Everyone’s favorite Star Trek reviewer, Willow Yang, reports back to the Post-Geek Singularity with her savage take-down of the original series episode: SPOCK’S BRAIN.
I wasn’t initially going to write this, but you’ve asked for it, so here it is: my take on Spock’s Brain. Honestly, what can I say about the episode that hasn’t already been said? When I was a kid, I used to watch Pinky and the Brain on Nickelodeon. Unfortunately, back then, my English was still quite poor and I wasn’t able to understand much of the story itself. I did, however, remember the song in the intro where they’d repeatedly chant “brain, brain, brain, brain, brain”. I had that refrain playing in my head as I watched the infamous season 3 premiere of The Original Series. Just how many times did they say “brain” in the episode? I counted 37.
I have tried rationalising why I’m able to overlook certain absurdities over others. The notion of someone having their brain stolen really isn’t all THAT out of the realm of scientific possibility; brain transplants are currently being researched and developed, and may very well become a viable procedure within our lifetime. I think the main issue I have with Spock’s Brain isn’t so much the premise, but the approach that was taken towards it. I just found it to be very lowbrow and juvenile; it really felt like the plot to a kid’s cartoon, but punched up with pseudoscience to make it remotely passable as adult science fiction. Compound that with some hilariously awful dialogue, cheesy costumes, and campy acting, and we’re left with the monstrosity that we got.
Now, I will give credit where credit is due: Spock’s Brain does have a couple of decent moments. One scene that I appreciated was when the crew were trying to deduce the planet in the Sigma Draconis system that was most likely to contain the alien life forms that have made off Spock’s brain. I thought the scene did an effective job of conveying the tension and stakes that were involved, with Kirk being burdened with the responsibility of making a call that might forever haunt him. I also liked the moment when the landing party beamed down onto planet six, and Kirk instinctively called Scotty “Spock” before realizing that his first officer was no longer with him. That subtle gesture was effectively poignant, and spoke volumes of their relationship.
Unfortunately, subtly was discarded for the remainder of the episode, which quickly devolved into laughable absurdity. My absolute favourite scene happened early on in sickbay, when Kirk discovered that McCoy had put Spock on life-support. “Come on, Bones,” demanded Kirk, when McCoy beat about the bush in telling him what was wrong with Spock. “What’s the mystery?” “His brain is gone,” replied McCoy in a horrified whisper, and right on cue, ominous music played. I couldn’t stop laughing. There was just an incongruity between the serious faces of the actors and the preposterous words that were coming out of their mouths that made the scene incredibly hilarious. I have to applaud Shatner and DeForest Kelley for being able to keep a straight face as they uttered their lines.
Sadly, nothing in the remainder of the episode is able to quite top the (unintentional) comedic genius of the aforementioned scene, although there are more than a few memorable gems. The crew encounters a group of primitive cavemen on Sigma Draconis VI, the Morgs, who wear clean, cloth shirts underneath their furs, and who apparently don’t know what females are. Instead, they make reference to “the Others”, whom they so eloquently call “the givers of pain and delight”. To be fair, that actually sounds like an accurate description that men have of women. Kirk decides to have McCoy beam down onto the planet with them…only to have McCoy bring a zombified, remote-controlled Spock with him. So, I guess he doesn’t need to be on life support anymore? The landing party eventually comes across a cave that leads them underground, where they finally encounter those mysterious “givers of pain and delight”, also known as the “Eymorgs”, a group of women who dress themselves in tacky neon Barbie outfits, and who apparently have the IQs of plastic dolls to boot. When Kirk and his crew presses them on over the whereabouts of Spock’s brain, the Eymorg leader, Kara, responds perfectly with an irritated: “Brain and brain. What is brain?” And just when I thought the script has hit rock bottom, Kirk raises his hands dramatically in the air. “Great leader!” he exclaims, falling on his knees before Kara. “We come from a far place to learn from your Controller.” Again, I have to commend the actors for not bursting into laughter; I certainly couldn’t control myself.
I won’t even try analysing the Eymorgs’ nonsensical ploy of having Spock’s disembodied brain serve as the controller for their underground facilities. It makes about as much sense as why a highly advanced civilization (although ion propulsion isn’t really all that impressive and has existed in our world since the 60’s) would opt to gender segregate themselves in the event of an ice age instead of, I don’t know, move to one of the neighbouring planets, or how Spock’s medulla-less body can survive without any apparent life support, or when Spock has suddenly become an expert neurosurgeon. For a Star Trek episode, Spock’s Brain can probably be best described as an epic failure. However, there is certainly something to be said for its remarkable, albeit unintentional, comedy. While the episode might be regarded as an embarrassment to some Star Trek fans, I have to applaud it for the joy that it has brought me. Spock’s Brain made me laugh, and even though it might have been for all the wrong reasons, I don’t consider that to be a bad thing.