Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Star Trek 3x14 "Whom Gods Destroy"

rating: **
Memory Alpha summary

This is the cautionary tale for Starfleet captains.  Garth was a legend who went mad, and subsequently becomes a problem for Kirk to handle.  That's the gist of "Whom Gods Destroy."
via Dude Rocket. On the plus side, Green Yvonne Craig!
Or, to put it another way, this is how Kirk could have ended up after any number of his own crazy adventures.  It's also an episode that helps foster the idea that, much as how a lot of his costars came to consider William Shatner, Kirk was basically the only game in town.  I get that the star of a show is prone to having a lot of Big Dramatic Things fall in his lap, and saving the galaxy becomes the prerequisite for a sci-fi hero, but it's easy to assume that Kirk's era is somehow completely dominated by him.  He's the only competent captain, the only get the picture.  When some other Starfleet or Federation figure comes along, it's Kirk who's got to rescue them from their foibles.

"Gods Destroy" is a quintessential third season episode.  Unlike the relative world-building of the second season or the iconic development of the first, it's a season replete with ideas that leave a considerable impression on the franchise without seeming to.  That's Garth in a nutshell.  It's not that, like Commodore Decker in "The Doomsday Machine" where he's faced with a threat that's arguably more significant than he is.  Leonard Nimoy apparently had a ton of problems with the episode, and there are endless parallels to be made with "Dagger of the Mind."  Yet "Gods Destroy" is distinctive from "Dagger" thanks to Garth.  "Dagger" has no Garth.  His presence alone makes this an episode that could have been Kirk's, or directly significant to Kirk himself, but in the end is, as I said, a story of what could have been, a worst case scenario.  

There are Andorians, Tellarites, and Orions running around.  This whole season was a last-ditch effort to remind viewers what made the series memorable in the first place.  If few people argue that it was the best season or had the best episodes, then at least it can be said that it was an effort to blend the instincts of the two preceding seasons.

The episode also features the familiar trope of someone impersonating a main character.  As usual, it's Kirk.  (It's more memorable in The Undiscovered Country.)

four quarter analysis
series * franchise * essential * character

notable guest-stars:
Yvonne Craig

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