Star Trek: The Original Series, & VR ~ What Are Little Girls Made Of?
The episode opens on the Enterprise approaching a xenoarchaeological dig site on planet Exo III to discover the fate of one Doctor Roger Korby, whose last message was sent over five years earlier. Two expeditions since, have failed to find any trace of Korby. Now, a subspace signal has been sent out, apparently by Korby himself. The heavy cruiser has been sent in to use the brute force approach if necessary.
When the ship reaches orbit, Korby contacts them, and requests that Kirk beam down alone, explaining that he has made discoveries that may require an extraordinary decision on Kirk's part. However, he learns by chance when she enters the bridge behind Kirk, that Korby's fianc?e Christine Chapel is aboard, he extends the invitation to include her.
Kirk, Chapel, and Matthews (obligatory doomed security officer), explore the ancient ruins and search for Korby among them. Shortly afterwards, Kirk and Chapel meet Dr. Brown, Dr. Korby's assistant. Matthews, wandering around to secure the area, plummets to his presumed death in a deep chasm, the bottom of which is too deep to measure. Dr. Brown seems somewhat detached and aloof, barely reacting to Matthews' tragic fall. They also meet Andrea, a beautiful young woman.
The first thing Korby asks of Kirk is that he does not communicate with his ship. Given the first guard's death; and the lack of communicator response from a second guard he apparently left at the beam-down site, Kirk is less than receptive to this suggestion.
Brown threatens to do bodily harm to Kirk if he does not comply. This goes over even less well than before, and Kirk retaliates. During the brief struggle, Brown is shot with a phaser, and his skin does not cauterise. Instead, it burns away, peeling like a tongue of hot paper from a flame, exposing a great ragged chunk of what lays underneath. Inside, Brown is a highly complex android, not a human as was previously believed. A final player in the underground scene emerges: the seven foot tall Ruk, a vaguely humanoid looking, incredibly powerful android. He too answers to Korby, and immobilises Kirk at a command.
At this point, Korby reveals that Andrea, the brunette who stands by him with perfect complexion, is also an android.
Ruk is the oldest, by far. The last remnant of an extinct civilisation, Ruk had been maintaining the equipment in the ruins for longer than he could remember. With a memory that stretched back with clockwork precision for over a half a million years, that is a truly unfathomable time.
When Korby found Ruk working alone, he enlisted his help, and that of records Korby unearthed during the dig. Together, they built Brown.
Ruk killed Matthews, and the second guard, a man named Rayburn. However, Korby claims both deaths were against his orders. It is obviously unsettling that Ruk is capable of disobeying orders, if true - the first clue that he truly is more than an unthinking machine.
Ruk takes Kirk's communicator and modulates his speech pattern to exactly match Kirk's. He then contacts the Enterprise and speaks with Spock, informing him that all is well. To demonstrate Ruk's capabilities, Korby has Ruk first imitate his own voice, then that of Chapel - who understandably does not approve of that at all.
Korby orders Ruk to never to harm Christine - proof if any was needed that Ruk was ordered to kill the security personnel. Kirk, regaining consciousness, spies an opportunity. He prompts that Ruk should also obey Chapel's commands. Korby agrees, and orders it so.
Korby takes the party to one of the labs he had discovered, and uses a duplication machine, duplicator to make a copy of Kirk while a stunned Christine looks on. Korby says the android is an exact physical replica of the original. Well, that is, at least as far as outside appearance is concerned, of course.
A second machine is then activated, one that will copy all of Kirk's synaptic patterns, and lay them into the android brain, making it think just like Kirk. The original Kirk overhears this part of the plan, and summoning all his will, fills his head with all the strength he can muster, a single repeating thought: "Mind your own business, Mr. Spock, I'm sick of your half-breed interference, do you hear?"
That is running proud and strong through his head, with intense emotions behind it, at the exact moment his brainwaves and neural pathways are duplicated.
The scene moves forwards several hours, to evening themes.
Kirk joins Chapel for dinner, and asks her if she would obey if he gave her an order to betray Roger Korby. Chapel says, "Please don't ask me to make that choice. The tone of the conversation is unpleasant to her - discussing the betrayal of the man she loves, and she loses her appetite for food.
Pushing her plate away she apologises and tells Kirk to go ahead. With a smile, he informs her that "Androids don't eat, Miss Chapel." She had been talking to the android all along, and never knew it.
