Saturday, September 10, 2016

Star Trek 50th Anniversary Blogging: "The Infinite Vulcan"

STARDATE: 5554.4

At the periphery of the galaxy, the U.S.S. Enterprise discovers a world with an incredibly advanced city on its surface.

Soon, the landing party (consisting of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy and Mr. Sulu) encounters highly-intelligent plant beings called Phylosians.  Their leader, Agmar, cures Mr. Sulu when he is stung by a dangerous (and ambulatory) native plant.

Before long, however, the Phylosians capture Mr. Spock and take him to their “master,” a giant humanoid named Dr. Stavos Keniclus 5. Keniclus is the clone of a scientist who lived during the time of the Eugenics Wars, and is presumed to have died some 250 years earlier.

Now, Keniclus desires to build a giant clone of Mr. Spock who can police the galaxy as a kind of genetically perfect law enforcement official.  He believes that this army of giant Spocks will represent a new “master race.”

But the creation of a giant Spock clone will bring death to the original…

Walter Koenig contributes the script to this week’s adventure on Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973 – 1974) and no one can accuse the man -- Mr. Chekov -- of not knowing his Star Trek lore.  

This episode features call backs to “Space Seed,” with the Augment nature of the villain from Earth’s past, as well as to “Is There in Truth No Beauty,” the episode that introduced the Vulcan IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations). 

The episode also remembers Mr. Sulu’s love of botany, and gives the Japanese helmsman more to do than simply sit at the helm and press buttons.

And, the resolution to the crisis involves a well-established Star Trek concept: the Vulcan mind-touch (or mind-meld), but this time applied by Spock's clone.  

Despite these terrific Star Trek details, “The Infinite Vulcan” is not one of the more highly-regarded episodes of the program, and that may be because of two prime factors. 

The first is that there is no reason why an army of Spock clones needs to be twenty-five feet tall.  How will they board spaceships, for one thing?   It’s a very juvenile concept: a “giant” version of Mr. Spock.  And Star Trek: The Animated Series was already battling the perception that it was made primarily for children, so this doesn’t help.

Secondly, “The Infinite Vulcan” never explains why, precisely, Dr. Keniclus considers Mr. Spock genetically perfect, and therefore superior to a man that he could create, using genetic engineering.
Come to think of it, Keniclus doesn’t even create or engineer any life at all in this episode.  He merely clones it and renders it gigantic. 

Furthermore, Spock is a mix of human and Vulcan DNA, but “The Infinite Vulcan” doesn’t explain why this genetic make-up is desirable or perfect.  What makes him ideal compared to Khan?  Is it his application of logic to every situation?  If so, that’s a learned behavior, not a genetic trait.

In other words, it feels totally random or arbitrary that Keniclus would capture Spock and determine him “perfect,” especially by his 21st century human standards.

These not inconsiderable problems of believability make “The Infinite Vulcan” less enjoyable, perhaps, than it could be. 

Yet the episode’s denouement -- which sees Keniclus re-directing his energy to saving the peaceful, intelligent and highly-advanced Phylosian race -- is absolutely Star Trek at its best.  The Enterprise doesn’t punish or kill Keniclus for his hostile actions. 

Instead, he is given a second chance, and therefore the opportunity for redemption…

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