Welcome back to the recaps! This week, I’m looking at “Charlie X,” which does a very good job of why we shouldn’t give superpowers to children.
We start, as usual, with a captain’s log. Kirk explains that they’re meeting up with another ship called the Antares to pick up an “unusual passenger.” We then cut to Kirk heading down to the transporter room, and the shirt he’s wearing is fabulous:
The captain and navigator of the Antares (Ramart and Nellis, respectively) beam aboard, along with the aforementioned passenger, Charlie. Charlie is a 17-year-old boy who had been alone on a seemingly deserted planet after the ship he was on crashed when he was three. Fun fact: the actor who played Charlie, Robert Walker, Jr, was in fact 26 when this episode aired.
Kirk greet Charlie, after which the music turns ominous and we switch to a shot of Ramart and Nellis looking rather pensive. The scene switches back to Charlie and we get this lovely expression:
After this, Ramart and Nellis just can’t stop singing his praises, talking about how wonderful he is and how impressive that he’s managed to learn everything he did all on his own. In case you couldn’t tell, this is hint number one that something bizarre is going on.
Charlie interrupts to ask Kirk how many humans are aboard the ship. Ramart explains that it’s like “a whole city in space,” and that starships generally have a crew of over 400. Kirk responds that there are 428 crewmembers aboard, and asks Captain Ramart if there’s anything he needs. Charlie interrupts again, saying “Hundreds. All human like me.” Well, not all of them. We know there’s at least one crewmember who isn’t. He says it’s exciting, and asks if that’s the right word. Nellis says that it’s the exact word, and Ramart points out that they’re sending him to his closest relatives on Colony 5, and he was transferred to the Enterprise since they’re heading in that direction.
Charlie interrupts again, saying he wants to see the ship. Kirk gently but firmly tells him that interrupting other people is considered rude, and Charlie aplogizes. Kirk goes on to inform Ramart and Nellis that they have a number of entertainment tapes, if they need any. Ramart says that they should be fine, and Kirk is surprised that, as a transport ship, they don’t need anything. Charlie is equally surprised by the door to the transporter room opening automatically.
The two go back to their own ship, and Rand walks in. Kirk introduces Charlie to her, and asks her to show him to his quarters. Charlie asks if Rand’s a girl, who shoots Kirk a somewhat offended look, which is entirely understandable. Then again, Charlie has never seen a woman before, or if he had is was so long ago he wouldn’t remember it. Kirk just smiles at this and confirms that Rand, is, in fact, a girl. Rand looks like she’s about to smack the both of them upside the head.
We then cut to Charlie being examined by Dr. McCoy at some kind of weird, upside-down stairmaster thing. Over this we get a voice over of Kirk’s captain log, talking about their “unusual passenger.” Oh, captain, you have no fucking idea.
Anyway, McCoy and Charlie talk. McCoy points out that the ship’s food supply couldn’t have lasted the entire time Charlie was on the planet. Charlie counters that he found other things to eat after the stores ran out. McCoy is also impressed that he learned to talk through the ship’s tapes, and declares that Charlie is a hundred percent fit. They talk a bit about Kirk, and Charlie says that he’s not like Ramart. McCoy says that Kirk’s definitely one of a kind, and Charlie asks McCoy if he likes him. McCoy responds, “Why not?” Charlie talks a bit about how the others on the Antares didn’t like him, and that he wants other people to like him. McCoy just says “Most seventeen-year-olds do.”
Heading to his quarters, Charlie spends some time watching the crew at work. He comes across two crewman who converse about meeting later, and one of them smacks the other on the ass as he leaves. Guys, help me out here: is this actually a thing that guys do when they’re alone? Inquiring minds want to know.
After this encounter, he passes Rand in the hallway. He follows her and tells her he has a present for her, brandishing a bottle of perfume. Rand thanks him, but says she has to go since she’s on duty. Persistent, Charlie asks her if she likes that kind of perfume. Rand says that it’s her favorite, and asks where he got it since there wasn’t any in the ship’s stores. He just says again that it’s a present. Rand, of course, gets this, but lets it go since she does need to head out. Charlie asks if she couldn’t just stay and talk for a little while, and Rand says she can’t. She then tells him that she’s off duty at 1400, and to meet her in the rec area.