Korby and the original Kirk enter, the latter clearly impressed. He quizzes his duplicate on details of his life and family, but the android answers every question easily. He has Kirk's memories, something similar to Kirk's personality if just a little off, enough that it is remarked upon by the original.
Never the less, the duplicate Kirk is sent to the Enterprise to secure the command packet containing the ship's itinerary. Korby will select a colony where he can begin carefully manufacturing android replacements, and one by one, supplant the organic inhabitants with machines, 'invasion of the body snatchers' style. He truly believes it will result in a wondrous new colony, a superior android civilisation.
Kirk makes an attempt to escape and as Ruk pursues him, Chapel yells after him, "I order you not to harm him!" Ruk imitates Chapel's voice in an attempt to lure Kirk out of hiding, but Kirk sees through the ruse and attacks Ruk with a broken-off stalactite. In the struggle, Kirk falls and hangs dangerously from the edge of another 'bottomless' crevasse. Ruk stares at him for a moment, clearly conflicted. Finally, Chapel's orders win out, and he hoists Kirk to safety.
Back on the orbiting heavy cruiser, Spock is surprised by Kirk's unannounced return. When he tries to inquire about Dr. Korby, Kirk snaps at him, "Mind your own business, Mr. Spock. I'm sick of your half-breed interference, do you hear?"
Immediately after this outburst, 'Kirk' returns to his duties, unaware that this was anything abnormal to say. Spock and the bridge crew are shocked, to say the least. Soon after, the Captain beams back down to the planet, with a collection of disks. Realising something is very, very wrong, Spock organises a security assault team to beam down and sort this out.
Back on the planet, the original Kirk is busy doing what Kirk does best - advances to women. He is trying to woo Andrea, who as a synthetic form of life, with no idea how to respond in this situation having never encountered anything like it, is hopelessly confused.
Kirk is then confronted by Ruk and discusses the Old Ones with him. Kirk learns more about the ancient civilisation: they built their machines too well, became fearful of them, and started shutting them off. Survival outweighed programming; the androids murdered their creators. Goaded by Kirk, Ruk grows angry, remembers the now-defunct Brown, and deduces that Korby is doing the exact same thing. He starts to threaten Korby and Korby is forced to destroy Ruk with a phaser.
The android Kirk encounters Andrea on his way to find Korby with the discs of potential colonies. Andrea, a highly confused creature by this point, remembers the other Kirk's advances, and comes onto him, thinking that he is the other. When Android Kirk gives her the cold shoulder, she finally snaps, and kills him with a phaser.
Things are getting out of control back with the original - and only surviving - Kirk. A scuffle between him and Korby, had already knocked the phaser out of Korby's hand, and further brawling results in Korby's hand dragging across rock; a section of skin torn off.
Under the removed skin, are the mechanical parts of yet another android.
Korby tries to explain to a shocked Chapel, that while critically injured he built a perfect body and decanted himself into it. He claims that he's still the original Roger Korby. Yet, he struggles to demonstrate any true compassion. Without this quality, he is clearly not the same person as the original. As with the android Kirk, the personality is subtly yet markedly different.
The utter destruction of this tiny android society, so swiftly upon outside contact, shows the gaping chasms do not just cover the caves, they cover Korby's visions of android utopia. Finally realising this, he places himself in Kirk's hands. He orders the recently arrived, highly mentally unstable Andrea to give her phaser to Kirk. She refuses, and instead, professes her love for Korby.
She saunters to him, kisses him full and deep - and activates full power on the phaser she holds between them. The backwash destroys both Korby and herself.
Spock and his security force arrive, ready for a small war, but find only Kirk and Chapel, alone in the ruins. When Spock asks about Korby, Kirk replies, "Dr. Korby??was never here.
This episode of Star Trek is long, complex, with many twists and turns. It does admittedly have some wide plot holes in places, if you think about it carefully. However, what it also has is one of the highest density concentrations of intelligent ideas and forebodings.
A complete listing of Star Trek: TOS, built up one by one in chronological order, regardless of the strength of their connection to VR & AR. Set included for the sake of completeness.
A complete listing of Star Trek: TOS which reference virtual reality, alternate lives, AI, ir augmented reality. They are built up one by one in chronological order.