Star Trek

Season 1 Episode 29

Operation -- Annihilate!

Aired Unknown Apr 13, 1967 on NBC
out of 10
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  • The Enterprise must stop an interplanetary epidemic of mass insanity.

    Built on a strong premise in the same vein as Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and featuring some fine acting from Nimoy, the faults of this episode lie in the teleplay and the mismanaged budget.

    Like "Devil in the Dark", the episode takes a creative approach to its alien nemesis, this time inventing a creature that lives through scattered brain cells that attack humanoids, forcing them to carry out the creature's will and enabling the cells to hop from planet to planet. It's a great science fiction/horror idea, because it highlights an alien being but lets the humans do the acting.

    Unfortunately, it also requires the budget to pull it off, with alien brain cell props and extras needed to drive the concept. Carabatsos's teleplay tries to make an end run around the issue by limiting the number of people who appear on screen and tries to make it more personal to Kirk by having his family infected. The result is that much of the episode involves people lying in sick bay fighting pain instead of angry mobs running amok.

    It doesn't help that each of the cells look so fake that even one of the crew members observes, "It doesn't even look (The episode becoming self aware might be a cute moment, but it doesn't solve the problem that the alien simply isn't believable).

    The climax is doubly poor for including a false sense of urgency (with no need for Kirk to push McCoy forward so quickly with his tests) and false consequences to drive the drama. To top it all off, because the episode was running long in the editing room, they don't include a scene that ties up the plot line involving Kirk's family. (Sadly, the actor who plays Kirk's nephew, Craig Hundley, does return for third season's "And the Children Shall Lead", an entire episode that should have ended up on the cutting room floor).

    Despite its flaws, however, the "Operation" still works in a way. The idea behind the story serves as a strong enough backbone to keep things interesting, and Nimoy gives a suitable performance as character attempting to work through pain with quiet dignity. Still, as the finale for a successful first season, it's substandard.

    Ironically, Invasion of the Body Snatchers was remade about ten years after The Original Series, with the new version featuring Leonard Nimoy.

    Remastered: The new version is nothing too fancy, with new shots of the Enterprise, the planet, and the local star. Curiously, the creators of the original episode went all out with the visual effects for this one, spending a pretty penny on a new, more realistic planet and a star. (They should have saved the money for the live Oddly, despite being designed specifically for this episode, the colors of the planet sphere for the original footage don't exactly match the look of the live action scenes (which look like Earth, because they were shot outdoors, partly at an electronics labratory with some fancy architecture and partly at UCLA). The new version creates a more seamless transition between the effects and the live action footage by featuring a more Earth-like planet. (It also has the side benefit of better selling the idea, central to the plot, that there are millions of people living on it). The star is upgraded as well, appearing a little more solid. Perhaps most ambitiously, CBS Digital replaces a couple of redundant live action shots with CGI shots of a satellite, so that it's not just talked about but actually seen.

  • The whole landing crew goes into a knee jerk reaction type panic simply because a few globs of jello were spilled on the floor on a planet that nobody cares about.moreless

    I was scared out of my mind seeing those parasites. Very well done, especially that evil, creepy buzzing noise they made. When Spock gets' blinded, the raw silence and tension between Kirk. Spock and McCoy is one of the series finest. This show has a number of great bloopers including the parasite hitting Spock on the behind, Gene Roddenberry being presented with one of the creatures as a gift and the landing party pretending to use their phasers as electric razors. Great writing in this episode. No holes in the script.moreless
  • The Enterprise crew must find a way to exterminate malevolent parasites that have driven a colony insane, including the family of Kirk's brother. Things get even worse when Spock becomes the parasites' latest victim. A fair story but with awkward pacing..moreless

    This review contains spoilers.

    "Operation -– Annihilate!" is the final episode of 'Star Trek's classic, groundbreaking first season.

    I don't know why, but for some reason, it feels somewhat like a 'left over' episode to me, especially being tagged on after a classic like "The City on the Edge of Forever", which would have made a perfect ending to the season. (The fact that on the DVD box set, it is on the final disk on its own (on the R2 version anyway, I don't know about elsewhere) makes it feel even more separated from the other episodes).

    I find this quite a difficult episode to sum up. It has a fair story, but I find it awkwardly told, with some bad pacing and a few things that don't completely work.

    The fact that Kirk's brother and his family have become victims of the parasites could have been good 'Trek' material, but extremely little is done with them to distinguish from standard 'victims of the week', and in the end, it just feels rather tacked on, and doesn't serve any real purpose.

    The parasites themselves are interesting creatures, and while they may look a bit cheap by nowadays' standard (I wonder what they would have looked like in CGI), they still serve the purpose and look quite eerie in their own way.

    Under the influence of the malevolent 'jelly' parasites, Leonard Nimoy gives a good performance of Spock, trying (even harder than normal) to keep himself in order.

    The later development of Spock being blinded by the test also seems rather tacked on. If this had been introduced earlier in the episode, and been given time to build, it could have been very interesting, but stuck quite near the end of the story, it seems to come out of nowhere.

    Likewise, as interesting as Spock's Vulcan body is of eradicating the blindness is, it all seems very convenient and a quick fix; almost like "Spock's blind! Oh, he's okay again".

    But for all the bad things, this episode does serve up a reasonable story. There's certainly worse, in both the first season and Original 'Trek' as a whole.