And then Charlie says goodbye and smacks her on the ass as he leaves.
Rand is very not amused by this. She scolds him, and Charlie is confused and begs her not to be angry with him. Rand tries to explain why slapping women on the ass isn’t really appropriate behavior, but is quite clearly uncomfortable with the conversation and suggests he ask Kirk or McCoy to explain it to him before heading out. You’d think the Antares, knowing that this kid has had basically no human interaction his entire life, would’ve explained at least a little bit of how to deal with other people, but apparently not.
We go back to the bridge, where McCoy and Spock are discussing the possible existence of life on the planet where Charlie was found. Spock thinks, given that Charlie survived on an alien world for 14 years, that Thasus would have to have some kind of intelligent life. Kirk and McCoy think the Thasians are a myth. They also discuss Charlie’s education as well. Kirk basically wants McCoy to give Charlie “the talk”; McCoy thinks Kirk should talk to him about this as Charlie looks up to him. Kirk’s not letting him off the hook though.
We then cut to the rec room, where Spock is playing an instrument that looks sort of like a harp while Uhura and Rand play cards. Uhura starts humming and Spock stops. Uhura says, “I’m sorry. I did it again, didn’t I?” Spock just gives her this little smirk and starts playing again, and this time Uhura joins in with a little song:
Seriously, though, I love Uhura so much, especially the way that she interacts with Spock. Nichelle Nichols is so incredibly talented, and I think she and Leonard Nimoy actually had quite a bit of chemistry.
As Uhura finishes her song, Charlie walks in and starts shuffling the cards. The crowd asks for an encore and Uhura sings about Charlie and his crush on Rand. Charlie doesn’t seem to like it very much, since he makes a face, and renders both Uhura’s singing and Spock’s instrument silent.
After this, Charlie asks Rand if she wants to see something. Thankfully, he just wants to show her some card tricks. We really dodged a bullet there. He takes some cards out of the deck, lays them face down on the table, and asks Rand to turn them over. She obliges and the images on the card are now…pictures of Rand, whose response is to ask him how he did it. OK, if I were Rand, I wouldn’t be wondering how he did the trick; I’d be wondering how and when the little shit got a bunch of pictures of me.
Anyway, he explains that a crewmember on the Antares showed him how. He starts doing some more tricks, to the amazement of Rand and the other crewmembers. One of them involves him throwing a card over his shoulder and Rand finding it down her shirt. Cute.
Instead of a horrific beating, Charlie gets a round of applause as the episode cuts to the ship, and then to Kirk talking to a crewman. Apparently Thanksgiving is coming up (apparently they still celebrate that in the 23rd century), and he says that if the crew has to eat synthetic meat loaf, it should at least look like turkey. Charlie then walks in and he awkwardly asks Kirk why he shouldn’t smack women on the behind. Kirk equally awkwardly tries to explain it to him, and fails spectacularly.
Kirk, thankfully, is saved from this conversation by a hail from Uhura. Ramart is on the channel and wants to talk to Kirk. He heads to the bridge, Charlie (unwantedly) tagging along behind.
On the bridge, Uhura is having some trouble hearing the Antares because of interference. Kirk comes on to the bridge, and Ramart says that he needs to warn them, but then the transmission goes dead. I also want to note something here: Kirk is wearing a completely different shirt than what he was wearing in the previous scene.
Did Kirk just stop to change his shirt somewhere, Charlie right behind him the whole time? Anyway, back to the issue at hand. Charlie says, “It wasn’t very well constructed.” Kirk looks at him and he shuts up. Kirk then orders Spock to scan the area the transmission was coming from, then asks Charlie if he thinks something happened to the Antares. Charlie says he doesn’t know, and Spock picks up some debris. I think you know where this is heading: the debris is, in fact, the Antares. This is interrupted by the chef calling in and saying that the meat loaf is now turkey, and Charlie laughs and walks out.
