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The Galileo Seven

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at September 9, 2005 - 8:24 PM GMT

See Also: 'The Galileo Seven' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: The Enterprise is transporting emergency supplies and Commissioner Ferris to a plague on Makus III, but Kirk has standing orders to investigate all quasar phenomena, so when the ship passes the Murasaki cluster, Spock takes a team in a shuttle to investigate. Without warning the shuttle is pulled toward the center of the phenomenon, where Spock and Scotty are able to land it on the Class M planet there. None of the crewmembers are badly injured but all the fuel has been lost. While Scotty concocts a plan to drain the phasers so that the shuttle can take off again, Spock sends two officers out to investigate the planet. They are quickly killed by giant humanoids who then begin attacking the shuttle itself. Meanwhile, Ferris insists to Kirk that his obligation is to hurry to Makus III to treat the plague but Kirk insists on searching for his lost crew, focusing on the planet at the center of the Murasaki cluster, though ship's instruments cannot penetrate the ionization. Forced to leave before the search is completed, the Enterprise picks up an object in orbit of the planet. Spock has achieved orbit and jettisoned the shuttle's fuel in the hope that the ship will see the burning material and lock on to the crew, which is just what the Enterprise does. The five surviving away team members are beamed aboard.

Analysis: As Dr. McCoy observes, "The Galileo Seven" tells the story of Spock's first command. As first officer, it's surely not the first time he has ever been in a command situation, but it is perhaps the first time he has led two other senior officers on an away mission, and it is certainly the first time a Star Trek audience gets to observe Spock's command style completely independent of Kirk and any possibility of assistance from the ship or Starfleet. Spock insists to McCoy that he has no great interest in command nor does he fear it, yet we see indications that neither statement is completely true. He is eager to see his logical approach succeed, and when it does not - when crewmembers die on his watch - he displays signs of anxiety.

But this is nothing to Kirk's strain when he realizes he has sent several valuable officers (and his best friends) on a mission from which they may never return because he won't have time to finish searching for them. Spock isn't there to explain that the needs of the many must outweigh the needs of the few; there is no doubt that he believes Kirk will and should leave them behind to stop the plague. It doesn't stop Kirk from giving the emotional order to proceed at a crawl and keep aft sensors on the planet where he believes his crewmembers are marooned. As a study in command styles, we're definitely predisposed to want Spock to be more like Kirk than like Commissioner Ferris, whose logical insistence that Kirk must go stop the plague makes him seem like a cruel, cold, arrogant leader. On the other hand, we don't really want either of them to become like Lieutenant Boma, who is willing to risk the lives of the living to bury the dead.

Boma is very nearly insubordinate almost from the beginning, when the Galileo makes an emergency landing and Spock observes that the shuttle will have to be lighter by the weight of three grown men in order to take off. The furious lieutenant suggests that Spock's head must have been damaged in the crash, and McCoy goes along with this, saying that in fact it's the Vulcan's heart he wonders about. Boma is even angrier when Latimer is killed and Spock seems more interested in the nature of the weapon than the fact of the loss, though Spock is attempting to reason an approach to the natives of the planet, assuming that there must be a logical way to defuse the situation. He declines to attend funeral services although as acting captain he is expected to speak, preferring to remain with Scotty - the member of the landing party who behaves most rationally throughout - as they consider alternatives that might allow them to lift off.

Spock's logic meets with decidedly imperfect results, and he acknowledges that since he is in command, the orders and the responsibility will be his alone. Would hitting the aliens head-on with phasers have killed or frightened enough to keep the crew safe until the shuttle could lift off? Unlikely, since one of the away teams from the Enterprise told Kirk that the giants were all over the planet and attacking intruders indiscriminately. Nonetheless Boma feels free to criticize Spock's decisions and Spock expresses dismay that although he has approached the situation logically, two men have died. We see this happen to Kirk quite often - he loses several red-shirted ensigns in the very first televised episode - yet it seems to surprise Spock that logic cannot spare his command these tragedies.

Spock would not use the word "tragedies"; Spock would prefer to focus on the positive, the fact that the decision about whom to leave behind must never be made, the fact that Scotty has a plan that might very well work. Nonetheless, he allows himself to be persuaded by McCoy and Boma's emotions to help bury one of the dead crewmembers, and the decision very nearly costs him his own life. The doctor and lieutenant go back to rescue him, for they are entirely consistent in their belief that emotional attachment to one man is worth risking the lives of several, despite Spock's objections. It is he who wavers.

Ironically, this is not the decision for which he is teased by the entire crew once they have returned to the Enterprise; rather, it is for his decision to jettison the fuel and ignite it, thus reducing several hours of orbit to a few minutes before the orbit will begin to decay. Spock's decision is extremely logical, for even if the Enterprise is nearby, it may not detect the shuttle given the problems ionization has caused with its sensors. Scotty rightly concludes that Spock has used the vehicle itself as a flare and congratulates him on the effort, for he knows as well as Spock does that they will die upon reentry if they are not rescued beforehand and a few hours won't produce a miracle. Kirk labels this an act of desperation, then labels desperation a highly emotional state of mind, though what triggers his amusement is when Spock will admit to being stubborn without once conceding that emotion might have played a role in his choices. In the case of that act of desperation, though, I fail to see how he could have made a more logical decision - they couldn't land, they had only slow death to return to if they somehow found a way, and their top priority was somehow to catch the attention of the ship.

It's highly entertaining to watch McCoy and Spock snipe at each other, particularly since we see more extreme versions of their ostensible personalities within the episode - Boma being emotional to the point of unreason and Ferris being coldly rational to the point of insensitivity. (The yeoman on the shuttle is pretty worthless in terms of contributing to the landing party, but at least she isn't cast in the role of being frightened or hysterical; Uhura, on the other hand, is the one who suggests that the Class M planet in the Murasaki phenomenon is a logical place for the shuttle to have landed.) Scotty, too, has nice interplay, reminding Spock that he said there were always alternatives and grinning with McCoy when the doctor pronounces his pleasure that at least he lived long enough to hear Spock admit he may have been mistaken.

It's this interplay that make this such a successful episode, for the fur-clothed giants and their spears don't hold up as a particularly impressive threat, nor does Commissioner Ferris, for how many times in later episodes do we see Kirk violate Starfleet orders to save Spock's life? "Amok Time" anyone? Spock's first command has its rocky moments, but it ends well and the drama of its unfolding is very successful.

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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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