Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Charlie X: TOS Season 1 Episode 2

Plot synopsis:

The episode starts with the enterprise bringing aboard a child (Charlie) from another ship, the Antares. Apparently they found him alone on a planet. 14 years ago there was a crash and he was the only survivor, he was 3 years old at the time. Obviously this means that he will be socially a little bit off, since he grew up alone. Two members of the crew from the Antares beam over with Charlie and talk with Kirk in the transporter room before they leave in somewhat of a hurry. It seems like they are going to tell Kirk something about Charlie, but he uses his mysterious power and they just say how great he is or something like that. 

At one point Charlie interrupts the conversation of the others and Kirk tells him that it is not the way people act. Kirk wasn't mean to the kid, but he does make it clear he doesn't take shit from anyone. Kirk asks Yeoman Janice to take him to his quarters and he asks if she is a woman. This is the second episode in a row where she had to deal with a creepy guy, I think that might be her purpose in this show.

We later see Charlie getting checked out by Dr. McCoy, he is in good health. He then tells the doctor that he  wants people to like him. I'm sure anyone who can remember being 17 can relate. The then runs into Janice in the hall and has a short conversation with her, as he walks away he slaps her on the ass. Anyone who can remember being a 17 year old boy can certainly understand the impulse.

There is an argument between Spock and McCoy as to whether it was possible that Charlie was really all alone on the planet. Spock doesn't think it was possible, as the ships stores of food would have ran out after a year or so, McCoy says he could have started eating food from the planet but Spock doesn't think that seems likely. 

The next scene was great, it was in a mess hall or cafeteria or something. Spock was playing some type of futuristic stringed instrument, my guess is it is a take on a lute. Anyway, he's playing and Uhura starts singing along with him. It was a fun little scene, and everyone was enjoying the music. But then Charlie came into the room and tried to talk to Janice, she nodded at him but then motioned for him to be quiet and enjoy the music. He then used his power to break the instrument and mess up Uhura's voice, he then got Janice's attention and showed her some pretty impressive card tricks. Like, turning an ace into a picture of Janice.

In the next scene we see Kirk talking to the ships cook telling him that for thanksgiving the crew would eat meatloaf, but it better taste like turkey. I found this scene hilarious, partly because I just love the idea of passing meatloaf off as turkey, and partly because it is amusing to think the captain of the ship would be dealing with this. It is also interesting that they celebrate thanksgiving, apparently the united federation of planets is american (not that they've mentioned the federation yet, for all I know in Gene Roddenberry's head at this point the ship is an american ship, although I'd guess he just didn't think about this point much if at all). Charlie overheard this conversation, and later we find out that the meatloaf that got put into the ovens actually turned into turkeys.

From there Charlie follows Kirk onto the bridge where they are having trouble contacting the Antares, Charlie seems to know something is wrong with the ship before anyone else, we find out later that he actually caused the ship to blow up, of course he claims it would have happened anyway. He never seemed concerned that he had killed 20 people, just that those people had made him feel bad. Teenagers with super powers is a really bad idea.

After that Charlie has a few more failed social interactions. He loses to 3D chess with Spock, after which Spock leaves and Charlie melts his pieces. Janice tries to introduce him to someone his age but he's not interested. Then he tries to learn to fight from Kirk but expects to be perfect the first time out and of course that doesn't go well. Another guy in the rec room laughs at him and his makes him disappear, the extent of his powers are now evident and the fun and games are over. Kirk calls in security and Charlie makes their phaser disappear, we later learn that all phasers on the whole ship are gone. 

Kirk tells him to go to his quarters, but he doesn't listen and pretty much has control of the whole ship. He goes to Janice's quarters and gives her a flower, she's not interested and he gets upset and makes her disappear. He roams the ship a bit getting into some more mischief, for instance, making some poor girl's face disappear.

We cut to the bridge, Kirk notices that no one has disappeared since the kid has taken over the ship (he either didn't know about Janice, or I got the order of things slightly wrong). Kirk decides that they will overwhelm him by turning on everything on the ship "every light". I found this absolutely hilarious, as if the displays are what matter, presumably all of these functions on the ship still need to be going on in the background whether there is a display on the bridge or not. Anyway, Charlie comes on the bridge and McCoy and Spock turn on all the displays. It seemed to be working that he was overwhelmed, but it didn't matter, a Thasian ship showed up. They are energy being who had taken care of Charlie as a kid, they gave him powers so that he could survive. Kirk tries to say they could teach him to not use his powers, but they said it was impossible for him to not use his powers (ask Riker about that) and want to take him back. Charlie complains as they are immaterial and he can't feel them like he can feel people on the Enterprise, but he is ultimately taken by the Thasians and all of their people who were disappeared were given back. It actually wound up being a fairly sad ending, Charlie got totally screwed.


Yeoman Janice: So far she seems to be a lightning rod of sorts for creepy guys. I wonder how long she'll be part of the show, I don't remember ever seeing her in the movies.

Kirk: We see that he cares greatly for people, but he also runs a tight ship and won't take crap from anyone.

Spock: We see Spock playing his lute-like instrument, which is cool. My mental picture of his is the epitome of cold hard logic, but he is clearly having fun here. He is also very involved in solving mysteries of the ship.

Dr. McCoy: He seems to be around more than I would expect. I would think the doctor would be in sickbay more often, but he seems to be on the bridge a lot, for example the discussion with Spock over whether Charlie was really alone on the planet. Nothing wrong with this, just surprised be a bit.



I had a lot of trouble rating this one. There were certainly some enjoyable moments. And I feel like I'm getting to know the bridge crew a bit which is great. On the other hand, Charlie's powers and the story line around him was a bit goofy. I certainly felt sorry for him, he had to deal with the terribleness of being a teenager pushed to the extreme. It would have been nice if there was some payoff at the end, maybe the Thasians could have taken his powers away and he could go on to starbase to try to live a normal life, him just being taken away was a pretty big bummer. I think that is what made me decide between a 6 and a 7.

Please feel free to tell me what rating you would have given this episode in the comments


  1. I was never wild about "Charlie X" as an episode, but looking back on it, it has at least one virtue. It really tries to portray some of the angst and turmoil that goes on inside many teens, turmoil which back in the 60s may not have gotten the airplay that it gets today. Then it projects onto that the horrifying pipe-dream of having the power to act against those adolescent frustrations with near-absolute power. In this regard, Charlie very much resembles Gary Mitchell of "Where No Man Has Gone Before," once again, absolute power corrupting absolutely until the Thasians come to retrieve him.

    On a lighter note, the interplay in the recreation room was very interesting. First of all, Nichelle Nichols has PIPES ... and pretty clearly knows how to use them. While we don't really see this again, her song teasing Spock is an interesting fillip. Spock doesn't mind her words and indeed, he has no problem in playing along. As he will say a long time after this, "I have no ego to bruise."

    1. That's a really good point, I certainly know it would have been bad news if I had that kind of power when I was that age. I like to think if I got it now I wouldn't go the way of Mitchell, but who knows.

      Agreed about Nichols, that scene was great