"Who says that fictions only and false hair become a verse? Is there in truth no beauty?"
- From Jordan (I), a 1633 poem by George Herbert
Talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly! This episode's unsolicited, amateur script has all the hallmarks of Mary Sue fan fiction. Basically, it's about an extraordinarily woman with remarkable talents visiting the ship, and all the guys try to elbow each other away to get her attention.
(Mary Sue: noun, An original female character in fan fiction who serves as an idealized version of the author mainly for the purpose of wish fulfillment. She's often exotically beautiful, having an unusual hair or eye color, and exceptionally talented in an implausibly wide variety of areas).
But writer Jean Aroeste, a librarian, gives the episode several broad strokes that are more inventive than those offered by her professional counterparts. She creates one of Star Trek's most "alien" aliens, adds a clever, unexpected twist midway through, and turns the title question on its ear through her two character creations. Unfortunately, her subplots are all over the map, and the core issue of looking upon the Medusan itself is handled inconsistently. (At first, Captain Kirk and his crew aren't even allowed to look at the alien's housing, and Spock has to wear a protective visor. Then as the episode progresses, only the alien inside is treated as a dangerous sight, and everyone becomes more casual about the situation. Heck, Captain Kirk isn't even allowed in the transporter room at the beginning, but he's right there at the end!)
Aroeste's greatest problem, however, is her need to have the lead guest star be more right than the crew, with the script having the guys ask why someone so beautiful would spend her days with one so ugly and having her put them in her place with a pointed answer. That's all fine for her, but in the next episode she's gone, and the regular cast will be back; it's important not to make them look too bigoted. And yet Captain Kirk takes the foolishness one step further. He attempts to seduce Jones as a distraction, only resorting to reasoning with her as Plan B. (This seems like a new low even for him). But Kirk's poor showing is balanced by the awesomeness of Jones, Spock and Kollos, with Diane Muldaur, Leonard Nimoy, and the special effects team working well together to bring the three to life to create a compelling triangle relationship. (Nimoy in particular deserves credit for giving Kollos a personality through the Vulcan mind meld story device). Having a woman raised on Vulcan is an intriguing concept, and mixing Vulcan training with Earth emotions gives Dr. Jones an interesting personality that Muldaur plays well and Shatner and Nimoy play well against.
Toss in a new score and the sure hand of director Ralph Senensky, and you have a decent little bottle show.
Diane Muldaur returns to Star Trek to play a third doctor in TNG's second season.
Remastered Version: B
With the Enterprise leaving the galaxy in this episode, there are quite a few cool sights here, though both the original and remastered use some previous footage to flesh it out. Interestingly, the original uses the same stock footage of the "Operation: Annihilate" planet for both the beginning and end, despite the whole point of the episode being to transport the Medusan from one place to another. (Would it have killed them to pull out another stock planet?) Actually, the dialogue in the episode is inconsistent with regard to the destination. In the beginning, Kirk says they're transporting the entity to the Medusans' home planet, but later Dr. Jones says they're rendezvousing with a Medusan vessel. The original takes its lead from Kirk and has the Enterprise enter orbit with a planet at the end, but the remastered version agrees with Dr. Jones and includes a rendezvous with a Daedalus Class ship similar in design to one of Captain Sisko's models.
The remainder of the remastered shots include an Earth-like planet, the old galactic barrier, a nebula effect, and shots of the Enterprise going here and there. The "Kollos" effect, an ingenious pattern of flickering colors that really does seem like it could drive you mad, is wisely left alone.