    This episode is also possibly my very earliest memory of watching 'Star Trek' as a young child. I remember watching it one evening on BBC 1 in the very early 1980s, on one of the series' many repeats by the Beeb. I can clearly remember the 'jelly bugs' swooping about and one landing on Spock's back. I must have been about four years old (which would date it around 1982).

    All-in-all, this is quite a good episode, but let down by some awkward storytelling. If it had been better constructed and more polished, I think it would have possibly been one of the greats of the first season. As it is, it stands as a fair but, ultimately, a slightly disappointing outing.

    ---first season overview---

    The first season of 'Star Trek' was ground-breaking, presenting a series of space-bound adventures that had not been seen on television before. Going beyond the 'monster of the week' tales of some other space set shows, 'Star Trek' offered up thoughtful and mostly well fleshed out stories.

    Season one may in many ways be the best of the three seasons. The bulk of it is made up of top notch episodes, that are evenly balanced between adventure and drama. And as with all good 'Trek', there is a healthy dose of comedy mixed in, used sparingly and at the right moment.

    It felt to find it's footing straight away. Second pilot "Where No Man Has Gone Before" stands as a very good episode, and first by first regular episode produced, "The Corbomite Maneuver", the template is set in place for the series.

    Everyone has their favourites, but examples such as "Balance of Terror", "The Galileo Seven", "Errand of Mercy" and "The City on the Edge of Forever" stand out.moreless
  • High horror quotient

    I remember this episode as being especially disturbing when I first saw it over thirty years ago. The icky “flying blancmanges” that infect unsuspecting humans with strands of their own tissue and thus take over their host organism is creepy in the same way as the thought of being infected by some exotic African parasite like Bilharzia … and reminds me of another classic sf story, “The Puppet Masters” by Robert Heinlein.

    This is another episode where the plight of Spock threatens to swamp the narrative. The idea of Spock being able to resist the pain that the parasites use to control their victims is, as the Vulcan himself might say, “fascinating” and I’m sure most fans remember this episode because of this bit of Spock-lore, but for me it’ll always be about the shiver I get when I see those jellyfish things flitting about, trying to take over humanoid hosts.moreless
William Shatner

William Shatner

Body of Sam Kirk (uncredited)

Guest Star

Dave Armstrong

Dave Armstrong

Kartan (uncredited)

Guest Star

Joan Swift

Joan Swift

Aurelan Kirk

Guest Star

James Doohan

James Doohan

Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery "Scotty" Scott

Recurring Role

Eddie Paskey

Eddie Paskey

Lt. Leslie (uncredited)

Recurring Role

Majel Barrett

Majel Barrett

Nurse Christine Chapel

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (8)

    • Even today's scientists and doctors wait for the results of the first test before proceeding with the second. If Bones had followed this procedure with the light test then Spock would never have been blinded in the first place

    • When the alien parasites fly around the room attacking Kirk and the others, the strings supporitng many of them can still be seen.

    • When Spock returns to the planet alone, he is attacked by a wrench-wielding colonist. The colonist swings and hits Spock's hand, throwing his phaser way off to Spock's left (it flies off camera). After using the neck pinch, Spock then turns around and picks up the phaser, lying against the wall behind him.

    • At the point where the Denevan declared himself "free", the light was 1,000,000 candlepower. This is very *approximately* ten times the illuminence of the sun at the surface of the Earth, when the sun is directly overhead. Given that we are advised to guard our eyes from excess sun, it is safe to assume that this much ultraviolet radiation would be dangerous to the eyes even without the visual component. In fact, many Denevans probably suffered from various eye ailments as a result of this treatment. Of course, they would likely consider this an "equitable" trade, as Spock did.

    • When they put the satellites in orbit, Sulu announces they are in place. Then Kirk says "Energize" and the next shot shows the helmsman station and Sulu is absent - some guy in a red shirt is there instead.

    • According to this episode Kirk's brother Sam is dead, Peter is unconscious, and Aurelan is taken over. Nobody wonders about Sam's other two sons, who are mentioned in "What Are Little Girls Made Of?".

    • Both Spock and Kirk insist they must use the light-emitters quickly - why? The planet is isolated and nobody's dying. If they'd wait just a little longer then Spock wouldn't have been blinded.

    • When they first see the creatures, Kirk orders a strategic withdrawal. They do so by turning their backs on the creatures and walking away!

  • QUOTES (3)

    • McCoy: (whispering to Kirk) Please don't tell Spock that I said he's the best first officer in the fleet.
      Spock: Why thank you, Doctor.
      Kirk: You were so concerned about his Vulcan eyes, Doctor, you forgot about his Vulcan ears.

    • Scotty: (drawing a phaser on a pain-influenced Spock trying to operate the transporter) Stop right there, Mr Spock. Or I'll put you to sleep for sure.

    • Spock: Pain is a thing of the mind. The mind can be controlled.

  • NOTES (4)

    • There were two plot elements that never made it onscreen. One, The Enterprise was to have sought out the parasites' planet of origin and destroyed it. Two, in a scene filmed but never used, Kirk takes his orphaned nephew Peter to the bridge and lets him sit in his chair, wearing a child-size version of his uniform.

    • Captain Kirk's nephew, Peter Kirk, would reappear in the Star Trek Phase II episode "Blood and Fire, Part I" (2008), which also involved alien parasites.

    • A famous blooper from this episode shows the stagehand swinging the creature that attacks Spock swatting Leonard Nimoy in the rear end with it instead of his back.

    • Exterior shots filmed at California's then-futuristic campus of defense giant TRW. Clever camera angles (including one looking up from beneath a foot bridge) kept the corporate logo hidden.