The Galileo Seven – Episode 17

This week, Rachel and Chris see what happens when giant cavemen attack and Spock is in charge on  The Galileo Seven.

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12 thoughts on “The Galileo Seven – Episode 17”

  1. Hi Rachel and Chris,

    Unfortunately my schedule prevented me from being able to comment in a timely manner on “Balance of Terror” and the “Zanti Misfits”, but one of the comments I would have made regarding “Balance of Terror” also applies to this episode.

    When imagining what Rachel’s reaction would be to both of these classic ST episodes, I somehow imagined that she would like them more than some of the others. I guess this is because I saw them as more driven by character, suspense and drama, than by sci-fi concepts.

    As it turns out I was dead wrong. Rachel wasn’t too crazy about either episode. So for interest’s sake, I wouldn’t mind finding out just a bit what she does like. We know from the base concept of the show that it wasn’t sci-fi stuff, so what genres or types of stories turn her dials to 11? Growing up, I watched The Munsters, The Addams Family, Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, etc., and every sci-fi, fantasy and monster movie I could find. What did you watch, Rachel?

    You both were pretty tough on this episode, but it has always been one of my favorites. I guess part of the reason for that is that it actually stepped outside the routine, human-like aliens featured in most of the shows and tried to carry off something more exotic and cool. I think the idea of them crash-landing on a planet full of giant, hairy cave people is actually pretty great. Also has good conflict, a ticking clock, etc.

    You slam the effects on this episode pretty hard, but I think you both might just be a bit too spoiled by modern shows and effects. I have been watching effects-driven media since the 60’s and in my opinion what was done on this show was pretty effective for the time and budget. They mostly suggested the giant creatures, rather than trying to show them. You criticized the episode for this, but you know that the more they showed, the more stupid it would have become.

    Star Trek TOS was produced in the late 60’s and on a relatively limited budget, so there was only so much that they could do. I’d like to point out that even though Star Trek the Next Generation premiered 20 years later, it sill had it’s share of cheesy fake rocks and laughable effects, most particularly in the earlier episodes.

    Neither of you felt the primary conflict, the crew vs. Spock and emotions vs. logic, was… well not very logical. Frankly, I think Chris was primarily offended by the episode because it made Spock look wrong and fallible, and like me when I was young, he has a man-crush on Spock.

    I can relate. I liked Spock so much that I can remember a time when, as a kid about to start playing “Star Trek” with a small group of friends and family members, I called out, “I’m Spock, but Captain Kirk is dead, so I’m the Captain.” Obviously I wanted it all.

    I crush more on Kirk now, BTW.

    Chris particularly seemed to feel that Spock should be able to logically figure out how to deal with the emotions of others, and while that may or may not be true, I’d like to point out that from a story/conflict point of view it is better that he not have it quite figured out yet. He did grow up on Vulcan, not Earth and didn’t live among humans (apart from his mother) until he went to Star Fleet Academy, so maybe he’s still getting used to human behavior? Maybe as a half-human who always felt he had something to prove to the completely logical Vulcans around him, he is over compensating by trying to *too* logical?

    I think the concepts presented in this episode can be separated into two categories. The first was summed up by Chris in an old H.P. Podcraft episode, one covering the round-robin story “The Challenge from Beyond.” Speaking of the way that Robert E. Howard was writing his section of the story, Chris suggested that the point was that, “Humans are the Best.”

    American popular media at the time tended to be pretty self-congratulatory, and Star Trek in particular frequently put forward the idea that, while a bit flawed, humans are still the best. So the ending in which Spock had to do something “human” to win out in this situation falls right in line with that idea.

    The other concept, also explored other episodes, is the question of what aspects of us make us “good” people, good leaders, etc. An earlier episode explored the dynamic between the “good” and “bad” sides of us. This one was meant to do the same with the “logical” and “emotional” sides of us, with Spock obvious representing the logical side.

    Chris might think the logical side would win, and I admit that I often feel that way myself, but if you look at the situation more closely one can’t be too sure. Spock is presented in this episode as lacking empathy with the other crew members, not truly understanding either the stress they are under, or appreciating their reactions to the deaths of their crew-mates.

    Now, maybe he could, and should, have already figured out now to fake caring about people in the same way Dexter does on the show of the same name, but if you really look at the closest real-world equivalents to people without emotion, or empathy, what you end up with are psychopaths and sociopaths, and Dexter aside, these people rarely have a positive effect on either the world or the people around them.

    Not long ago, I read a book written by an MRI researcher who studied psychopaths and their brains. One of their key traits is a lack of empathy, an inability to relate to the feelings of others. Even more recently, there was a review in “New Scientist” of a book by a researcher studying both extremes of the human equation, psychopaths, and overly emotional and empathetic people, which the book termed “Extreme Altruists.” (personally, I think this is misnomer because it implies their effect on others is always good, which I don’t believe, but that is another conversation)

    In a quote from the book, a psychopath, presented with pictures of faces showing fear and asked to name the emotion said, “I don’t know what that expression is, but it’s what people look like right before I stab them.” Even psychopaths that aren’t stabbing people tend to be unreliable and untrustworthy.

