Star Trek: TOS, S02E11 “Friday’s Child”
This is the second episode in which Klingons appeared. Unlike Errand of Mercy, “Friday’s Child” is mostly mediocre and forgettable. There isn’t much of a deeper philosophy underlying the episode as there is in the better TOS episodes.
In this episode, the Enterprise is ordered to “Capella,” a planet occupied by primitive tribesmen, where Kirk is to obtain a mining treaty with the natives for the rare mineral “topaline.”
(Once again, this brings up the question of how a primitive tribe can be authorized to sign a treaty for an entire huge planet. Surely there must be thousands of small tribes of the kind that Kirk deals with in this episode. Any “treaty” obtained under these circumstances is reminiscent of the Dutch buying Manhattan for a bunch of worthless trinkets. It has never been certain that the Dutch gave the trinkets to the correct Indian tribes—in other words the tribes with the best claim to “own” Manhattan despite the natives being too primitive to have deeds and land ownership.)
* * *
In a pre-mission briefing, it is revealed that Doctor McCoy previously spent time on this planet. We assume this was in the Federation version of the Peace Corps. McCoy explains:
They’re quite large. Seven feet tall is not unusual. They’re extremely fast and strong. Lieutenant?
(Uhura turns on a monitor) Make no mistake. They can be highly dangerous. The Capellans’ basic weapon, the kligat. At any distance up to a hundred yards, they can make it almost as effective against a man as a phaser.
(On the monitor, we see McCoy being given a demonstration in which a small sapling is cut in half by one of these hand-thrown objects.)
By the way, whatever happened to the Prime Directive? I thought the Federation is only allowed to secretly observe alien cultures, and never to interfere with them by revealing themselves as aliens from outer space?
* * *
Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and a security guard in a red uniform beam down to the planet. Shortly after meeting up with the Capellans, we see a Klingon hanging out with them! The security guard in the red uniform shouts “A Klingon!” and he draws his phaser. Then, to protect their Klingon guest, a Capellan throws his kligat at the security guard, and he dies.
This death is unintentionally funny. The original intent was to demonstrate the dangerous nature of the situation that Kirk is in and make the episode feel more suspenseful. Unfortunately, the writers of the original series used this plot device over and over and over again, always killing off a security guard in a red uniform. Star Trek fans caught onto the pattern, and it became a running joke among trekkies. As reported in the Star Trek wiki, “The icon of the doomed redshirted crewman has to an extent nestled itself in the awareness of the general public and has been translated into a number of other pop culture and literary media and parodies.”
* * *
Kirk and the Klingon are both explaining their positions to the Capellans.
The Klingon says: “What do Earth men offer you? What have you obtained from them in the past? Powders and liquids for the sick? We Klingons believe as you do. The sick should die. Only the strong should live. Earthmen have promised to teach the youth of your tribes many things. What? What things? Cleverness against enemies? The use of weapons?”
Kirk responds: “The Earth Federation offers one other thing, Akaar. Our laws. And the highest of all our laws states that your world is yours and will always remain yours. This differs us from the Klingons. Their empire is made up of conquered worlds. They take what they want by arms and force.”
This exchange demonstrates an advantage that Klingons have in dealing with alien species compared to the Federation. The Klingons accept the aliens the way they are. If the aliens think the sick should die and they only care about warfare and not science or medicine, the Klingons are happy to oblige them. The Federation, on the other hand, wants to impose their values onto the aliens (the very opposite of the supposed Prime Directive which preaches non-interference with pre-warp-technology alien cultures).
Kirk gives the Capellans the same spiel he gave to the Organians in “Errand of Mercy.” The Klingons are the bad guys! Don’t you understand?
It didn’t work on the Organians, and it doesn’t work on the Capellans either. If not for a series of unlikely circumstances and lucky breaks as the plot of this episode unwinds, the Klingon would have secured the mining treaty and Kirk would have left empty-handed. Why does Starfleet keep sending Kirk on these diplomatic missions when he’s such a bad diplomat?
This exchange has a lesson for the current-day world situation. The Chinese are going to eventually have more influence among the Third World nations than the United States, because the Chinese are less preachy and don’t care about imposing Western values onto Third World governments which don’t want them.
* * *
Up in space, Scotty is in charge of the Enterprise. When I was a kid, I always thought it was cool when Scotty was left in charge. I liked his no-nonsense attitude towards command, bolstered by actor James Doohan’s overdone fake Scottish accent. And you know what? It’s still cool to see Scotty in charge of the Enterprise.
The Enterprise is lured away from the planet because the Klingons broadcast a fake distress call from a Federation freighter. Apparently, the Enterprise lacks the technology to tell the difference between a genuine Federation distress call and one faked by the Klingons. Even though the distress signal was made to sound fake to the people viewing at home.
It’s a standard plot device in Star Trek episodes to concoct some reason for why the Enterprise has to leave the landing party stranded down on the planet.
When the Klingons then try to trick Scotty with a second fake distress signal, Scott explains his decision to ignore it to the bridge crew:
There’s an old, old saying on Earth, Mister Sulu. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
That’s the one line from this episode which I’ve always remembered. And it’s a great life lesson.
* * *
The previous “teer” (leader of the tribe) is killed in an insurrection led by Maab, the Capellan who is friends with the Klingon.
Eleen, the tall blonde wife of the previous teer, who is pregnant with the baby of the previous teer, is to be killed according to Capellan custom.
The Klingon, of course, is fine with this. But Kirk, who despite being alpha, is a pathological white knight, gets into a fight with the Capellans to prevent her death. After Kirk, Spock and McCoy lose the fight, Eleen, instead of feeling any gratitude towards Kirk, demands that Kirk be killed for touching her in the process of saving her life and thus violating their customs. No good deed by a white knight goes unpunished!
But don’t worry. Instead of being killed right away, Kirk and crew and Eleen are put into a poorly guarded hut from which they are easily able to escape.
* * *
Eleen refuses to let McCoy treat her pregnancy because no man is allowed to touch the wife of a former teer. Every time McCoy touches her, Eleen slaps him in the face. McCoy finally responds by giving her a good hard slap to the face in return. After that, Eleen’s whole attitude towards McCoy changes. She now sees McCoy as her protector, and even offers to give her baby to him. As Roissy would put it, McCoy passed her shit test and asserted his male dominance over her.
There’s a lesson that you would never see on modern TV, that sometimes you need to strike a woman in order to get her to behave.
Later in the episode, Kirk asks McCoy how he got her to allow him to touch her. McCoy explains that he gave her a “right cross.” Instead of court-martialing him for assaulting a pregnant woman, Kirk good naturedly comments, “Never seen that in a medical book.”
* * *
The reason I chose this episode to re-watch is because I wanted to explore how Klingons were depicted in the original series.
Unlike Kor in “Errand of Mercy,” who was an interesting enemy played by John Colicos, a character actor who excelled at playing sci-fi villains, the Klingon in this episode is nothing but a one-dimensional foil for Kirk. As the episode progresses, the Klingon is shown to be a beta-male bitch whom we disdain in comparison to the more noble and alpha Kirk. When Kirk challenges him to a fight, Maab, the new Capellan teer, “sees the fear in the Klingon’s eyes.” After a long march, the Klingon is shown to be out of breath while the Capellans are physically unfazed (this was done subtly, a nice touch). Eventually, the Klingon fears for his safety as he realizes that he has lost all esteem in the eyes of the Capellans, and in a cowardly manner he steals his phaser from them and uses it against them.
This episode is another example of the discontinuity between the Klingons of the original series and the Klingons of DS9. The latter Klingons are courageous to the point of foolishness, desiring death in battle rather than being afraid of it. It would also be out of character for the DS9 Klingons to “dishonor” themselves by bringing a phaser to a knife fight. They were also very physically fit.
Also, using fake distress signals seems like a deception that the DS9 Klingons would frown upon.
The Klingons of the original series are more believable as a technologically advanced military dictatorship. I am sure that in the army of the Soviet Union, there were a few officers who were afraid to die and weren’t in good enough shape to handle a long march without getting out of breath.
* * *
Using the Dungeons and Dragons alignment system, I would say that the Capellans are Lawful Neutral (they adhere to a strict code of behavior), the Klingon is Neutral Evil, and Kirk is Chaotic Good (without wisdom or restraint, he immediately acts to save the life of the pregnant woman).