The Devil in the Dark - episode #26

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The Devil in the Dark - episode #26

Post  BoG on Mon Mar 15, 2010 10:21 pm


THE DEVIL IN THE DARK (1st season; episode #26)
Directed by Joseph Pevney // Writer: Gene Coon


This begins as the standard 'monster-in-the-dark' episode, in this case a monster which is murdering the members of a deep mining colony, a pergium production station on planetoid Janus VI. By the time Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise arrive, 50 men had already been killed. We witness the last of these, the victim being a poor guy named Schmitter. This scene reminded me of a job I once held, about 20 years ago, as a security guard alone at night somewhere. Of course, I don't think I was ever in danger of being "burned to a crisp" as the colony chief (Ken Lynch) describes.
The monster creates a scary impression in the first act. We don't really see much of it in these early scenes and, as many of us know, the best monsters are sometimes left to the imagination. One man describes it as "big and shaggy," but that's not really accurate. It actually turns out to resemble a big, lumpy pepperoni pizza, skittering along the ground like a silicon centipede - a limitation of the show's budget, unfortunately. The budget limitations also show in the latest matte painting, famous to Trek fans, the only way to convey a long shot of the mining operations.

The whole episode is about what is on the inside rather than outward appearances, anyway. This is where Star Trek always excelled - the hokey monster suit doesn't really affect my enjoyment of the episode; I'm too busy figuring out that this isn't a devil, it's a Horta. I know many fans lament the poor quality of these monsters and other FX, but I really think we lose sight of what's important when we concentrate on the physical cosmetics, and, ironically, this episode seems to lecture us on this very subject. We learn that this creature is intelligent, even sophisticated, thanks to Spock's Vulcan mind meld ability (probably the best use of this ability in the series). In addition, McCoy gets to supercede his usual medical routine here, treating a creature resembling asbestos. I found it very true-to-life in his scene where he exults in his success, though he's unable to get Kirk to share in his enthusiasm - Kirk's too busy organizing results.

The episode throws unexpected turns in character & motivation at the audience as the story progresses; Spock champions the need to possibly preserve this discovered life... but Kirk takes his usual stand on preventing the deaths of any red-shirts (no half measures, as in The Man Trap). But later, it's Kirk who, for some reason, holds back on firing a killing blast, as if the heat of the hunt had worn off and he'd had time to reflect on Spock's point.
Uncharacteristic for most of the first season, this has a happy ending. The conflict stemmed from the needs of basic capitalism, such as meeting standard quotas, versus protecting the natural environment and its inhabitants - a space age version of protecting owls from the tractors of modern advancement. This was a rare view of capitalism in TOS, where usually it was portrayed as a technocratic/near-socialist utopia, with not much need for profit. Perhaps, outlying colonies still relied on basic capitalist principles.
Somehow, despite many killings and a sense that everything could go to hell at any moment with one raised phaser, Kirk and Spock manage to broker an agreement which satisfies everyone. I guess people and silicates are more reasonable in the 23rd century. BoG's Score: 7.5 out 0f 10
Extra Trek Trivia: the monster suit was courtesy of Janos Prohaska, who played several creatures on Star Trek and other sf shows of the time. Shatner learned his father died halfway through production of this episode; his reaction shots were filmed after his return from the funeral. This episode was when McCoy began uttering his famous lines about being "a doctor, not a.."; in this case, it was "...not a bricklayer!" Though, he did mutter something similar way back in the 3rd episode, The Corbomite Maneuver.

BELOW: Remastered version of mining operations


Last edited by BoG on Thu Feb 05, 2015 12:30 am; edited 3 times in total
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Devil in the Dark full episode

Post  BoG on Mon Mar 29, 2010 3:44 pm

CLASSIC TREK QUOTES:
Spock:
"The odds against you and I both being killed are two-thousand two-hundred and twenty-eight point seven to one."

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