After another captain’s log, we cut to Kirk and Spock playing three-dimensional chess. Spock tells Kirk that his mind doesn’t seem to be on the game, and asks if it’s the Antares. Kirk affirms this, and says that he can’t figure it out: there doesn’t seem to be any reason for it, and Ramart should have known if there was something wrong. Spock expresses some (perfectly legitimate) concern about Charlie, and points out that he seemed to know what happened to the Antares before any of the crew did.
Of course, at this point, Charlie decides to make an appearance. Kirk wins the game, and Spock notes that his “illogical approach” sometimes has its advantages. Kirk says he prefers to call his approach inspired, and Spock concedes. Kirk asks Charlie if he plays chess, and Charlie says he watched others play, and asks if he can try. Kirk says to Spock, “I place you in the hands of our chess master,” and leaves.
Spock begins to explain the game to Charlie, but Charlie just says, “Let’s play.” Spock acquieses, and the two begin playing. Charlie places a piece, and Spock tells him he made a mistake. Charlie responds that he hasn’t, and Spock very handily wins. Charlie is not pleased by this development, and Spock takes his leave. After he’s gone, Charlie uses his powers to melt the white pieces on the chessboard.
After this episode, Charlie runs into Rand and another young woman. Rand introduces her to him as Tina Lawton, and says that she thought Charlie would like to meet someone closer to his own age (and, hopefully, that he’d stop chasing after Rand). Charlie completely brushes her off and tells Rand he wants to speak with her alone. Harsh, dude. At any rate, Tina picks up that she’s not wanted and leaves.
Rand is having none of that, and calls Charlie out for being rude. Charlie, charmingly, tells her that he doesn’t need Tina, since he has Rand. Dude, Rand is a) at least ten years older than you, and b) obviously not fucking interested. Let it go. Rand points out that’s not an excuse, and that he sorta needs to learn to interact with people without pissing them off if he wants to get anywhere. Charlie whines that Tina’s not the same:
Not like you. She’s, she’s just a girl. You’re, you smell like a girl. All the other girls on the ship they, they look just like Tina. You’re the only one who looks like you. You can understand, can’t you? You know about being with somebody? Wanting to be? If I had the whole universe I’d give it to you. When I see you, I feel like I’m hungry all over. Hungry. Do you know how that feels?
I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.
At this point, we go back to the bridge, where Rand is quite rightly lodging a complaint to Kirk about Charlie’s behavior. Kirk responds that Charlie’s a seventeen-year-old-boy. Fun fact: that still doesn’t make his behavior OK. Rand basically says this and that if he doesn’t cut it out, she’ll have to do something to hurt him. Kirk reassures her that he’ll talk to Charlie. After Rand walks away, he starts smirking.
Look, I know this show was made in the ‘60s, but it still would have been nice to see Kirk take Rand’s complaints at least a little bit seriously.
We cut to Charlie meeting Kirk in his quarters. Kirk has the melted chess pieces, and asks Charlie if he noticed anything odd about them when they were playing earlier that day. Charlie says no, and asks if that’s all. Kirk says no, and asks him to sit down. He brings up Charlie’s behavior with Rand, and Charlie (misunderstanding) says that he won’t swat her on the ass again. Kirk says no, that’s not what they’re talking about, and Charlie starts complaining that everything he does or says is wrong, and he doesn’t know who or what he’s supposed to be.
Kirk responds that this is natural for a seventeen-year-old, and that he’ll grow out of it. No, Kirk, this kid quite clearly needs psychological help, what with being in near isolation from the age of three and all. Anyway, he tells Charlie that love isn’t a one way street, and that he shouldn’t try and press someone into loving him. Charlie angrily says that Kirk doesn’t think Janice could love him, and Kirk basically says yes, mostly because he’s a teenager and she’s an adult woman.
Charlie is in some pretty deep denial, though, and insists that Rand is the one for him. They argue back and forth, and Kirk points out that you can’t get everything that you want, and really the only thing to do is “hang on tight and survive.” Charlie says he’s trying, but doesn’t know how.
They’re interrupted by Uhura hailing Kirk, telling him that he had asked to be notified when the course adjustments were to be made. Kirk tells her to let Spock handle it, and asks Charlie to come with him.
