I understand the love for Spock. Kirk’s desire to do the best for the crew, regardless of the danger or the cost is sort of an old-school television cliché. On a serialized show now, Kirk would have been crushed by his decisions. Spock turns out to be the one we trust more in comparison. He makes decisions based on what is good for the crew, but he makes sacrifices based on what is rational. He works because he has to justify his actions to himself. Spock can do pretty much whatever the script needs him to do, but it has to make sense to him. It seems like an out, but watching Spock work is one of the great pleasures of the series.
With that, “The Galileo Seven” is an episode that equates to little more than a what-if scenario. When Spock takes a crew to explore a mostly uncharted area, disaster quickly befalls the craft and they crash on a foreign planet, without the ability to contact the Enterprise. The Enterprise, however, is also unable to get in contact with the shuttle and has only two days to search for Spock and the remaining crewmembers before they have to make an important rendezvous.
Unlike “Balance of Terror,” “The Conscience of the King” or “Shore Leave,” “The Galileo Seven” is more about reactions than it is about actions. The way that Spock and the rest of the crewmates end up on the planet is less important than how Spock handles the situation once he is put in command of the situation. We’re mainly watching people react to trying to survive in a situation without Kirk. The way that Spock is going to handle the situation is drastically different than they were expecting and problems quickly come about when human lives are translated into pounds of dead weight.
I’ve liked Spock since I started watching the series, and moments like this really help to drive why the character is likable. In a series that’s mostly about people exploring the universe, Spock is just about the only alien, and in no way does he really behave like a human. It seems reasonable that this sort of decision would have to come up to really distinguish Spock’s logical approach to be flawed in matters of life and death.
To me, “The Galileo Seven” is an episode that a show would do in about the third or fourth season. It’s the kind of episode that happens when a writer is saddled with an episode and wants to say something profound about a character in a different way. Darin Morgan of “The X-Files” wrote three episodes that took down Mulder in just about every way possible. This seems to be a pretty calculated way to force the viewer to confront Spock’s various failings. It’s odd that this sort of episode would come before one that would confront, say, the captain’s failings, but it seems pretty clear that Spock was rapidly becoming the breakout character of the series, but for the most part it is an interesting examination of one character’s process and failings.
That’s not to say that Spock is the only character that is really looked at. McCoy returns to put a human face on what has happened on Taurus II, and he is certainly less antagonistic than Boma, but he manages to continue to represent the ethical side of the problem and seeks alternative solutions to the deadlier ones that Spock advocates. Scotty is mostly there to do nothing but fix the gas lines as best he can and kind-of-sort-of defend Spock from the increasingly antagonistic crew.
Delightfully, Sulu also has things to do in this episode. I’ve talked about how much I sort of appreciate Sulu’s presence. He’s a very visible character on the bridge. Despite Roddenberry’s hopes for a post race starship, really the only non-Caucasians are Uhura and Sulu. Uhura hasn’t really gotten much to do since about “Charlie X” but Sulu consistently gets to at least play with some ship controls and have a line. What appeals to me about his character is that he’s very similar to Spock in his actions. Sulu has a firm grasp on what needs to be done and does his job without fail. He keeps his emotions out of the bridge, follows orders and acts without a seconds thought. He does have a brief line when Kirk calls off the search, but for the most part, Sulu is a lot like Spock, and he manages to be one of the finer characters on the Enterprise.
One could probably say that “The Galileo Seven” is one of the weaker episodes of the series. It’s pretty static, a little dull at times and kind of goes over some of the standard Star Trek plots, but I enjoyed it immensely. It’s nice to see the writers really place one character under the microscope so much and manage a question of lives so well.
It’s pretty easy to tell, but there’s only one creature running around all episode. Those Styrofoam rocks eat up a lot of the budget.
I wasn’t aware seven phasers had enough fuel to launch a small space pod. More useful information that just doesn’t seem that true.
Spock gets the best lines of the episode, namely “I am not interested in the opinions of the majority, Mr. Gaetano.”
There’s some pretty terrible fake laughs after Kirk’s joke on the bridge at the end.
Next Up: “The Squire of Gothos” and stuff like that.