman actually kicking the ass of some People of Vaal instead of doing the usual things she does in this episode, such as whining, asking a question that no one can really answer (how reproduction happens on this planet - cue unnecessarily awkward *SEX* speculation), and being the stereotypical blonde git whose idea of seducing Chekov (LOL, "Pav") is to ask him dumb blonde questions.

Actually, everyone is annoying in this episode, except maybe Spock, who seems to be the sole voice of reason. Like, why is their way of life so reprehensible? Ohhh right, because the "plot" demands some forced conflict. I kind of wanted to slap McCoy for his stupid arguments, and Kirk for his asinine speech to the People of Vaal at the end on how they'll just enjoy this new life of toil so much ("HEY GUYS! You get to have the SEX now! Maybe you'll figure out how to reproduce! *crowd laughs at this for some reason*).

I especially wanted to phaser McCoy and Kirk for their dumb joke that Spock looks like Satan. Like Spock's NEVER heard that one before. Or maybe he hasn't, considering that pointy ears and arched eyebrows doth not the Devil make!
Jeff Bedard
Tue, Apr 21, 2015, 11:49am (UTC -5)
And we never do find out what the People of Vaal find so humorous about Spock's name, do we? :)
Wed, May 20, 2015, 1:32am (UTC -5)
I found it unintentionally hilarious how Kirk beamed down with one group (which included two redshirts) and then McCoy beamed down with two more redshirts. It's as if someone said, "Hey, I'd like to up the body count this week, send in more redshirts!"

Did anyone honestly expect any of those guys to live? (You in the back, put your hand down. You obviously haven't seen enough Star Trek episodes.)

Yeah, not a particularly great episode but it did give us some classic lines/exchanges between the characters.
Sat, Jul 11, 2015, 3:57pm (UTC -5)
Loved how Spock literally took a "bullet" for Kirk. You'd assume he'd do that, of course, but here he actually did.
Sun, Aug 16, 2015, 8:47am (UTC -5)
I'd give it 1 and a half stars. It's the same tired formula it's just a matter of how silly the dialogue and costumes will be. A landing party goes down, immeadiately there's fatal redshirt blunder, "Jim, don't blame yourself", encounter some locals, and Kirk says "blah, blah, these people shouldn't... be... living like... THIS!".

You know the ship is going to be in trouble because Scotty is still on aboard to struggle with it. He reports that something on the planet is messing with the dilithium crystals and we're gonna burn up in atmosphere.

How many times have we seen this? The solution is always the same. Destroy something the locals think is precious,now the ship is okay. Kirk tells the locals it'll be rough without your idol your megacomputer, oracle, or whatever you serviced but you're gonna like struggling and boinking each other. Bye now.

Sun, Oct 11, 2015, 1:30pm (UTC -5)
Well, this really was not much, but I liked the scene where Kirk reminisced about one of the killed redshirts, how he had known his family etc. At least a little attempt at making these guys more than plot cannon fodder.
Wed, Oct 14, 2015, 9:27am (UTC -5)
all has been said.. this IS a shitty episode.

I like SCIENCE fiction, without the fiction and with accurate science, this one is why TOS sucks in comparising to later series

Ok so we have a society that has degenerated, that once build a VERY advance machine, than could controll everything, even regulated their population (no touching) and would keep everybody alive. This must have been done by a VERY advanced civilization, with population numbers in the billions.
Now I can see how even an advanced race things a simple life is better, and perhaps shieled their offspring from knowing these facts. Evidence is that at one time these antenna's were installed back when their society still had technical skills.
If it was castrofofy, like a plague or overpopulation, or the result of generations, if the machine made the rule of not breeding, or even backfired and killed all but a few, is unknown, but there we are.

But now it gets crappy :

Bug 1 : Preservation of energy
*this machine was capable of controlling the climate on a global scale and able to change it in minute detail in seconds. It was even able to control the plantlife somehow, some plants ma have been biological machines instead.
*it ALSO was able to simultainisly completely drain the energy-reserves of the enterprise, even the combined pull with all theĆ½ got was NOT enough to pull loose.
This would take a LOT of energy and computing power, much more than the imput from their sun could give them (and as all food needs to be grown from that solar energy coming it.. can't be done).
*we see them feed the thing 2 ties a day in meager quantities, even if they would feed him other energy sources (like those rocks??) it would not suffice, the energy-density for that is not high enough.
*if there would be MANY more villages like this on the planet AND many more entrences all feeding him tree times a day those rocks/uranium/antimatter or something similiar than yes perhaps.
As we know there ARE no other villages on the planet, the only logical conclusion is that the feedings are merely ceremonial (thought up as part of the simple life doctrine of their forefathers) and that the machine was self-sufficient by whatever energysource was installed in it.

