Star Trek: The Original Series
"By Any Other Name"
Air date: 2/23/1968
Teleplay by D.C. Fontana and Jerome Bixby
Story by Jerome Bixby
Directed by Marc Daniels
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"By Any Other Name" has a similar theme as "Return to Tomorrow," and is probably more campy throughout. However, it's also more effective overall, because it picks a tone and sticks with it, rather than throwing the book out the window when the end rolls around.
The theme is "alien lifeform takes human form and is intrigued by human sensation." Once all but four Enterprise crew members (Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scotty) are temporarily disabled, this leaves our four heroes with the task of undermining the Kelvans, each with a special trick suited to their personality. Kirk distracts the female Kelvan with the wonders of love. Bones injects his subject with a drug that makes him irritable. Scotty gets his subject drunk through a sequence of amusing drinking scenes. Meanwhile, the leader of the Kelvans watches all his people fall apart while Kirk wooing the female sends him into a rage of jealousy.
This is all fairly silly, but the episode knows it's silly. Marc Daniels applies a deft light touch to the material that balances the threat with a keen sense of humor that constantly reminds us not to take any of it too seriously. The end result is surprisingly likable and entertaining—probably better than it has any right to be.
Previous episode: Patterns of Force
Next episode: The Omega Glory
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42 comments on this post
Thu, Feb 11, 2010, 10:17pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Jun 8, 2013, 6:29pm (UTC -5)
Wed, May 14, 2014, 2:17pm (UTC -5)
In "By Any Other Name", Kirk references it, saying something like "yes we've seen it" when the lead Kelvan mentions the barrier.
Tue, Sep 9, 2014, 12:25am (UTC -5)
That struck me as the most horrible death on any Trek.
Wed, Jan 27, 2016, 6:43am (UTC -5)
Wed, Jul 6, 2016, 8:03pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Sep 11, 2016, 1:09pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Nov 22, 2016, 9:06am (UTC -5)
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 8:19pm (UTC -5)
I agree with Jammer that this is the better of the two episodes, although perhaps not for the same reason. Basically, I like the thematic resolution to the episode. It doesn't revolve around Kirk outsmarting the villains (although there is some of that) or Kirk beating up the villain (although there is some of that too). Instead, we have a nice sci-fi resolution to the conflict, that the bad guys simply cannot escape the entire meaning of what it is to convert themselves into being human.
What would it be like to completely change one's body? How much are we the product of our independent mind vs how much a function of our bodies? This episode implies that it's a bit of both, that while these aliens still thought and acted like their old selves, the feelings were overwhelming. That much is simple enough, something we might be able to expect. But then they imply that, as time goes by, those feelings will take over its thoughts. They won't be able to keep from thinking like a human, simply because they will be so used to feeling like a human. It is a unique approach, and even though we don't see if this is true or not, it feels like the right approach. And obviously the aliens agreed, and stood down on their original plan.
As for the fact that they weren't punished for their transgressions, I can see how that could be annoying. And really, they could have easily rewritten the episode slightly to make them less of karma whodinis. There was no reason to kill the Redshirt; turning them into cubes and turning one back would have had the same impact. And at least then the aliens wouldn't have been murderers. Of course, there's still the bigger problem of how to deal with the aliens stuck in Andromeda that haven't turned into humans yet, but presumably the Federation will work that out before inviting them over. At the very least, though, it is a rather positive and uplifting ending, and kinda makes the case that humans are awesome. After all, even a race of close-minded conquerors can be redeemed simply by themselves turning into humans. Sometimes Trek optimism can be a bit silly, but other than a few logical quibbles I think it works well here.
Fri, Jun 2, 2017, 10:09pm (UTC -5)
It also seems a bit convenient for these Kelvans to succumb to the human emotions - although that does bring up the idea of what it means to be human etc.
Couldn't the Kelvans find a space on the ship where they could periodically turn back into their original forms? If they had to travel by spaceship - presumably they could turn the Enterprise into more suitable accommodations for them.
It's also interesting the comparisons with "Return to Tomorrow" - that didn't occur to me until reading the comments but I have to say RtT is slightly superior than BAON. Both endings are a bit convenient but RtT is a more compelling story that seems truer to what Star Trek TOS is all about (Kirk's speech).
