Star Trek: The Original Series

"And the Children Shall Lead"

0.5 stars

Air date: 10/11/1968
Written by Edward J. Lakso
Directed by Marvin Chomsky

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The crew discovers that the members of a research colony have been killed by an unknown force, the only survivors being their children, who are remarkably devoid of grief over their parents' deaths. Once beamed aboard the Enterprise, these children exhibit a bizarre power over the crew, inducing hallucination and mental incapacitation in their victims. It turns out that an alien entity named Gorgan (Melvin Belii) is using the children to hijack the starship so he can consume more worlds and cause more death for his own evil purposes. Bwahahaha.

"And the Children Shall Lead"—that is, lead this episode straight into the gutter. A dismally frustrating, repetitive, and bland hour, we're forced to watch five children take over the ship in extremely uninteresting ways, making the crew look helpless (who wants to see that, anyway?). The "magic pump-fist action" gets really, really goofy, becoming what feels like a lame parlor trick. Melvin Belii is terrible as the completely uninteresting Gorgan, reciting his lines like a robot. Meanwhile, Bones has the thankless role of telling Kirk every five or ten minutes that these children have to be treated with kid gloves in order to prevent psychological damage. Funny, you'd think their helping an evil alien that murdered their parents might already have done that.

The one potentially promising aspect of the episode—playing off the crew's fears—is not utilized the least bit effectively. This is an episode created on autopilot, lacking any and all sense of inspiration. At least "Spock's Brain's" level of badness made it somewhat amusing. This episode is simply dull to the point of being unwatchable.

Previous episode: The Paradise Syndrome
Next episode: Is There In Truth No Beauty?

◄ Season Index

29 comments on this review

Mon, Apr 9, 2012, 5:25pm (UTC -5)
Worst episode of TOS. Perhaps the worst in the history of the franchise.
Sun, May 20, 2012, 11:15am (UTC -5)
Absolutely worst episode I've ever seen, completely disregarding the fact tat it made no sense. On the planet, Spock cannot feel the anxiety that was influencing the other humans, making it seem as though he was immune to the effects, and then all of a sudden he was magically compromised? This episode totally ignores all of the star trek conventions and blasts the whole crew into a pit of stupidity. The fact that the red shirts questioned and even attacked Scotty, Uhura not being able to make a call because she appeared ugly, Sulu pushing the captain out of the way for fear of magical sword rays that for some reason would magically destroy a ship made to survive space travel.... It's like some random person heard of the show through word of mouth and wrote an episode about it based of lies and superstition. This had a potential (however vague) to be an interesting episode, but that was completely blasted out of existence by the writer, and not even the actors or the director could have honestly saved it.
The Lady in Black
Sun, May 20, 2012, 11:23am (UTC -5)
This episode would have been a lot quicker if Spock had just used his vulcan sleepy grip.... there were SEVERAL places and times when I was just screaming at the scream for him to do it.
Wed, Mar 20, 2013, 11:56pm (UTC -5)
Lamest. Red. Shirt. Deaths. Ever.

That's all I care to say. At least there was some snark value when the redshirt got shot by a flower in "The Apple".
Sun, Oct 27, 2013, 11:21pm (UTC -5)
The whole time I just wanted to yell at them, "Put the children in the brig!"
Ben Masters
Wed, Nov 27, 2013, 4:41am (UTC -5)
Much as I dislike admitting it, I have to agree with the review and all the comments. I just wanted to get through it and move on. Not even the remastering could save this turkey!
Thu, Nov 28, 2013, 1:11am (UTC -5)
Just terrible. One of the worst Star Trek episodes (any series).
Sat, Feb 8, 2014, 8:42pm (UTC -5)
I never watch this episode. It has every story element I dislike. A simple villain who is just merely the embodiment of evil--how easy is that?, tedious wooden children and the crew succumbing to mind control. Mind control plots are just such a lazy way to make your characters do things without worrying if there's a believable motive.

And Kirk's solution is so simple it destroys any credibility that evil really had such an iron grip on these kids anyway.
Sat, Feb 22, 2014, 5:20pm (UTC -5)
This is not only the worst episode of TOS, but probably of the entire franchise
Sat, Apr 12, 2014, 9:21pm (UTC -5)
Wow, never knew this ep was so hated. I actually always liked this one.

