Episode Epilogue 7: "Charlie X"
As soon as it was clear that Charlie and the Thasians were gone for good, Doctor McCoy took Yeoman Rand to sickbay for a complete physical. She kept protesting that she was fine, really; she hadn't even realized that she'd been away, and the doctor's examination confirmed it. Nevertheless, he sent her to her quarters with orders to rest, and since she'd been about to rest when Charlie sent her "away," she was happy to heed those orders.
McCoy went directly to the bridge and took what was becoming his usual spot, standing on the captain's left. He was ostensibly reporting to the captain, but he intentionally pitched his voice loudly enough to be heard all over the bridge, because he knew everyone there had been worried about Rand. "I checked Janice over thoroughly, and she's fine, Jim. Wherever Charlie sent her, it was like she was in suspended animation while she was there; she never even knew she'd been away."
Kirk's shoulders became noticeably less tense at this news. "Glad to hear it." He turned and looked fully at McCoy. "What about the things that happened before Charlie 'disappeared' her? Does she need to see a therapist?"
McCoy shook his head. "She was thinking of Charlie as a kid, so it didn't really hit her that he was dangerous until it was all over. She felt sorry for him, for growing up alone, and she was more focused on how he felt than on the danger he posed."
Kirk grimaced. "She's not alone; we were all taken in. Well," he turned and looked at Spock, "All but one of us. You knew he was lying from the very beginning. What made you so sure?"
Spock left the science station and came down to the command well, standing to Kirk's right. "There have been stories and legends of what are generally called 'feral children' throughout human history: stories of young children raised by wolves, bears, monkeys, and other animals. The best-known legend is that of Romulus and Remus, the putative founders of Rome, who were said to have been raised by wolves, but all human cultures have such myths. Invariably when such stories are investigated, they are found to be hoaxes; young human children cannot survive on their own, nor do predators adopt and rear human infants."
McCoy grunted. "Hrmph. And I suppose Vulcan children are all doing calculus in the womb."
"On the contrary, Doctor; Vulcan infants are just as helpless as human infants. What fascinates me about the legends of feral children is that they are unique to humankind. Vulcans have no such legends, nor do Andorians, Tellarites, or, indeed, any other humanoid culture with which I am familiar." Spock raised an eyebrow. "I believe it says much about humanity that they, alone — of all the humanoid cultures of which I am aware — create such legends."
Kirk considered this. "It IS a romantic notion, isn't it? I guess we humans like the idea that we're so lovable or so compelling that even a wolf or a bear would want to take care of a human child."
Spock clasped his hands behind his back. "I had not considered that particular explanation, Captain."
Kirk smiled. "What did you think it was, then?"
Spock looked seriously at his captain. "In the past, certain influential thinkers believed that human beings were 'corrupted' by the influence of civilization and claimed that those who lived without it were pure or unsullied in a way that those raised in civilization could not be. This found its clearest form in the literary ideal of the 'Noble Savage.' It was most likely this notion that gave rise to the myth that Rome was founded by two such individuals."
Kirk shook his head. "That transporter accident I had awhile back cured me of the idea that there's anything noble about savages."
Spock inclined his head. "Indeed. And the ideal of the 'Noble Savage' has mostly died out in modern times. I believe the current romanticization of feral children is a combination of the human desire for independence and the human desire to be free of the strictures of civilization, both of which find expression in the legends of children who survive in the wilderness with wild animals for nursemaids."
"Hrmph," McCoy said. "Don't tell me Vulcans never want to be independent, 'cause I won't believe that, Spock. You're the second-most independent person I know, after Jim Kirk, and he's not exactly the world's most average human."
Spock exhaled audibly. "Doctor, you are aware that Vulcans are telepathic."
McCoy rolled his eyes. "Well, yeah, but what's that got to do with it?"
Spock was wearing his I am a Vulcan, so I must be patient look. "While we are predominantly touch telepaths and cannot read another Vulcan's actual thoughts unless we are in physical contact with that person, the existence of so many telepathic minds creates a sort of psychic field, which conveys a sense of the existence of those other minds."
Kirk looked at his first officer as he considered this. "You can feel this psychic field anywhere on Vulcan?"
