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Whom Gods Destroy

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at November 10, 2006 - 5:33 PM GMT

See Also: 'Whom Gods Destroy' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: The Enterprise visits a planetoid with an underground facility to house the criminally insane - only 15 patients, but all thus far incurable. One of the inmates is Garth of Izar, a Starfleet captain once greatly admired by Kirk who went mad after being horribly wounded in the line of duty. When Kirk and Spock beam down with a new treatment that may cure him, they discover that Dr. Cory, who runs the facility, has been imprisoned and that Garth has taken over, using his ability to shapeshift taught to him by friendly aliens. The mad Garth has himself crowned Lord of the Universe and tries to take over the Enterprise by impersonating Captain Kirk, but he cannot answer Scotty's demand for a security code. Garth tries torturing Kirk and sending Orion seductress Marta to get the information, then he turns himself into a replica of Kirk, leaving Spock with the dilemma of determining which is the real captain. When one Kirk demands that Spock shoot both of them to preserve the safety of the Enterprise, Spock realizes that that must be the Kirk he knows. The two of them overpower Garth, who is treated with the new medicine and cured of his megalomania.

Analysis: I had remembered "Whom Gods Destroy" as a real stinker, so I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed rewatching the episode. Although the inconsistencies and plot holes remain as gaping as ever, the storyline features dueling Kirks, an Orion dance, a double Vulcan neck pinch, bad recitations of Shakespeare and that rather touching scene in which Spock admits that he has come to think of Kirk as a brother. Okay, so the idea that a humanoid can be taught "cellular metamorphosis" that would allow him to transform instantly into any other being is ludicrous, and Spock's logic appears to fail him utterly when he must determine which Kirk is the real Kirk...couldn't he ask a question like "What was your brother's name?" or "Who is the helmsman of the Enterprise?" or "What secret about Vulcan biology did you promise never to discuss with anyone else?" But then, of course, we would have been deprived of Kirk vs. Kirk, and what fun would that be?

"Whom Gods Destroy" may be bad, but it revels in its badness. The villain has a clichéd Evil Bad Buy laugh, wants to be Master of the Universe - not even Khan aspired to that! - and has a super-power. He may have been exiled to Elba (II), but he still thinks of himself as a Napoleon, and he is so arrogant and cruel that he kills his Orion consort just to demonstrate that he can and will. It's a horrible scene, yet a little difficult to take seriously, for the mad Garth and Marta are characterized more as cartoons than real people. Marta has some stellar comic moments nonetheless - trying to kill Kirk mid-seduction to put him out of his misery, for instance, plus claiming to be the most beautiful woman on a planet where she is the only woman, and insisting that although Shakespeare may have written his Sonnet XVIII several hundred years ago, that does not alter the fact that she wrote it again yesterday. Though she seems unhinged, Marta doesn't come across as nearly as insane as the others, most of whom passively follow Garth's orders as if they've been drugged; she tries to warn Kirk that the doctor he meets isn't Cory, and she's extremely articulate, if lacking judgment...which is an improvement in some ways on other Orion women we've seen on Star Trek.

Garth's success hinges on a gimmick that's crazier than he is: though apparently human, or whatever the equivalent from Izar might be called, he can transform himself and his clothes completely into any other being he wishes. The diagnosis of madness is necessary to explain why he keeps sabotaging very good charades; he mimics Spock superbly; I'm still not sure exactly what tips Kirk off that he's not the real thing. And I'm not sure why, during his moments of communication with the Enterprise, Kirk doesn't shout, "Hey Scotty! There's a madman down here who can pretend to be anyone!" so Scotty knows what he's up against. But, like I said, logical thinking doesn't seem to be high on anyone's agenda in "Whom Gods Destroy." Having a security code would seem to be a very clever idea, but how come we've never seen one before? A single sentence about how it's a brand new protocol being tested would have fixed that. Sloppy, silly, though - again - kind of fun.

There's not much in this episode worthy of deep analysis - otherwise questions would come up about whether Garth should be prosecuted for attempted genocide, not to mention Marta's cold-blooded murder, and Scotty's lack of creativity in mounting a rescue is quite disappointing - but there is that lovely scene where Kirk attempts to remind Lord Garth that he once held the venerable title of starship captain. Kirk reminds Garth of his strategic genius and the peace mission he led to a planet Kirk visited as a young officer, which Garth makes Garth scoff - "Peace mission! Politicians and weaklings!" But Kirk points out that those humanitarians took their dream of peace to the stars, "a dream that made Mr. Spock and me brothers." Gloating, Garth asks sarcastically, "Mr. Spock, do you consider Captain Kirk and yourself brothers?", quite certain (and perhaps rightly so) that the logical reply will put Kirk down.

But instead Spock says, "Captain Kirk speaks somewhat figuratively, and with undue emotion; however, what he says is logical, and I do, in fact, agree with it." It doesn't get any more original Trek than that, and although Garth insists that Spock is blind - "You are his subordinate and that is all" - it is Garth who clearly doesn't see the loyalty that is there, of a completely different nature than the terrified obedience he receives from those around him. It enables Spock to believe that he will be able to tell the real Captain Kirk without asking logical questions, and it allows Spock to guess which man to shoot when the moment comes, though Kirk teases him about how long it takes him to figure out. Fluff, but entertaining fluff, and in Star Trek's wildly uneven third season, that's satisfaction enough.

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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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