Star Trek 1.25 – The Devil in the Dark

The real star of “The Devil in the Dark” is the set designer. I was reminded in a very positive way of how the caves and tunnels in Land of the Lost, while obviously phony and built in a studio, always looked so darn good. The mines on this remote planet are blue and beautiful, with lots of objects and stalagmites in the foreground. Occasionally the illusion slips and you realize a wall is fabric or some vacu-formed material, and it never matters, because they put 100% into this environment, and it looks so good that you want to believe in it.

Marie picked “The Devil in the Dark,” which was written by Gene L. Coon, having remembered it from her childhood. I remember the name of the monster – a Horda – from reading it in some book about sci-fi monsters, but I’d never seen it before. It’s very ahead of its time. I kept coming up with other productions that used elements that this story did, and all of them – “The Sentry” on Kolchak: The Night Stalker, “The Stones of Blood” on Doctor Who – came later. It’s not a bad hour of television, and I liked it a lot more than the other two we’ve seen. I’m glad to report that our kid enjoyed it. Star Trek is really capturing his imagination generally; he’s built a little Lego NCC-1701 and designed some shuttlecrafts for it, just like he builds little pods for his Thunderbird 2.

Looked at from fifty-plus years distance, other than some dated production values and my personal dislike of some of the actors’ styles, the only real flaw in this production is that there’s not a single speaking part for a woman anywhere in it. Uhura doesn’t appear at all; neither does Sulu, for that matter. There are no women among the mining colony, and none among the security force who spread out to hunt the monster. At the end of the episode, everybody meets on the bridge for the requisite gag about Spock’s humanity, and there’s one woman in a red Federation miniskirt onscreen for about two seconds, which really reinforces that the casting director did not do as good a job as that set designer.

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