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July 17 2024


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Friday's Child

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at March 3, 2006 - 9:27 PM GMT

See Also: 'Friday´s Child' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: When the Enterprise is sent to the Capellan system to negotiate the right to mine an important mineral, the landing party discovers that a Klingon has beaten them there. Although the current leader, Akaar, is sympathetic to the human petition, the warrior Maab prefers the Klingons, and when Maab's men kill Akaar, he demands the life of Akaar's pregnant widow Eleen. Kirk and McCoy convince her to flee with them and they hide in the mountains, where Eleen delivers the baby while Kirk and Spock make bows and arrows. Wanting to return to her former life, Eleen leaves the baby with McCoy and tells Maab that she killed it along with the humans. The Klingon, Kras, does not believe her, insisting that they should search the hills. Furious at having his authority questioned, Maab fights Kras, defending Eleen and giving one of the other Capellans a shot at the Klingon, who dies. Just then officers from the Enterprise arrive after having been diverted by a Klingon ruse. Eleen agrees to a treaty with the Federation, naming her son after Kirk and McCoy.

Analysis: "Friday's Child" is both one of the most attractive episodes of the original series and one of its snarkiest. Kirk, Spock and McCoy get stuck on a hilly planet that resembles the one where Kirk was stranded with the Gorn - Vasquez Rocks get used to their full advantage again - without their communicators and with Julie Newmar, meaning that their different values and personal styles clash productively. For a change, McCoy is the one with the most knowledge about the planet they're visiting; he must keep reminding Kirk that the Capellans are obsessed with tradition -- and he's also the one who comes closest to getting the girl, since being allowed to touch Eleen is a privilege normally reserved for a husband alone.

This is a storyline whose drama is perhaps stronger in the idea than the execution; both Maab and the Klingon are written rather stiffly and played somewhat over-the-top, but the basic conflict is a familiar one on Star Trek and makes for an entertaining installment. The two superpowers, the Federation and the Klingon Empire, require a mineral whose rights are possessed by a society both consider backward; interestingly, the Klingons appear to have done more homework than the Federation, which sends a starship captain rather than a trained negotiator and relies on a briefing by his ship's surgeon rather than someone familiar with the region of space to help him understand the Capellans. The Klingons also seem to have evolved since their run-in with the Organians; rather than arriving in force and attempting to control the Capellans by terror, they send an envoy who appeals to the tribe's sense of honor. Kirk, who simply assumes that he will be believed when he announces that the Klingons are savage murderers - particularly when the one on the planet kills a red-shirted security officer for attempting to draw a weapon - is shocked to discover that both Akaar and Maab find logic in negotiating with both sides.

Kirk is not as his best at all here, preaching openness and evolution to a society that values tradition and conservation of their values. He makes one mistake after another, nearly eating the food that would force him to engage in combat, then being called a coward by the man who will not have the chance to fight him. He reacts out of instinct to save a woman whose unborn child may be the cause of a civil war if it survives. What is the Federation thinking, sending a Starfleet captain to negotiate for mineral rights? We never learn how much Kirk has been told that he may sacrifice for this treaty. There can't be too much value placed upon him, for when Scotty learns from Uhura that there may be nearby freighter in distress, he abandons the landing party without sending any sort of warning or reinforcements to the surface, citing Starfleet obligations. Even if the distress call had been real, what if the landing party had died and the treaty went to the Klingons? The mission itself seems ill thought out.

Still, there's a lot of energy in the conflict that's fun to watch. Kirk is rather snappish being in a situation where both Spock and McCoy know more than he does; he doesn't really hit his stride till he and Spock get into the hills to make weapons. McCoy, meanwhile, remains calm even while Kirk is under a death sentence - he's the one who schemes to distract the guards and allow them all to escape - but he's not happy about having such a resistant patient as Eleen and resorts to slapping her after she repeatedly does so to him. When Kirk asks if the doctor got permission to touch the woman by giving her a happy pill, McCoy retorts, "No, a right cross," and says that's going into his medical book from now on. Spock, meanwhile, appears to be amused (as amused as a Vulcan can be, at least) at Eleen's admiration of McCoy's tender hands. When Eleen - having mistaken McCoy's insistence that she say "The child is mine" for a custody demand - asks the doctor to "bring our child," Spock declares that it will be very interesting to hear how McCoy became the father of Eleen's baby.

The Capellans are one of the most patriarchal societies we see on Star Trek, and Eleen is so thoroughly indoctrinated in their ideology that she is willing to die because she is carrying a rival to Maab's rule. When Kirk, thinking to help, tries to pull her to safety, she is furious that he dared to touch the wife of a Capellan leader and demands to see him executed first. She doesn't like the idea of McCoy touching her any better, but once he heals the pain in her arm, she forgives him and becomes attached to him - not that that stops her from beaning him over the head with a rock so she can abandon her child with him and make her escape. I find it rather incredible that even in the most rigid society, a pregnant woman would not be examined by the healer of greatest authority, which makes me wonder about the world of women on Capella that we never see. Do the warriors choose their wives or do the women pick the strongest men? Akaar is aware that he is an old man with a young wife and afraid of the implications even before he learns of Maab's treachery. We receive hints that this is an unstable culture or a culture in flux...what will be the consequences of Kirk and Spock's demonstration of the bow and arrow?

Maab, sadly, dies just as he is learning what it means to be a leader; the fact that he has seen fear in the Klingon's eyes changes his perspective on his obligations, and he ultimately chooses to give his life for Eleen and the stability of his culture. In a cheesier episode it would be implied that he learned these values from the Starfleet officers, just as Eleen learned to lie to protect them and the child she did not have the heart to kill, yet the Capellans remain refreshingly Capellan. Whether Eleen as regent will institute more radical changes from her interaction with Kirk, Spock and McCoy, we never learn, for instead of speculation on her remarkable scheming, James and Leonard are busy congratulating themselves on the child's having been named Leonard James Akaar ("I think the two of you will be insufferably pleased with yourselves for a month," Spock notes).

"Friday's Child" isn't one of the great episodes; it suffers from some stiff dialogue, the ill-thought out Starfleet and Federation background and the attack of the cheesy Styrofoam pieces just like in "Arena" (filmed at the same location with its unmistakable rock formations). Still, any episode that includes McCoy's "I'm a doctor, not an elevator," Spock's "Oochie woochie coochie coo, Doctor?" and Scotty's "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me" is worth keeping for posterity. And Eleen, who is neither love interest nor victim, is a great character.

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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.

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