That Was the Equation!: TOS “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”

The Enterprise finds archaeologist Dr. Roger Korby, Nurse Christine Chapel’s fiance and missing for many years, on a remote planet where he’s discovered the remnants of a race of androids — and claims discoveries that could revolutionize human existence.

  • In the opening, it’s odd that Nurse Chapel is on the bridge – until we realize this episode’s backstory.
  • In the enhanced graphics, nice view of this ice planet
  • Two previous expeditions failed to find them, why?
  • Beam-down point: a force-field shielding a cave from the ice outside. Why bother to build a force field at a cave opening? Understandable as a point of reference, to emphasize the underground isolation of Korby’s quarters; but not plausible.
  • The first appearance of redshirts! That is, ‘security’ personnel whose story purpose is to get killed off.
  • That up and down harp theme – as of this writing, I’ve just acquired La-La Land Records’ original series soundtrack collection – an incredible collection, which I will blog about individually at some point — and will be paying closer attention to soundtrack composers and individual themes in future posts. The music in this series is one reason it’s been so enduring.
  • When we see the ‘bottomless pit’, it’s the gun on the mantelpiece—we know it’s going to be used, as indeed it is, moments later, and then again later in the show.
  • Brown seems forgetful – a nice directorial touch, given the backstory. (Because he’s an android, not a real person who’d have actual memories of Christine – Nurse Chapel.)
  • Andrea seems to be one of the earliest gratuitous sexy lady roles, in this series. Roddenberry was notorious for ‘sexing things up’ in episode after episode – one reason the first pilot, “The Cage”, was rejected.
  • Even in the enhanced graphics, the Enterprise is seen orbiting the planet in an obvious, completely implausible, arcing orbit.
  • In general, this episode is full of pulp fiction devices – the bottomless pit; the tall, crudely made-up Ruk; and the convenient yet implausible device that allows Ruk to imitate anyone else’s voice.
  • Korby reveals his discoveries gradually, worrying that his discoveries might so shock the outside world they would be rejected, without him explaining them in his own due time. He reveals that Andrea, like Brown, is an android; a computer, with no emotion.
  • And then he has Kirk duplicated – another duplicate Kirk story! [after The Enemy Within] – on a device, for no reason, that involves a spinning disk – perhaps simply for the visual effect of how the disc, spinning so fast, dissolves the differences between the two…. Anyway, it seems to be spinning so fast, surely both bodies would be stretched outwards by centrifugal force.
  • Kory claims the next step would be to completely transfer the ‘soul’ into the android duplicate – which could then be programmed for the better.
  • There are some nice split-screen scenes of the two Kirks.
  • The android Kirk goes back on the ship to get the ‘command packet’ from his quarters, a list of the next destinations of the enterprise. I don’t think we ever hear about a ‘command packet’ again in the entire series, though we do see Kirk’s security safe a couple more times (with different combinations).
  • The real Kirk confronts Ruk in what I hadn’t realized until now is the first of the series “Kirk outwits a computer” stories – he challenges Ruk about the “Old Ones” and why they built him, and why they were destroyed. Ruk has a revelation—“That was the equation! Existence! Survival must cancel out programming!” It’s a dramatic moment but the dialogue leading up to it doesn’t quite make clear what the issue is.
  • And then Kirk shoots Ruk, killing him with his phaser, in a manner in which the victim glows and vanishes. Is this the first depiction of this effect of the phaser? (The major technical issue about phasers is: how could so much mass simply disappear? Turned to energy? Where did the energy go? A blast of—no.)
  • Korby is injured and reveals himself to be an android as well.
  • And we see Andrea casually kill the duplicate Kirk, thinking it’s the real Kirk.
  • Basically all the bad guys kill each other. Roger, then Andrea, start going slightly batty, hesitating like malfunctioning computers, leading Chapel to conclude, heartbreakingly, that “it isn’t you”.
  • And so no one is left. There’s a nice line by Kirk: “ Korby… was never here.
  • But all of this is pulp fiction plotting. It conflates two issues: that android bodies might replace biological bodies, allowing humans to live indefinitely; and the idea that androids could be programmed, which really does lead to Orwellian speculation about how such programming could easily go wrong. And it sweeps all these issues away by having all the characters on the planet kill themselves by the end of the story.
  • Marc Cushman’s book mentions something I’d never noticed, when I watched the show decades ago (not then having read HPL): that the script writer, Robert Bloch, was a devotee of H.P. Lovecraft, and how this story re-imagines elements of HPL’s famous “At the Mountains of Madness”, about an ancient race who builds servants which survive them…

Blish/Lawrence adaptation, in ST11:

  • The adaptation omits one of Kirk’s first lines, to Chapel, as broadcast: “I understand you gave up a career in bio-research to sign aboard a starship.” Which sounds like a last minute addition to justify Chapel’s presence on the bridge and devotion to Korby.
  • This adaptation matches the broadcast version very closely, with only a handful of wording changes.
  • Ruk, however, is described more than once as “hairless ape-thing” and as a “Neolithic savage”, which is not how he turned out as made-up and outfitted in the broadcast show.
  • The adaptation clarifies a moment in the broadcast version I hadn’t understood—why, after the creation of the android Kirk, the real Kirk starts muttering imprecations about Spock’s half-breed interference. It’s to imprint the attitude onto the android as a potential clue.
  • The final confrontation between Ruk and Kirk is longer in the adaptation, with Kirk challenging Ruk on peace and disorder, before Ruk recalls the Old Ones; the broadcast version is tighter, with Kirk forcing Ruk to acknowledge the threat from Korby, and adds that peculiar line “that was the equation!”
  • There is more dialogue between Kirk and Korby at the end, as Kirk challenges Korby’s human response to Chapel’s suffering.
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