Spock raised an eyebrow. "I can feel this psychic field anywhere in the galaxy."
Kirk gave a low whistle. "Anywhere in the galaxy! That's ... quite a range."
Spock inclined his head. "The existence of several billion Vulcan minds creates quite a strong resonance."
McCoy looked searchingly at Spock; the doctor wanted to know what effect this might have on a potential patient. "How aware of it are you? Does it ever get in the way?"
Spock tilted his head slightly backwards, thinking, then looked at the humans again. "English does not have the necessary words for talking about telepathic phenomena, but perhaps an analogy will suffice. When the ship is at warp, her engines produce a low hum that is sensed more through touch than sound, as a slight vibration. We are generally not consciously aware of this hum, but if it should stop suddenly or unexpectedly, we would find the cessation quite noticeable."
Kirk considered this. "Billions of Vulcans, all busily thinking, creates a telepathic background noise that you can ignore, but it's always there."
Spock nodded. "Precisely, Captain. And this ... telepathic background noise ... means that no Vulcan could ever feel as cut off from other Vulcans as humans believe feral children to be cut off from human society. Nor would any Vulcan ever wish to be so cut off; the Vulcan psychic field provides a sense of connection to other members of our species that is essential for our well-being."
Kirk whistled. "So humans really are different from Vulcans in romanticizing the idea of being all alone in the wilderness, completely independent and constrained by nothing."
Spock inclined his head. "As I believe I said, several minutes ago."
McCoy folded his arms in front of his chest. "That's only half of the picture."
Kirk looked at the doctor. "What's the other half?"
McCoy said, "We don't just romanticize the idea that babies and toddlers can live in the wilderness; we also pretend that those children eventually grow up to become just as civilized as anybody else. These stories don't show that humans love independence and hate civilization; they show that we're ambivalent about it. We want to think that a kid here or there has escaped, but we don't want them to escape too far or for too long, and we want them to end up just as civilized as the rest of us."
Spock raised an eyebrow. "An excellent point, Doctor; I will need to ponder it."
McCoy rolled his eyes. "Will wonders never cease! I've given the pointy-eared computer food for thought."
Kirk said, "I think the events of today have given all of us food for thought. Mr. Spock was right when he said at the very beginning that Charlie could not have survived on his own, and I think we all need to remind ourselves to be a bit more skeptical when we run into stories that are a little too good to be true, even if those stories are what we want to hear."
Spock tilted his head to one side. "Might I suggest, sir, that we exercise our skepticism especially if those stories are what we want to hear?"
Kirk nodded. "Yes, Mr. Spock, you may."
McCoy shook his head. "You can go wrong just as readily by being too skeptical as you can by being too trusting."
Kirk smiled at him. "And that's why I have you, Bones. I know as long as I have both you and Spock, I have all the bases covered."
Kirk thought privately that as long as he had both Spock and McCoy at his side, he didn't just have all the bases covered; he had a guaranteed home run.
Notes about the story
1. Spock's discussion of feral children is true to the best of my (and Wikipedia's) knowledge.
Some people include children who are sequestered in their parents' homes and deprived of any human contact in the ranks of feral children, but to me, this form of extreme and intentional abuse and neglect is different from the cases of children who were said to be raised by wild animals, and I am not having Spock include such abuse survivors in his discussion here.
2. I am using "romantic" in its broader and more historical sense (meaning of, characterized by, or suggestive of an idealized view of reality), not in the narrower and more recent sense (meaning conducive to or characterized by the expression of love). This may be confusing to those who are unaware of the broader definition — I know that English is not the first language of many readers — so I'm explaining about the two definitions here. (Definitions quoted from Google's "define" function, to make it clear that it's not just me. :-D)
3. We are never told exactly how much Spock is telepathically aware of other Vulcans, but we know that he's aware of them at least in special circumstances, because he feels the death of four hundred Vulcans in the second-season episode "The Immunity Syndrome."
And in the third-season episode "All Our Yesterdays," when Spock goes back to 5,000 years in the past, his emotions are no longer restrained, so he strangles McCoy and makes love to Zarabeth. Since Spock's physical body — which of course includes his brain — was NOT changed by the atavachron, his reverting to pre-Reform behavior is usually explained by Trek fans as being the result of the telepathic influence of millions of savage Vulcans, present there in the past, though not present on the planet Spock is on at the moment.
