Star Trek: The Animated Series: The Infinite Vulcan   Rewatch 
May 26, 2020 3:45 PM - Season 1, Episode 7 - Subscribe

A species of intelligent plants, led by a clone of a Eugenics Wars-era scientist, clones Spock with the intentions of creating a master race to keep the peace.

Most of Memory Alpha's commentary on this episode is quotes from the writer himself, Walter "Pavel Chekov" Koenig.

Background information
Story, cast, and production
  • Walter Koenig, whose character of Chekov was excluded from TAS, wrote this episode as his contribution to the series. "Before the decision was made as to who would be in the Star Trek animated show," Koenig explained, "they had already offered me a script to do." (The Best of Trek, p. 33)
  • Walter Koenig remembered the source of the episode's premise: "I took it from the newspapers. Cloning was something that was being speculated about a great deal in that period [....] There was a lot of discussion. I thought, 'What if?' And I took it from there." Koenig contributed not only the idea of Spock being cloned but also the concept of interstellar peace-keepers. "The idea was that you could have this super race of people throughout the galaxy maintaining peace," he explained. (Star Trek Monthly issue 26, p. 16.)
  • The living plant which attacks Sulu is named retlaw – Walter spelled backwards. "That was [also] my idea," declared Koenig. "You know, back in the 1940s there was a comic book called Planet Comics, and the aliens talked backwards. I was trying to be cute, not clever, when I did that [....] Whenever I get a chance, it's my little signature thing, to have a character's name be someone else's name spelled backwards."
  • The details of the story constituted, for all the rewriting through which the script went, a not-entirely-conscious expression of Walter Koenig's long-standing frustrations with the original live-action series. This can be seen, for example, in first Sulu, whose cross-training included botany, and then Spock, who had nearly always been looking critically over Chekov's shoulder, falling victim to botanical sapients; the references to the Eugenics Wars that Koenig made in the script because of not having joined the cast until after "Space Seed" had been transmitted; and Keniclius 5's striking resemblance, due to character design, to Koenig's own appearance at the time.
Continuity
  • This is the first time that the United Federation of Planets is affirmed as being founded in the 22nd century.
  • This episode references the original series episode "Space Seed", by featuring one of the scientists responsible for creating the Augments and by mentioning the Eugenics Wars.
  • This episode mentions the Kzinti race, a tie-in to "The Slaver Weapon" and to Larry Niven's Known Space Universe.
Poster's Log:

Star Trek actors writing Star Trek things doesn't always work out so well (ST5: The Final Frontier, I am definitely looking at you), but Koenig's work here is solid, if perhaps a little reminiscent of "Spock's Brain". Tying in "Space Seed" via the Eugenics War mention, along with the throwaway line about the Kzin, really served to add a layer of continuity that we didn't always see in TOS.

For me, this rewatch cast yet another spotlight on Uhura's expanded role in the ship's hierarchy. Her research is integral to the psychological problem of "how do we get through to this giant?", and that role would likely have passed to a male crew member in the life action show. TAS's willingness to frontline female characters is still refreshing.

There's one glaringly obvious continuity error - when Keniclius 5 smashes the machine keeping Spock alive, after the IDIC speech, Spock is seen lying on the bed. Just moments ago, McCoy had been scanning him while he was lying on the floor.

Sulu's body throw of Agmar is fabulous, but I think we all could have done without the fourth-wall breaking wink Sulu throws at the camera shortly thereafter.
posted by hanov3r (31 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Gah, proofreading. "in the live action show", of course.
posted by hanov3r at 3:48 PM on May 26, 2020


Finally, a canon explanation for why the large Mego dolls co-exist with the 3 3/4" action figures!
posted by StarkRoads at 4:30 PM on May 26, 2020 [4 favorites]


Oh boy! I love this silly episode.
posted by mwhybark at 4:42 PM on May 26, 2020


BEHOOOOLD GENTLEMEN
posted by mwhybark at 4:43 PM on May 26, 2020


N95 masks!
posted by mwhybark at 4:44 PM on May 26, 2020


aw, I am having TOS gear lust even! How I miss my 1/2 size tricorder and phaser flashlight
posted by mwhybark at 4:46 PM on May 26, 2020


Spock 2 holding the dinky communicator! Yes! Scale inappropriateness is a thing!
posted by mwhybark at 4:47 PM on May 26, 2020


ONE FINGER MIND MELD
posted by mwhybark at 4:49 PM on May 26, 2020


“You’re the most scrutable man I know”

