These are the voyages of the Starship…Enterprise.
I get all tingly just writing those words!
The original series is full of firsts. Two pilots were filmed. I’ve already reported on The Cage and Where No Man Has Gone Before. The first show ever aired was The Man Trap. The first regular episode ever filmed was this one. Follow that?
First Star Trek filmed: The Cage
First Star Trek with the regular cast ever filmed: Where No Man Has Gone Before
First Star Trek ever aired: The Man Trap
First Star Trek ever filmed as a regular episode: The Corbomite Maneuver
Each of these four shows contributed something to the regular series that followed. A new costume premiered, or a cast member joined, or a sound effect was heard for the first time. In this episode, Uhura announces, for the first time ever, “Hailing frequencies open, sir.”
And the biggest first in this one is the presence of the opening monologue. Tenth to air, this episode was the first to have that speech affixed to its front.
Take your hand, take your hand out the puppet head
Right. An omniscient, evil, and giggling version of Clint Howard isn’t scary at all.
But we’re supposed to think the Balok dummy head is the scary thing. Why would the real Balok be hiding? He admits that he’s grown lonely, operating all that machinery by himself. Given his loneliness, he likely didn’t have any good expectations from visitors. Given his stature, those expectations had to be met by a figure more likely to inspire fear than his own.
We play like Balok does. We pretend to be something we’re not. We do it because we’re afraid. We do it because we’re embarrassed. We do it because we just don’t feel like dealing with it. So we pretend to be tougher than we actually are. We pretend we’re smarter. We switch the lights off quick and pretend we’re not home.
We just don’t want to deal with it. Or with other people. Or with God. So we hide and pretend. Our species has been doing this for a long time. After eating the one piece of fruit in the whole perfect world that he was made to care for, Adam hides from God. One of only two humans, Adam thought he could hide.
It’s in our heritage to hide and pretend. Even when we’re lonely, we’ll play these kinds of games. The best way to cure loneliness is be around people – to be yourself around other people. And we’ll play at being cooler or smarter or deeper than we really are. We corrupt communion with other people by making it into a competition. Just being ourselves, faults and fears and weaknesses, actually lets us be inside a community. When we pretend, we could be in a room of hundreds and still feel lonely.
Balok hides behind his scary alien puppet. We hide behind our fearless, or perfect, or charitable, or smart puppets.
That’s the trick. Be yourself. Balok finally admitted who he really was and what he really wanted. He got what he wanted then. And he got a chance to help out an Enterprise crewman who needed some growing up time.
By being honest, Balok’s problems were solved and he discovered his usefulness in helping someone else solve their problem.
Balok lowered his defenses, stopped fighting, stopped threatening. And he gained from it. Someone bigger and smarter was able to come down, into his situation, and give him exactly what he needed: friendship.
So grab a glass of tranya, feel free to be yourself, and enjoy.