This suggests that in the present, all Vulcans are restrained partly by their own personal restraint and partly by the telepathic influence of the restraint of other Vulcans. It also suggests that Vulcans are telepathically aware of other Vulcans across great distances, at least as great as the distance from Vulcan to Sarpeidon.
This explains why Vulcans without logic would be so disdained by other Vulcans, since they aren't just hurting themselves with their lack of logic; they're also weakening the collective telepathic restraint of Vulcan society as a whole.
4. I'm sorry if the story for this episode doesn't sparkle; I have problems with this episode, which I'll explain under the episode notes.
5. I have a chronic illness that leaves me non-functional most of the time, which means that I am rarely able to reply to comments. I do read them all with great attention, though, and I do LOVE every single one of them, even when my health doesn't permit me to reply. I apologize for being so limited in what I can do.
6. I don't own Star Trek, and I make no money from the stories I write; everything here is just fans playing in the sandbox. If anything, I think I probably have more respect for the characters than Paramount does. :-)
7. Thanks for reading!
Notes about this episode
1. You can find a summary of this episode at the page for it at Memory Alpha, the Star Trek wiki, here.
Chrissie has a transcript of this episode here.
2. Although this was the seventh episode made (not counting the first pilot, with its very different crew), it was the second episode broadcast. Since it didn't need a whole lot of special effects, it was ready before some of the more effects-heavy episodes (e.g. "The Corbomite Maneuver.") The original version of this episode has fewer effects than the remastered version; the remastered version added the Antares and spiffed up the Thacian ship.
3. This episode was written by Dorothy Fontana from a story idea by Gene Roddenberry. The story idea was titled "The Day Charlie Became God," though of course they needed to find a less descriptive title for the actual episode, in order not to give away half the plot. :-)
At the time she wrote this script, Dorothy Fontana was a part-time writer who'd written half a dozen scripts for other TV shows. Like most new writers, she couldn't yet support herself by writing, so she had a day job — as Gene Roddenberry's secretary. Roddenberry didn't think this particular story idea had much potential, but Fontana disagreed, and he told her to write a script if she thought she could do something with it. Fontana was all of 27 when she wrote this episode.
Everyone on the show liked the script, though Roddenberry added a few things, as he did to every script during the first season.
Dorothy Fontana said that in her original version of the script, she'd focused primarily on Charlie's feeling out of place and not knowing how to behave, and it was Gene Roddenberry who added Charlie's raging hormones and his "crush" on Janice Rand. In an interview with Marc Cushman, Fontana said, "Sex always got into Gene's work," and John D. F. Black agreed with that assessment.
Dorothy Fontana would eventually become the story editor for part of the first and all of the second season; I'll talk about that in more detail when we get to the episode where it happens.
People often talk about Dorothy Fontana as if she had been ONLY Gene Roddenberry's secretary, and Star Trek was her first script, but that is NOT true. Fontana had sold four scripts to The Tall Man, one to Ben Casey, and one to Frontier Circus.
In fact, it just so happened that the guest star in one of the scripts Fontana wrote for The Tall Man was none other than Leonard Nimoy. In his autobiography, Nimoy says, "In 1960, Dorothy had written the episode 'A Bounty for Billy' for the television series The Tall Man, starring Barry Sullivan—an episode I just happened to appear in. I remember getting a wonderful note from her saying how pleased she was with my performance; I was impressed by her kindness." (I Am Spock, hardcover first edition, page 64.)
4. Maybe it's because I'm a psychologist, so I've studied human development, but while I love many of Dorothy Fontana's scripts, and Gene Roddenberry and Bob Justman both thought she did a great job with this episode, I think it makes the Enterprise crew look stupid.
Charlie claimed to have been completely alone since the age of THREE, and the Enterprise's crew scolded him for doing things like interrupting a conversation or failing to knock on a door before opening it. Anyone who'd been completely alone from the age of three would be FAR stranger in social interactions than Charlie was, and would, in fact, be mostly a wild animal. Charlie should have been continuously monitored, because leaving him alone to wander around the ship would be like allowing a gorilla the run of the ship.
