Imperfection is in the Eye of the Beholder, TOS: S1E7 “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”

“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both,” is a vastly paraphrased version of a quote often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, although he allegedly denied saying it.  However, the idea which it conveys can be quite challenging to reconcile.  We need both freedom and security, but can we have absolute freedom and absolute security?  How much freedom should we sacrifice for the correct amount of security?  In the episode ‘What Are Little Girls Made Of?’ the freedom which comprises the full spectrum of human emotions and mistakes is contrasted with the security of robotic perfection.

In search of the exobiologist Dr. Rodger Korby, the Enterprise seeks out the planet Exo III.  Fairly certain that the brilliant doctor is dead, the crew is astonished to receive a broadcast from the man himself, which requested that only Captain Kirk and Nurse Chapel join him on the planet’s surface.  Once there, a mysterious monster greets them.

The creature, in addition to a breathy lab assistant of Dr. Korby’s, are androids which were created using a machine Dr. Korby discovered on the planet.  The fact that the androids do exactly what the doctor says calls into question whether perfection and blind obedience are desirable over human limitations.  Kirk and Dr. Korby debate this dichotomy throughout most of the episode, creating some thought provoking lines.  For example, when Kirk remarks how ‘Eating is a pleasure’, which is unavailable to androids, his android copy rebuts ‘but I will never starve’.

Dr. Korby was so convinced of the superiority of his android copies that he endeavored to slowly integrate them into Starfleet in an effort to improve mankind.  The integration would have to be secretive, because people may not accept the androids without prejudice.  With impeccable memory, and a flare for nuance, the androids seem to offer the perfect future, free from human greed and strife.  However, I believe Dr. Korby’s plan would still be flawed.  When the androids reveal themselves, there would be some anger from the populace that they had been lied to.

Right up to the final (and perhaps most predictable) reveal, Dr. Korby himself is discovered to be an android.  He was adamant that he was still his old self, but could not break away from equations and proofs.

The ‘real’ Dr. Korby was not there by the time Kirk and Chapel arrived on the planet, but his memory and personality were supposedly preserved in an android.  Evidently this android copy was more perfect than the human version, and perhaps more brilliant than the original scientist as well.  However, the human element made all the difference in the end.  Nurse Chapel could not accept the android as a replacement for her fiancé, reinforcing her strong belief that a machine could never truly emulate a human being.

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