Ohhh myyyyyy
posted by mwhybark at 4:51 PM on May 26, 2020 [2 favorites]


LOL, I totally forgot Koenig wrote this. I just love it.
posted by mwhybark at 4:52 PM on May 26, 2020


“retlaw”, oh man
posted by mwhybark at 4:53 PM on May 26, 2020


Nichols also voiced the ship computer here, I beleive.
posted by mwhybark at 4:55 PM on May 26, 2020


The dinky communicator makes me want to get my mom to dig out my old Mego Star Trek bridge playset.
posted by hanov3r at 5:10 PM on May 26, 2020 [1 favorite]


Dude, *exactly* what I was feeling. The tiny light blue choking-hazard size kit!
posted by mwhybark at 5:15 PM on May 26, 2020


Is anyone else bothered by the title? A 50’ Spock is large, but absolutely finite.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:14 AM on May 27, 2020


The tiny communicators were always the first thing we lost when we got a new Mego Star Trek figure. And the shiny foil on the uniform insignia was usually the next thing to go. We never had any of the super-rare ones like the Andorian or the Gorn, but we did have a Klingon along with all the rest of the Enterprise crew.

And, c'mon, "retlaw"? I had that figured out in two seconds even back then. To this day, I always make a point of seeing if weird science fiction names are just someone's name anagrammed or spelled backward because of that.
posted by briank at 4:55 AM on May 27, 2020


Mego gear on ebay
posted by mwhybark at 8:46 AM on May 27, 2020


This one makes me laugh. Full size for cosplay!
posted by mwhybark at 8:49 AM on May 27, 2020


This episode used to be the one that made me sure that TAS couldn't possibly be canon, because I'd read about the square-cube law, and that therefore Keniclius 5 and SpockMax would have collapsed under their own weight. (Whether the planet having lower gravity than Earth would have helped that much wasn't something I considered, and may not have done so since, the lower gravity you've got, the thinner atmosphere.) Of course, we all know that Trek is full of space-magic, with the "Heisenberg compensators" of the transporter and psychic powers and even warp drive depending on elements that don't actually exist. But the square-cube law was what made this stick in my young geek craw.

Now, it's just kind of trippy in a dream-logic way, with the plant people and the retlaws and plant dragons and, yes, SpockMax. (Who has a giant Starfleet uniform because for some reason Keniclius 5 wanted him in that rather than a toga, probably because the animation company didn't want to have to do a separate SpockMaxToga.) I mean, the last of the Eugenics War scientists probably would have gone, "Let's make me, only Maxi-Me."

WRT the toys, I was enough of a Paleo-Trekkie that the tie-in toys that we had when I was a kid were of this shitty genre. By the time whoever had the license realized that there was serious money in good Trek merch, I was "too old" for action figures. But I showed 'em! Me and Edith don't need those losers!
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:27 PM on May 27, 2020 [3 favorites]


WRT the toys, I was enough of a Paleo-Trekkie that the tie-in toys that we had when I was a kid were of this shitty genre. By the time whoever had the license realized that there was serious money in good Trek merch, I was "too old" for action figures.

If y'all haven't watched it yet, season 2 episode 1 of "The Toys That Made Us", available in the US on Netflix, is all about Star Trek toys and licensing. Man, did I want the Phaser Battle game.
posted by hanov3r at 4:11 PM on May 27, 2020 [3 favorites]


Oh, HJ, rest assured, extreme crapitude was absolutely de rigeur until well into TNG’s triumphant victory processions in the early nineties. The Mego playsets and figures were moderately exceptional in the context of similar lines, but ultimately frustrating despite the affection we have for them today.

The partial exception to this was to be found in the AMT vacc model lines, but not for every model. The initial licensed product was NCC-1701, famously used on screen in at least “The Trouble with Tribbles” and “The Doomsday Machine”. The line expanded throughout the seventies and eventually included a model of the NCC-1701 bridge that, in hindsight, must have been developed from studio carpentry blueprints. But even though AMT really tried, their products were always, like, slightly lacking. Warped pieces, thickened support members - wevs, I’m still happy for my time with the kits.
posted by mwhybark at 4:36 PM on May 27, 2020 [2 favorites]


The Mego playsets and figures were moderately exceptional in the context of similar lines, but ultimately frustrating despite the affection we have for them today.

