Star Trek: Charlie X   Rewatch 
August 2, 2014 9:22 AM - Season 1, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Captain Kirk must learn the limits of a 17-year-old boy with the psychic ability to create anything and destroy anyone.

The USS Enterprise makes a rendezvous with the Antares, a small cargo ship. While investigating the planet Thasus, the Antares discovered an adolescent boy named Charles Evans, the sole survivor of a ship crash who has lived on his own since age three. Evans transfers to the Enterprise, which is going to Colony 5, where Evans' only relatives live.

The episode features a "Q" like being in his adolescence trying to cope with his hormonal feelings of his late teenage years. With the power to will anything to the ether, Charlie strikes fear into the Enterprise crew. Captain Kirk acts as the father figure attempting to guide Charlie to rational decisions. This is also the first episode that shows an alien race that lives in the vacuum of space.
posted by Benway (17 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Awkward puberty IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIN SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE
posted by Flunkie at 10:41 AM on August 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


The pat on the ass.

That is all this episode is to me now. Jim Kirk patting Charlie on his ass.

Aaaaah. My eyes.
posted by Katemonkey at 1:08 PM on August 2, 2014


That is all this episode is to me now. Jim Kirk patting Charlie on his ass.

Not the shirtless Jim Kirk in red tights?

For reference, It's a Good Life - a kid with god-like powers aired a few years earlier.

I'm not a big fan of this episode, but because they did a great job casting Charlie. From the start, you felt there was something off, bad, about this kid, and it's just a creepy journey through his time on the Enterprise, particularly every time he interacted with Rand. (Her hair really distracted me, too).

This was also another odd episode with Spock showing a bit more emotion when he was playing his lyre/harp/thingy and Uhura sang to it.
posted by Atreides at 1:21 PM on August 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Something I can't unsee after watching TOS in rotation with 24: Grace Lee Whitney is Mary Lynn Rajskub, with beehive hair, isn't she?

As for Spock, keep in mind that he's a Vulcan, not a cyborg. It's not that they don't have emotions -- they just don't let them rule their lives or critical decisions. Suppressing his emotions would turn out to be something of a particular preoccupation of the half-human Spock.

And reviewing this one quickly on YT, I have to say I was surprised at how engaging Charlie actually was. But yeah, the relations between the sexes are a bit awkward in this one, with the other Yeoman being miffed that a man (man-boy) wasn't paying proper attention to her. The era of stalking being interpreted romantically is hopefully ever more behind us.

Still, this was one more example of the TOS crew encountering a situation where a super-being had uncommonly puerile ideas about how to use its super-powers. In a way it was much better when Khan was shown to have malevolent ideas but puerile weaknesses that became his downfall (in TOS and TWOK, at least).
posted by dhartung at 6:06 PM on August 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


As for Spock, keep in mind that he's a Vulcan, not a cyborg. It's not that they don't have emotions -- they just don't let them rule their lives or critical decisions. Suppressing his emotions would turn out to be something of a particular preoccupation of the half-human Spock.

I agree, it just seemed that in this episode, in that moment, he definitely seemed more in touch with his human side than Vulcan. Then again, it seems to me that Trek treats its Vulcans with dry wit and smirks, rather than grins.

And reviewing this one quickly on YT, I have to say I was surprised at how engaging Charlie actually was. But yeah, the relations between the sexes are a bit awkward in this one, with the other Yeoman being miffed that a man (man-boy) wasn't paying proper attention to her. The era of stalking being interpreted romantically is hopefully ever more behind us.


That was definitely a shock to me, despite the fact that I had previously seen the episode. When Charlie wasn't playing creepy and awkward, he definitely came across as quite likeable. Also, he displayed an incredible amount of misogyny in his random acts of cruelty, appearing to focus almost exclusively on women. He turned the junior Yeoman into an iguana (why a lizard?!), he saw a woman laughing (amongst men) and promptly wiped her face off (we saw no evidence he did it to the men), and then there's that woman officer who simply steps out into the hallway and is suddenly aged about 60 years. I suppose it makes sense given his anger toward Rand, but dang.

Still, this was one more example of the TOS crew encountering a situation where a super-being had uncommonly puerile ideas about how to use its super-powers. In a way it was much better when Khan was shown to have malevolent ideas but puerile weaknesses that became his downfall (in TOS and TWOK, at least).

It's the fact that Futurama so nailed that in their Star Trek episode that makes it rock as much.
posted by Atreides at 6:12 PM on August 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah this episode didnt really do much for me. I feel like for the third week in a row the crew was tricked by the exact same thing. You would think they would have been more prepared.

Also, I assume they were implying that future man is less bloodthirsty because there was no real mention of just tossing Charlie out an airlock.