    Given all that, I think it is worth a look at the question of whether someone completely emotionless would make the same sort of decisions as someone with emotion. Yes Chris, I know that deep-down Spock does have emotions, and also that someone with the discipline and mental training Vulcans are supposed to have would probably do better than your run of the mill psychopath, but I still say, “good job, writers of that episode.”

    1. You may be right about the ‘less is more’ with the giants, Clyde – there are actually unused shots of the giants face-on. To put it tactfully, they have a face only their mothers could love. I’ll put a picture up on the Patreon page.

      1. Thanks for posting the image, Rafe. As a long time Trek fan, I’ve probably seen it before, but had long forgotten it. It shows, both that they did make an attempt to show more, and that they must have decided themselves that showing much of it would be stupid.

        I’m guessing the screen test didn’t go that well.

  2. So much to say about this one, which I wanted to like more than I did.
    First, the Navy view: Where are the enlisted people (lower ratings who actually do the technical work)? Six officers and a YEOMAN? Yeomen are administrative clerks, who do paperwork and keep records….not people you send on survey missions. Guess she was the required “damsel in distress”. And these lieutenants seem to be utterly untrained, panicky and highly insubordinate. I agree that Boma would be demoted at a minimum for his attitude. And Roddenberry was in the military! He should have known better.

    Second, I disagree that the Commissioner is in the wrong. He may not be warm and fuzzy, but he’s in charge of stopping a plague! That should take precedence over stopping to check out a phenomena which is presumably still going to be there on the way back. Safety margins are important, especially when many lives are at stake. Kirk’s decision nearly kills the whole away team. Had the phenomenon unexpectedly crippled the Enterprise as it did the shuttle, the history books would talk about “the Kirk Disaster” that wiped out a colony. As Chris said, the tension would have been higher had he been sympathetic…but then we would have seen Kirk’s taking chances with other people’s lives more clearly.
    Third, I agree totally with Chris about Spock’s interactions with non-Vulcans. Has he had NO command psychology training at all? How did he function in Starfleet well enough to become an officer?
    Fourth, the laugh riot at the end must make the crew feel just great…their commander had to be pressured into allowing a funeral for Gaetano and Latimer, they had to abandon their bodies on the planet, but the command crew just sees it as an opportunity to give Spock the business and laugh. Maybe now I’m seeing Boma’s insubordination a bit more sympathetically….Gaetano may not be the first friend he’s lost to questionable decisions by Commander Logic, only to have the command crew laugh it off. But like Chris, I blame it on the writers! Spock is better than this. They overdid the “logic vs emotion” angle. Fortunately this will be the last time they overdo anything in order to beat the message into our heads, right?
    You know you’re a real Trek fan when you can see all these problems and still love the show.

    Last thing: As I speak Japanese, it was jarring for me to see the Murasaki Phenomenon. “Murasaki” is the Japanese word for “purple”, but it was green! Bet George Takei noticed that, too.

  3. My take on the seatbelt thing is that apparently the ships in Star Trek have Inertial Dampers or Inertial Compensators, doing away with the need for seatbelts – but in a combat situation they can quickly get overwhelmed and cut-out, thus everyone gets flung about as we have seen

  4. RE: ShuttleCraft restraint systems–

    Dear Customer,
    The YoyoDyne Heavy Industries model 2262 Trans-Orbital Atmospheric ShuttleCraft is the premier small transport spacecraft carried by all Federation Starships and Starfleet Deep-Space Stations throughout Federation Space. It uses state of the art technology, unmatched manufacturing standards, and the highest quality materials available anywhere. It’s safety record is unmatched. The inclusion of safety restraints would be a source of unnecessary doubt and anxiety for crew and passengers.
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    V.P. Sales
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  5. The Murasaki phenomenon was named after it’s discoverer, Blanche “LaRoux” Murasaki.

    Galactic mega black holes are no longer referred to as Quasars. That term is now used to describe certain poorly understood energetic nebulae as described by noted astronomer Doctor Chuck Quasar.

  6. Great show as always!

    I’ve been convinced for a long time that this episode was about Vietnam. I found zero direct evidence for this when I googled, so now I’m less certain. But the time fits (1967) and most importantly a lot of the artistically questionable stuff makes more sense if this is a heavy handed parable on the stupidity of the ‘best and brightest’ when they get out in the real world.

    The bit that nailed this for me was from an excerpt you played, Spock believing that they could just show they had superior power and then the natives would back down. This was literally advice that McNamara got from game theory expert and Nobel Prize winning economist Thomas Schelling; it led to the idea that slowly escalating bombing would make the North and the Vietcong change their behavior. It was a disaster.