As such there is NO way that if the enterprise power supplies were not able to break free, their weapons would be able to destroy the machine. In both cases it is a simple power output of the enterprise vs power output of the machine. The argument it has not been fed is bogus as argumented above.

to the positive side there was really no way to escape without destroying the machine, it could ONLY cmmunicate by sending information to the one guy with antenna's implanted, standing before the cave and talk was pointless, they should have reverse engineerd those antenna's. (basic neural node, not above star trek capability) Unknown is however if it was also possible to send information to the machine, as signs prove the machine was made to only SEND orders. any treats to its directive (simple life for its people) were simply destroyed.
The message "we will leave, and let them alone" hence could not have been communicated.

I find spocks argument that this society works for them valid, and find it a crime that they destroyed it. After all the prime directive WAS in place indeed, and the should have sacrificed themselves and that ship in order to maintain it.

However as also pointed out, IF they were able to destroy it, they should also be able to escape it, and the "were burning up in atmosphere" problem would not excist.
That would indeed make the chooice much more interesting : leave and leave this culture intact, or destroy it before leaving.
and would show kirk for the racist and xenofoob he is should he stil destroyed it.

=> if it was capable to do his kind of things, the energy imput should have been A LOT greater than what they "feeded" him (even if they feeded him those rocks,

Preservation of energy, anyone?
Sat, Feb 27, 2016, 7:45am (UTC -5)
"I like SCIENCE fiction, without the fiction and with accurate science, this one is why TOS sucks in comparising to later series"
Wed, Aug 3, 2016, 3:42pm (UTC -5)
The Prime Directive prohibits interfering with the natural development of cultures, but one of the themes you see in TOS is that a society controlled by a machine is not a natural development. There's also the fact that Vaal was preventing the Enterprise from leaving. In TNG, you see a much stricter interpretation of the Prime Directive than you do in TOS. This is partly because the Federation is in a cold war with the Klingons - the Federation makes contact with less technologically advances societies because if they don't, the Klingons will, and will add them to the Empire by force. Thus interference is inevitable.

It would be interesting if Vaal could be repaired, and then these people could choose if they wanted to live the way Vaal dictated or how they chose to live. The episode does have the common trope of one village representing a whole planet, sure, but I can overlook that. It's common enough in science fiction.
Wed, Sep 7, 2016, 2:34pm (UTC -5)
Watching through this series for the first time, I find this episode to feel rather different than the previous ones, with the main characters seeming out of character.

Kirk angsting about the death of redshirts? They routinely die and he never usually says as much. He also goes on and on about how this weird, alien-looking planet is somehow like the Garden of Eden.

Spock throwing the rock after commenting on its composition and then being surprised when it exploded (if he knew what it was made of, he'd have known it would explode!), complaining about McCoy's medicine instead of thanking him for seemingly saving his life (then again, he did shrug off two other redshirt-killing blows in this episode so maybe not), complaining that the native people's flower bracelets made him feel "uncomfortable", and gee, acting pretty irritable when he's supposed to be burying his emotions and human half (and no one called him on it, either! That would have been a good opening for some banter or explanation for why he's acting like this). He gets hit by three different things in this episode that would have killed a redshirt and walks it off every time (did the writers not like Spock or something?). Later back on ship he asks Kirk if he's familiar with Genesis (obviously he is, he was calling the planet a garden of Eden earlier, did Spock not pay attention? The real question is why does Spock know it, and why does he think it's relevant to what just happened?) and casting Kirk as Satan (is he trying to start a fight? Again, why is Spock so pissy in this episode?) and of course it backfires on him (I know the whole "Spock looks like Satan" thing is probably just a reference to the fact one of the producers said something like that early on and wanted to change his design, but it comes off as the writers really not liking Spock lol).

The awkward way everyone skirted around talking about sex. They were all grown adults, no reason for them to act like that! (And why does Spock of all people sit there looking embarrassed (and very out of character) instead of redirecting the question to McCoy? Obviously the doctor should be the one to explain the facts of life. Another perfect setup for banter that never went anywhere!)

The yeowman and Chekov acting like horny teenagers was annoying, but at least we finally got to see a female officer actually be competent in a fight for once (shouldn't every officer on board be as competent as her, though? Isn't it standard training?) Actually, the only other time I can recall a woman even actually trying to fight in this series is when Uhura helped them take down barbarian-beard Spock when they were trapped in that parallel universe a few episodes back.

I could go on, but I really probably shouldn't.
Fri, Feb 24, 2017, 3:23pm (UTC -5)
This is a goofy episode - have to agree with @dgalvan. Also very similar to "The Return of the Archons" and also "That Which Survives" (from Season 3) to some extent. That being said, I didn't mind it and don't consider it anywhere near TOS's worst episodes.
The highlight is the philosophical debate between the Big 3 on the prime directive. The fact that the Enterprise is threatened dictates the crew's actions.
Chekov, for having appeared at the start of Season 2, has already played significant roles - more so than Uhura (absent in this one) and rivalling Scott and Sulu. His character as a bit of a ladies man has now been established.
Some inconsistencies - Spock should/could have died twice (once from the spores, the other being struck directly by lightning). He also ran into Vaal's forcefield. Thought Scotty threw the kitchen sink at the impulse engines to break free, yet they have phaser power to destroy Vaal.
Other than the prime directive dialogue, the rest of the dialogue is mostly silly.
I'd give it 2/4 stars - a well-worn plot which would have been more interesting if some story of how Vaal was created, how his people got there was found out.
Sun, Feb 26, 2017, 1:58am (UTC -5)
Hello Everyone

I noticed a couple of comments about still having phasers after using nearly all of their power in an attempt to pull the Enterprise free. If I'm not mistaken, the phaser banks of that era were powered by batteries. Scotty talks about that in the next episode *minor spoiler* when he was on the Constellation and said he had one bank recharged.

