Spock’s wit and logic are put to the test in this harrowing life and death struggle during his first away team command. The Enterprise is tasked with delivering precious medical supplies to the struggling planet Makus III, when they come upon a quasar phenomenon. The quasar offered an amazing scientific opportunity, and Kirk couldn’t pass up the chance to send in a shuttle in for analysis. Spock leads a small complement of main characters and extras into the mist, where they encounter deadly radiation levels, which disrupt sensors and send the shuttle crashing on a hostile planet.
The commodore aboard the Enterprise, tasked with ensuring the medical supply drop goes as planned, does not hesitate to remind Kirk he is on a strict deadline. Like a ticking alarm clock, he functions only to give constant notifications of the dwindling time limit. Of course, Kirk stays faithful to his friends and crew, using every last minute and resource at his disposal to find them in the proverbial haystack. However, it is up to Spock to navigate an illogical barrage of choices, far beyond where Kirk can see them.
On the planet’s surface, hostile aliens harpoon a newly-introduced crew member with a comically large spear, presenting Spock with his first moral dilemma. How far is self-defense justified in this situation alongside Starfleet’s obligation to respect sentient life? One might argue that when another being threatens your life they forfeit their own. One can also argue that all life is precious. Both points are logical, and with difficulty, Spock decides to use non-lethal force to retaliate. This strategy only infuriated the creatures, evoking an emotional backlash for which Spock had not accounted.
The crew continues to be terrorized by the relentless monsters, prompting Spock to evaluate his choices…almost in desperation. He made every logical choice, but two crew members died; Spock’s wit was sharply tested. Scotty determines that if the crew drains the energy from their phasers, they could power the shuttle for a brief enough period to be within view of the Enterprise. This choice incurs two risks: to give up the only defenses, and then to potentially burn up in the atmosphere. When the outcome of any choice, including doing nothing, is death, then logically a desperate choice is the best choice.
Of course Scotty’s plan works perfectly and the shuttle achieves orbit. Unfortunately, the Enterprise was forced to leave, and had already travelled too far to see them. In a final act of desperation, possibly inspired by a strong emotion burning beneath his cold Vulcan shell, Spock vented and ignited all the fuel in the shuttle. The stream would glow like a flare, but it also meant certain death as the shuttle burned on its way down. The Enterprise finds them and beams everyone out of the shuttle just in time (because of course they did). Even so, it is interesting to see how an emotional choice is what saved Spock and the crew, when a rational one might not have. Have emotions evolves so strongly in humans because they often do ensure our survival better than anything else? Or perhaps every choice we make is simply a logical calculation, and Spock was navigating the most successful path by calculating the probability of potential outcomes. Either way, there is no shame in the choice that worked!