I'd rate "By Any Other Name" 2.5 stars out of 4. The Kelvans story is an interesting one with their inter-galaxy travel, conquering etc. but ultimately this episode has its plot holes and is only satisfying to a certain degree.
Fri, Sep 8, 2017, 10:55pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Dec 15, 2017, 11:39am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jan 18, 2018, 12:02am (UTC -5)
In general, I enjoyed the episode. The fast opening was somewhat jarring but also refreshing, with the premise of the episode snappily established. The characterization of the Kelvans was minimal, yet it worked in terms of presenting these "perfect" human forms as totally alien.
There are of course logical inconsistencies within the episode. The Kelvans state that they need a starship to pierce the galactic barrier because communication signals will not penetrate it. Why not then immediately signal once through the barrier? We'd already seen the Enterprise attempt to travel through the barrier once before. Why was this time so different? Because aliens? Aliens who had destroyed their own ship going through the barrier? It seemed as if the writers had forgotten their own rules for the sake of expediency.
A huge downside of the episode was the utter predictability of it. As soon as I saw Kelinda appear, it was completely obvious that Kirk would attempt to seduce her in some kind of scheme to confuse her with human "love." Many users have commented on the similarity of the plot line to other episodes, and for me, "By Any Other Name" suffers because of it. It's like listening to a band coming out with slightly improved versions of the same album over and over. Sure, objectively the newest version is better than the others, but it's not as entertaining as it should be when you can see every beat coming.
The excellent first act and decent enough if rushed ending are sufficient to carry the tedious interim. Overall 2.5/4 stars
Mon, Feb 26, 2018, 6:51am (UTC -5)
Sat, Mar 17, 2018, 12:10am (UTC -5)
* Always loved Scotty drinking Tomar under the table and his line, "It's....it's....it's green". When Data paid it homage in "Relics," I cheered.
* It's a pity that the remastered TOS episodes couldn't ret-con in subsequent technological developments into the dialog. The Kelvans upgrading the Enterprise's engines could have been mentioned as adding a quantum slipstream drive (which, per the dialogue in Voyager's "Hope & Fear," would have made the trip to M31 - Andromeda - take a little over ten years, not three hundred). Ditto that no subsequent Trek series ever revisited the Kelvan story.
* Given what a horndog Kirk was, it would have brought the house down if in the final scene where Rojan walks in on Kirk and Kelinda necking, Rojan had instead found them, shall we say, fully involved. The sight of Jim Kirk engaging in a fistfight stark naked and still, shall we say, "at attention" would have been hilarious, particularly since we all know it wouldn't have been the first time.
Sat, May 19, 2018, 4:36pm (UTC -5)
It wasn't a very well thought out episode.
Sat, Aug 4, 2018, 4:00pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Aug 21, 2018, 1:42am (UTC -5)
Anyway, this is one of my favourite episodes. I like the way the Enterprise crew outsmart the Kelvans. I always thought Drea was prettier than the other Kelvan woman though.
I do like to go back to "campy" 60s sci-fi from time to time though
Tue, Feb 5, 2019, 9:57am (UTC -5)
Sun, Apr 7, 2019, 11:52pm (UTC -5)
Sun, May 12, 2019, 4:15am (UTC -5)
The horror of death-by-cube-crushing was good, but then totally undercut by the light and funny tone of the rest of the show.
So, Sexy Lady needs to be introduced to her humanity. Hmm. Will Scotty bring her to tears with a haunting tune on the bagpipes? Will Spock stimulate her intellect with a discussion of Vulcan philosophies? Will McCoy make her angry with his biting sarcasm? Or will the completely irresistible Kirk seduce her with his legendary kissing technique? It was a tough call.
Average in every way.
Tue, Jul 16, 2019, 8:45pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jan 24, 2020, 10:13am (UTC -5)
Fri, Feb 21, 2020, 7:24am (UTC -5)
-Scotty drinking the alien under the table has to be one of the best Trek-moments in history.
-I like the idea of Bones injecting the alien with crystal meth, but it isn't very exciting TV. Perhaps it could've been.
-Flirtatious Kirk makes my skin crawl.
-To those of you who are upset the aliens got away without being punished: do you really think the circumstances permitted that?
