Star Trek: And the Children Shall Lead   Rewatch 
September 6, 2015 8:47 AM - Season 3, Episode 4 - Subscribe

After beaming to the planet Triacus III, Kirk, Spock and McCoy find a dead scientific team and a group of children who, unknown to the crew, have unusual powers due to a ghost of an ancient race that demands their loyalty.

"And the Children Shall Lead" was first broadcast October 11, 1968. It is episode #59, production #60, written by Edward J. Lakso and directed by Marvin Chomsky.

Memory Alpha Link

Trek Today Review

AV Club Review

The episode can be viewed on Netflix and Amazon Prime.
posted by Benway (7 comments total)
How did Melvin Belli get involved in this? Was he trying to launch an acting career? Was he a pal of someone on the show? I've never heard a behind-the-scenes about it in all these years.
posted by briank at 12:38 PM on September 6, 2015

Melvin Belli who played the Friendly Angel/Gorgon was not an actor such, but a celebrity lawyer, both in the sense of a lawyer who works for celebrities and a lawyer who is himself a celebrity. His most notorious client was Jack Ruby -- Lee Harvey Oswald's lead guitarist -- whom he failed to get exonerated based on an insanity plea.

Belli, 'The King of Torts' . . .
was instrumental in setting up some of the foundations of modern consumer rights law, arguing several cases in the 1940s and 1950s that formed the basis for later lawsuits and landmark litigation by such figures as Ralph Nader. . . . Belli [among others] helped establish the California Trial Lawyers Association . . . to help consumers have a better chance in court against the powerful legal teams amassed by the insurance companies and big corporations that typically were the defendants in accident, personal injury and other consumer lawsuits. -- WP
He was apparently quite a ham and appeared in a number of movies and teevy shows, often as himself. The same year this ep of Star Trek was produced, he also appeared in the youth exploitation movie, Wild in the Streets (which see), and in the 1970 Rolling-Stones-at-Altamont documentary, Gimme Shelter. One of the three little boys in this ep is played by his son, who was apparently cast before his father.

An interesting figure in twentieth century American culture and jurisprudence.

Craig Huxley (or Hundley) who played Tommy Starnes also 'played' (no lines) the role of Peter Kirk, Captain Kirk's nephew in the first season closer "Operation: Annihilate!" But don't stop there. Huxley has sustained a long and successful musical career leading a jazz trio, performing classical piano pieces, as a film and tv composer, and contributing synthesizer parts to (among others) Earth Wind and Fire, Stevie Wonder, and Michael Jackson albums. He invented (or maybe not) a device called the 'Blaster Beam' which was used to make the 'V'ger sound' in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It's also the first sound you here on "Beat It".

"Arrival" (Hundley) recorded about the same time as the Trek episode "And the Children . . ."
"Martha, My Dear" (Lennon-McCartney)
The Blaster Beam

Pamelyn Ferdin seemingly appeared on every teevy show produced in the 1960s that required child actors. She's been far less active since. She's been Lucy Van Pelt, Blondie and Dagwood Bumstead's daughter Cookie, Felix Unger's daughter Edna -- among many others. Here, at about 14 minutes in, Felix and Oscar try to explain 'the score' to Edna before her date with a boy from reform school, awkwardly employing the old baseball metaphor.

*    *    *

There's a lot wrong with this ep, of course, and one of David Gerrold's books tells how basically everyone involved in the production hated it and hated working with the children. But as with nearly every Star Trek ep, there's at least something interesting there. I like the fact that the Friendly Angel is basically a ghost. He's incorporeal, and can't do anything on his own, only by influencing others. An awful lot of the evils in this world are like that; they only get their way with our cooperation.

