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The Trek Nation - What Are Little Girls Made Of?

What Are Little Girls Made Of?

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at July 8, 2005 - 11:58 PM GMT

See Also: 'What are Little Girls Made of?' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: Kirk and Chapel beam down to Exo III, where Chapel's fiancÚ Roger Korby disappeared five years earlier. The couple are reunited in the planet's underground caverns, but Kirk soon discovers that Korby's assistants are all androids and that Korby has a scheme to build new, better humans using android bodies. The scientist creates a duplicate android Kirk and sends it aboard the Enterprise, but the duplicate speaks a prejudicial phrase planted in its mind by the real Captain Kirk and Spock guesses that something is not right. While he puts together a landing party, Kirk cultivates tensions among Korby's team by distracting the attentions of the lifelike female android Andrea and provoking the ancient Ruk, who was left on the planet by the Old Ones who built the machines. After Korby destroys Ruk to save himself, Kirk attacks him and proves to Christine that Korby, too, has an android's body; Christine's dying fiancÚ had transferred his consciousness into an artificial form in his likeness. He orders Andrea to obey him, but Andrea reminds him that she is programmed to love him and the two die in a struggle over the weapon she is holding. Spock finds Kirk with Chapel, who says that although she joined Starfleet to find her beloved, she wishes to stay on the Enterprise.


Analysis: Over the years, Star Trek has provided some of the best presentations of what it would mean to have humanoid androids among us in any science fiction. Long before Picard presented "The Measure of a Man", Kirk was addressing the question of "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" On the surface, this original series episode is quite conservative in its approach to artificial bodies; both Kirk and Christine Chapel are convinced that Roger Korby has been significantly changed by having his consciousness placed into an android's form, and when Spock asks about Korby's fate, Kirk replies that Korby was never there. Yet although accusations are voiced that Korby has become less human in transferring his consciousness into a constructed body, the full androids Andrea and Ruk become victims not of merciless logic but of the emotions with which they have been programmed, which have evidently exceeded their designers' plans.

Robert Bloch, who wrote the episode, was surely familiar with Isaac Asimov's Laws of Robotics, which state that no robot may injure a human being, robots must obey orders given them by human beings and robots may protect their own existence provided that such protection does not interfere with the other laws. Hundreds of science fiction stories and novels make direct or indirect reference to these Laws, often focusing on the conflict that may arise between the first two laws and the third, particularly in beings with artificial intelligence greater than the native intelligence of their keepers. Ruk is the first example on Star Trek (but by no means the last) of an artificial creation whose will to survive conquered the programming of his creators, and many of the ethical quandaries debated in the Data and Lore episodes of The Next Generation have roots visible in "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" Kirk sparks the final confrontation between Korby and Ruk by reminding the older android of his will to survive even at the cost of betraying his programming.

Regrettably we learn very little about Ruk and the civilization that created him, for the focus of the episode - and one of the reasons it is so engrossing to watch - is how humans maintain humanity against beings who seemingly have all of their strengths and none of their weaknesses. Korby's plan for infiltration and domination of humans isn't particularly impressive by android standards. He makes the not-very-bright move of killing two Enterprise security crewmen, then failing to guess that there are people on Kirk's crew who know him well enough to recognize an intruder wearing his face, even carrying his memories. There's no reason for anyone to suspect that Korby isn't human, for although he has become a fanatical megalomaniac during his long exile on the icy planet, his behavior would seem to be filled with human idiosyncrasies. And Kirk is able to sabotage his duplicate by planting one single false phrase in the android Kirk's mind which the android then uses during a moment of frustration - an appropriate human response to a meddling first officer, though Kirk's lust for pretty women clearly does not transfer so thoroughly, as the android Kirk meets his demise by turning Andrea down.

We learn more about Chapel in this episode than at any later point in the series, despite ongoing references to the passion for Spock first mentioned in "The Naked Time": she joined Starfleet to search for her missing fiancÚ, yet she remains loyal to Kirk and refuses blind allegiance to Korby even before she knows that the man on Exo III has an android's body. She has some smart, witty dialogue when she meets Andrea and learns that the other woman is artificial, suggesting that a mechanical geisha must not have been too difficult and retorting to Korby's question about whether she believed he could love a machine by asking, "Did you?" Despite the denials, Andrea has been built for love. She grows confused when Kirk kisses her, insisting that she was not programmed for him, then asking to kiss Kirk when she believes he has escaped, shooting him upon his rejection of her and learning only afterward that it was the android Kirk she saw. She is curious about Chapel's emotions, including the darker ones like jealousy and distrust, and she is unable to override the programming instructing her to love Korby when he insists that she stop.

Does Andrea, in fact, love Korby? Does Andrea have a soul? Kirk suggests that if Korby did once, it has been destroyed from too many years in an inhuman body. Yet Korby evidently still loves Chapel. Ruk threatens Korby for bringing inferior flesh-and-blood humanoids among them, yet Ruk is destroyed because he cannot control his anger, a flesh-and-blood weakness. By contrast, Dr. Brown - the first of Korby's team to be revealed as an android and the first to die - seems mechanical in his reaction to seeing Chapel and when he learns of the Enterprise crewman's death. We never learn the extent to which Brown was based on his original - was his consciousness transferred into a new body as well as Korby's? Or was his form created from a lifeless corpse, or from Korby's memories, and if so, how was Korby able to create a version of his assistant so exact that he could both help with research and convince Chapel that he was the real Brownie?

"What Are Little Girls Made Of?" raises far more questions than it answers. It offers one of the more memorable yet absurd scientific sequences in creating the Kirk android, with bodies spinning around on a giant tabletop, with Andrea and Korby turning dials which release increasingly whiny beeps, yet there is no Dr. McCoy to explain the mechanism by which a person's consciousness might be transferred into a new body, nor to explain the difference between an android with such neural pathways versus one like Andrea whose thoughts and feelings are entirely programmed. There are many spots in the episode where the question of what is "real" is called into question: at the very beginning, for instance, when Spock asks Chapel whether she's sure the voice communicating with them is Korby's and she guesses that Spock has never been engaged if he doesn't realize that of course she would recognize Roger's voice. Ruk can imitate the speech of others, and although Spock tells "Kirk" that he sounds tired when the ancient android pretends to be the captain, the Vulcan does not guess that he is not speaking to the real Kirk any more than Chapel guesses that she is not speaking to the original Korby.

Nor does Chapel remember an "Andrea" among Korby's associates, yet no one thinks to question whether the mysterious woman is human until Korby volunteers the information that she is an android. Andrea is surprised that they have not guessed. She may be as artificial as the fake-looking stalactite Kirk grabs to hit Ruk with, but her feelings are real to her - real enough to kill for, and real enough to die for. I disagree with Kirk that Korby was never there. He was changed by his pride and sense of invincibility, but he still loved Christine, and human emotion seems to be Kirk's standard for separating people from machines. At the end, when Spock gently objects to an insult having been Kirk's means of communicating with him, he exchanges grins with his logical, unemotional first officer and promises to keep it in mind if he finds himself in a similar situation.


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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.