Captain's Blog pt. 66: That Which Survives

January 24, 1969
This is not a classic by any stretch. Let's get that out of the way upfront. No one reinvents the wheel here. (Not that you always have to.) Maybe I'm just a sucker for the Curse of the Mummy's Space Tomb vibe.

The Queen's Chamber, intact with holographic sarcophagi.
Visual Design: (1.25) While Season 3 does contain my favorite visually designed episode of the entire series, it is for the most part a cheap-looking season. Stop me if you've heard this one before, but due to the slashed production budget, the studio forbade location shoots and stipulated every third episode take place on already built sets (i.e. the Enterprise, or generic planetscape.) They did the best they could with what they had. Some rise above or even exploit the situation for the better; others tend more towards the unremarkable. "That Which Survives" is probably a case of the latter.

That said, there are some fun things attempted:
Disco inferno.
Losira's eye make-up follows the Season 3 trend:

You see these triple swirls on almost every (female) guest star of the season.

Script/ Story: (5.5 / 6.5) Keeping in mind David Gerrold's remarks re: format and formula, "That Which Survives" is definitely of the Trek-by-numbers approach. But sometimes it just makes economic sense to do these types of episodes. On those occasions, I try and grade for how effectively the format/formula is adhered to. A good test for that is whether or not you'd need captions to follow along with the below.

Captain's Log, blahdate blah-blah-point-blah
Okay, so I provided a couple, but you get the idea. The whole let's throw the Enterprise light years away to keep the conflict from being resolved too quickly b-story plays out with similar familiarity. (Captions here are, needless to say, not from the episode itself.)

"Cosines... quadratic equations..."
"Doom, gloom, and Brigadoon, Mister Spock."
(grumbled Highlander slang)
Where were we?
But though it often can, familiar doesn't necessarily mean unenjoyable. I like the Losira story, and I like the "I don't need a bloomin' cuckoo clock" line from Scotty. That's the thing with a formula episode; the only fair way to evaluate it is to treat it as if it's the only episode of its kind. And "That Which Survives" is pretty good under those conditions.

The script is definitely hampered by some of the sexist attitudes of the era. As stated elsewhere, I don't like beating up on TOS for such things; it's hardly fair to fault the pretend-future-people of yesterday for not truly being the people of tomorrow. But the emphasis on Losira's beauty, Sulu's "I don't want to shoot a woman!" and Kirk's last line: very retrograde, perhaps even for 1969.

Don't waste our time, lady! "Are there men on this planet?"
I am for you, Mister Watkins. (Side note: poor Watkins, eh? I give him points for the presence of mind to alert Scotty.)
I am for you, Sulu. (Good luck, lady.)
I am only for D'amato.
Sudden head turn...
Let's move.
Then again, maybe we can read Kirk's last line (referencing the title (1): "Beauty... survives") as just the Captain messing with Spock. The point of the whole story seems to be that even formidable and superior cultures like Losira's fade away and leave only echoes. The Captain seemingly reduces it all to hey, Losira was pretty hot, though, unh? to tease his first officer's consternation at such human flippancies. There's a precedent there. Or maybe that's his cynical way to deal with the ephemeral qualities of life, civilization and everything. The human mind can't really deal with such things and so we have to shrug, dismiss, tell jokes, etc.

Probably not, just saying, it's not cast in stone. Still. As last lines go, it's not a fave.

In creating this planet, we have accidentally produced a deadly organism.
"(Bones) All these thousands of years, she's been waiting to greet people who were dead."
Once more, the all-pervasive Trek / 20th-century-macro-1960s-micro theme of a culture achieving a level of technical sophistication only to destroy itself is hammered home.

Kirk and the Gang: (15) I like seeing Sulu, Bones, and Kirk on an away mission. Wish they had a few more. (I wish the same for Kirk and Chekov. A great lost episode would be "While Scotty, Uhura, and Spock hit the casinos, Kirk and Chekov get lost, and Bones and Sulu have to find them.") and I like some of the interplay between Doohan and Nimoy.

Guest: (3) Losira is certainly the episode's most memorable character.


Meriweather played Catwoman in the Batman movie, making Eartha Kitt the only 1960s Catwoman to not guest-star on Star Trek, and starred in Barnaby Jones and The Time Tunnel.


The awesomely named Booker Bradshaw reprises his role as Dr. M'Benga:

And Naomi Pollack makes her only bridge appearance as Lt. Rahda:

She later appeared on Korg: 70,000 BC.
Interior Logistics: (1.5) For the most part, it's okay. We certainly see the difference between a blue-shirt and a red-shirt death, don't we?

Stop everything; we have to bury D'Amato. With, uhh, our phasers. Don't ask.
How the Captain chisels or inks D'Amato's name on the rock is unknown. Apparently, Captain Kirk, Sulu, or Bones has a heretofore unseen skill set for such occasions.

Memorability: (2.5) I originally gave it a 2, but then I recalled that despite not having seen the episode in literally decades, one of my former VFW customers occasionally said "I am for you, James Kirk" whenever Trek came up. That's worth half a point.

Total Points Awarded: 36.25


  1. What's up with that repeating eye makeup? I don't know what's more amazing: that the show's makeup people got away with it; that I'd never noticed it before you pointed it out; or that, as far as I can tell, NOBODY ever talks about it. Weird. I wonder what the story behind that is?

    Personally, I give this episode the lowest possibly points for memorability. Not because it's a bad episode (it isn't; not great, but not bad, either), but because I can never remember what it's about. If someone says "It's the one with Catwoman," that'll jog a memory of the purple suit she's wearing, but otherwise, my memory refuses to hold onto this one.

    From what little I DO remember of my last rewatch, though, I definitely like some of the semi-unusual character matchups you mention here; seeing more of that would have been nice.

    1. It's too bad Fred Phillips never wrote a memoir, eh? I'd like to know the story myself.

      I probably over-inflate the importance of what my former VFW customers remember for the memorability rating, but I was always surprised by what stuck in their heads. (I was always more surprised by what didn't - especially outside of Trek - but that's a tale for another day...)

    2. No, I don't think you do. It's a very memorable line.

      It's just some weird mental block I've got. There are several other episodes of original Trek that fell through the same crack, whatever it is. If you had a gun to my head right now, I couldn't tell you anything about "The Lights of Zetar." Why? Beats me.

  2. Ah-ha! Now I know where the Star Wars: The Old Republic design team got their inspiration. Now I know why I hate them. :-)