We cut to the ship’s gym, where a shirtless Kirk is trying to teach Charlie how to fight.
I think there was some sort of clause in Shatner’s contract where he had to appear shirtless at least a few times a season. Or with a hole in his shirt that shows off his nipples.
At any rate, Kirk first tries to show Charlie how to fall without hurting himself. Charlie doesn’t really see the point, but Kirk points out that he has to learn how to take a fall before he can show him how to actually fight. Charlie still isn’t too impressed, so Kirk tries a different tack: he calls over a nearby crewmember to show Charlie a throw. He calls Charlie over to try it, and after a scuffle Kirk manages to throw him. Sam (the other crewman) starts laughing. No good can come from this.
Of course, Charlie is not amused and makes him disappear. Kirk is pretty freaked out by this (as is only natural), and Charlie says that it’s not nice to laugh at people. Kirk asks him what happened to Sam, and Charlie just says he’s gone. Kirk says that’s not an answer, and Charlie responds that he didn’t mean to, and that Sam made him do it.
Kirk calls to the bridge for two security offers. Charlie asks what Kirk’s going to do, and Kirk tells him that he’s confining Charlie to his quarters, which he doesn’t take too well. Charlie says that he won’t let them hurt him, and will make them disappear if he has to. Kirk tries to reassure him that they won’t hurt him, and the security men walk in. As they approach Charlie, he knocks them over with his powers. The officers, naturally, respond by pulling their phasers, until Charlie makes the phasers vanish.
Kirk, never one to be amused by people fucking with his crew, basically tells him to go to his room. Charlie says they were going to hurt him, and Kirk responds by telling him to go or he’ll carry him there. Charlie says that he won’t let them, and Kirk says that’s his choice. Charlie acquieses, but once again states that he won’t let them hurt him, and Kirk again says they won’t. As Charlie and the security officers leave, Uhura calls down to Kirk and telling him that all the weapons on the ship have disappeared. Kirk asks her to have McCoy and Spock meet him in the briefing room.
In the briefing room, Spock is giving McCoy and Kirk the lowdown on the Thasians: apparently, according to legend, they had the ability to transmute objects or make them invisible. Which, naturally, are the same abilities that Charlie has been exhibiting. Kirk asks if it’s possible that Charlie isn’t human; McCoy responds that unless Thasians are exactly like humans him being an alien is unlikely. Kirk points out that human or not, Charlie’s still a huge problem seeing as how in addition to phenomenal powers, he also has an extremely short fuse. Spock also points out a lack of regard for life, seeing as how he’s most likely the one responsible for the destruction of the Antares. Kirk points out he’s just a kid, and doesn’t know what life is.
McCoy asks, rightly so, how they’re going to contain him. Kirk points out that it goes a little bit deeper than that: taking him to Colony 5 would be a terrible idea, considering his abilities and his lack of self control. Spock points out that he has “a weapon in him that could destroy you or anyone, anywhere on this ship.” McCoy points out that he’s stopped for now, mostly because Kirk’s about the only person on the ship Charlie actually respects. Spock concurs that involving anyone besides Kirk would be a terrible idea.
At this point, Charlie comes in with a guard. He says the guard told him they had questions for him, and Kirk asks if he had anything to do with the destruction of the Antares. Charlie asks why, and Kirk tells him to answer the question. Charlie says he was, but that there was a “warped baffle-plate on the shield of their energy pile” (whatever that means) that he made disappear. He then says that it would’ve blown up anyway, and tries to justify himself by saying they weren’t nice to him and wanted to get rid of him. Well, I guess that makes it OK then.
Kirk asks the obvious question: what about the Enterprise? Charlie, tellingly, doesn’t respond right away before saying “I don’t know” and leaving with the guard. Spock drily points out, “We’re in the hands of an adolescent.”
