72 "The Mark of Gideon"

(airdate: January 17, 1969)

Writer: George F. Slavin and Stanley Adams
Director: Jud Taylor

Odona: Sharon Acker
Krodak: Gene Dynarski

Hodin: David Hurst
Admiral Fitzgerald: Richard Derr

Stardate: 5423.4

Captain's Log: The Enterprise is orbiting the planet Gideon, a prospective Federation member which is highly secretive - no outsiders are allowed on their planet. The Gideons have finally agreed to allow Captain James Kirk specifically to beam down. However, when Spock beams Kirk to Gideon, Kirk finds himself not on the planet but still on the Enterprise - but an Enterprise empty of all people. Kirk eventually finds another person, a woman named Odona, who doesn't know how she got aboard. Kirk determines that this is not actually the Enterprise but rather a well-crafted duplicate. At this point, the Gideon ambassador, Hodin, reveals himself and the point of the ruse: the Gideons, due to a lack of disease and a strong regenerative ability, rarely die. This has led to severe overpopulation on Gideon, and so Hodin and the others lured Kirk to Gideon after learning that he had once been infected with Vegan choriomeningitis - Odona volunteered to become infected using Kirk's blood, to demonstrate that the Gideons could die. However, Spock, who had become suspicious of the Gideons, beams into the fake Enterprise and rescues Kirk and Odona before she could die. McCoy cures Odona of the disease, so she goes back to Gideon to try and infect others, thereby providing hope to the planet.

Whoops!: Why would a 360-degree scan of the space around the Enterprise take years? What's there to scan that would take so long? Why does Spock spend so much of this episode contemptuous of diplomats and bureaucracy? Were his lines originally intended for someone else, like Scotty maybe? It seems out of character for Spock to be so dismissive of diplomacy, even if he is being stonewalled by Hodin.
     The Enterprise is unaware of a problem with Kirk until the Gideon council (the ones, remember, who kidnapped Kirk in the first place) bring it up to them. Do they want to be stopped? And the way everyone laboriously reads out the coordinates to each other over and over is obnoxious.
     How did the prime minister of Gideon learn Kirk had come down with this rare disease in the first place?
     Things against the morality of the people of Gideon: any form of birth control, including (presumably) population planning. (Not even along the lines of China's one-child policy.) Things not against the morality of the people of Gideon: kidnapping, forced imprisonment, psychological deception, killing members of the populace by introducing a fatal disease into the ecosystem.
     Actually, that's a thought: if the population is so great that people are pressed against each other in large crowds everywhere, and they would literally kill someone to get more space, how is introducing Vegan choriomeningitis - a disease that appears to be bloodborne, judging by the way they pass it from Kirk to Odona - going to help at all? Wouldn't that limit the rate of infection to people who come into contact with infected blood and therefore be far too slow to be useful? (As opposed to, say, an airborne disease, which seems like a far more effective vector for infection.) Are they going to make someone explode, Scanners-style, in the middle of a crowded room in order to spread the disease? And wouldn't it make more sense to find a disease that doesn't kill people within 24 hours? You'd want a longer contagious period after all, so that more of their people could become infected. Is their current plan that people will need to volunteer to get the disease? If that's the case, why do they need the disease at all? Can't they just execute them? Or is it against their code to kill people via direct means (but indirect means are just fine)?
     The Gideons have the ability to recreate the Enterprise to such a degree that Kirk, who knows "every sound this ship might make", is fooled into thinking it's the real ship. (How they gain such detailed knowledge of the Enterprise in the first place is left unexplained.) If they have that technology, why aren't they pursuing space travel? Or even orbiting space stations to house parts of the populace? (We don't see any evidence of this even in the remastered version, where it might have been expected, so we're forced to conclude the Gideons haven't chosen to build them.) And why can Kirk and Odona suddenly hear the heartbeats of a ton of people echoing through the ship? How would that even work in the first place? Is everyone outside remaining silent while they're pressed up against the walls? And shouldn't they have always been hearing the heartbeats? Why does it then go away? Did everyone outside shift? Oh, and the way the Gideons are revealed to be a bunch of Peeping Toms, looking in through the viewscreen while Kirk and Odona kiss on the bridge, is silly. (And with hindsight, it's hard not to think of the music video for Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" during this moment, which makes it seem even more daft.)
     The big one: what's the point of this massive deception in the first place? Do they want to make Kirk feel somewhat at ease while they verify that Odona has been successfully infected? Because emptying his ship doesn't seem like a good way to relax him. Is this something Odona requested, a "I'll let you use me as a guinea pig but my last request is to get close to Kirk" deal? Because otherwise, why not just keep Kirk sedated while they take blood from him until they're sure their plan works? Why spend all this time (and space, which we're told is at a premium on Gideon) on something ultimately superfluous to their goals? Is it really that important to them that Kirk be a willing participant, even though they're ready to hold him against his will if he's not?
     A couple minor discontinuities to end with: Kirk tells Odona that she mentioned that her people didn't get sick - a conversation we weren't privy to. In the same vein, after Spock tells the bridge crew that he's beaming down, Scott comments that Kirk said something similar before he left - except that was in a conversation that Scott wasn't present for.

