Sunday, November 3, 2013

Day Of The Dove

Day Of The Dove is one of those episodes Star Trek occasionally produces where all the interesting stuff is going on at the edge of the story. A Private Little War's dull central idea of nice hill people vs nasty villagers is much less interesting than the motivation of Krell the Klingon. What's does he want from the planet? Is he helping build a network of satellite planets to act as a buffer zone against the Federation? Are the Klingons also excited about the, “interesting organic compounds,” McCoy has found? Is he just messing up the planet for sheer devilment? The concept of the Gorgon, and its vague resemblance to H. P. Lovecraft's ideas of ancient corrupting evil, is far more interesting than anything else to be found in And The Children Shall Lead.

Day Of The Dove
is a better episode than either A Private Little War or And The Children Shall Lead but the central message is spelled out so clearly it becomes obvious and trite. Peace is better than war. Far more interesting is the unnamed and unexplained alien.
At the start of the episode the Enterprise is investigating a distress call. One hundred men, women, and children have been wiped out by an unidentified craft. No trace of the colony, or any residue of the force used to destroy it, remains. The implication seems to be that the distress call was faked by the alien (in fact there probably wasn't even a colony) and that the alien is also playing with the perception and memories of the Enterprise crew to stop them noticing any holes in this scenario. At the same time the alien has also faked an attack on a Klingon ship. Physical damage has been inflicted on the ship and, again, the crew's perceptions altered to make them believe the Enterprise crew is to blame.

This is an astonishingly powerful alien. It can manipulate memories emotions and matter, and yet here it is setting up a fight between 38 humans and 38 Klingons to turn the Enterprise into an eternal all it can eat hate buffet. How did it end up here, in reduced circumstances, faking distress calls in some galactic backwater? It's fun to imagine what it got up to in the past. Perhaps it visited the Eminiar system to provoke the war between Eminiar VII and Vendikar. It probably fed off that conflict for years until both planets instigated the simulated war we see in
A Taste Of Armageddon, and the alien found that computer controlled wars were too emotionless for its taste.

The story isn't about the alien, it's about Kirk and the Enterprise crew and the Klingons breaking their cycle of prejudice and hatred. It's fun, and the message is meant well and delivered sincerely, but ultimately the storytelling is too convenient to make for a great episode. The all-powerful alien becomes oddly powerless at times. When Kirk, Spock, and Mara find it in the Enterprise corridors it cowers as if trapped in the corner of the ceiling although we've already seen it move effortlessly through walls. Then while the three watch it demonstrates its dependence on hostile emotions before floating away. Several times in the episode the alien provokes Enterprise crew members into mutinous rages, Chekov on the bridge when he talks about his non-existent brother Piotre and Johnson just before he is knocked out by Spock, and yet a simple command across the ship's intercom from Kirk and Klingon Commander Kang is enough for all fighting to immediately stop.

It's also difficult to square the anti-war message of Day Of The Dove with earlier episodes especially A Private Little War in which Kirk argues for war when he says, “war isn't a good life, but it's life.” A Private Little War writer Jud Crucis (actually Don Ingalls hiding behind a pseudonym) cannot be blamed for the contradictions caused by a later episode but it's a good demonstration of how little overall continuity there was between different episodes of Star Trek.

Enterprise crew deaths: None again.
Running total: 48.

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