Not the best but a good middle of pack. To each his own I guess.
Peace of Landru
Mon, Apr 28, 2014, 12:37am (UTC -5)
This whole episode is so unbelievably bad, easily my most disliked episode of Star Trek. Aside from all that's been already noted, a few others I'll point out,
1. The kids have just been witness to severe psychological trauma, yet they have access to the bridge. Is there no security on he ship?
2. Same point for engineering. Why do they have access to such key areas of the ship?
3. This one really bugs me - 3 years in space, and Kirk calls Sulu "helmsman." Wut? Seriously?
4. Every time something weird happens, a kid is present doing the magical fist pump action. Uh, so stun the kids or put them in the brig.
5. Seems like there should be a lot more safety protocols in place so that you can't beam someone to the middle of nowhere.
6. Gorgon - the fat, glowing, old kook delivering lines in a robotic monotone - NOT scary. Just stupid.

Lastly, and most important, I just want to smack that ginger kid so freaking bad.

This episode plain sucks. Remastering didn't improve it any.
Fri, May 2, 2014, 6:08pm (UTC -5)
I totally agree with all calling this episode bad.

While it at LEAST include
*an alien planet or ship
*an alien being
*some unknown techology or power
(and thats more than can be said from most TOS series)

they make YET AGAIN the mistake of making the alien look human (come on!) and make this a drama play.

But even than, there are the MAYOR plotholes :

-the children SEE their parents dead perhaps even see them being killed, and are totally fine with than, yet when they rewatch it on tape, suddenly they have a change of hearth?

-Children who are willfulling killing their own parents, and are fully willing to kill all adults on a whole planet, just to gain adult rights before actually being an adult, and hence are complete psychopats, suddenly turn back in totally fine kids after seeing 1 videotape, rather than needing severe psychotherapy?

-Even how ridiculous the air-fist power may be
(it gets on my nerves almost as much as the equally corky "no-bam-bam" from earlier episode)
when kirk sees it performs as does spock, they both don't do a think to stop it?
Yes in the end they conclude KILL THE KIDS, but really could one not have drawn that conclusion much earlier? or at very least stun them all?

-they dont check the actual cordinates where they just beamed 2 people to?? how about checking where you beam people too before beaming, seems like standard protocol to me??

-you just have something that killed many adults, and kids behaving like psychopaths, but you just bring them aboard? ever heard of quarantine untill the cause was found?

-you see a field full of dead humans, on an alien world, but you walk around without rubber gloves or other sensable protection, and even rub inside their wounds, smell their breath, and all? thats a REALLY good way to spread infections! again protocol?
William B
Sun, Sep 14, 2014, 7:00pm (UTC -5)
Very little to add. The one thing that I will say *sort of* in the episode's defense, in contrast to some of the earlier comments, is that Gorgon's powers are so ill-defined that some of the "plot" problems can be attributed to those wacky powers. Like, yes, obviously Uhura and Sulu being stunned into complete inaction by fear of looking ugly and fear that the ship will be stabbed by giant swords is many kinds of ridiculous, but I don't quite think even this episode is arguing that they are *just* reacting to the images, as if ugly/old-Uhura and swords projected onto panels and viewscreens would be enough to deter them from action. Their fears drive them insane and distort their reality in the same manner and to a similar degree to the way the adults on the planet went insane.

The other edge of that double-edged floating space sword or dagger is that Gorgon's/the kids' powers/motivations are so poorly defined that it's basically nearly impossible to discern what is going on throughout the show -- how much did the kids actually kill their parents, and how much were they purely mind-controlled? Were they mind-controlled at all, or just talked into it by a "charismatic" leader with no powers of his own? But then they got powers from him, so.... Evaluating what this episode is *trying* to say about kids and parents is pointless, because it's unclear whether we're to expect there was some kind of full-scale childhood rebellion or simply a massive case of brainwashing.

