SCORE: (5/5 stars)
In the vein of so many first season episodes, the Enterprise yet again encounters a god-like being, but this one is different. He’s a being we’re familiar with. Five thousand years ago, the Mediterranean was visited by a group of interstellar travelers with technology granting them vast power. To the Greeks, it was obvious: they were gods. We know them today as Zeus, Hera, Athena… Apollo. The latter just so happens to be the last one left, and he has been waiting anxiously for humanity to reach the stars and find him again. To that end, he has reached out with a massive hand to hold the ship in place, while Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, Chekov, and one Lieutenant Carolyn Palamas are on the planet below. Communications cut off, transporters inoperable, it is up to Kirk to argue, yet again, mankind’s superiority over the gods.
Apollo’s power is very real. There are no illusions, no tricks of light and shadow. He is able to summon the elements, to create and destroy with a wave of his hand. Yet McCoy’s tricorder readings indicate he is barely different from a human. He has physicality, organs, flesh and blood. He takes a romantic interest in Lieutenant Palamas, believing her beauty to rival that of Aphrodite herself. He intends to make her his queen, and turn the crew of the Enterprise into his followers, who he will care for on the planet surface in exchange for their worship. Kirk rejects this for the ancient idea it is, telling Apollo humans have “no need for gods.” This sentiment is harmed by what I can only assume as interference from NBC or Desilu, as Kirk immediately follows it up with “We find the one quite adequate.” Roddenberry was agnostic and looked to a future free of religion. This line seems thrown in merely to appease the studios, as it flies in the face of the message of the entire episode. If we don’t need Apollo for the reasons stated, why then should we need to turn to any other god?
Apollo becomes more easily angered, lashing out at those who defy him with bolts of lightning. While Palamas initially seems like the kind of 60’s bimbo stereotype who gets seduced by the bad guy, they fortunately avert a “Space Seed” rehash as Kirk convinces her that falling for Apollo will doom the crew to slavery. With her rejection of Apollo, he grows angry and summons powerful storms. But a weakness has been found. McCoy figures that while Apollo has a unique organ in his body that allows him to harness this power, the energy source itself is external and if cut off, could rob him of his power. Not only that, but because it is an organ that he uses, massive exertions of power weaken his resolve. It is in one of these moments of weakness that Spock aboard the Enterprise is able to penetrate the energy barrier of the hand to communicate with Kirk. He’s determined that the power source lies in Apollo’s throne. Kirk orders it destroyed by phaser fire. It works, and Apollo begins to die. In his last moments, he expresses heartbreak that humanity would reject him, as he only wanted to love them and be loved in return. As he goes the way of Zeus and Hera, Kirk and McCoy reflect on what a shame it was that he had to end like this. He may not have truly been a god, but surely he helped to grow and shape ancient society, and now he is lost to us.
- Apollo is mostly using the Greek names for the gods as opposed to the Roman, but he says Hercules instead of Heracles. This seems an odd inconsistency.
- If communications between the ship and the planet were cut off the moment the landing party beamed down, how does Spock know to call the being Apollo? This is information he only revealed to the landing party.
- The phaser fire on Apollo’s throne also seems to affect the table and benches in front of it, despite them being unconnected and the floor between them being unaffected.
- McCoy: One day she’ll find the right man, off she’ll go, out of the service.
Kirk: I like to think of it not so much as losing an officer as gaining… Actually, I’m losing an officer.
- Apollo: Your fathers knew me, and your fathers’ fathers. I am Apollo!
Chekov: And I am the Tsar of all the Russias!
Kirk: Mister Chekov.
Chekov: I’m sorry, Captain. I never met a god before.
Kirk: And you haven’t yet.
- Kirk: If you want to god and call yourself Apollo, that’s your business, but you’re no god to us, mister!
- Kirk: Apollo, we’re willing to talk, but you’ll find we don’t bow to every creature who happens to have a bag of tricks.
Apollo: Agamemnon was one such as you. And Hercules. Pride and arrogance. They defied me until they felt my wrath.
Scotty: I would like to point out that we are quite capable of some wrath ourselves.
Kirk: I have four hundred and thirty people on that ship up there.
Apollo: No you do not, Captain. They are mine. To save, to cherish, or to destroy at my will.
- McCoy: Not the whole encyclopedia, Chekov.
Chekov: The captain requires complete information.
McCoy: Spock’s contaminating this boy, Jim.
- Kirk: Where’s Apollo?
Chekov: He disappeared again, like the cat in that Russian story.
Kirk: Don’t you mean the English story, the Cheshire cat?
Chekov: Cheshire? No, sir. Minsk, perhaps, but…
Kirk: Alright, alright.
- Kirk: Your tricks don’t frighten us, and neither do you. We’ve come a long way in five thousand years.
Apollo: But you’re still of the same nature. I could sweep you out of existence with a wave of my hand and bring you back again. I can give life or death. What else does mankind demand of its gods?
Kirk: Mankind has no need for gods.
- Palamas: A father doesn’t destroy his children! You said you were gentle and understanding! How can they worship you if you hurt them?
- Apollo: Caroline, I forbid you to go. I order you to stay!
Palamas: Is that the secret of your power over women? The thunderbolts you throw?
- Apollo: I would have cherised you, cared for you. I would have loved you as a father loves his children. Did I ask so much?
Kirk: We’ve outgrown you. You ask for something we can no longer give.