Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Star Trek: The Immunity Syndrome

Episode: "The Immunity Syndrome"
Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 2, Episode 18
Original Air Date: January 19, 1968
via Wikipedia
True confessions time: I'm not really a Trekkie.  Don't get me wrong, I like the show and have grown to admire the franchise tremendously over the years.  But in science fiction, my heart will always belong to Star Wars.   Part of why I wasn't so into Trek growing up was my devotion, instead, to Star Wars.  Gene Roddenberry's vision didn't hit me in quite the same way that George Lucas's did.

There's no denying that the two stories have been the dominant threads in American science fiction for decades.  While it's reasonable to assume that influence has run in both directions, specific examples can be difficult to pinpoint.  But an early incident in "The Immunity Syndrome" has striking similarities to one in the original Star Wars movie.  Lucas has admitted to Trek's influence in the writing of the first film and I believe this episode must have had an impact.

The Enterprise receives a distress call from the USS Intrepid, a ship manned by Vulcans.  Suddenly, the signal disappears and Shock reacts in horror.  The dialogue:
KIRK: Spock?
MCCOY: What is it, Spock? Are you in pain?
SPOCK: Captain, the Intrepid. It just died. And the four hundred Vulcans aboard, all dead.
 
And a little later, in sickbay,
SPOCK: I assure you, Doctor, I am quite all right. The pain was momentary. It passed quickly.
MCCOY: All of my instruments seem to agree with you if I can trust these crazy Vulcan readings. Spock, how can you be so sure the lntrepid was destroyed?
(Spock gets off the bed.)
SPOCK: I sensed it die.
MCCOY: But I thought you had to be in physical contact with a subject before
SPOCK: Doctor, even I, a half-Vulcan, could hear the death scream of four hundred Vulcan minds crying out over the distance between us.
Woah!!!

Nine years later, in Star Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi had this reaction to the destruction of the planet Alderaan:
Obi-Wan: I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.
Unmistakable.  Cool...

"Immunity Syndrome" is a great Spock vs. Bones episode.  The entity which destroyed the Intrepid is an enormous, energy feeding, single-cell organism from another galaxy.  That basic set up is an awful lot like "The Doomsday Machine" (my thoughts here) and the ultimate solution is similar, too: get inside and destroy from within.  But the journey to get to that answer is different.  To do the job, one volunteer must take the shuttlecraft on the suicide mission.  Both Spock and McCoy step forward for the gig - Doc out of scientific curiosity, Spock out of belief that he is better suited.  Kirk chooses Spock and the relationship between the two rivals runs very cold indeed.

*****
via Enterprise-NCC1701
Eddie Paskey appeared in 57 episodes of Star Trek's original series, usually as Lieutenant Leslie.  Like Lieutenant Kyle (see here), Leslie rarely figured in the plot and served essentially as a familiar face in the background. Leslie only had lines in four episodes. He actually died in one episode, "Obsession," only to reappear alive and well the following week in "Wolf in the Fold." Paskey also occasionally served as a stand-in for both William Shatner and James Doohan.

Paskey was born August 20, 1939 in Delaware.  A strong childhood interest in cars led to a post-acting career running an auto-detailing business.  He and his wife Judy have four children.

22 comments:

  1. Interesting parallels between Trek and Wars. By closing credits, I note "Immunity Syndrome" was produced by John Meredyth Lucas. A relative or a relative coincidence?

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    1. Intriguing, though apparently a coincidence. I couldn't find a connection.

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  2. Lucas also appeared to steal the Han Solo-shooting-Greedo moment from Gunsmoke...from a scene featuring Harrison Ford. Pretty cool link.

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    1. Yes, I remember seeing that clip on your blog.

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  3. That's cool. I vaguely remember that now that you're talking about it.

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  4. I remember that episode. I always loved the Spock/Bones relationship in the old series.

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    1. Yes. The dynamic between Kirk, Spock and Bones is the heart of the series. Usually Spock and Bones battle through the captain but every once in a while, we get a more direct confrontation.

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  5. I always went the other way -- preferred Star Trek over Star Wars. I used to think it was because Star Trek had more emphasis on the "science" part, but when I look at back at those old episodes from the original series, there was usually a healthy dose of cheese, and plenty of hand-waving technobabble.

    In truth, both ST and SW were mixes of awesome and schlock, but they both managed to be a lot of entertaining and enduring fun, in spite of their flaws.

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    1. I think you're right, actually. Star Trek, even in the early, hokey stages, was truer to the form of classic scifi. Star Wars, in many ways, is more of a fantasy story in futuristic guise. Verne and Wells would have been Trekkies. Tolkien would have preferred Star Wars.

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  6. I'm a huge Star Trek fan, but I can appreciate all types of movies. "Death scream of four hundred Vulcan minds." I wonder what he felt after the destruction of Vulcan?

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    1. One wonders, indeed.

      Funny, I'd have pegged you for a SW guy. Though maybe I shouldn't be surprised given your recent post about a world with only one Star Wars movie. Star Trek has improved as its universe has expanded. I'm not sure the same can be said for Star Wars.

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  7. I liked the fantasy of Star Wars better plus when it first came out what an experience.
    Star Trek was more like the old Flash Gorden to me.

    How do you feel about Star Gate ?

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. I must confess, I don't know Star Gate very well. The movie was alright but I was unimpressed by the early TV episodes. It was around for quite a while, though, plus spin-offs. I'm guessing it got better over time?

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  8. I've known both of these since the 70s, and I never made that "voices crying out" connection. Well done!

    I'm also still loving the background info on the minor players. Eddie Paskey is just a week younger than my Dad! :-)

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    1. Thanks, Cyg! I really enjoy learning about all the actors, too. For us, Trek is a cultural marvel. For them, it was just a gig.

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  9. Isn't it funny that sci-fi fans seem to be divided into separate groups--Trekkies and Star Wars fans? Is there a term for Star Wars fans?

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    1. Yes. They are known as awesome. (Sorry, you teed that one up for me. Couldn't resist. I don't really know if there's a Trekkie equivalent for Star Wars fans.)

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  10. Definitely a fan of both--but I watched more TNG than classic Trek.

    Your point about the "extra" actor dying one week and coming back the next totally triggered a Guy Fleegman memory.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mb7z1p6Dz80

    Veronica :)

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  11. I grew up on Star Trek but liked the first two Star Wars films as well (by "Return Of The Jedi" it felt like I was watching a commercial for the toys, which carried over into the second trilogy).

    Eddie Paskey was also one of the few characters who wore a red shirt who did not die a horrible death.

    Those red-shirted extras were shot, transported into space, turned into Styrofoam cubes and crumbled, eaten by rock monster...not a long-term acting gig for sure!

    Larry

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    1. Hello, Larry! Thanks for stopping by.

      I can hardly imagine my life without the first two Star Wars movies. I can understand those who feel the franchise went off the rails with the third, though.

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