And it goes some way to answer the question, "Why does GodGorgon need a starship?"
posted by Herodios at 1:08 PM on September 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I certainly knew who Melvin Belli was (as well as Pam Ferdin, who was one my childhood TV crushes), though I had no idea about Craig Huxley. You might have also mentioned Brian Tochi, who also starred with Pam Ferdin a few years later in Space Academy (along with Lost In Space's Jonathan Harris).
posted by briank at 2:45 PM on September 6, 2015

This is one of the rare TOS episodes that I considered unwatchable even as a kid. ( The other one was Mark of Gideon, which I also always hated. That's right - I actually liked The Alternative Factor because of some of the special effects, and Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, because of how bizarre Frank Gorshin's acting is in that episode). This episode has a lot of "idiot" moments, i.e., why is this character doing that? He/She must be an idiot!
posted by wittgenstein at 4:06 PM on September 6, 2015

It's interesting, I've always regarded this episode as kind of a botch with a couple of creepy scenes, but reading that Memory Alpha summary made me realize there is a lot of dark, psychologically hardcore stuff going down in this one. You've got children murdering their parents (and then being totally oblivious about it), Kirk having anxiety attacks and beaming crewmen to their deaths in space, a shipboard mutiny with Chekhov threatening to shoot Kirk, Sulu having hallucinations where he sees the ship being attacked by giant swords and Uhura seeing herself as old and disfigured... the Gorgon is a real threat, and the events of the episode steadily escalate that threat. There is something truly eerie about the children with their weird fist pumps and the "friendly angel" invocation. Belli isn't called upon to act exactly but he is effective with his smug, patronizing quality and the "As you believe, so shall you do" chant. His stilted read actually works well for this character. There are the makings of a much better episode here.

So, what went wrong? Is it the direction? The script? The part at the end where these little kids realize they've killed their parents should be devastating, these children are basically ruined for life. But it hardly lands. Maybe it's that the kids have seemed so alien until now, IIRC we've never seen any sign of them being conflicted or confused. They seem evil until they're suddenly not, and then when they're no longer under the Gorgon's influence they're sad but not as utterly distraught as you'd imagine them to be. (But then again, watching little kids cope with that kind of trauma would have been a profoundly bleak ending.) I know everybody involved was disgusted with the stunt casting of Belli, and maybe that reluctance to take part kind of doomed the episode somehow. Maybe by this point everybody sensed the show was dying, and they were all checked out. I don't know. There's no one thing I can point to and say, "Now there's your problem..."

Interesting info on the actors, Herodios. It's trippy to find out that one of these kids was responsible for V'Ger's BWOOHM-BWAAAAAAAAM sounds.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:47 PM on September 6, 2015

I think they bit off more than they could chew, and weren't willing or able to go where it should have taken them. There are parallels with Orwell's 1984 as well as with real-world nihilistic political movements that recruit children to narc on their parents, to say nothing of modern cults. There's probably no way to've done this story in a one-hour teevy show in 1968 and have got it right.

The 'murdered-their-parents' angle -- actually, it's the 'watched unconcerned as the ghost influenced their parents to mass-suicide' angle) -- is pretty horrifying, yet it's rather soft-peddled, and the kids' response upon getting free of the ghost's influence seems hollow and inadequate. (But we're not interested in the kids, they are not of the body won't be aboard for next week's exciting episode.

Also, considering the ghost's plans, the Feds get off pretty easy here. Kirk and Spock alone (once again!) somehow prove mostly immune to a power that either kills or enslaves everybody else, then once again simply talk the antagonist away as they did with Landru, M5, Nomad, Norman, et al.

The kids weren't great actors. A better director might've got better performances. A better producer . . . well, some people blame Fred Freiberger for a lot of the third season's problems. Some think that's unfair. Based on nearly 50 years of interviews and memoirs, the original cast members are divided.

Leonard Nimoy said that when he complained about the script . . . Freiberger said, "This script is going to be what 'Miri' should have been", which is an odd thing to say and an odd thing to believe.
posted by Herodios at 6:42 PM on September 6, 2015

I haven't seen this one for a few years, but I was under the impression that it looked like a mass suicide but the kids actually induced it with their weird powers, under the influence of the Gorgon. Memory Alpha says "(The Gorgon) appears, congratulating them for getting rid of the adults on Triacus", which makes it sound like it was the kids' doing. Does the episode make it clear that the Gorgon caused it while the kids just stood by and didn't try to stop it? That's still pretty ghastly, but not nearly as awful as the idea that the kids killed their own parents.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:05 PM on September 6, 2015

« Older Movie: The 39 Steps...   |  Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Th... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments