Sunday, October 27, 2013

Star Trek: The Animated Series Episode 8--"The Magicks of Megas-Tu"

The eighth episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series, "The Magicks of Megas-Tu", begins as the starship Enterprise, on a scientific mission to the very center of the galaxy, is drawn into a vortex to another universe where the the physical laws of our dimension do not apply and what we would call magic rules.  There, on the planet called Megas-Tu, the crew encounter a race of beings with magical powers who had once visited Earth and walked among humanity as wizards and magicians.  The Megans greet the arrival of the humans with fear and suspicion, with the exception of the demonic looking Lucien, who was apparently known to humans during his time on Earth as Lucifer.  
Perhaps the Megans have reason to fear and hate humanity, as after settling in Salem, Massachussetts in the late 1600's they found themselves tried and executed as witches.  The survivors fled back to Megas-Tu and have lived in isolation ever since.
Despite Lucien's efforts to hide the Enterprise's presence from his fellow Megans, they are soon discovered after they begin attempting to harness the magical powers of this dimension in order to protect themselves.  The bridge crew soon finds themselves imprisoned in stockades in a recreation of 17th century Salem and forced to stand trial for the crimes of humanity against the Megans all those centuries ago.  
Speaking in defense of his human shipmates, Spock argues that the human race has advanced since the Megans last encountered them.  The Megan prosecutor, Asmodeus, agrees to release the Enterprise crew but sentences Lucien to exile in isolation forever for daring to aid the humans.  Kirk, realizing that this would be tantamount to a death sentence for Lucien, argues for compassion for Lucien.  Kirk's attempt to save Lucien leads to him using the magic power of this alternate dimension to battle Asmodeus.
The battle ends abruptly, and Asmodeus reveals that the Megans had been testing Kirk and his compassion for Lucien proved to them that the human had, as Kirk claimed, changed.  The Megans return the Enterprise to its own universe, and the ship proceeds on its mission.
In the DVD's special features, writer Larry Brody reveals that his initial concept involved the Enterprise meeting God.  Apparently Gene Roddenberry loved the concept, but Brody was eventually told that he couldn't use God, but that having the crew meet Satan was just fine. 
This was Brody's first work for Star Trek.  He would return to the Trek universe in the 1990's to write an episode of Voyager.  Its kind of too bad that he didn't do more Trek, for, as he demonstrates here, he has a good grasp of the show's concept and its characters.  
Upon rewatching this episode, I was surprised to find it much better than I'd remembered it.  In fact, I'd been prepared to begin this review by comparing it to Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, which I realize now is a totally unfair comparison. While both stories do concern the Enterprise passing through a cosmic barrier at the center of the galaxy to encounter beings of god like power, and who, in fact, have been mistaken for gods or other mythical beings, "The Magicks of Megas-Tu" differs from that later film in not being really, really bad.  "Magicks" is, actually, a very good Star Trek episode that embodies the hope for humanity and idealistic values that endeared the series to science fiction fans from its very first airing.   Furthermore, it manages to combine this philosophy with an intriguing mystery and an exciting story.  In fact, in my rewatching of the series, I'd have to say that this is my second favorite episode so far, after "Yesteryear."

1 comment:

  1. Great review once again, Ray.. I'd agree that some TAS episodes can really surpise you in regards to their story-telling and techno-babble, yet it was shown as Saturday morning fare.

    However, the actual appearance of Satan with hooved feet..? For all the muck and mire about some of the TOS episodes by censors, NBC pulled this off only a few scant years later with neglible mention or quibble.

    AND on Saturday morning programming, no less.

    A truely solid story, surpassing some of the Original Third Season episodes.