Kirk and Spock head back to the bridge, where Kirk orders Uhura to contact Colony 5 and the navigator to lay a course away from the colony. As Uhura attempts to comply, the console erupts into a shower of sparks, injuring her hands. Kirk goes over to make sure she’s all right, and asks Spock to call McCoy. Uhura assures him that she’s all right (if a bit shaken), and that she’d checked the console herself earlier and it shouldn’t have shorted like that. The navigator then informs Kirk that the controls aren’t responding. Kirk asks Spock if he’s getting any readings as Charlie enters; he starts to answer but Charlie instead uses his powers to make him recite poems. Charlie points out that he knows they’re trying to change course, but he wants to get to Colony 5 as quickly as possible.
Kirk tells him to release the transmitter, and Charlie responds that they “don’t need all that subspace chatter.” A very confused McCoy comes onto the bridge, as Spock begins to recite Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” Charlie points out that he can basically make Spock do whatever he wants him to. Kirk tells him that’s enough, and Charlie asks, “Don’t you think he’s funny? I think he’s funny.” Kirk does not find this funny, and tells him to leave his crew alone. He manages to stare Charlie down, and he leaves. Spock tells him that Charlie’s getting to the point where he won’t back down, and Kirk says he knows.
We then cut to Charlie walking through a corridor. He runs into Tina, who asks him what’s wrong. He responds by turning her into an iguana. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.
Charlie then goes into Rand’s quarters, where he produces a pink rose. She’s not terribly happy to see him (I WONDER WHY) and tells him he shouldn’t walk into a room without knocking. Charlie tells her to never lock her door on him again (and that he loves her), to which she coldly responds that she’ll lock her door whenever she wants. She asks bluntly what he wants, and he says he wants her. He says he’ll give her anything she wants. Rand secretly switches on the comm unit, and tells him she wants him to leave.
We cut to the bridge, where the conversation can be heard over a loudspeaker. Charlie tells Rand that he just wants to be nice to her, and Rand tells him again to get out. Kirk calls to Spock, and the two head towards Rand’s quarters.
The scene cuts back to the aforementioned quarters. Charlie tells Rand that he loves her, and Rand tells him he doesn’t know what the word means. Charlie grabs her and asks her to show him, and Rand says no. Kirk and Spock rush in, and he knocks them over. Rand responds by slapping him, to which he responds by making her disappear. He asks why she did that (because you grabbed her, numbnuts), and says he loved her, “but she wasn’t nice at all.” He turns to Kirk and says that even though he’s not nice either, he needs Kirk. He says that running the Enterprise is harder than running the Antares, and reiterates that Kirk needs to be nice. He uses his powers, and Kirk doubles over in pain.
After this escapade, Kirk manages to get up again and looks towards Spock. Spock reveals that he can’t get up, because his legs are broken (presumably because of Charlie). Kirk glares at him and tells him to let Spock go. Charlie asks why, and Kirk says because he told him to, and also because he needs Spock to help run the ship. Charlie gives in, but threatens to make a lot more people vanish if they try to hurt him again. Kirk responds by asking what happened to Rand, and Charlie says he’s not telling. He then says, “Growing up isn’t so much. I’m not a man, and I can do anything! You can’t.”
We then cut to a corridor, where Spock is directing a crewmember working on a panel. He dismisses him, saying that he’ll activate the force field himself. Charlie and Kirk then walk in, Charlie talking about how he didn’t like the way someone looked at him, so he froze him. He walks into a room, and asks Kirk and Spock if they’re coming in. Spock responds by activating the forcefield. This does jack shit to contain him, because he just makes the wall disappear and freezes them in place, telling him they shouldn’t have done that and they’ll be sorry before unfreezing them. Kirk and Spock give each other an “oh shit” look as Charlie stalks off.
Along the way, he runs into a young woman, who he turns old. Then he comes across a group of people laughing offscreen. Charlie angrily says “No laughing!” and the laughing abruptly stops, turning into muffled screams and whimpers. As a crewmember turns the corner, we see why: she has no mouth, and I must scream.
Back on the bridge, Charlie is operating the console as the crew watches. Uhura says they’re receiving a ship-to-ship transmission (which Charlie doesn’t look too thrilled about), but she can’t hear it. Kirk asks Charlie if he’s creating the transmission, or blocking one that’s coming in. Charlie just says that it’s his game, and Kirk’s just going to have to figure it out. He says that he’s locked in a course for Colony 5, and leaves. Once he’s gone, the crew exchanges some significant looks.
