22022 "How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth"

(airdate: October 5, 1974)

Writer: Russell Bates and David Wise
Director: Bill Reed

Ensign Walking Bear: James Doohan

Kukulkan: James Doohan

Stardate: 6063.4

Captain's Log: The Enterprise is tracking a probe which investigated the Federation homeworlds. They track it to a location where a ship, projecting the image of a giant winged serpent, restrains the Enterprise in a forcefield. Ensign Walking Bear recognizes the serpent as the image of the ancient Mayan god Kukulkan, and in response Kukulkan transports Walking Bear, Kirk, McCoy, and Scott aboard his vessel. It creates an image of a city that appears to be made up of several ancient Earth cultures, and the Enterprise crewmembers work out how to summon Kukulkan - something the ancient peoples of Earth never managed. Kukulkan informs Kirk and the others that he intends to forcibly set humanity back on the path of peace that he had tried centuries earlier. Kirk successfully argues that humanity has outgrown Kukulkan and that there's nothing more they can learn from him. Kukulkan departs in his ship, heading away from Earth.

Whoops!: Unlike everyone else, Shatner pronounces Kukulkan as "Ku-kluh-kan" (['ku.klə.kɑn]) the entire time. [This is because his recording session was separate from the others and no one told him how to pronounce it.]
     The first act break seems like it's in a weird place, as if they had wanted it to be earlier, with Spock's acting captain's log, but then had to keep going to make the timing of the acts more even.

Library Computer: Kukulkan was an ancient alien being, resembling a large red serpent with giant blue wings, a green head with a single pink horn, and a purple crest all around his head. Long before humanity had mastered fire, Kukulkan's people were destroyed - thus, Kukulkan had no real companions in life. Later than that, but still long ago, Kukulkan traveled to Earth in an effort to turn humanity away from its self-destructive, warring tendencies and toward a path of peace. He visited several cultures, including the ancient Egyptians, the Chinese, and Mesoamerican ones like the Maya, and gave them technology (such as, in the case of the Mayans, a remarkably accurate calendar) and plans to build a city that could be used in order to summon him. Then he left Earth, waiting for their signal. However, none of the cultures built the city quite right and so were unable to summon Kukulkan. Eventually (as in centuries later), Kukulkan became curious as to what had happened to Earth, so he sent a probe to the Federation homeworlds and learned that humanity was still, in his eyes, war-like and savage. Kulkulkan's probe self-destructed before it could be analyzed, but its advanced propulsion system left a trail of disrupted matter that the Enterprise was able to follow back to Kukulkan. Kukulkan considered himself still to be humanity's master. He was the inspiration for the Mayan god of the same name, as well as possibly the Toltec/Aztec god Quetzalcoatl and the Chinese dragon.
     Kukulkan travels in a ship composed of crystalline ceramic that looks vaguely like Kukulkan himself, with a long body, large red wing-like protruberances from the center, and a large purple "head" at the front of the ship. This vessel was twice as big as the Enterprise and was surrounded by an immense energy field that appeared light green in color from a distance, but could be adapted to project a translucent image of Kukulkan over the ship itself. Kukulkan's ship was capable of enclosing the Enterprise in a flexible spherical force field (Spock calls it a "force globe") that made movement largely impossible (Scotty describes it like ramming into a wall of clay). However, Spock determined that the field could only stretch in one direction at once; pushing on it from multiple directions made it brittle and allowed the Enterprise to break free. The Enterprise's sensors weren't powerful enough to penetrate inside Kukulkan's ship.
     The interior of Kukulkan's ship looked like a giant blue featureless room; however, Kukulkan was able to project an image of a Mesoamerican-like city into the minds of the four crewmen he transported aboard his ship. This city had features from various Earth cultures, including a tall step pyramid similar to a Mayan pyramid, large obelisks resembling Egyptian architecture, and a number of pictograms. At the top of the pyramid was a stained-glass-like construction that was an energy amplification system; when focused sunbeams from large serpent carvings at the four corners of the pyramid were aligned properly, Kukulkan would be summoned. Kukulkan also had a small zoo-like collection of creatures which he kept inside cages, with cables attached that projected the creatures' preferred habitat, thus keeping them happy and docile. These creatures included: a floating creature with a purple back and red feathery tendrils; a brown creature with roughly six legs; a floating green blob with what looked like yellow hair that seemed to pulse, changing dramatically in size as it did so; a tall, leafy, green creature; a large animal with purple fur, pink paws, and a skunk-like black-and-white patterning near its head; a dark red creature with fur, a fin on its head, and six legs, standing up on its hind legs; a weird reptilian-like purple creature with three eyes on stalks and some darker purple spots on its skin; a green creature with three yellow eyes that roll around independently, a long snout, lots of spikes on its back, and four legs with large toes; a green tentacle-y creature with yellow spots; a yellow flower-like creature with red tendrils and orange centers in its multiple blooms; a green reptile with a big mouth and eyes in its chest; a "friendly" yellow cat; a large brown ball; a weird dark magenta creature with yellow fronds and pink egg-like things; a large yellow plant being with curled fronds at the end of each leaf; and a Capellan power-cat, which was an animal with dark brown fur and a row of black spines up its back that could generate a charge of 2000 volts and which hated being in captivity so much that it would die - but Kukulkan captured the power-cat as an infant and kept it pacified with his special projection field. A full tranquilizer shot was only capable of pacifing the power-cat, rather than knocking it out completely.
     Ensign Walking Bear was a helmsman for the Enterprise. Dressed in operations red, he was a Comanche and had studied the histories of many ancient Earth peoples, including his own. He recognized Kukulkan as the Mayan god. [Walking Bear is the first overt Native American in Star Trek - author Russell Bates being a member of the Kiowa tribe who thus included a Native American representative in the crew.]
     Spock states that Vulcan was visited by alien beings who left "much wiser". [This is probably intended to be a wry comment rather than a genuine fact.]
     Kirk and McCoy both know some Shakespeare.

Final Analysis: "I was angered because I believed you had forgotten me. But one in your midst knows my name. You will be given one chance to succeed where your ancestors failed. Fail me again and all of your kind shall perish." An intentional remake of "Who Mourns for Adonais?" with a hefty dose of Erich von Däniken's Chariots of the Gods? thrown in, this is an episode that's competent but not particularly exciting. The title's clever though, even if they do make the reference explicit at the end.

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Page originally created: October 31, 2016
Page last updated: October 31, 2016

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