Tuesday, May 10, 2016

And the Children Shall Lead: The Legend

Next, the part of the episode that could be made to work, but would need significant tweeking.  The legend of Triacus.  Here is the legend, as Spock recounts it:
According to the legend, Triacus was the seat of a band of marauders who made constant war throughout the system of Epsilon Indi. After many centuries, the destroyers were themselves destroyed by those they had preyed upon. . . . [L]ike so many legends, this one too has a frightening ending. It warns that the evil is awaiting a catalyst to set it again into motion and send it marauding across the galaxy.
Seriously, that's the legend?  It must be the most generic legend ever invented!  Granted, it is harder when you are making up a legend out of whole cloth than when you are dealing with one known to the audience, or even not commonly known, but existing in some other culture.  But come on, it takes only a minimum of inventiveness to flesh it out with a few details.  Give me King Tut's curse on anyone who disturbs his tomb, the Flying Dutchman doomed never to come into port, a caretaker isolated in a snow-bound hotel who goes mad and axes his wife and children to death, something -- anything -- to bring the legend to life.  Hell, look at Masks from Next Generation.  Sure it was a godawful episode, incoherent and completely unsatisfying, but at least the authors knew how to invent a mythos and give it the feel of an actual mythos.

To break it down, the legend consists of three parts:

  1. Triacus was home to a band of marauders who made constant war throughout the system of Epsilon Indi.
  2. The marauders were eventually destroyed by their own victims.
  3. But if the right catalyst comes along, they will be revived and resume marauding.
Of these three parts, the first is by far the most important.  "Made constant warfare throughout the system of Epsilon Indi" is a decent start toward individual details, but it needs more.  Who were these marauders?  How many of them were there?  (A "band" implies considerably less than a whole species).  What form did their depredations take?  Did the have any signature crime?  These details are important.  If properly recreated, they give the creepy sense of the legend coming to life, although of course they should not start out so obvious as to be apparent even to TV characters.

And the legend should be introduced as early on as possible.  Instead of a colony on Triacus, what about an archaeological expedition studying the ruins of an ancient and fallen civilization.  Judging from the logs and the crew's comments about the colonists, that is probably what the colony was anyhow.  So, the Enterprise is responding to distress calls from the archaeological expedition on Triacus.  In fact, their incoherent ranting is quite disturbing.  Spock briefs them, explaining the legend of the "band of marauders," properly fleshed out to give them some life, who were defeated by their former victims but await a catalyst to be revived.  Then we beam down to find the mass suicide and the children running and playing as if nothing had happened.

The second part of the legend, how the marauders were defeated, does not have to be detailed as much when Spock recounts the legend.  Instead, we should find archaeological evidence of their last stand.  (And, of course, Kirk and Spock will discuss what they see to explain it to the audience).  My guess would be there are signs of a fierce battle, a desperate last stand until suddenly all resistance ceased for no apparent reason and the attackers fled shortly afterward.  The cave will give off strange tricorder readings and cause Kirk the acute panic attack just as we saw in the episode.  And when we hear the log (later on), the professor will indeed mention that just before all resistance ceased (not when the civilization was wiped out in a natural disaster) one of the race took refuge in a cave. But he will not be able to explain why the marauders were so suddenly defeated or why their foes then fled.  And in the cave will be some sort of inexplicable device that Spock's tricorder cannot make any kind of sense out of but that causes uncontrollable anxiety in any human who approaches it.

As for the catalyst that will revive the evil, that obviously has to be left vague, for two reasons.  One is that the people who started the legend did not know what the catalyst was or how the evil marauders would be revived.  And second, of course, is that we, the audience, will see it play out in an unexpected way.  

And the obvious answer is that the marauder race found a way to transfer their life energy into whatever it is they see in the cave.  That explains why all resistance ended so abruptly -- once one of them reached the device, he was able to transfer all the others into it.  It would explain why the victors abruptly fled -- they recognized what was happening and feared the marauders escaping.  It would also explain why they have no power in the material realm but must operate by mind controlling others -- they have no bodies but are disembodied life entities. It will also explain why the wanted to go to Marcus XII even though, as the episode makes clear, there are nearer destinations.  To the extent there is any explanation in the episode, it appears to be that Marcus XII is the nearest planet with a large enough population to provide an army to conquer the Universe. But this version offers a more plausible explanation.  Marcus XII is the source of some special Applied Phlebotinum that will allow them to release the life force of all the marauders and unleash them.  (Either in bodily or in ghostly form.  It is probably not necessary to be specific there, just that recognition that releasing the marauders will be a Very Bad Thing).

Still unexplained here is what the Gorgan is.  Is he one life energy that escaped confinement but has no material power and therefore cannot free the others?  The concentrated energy of their thoughts, projected beyond their container?  A computer program set to take over the next people who arrive and free them?  Doubtless there are other possibilities as well.  But some sort of explanation is called for, beyond that he is "evil" awaiting a catalyst to resume marauding.

And then there is the question of how he exercises his mind control.  That is really central to the episode, and will be reserved for the next post(s).

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