Warp Factor Trek

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In this otherworldly episode, the Enterprise encounters a bizarre realm, magic, and demons. Released on 25th October 1973, it’s perfect for a Halloween-themed watch-through.

Log Entry

The USS Enterprise is on a scientific mission to the galactic core, hoping to witness new matter being created. Upon arrival there, however, the ship is ensnared by a matter-energy whirlwind that leads to a strange alternate universe.

The affects of life-support failure are felt on the bridge of the Enterprise

With the Enterprise losing its systems in this weird realm — dangerously including life support — the crew encounter Lucien, a satyr-like humanoid with supernatural abilities. He joyfully saves the ship and its crew. Lucien then takes Captain Kirk, Spock and McCoy to “where true delights lie,” although they initially materialise lacking bodily integrity.

Once Lucien corrects this, McCoy calls Spock “not very natural.” Lucien takes all three to his world, Megas-Tu, where magic defies the laws of their universe. Conjuring up some apples and handing one to McCoy, Lucien shows them the benefits of Megas-Tu and the history of its inhabitants, non-corporeal beings called the “Megans”. He promptly returns the visitors to the Enterprise, fearing they’ll be discovered by the rest of his people.

Spock works on moving a chess piece… while Sulu manifests a woman out of thin air

Aboard their ship, the crew experiments with newfound magical abilities, drawing the attention of the Megans. This leads to a bizarre encounter. The crew is transported to what appears to be Salem, Massachusetts, finding themselves restrained in pillories.

They’ve arrived in a simulation of a witch trial from 1691. Asmodeus, the prosecutor, recounts the Megans’ past on Earth, where they were accused of witchcraft and eventually driven to return to Megas-Tu. Spock speaks in defense of humanity, emphasising its progressive acceptance in the centuries since. Kirk invites the Megans to explore the Enterprise‘s computer, citing the Prime Directive. The Megans are persuaded to release the crew. However, Asmodeus sentences Lucien confined to isolation in limbo for all eternity.

Lucien is sentenced by Asmodeus

Kirk defends Lucien but the court, deeming him evil, remains unconvinced. Bravely, Kirk employs magic to fight in defence of Lucien, emphasising the danger of the Megans becoming like the humans they once feared. The gesture impresses the Megans, who grant Lucien his freedom; imprisoning him was merely to test Human compassion. The Megans express their willingness to welcome other Humans to their planet.

The Enterprise is returned to its original universe. On the bridge, McCoy ponders whether Lucien might be the Lucifer of myth but Kirk questions whether that truly matters. Spock concludes that, if Lucien was indeed Lucifer, he has been cast out twice and, thanks to Kirk, saved for the first time.

The galaxy’s centre on the Enterprise’s viewscreen as the ship flies away from it

Status Report

As long as your belief system isn’t sensitive to magic and demonic portrayals, it’s fun to see Lucien and Asmodeus in this episode. Lucien’s portrayal is magnificently over-the-top, well suited to the animated format. It’s suggested that he might essentially be a manifestation of Satan, so it’s particularly fascinating to see him interact with Spock, whose appearance was, behind the scenes, based on Satan’s, even though Lucien describes Spock as “elfin” in the episode. Lucien himself is a bit like the Organians, Trelane or Q — a superpowerful alien that makes miraculous changes for one’s own amusement. By wanting to subvert the common practices of his people, Lucien is also similar to Quinn from Voyager’s “Death Wish”.

The Megans occasionally look disturbingly like the Ku Klux Klan. However, their backstory is interesting and I love the unusual pink design of their homeworld.

The Megans, looking like Ku Klux Klan members, fly away from their homeworld, Megas-Tu

The Enterprise’s science mission to the centre of the galaxy is an interesting prospect, especially considering the plot of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and that, according to science, there’s actually a black hole at the centre of the galaxy. Much of the science in this episode is hokey but one part that’s more scientifically accurate, given the black hole, is the Enterprise being pulled in.

Yellow-and-orange cloudlike material that the starship flies through, during the so-called “energy-matter whirlwind”, looks strange. When the ship enters “the creation point”, as Kirk calls it, spark-like effects make it look as though the Enterprise should be shuddering but it initially isn’t. A warping effect to portray the lack of bodily integrity reminded me of hallucinogenic perspectives of Discovery engineers in “An Obol for Charon”.

Spock seeing Lucien and Kirk while bodily integrity is lacking

Scotty saying, “Everything can be repaired,” comes across as unintentionally funny. I like that — with McCoy deriding Spock as not entirely natural — there’s some banter between them. However, it would have been great if some of their humorous interplay had also been included at the story’s conclusion.

Lucien conjuring up an apple out of nowhere and offering it to McCoy not only calls back to the Biblical origin story but also to Gary Mitchell conjuring up Kaferian apples in “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. The ability to do magic just by concentrating is slightly similar to the Enterprise-D crew finding their thoughts materialise in “Where No One Has Gone Before”. When the Megans discover the Enterprise crew using magic, the booming voice of the aliens is too recognisably George Takei’s.

The trial progresses

The Salem witch trial is marvellously thought-provoking and leads to this becoming one of Star Trek’s many trial episodes, a follow-on from Trelane putting Kirk on trial in “The Squire of Gothos” and a forerunner of Q putting humanity on trial in “Encounter at Farpoint” and “All Good Things…”. I love the art here, featuring blue skies and realistic-looking pillories. I also love the precision with which Asmodeus is voiced. At the trial, it’s notable that Kirk cites the Prime Directive but omits how, as Dulmur and Lucsly note in DS9’s “Trials and Tribble-ations”, he’s a flagrant breaker of it.

Rating: 4/5

Portraying Lucien, this psychedelic episode features one of James Doohan’s best vocal performances in all of Star Trek: The Animated Series. Sacrificing scientific accuracy is excusable since this is a highly entertaining story. The strength of its conclusion is in positing that humanity can get past its prejudices. That, to me, seems very Star Trek.

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