Star Trek: TOS – S03E16, The Mark of Gideon

tos3x16gThe Mark of Gideon deals with an interesting theme, overpopulation, but unfortunately it’s very confusing and at the end doesn’t convey a serious message about it. It also suffers from pacing problems: the rhythm is really soporific here, and there are various inconsistencies that make the plot difficult to follow. So let’s talk about the plot!

The Enterprise goes on a diplomatic mission to the planet Gideon, which is not yet part of the Federation. Only Captain Kirk is allowed to go to the surface to conduct the negotiations, but something goes wrong: Spock teleports him, but diplomat Hodin (David Hurst) claims that there’s no trace of Kirk on the planet. And while Spock begins negotiating with Hodin (the half-Vulcan also makes unflattering comments on bureaucrats and diplomats: curious that in the future he would become an ambassador himself), Kirk finds himself in a replica of the Enterprise with the beautiful Odona (Sharon Acker) with which of course a love story begins.

The episode is all about the mystery of what’s going on, and the mystery itself is actually intriguing. But when the explanation is given, it’s so unsatisfactory that the whole story loses its strength. Basically, Gideon suffers from an overpopulation problem because nobody dies anymore (it’s comical to see how the inhabitants can’t even move because they are pressed against each other), and Hodin has built a replica of the Enterprise to infect his daughter Odona with a virus brought by Kirk (what virus, then?) in the hope that she would then infect the population causing the death of a part of it.

Kirk naturally asks for explanations on how the situation on the planet got to that point and talks talking about contraceptive methods and birth control, but Hodin is adamant: the love for life on Gideon is too strong and those methods are unacceptable. But… how come death from a pandemic is acceptable instead? Wouldn’t it be better then to kill people above a certain age (for instance, euthanasia was used by Asimov in his 1950 novel Pebble in the Sky)? And is a global infection really considered better than using contraceptive methods? Moreover, if they are able to build a perfect replica of the Enterprise, why don’t they simply colonize other planets to reduce population density on Gideon?

In short, the plot doesn’t hold, the ideas are confused, and the final message is… meaningless. Too bad, because by now the trio Kirk, Spock and McCoy is such a well-oiled machine that with good stories they could easily come out with superb episodes (and there have been many examples so far), but this time the mechanism really misfired. Ciao!


Previous episode: Let That Be Your Last Battlefield

Next episode: That Which Survives


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