The Animated Series’ “The Infinite Vulcan” in Review
Owing to budgetary limitations, Chekov wasn’t included in the cast of characters which transitioned from The Original Series to The Animated Series, instead replaced by Arex at the navigation station. Chekov actor Walter Koenig did write this episode of TAS, however — his only contribution to the series. How good is the episode?
With the Enterprise assigned to survey a newly discovered planet at the galaxy’s perimeter, a landing party encounters an apparently abandoned city. They also discover mobile plants, one of which poisons Sulu. The Phylosians, a race of intelligent plants, come to their aid and save him with a remarkably quick-working antidote. Agmar, one of the Phylosians, welcomes the landing party to the planet, Phylos, explaining that the Phylosians are peaceful and have a fear of aliens. They can communicate with a translator device called a “voder”.
The Phylosians show Kirk and his team the highly intelligent giants who were the last of their kind. Agmar explains that a human visitor brought a deadly disease but saved them from extinction.
Suddenly, the landing party is attacked by bat-like, plant-based flying creatures. The team can’t ward them off, due to a localised weapons deactivator. Spock is abducted by the creatures. Doctor Stavos Keniclius 5, a giant human scientist, has captured him. Keniclius demands Kirk’s departure from the planet but refuses to release Spock.
Back on the Enterprise, Uhura finds historical information about Keniclius, who lived during the Eugenics Wars. Kirk realises that Keniclius has been producing clones of himself as giants and is now in his fifth generation.
Along with Sulu and McCoy, Kirk returns to Phylos and attempts to convince Agmar to release Spock. Agmar explains that, before disease decimated them, the Phylosians had a great mission. Now, there are only a few survivors, the relatively small members of a dying race. Agreeing to take them to see Spock, the Phylosians show Kirk and his team their highly shielded underground city but abandon them. Kirk and his friends discover Spock on the brink of death. Keniclius 5 has already created a giant Spock clone, Spock Two.
Keniclius has transferred Spock’s mind into the clone’s body, planning to create a “master race” of Spock clones to bring peace to the galaxy. Kirk confronts Keniclius and they engage in a moral debate about the need for such a master race. Inciting IDIC, Kirk persuades Spock Two that imposing a master race is unnecessary, since the Federation has achieved peace through cooperation and diversity.
Spock Two uses a one-finger Vulcan mind touch to save the original Spock’s life and then convinces Keniclius that his vision is no longer relevant. At Spock’s suggestion, Spock Two decides to stay on Phylos with Keniclius to help revitalise the dying Phylosian civilisation. Ultimately, Keniclius agrees to this plan and Sulu breaks the fourth wall, winking at the camera.
It’s odd that the landing parties consist only of senior staff when at least one security officer would be more suitable. However, I like seeing Sulu working with his tricorder, since he’s so often shown at the helm. A landing party discovering an array of machines inside an alien structure harkens back to “Beyond the Farthest Star”.
Sulu’s initial finding of a tribble-like mobile plant connects well with his interest in botany, established in “The Man Trap”. I like the quirky in-joke in which the plant’s name, “retlaw”, is the episode writer’s first name spelt backwards.
Both the Phylosians and Keniclius 5 are voiced by an overly recognisable James Doohan. Whereas he chews the scenery as Keniclius 5, he voices the Phylosians with realistic calm.
The Phylosians are clearly an example of one of the many TAS alien designs that could not have been done on TOS. McCoy shouldn’t be so surprised that the Phylosians are “intelligent plants,” since all plants are intelligent, to a degree.
The flying swooper plants are strikingly alien. They’re not unlike many species on Earth that look distinctly different from what they actually are, which gives them precedence in real science. I like the fleshy-looking tendrils which dangle down from these aliens but their multiple swooping attacks, accompanied by typical TAS action music, comes across as corny and they sound very annoying. On the other hand, their abduction of Spock is a highly inventive way of removing him from the rest of the landing party. The kidnapping of Spock and operating on his brain are reminiscent of the TOS episode “Spock’s Brain”. The landing party overcomes the swoopers in a clever way, spraying gaseous chemicals.
The gigantic Keniclius 5’s demand that the landing party leave Spock with him is the exact opposite of how the occasionally gigantic Apollo demands that Spock remain behind on the Enterprise during a landing party visit to Apollo’s temple in “Who Mourns for Adonais?”. Whereas Keniclius 5 is worshipped by the Phylosians, Apollo misses being worshipped by Humans.
I love how exasperated the excellent DeForest Kelley makes Doctor McCoy sound as he considers the disease that befell the Phylosians’ previous generation. McCoy recalling one of his great-great-granddaddies is delightfully insightful. Keniclius’ backstory, involving the Eugenics Wars on Earth, is fairly interesting too. A sense of historical irony is present when McCoy remarks on Keniclius’ extreme age, since a very elderly McCoy is later shown in the TNG pilot episode “Encounter at Farpoint”.
This episode gives us a good opportunity to see Scotty, in temporary command of the Enterprise, collaborating with Uhura. It also provides brilliant foreshadowing by mentioning the Kzinti, who later turn up in “The Slaver Weapon”.
Generally, this is a mediocre outing for the Enterprise crew. It does seem more than a little derivative, pulling inspiration from some of the least popular TOS installments. The episode suffers from pedestrian pacing too, though there are a few interesting ideas here, along with a touch of adventure that ultimately fails to impress. The towering Keniclius and Spock clones are ridiculous, as is the plot. However, I do like how it’s resolved peacefully and intellectually.
Webmaster of WarpFactorTrek, Dan is an avid Star Trek fan who lives in Aberdeen, Scotland. Dan has loved Star Trek ever since discovering it in his childhood. He worked as an administrator, for six years, on the encyclopedic Star Trek website Memory Alpha, which involved studying the making of the various series and films. He has been mentioned in the official Star Trek Magazine, has qualified from a Star Trek course taught at Glasgow Clyde College, and coordinated the SubSpace Chatter (formerly The Scotch Trekker) YouTube channel, which regularly featured live interviews with the cast and crew of Star Trek.