Flashback | Recap | Star Trek: The Original Series S1E16: “The Galileo Seven”
Star Trek – The Galileo Seven
|Episode Title||“The Galileo Seven”|
|Air Date||January 5, 1967|
|Written By||Oliver Crawford and S. Bar David|
Spock leads a shuttlecraft mission that crashes on a planet in the middle of a nebula. He finds himself in command of a group of crewmen who need inspiration and reassurance. This is something difficult for a Vulcan to provide. Meanwhile, as they attempt to rescue their marooned crewmembers, Captain Kirk and the Enterprise face pressure from High Commissioner Ferris (John Crawford). He is supervising a high-priority delivery of medicine to Makus III.
Let’s Dig Deeper into The Galileo Seven
If there’s a single character whose arc permeates the entire run of Star Trek: The Original Series and its accompanying films (even including some of his guest appearances in Star Trek: The Next Generation), it’s Spock. He’s the ultimate Other. He’s the outsider among humans, continually growing and developing, learning what it means to be more human. This will eventually be topped by Data, starting in TNG. The only difference is that Data is explicitly striving to attain humanity, while Spock assumes he’s got it all figured out and must learn that he needs that humanity eventually.
“The Galileo Seven” is the first episode starring Spock (well, the first time in which he doesn’t commit treason…). He struggles with the perils of command, about how even to approach such a situation, apart from the academic theory:
SPOCK: My big chance? For what, Doctor?
MCCOY: Command. Oh, I know you, Mister Spock. You’ve never voiced it, but you’ve always thought that logic was the best basis on which to build command. Am I right?
SPOCK: I am a logical man, Doctor.
MCCOY: It’ll take more than logic to get us out of this.
SPOCK: Perhaps, Doctor, but I know of no better way to begin. I realise command does have its fascinations, even under circumstances such as these. But I neither enjoy the idea of command nor am I frightened of it. It simply exists. And I will do whatever logically needs to be done. Excuse me.
He’s brilliant and wholly capable, but command requires more than just logic. He’s confused that, “Step by step, [he’s] made the correct and logical decisions. Yet two men have died.” Yet this episode is much more than a treatise written by Dr. McCoy on why logic isn’t the answer to all things, expounding on the notion that Spock is a green-blooded-inhuman-cold-hearted thinking machine. It’s about Spock’s humanization.
I teach logic and rhetoric, and what I love about this episode is its determination not to condemn Spock for his philosophy, as the human crewmen around him are all-too-willing to do. As Plato tells us many times, but never better than in his analogy of the three-part soul found in Phaedrus, we’re guided by logos (logic), pathos (emotions), and ethos (ethics). We need to balance our logic and our emotions, guided by our ethics. Our sense of right and wrong. The world would probably run very smoothly if everyone was just logical, acting according to cold, hard facts. But it doesn’t.
Spock and his Vulcan culture revere logic above all things. He’s learning that humans don’t always just fall into a logical line. We feel, we hope, we dream, we cry, we hesitate to act. There’s more to us than reason. This episode makes us sympathize with Spock for his inhumanity, yearning for him to come into the fold because he just won’t listen, won’t empathize.
Luckily, he’s got Scotty and McCoy on his side, both of whom have worked closely with him. When push comes to shove, they’ll support him. When he takes a human risk, jettisoning the fuel to act as a flare for the Enterprise to find, McCoy is right there: “It may be the last action you’ll ever take, Mister Spock, but it was all Human.” Spock still wrestles with this “[t]otally illogical” decision. He opines that, logically, “[t]here was no chance” for success. But McCoy reassures him: “That’s exactly what I mean.” McCoy finally recognizes that Spock is making an effort to grow and learn. Spock’s also got Kirk on his side, not only as a friend, but as a committed captain. In the end, this is still a story about a crew coming together as a cohesive unit, even in spite of their misgivings.
Random Thoughts on Star Trek
High Commissioner Ferris is our first Badmiral. A trope that will become all too familiar as we move deeper into Star Trek. In short: if you see someone with a Captain’s rank or higher, excepting Kirk, of course, don’t trust them. Be they admiral or ambassador or fellow captain, they’re up to something bad. And, if it’s not that sinister, they’re just big jerks.
This episode is no exception. Ferris essentially taunts Kirk about his decision to allow the shuttle to go exploring. He stands behind or above Kirk, dogging him throughout the episode. He’s almost smug about it at times. Kirk should’ve slugged him.
Rather than Kirk just being the action hero star, he’s almost neutered here, forced to deal with a bureaucrat and use sensors to find his crewmen and friend. It’s a new twist for Shatner, and he acquits himself well.
I always applauded Star Trek: Enterprise for deepening and layering the Vulcan race in the franchise, making them more than logical machines. This was often accomplished through the way that the humans interacted with or reacted to the Vulcans. However, the seeds of those relationships and that culture are sown throughout TOS. In the first half of this first season, we’ve gotten blatant racism and open hostility from humans, in addition to McCoy’s passive aggression toward Spock. The Enterprise writers weren’t pulling this out of nowhere.
Of the three blueshirts, two goldshirts, and two redshirts aboard the Galileo Seven, the redshirts stay alive and the command gold officers die. Nothing profound there, just funny that the stereotypes stay alive.
“I intend to continue the search. Foot by foot, inch by inch, by candlelight if necessary, until the last possible moment!”
–Kirk, to High Commissioner Ferris
No doubt! Now we’re getting some character growth from Spock, which will only continue to pay off throughout the next few seasons and six films.
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