    If it’s not a metaphor I think Spock being not just wrong but *clueless* rings really false character wise. As does the Bones lecture that Spock always wanted a chance to try his ‘logical’ approach in command–has Spock ever seemed ambitious in that way? I think it also explains the arrogant commissioner you complained about, representing the Vietnam era style of mistrust of government bureaucrats instead of a dramatically compelling approach.

    Like I said, I found zero hits online discussing this, which really surprised me, and now I need wonder if I’m seeing stuff that wasn’t there. I will say seeing it my way does make the “concept” part of the episode more interesting to me, but god otherwise this was a stinker.

    In my search I did find that the writer had an interesting story, having been blacklisted during the McCarthy era and managing to get back in the business when it was over. He then lobbied to get the anti-communist oath removed from writers’ guild rules

    1. An incisive observation. Spock is definitely engaged in assymetric warfare and losing, and failing to adapt. Someone put “Sun Tsu” on his reading list. It’s a dull episode. It’s a bore watching people make bad desisions just to cause tension and conflict.
      The star of the episode is the Shuttlecraft prop. It’s a VW Bus! Road trip! Break out the beer and chips. Turn up the stereo and rock out while the ogres beat on the indestructable tritanium hull.

      Anybody else have a hard time accepting that you can power a spacecraft with a few side arms?
      “We’re outa’ gas, hand me your glocks.” ???
      Wow. Phasers can do anything. Power you up to orbit AND make coffee!

      1. And the studio didn’t even pay for the shuttle! This episode got stuck at the script stage initially due to the incredibly expensive and time-consuming prospect of building the shuttle set. Fortuitously, AMT, a model kit manufacturer, knocked on the door at that time asking for a license to make Starship Enterprise model kits. As part of the deal, Desilu made them agree to build two shuttle sets (one for interior and one for exterior shots) and a model shuttle for effects shots, for free.

  7. When Kirk and Ferris started passive-aggressively quoting obscure Starfleet orders and rules at one another, I started wondering whether they were both just making them up to get their own way, and how that might escalate:

    FERRIS: I remind you, Captain, I’m entirely opposed to this delay.
    KIRK: And may I remind you that I have standing orders to investigate all quasars and quasar-like phenomena wherever they may be encountered. Besides, it’s three days to Makus. And the rendezvous doesn’t take place for five.
    FERRIS: Very well, Captain, but not one second beyond that moment. Is that clear? If it isn’t, I suggest you look at book nineteen, section four thirty three, paragraph twelve.
    KIRK: I’m familiar with the regulations, Commissioner. May I direct you to Starfleet Directive Seventy Three, that states anyone who does not exit a turbolift within ten seconds is impeding starship operations and can be confined to quarters?
    FERRIS: Oh yeah? Well… well… then you should refer to book ten, section sixty five, paragraph four, subsection three, that states all starships should keep a distance of at least five million kilometer from your mother to avoid being captured by the gravitational pull of her huge ass.
    KIRK: How dare you, Sir! That is obviously superceded by Starfleet General Order Six, which states that yo mamma so fat, I tried to fly around her and ran out of dilithium crystals.

  8. As, apparently, one of the few defenders of this episode, and the guy who above compared Spock’s lack of emotion with that of psychopaths, I’d like to point out that although Spock’s lack of emotional empathy, both with the crew and with the planet’s creatures is highlighted and exaggerated, on many points, he isn’t actually wrong.

    A. He is more qualified to pick who should go and who should stay than a random drawing of lots. And we all know he would be the first to stay to save the others.

    B. It is the right decision to try to scare the creatures to try to avoid having to kill them. They shouldn’t be setting down on alien worlds and killing the indigenous beings or any living thing, except in the most extreme need.

    C. It is stupid to try to have a burial service outside the shuttle on a planet filled with massive, aggressive anthropoids armed with giant rubber spears and huge fake rocks.

    D. Spock couldn’t be expected to accurately predict how these creatures, which they had never encountered before, would react. A brother needs some data to be able to make predictions.

    Add to that the fact that he made the right call on leaving them weaponless in order to power the ship and made the decision in the end that saved them, when everyone else was yelling, “Hey what are you doing?,” and I think he did pretty well in the end.

    BTW, in a comment on “The Conscience of the King,” I mentioned that, judging by many Star Trek episodes, all higher-ups in Star Fleet were either asses, insane or clueless incompetents. The commissioner in this episodes falls into the “asses” category, though as Theron points out, he isn’t actually wrong.

    Star Trek is an interesting show, partially because it wants to be hip and rebellious, even though the main characters are representatives of a more or less military style establishment. One way it handles this is by constantly putting Kirk head to head with higher authorities who just don’t get it, forcing Kirk, who of course does get it, to go against orders many times over the course of the series and making bad guys of those authorities. Kirk’s decision near the end of this episode to “follow” the Commissioner’s order by leaving for the colony at “space normal speed,” is a great example of this.

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