I think it was ST: The Motion Picture *minor spoiler* where Decker informs Kirk that the phasers now draw power directly from the warp engines, which was changed in the re-fit from the previous way they did things.

I think if they previously had the phasers fully charged, they would still be that way even if the ship was out of power, unless they drained the energy back into the ships systems somehow.

This is just a thought. If I'm wrong, please show me the light. But this is how I remember the phasers working for TOS.

Have a great day... RT
Rock Lobster
Sun, May 14, 2017, 5:48pm (UTC -5)
I hate episodes where Gene Roddenberry's pompous atheism is on display and this is one of the worst examples. I'm sorry, Gene, but religion is really not the deterrent to societal growth your kind think it is.
Fri, Oct 13, 2017, 1:58pm (UTC -5)
It's funny, but I remember this one from watching it when i was much younger as really sucking--and it kind of does--, but i actually kind of enjoyed it this time around. Joking about Scotty being fired while under great duress, the yeoman kicking some ass, Chekov's "I was just going to take some readings sir," Kirk feeling remorse about the red shirt whose dad helped him get into the Academy, the confronting of the dilemma of the Prime Directive (in truth this is a part that i especially dislike about this episode is the casualness with which they regard the PD--I mean if this society is not doing it our way then forget the principle of non-intervention (WTF!)). Anyway, I tend to try to ignore the plot and logical inconsistencies as much as i can (sometimes it's impossible), but if i do that I still found enough of the episode entertaining. 2.25 stars.
Thu, Oct 19, 2017, 10:19am (UTC -5)
TOS had a number of stories like this: paradise and eden's are a trap, a phony bliss which hampers development, whereby development is code for "contemporary western style civilizeation". It's not a message I agree with. But this episode is nevertheless fun, feels alien and surreal in ways only TOS managed, features another stunning yeoman, is unintentionally funny in a number of scenes (lol@the Beach Boy natives), has a couple good Spock/Kirk moments, and the actual "robot snake cave" is very creepy.
Trek fan
Fri, Oct 20, 2017, 5:45pm (UTC -5)
Loved "The Apple" as a kid, but not so much as an adult, and I've even hated it at times. However, I'm intrigued by the fact I've recently seen it in both Best TOS and Worst TOS lists online, so I haven't given up on it. And watching it most recently, in air date order as I go through the DVD set, I'm surprised to say that I'm finally landing on the "enjoyment" side here. It's a weird mix that gets my vote for the best video game Trek episode -- I think there was even a Vaal level on the NES game? -- but the mix of polemical debate and action remains sufficiently engaging for me to give this one 3 stars.

Seriously, someone is getting zapped or attacked every minute or so here, and it's fun to watch the landing party dodge the obstacles as they make for a native village ruled over by the computerized god Vaal. Not as much an ensemble piece as the first few shows in Season Two, but Chekov continues to make an impression -- his immaturity solidified by efforts to woo a yeoman during a danger situation -- and the presence of Scotty and Kyle on the ship add a note of continuity.

Lots of good dialogue and bits in this one, including Kirk's "Nothing makes sense down here!" The native humanoids are sufficiently alien and oddball to be unlike quite anything else I've seen in Sci-Fi. The debate about the Prime Directive is engaging without devolving into self-righteous posturing as we'll later see on the first two or three seasons of TNG; the fact that Vaal is trying to destroy the Enterprise and crew forces the crew (as in "A Taste of Armageddon") to intervene more in the culture than they might wish. Kirk tries to beam out and can't, and he continually tries to respect the native setting, but circumstances keep forcing him to get more involved in it. The question of whether a computer ruling a society -- albeit without its informed consent -- constitutes natural development is relevant: The notion that the computer keeps the native infantalized and ignorant of life's realities (sex, death, aging, etc.) certainly defies all human notions of what is psychologically healthy, even if it's possible that some alien cultures might experience such dependency positively.

Anyway, "The Apple" continues to surprise me, as there's a bit more depth here than the hokey set/costume design suggests at first. There's some serious stuff going on here amidst the fast-paced action. Together with the "Doomsday Machine" coming up next, "The Apple" seems to represent a conscious effort in Season Two to dial up the humor and action to 11 -- and it works because the cast's chemistry is locked down in this season in a way it wasn't quite mature before. The scene of Spock and McCoy debating to sway Kirk's decision about how to move forward establishes a classic template, not quite fully matured before this episode, that is fun to watch. And again, Chekov gets to be the naive rookie here, helping solidify our sense of his character in just a few short shows now -- he slides right into the crew like he's been there all along.

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