Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Star Trek 3x5 "Is There In Truth No Beauty?"

rating: ****
Memory Alpha summary

A classic by any other name, "Is There In Truth No Beauty?" is in a lot of ways an inversion of the series, a beautiful woman who ends up being associated with Spock, not romantically but intellectually.

This is what most of the series strove for.  There are points in the story that are about as generic as possible, developments that occur all the time, just to provide conflict, but the overriding arc of the guest character, portrayed by Diana Muldaur in arguably her best franchise appearance, is a perfect encapsulation of what the whole season had set out as a goal, putting a strong focus on Spock as the acknowledged best character of the series.
via Trek Movie

Muldaur had previously appeared in "Return to Tomorrow" the previous season in an unrelated role, and spent the whole of Next Generation's second season as Dr. Pulaski, who might be viewed as a cynical version of the hopeful Miranda Jones.  Jones is the rare guest character who is allowed to remain strong and even heroic throughout their appearance.  She's a stark contrast to Spock, having studied on Vulcan to master her telepathic abilities, and their dynamic drives "Beauty."

The title alludes to the concept of beautiful women, certainly a running theme in the franchise, and also the alien species Jones is attempting to understand better so that they can become productive partners in the Federation, a little like Picard's experience in Next Generation's "Darmok" or Archer's in Enterprise's "A Night in Sickbay."  It's a philosophical matter in the way Star Trek has often attempted although seldom appreciated by its observers, looking beyond the surface.

It's got a a mouthful of a title, which doubtless has hindered "Beauty"'s reputation over the years, but it deserves greater recognition, and another good argument to give the whole third season another look.  Often the argument was that the series became fatally compromised in its final season, and that ending it was an act of mercy.  But in truth there is greatness to be found within it.  When they really wanted to, the creators could perform real magic.  Such as this episode.

four quarter analysis
franchise * series * essential * character

notable guest-stars:
Diana Muldaur

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