II of IV
@Springy - Great comment! =]
Fri, May 15, 2020, 10:09pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jun 1, 2020, 11:12am (UTC -5)
I kind of wish they had tried harder to squeeze a message out of this episode, but the Romeo and Juliet title was referenced often. I suppose the lesson is if you try to imitate something too closely you may just end up enamored with it?
Mon, Jun 1, 2020, 11:23am (UTC -5)
I suspect the title implies that you can call a thing anything you like, but it is what it is. When taking the human form, you could call them Kelvins but they *were* humans, and this was their weakness.
"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" essentially says that Romeo would be just as good as he is if he were called something else, i.e. not called Montague. Changing his name would not alter any of his essential qualities, but would remove the need to call him enemy.
I suppose we could look even deeper into this meaning and infer that perhaps the Kelvins could have come to see humans as allies or friends if they had ceased to differentiate based on "your race" and "our race". The focus on the name of the species (i.e. their differing origins) would seem to be the only reason to alienate the alien. I'm not really sure if the episode puts any focus on that, although it is a Trek message.
Mon, Jun 1, 2020, 12:01pm (UTC -5)
I knew what the phrase meant in its original context but I was struggling trying to fit it into this episode. But I think you're reading is correct; that Kirk and the others needed to treat the Kelvans as humans in order to form a bond with them. Treating them like alien invaders only increased the antagonism between the two peoples. Funny, I was just criticizing Space Force for antagonizing the Chinese in the same manner.
Mon, Jun 1, 2020, 12:52pm (UTC -5)
"I knew what the phrase meant in its original context but I was struggling trying to fit it into this episode."
Fair enough, I just wanted to make sure.
Wed, Jan 6, 2021, 1:56am (UTC -5)
Star Trek season 2 episode 22
"Yes, I know. We've been there.”
- Kirk discovers continuity
2 1/2 stars (out of 4)
There are actually a couple explicit nods to continuity in this episode, the quote above regarding the Galactic Barrier, and the other one is where Kirk recalls the events of “A Taste of Armageddon” when he asks Spock "On Eminiar VII, you were able to trick the guard by a Vulcan mind probe.” Interesting that here, almost at the end of season 2, Star Trek finally decides to embrace continuity.
This episode stands out for two key scenes, the first, with Scotty and his “green” booze; and the second, the very disturbing murder of the red-SKIRT of the week. As @William says, we are convinced it will be the black man who will die, and it is a shock that they actually killed the pretty white girl. Does that ever happen on TV, @Sean Hagins?
I think @Peter G. gets right to the nub of this episode. You can call a human anything you like, even call him a Kelvan. But a human is a human. And these aliens are human now.
Where this episode stands one inch taller than “Return to Tomorrow” (with all due respect to @Rahul), is what the episode says about Kirk and what the episode says about the crew of the Enterprise. While Return to Tomorrow is rightly lauded for its grand “risk is our business” ethos, what “By any other Name” tries to say is maybe a little more subtle, and not exactly obvious at first.
If you treat someone with humanity, then no matter how alien they might be, there is a possibility of peace.
The episode brings to mind an otherwise horrendous episode of Voyager called “Demon”. The details don’t matter, but in my review of VOY’s “Demon," I discuss a landmark 1944 scifi story by Clifford D. Simak called “Desertion” (https://www.jammersreviews.com/st-voy/s4/demon.php). In that story, explorers on Jupiter transform themselves into beings suited to that harsh planet (like in the movie Avatar). After transformation, they find life so pleasurable on Jupiter that, one by one, they desert their old lives. Thus the story’s title, “Desertion.”
"By any other Name" is like “Desertion” in reverse. The aliens - the Kelvans - find value in human existence, in human experience. Whether it is through male bonding over a long night of drinking, or culinary sensations, or fondling and foreplay, they get a taste of what being human has to offer. It is actually quite nice to be a human. It can be annoying too. The episode explores Rojan’s jealously, and poor Hanar grows irritated under Bones’ ministrations. But all in all, these experiences allow Kirk’s crew and Rojan’s crew to understand one another.
Understanding is the first step in peace.
Lastly, one point about auto-destruct sequences in later Trek. It is almost a cliche on TNG. When things start to go wrong, Picard reaches for the self-destruct button.
Now I know that the writers will eventually give Kirk the self-destruct option on TOS as well. But what Kirk says here, to Spock’s "logical option," is telling:
SCOTT: I have opened the control valves to the matter-anti-matter nacelles. On your signal, I will flood them with positive energy.