1/2 star is probably fair; I don't think it quite reaches zero-star levels. Makes the way the similarly-themed "Miri" or "Imaginary Friend" deals with children seem like they're Mark Twain.
Tue, Aug 4, 2015, 1:25am (UTC -5)
I have to go with the majority on this one. This is just the worst episode of T.O.S. Perhaps the worst of the entire franchise. The writers must have been under the gun and just pulled this out of their ass at the last minute. Terrible, terrible, terrible. I won't even recount the plot it's so useless to do so. The only thing I will say is that as an adult I could see a bit of humor. "Hey kid what do you do when you are all alone in your cabin?" Kid makes pumping motion with fist. (Sorry. I had to do that.)
Mon, Aug 17, 2015, 1:43pm (UTC -5)
A disappointing episode but far from the worst; I liked Uhura's and especially Sulu's fears, even if they went on long, and the idea of the ending, that the children could only be won over by immediately contrasting the families happy and then the parents dead.

The episode probably is Shatner's worst hour.
Fri, Dec 11, 2015, 10:25am (UTC -5)
Five episodes into the third season (I'm watching TOS in production order) and so far I'm pleasantly surprised - of course I haven't seen Spock's Brain yet.

This one here didn't have the best plot, acting (Shatner was obviously just phoning in on this one) or guest stars, but it wasn't exactly bad either. I actually found a few elements here quite scary - the children's performance (especially the red-haired boy), the alien's speeches and the fact that those two redshirts were simply beamed into empty space. The resolution, though a tad too simple, was also quite moving to me. So in spite of all its flaws, I'd give this episode at least 2 stars.
Mon, Dec 14, 2015, 4:05pm (UTC -5)
Sorry, also this was funny, yes I missed Spock grip, or Kirk saying send them to the Brig or even Mccoy saying "Captain, they are all dead". Why did they not set the phaser on 1/4 stun.

Captain Kirk did save Enterprise by doing the unexpected, he did what was right. Even in the very dark situation he did not beat or hurt the children. They where innocent. He met them on their own level, treated the with respect and dignity. He destroyed the devil by showing and exposing it.

But I agree, it was, as some other plots have been, quite silly.
Wed, Jul 20, 2016, 5:48pm (UTC -5)
I would love to see a YouTube video with scenes from this episode re-edited to feature the farting Preacher as the alien.
Tarn Vedra
Thu, Oct 6, 2016, 7:30am (UTC -5)
Only positive thing about this episode is the fact that Edward J. Lakso is dead and will never make anything so horrible again.

Trek fan
Sat, Oct 15, 2016, 3:07am (UTC -5)
I really like this episode and give it 3 1/2 out of 4 starts. From the attention-grabbing cold open, the story builds into a potent examination of fear as an evil that destroys us. I appreciated the scenes of the children taking over the ship and of the crew facing its fears. And I like how the children's grief holds the key to finally defeating the Gorgon, whom I found much scarier when I was a kid. This episode is insane in g good way.

Mon, Feb 13, 2017, 4:34pm (UTC -5)
The whole episode I was screaming at the TV. Just act zombified and the second those kids look the other way hit them with a haymaker! There is a world of wiggle room between killing and knocking them the hell out! I hate this episode with a fiery passion.
Tue, Mar 7, 2017, 8:43pm (UTC -5)
Where's the kids from Miri and their bonk-bonk when you need it?

Where do you start with an episode like this? I guess with the premise itself. I suppose there could have been some promise here, but it's hard to see. Kids that seem brainwashed by an all powerful entity? Kids unable to come to terms with their parents death and their own guilt? Kirk having to protect his ship from people who are as much victims as they are aggressors? Those ideas COULD work, but it's not a slam dunk idea to begin with. So you better make sure the execution makes the relatively weak idea worthwhile. And needless to say, this episode did not do that.

When your all powerful entity that has to carry the episode is an old fat guy in a grandma dress whose voice makes Ben Stein sound animated, it's hard to take the episode seriously.

When four little kids and one annoying teenager manage to take over the Enterprise that easily, even with magic powers, it's hard to keep the willing suspension of disbelief going. Almost as bad as the Ferengi taking over in Rascals.

When that teenager has the worst fashion sense ever, it starts becoming impossible not to laugh at them.

