Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What Are Little Girls Made Of?

Sometimes episodes just don't work. What Are Little Girls Made Of? starts well but ends a disappointing mess.

The teaser and act 1 are really very good. The Enterprise arrives at planet Exo III to find out what happened to Doctor Roger Korby's expedition, last heard from five years ago. Significantly Doctor Korby was Nurse Christine Chapel's fiancé. She gave up a research career to sign aboard a starship, hoping a deep space mission might bring her to the planet where Roger Korby went missing. When Korby makes radio contact with the Enterprise he initially wants Kirk to come down alone but extends the invitation to Chapel and the pair beam down.

Nurse Chapel is desperately in need of development. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are already well established. We've seen Uhura and Sulu off and on duty. Yeoman Rand has been important in at least two episodes (Charlie X and The Enemy Within). Scotty's had the least development but we've seen him stay focused and professional during The Enemy Within and The Naked Time, and distracted during Mudd's Women so we've got a good idea of his character. We know nothing about Nurse Chapel. She's written into The Naked Time purely to declare her love for Spock. Apart from a few shots of her passing medical instruments to McCoy we don't even get to see her unaffected by the space-drunkeness so we have no idea of what she's normally like.

The first five minutes of What Are Little Girls Made Of? do Nurse Chapel's character the world of good. While she talks to Korby two extras walk into the back of shot, listen to the conversation, and exchange a few words. Then as Christine walks off the bridge Uhura comes over and gives her a hug and a kiss. All this is done without any words but just seeing people caring about Nurse Chapel humanises her. It also gives life to the unseen Enterprise crew, we can imagine they've been gossiping about Nurse Chapel and talking about Korby's chance of survival as you'd expect from an enclosed community of 430 people.

At this point the direction is also very good. We've got the two background extras, who could have been cut to save money but weren't because they help make an important character point. Then as Kirk and Chapel beam down they appear in an icescape version of Star Trek's standard planet set. Exo III is “one hundred degree's below zero” but as the audience begin to wonder how cold Kirk and Chapel must be, Kirk turns and we see his reflection move behind him. The pair have beamed down in front of a window looking out over the icy surface. Again a tiny moment but realising Korby has sealed his caves off from the surface makes it seem more real. The cave set is also impressive. A large two level creation which allows long takes of Kirk, and Chapel exploring. Again the director and editor make good use of the set, cross fading between shots of the characters walking to give the impression of distance and passage of time.

We are introduced to Roger Korby who has found alien ruins which allow the creation of androids, and the transfer of minds into android duplicates allowing people to live forever. We are also introduced to Ruk, played by Ted Cassidy (Lurch in The Addams Family) a craggy faced android who towers over everyone and can pick Captain Kirk up and effortlessly fling him around. But, as act two begins the story grinds to a halt in a succession of boringly shot scenes which often involve little more than cutting between close-ups of people speaking. It's no surprise to find this episode went two days over schedule because the talking head shots give the impression of a director frantically trying to get material filmed as quickly and simply as possible. The episode really only comes to life again when Kirk escapes from Ruk into the cave set. A moment undermined if, like me, you have a juvenile sense of humour and notice the stalactite Kirk grabs as a weapon looks like an alarming giant rock phallus.
The ending is a mess. The script has to kill off Ruk, reveal Korby transferred himself into an android body to survive, and kill Korby, his android assistant Andrea, and a duplicate Kirk made by Korby to infiltrate the Enterprise.

Kirk talks Ruk into rebelling. Instead of an exciting fight between Korby and Ruk, Korby whips out a phaser and disintegrates him. Kirk then jumps Korby, who gets his hand stuck in a door damaging it and allowing Nurse Chapel to see the mechanism within. Meanwhile Andrea appears to have gone insane after being kissed by Kirk. She meets the duplicate Kirk, mistakes it for the real captain (apparently androids can't tell each other apart either), phasers it when it refuses to kiss her and enters the room where Korby holds Chapel and Kirk at phaserpoint. Kirk talks Korby into handing over his phaser. Andrea won't give hers up, and instead moves to kiss Korby. With the phaser between himself and Andrea, Korby grabs the trigger and fires, disintegrating them both.

You may notice Nurse Chapel does not play a great role in any of these scenes. In act three she joins Kirk for lunch and, after begging him not to force her to choose between her lover and her Captain, discovers Kirk is the android duplicate sent to test her by Korby who, despite his protestations that nothing has changed between them, no longer trusts her. This should be the point the whole episode pivots around. The moment when Chapel realises this is not the Korby she loved, and his later reveal as an android should cap this moment. Instead the lunch is used as an opportunity for debate between Kirk and Korby about the nature of humanity, and a failed escape attempt by Kirk.

This is a story about Christine Chapel meeting her fiancée, back from the dead after five years, and she doesn't need to be there. The biggest moment in her life, and she could have stayed on the Enterprise for all the effect she has on events. Even at the end as Korby points a phaser at Kirk and Chapel, and is confronted with Chapel's revulsion at what he did to himself to survive, it is Kirk who talks Korby into handing over the weapon. And Korby who takes the decision to kill himself. Ironically an episode which seemed to set out to give Nurse Christine Chapel some much needed depth reduces her to a spectator in her own life.

Enterprise crew deaths: Two. Crewmen Matthew's and Rayburn. The first time we see red-shirted security guards killed.
Running total: 19


When Kirk quizes his android double over lunch we get a mention of Kirk's brother Sam who we won't see until Operation - - Annihilate!

1 comment:

  1. For all its flaws, I will always love this episode. I think Andrea may be the most beautiful -- and sexily dressed -- girl in all of TOS.

    I can watch her story all day long.