The episode was clearly intended to talk about the normal problems of normal teenagers — certainly a worthy goal — but the back story written for Charlie means that he should have been so far from a normal teenager as to be more like an alien or animal than like a human. (It might have worked better if Charlie had been eleven when the crash happened, so he was all alone with the problems of adolescence, but he'd been socialized into a human being before losing human contact.)
Some of Charlie's lines speak very strongly to the experience of normal teenagers: "Everything I do or say is wrong. I'm in the way, I don't know the rules, and when I learn something and try to do it, suddenly I'm wrong! I don't know what I am or what I'm supposed to be, or even who. I don't know why I hurt so much inside all the time."
Roddenberry added the part about "When I see you, I feel like I'm hungry all over," because in 1966 there was no internet. That means no Wikipedia, no online porn, no Twitter, no Facebook, no social media of any kind. The culture of the time said that it was wrong to talk about sex, and you can see this in the show, as the actors always have to pretend to be embarrassed if sexual topics come up. So there was no place for teenagers to learn about sex in 1966, except from their parents (those few who had progressive parents) or from other teenagers (who mostly had rumors, old wives' tales, and urban legends instead of actual information). Roddenberry wanted Charlie to talk about feeling "hungry all over," because no one was telling teenagers that it was normal to have sexual feelings, and he wanted to address it. Of course, network censors made sure he could only address it obliquely, but obliquely was a giant step forward, compared to not at all.
5. Why is this episode titled "Charlie X," given that the boy's name is Charles Evans? Marc Cushman, author of These Are the Voyages, reports that Gene Roddenberry told him in an interview, "You remember in the westerns, and someone would say, 'Make your mark here.' And the prospector or ranch hand draws his 'X.' And you understood he had no formal education."
Westerns were extremely popular in the late 50's and early 60's, so at the time TOS was made, audiences would be quite familiar with the conventions of the western genre, and the idea that illiterate people drew an "X" to sign a contract or document was one that the audience would have understood. Nowadays westerns are far less popular, and "X" is probably more familiar as the symbol of an unknown quantity in algebra. But according to Roddenberry, that's not the "X" the title is referring to.
6. The chef who calls Kirk on the intercom from the ship's galley to tell him that there are real turkeys in the ovens was voiced by ... Gene Roddenberry.
7. Grace Lee Whitney, the actress who played Janice Rand, said in her autobiography that Robert Walker, the actor who played Charlie, deliberately kept himself apart from the Star Trek cast whenever he wasn't filming a scene, the better to portray a young man who was alienated from those around him. Robert Walker was 26 when he played 17-year-old Charlie Evans.
1. Kirk's toughness and command presence are on display in this episode. Charlie can make people disappear just by looking at them, and Kirk goes head to head with him, asserting his will without the slightest hint of fear. (People love to make fun of the somewhat florid acting style that Shatner uses in some episodes, but in this one, he had me absolutely convinced that he was a strong-willed and determined starship captain.)
2. McCoy tries to get Kirk to act as a father figure to Charlie, and Kirk tries to get out of that until it becomes clear that Charlie is a danger, and Kirk is the only one he'll listen to. Kirk is already somewhat of a father figure to the entire crew, by virtue of being captain, so he might think that his father-figure plate was already full. :-) (Of course, this has nothing to do with David Marcus, since David wasn't invented until The Wrath of Khan was being written, fifteen years after "Charlie X" was made.)
3. Kirk's compassion is also on display in this episode, as he tells the Thacians at the end of the episode that "the boy belongs with his own kind." Given how disruptive Charlie has been, and how Charlie has been gloating at Kirk that the Enterprise now belongs to him, it's really very big of Kirk to try to intercede with the Thacians for Charlie. And in fact, the TOS Writer's Guide says of Kirk, "Unlike most early explorers, he has an almost compulsive compassion for the rights and plights of others, alien as well as human."
4. We see many times, from "The Corbomite Maneuver" on, that Kirk is a brilliant tactician. We see that again in this episode, when he realizes that Charlie hasn't "disappeared" anyone since he took over the ship, and he concludes that controlling the entire ship means that Charlie's power is maxed out. He has his officers turn on a lot more ship functions in order to strain Charlie's control further, so that they can overcome him. The plan looks like it's on the verge of working when the Thacians show up.
