by Jeff Bond
“The Apple” might easily be retitled “Spock’s Bad Day”—over the course of this second season opus the Vulcan science officer is a.) shot in the chest with darts from a poisonous plant; b.) casually tosses an explosive rock, almost blowing up himself and the rest of the landing party; c.) is knocked on his ass by an alien force field; d.) is attacked by Vaal-worshipping natives; e.) is struck by lightning, and f.) is mercilessly teased by the Captain and Dr. McCoy as they not so subtly hint that he looks like Satan.
Like “The Gamesters of Triskelion,” “The Apple” can be held up as an example of all of Star Trek’s worst vices: ridiculous costumes and wigs, primitive aliens speaking like cavemen, hostile, society-controlling false gods easily overthrown by Kirk, and speeches about freedom and love standing alongside rock-‘em-sock-‘em stunt man fight scenes. The difference is that “Triskelion” manages to work as a celebration of Trek cheesiness and somehow be kind of moving at the same time. “The Apple,” on the other hand, is too transparent and follows too closely on the heels of the very similar “Who Mourns For Adonais?” (even incorporating much of the score from that episode) to make much of an impact. It does offer fans of cheese some entertaining moments, however—like future Starsky and Hutch star David Soul engaging in a classic Trek “what is this thing called ‘kissing’?” scene, and some amusing moments for Chekov and potential girlfriend Yeoman Landon (Celeste Yarnall), who herself executes what may be the only karate kick and judo throw ever performed by one of the Enterprise’s miniskirted yeomen. One has to think that Trek might have done better in the ratings had it only shown more of this sort of thing. You also have to love Spock and Chekov luring one of the residents of Gamma Trianguli VI (Keith Andes as Akuta) out from the bushes with a spirited fake argument (“Mr. Chekov, your tricorder readings are totally inefficient!”). It’s the show’s character-based humor that makes episodes like this, which would have been positively dire in other hands, at least mildly entertaining. Muscleman Andes is not one of Trek’s more memorable guest stars, but he does bring a convincing ironic innocence to moments such as the one in which he instructs his fellow children of Vaal on how to effectively crack open a man’s skull. David Gerrold once noted that because of the Enterprise crew’s advanced technology, in order to advance the story they either had to run into aliens of such superior ability that they would render the ship and its gadgets useless, or of such inferior ability that they would simply knock the crewmembers unconscious and take their gadgets away from them—in “The Apple” you get both.
There’s not a lot for CBS-D to work with as far as sprucing up the effects go. Interestingly, this episode was the one chosen as an example to break down Trek’s visual effects in Stephen Whitfield’s seminal “Making of Star Trek” book, with elements from a shot of a security guy getting zapped by lightning separated and displayed as an example of “getting zapped by a phaser.” Very few of these old-style optical effects on the planet surface get the CBS-D treatment—the work goes into constructing yet another earth-like planet (with a nice thin veil of red atmosphere to match the soundstage backdrop), one new shot of the Enterprise firing phasers in front of a pivoting camera perspective, and enhancements to the phaser fire impact on the Vaal statue that are very similar to what was done on “Who Mourns for Adonais?” But “The Apple” is such a mediocre example of Trek formula that gilding the lily with anything more elaborate than what was done would have been a little ridiculous.
Remastered & Original