Don't Wear a Red Shirt: None that we see, despite the best efforts of the Gideons to contract a fatal disease.

Alien Love: Kirk and Odona are left alone on a fake Enterprise, so they start to fall for each other, complete with kissing on the bridge. There's also a shot shortly thereafter showing the two of them leaving Kirk's quarters, which is highly suggestive. By the end, though, it seems Odona was genuinely interested in Kirk, and possibly he reciprocated those feelings (though not enough to stay with her on Gideon).

Library Computer: Gideon was a inhabited planet, described by the Gideons to the Federation as a paradise. It was a dull red color from space [a dirty brown and grey in the remastered version]. Gideon was not a member of the Federation, but had been in long negotiations with the Federation regarding membership. Part of the reason for this length was that Gideon refused to allow Federation delegates on the surface of Gideon, while Gideon had shields in place that prevented scanning of the planet from orbit; this was ostensibly because they isolated themselves from cultural contact in order to not fall victim to the "violent natures" of other worlds. Eventually, Gideon agreed to allow only Captain James Kirk specifically to beam down to the surface of Gideon.
     The inhabitants of Gideon appeared human. All the ones we see have pink skin, and most of them are dressed in simple pants and shirts that cover the head, leaving only the face exposed. We also see the Gideon council, which consists of four bald men, wearing shirts with large hexagonal patterns at the neckline, and the Gideon ambassador, Hodin. Hodin had grey hair and a goatee, and was dressed in an elaborate tabard covered with hexagons, with a shiny blue set down the center. Hodin's daughter, Odona, had blue eyes and long blonde hair in a high ponytail, and was dressed in a sort of pantsuit with translucent purple fabric, with opaque blue fabric over her breasts and hips [the design resembles a sling bikini].
     The population of Gideon was very healthy; the environment was germ-free, and the bodies of the Gideons were capable of regeneration. As time went on, the lifespans of the people of Gideon lengthened, and only the very old died. This meant that Gideon had no experience of medical practices or devices. It also meant that the planet became increasingly overcrowded; efforts to sterilize people were undone by their bodies' regenerative abilities, and the cultural mores of Gideon prevented them from pursuing other forms of birth control. This led to a situation where every viable location on the planet was filled with Gideons.
     The prime minister of Gideon learned that Kirk had at one point contracted Vegan choriomeningitis, a rare but treatable disease. If left untreated, however, the victim dies within 24 hours, and Kirk almost died from the disease. Symptoms include an elevated body temperature, and great pain in the arms and thighs. [In real life, choriomeningitis (usually lymphocytic choriomeningitis) attacks the cerebral meninges (protective membranes), often accompanied by lymphocytes infiltrating the choroid plexuses, where cerebrospinal fluid is produced.]
     The Gideons thus hatched a plan: they lured Kirk to a fake Enterprise that they built on the surface of Gideon; matched him with a young volunteer, Odona; extracted some Vegan choriomeningitis virus that was still present in his bloodstream and then infected Odona with it; and then waited for her to contract Vegan choriomeningitis. If this was successful, Odona would die and become a symbol to the Gideons, proof that young people could in fact die; this would lead others to volunteer to become infected. They would need to keep Kirk around to provide a steady stream of the virus, however. This plan was thwarted by Spock, who beamed down to Gideon (in defiance of both the Gideons' desires and Starfleet's orders) and rescued both Kirk and Odona. Despite the advanced stage of Vegan choriomeningitis in Odona, McCoy was able to cure her, making her a carrier of the disease for the Gideons instead of Kirk.
     Spock tells Hodin that the transporter has a margin of error that could lead to Kirk being beamed to a different place on the surface [but he could just be trying to convince Hodin to let him beam down].
     Also according to Spock, "wars between opposing star systems no longer prevail" in the galaxy.
     Power aboard the Enterprise regenerates, while there's enough food to feed a crew of 430 for five years. [This is during the third year of the five-year mission, so they have extra supplies.]
     The Federation has a Bureau of Planetary Treaties. An effort to get permission to beam down to the surface of Gideon to search for Captain Kirk was bounced back and forth between this bureau and Starfleet.

Final Analysis: "My daughter hoped to make you feel the agony of Gideon. But it was impossible. No stranger could realize the horror that life can be here." This started as a tale about overpopulation, but somewhere along the way it got muddled. Having Kirk aboard an abandoned Enterprise is potentially interesting, but they undercut that almost immediately by shifting to the real, populated Enterprise. This story could have benefitted from an extra pass or two to make it more coherent, but as it is it's badly plotted, poorly motivated, and frequently too slow. Not recommended.

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