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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Star Trek: Season 1, Episode 9. "Dagger of the Mind"

The Enterprise beams down goods to Tantalus V, a planet penal colony with unorthodox methods of healing its prisoners. A prisoner escapes, threatens violence to the Enterprise crew. It turns out that the prisoner was the assistant, a former psychiatrist himself, Simon Van Gelder.
Analysis with spoilers:
Kirk goes down with Dr. Helen Noel. Kirk investigates, but Noel balks. They try out the neural neutralizer for themselves and find out Kirk can be made hungry for food and Noel. Then Dr. Adams appears and.

The attempt at romance between the attractive couple was nice as was the profound ending, but this one had problems. Of the episodes thus far, this one stretches incredulity. Really, you don't inspect goods from a penal colony? No one comes to pick it up? How did they get so far away before they realized Van Gelder had escaped?

Kirk seems to have had a Christmas fling with Dr. Helen Noel, where she wanted more than he did--an assumption from her continued interest and Kirk's reluctance to have her along. Also, from Noel's described how they danced and Kirk speaking of the stars, but she tries to invest more in the scene. This leads to the "accidental" embrace in the elevator. Yet they keep holding on to one another, which negates Kirk's earlier supposed reluctance.

Moreover, on the ship, Kirk is sold on Dr. Tristan Adams due to his renown, but as soon as he begins investigation, he's dubious and Dr. Helen Noel is the accepting one. In fact, she backs up Adams with the quote below, something I suspect would be suspect if not controversial to anyone working in a psychoanalytic capacity. Really? Deleting or changing memories is that well accepted?

How did Simon Van Gelder and Tristan Adams get in this fix, anyway? I mean the true story.

Who would use a device that made a sane man insane? Captain Kirk apparently. Hey, let's see if I go insane, too!  Why does Adams suddenly turn on Kirk instead of letting him think it's harmless?

This is minor--rather humorous actually--but Kirk cannot open a screen and needs Noel's help. Later, Noel opens a screen with ease. This brings up a question of why no one on the colony has never tried to escape through the ducts before.

Now for my favorite part: the ending. When Dr. Tristan Adams eats his just desserts, the power comes back on, and the neural neutralizer empties his mind with no one to fill it, he dies of loneliness. Therefore, emptiness = loneliness, and loneliness = death. There's an unusually long silence at the end, a silent note held for longer than normal on TV, and it's eerily effective. However, Kirk breaks it with a smile, for some reason.

The episode alludes to Tantalus, a man punished for cooking his son for the gods with eternal dissatisfaction of desires--water recedes as he bends drink, branches laden with fruit always stay just out of reach. Perhaps Dr. Tristan Adams is Tantalus for having destroyed his assistant although the metaphor doesn't fit well as their punishments are different.

Likewise, the name Tristan does not appear to allude to Tristan the lover. Finally, the title comes from MacBeth (see quote below), the titular character of which appears delusional, sees a dagger, and decides quick action is needed.

  • "A shifting of memory patterns is basic psychotherapy." -- Dr. Helen Noel
  • Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? Or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressèd brain?
I see thee yet, in form as palpable
As this which now I draw.
Thou marshall’st me the way that I was going,
And such an instrument I was to use.
Mine eyes are made the fools o' th' other senses,
Or else worth all the rest. I see thee still,
And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood,
Which was not so before. There’s no such thing.
It is the bloody business which informs
Thus to mine eyes. Now o'er the one half-world
Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse
The curtained sleep. Witchcraft celebrates
Pale Hecate’s offerings, and withered murder,
Alarumed by his sentinel, the wolf,
Whose howl’s his watch, thus with his stealthy pace,
With Tarquin’s ravishing strides, towards his design
Moves like a ghost. Thou sure and firm-set earth,
Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear
Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,
And take the present horror from the time,
Which now suits with it. Whiles I threat, he lives.
Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.
--MacBeth Act 2 scene 1, Shakespeare
                                                        S. Bar-David or Shimon Wincelberg.
                                                        1. First use of Vulcan mind-meld psychotherapy 
                                                        2. You cannot use communicators or beam anything while shields are raised.

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