When the solution to the crisis is just Spock and Kirk, well, coming out of it for some reason, it just makes you go "huh"? So nobody else had the willpower as these two? Nobody that evil green guy ever met before? Or is this just more of the magic Swiss Army Knife powers that Spock gets whenever the writers find themselves stuck in a corner? And frankly, seeing them with strained faces for 10 seconds and then suddenly all better is hardly an effective means of showing their inner struggle. Then again, Shatner's acting was so over the top this episode that

When the solution to the kids' lack of emotion over the death of their parents is nothing more than showing them pictures of everyone playing, it completely ruins any depth that this theme might have. By the way, what's with McCoy constantly saying that recognizing their parents' death would traumatize the kids, and then look pleased once they actually do recognize it?

In other words, a weak idea, and now terrible execution. So yeah, it's definitely among the worst.
Wed, May 31, 2017, 10:15pm (UTC -5)
This is so bad it could have been a TNG episode. Is it the worst TOS episode? Why not?
Thu, Jun 15, 2017, 10:46pm (UTC -5)
I agree this episode is really bad.

However, I don't think it is the worst Star Trek episode. To me, that dubious honor goes to The Alternative Factor (which, to my surprise, Jammer gave 2 stars), as it is the only truly boring episode of Star Trek TOS. I think the next worst are The Lights of Zetar and That Which Survives, both of which are somewhat boring.

While this episode is absurd, at least it isn't boring. A show can be good or bad (preferably good obviously), but one thing it cannot be is boring.
Fri, Jun 16, 2017, 9:53pm (UTC -5)
No question this is one of the worst TOS episodes. The premise for it is ridiculous - that some evil alien wants to use children to take over a starship and then take over some planets -- and for what purpose? It's not clear how the alien benefits, nor how the children benefit (I guess they don't have to eat veggies with dinner?)
The idea that it plays on one's individual fears might work but it definitely did not in this episode as Kirk/Spock seem to somehow snap out of it. Inconsistent and convenient to suit the poor writing.
And finally the kids snap out of Gorgon's spell by seeing the good times they had playing with their parents -- it's just an insult to the Trek fan who expects better.
Unfortunately a similar theme comes up in "The Way to Eden" except it's not children but space hippies. Too bad TOS didn't learn its lesson from this disaster.
This was a boring episode as well, which I can't say for many of the bad episodes -- I mean, how long do they have to spend showing the kids and their fist-pump inducing mental control/hallucinations in the crew? It was just stupid. The episode could have been done in 30 mins. instead of 1 hour.
I'd give "And the Children Shall Lead" a weak 0.5 stars for the first 15-20 mins. of suspense as to what caused the mass suicides and setting up a potentially decent episode -- after that the episode just fell apart as the kids/Gorgon idiocy took over.
Sat, Aug 19, 2017, 1:05pm (UTC -5)
While the episode is bad the production values
And look of the series dramatically improved in the third season expect Spock's pinwheel scanner stopped spinning after the first season and it was static in season 2 and completely off on season 3 can anyone enlighten me?
Sun, Sep 3, 2017, 5:27pm (UTC -5)
Worst episode ever for the entire Trek franchise?

Not so sure of that...

Try "Profit and Lace" or "Threshold" and maybe "Let He Who Is Without Sin" as either those eps were just as inane, or had an interesting idea but was too half-baked to begin with, unless the writers were already baked to begin with...
Sat, Oct 7, 2017, 1:06am (UTC -5)
Horrible, ridiculous episode.
Mon, May 7, 2018, 9:16pm (UTC -5)
“ATCSL”is three seconds of passable entertainment doled out in a 50-minute episode.

Whose idea was it to hire Melvin Belii when an actual actor could had enough at least tried to make the Gorgon more than a holographic stick figure? Why is Belli dressed in aluminum foil? Was Reynolds Wrap having a fire sale?

The episode has no point, no moral, no theme (not to mention no humor,no sense of pacing, and no sense of how bad it is), and the idea of Belli commanding an army of vulenerable children to do his bidding (why couldn’t he do it himself?Because it would have prevented him from double- billing?) ups the ick factor considerably

The crew’s biggest fears are revewled to be knives,swords, and getting old (the latter in Uhura’s case). What a lethally dull way to establish backstory.

Submit a comment

Notify me about new comments on this page
Hide my e-mail on my post

◄ Season Index

▲Top of Page | Menu | Copyright © 1994-2018 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication or distribution of any content is prohibited. This site is an independent publication and is not affiliated with or authorized by any entity or company referenced herein. See site policies.