Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Lights Of Zetar

The last hundred survivors of the dead planet Zetar survive through sheer force of will in a non-corporeal form. They have travelled through space for over a thousand years looking for a body which they can take over and live out the remainder of their lives. In the course of their search they killed everyone on Memory Alpha; a planetoid set up by the Federation as a central library containing the total cultural history and scientific knowledge of all Federation members. The lens through which writers Jeremy Tarcher and Shari Lewis focus this story is a romance between Scotty and Lieutenant Mira Romaine a Starfleet specialist supervising the transfer of equipment to Memory Alpha.

A Scotty love story! Has no one learned anything from Who Mourns For Adonais? The answer is yes. A little. This time Scotty is at least involved in a relationship which seems mutual. Unlike the loveless relationship in Who Mourns For Adonais? where Scotty was willing to sacrifice his life for a woman who barely seemed to recognise that he existed; the height of her passion was a reluctant, "all right," when he invited her for coffee.

Apart from that there's very much the sense that The Lights Of Zetar could be Who Mourns For Adonais? with the Apollo plot taken out and the Zetar survivors plot slotted into its place. In both stories Scotty acts utterly obsessed to the extent of disobeying direct orders from Kirk. In both stories there is also the sense that someone on the production team simply looked down a list of episodes and saw there had already been a recent Kirk love story, a Spock love story, a McCoy love story, and a Chekov love story; the only two regular cast not to get a love story are Uhura and Sulu who are both rarely asked to do anything interesting. It's the generic nature of the love plot which really grates; Scotty could be Sulu or Chekov or Lieutenant Kyle. It's like the joke at the end of The Simpsons episode Das Bus where the children are marooned on an island and the narrator says “... eventually they were rescued by, oh, let's say... Moe.”

tar Trek is great at telling unique emotional stories for Kirk and Spock. The City On The Edge Of Forever couldn't be about another character falling for Edith Keeler, and there's something endearing about Kirk's reluctance to talk about Ruth in Shore Leave; as if he is embarrassed by the unexpected reappearance of this ghost from his past. Unfortunately when it comes to other characters the scripting suddenly becomes utterly interchangable. "McCoy falls in love...Chekov falls in love...Scotty falls in love." Anyone could have caught a terminal disease and fallen in love in For The World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky. Still this might simply be a reflection of how television worked at the time; maybe carefully worked out character stories were strictly for the lead actors. For all I know on Gunsmoke Chester Goode, Festus Haggen, and Doc Adams were all having interchangeable romances on a weekly basis. At the end of the episode Scotty gazes moon-eyed at Lieutenant Romaine and says, "now we have all the time in the world". We never hear about Lieutenant Romaine again.

It's frustrating that Jeremy Tarcher and Shari Lewis have foregrounded the Scotty love story. The other concepts are really interesting. There's a spiritual element to the Zetarians who drift around the universe as disembodied minds, possessing people, forcing them to speak in tongues, and giving Lieutenant Romaine the power of second sight. Their psychedelic colours and appearance in extreme close-ups of Lieutenant Romaine's eye probably springs more from Dave Bowman's trip beyond the infinite in 2001: A Space Odyssey which premièred in Los Angeles on 4th April 1968.

Memory Alpha is the Library of Alexandria for the Federation. It is destroyed because, "when the library complex was assembled, shielding was considered inappropriate to its totally academic purpose. Since the information on the Memory planet is available to everyone, special protection was deemed unnecessary. " The line is probably a quick story fix; like M-5's unexpected and never again mentioned ability to generate a force field in The Ultimate Computer. During story development someone probably wondered why everyone on the Enterprise survived their encounter with the Zetarians unlike the people on Memory Alpha. It makes the Federation seem sweetly naive, as if they never expected anyone to attack a library. The line implies that Memory Alpha has no shielding whatsoever, not even against natural radiation which is strange considering cosmic radiation was a known hazard of space travel by 1968. Apparently anyone using Memory Alpha will be sterilized whenever a nearby star coughs. There's also an odd line from Spock about the loss of Memory Alpha being "a disaster for the galaxy," and "irretrievable," because the memory core is burned out. The script seems to be suggesting that Memory Alpha holds its information in an electronic format which is not backed up. It's easy to watch The Lights Of Zetar today and assume Memory Alpha is like the internet but it's not. It's a genuine space library and Spock's line is a relic of days when information was harder to duplicate.

Enterprise crew deaths: None.

Running total: 53

No comments:

Post a Comment