Somehow what I most recall from the Mego figures is the ephemerality of the silver coating on the arrowhead insignia, which was a separate layer from the adhesive holding the backing layer to the tunic. The shiny layer was held on to the backing by, I dunno, surplus Post-It adhesive? Static electricity? A letter writing campaign organized by Bjo Trimble? For about three weeks after I received a Star Trek figure, it looked like Star Fleet issue; beyond that, everyone had a matte taupe insignia.

With a marker and some foresight, I could have invented Discovery's black Section 31 insignia about 40-odd years ahead of time.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:29 PM on May 27, 2020 [2 favorites]


I am appreciative of and amused by the OG stuff we’re excavating here. A shame we (or I) missed the TOS rewatch here.
posted by mwhybark at 10:08 PM on May 27, 2020


Is anyone else bothered by the title? A 50’ Spock is large, but absolutely finite.

Apologies for delayed uptake, Genji. Since Keniculus 5 is number five in a presumably infinite series, so must we presume the same for Spock 2.
posted by mwhybark at 10:12 PM on May 27, 2020 [3 favorites]


The only issue with this episode is that in The Search For Spock, after Sarek fails to find Spock's katra in Kirk's head and before they realize it's in Bones', he says, "Then everything that he was...everything that he knew is lost" - and all I could think was, well, no, they've got a 50-foot Spock running around out there with all of his memories up to TAS, at least. (Of course, their relationship suggests Spock probably wouldn't have mentioned that incident to his father.)

If they'd swung by to borrow the 50-foot Spock, it would have made The Voyage Home much easier - he could have just picked up a whale under each arm and run.
posted by ilana at 10:41 PM on May 27, 2020 [7 favorites]


This is the first time I'd seen this one, and it was whackadoodle enough that it put me in the mood for a Solar Opposites (ironically, the one where the main guy mentions making giant versions of your family).

I appreciated the creepy-ass Tomb of the Maxi-Phylosians, and the Eugenics Wars callback. The rest…well, suggested that the creators were maybe going too far down that "look what we can do with animation" road. I often speculate about the upcoming Lower Decks when I watch this show, and I suspect that its creators (who apparently also were involved with Rick and Morty (speaking of Solar Opposites)) may show some restraint in that "look what we can do" department, having maybe gotten it out of their systems previously, even though ST:LOW will be deliberate, full-on comedy.

If they'd swung by to borrow the 50-foot Spock, it would have made The Voyage Home much easier - he could have just picked up a whale under each arm and run.

Perhaps the Bird of Prey didn't have space for the whales (AND the water!) and Uber-Spock. Or, nobody wanted to risk Spock's fragile mental state by asking, "Hey, how 'bout we go back to Phylos and recruit that whale-sized version of you?"

I mean, the last of the Eugenics War scientists probably would have gone, "Let's make me, only Maxi-Me."

From what we've seen of Eugenics War holdovers, they're really big (*cough*) on stealing other peoples' starships. Making a Maxi-version of one's self would seem to conflict with that tendency, since basically every spacefaring civilization uses regular- (or perhaps, more appropriately, Preserver-) scale interior construction.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 6:21 AM on May 28, 2020 [1 favorite]


CheesesOfBrazil: Keniclius was planning on using the Phylosian ships for his fleet, continuing their plan of "The entire galaxy must learn of our peaceful ways, by force!". He may have made Maxi-him and maxi-Spocks because that's the ships he had. Maybe once those ran out he'd have gone back to normal Spocks.

This episode is another example of why I keep going back to TOS Star Trek. The antagonists are misguided. When it's explained that no, we don't actually need your army of peacekeepers, we are trying to make peace he accepts that and goes to work trying to resurrect the Phylosians. I find that basic optimism incredibly refreshing. Which is odd to say about a 50 year old cartoon that's one step a flip book in terms of sophistication, and whose writing is otherwise so obviously dated.
posted by Grimgrin at 2:15 PM on May 28, 2020 [2 favorites]


Since Keniculus 5 is number five in a presumably infinite series, so must we presume the same for Spock 2.

So.... it’s “The Presumably Infinite Vulcan (If Nothing Goes Wrong)” then?
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:50 PM on May 28, 2020 [1 favorite]


"The Models Predict A Likelihood Of An Infinite Vulcan"
posted by hanov3r at 4:09 PM on May 28, 2020 [3 favorites]


So, then, Spock (n)
posted by mwhybark at 6:52 PM on May 28, 2020 [2 favorites]


(FWIW looks like the AMT bridge kit remains easily available.)
posted by mwhybark at 6:59 PM on May 28, 2020


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