REVIEW: “That Which Survives” (Star Trek: Remastered edition)

Star Trek (Remastered): “That Which Survives”
Remastered Episode #61 (3/15/2008)
Original Episode #69 (1/24/1969)

While Kirk, McCoy, Sulu, and D’Amato are in the process of de-materializing to beam down to a deserted planet, a woman suddenly appears in the transporter room, tells them that they “must not go,” and then kills the ensign manning the controls by simply touching him.

After they appear on the planet, the landing party immediately encounters a violent storm. CBS Digital’s newly-created scenes of the Enterprise encountering that same disturbance in space are, unfortunately, laughable.

Standard shots of the ship in orbit and moving through space look great, as I have come to expect from the Star Trek: Remastered effort. The newly created planet also looks fantastic.

As it has since the beginning, though, Remastered still seems to suffer from a time and/or budget crunch that makes some of the new effects look shoddy while others look brilliant. I consider myself a huge fan of this project, but this is a very disappointing aspect.

The landing party soon discovers that the Enterprise is no longer in the area. Sulu even suggests that it may have blown up, prompting a quick reprimand from Kirk that he is not interested in Sulu’s guesses. In fact, Kirk chides Sulu a couple of times in this episode – almost making me want to give it another point just to see the overrated helmsman finally get his due.

Meanwhile, Spock and the others aboard the Enterprise are trying to figure out what happened to the planet, which seems to have disappeared, before they discover that the starship has actually been transported across the galaxy.

Like Kirk, Spock is also more irritable than normal in this episode – resulting in another nice exchange where he points out the uselessness of Scotty’s comment that transporting the Enterprise such a great distance in so short a time is “impossible.” Since it happened, it is obviously possible.

On the planet, evidently the same woman appears and, not finding any red-shirted crewmembers, kills the blue-shirted Lieutenant D’Amato – to the delight of the audience, since it spares us having to hear more of his bland delivery.

The “folding” effect used to materialize the woman appears to be essentially the same as the one on the original version of this episode, as I recall anyway. I am glad they left this alone, as it was a unique feature of this episode.

Sulu’s inferiority complex must grow, as Kirk keeps up his beating. Maybe Sulu made a huge mistake between episodes and is still facing Kirk’s wrath. When Sulu notes that D’Amato’s death is a “terrible way to die,” Kirk sharply replies, “There are no good ways, Sulu.”

Later, after they bury D’Amato in a “tomb of rocks” (not unlike the fate that will befall Kirk in Star Trek Generations), Sulu notes, “It looks so lonely there.”

“It would be worse if he had company,” McCoy tells him.

As Kirk, McCoy, and Sulu try to resolve the mystery on the planet, Spock and Scotty have their own problems on the Enterprise. An identical woman is also appearing there and killing off crewmembers, and the Enterprise just does not “feel” right to Scotty.

There is some chilling music in this episode, some of the best of the series. As a mystery episode, “That Which Survives” has much potential and delivers on some, if not all, of it.

By the time of “That Which Survives” in 1969, Star Trek was in the home stretch. Only ten episodes of the three-season series came after this one in production. Conventional Trekkie wisdom has it that Star Trekjumped the shark” several episodes earlier with the infamous “Spock’s Brain.”

As I have said before here, I do not buy that. Yes, “Spock’s Brain” is a bad episode, but it hardly destroys the entire third season for me. There are plenty of worthwhile episodes.

The third season also features a new lighting approach to many scenes aboard the Enterprise, toning things down from the colorful and bright previous seasons. There are noticeable improvements to the special effects in the original versions of these episodes, particularly early on in the season. Perhaps we see a small glimpse of what might have been, production-wise, had the series endured for the fourth and fifth seasons it deserved.

Sure, compared to previous years, there are fewer top-notch episodes in the third season. However, as noted, there are plenty of average-yet-solid, “meat and potatoes” episodes. “That Which Survives” is one such episode. While it may not be as memorable as “The Tholian Web” or “The Enterprise Incident,” it still offers up what the original Star Trek nearly always delivers: a solid hour of entertainment and adventure.

Sports teams cannot survive on their star players alone. They must have solid players all around to support those stars, and they must have depth in key positions should a player go down. In a season with few “star” episodes, “That Which Survives” represents the depth of the series. Star Trek is great not only for its stand-out episodes, but also for its average episodes like this one.

Dramatic Content: 5 (out of 10)
Effects Upgrades: 7
Overall Experience: 5