Star Trek

Season 1 Episode 29

Operation -- Annihilate!

Aired Unknown Apr 13, 1967 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (4)

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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.

    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.
  • 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..

    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.
  • 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.
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