1. How difficult was it to create a Vulcan from scratch? We can tell by the fact that an actor as hard-working and gifted as Leonard Nimoy was still being inappropriately expressive in this episode, the seventh one made. During his conversation with McCoy on the bridge in the early part of the episode, we see Spock roll his eyes, and in the recreation room scene, first we see him look annoyed, and then we see him smirk when Uhura starts singing. When Charlie says that a warped baffle plate on the Antares would have blown up, anyway, even if he hadn't done it, Spock rolls his eyes again. Leonard Nimoy worked very hard to find ways to show us what Spock was feeling while keeping his reactions subtle and restrained, but it did take him awhile to figure out how to do that, given that he was creating an entirely new kind of character. Watching Spock evolve is one reason to watch TOS in production order, rather than broadcast order.
2. Uhura's song says, in part, "at first his look could hypnotize," and that just seems like something silly she made up to tease him with. But here's an excerpt from a memo that Gene Roddenberry sent around in May of 1966: "Spock's 'hypnotic' look strongly affects Earth females and he goes to great pains to avoid too much contact with them. There is a back story on this—many years ago when Mr. Spock first joined the service, he was careless on this score, perhaps even enjoyed this strange ability over Earth women. But it quickly created both personal and professional troubles." (Memo excerpt quoted from I Am Spock, by Leonard Nimoy, p. 64 of the hardcover first edition.)
So Spock is supposed to be able to hypnotize Earth women just by looking at them, not needing the whole mind meld routine. Well, THAT explains a lot! :-) And how surprised the producers of Star Trek must have been when it turned out that Mr. Spock DID have quite a strong effect on many real, live Earth women. :-)
3. Uhura is clearly flirting with Spock in this episode, as she did in "The Man Trap." And unlike when McCoy insults his heritage, Spock does NOT look unhappy to be cast as a Satanic Don Juan when Uhura sings about him; he actually seems to enjoy the attention ... unlike poor Charlie.
We get to see Uhura sing in this episode, first about Spock, and then about Charlie. If your ears are as bad as mine, you might have had trouble catching all of the words to her song; according to Chrissie's invaluable transcripts, this is what she sings:
Spock verse: "Oh, on the starship Enterprise, there's someone who's in Satan's guise. Whose devil ears and devil eyes could rip your heart from you. At first, his look could hypnotize, and then his touch would barbarize. His alien love could victimize, and rip your heart from you. And that's why female astronauts, oh, very female astronauts wait terrified and overwrought, to find what he will do. Oh, girls in space, be wary, be wary, be wary! Girls in space, be wary; we know not what he'll do!"
Charlie verse: "Now from a planet out in space, there comes a lad, not commonplace. A-seeking out his first embrace. He's saving it for you. Oh, Charlie's our new darling, our darling, our darling. Charlie's our new darling. We know not what he'll do."
The network thought it was a bad idea to have singing in a science fiction show ... until lots of fans wrote in saying that they loved Uhura's singing. Then the network told the producers to have Uhura sing again (which she does in "Conscience of the King.")
Towards the end of this episode, when Kirk wants everything possible turned on, so as to strain Charlie's power, both Spock and McCoy start pushing buttons on several different bridge stations. So McCoy knows what all those buttons do!
1. Kirk says in a captain's log entry that UESPA has been notified of the loss of the Antares. We'll find out in the episode "Tomorrow Is Yesterday" — also written by Dorothy Fontana — that "UESPA" stands for "United Earth Space Probe Agency."
The creation of Starfleet is still several weeks away; the first time that the word "Starfleet" is mentioned on screen if you go in production order is in "Court Martial," episode 15. The first time that "Starfleet" is said in broadcast order is in the first half of "The Menagerie," the 11th episode broadcast.
2. When Charlie asks how many "people like him" are on board the Enterprise, Kirk replies "428." Since the TOS Writer's Guide says that there are 430 people on the ship, it's possible that Kirk is excluding himself and Spock from that number, himself because Charlie can see him, and Spock because he isn't human. Or this may be an aspect of the ship that they altered slightly once they developed the ship's back story further, increasing the number from 428 to 430.