SPOCK: When we engage the barrier, the ship will explode. The Kelvans will be stopped here.
SCOTT: And so will we.
KIRK: Are you mad? I can't just -
Are you mad?! For it is madness of a sort to kill oneself. And while warriors in all ages have understood the need for self-sacrifice (harakiri being only the most extreme example), it is a form of madness nonetheless.
That Kirk decides not to blow up the ship, that he decides to take his chances - that is the life-affirming message of “By any other Name.”
As Shakespeare himself might have said, life as a human is sometimes "wonderful, wonderful, and most wonderful wonderful! And yet again wonderful, and after that, out of all hooping.”
Thu, Apr 22, 2021, 2:03am (UTC -5)
Scott: I picked this up on Gany... Gary... Ganymede.
Kelvinite: What is it?
Scott: It... It’s.. it’s... GREEN!
The whole notion of radiation threatening an entire galaxy is a “cannae break the laws of physics “ moment. And the redshirt surviving while an attractive yeoman dies, was something of a shock. But as I said, if you start to take the story seriously from halfway through, it’s a rewarding experience.
2.5 stars, or a bit more.
Thu, Aug 5, 2021, 9:13pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Sep 17, 2021, 12:59am (UTC -5)
Sun, Oct 10, 2021, 7:15pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Oct 12, 2021, 5:19pm (UTC -5)
This one spent too much time showing us how evil the aliens were, and just ended abruptly without any justice for the murdered officer.
TOS had way too many crew deaths. Many crew died in the first episode and it seems that 1-5 crew die in each episode. A Navy captain would have been relieved of duty long ago.
Sat, Apr 2, 2022, 11:26pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jun 13, 2022, 8:27pm (UTC -5)
To not repeat the good things already said by other colleagues here about this episode, let me say just one thing: What a brilliant mechanism the aliens have, being able to paralyse anyone. So overpowering -- dispite of being well delimited. And, most importantly, can you imagine some show today doing that? Impossible. Today the only option to problem solving on TV seems to be action scenes. And so, it is very refreshing to see a show that is boldly enough to say "yeah, stay tuned, because our heroes will ACTUALY HAVE TO OUTSMART the bad guys this time". And that's exactly what they manage to deliver. (You may say it was a bit silly, but you can't say it doesn't made perfect sense!).
And in the way I most love about TOS: we face a new and overwhelming challenge, and we can see as they actualy find the solution, step by step, in real time -- instead of the modern tendency of having characters that apparently just know everything from nowhere (in the name of fast pace, I guess).
Sun, Oct 2, 2022, 6:27pm (UTC -5)
1. The Kelvins claim to have made "modifications" to the warp drive allowing for increased warp speeds, but that completely side steps the utter stupidity of the Enterprise being able to run continuously for 300 YEARS, at MAXIMUM WARP, in the intergalactic void with NOWHERE to refuel/re-energize. In so many episodes Scotty is always complaining that Warp 8 is straining the engines after a few hours, but Warp 11 for 300 years with no resupplies of energy or dilithium crystals LMAO
2. The 300 year figure to reach the Andromeda galaxy is absurd by itself. Just by the way the stars are whipping by even at low warp speed, you can easily tell they are going dozens of light years per second. The closest stars are 5-10 light years to each other on average, so even if 2 stars were going by per second, that's at least 5 light years per second. Now the Andromeda Galaxy is only 2,500,000 Light Years Away. Even at only 1 Light Year per second, that would only take about a month, not centuries. But at Warp 11, they are obviously going hundreds of light years per second, so it wouldn't take anywhere near 300 years. Even if the visual effects are just for our benefit, they left the galaxy within hours, which would imply they went at least 500 light years vertically or over 25,000 horizontally (assuming that energy barrier is only around the edge and not the entire surface area). There is no question that they are going a minimum of 1 light year per second at any high warp speed, so it would never take 300 years.
Thu, Dec 22, 2022, 10:06pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Mar 24, 2023, 11:17pm (UTC -5)
The episode is exactly as you describe it, and a true fan favorite for just those very reasons.
I sense I'm rambling.
That is all. Carry on...
Sun, Apr 16, 2023, 8:45pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Apr 18, 2023, 7:13pm (UTC -5)
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