Correct and Logical Decisions: TOS “The Galileo Seven”

The shuttlecraft Galileo, commanded by Spock, crash-lands on a planet in the midst of a quasar-like phenomenon, where the crew fends off hostile aliens as Kirk on the Enterprise is forced to abandon its search for them.


  • This has never been a favorite episode. It focuses on Spock and his reliance on ‘logic’ to the point of caricature, and ends with a plot development that undercuts that logic in favor of impulsive human emotions, thus undermining the character (in a way no story would dare undermine Kirk’s steely command resolve).
  • At the same time, I have a new appreciation for one aspect of this episode – the shuttlecraft. The background given in Marc Cushman’s book indicates that the producers waited until mid-season, when NBC would or would not pick up the show for a full season run, to greenlight this episode—because of the expense of building the shuttlecraft full-size mockup, exterior and interior. But once NBC gave them the go and the producers went forward, the model kit company AMT volunteered to build the shuttle mock-up for free – provided they got licensing rights for the Enterprise plastic model kit. Which they did, and which they got. (As an aside, at around this time in my life, I was very much into building model cars, and favored those by AMT.)
  • The enhanced effects in the remastered episode shows a fairly plausible “quasar-like phenomenon” for what is named here as Murasaki 312, at least compared what’s depicted in the Wikipedia entry:
  • One might wonder why Scott, chief engineer, and McCoy, chief medical officer, are doing on a mission to explore this astrophysical phenomenon. Because they are regular cast, presumably. (And to accentuate the logic v. emotion debate as one between Spock and McCoy.)
  • Trek physics: Spock orders a crewman to “stop forward momentum” and the crewman tries to do this by punching a button. (Not by, e.g., firing thrusters in a forward direction, or somesuch.)
  • The quasar-like phenomenon is described as encompassing four star systems, one of which has a habitable planet, named Taurus II. An odd name, to be named after an Earth constellation, in a previously unexplored phenomenon.
  • The plot bears some ironic comparison to “The Enemy Within”, an earlier episode that did not recognize the existence of the shuttlecraft. Here, the transporters aren’t working because nothing works within this “electromagnetic phenomenon,” – until they do, at the end of the story, just in time.
  • The enhanced effects show a cool flight deck, but are not very convincing in showing the launch of the shuttlecraft. Shouldn’t it push out on some kind of thrust, or be dragged outward by a towhook under the deck (as on an aircraft carrier), rather than be obviously picked up by strings?
  • Trek engineering: replace lost shuttlecraft fuel by downloading energy from the phasers? Really?
  • I won’t belabor the many exchanges between Spock and the crewmen about his strategy for repairing the shuttle or dealing with the hostile aliens, about Spock’s “logical” approach versus the others’ gut reactions. But they never ring true, in the context of the entire series. For one, the other crewmen – Boma, Latimer, and Gaetano especially, since Yeoman Mears doesn’t say much and McCoy and Scott are privileged – really do border upon insubordination in their reactions to Spock’s orders. And Spock seems genuinely astonished when he reflects and says, “Step by step, I’ve made the correct and logical decisions – and yet two men have died!”
  • Trek physics: somehow the shuttle *lifts off* from the planet by rising into the air without any apparent forward or downward thrust; and then, having achieved orbit and run out of fuel, the orbit begins to decay. There’s no reason a genuine orbit would decay in such a short period unless they were brushing the atmosphere – but Trek repeatedly thinks you need to keep powering the ship to maintain an orbit. (This happens in the next episode too, “Court Martial”.)
  • And then Spock jettisons and “ignites” the fuel. While in orbit. Ignites? Are they burning something in an atmosphere?
  • Kirk follows the letter of his order, by the pesky Commissioner who orders him to abandon the search, by heading away from the planet at “space-normal speed”, presumably meaning sub-light – so they can linger in order to catch any possibly signal from the stranded shuttlecraft. Which they do!
  • And Spock, acknowledging their likely failure as they try to escape the planet, and imminent deaths, says, “I, for one, do not believe in angels.”
  • There are two big insights I’ve had in rewatching these episodes in production order. One is about the music, which I’ll address in a separate post. The second is about how much effect the individual line producers had on the show. When you watch the series in endless reruns, usually in random order, they all mix together and you don’t notice, e.g., that certain themes of the show are confined to a run of episodes done by a single producer. The effect I notice now is that of producer Gene L. Coon, brought in by Roddenberry mid-first season, and who lasted IIRC until mid or late second-season. Coon wrote several iconic Trek episodes, such as “The Devil in the Dark”, but he was also the one responsible– as I realize now – for introducing humor into the show, even to its detriment. Think of all the Trek episodes that ended with some light-hearted moment on the bridge, or even with the entire bridge crew cracking up in laughter. Those were the result of final script edits by Gene Coon. And the first one is here in this episode, in which Kirk forces Spock to admit he acted impulsively, while never admitting he acted illogically. The entire bridge crew cracks up; music up and out.
  • Seeing these episodes again, I find these humorous finales annoying. Fortunately the third season producer, Fred Freiberger, explicitly disavowed such humorous moments.
  • One final point about this episode: when we see the shuttlecraft Galileo, it has a designation of NCC 1701/7, as if it’s the 7th shuttlecraft of the Enterprise, which itself is designated NCC 1701. Thus, “The Galileo Seven”. But no – the title could equally describe the fact that the Galileo embarks on this expedition with seven crewmen – Spock, McCoy, Scott, Latimer, Boma, Gaetano, Mears. The Galileo Seven. That understanding of the title had never occurred to me until now.

I keep thinking my comments on these episodes will become briefer, because somehow the earliest episodes seemed fundamental and somehow authentic to the series, in a way later episodes were not, the later ones seemingly cranked out as long as the network funded the show. (And indeed, the star SF writers Roddenberry recruited for the show usually worked for him once, near the show’s beginning, and then not again.) But maybe I’ll keep having detailed comments as long as new elements keep getting introduced, as indeed they did at least through the early second season. We’ll see.


Lawrence adaption, in ST10:

  • Note the adaptation – published in 1974 – describes Boma as a “Negro astrophysicist.”
  • There’s a bit more dialogue in the early scene in which the shuttlecraft loses control. As they’re drawn in, Spock orders “full power astern!” and Boma explains that they’ve “underestimated the strength of the nucleonic attraction” (whatever that means).
  • The adaptation follows the broadcast script closely, though as usual there are a few extra lines, as if scripted, perhaps filmed, and cut for time.
  • P64, The adaptation includes a brief scene as the first victim is buried, with the lines “Dust thou art and to dust shalt thou return. Amen” – which is more explicitly religious than anything ever actually seen in Trek.
  • P71, the dialogue in the key scene where Spock doesn’t understand why things aren’t going OK, is slightly different; in particular the words “and yet two men have died!” are missing in the adaptation.
  • P85, as the shuttle crew scrambles to reach the Galileo, when Spock is hit by a boulder, it’s because he paused to look at an artifact: “A most intriguing artifact…a hand axe, Doctor, reminiscent of those used by the Lake People of Athos IV.”
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