3. The officers from the Antares have old-style uniform shirts leftover from the pilots and different insignia from that of the Enterprise officers.
Why do they have a different insignia? I'll let Bob Justman -- the invaluable (and hilarious) associate producer of TOS explain it. Here's a memo he sent to Bill Theiss, the costume designer, after seeing a costuming mistake during Season 2:
TO: Bill Theiss
FROM: Bob Justman
SUBJECT: STARSHIP EMBLEMS
TO: Bill Theiss
FROM: Bob Justman
SUBJECT: STARSHIP EMBLEMS
DATE: December 18, 1967
Whilst sitting in Dailies today, it was noticed that a Starship Captain (from another Starship) was wearing an emblem unfamiliar to yours truly. I have checked the occurrences out with Mr. Roddenberry, who has reassured me that all Starship personnel wear the Starship emblem that we have established for our Enterprise Crew Members to wear.
Doubtless this situation has arisen due to the fact that a different Starship emblem was used last season on “CHARLIE X”. However, the personnel of that other ship in that show were the equivalent of merchant marine or freighter personnel — and therefore not entitled to bear this proud insignia on their individual and collective breasts.
Please do not do anything to correct this understandable mistake in the present episode. However, should we have Starfleet personnel in any other episodes, please make certain that they were the proper emblem.
Under penalty of death!
Signed this 18th day of December, in the year of our Lord, 1967, by
ROBERT H. JUSTMAN
CC: Gene Roddenberry
John M. Lucas
P.S. A carven “I’m sorry!” will be sufficient.
4. This is the first episode in which we see the gymnasium; unfortunately, it's also the LAST episode in which we see the gymnasium. So take a good look. :-)
5. As I've said elsewhere, there are no replicators in the Original Series; replicators don't show up in the Star Trek universe until TNG. We see one example of that in this episode, when Kirk says that since it's Thanksgiving on Earth, he wants the chef to make the "synthesized meatloaf" look like turkey. Later the chef calls Kirk on the bridge to tell him that there are real turkeys in the ovens. So yeah, there was an actual person on board who cooked actual food in an actual oven. :-)
6. When TOS first started, the behind-the-scenes staff thought it was crucial to have lots of crew doing stuff in the background in order to make the ship more believable, and in these early episodes, you'll see a LOT of extras walking to and fro or relaxing in the recreation room or otherwise making it clear that there are hundreds of people on the ship. But after the first few episodes, it became clear that the show was going over budget, and they had to cut corners in order to make ends meet, plus the budget for the show was reduced in subsequent seasons, even as the actors were paid more. Sadly, one effect of this is that the Enterprise is not nearly as well populated in later seasons as it is in the first half of Season 1, when it really did look as if there was an entire village aboard the ship.
7. Rand tells Charlie to meet her in "Recreation Room 6," so we know there were at least six rec rooms on the ship. If there were 430 people on the crew, and if a third of them were sleeping at any given time, and a third were on duty, that means that there'd be around 140 off duty and awake at any given time. What do you do with 140 people who have time on their hands? Well, we heard in "The Naked Time" that there was a bowling alley, later on we'll see a conservatory, and we see in this episode that there's a gym in addition to those six rec rooms, so clearly substantial provision has been made for the crew's amusement during their spare time.
8. There's an Enterprise insignia on Kirk's red exercise tights. Why would you need insignia on your exercise tights? I wonder if that means that there are athletic tournaments of some kind that involve personnel from several different ships?
9. When Uhura calls Kirk on the intercom to tell him that every phaser on the ship has vanished, she calls them "phaser weapons." Nowadays, even people who've never seen Star Trek know what a phaser is, but in 1966, it was a brand-new word. During this, the seventh episode made and the second broadcast, they had to append the word "weapon" to "phaser" so that the audience would know what the heck they were talking about. They won't do this for long, though; soon they'll be confident that their audience knows that a phaser is a weapon. :-)
10. When McCoy reports that Charlie is human, not a Thacian, he uses the word "Earthling." That word was common in science fiction, but Star Trek uses it rarely and only in these early episodes. Later on, people from Earth will simply be "human."
11. They mention "Earth Colony Five" in this episode. By the time of "This Side of Paradise," Earth colonies will be referred to by the name of the planets they're on.