The gym scene was amazing, though, and Kirk and Charlie's eye battles with their shadowed faces (in well lit rooms!) Was pretty good too.

The singing scene was pretty atrocious though and I dont really know why it was included. Oh, didnt Charlie bear a striking resemblance to Neil Patrick Harris?
posted by Literaryhero at 6:15 PM on August 2, 2014


Also, he displayed an incredible amount of misogyny in his random acts of cruelty, appearing to focus almost exclusively on women.

In the first man to man talk between Kirk and Charlie when Kirk tells him to play it cool, the rifftrax in my head overlaid a spiel about the joys of masturbation.
posted by Literaryhero at 6:21 PM on August 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm not really seeing the "focus almost exclusively on women". He did bad things to everybody that bothered him, some of whom were women. In the "Charlie's Our New Darling" scene, he silenced both Uhura and Spock. In the scene that you mention where he wipes a woman's face, he also freezes the laughing man (or men? I forget). He sends not just Rand but also Sam to the cornfield. He mind-zaps security guys, and Spock, and Kirk multiple times. And of course he actually murders everyone on board the Antares, which is apparently completely crewed by men (given his "Is that a girl?" upon seeing Rand for the first time). As for why an iguana, I doubt there's an answer to that beyond the simple fact that one of the freaky things D.C. Fontana thought of for him to do to his victims was to turn them into an iguana.
posted by Flunkie at 6:45 PM on August 2, 2014


Man, the first two episodes come out of the gate with both mind-control plots. Was that a thing people were obsessed with in 1965?

Some of the outfits look a bit weird, do they get kind of standardized after a few more episodes? Jim the Dr. had a weird lumpy shiny shirt, and Kirk was wearing a strange green shirt with gold stuff on the shoulders.

Also, does the bar and the gym show up in later episodes? It seems like they're still exploring what the Enterprise consists of and how people live on it.

The kid is insufferable, he seems like he's using all the pickup artist tricks to go after women. Negging, pushing boundaries, everything is everyone else's fault... horrible stuff.
posted by mathowie at 10:18 PM on August 2, 2014


I'm not really seeing the "focus almost exclusively on women". He did bad things to everybody that bothered him, some of whom were women. In the "Charlie's Our New Darling" scene, he silenced both Uhura and Spock. In the scene that you mention where he wipes a woman's face, he also freezes the laughing man (or men? I forget). He sends not just Rand but also Sam to the cornfield. He mind-zaps security guys, and Spock, and Kirk multiple times. And of course he actually murders everyone on board the Antares, which is apparently completely crewed by men (given his "Is that a girl?" upon seeing Rand for the first time). As for why an iguana, I doubt there's an answer to that beyond the simple fact that one of the freaky things D.C. Fontana thought of for him to do to his victims was to turn them into an iguana.

I think part of my perspective is that a boiling point is hit about half way through where women just really get targeted, who did not necessarily do anything to directly insult or mock Charlie like laughing Sam or security guys or Kirk and 'em trying to stop him. The laughing men part is kind of up there, as the men stop laughing, but I'm not sure if it's because he did something to them or they simply stopped laughing after what he did to the woman officer. I think what I perceived was that while he did terrible things to both men and women, generally the men posed a threat or something to him when women did not.

Some of the outfits look a bit weird, do they get kind of standardized after a few more episodes? Jim the Dr. had a weird lumpy shiny shirt, and Kirk was wearing a strange green shirt with gold stuff on the shoulders.

Kirk's green and gold shirt does make some more reappearances, that much I can remember.

Also, does the bar and the gym show up in later episodes? It seems like they're still exploring what the Enterprise consists of and how people live on it.

I don't think the gym does, and if the bar does, it's only a couple more fleeting times I think. It struck me as here are things that Roddenberry definitely brings back to TNG later, and with regards to the bar, makes it a not-rare place to set scenes and move the stories along.
posted by Atreides at 7:57 AM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Still not seeing it.

The men who he froze (and they sure seemed frozen based on their shadows to me) when he wiped the woman's face didn't pose any more of a threat to him than the woman did. Uhura suffered more from the silencing than Spock did, but because her instrument was a part of her body; if Spock was the one singing, and Uhura playing Space Guitar, I don't see any reason to believe it wouldn't have been the opposite. Rand got sent to the cornfield due to physically attacking him, whereas Sam got sent to the cornfield due to laughing at him. Spock wasn't threatening him when he was made into a poetry-quoting puppet. The iguanafication and the oldification were on the people who happened to be there when he happened to be pissed off.
posted by Flunkie at 8:42 AM on August 3, 2014


Spock wasn't threatening him when he was made into a poetry-quoting puppet. The iguanafication and the oldification were on the people who happened to be there when he happened to be pissed off.

