Star Trek

Season 3 Episode 4

And the Children Shall Lead

Aired Unknown Oct 11, 1968 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (9)

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out of 10
168 votes
  • The Enterprise is threatened by a group of orphans who are being manipulated by a sinister ghost.

    Back in the 70s and 80s when Star Trek was scoring big ratings in syndication, this episode was a perennial favorite among Trekkers. Each time it was scheduled to air, it gave Trekkers a chance to tell their significant others, "Honey, you're more important to me than Star Trek; let's go out tonight".

    This ship-based episode is basically a devil worship story with children, which gives it two elements Star Trek has difficulty handling separately, let alone together. For the part of "the friendly angel", aka, the evil ghost luring children to the dark side, Fred Freiberger uses his friend, super-attorney Melvin Belli, who would seem a wise choice on the surface. Belli, infamous for defending seedy characters such as Jack Ruby, The Rolling Stones, and Jim Bakker and renowned for his oleaginous, hypnotic delivery, comes across on paper as both perfect for the part and a ratings coup all in one. But the stunt backfires, with Belli coming across as more robotic than hypnotic and no ratings boost to show for it. In truth, it wouldn't matter if Freiberger had cast Jack Palance; the part is doomed from the beginning by the weak script. (Indeed, Palance plays a similar role in a 1979 episode of Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century, and even he can't make it watchable).

    The heart of the problem is the lack of a central theme or point. The episode itself is sort of like a mashup of "Charlie X" and "Miri", but whereas they each have a focused storyline, this one just meanders along, forcing us to endure a series of scenes of misled children before a climax appears out of nowhere. Meanwhile, the disappointing special effects and wardrobe choices add to the misery, with Belli seemingly wearing a shower curtain taken from a cheap 60s motel... which considering the third season budget might actually be the truth. You can argue that "Spock's Brain" and "The Way to Eden" are hokey, but at least they're fun. "And the Children Shall Lead" lacks any entertainment value and makes a strong case for never having kids... at least in a Star Trek episode. (For all the grief people give Star Trek V, comparing Sybok's takeover of the Enterprise to little Tommy's is like comparing Shakespeare to Captain Kangeroo).

    Curiously, TNG does its own version of this story with its seventh season episode, "Imaginary Friend". It's not very good either.

    Remastered Version:

    This just gets a vanilla redo with a new Enterprise and new planet (replacing the original's reeuse of the "Operation: Annihilate!" planet). CBS doesn't even replace a viewscreen shot of the Enterprise flying through a tunnel of knives, which you'd think would be about as easy to upgrade as creating a screensaver. (Actually, that's just what the original looks like). But really, why bother? As an internet message board user calling himself "Evil Dr. Puma" writes, "This episode is less in need of remastering than regret, remorse, and

  • On a distant planet, Kirk, Spock and McCoy find a scientific team dead, and their children continuing to play as if nothing has happened; and who, unbeknown to the crew, have great powers at their disposal. Not outstanding but not the worst episode either

    Here is another third season instalment that is considered a very bad episode by many. Personally, while it is far from 'Star Trek's finest hour, I don't find it to be out-and-out terrible. It's certainly better than a certain "Spock's Brain" a few episodes ago.

    The story has elements of the first season's "Miri", both concerning children who harbour a sinister secret.
    I don't know why the story is held with such low regard amongst many fans, as personally I think it has a semi-decent plot. I think the main flaw of the episode is that it has a reasonable concept, but doesn't unfold all that well; the story isn't developed half as well as it might have been.
    I agree with another reviewer that maybe they weren't able to make it as chilling as it might have been, with the limitations of 1960s television requirements; the story is crying out to be much darker.

    The effects that the various crew members suffer under the influence of the children is a mixed bag; Uhura seeing a terrible 'reflection' of herself is good, but I wasn't as convinced by Sulu hallucinating about piloting the Enterprise through the giant 'space daggers' (!).
    Kirk's breakdown is nowhere near as good as various influences in the first season episodes "The Enemy Within" or "This Side of Paradise"; and his sudden 'recovery' seemed rushed and forced.

    It's also hard to decipher what exactly the 'point' of the story is, as in what is the moral. There seems to be elements of stranger danger, vague child abuse and all sorts mixed in, but the 'point' is not very clear.

    [Minor spoilers] The climax with Gorgan is an interesting one, as it is not a fight or a battle, but a simple case of Kirk convincing the children to 'stand up to him', thus robbing Gorgan of his power over them.
    The final moments of the episode, as the children finally start to cry, is probably the best moment of the story, and makes for a good closing. [End of minor spoilers]

    All-in-all, not as terrible as some would make out (as I say, I consider "Spock's Brain" to be far worse), but hardly a great episode either.
  • Adventures in Babysitting!

    The enterprise took some kids on board after the parents were killed for no reason. Then some leader came out of nowhere to tell the kids to take over the enterprose and take them to another planet. Most of the crew fell under their spell, but Kirk and spook fough back. I can't reveal the ending, but it come with a bang, but with a wimper. I like this epiosde enough to give it a 7. that may be low, but it's an acceptable rationg for an episode of the series. Kirk, spoock and McCoy at at the top of their game.
  • attack of tort lawyers

    This is a classic example of how not to write a ghost story. There are parts that are very good and a little scary. Then they show you the the evil thing and its Melivn Beli in a shower curtian. While, some tort lawyers such as Peter G. Angelos are pure evil in this case it just does not work. It would have much better if form had been left to viewers. Also there question of why have evil look ugly, is that not a bit tripe, and would not have been a much better story if evil was attractive.
  • Kirk and the landing party investigate the remnants of a scientific teamon Triacus.

