22019 "Albatross"

(airdate: September 28, 1974)

Writer: Dario Finelli
Director: Bill Reed

Demos: unknown

Kol-Tai: James Doohan

Stardate: 5275.6

Captain's Log: After completing a delivery of medical supplies to the planet Dramia, the Dramians announce that they're arresting McCoy for killing the majority of the population of Dramia II after an inoculation program nineteen years earlier. While McCoy is held prisoner, the Enterprise heads to Dramia II to investigate, stopping to pick up the Dramian commander Demos. Although Dramia II is largely lifeless, Kirk and Spock do locate one survivor of the plague, Kol-Tai, who's willing to act as a character witness. But while they're taking Kol-Tai back to Dramia, the ship passes through an aurora, infecting everyone except Spock with the same plague that attacked Dramia II. Spock breaks McCoy out of prison in order to help cure the disease, which McCoy is able to do. His name cleared, McCoy heads back to the Enterprise with Kirk and Spock.

Whoops!: Once again, Scotty's tunic shows the rank of captain while operating the transporter. Most obviously, McCoy's tunic is yellow when he's in the transporter room at the top of the final scene.
     Why doesn't Demos suspect a trap from the Enterprise? He literally watches the shuttlebay doors open, and yet instead of thinking, "They must be on to me," he decides that they're just being incompetent and decides to park his ship on board. And even if they were incompetent, how are the Enterprise crew not going to notice that? And why is Demos acting so suspicious in the first place? The implication seems to be that there's something to hide on Dramia II, but that doesn't actually appear to be true, so why the cloak-and-dagger? [Demos wanted to find out what had happened as well, but he's incredibly shy and didn't want to ask Kirk if he could tag along. No? Suit yourself.]
     How exactly does the auroral plague work? It's related to the aurora, although the aurora apparently also causes skin color changes which aren't related to the plague, and affects the people on the Enterprise. You'd think the ship would protect them from such a hazard, but it doesn't. And none of this explains the strangest thing about the whole thing: McCoy was on Dramia II, inoculating the population against Saurian virus, and when he left everyone died except Kol-Tai. Kol-Tai survived because he'd been inoculated with the Saurian virus antibodies. Do you see the problem here? Why in the world did only one Dramian survive this plague? Did McCoy only inoculate one of them? [One way around this is by saying that Kol-Tai was the final Dramian to be inoculated, and everyone else's Saurian virus antibodies had already worn off by that point. Which means they were using a really terrible vaccine for Saurian virus, if your immunity doesn't last more than a few weeks, but there doesn't seem to be a better explanation available.]
     A minor mystery: who plays the role of Demos? For a while it was thought to be Lou Scheimer, as he was known to be in the episode, but while he does voice a Dramian guard, he's fairly clearly not voicing Demos. It doesn't sound like James Doohan either. So who is it? One possibility is Lennie Weinrib, who provided a large number of voices for Filmation cartoons. Another is Ed Bishop, who's known to have provided some voices for the series. But without proper documentation, it seems the identity of the voice actor will remain a mystery.

Classic Lines: Scotty: "You're sure it's safe, Captain?" Kirk: "Absolutely." Spock: "Decidedly. (Kirk looks at Spock) There's a difference, Captain."

Cringe Lines: At the end, Spock starts needling McCoy about neglecting to dispense vitamin rations to the crew while McCoy was in prison.

Library Computer: The Dramian star system is a remote system containing at least two planets, Dramia and Dramia II. Dramia is a light purple planet, with green plants and blue skies, that is inhabited by the Dramians. The Dramians are tall, yellow bipeds, with thin waists, broad shoulders, and four tendril-like fingers per arm instead of hands. They have large, bony heads that vary considerably from individual to individual - some are large and dome-like, while others are much narrower, almost like a spire - but they all have ridges around the eyes and on the foreheads, as well as prominent ears. Their pupils aren't round, appearing instead to be horizontal slits. Dramian officials wear an orange and brown uniform that leaves their legs bare. The Dramians are led by a Supreme Prefect, and there is a Hall of Justice, which is a large purple building, with a round dish supported by pillars making up the majority of the structure. Commander Demos is one of the Dramian officials at the Hall - he issues the warrant for McCoy's arrest and lays the charges against him. Kirk has heard the Dramian justice is more like a kangaroo court than a fair trial. The Dramians have ships that include bulky, orange one-person crafts with what appear to be engines at the top rear of the vessel. The Enterprise delivered medical supplies to Dramia in order to strength relations with the planet. Dramia is not part of the Federation. [The Supreme Prefect speaks of "your Federation".]
     Dramia II is a red planet, beyond the range of subspace communication with Starfleet, with large crystalline deposits jutting out from the pale blue surface. [The effect is rather ice-like, which would make sense if Dramia II is further out from their sun than Dramia.] There are ruined buildings dotting the landscape. Nineteen years ago, Dr. McCoy was the leader of a team of mass inoculation against the Saurian virus on Dramia II. Shortly after his team left, a plague struck the planet, killing nearly the entire population. McCoy was thus blamed for the disaster. There was one known survivor, a Dramian named Kol-Tai, who believed McCoy was innocent of causing the plague. It was subsequently determined that the plague was caused by an aurora, not McCoy's inoculations. A few Dramians live on Dramia II, having been driven insane with grief by their families having been killed by the plague.
     The auroral plague was a severe disease that affected Dramians, humans, and Edosians, although Vulcans were immune to it. It was caused by a particular kind of aurora which was accompanied by a particularly intense, seemingly non-lethal form of radiation. [Probably; the radiation isn't explicitly linked to the aurora, but it seems like a reasonable connection to make.] Victims of the plague became increasingly weakened and debilitated, eventually dying. There were also characteristic changes of pigmentation in skin color, going from normal to blue, then to green, and finally to red, although McCoy suggests that the skin color changes are a red herring, as they were caused by the aurora that also caused the disease but were actually unrelated to said disease. The cure for the disease was an injection of Saurian virus antibodies, which not only affected the disease but also eliminated the skin color changes. The discovery of this cure led the Dramians to drop all charges against McCoy and held a ceremony honoring him for his achievements in interstellar medicine.
     The historical records for the Dramian solar system are spotty, primarily concerning technical data such as meteor showers, auroras, and radiation levels.
     General Order 6 states that if everyone on board a Federation starship has perished at the end of 24 hours, the ship will self-destruct in order to protect anyone who might beam aboard subsequently to investigate. [This appears to be something that has to be activated rather than simply a default condition: we've seen ships where everyone was dead (such as in "The Tholian Web") that hadn't self-destructed, and indeed Spock has to tell Sulu to activate General Order 6.]
     Dr. McCoy has a supply of live Saurian virus antibodies in his laboratory.

Final Analysis: "According to this, Dr. McCoy was responsible for a plague which ravaged the planet Dramia II some nineteen years ago, Captain." A highly entertaining episode, "Albatross" does a great job with its premise, keeping things interesting as Kirk and Spock work to discover what happened on Dramia II. The logical flaws don't take away from the impact of the story, and it's nice to have an episode dealing with the potential consequences of earlier actions, as it's a welcome change of pace from the "strange creature of the week" stories the Animated Series tends to put out. Great fun.

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