Spock was trying to help initiate contact with the Antares, wasn't he? (I don't have time to review the episode right this moment so please forgive the vagueness) At the worse, I know he was doing something opposite to Charlie's wishes. And the people who happened to be there when he was pissed off were all women. Maybe its reflective on the writing that the writers felt it appropriate that his innocent victims were women. This was a D.C. Fontana screenplay, so perhaps she wanted to high light how women are spuriously attacked in a world where men have power - attacking them in ways which the man felt was appropriate: 1) taking away a woman's appearance and inability to speak; 2) Turning a woman into an object (a lizard object); 3) and taking away the woman's youth and beauty.

In his attacks against men, we are almost entirely left with generally freezing them or sending them away. The exception being perhaps the Spock quoting poetry, which kind of indicates that while the manly men are best attacked by taking away their power to do anything, the individual who's an outsider and holds a status as intelligent, is mocked by being forced to recite poetry, an ability considered cultivated and perhaps in some circles, not masculine at all.
posted by Atreides at 9:33 AM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I believe you've got the beginnings of a graduate thesis on the episode, there, Atreides.

My impression of Fontana is that while she was definitely a woman succeeding in a man's world, and was part of the overall 60s-era second-wave feminism push of getting women into the workplace and independent, she probably wasn't as self-aware as we are today of the aspects of her present-day culture we now see as objectifying women and attaching undue importance to their appearance, their ability to attract men, and their self-worth being tied to that in various ways (i.e. a good chunk of the appeal of Mad Men). So I would expect her exhibiting a kind of sexism in the ways that men and women were victimized by Charlie to be more unconscious than deliberate.

To watch later: hour+ interview with Fontana a couple of years ago about her career. May help contextualize this discussion.

For the non-Trekkers in the audience, you may want to follow the series by checking out the Memory Alpha wiki, which includes for many episodes great detail about production and script issues. Charlie X. The gym was apparently intended to be used more (it was a redress of the engineering and briefing room sets), with stock footage compiled for later use, but it did not reappear in TOS. As to the uniform issues, note that they were tinkering with them constantly. (The velour material used in the first two seasons had a tendency to shrink with every washing, and they were basically washed daily.) Kirk got a special wraparound "command tunic" that was intended to make him stand out as a character and offer some visual variation. (Similarly, in TNG Picard would eventually get a grey command jacket.) Oddly enough, an early "draft" of the tunic became one of Charlie's costumes. McCoy's medical tunic is apparently intended as a smock for leaping into surgery or whatever. You can see technicians in various episodes wearing work overalls made of the same material.
posted by dhartung at 12:48 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the Memory Alpha link dhartung. When I first watched the episode, I found it odd that there was mention of making turkey in the galley... then this cleared it up:

A large number of visual effects had to be nixed due to time contraints when the episode was moved ahead in airing schedule, to be broadcast in September (originally it was scheduled to air in November, hence the Thanksgiving reference). These included the Antares, which was called to appear on screen in the script, but ended up unseen. (These Are the Voyages: TOS Season One)

posted by Benway at 6:45 AM on August 4, 2014


I recently read on Wikipedia that the chef who called Kirk with the turkeys comment was voiced by Roddenberry. There's a "[citation needed]", though.

I assume that the script names the chef as "William T. Riker" {\}

/still bitter about These Are the Voyages

Seriously, at one episode per week, it'll be 2028 before I finally get to post my anguished, heartfelt screed that I wrote about how unforgivably horrible These Are The Voyages was

I watched it at like 9:00 PM, and then was tossing and turning unable to sleep all night until I finally got up at like 4:00 AM to write it all down and try to get it out of my system

But it's still not out yet

posted by Flunkie at 4:27 PM on August 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


I just recently decided that it was high time I went through and watched TOS start to finish. I've seen... actually, I'm not sure how much of it. Maybe slight more than half?

Anyway, the thing that bothered me most about this episode (which I don't hate or anything) was how idiotically Kirk handled Charlie once it became clear that he was incredibly dangerous. Charlie was clearly an angry, frustrated, scared teenage boy... so Kirk immediately decided that the best way to deal with the guy was with macho posturing and barked orders?? He's lucky the kid didn't vaporize his ass right there in the gym!

The singing scene was pretty atrocious though and I dont really know why it was included.

How dare you, sir! Yes, it was completely out of nowhere and not perfectly in character for the way Spock developed later on, but I love that fucking song. I have no idea why every hipstery band in existence doesn't have a cover of it. I halfway want a tattoo that says 'Girls In Space Be Wary.'
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:08 AM on September 20, 2016


The song's a variant on Burns' "Charlie he's my Darling". I like that it added a touch of weirdness that seems to have been lost in later Treks.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 7:35 PM on June 11, 2018


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