Star Trek’s final season is by far the show’s worst. Gene Roddenberry was originally told that the show would run opposite Laugh-In, one of the network’s biggest hits at the time. But Dan Rowan, one of the show’s creators, did not like the idea. Instead, the show was last-minute changed to Friday night, which is traditionally the kiss of death, causing Roddenberry to leave, with Fred Freiberger replacing him (it should be noted that Freiberger had little experience running a sci-fi program). To make matters worse, DC Fontana, the show’s best writer, left early in the season. Most of the most-hated episodes come from this season, including this one.
The story starts with the Enterprise discovering a Class-M planet that is being threatened by an asteroid. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beam down and discover a society similar to that of Native Americans, and very primitive. They also discover an obelisk that could not have been constructed by the inhabitants. Kirk surmises that it is alien technology and attempts to use it, causing himself to be trapped. Spock and McCoy are unable to help because they must return to the ship. Kirk is hit by a beam, causing amnesia. He is found by Silas, a medicine man, and a his wife, a priestess named Miramanee. Miramanee falls in love with Kirk after Kirk resuscitates a drowned boy Silas cannot heal (we’ll overlook the fact that Kirk’s method of CPR is no longer used). Kirk then becomes the new medicine man, despite Silas’s protests. He is given the new name of “Kirok” (he cannot pronounce his own name properly due to his amnesia) and Miramanee is betrothed to him. Silas becomes jealous and plots to usurp his new rival. However, Kirk’s subconscious is plagued by dreams of the Enterprise.
The story depicts Native Americans in stereotypically backward fashion. I’m also not fond of how Kirk receives his new name. His amnesia is so contrived, as is often the case in stories using this cliché. And of course, once the crisis is averted, Miramanee conveniently dies. When Kirk returns to the Enterprise, he is distraught over the loss of his betrothed. Spock uses a mind-meld on him, causing him to forget everything that happened on the planet. This is also one of Kirk’s worst performances, as if he’s not even confident in the story. Trust me folks, the worst episodes will only get more disappointing as this countdown continues.
But for now, we will return to the best episodes next time, with one of the many “evil Kirk” episodes.