    Great episode. This really is a terrific episode when you think about it. The episode itself is dark at times, funny and intense. The special effects were limited but Gene incorporates a lot of imagery to make the episode interesting.

    Kirk and landing party find a previous expedition dead but their children are still alive? How and why this is will be explained. In life one finds out that the truth to many ugly things usually harbors a bitter secret.

    In this case the children of the dead team under a bad influence do the unthinkable to their parents.

    They don't know that they've aided the murder of their parents because they've been manipulated into doing so. That is the point of this episode. The manipulation and control of one authority figure over young kids.

    Groups like Third Reich did it to young kids in Germany. You find more relative examples in something like a gang where one mature gang takes advantage of a younger one. You get the picture.

    This makes the finale of the end that more memorable. Kirk decides not to use force to drive the entity away from the ship but make the kids realize that they've been manipulated the whole time to do some truly evil things.

    That's a lesson that most parents and educators should really take not upon. That is a resolution not by force but driven more by understanding.

    This is an excellent episode with a lot of interesting themes to it. Sure it's a bit funny at times with the whole emphasis of the kids taking over the ship. However, once you really piece together what the episode is trying to say you realize it's a great episode.
  • Here's where I really break ranks with Star Trek fans

    Spock's Brain is a bad episode...I can buy. But not And the Children Shall Lead. Yes, it's a frustration piece as we watch little brats control the minds of our beloved crew. But, children can be lead astray by evil Pied Pipers promising them Disneyland in other worlds. I really don't have an issue with Melvin Belli's static portrayal of the evil Gorgon. Since when do evil entities have to be overly animated? The best part of the episode for me is how Kirk defeats the enemy. Not one punch is thrown at the finale. Not one phaser is fired. It's a psychological offense using films to "wake the kids up" to reality. And once that's done, the kids see what the Gorgon has done. Then, they see him for what he really is. I really don't understand the angst that most Star Trek fans have for this episode. After all, one of the most highly rated episodes of the Twilight Zone "It's a Good Life" used somewhat of the same premise of little kids turning into little monsters if they get great power. That episode is gripping. So is this one. You can knock the episode because it's not original. Charlie X flirts with the premise. But "And The Children Shall Lead" does introduce that idea that an angelic figure who promises wonderful things may not all be as he seems.
  • Five kids beam up and eat ice cream as they take over the ship.

    My friend and I used poke fun at the ice cream scene where the one kid wants “Peach” flavored ice cream as well as the other flavors and Nurse Chapel looks at the kid like “You didn’t go there!” Other than that, this episode was poor and unbelievable. Once again, if you are familiar with my reviews, I did see it in a different light in the 2000s than I did in the 70's and cried this time along with the kids when the realized the agony of losing their parents.
  • A better episode than its reputation suggests...

    Once again, this is a season three episode that tends to have abuse poured over it in liberal doses. Looking at it again a couple of times (after not having seen it in years), however, I think it qualifies as a guilty pleasure and even as a "cult" episode.

    What do fans find so offensive about it? Well, the idea of beaming a bunch of kids up from the planet surface and having them wield their special powers over the crew and throw adolescent tantrums on the bridge, is not exactly up there with the poignancy of "City on the Edge of Forever". Ideas were clearly running low in the Paramount writers' building. Furthermore, I'm not convinced that people as well-trained (and as experienced) as Kirk, Sulu (and the rest) would succumb so easily to their worst fears. Kirk in particular goes into a ludicrous decline when one of the brats makes him think he's lost the power of command. (Compare this with his strength of mind in "This Side of Paradise" when sheer willpower alone enables him to overcome the influence of the spores). But this uncharacteristic weakness on the part of Kirk is immediately redeemed in the second half of the episode when he regains his confidence, banishes the phobia and confronts both the children and Gorgan (their evil corruptor), in a scene which surely qualifies as a great Kirk moment. It's very satisfying, and well worth the schmaltz of the kids weeping at the video footage of their murdered parents (all dewey-eyed close-ups and vomit-inducing innocence), and the final shots as Kirk takes the little girl in his arms and McCoy walks on to the bridge and announces genially that he's pleased to see the children crying. It's hokum, and sub-standard Trek, but even in the worst episodes, there are little compensations, little nuggets, which make the episode worthwhile overall.
  • A plot with potential, but it missed the boat.

    The episode starts out with an interesting hook -- why are these children so oblivious to their parents' grim deaths? The problem may have been that in 1968, it would have been impossible to tell this story properly.

    At that time, it would have been deeply controversial to present children as "evil" as these children were. They had been inveigled into the service of a being that, if "space legends" were true, was responsible for the destruction of an entire civilization. And yet, the worst they did was scare people. While it's true that "fear" was the weapon Gorgan gave them to use (essentially, it gave them the power to coax others' fears to life), this could have been depicted far more chillingingly. Instead, the children came off as vapid dupes of a bad special effect. Unable to draw the audience into the fear the characters were feeling, the episode failed.

    At the end, the defeat of Gorgan was similarly difficult to believe. That a creature capable of destroying a civilization, and then waiting countless years for new victims, could be corroded away to nothing by evoking happiness in his pawns defies belief. At the very least, he should have been able to carry his pawns away with him, leaving the crew with a chilling suggestion that sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose, and sometimes winning includes losing. Probably not also a story that would play well in 1968.

    And that's the real problem with horror in a show that's essentially upbeat: it's difficult to pull off. The closest Trek ever came is probably "Wolf In The Fold", and that script was written by an accomplished master of the genre. By comparison, this episode is flat indeed.
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