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The Trek Nation - By Any Other Name

By Any Other Name

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at May 26, 2006 - 8:24 PM GMT

See Also: 'By Any Other Name' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: Kirk and several crewmembers beam down to an M-class planet in response to a distress call, only to be taken hostage by the Kelvans - a group of aliens from the Andromeda Galaxy seeking to colonize the Milky Way. Their ship was destroyed during the 300-year journey in the void, so they need the Enterprise to return home and report on their findings, but in order to use the ship, they have had to assume human form rather than their natural tentacled bodies. Furious at having his ship taken and his crew reduced to their essential elements in the form of polyhedrons, Kirk considers blowing up the Enterprise as it crosses the galactic barrier but remains convinced that the remaining human crewmembers - himself, Spock, McCoy and Scotty - can regain control of the ship. The command crew plays on the unfamiliar emotions and sensations of the Kelvans: McCoy gives on repeated doses of a stimulant, Scotty gets another drunk, Kirk tries to seduce one of the females and Spock makes sure that the leader, Rojan, is jealous of Kirk's actions. When Rojan attacks Kirk using his fists rather than his advanced technology, Kirk points out that the Kelvans have already become very human and their descendants will not be recognizable to the inhabitants of their own galaxy. Rojan accepts Kirk's offer to return them to the planet where he found them, and in return for the restoration of his crew, Kirk promises to ask the Federation to aid the Kelvans in creating a colony before their galaxy is rendered uninhabitable by radiation.


Analysis: Last week I said that "Patterns of Force" hadn't held up as well as I remembered; this week I must admit that "By Any Other Name" holds up better than I would have imagined. There are some absurdities -- the idea that the entire Andromeda galaxy would become uninhabitable due to radiation without some cataclysmic event, the ability of the Enterprise to travel without refueling in the void, even the fact that the Kelvans left no human females in their natural form so that the crew could reproduce and train replacements for their essential positions. And there are similarities with "Where No Man Has Gone Before", which also saw Kirk a victim of super-beings at the galactic barrier, and "Return To Tomorrow", where powerful aliens couldn't handle the temptations of human flesh. Yet "By Any Other Name" manages by turns to be both witty and profound, with more action than "Return To Tomorrow" and the dynamic relationship among the series principals that make so many later-season episodes so wonderful.

This episode also contains a very strange event: McCoy and Scotty yelling at Kirk for failing to blow up the Enterprise! Oddly, McCoy behaves as if the crew is dead, when he saw with his own eyes that people could be restored to themselves as easily as they could be reduced to geometric shapes. Considering that the Kelvans could just as easily have killed the entire crew or stranded them on the planet before taking the ship, their behavior seems relatively humane - plus the Kelvans' arrogance makes them reckless, as they don't bother to guard any of the humans left wandering around. It's strange that Kirk is the only one optimistic enough to want to keep the ship intact, given how many years they have to devise a plan to stop the takeover. Kirk never for a moment seems any more intimidated by Rojan or Kelinda (whom he proves early on that he can knock out with a blow, which becomes the excuse for repeated "apologies" in the form of kisses) than he was by Mitchell, Apollo, Sargon, et al.

It helps that Kirk seems to be attracted to Kelinda from the start, and welcomes the opportunity to seduce her much as he did with Sylvia in "Catspaw" - this is, after all, his trademark approach to disarming female opponents from Lenore to Drusilla and a whole host of others. William Shatner and Barbara Bouchet play the couple with subtlety and nice chemistry. Meanwhile Scotty pulls out hidden bottles of rare alcohol from all over his quarters to get Tomar drunk, culminating in a bottle of verra verra old scotch that he was saving for some event we never discover (a side note: at the very first Star Trek convention I ever attended, when I was in high school, a fan in the audience asked James Doohan whether he had had a conclusion to that sentence in his head, but Doohan said he never know what Scotty was saving it for). There are numerous other witty moments, like Spock goading Rojan with comments about the headway Kirk has made in seducing Kelinda and Rojan's loyal henchman Hanar, who has the authority on the planet to promise McCoy that he can get the "ailing" Spock back to the Enterprise, throwing a tantrum on the bridge about Rojan's authority, not realizing that he has been compromised by the adrenaline-like irritant with which McCoy has been plying him.

Spock's phony illness provides several laughs as well: first when Kirk orders him to be sick, then when McCoy tries to talk over Chapel as he demands an innocuous hypo of stokaline so he can impress Hanar with his skills "saving Spock's life", and finally when Spock wishes to hint to McCoy that perhaps the two of them should leave Kirk alone with Kelinda, telling McCoy he thinks it's time for another injection of stokaline. It's perhaps a bit lighthearted in an episode where a red-shirted yeoman is crushed to dust to prove the Kelvans' superiority, but it keeps the storyline moving once the crew is trapped on the ship. What depth there is comes from Rojan's comparison of himself and Kirk as leaders - he correctly supposes that it will be harder for Kirk to watch a crewmember die than to take punishment himself - and Kirk's attempt to discuss flowers to an alien who has never seen them before, ultimately resorting to a quote from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, "That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

Perhaps Kelinda chooses Shakespeare to study love, for she grasps it much more quickly than, say, the innocents of "The Apple", and understands that while she is attracted to Kirk, it is Rojan with whom she wishes to stay. It hardly seems worth it for Scotty to have rigged the ship to explode in protection against these aliens; once in human skins, they not only develop human sensations but they appear to learn from the role models at hand, specifically Kirk and Spock. It's too bad Star Trek never went back to the idea of an exodus from Andromeda and a look at what the Kelvans evolved into outside their home environment.


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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.