We cut to Charlie in the turbolift. After getting off the lift, he runs down the corridor. He runs into a crewmember, who he freezes in place before moving on.
Back on the bridge, Kirk says he’s done waiting and it’s time to confront Charlie and finish this. McCoy looks at him like he’s lost his mind and points out he doesn’t have any special immunity so far as Charlie is concerned. Kirk asks Spock for his opinion and he responds that it’s out of the question.
Kirk then has a revelation: Charlie hasn’t actually made anyone disappear since he took over the ship. He comes to the conclusion that Charlie has a limit as to how far he can stretch his powers, and he’s just about at that limit. He figures that if they turn on every device in the ship, Kirk would be able to distract him so McCoy can administer a tranquilizer. McCoy says it’s risky, and Kirk responds that Charlie’ll eventually get rid of them anyway if they don’t try.
Charlie re-enters the bridge, and announces that he can make them disappear any time he wants to, and sits in Kirk’s chair. Kirk orders him to get out of it, and Charlie says that he has the ship. Kirk points out he doesn’t think Charlie can handle anything more, and McCoy and Spock start turning on consoles. Charlie, incensed, says he could’ve made Kirk disappear before but he didn’t, and Kirk basically tells him to bring it. Charlie continues posturing, and Kirk says Charlie’s going to give him back his ship and crew, even if he has to break his neck, and throws him out of the chair. Charlie says not to push him, and Kirk falls to the floor in pain.
This is interrupted by noises from a nearby console, as Charlie yells at them to stop. Unfortunately for Charlie, his hold over the ship’s been broken, since the helm is responding. Uhura says there’s something off their starboard bow, and she’s received a message that they’re from Thasus. Rand then reappears on the bridge. She starts to ask how she got there, and Kirk reassures her that she’s all right. Spock points out the sensors are picking something up, but it doesn’t seem to be really solid. We then see a kind of weird, impressionist version of what appears to be a ship on the viewscreen.
Charlie, by this point, is absolutely terrified. He starts begging the crew to not let the Thasians take him, that he thought they were his friends. At this point, a floating green head appears on the bridge.
Floaty Head Man tells the crew that he’s taken the form they’ve had centuries ago to communicate with the crew. He explains that they didn’t realize Charlie had escaped until after he was already gone, and apologizes for the havoc that he caused. He explains that they’ve returned the crew that had vanished, and returned everything to normal.
Charlie is still frantic, and promises that he’ll be good and he won’t ever use his powers that way again if they’ll just take him with them. Kirk tells the Thasian that Charlie belongs with his own kind, and the Thasian responds that would be impossible. Kirk says that they can teach him to live in their society, and he can be taught not to use his powers. The Thasian explains that they gave him those powers so he could survive, and that he can’t stop using them. If he went with the Enterprise crew, he’d either destroy them or they’d have to kill him in self defense. Kirk asks if there’s anything else they can do, and the Thasian explains that they need to take him back.
Charlie rejects this, and continues begging them to not let them take him. He says that he can’t touch them, and looks to Janice saying that they don’t feel love. He continues begging to stay on board as he fades away.
Uhura states that Charlie’s back on the Thasian ship, and that they’re leaving. The episode ends with Kirk consoling a distraught Rand.
So, am I supposed to feel sorry for Charlie, or irritated by him? His interactions with Rand are really creepy (and sexual harassment), though I suppose it would’ve been creepier if Rand had actually reciprocated. I understand why the character is the way that he is, but he still got under my skin. Though I did feel for him at the end, especially with the line about not being able to touch them (as touch starvation or deprivation is an actual thing that causes major mental health issues).
Who I’m more annoyed with in this episode, however, is Kirk. He seems really dismissive of Rand’s complaints at first, in a “boys will be boys” sort of way, and only grudgingly tries to take Charlie in hand until he becomes a physical threat to his crew. No captain, if a member of your crew is complaining about someone showing inappropriate behavior, you need to take that shit seriously, even if they don’t have world-shattering mental powers.
Next time I’ll be looking at “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” which is actually the second pilot that was ordered by the network.