TOS Final Rewatch 2 - Charlie X

"Charlie X"
Season 1, Episode 2

What Goes On
Charles Evan is 17-years old. That's a problem. He is the survivor of a transport ship crash who survived on his own for fourteen years and does not understand how to get along with people. That's a problem. He's also got very special powers and a short fuse. It all combines to create really big problems for the Enterprise crew.

Game Theory
Playing cards have not changed a bit in several centuries. You'd think they might get some sort of space-age update, but no. On the plus side, one day maybe we can look forward to 3-D chess.

Showing shirtless Kirk in the gym in a silk leotard might actually be prohibited under the terms of the Geneva Convention.

In the previous episode, we were treated to an example of Kirk's lame open field running. This time we are treated to some of his lame judo moves. If I have my chronology right, there was apparently something of a craze for judo in this era.

Biology 101
Charlie: Is that a girl? Kirk: That's a girl.

Kick Out the Space Jams
Spock is a veritable fount of emotion as he plays the space lyre and he and Uhura thrill the audience. Uhura flails about some and gets all dramatic and I think I'll just wait for the paperback. That's two episodes in a row now in which Uhura does something besides route phone calls. Yeoman Rand also gets another substantial role here.

Space Eats
Meatloaf still exists in this version of the future. Turning meatloaf (space meatloaf? spaceloaf?) into turkey is not exactly feeding the five thousand and loaves and fishes and all that. But it's not bad, especially in light of some of the less benevolent tricks Charlie pulls off.

Children of the Damned
You can't really discuss this episode without mentioning a similar Twilight Zone episode that aired five years earlier. The resemblances between Anthony in "It's a Good Life" and Charlie in "Charlie X" are numerous and it's hard to imagine that the former didn't have some effect on the latter. "Charlie X" was written by Dorothy Fontana from a one-line summary by Gene Roddenberry. There are no clear indications that he was directly influenced by the Twilight Zone episode and TOS did always reflected a keen fondness for Godlike Being stories. Interesting coincidences that might support the connection between the two include Shatner's starring role in another well-known Twilight Zone episode - "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." Also consider that Jerome Bixby, who wrote the story for "It's a Good Life," would later come on board to contribute to four TOS episodes.

Thanks to the Antares boys for dumping off their problem and not having the decency to hint that something might be wrong.

It's not nice to laugh at slurs on Vulcans or anyone else, but "Mr. Ears."

The Thasians didn't realize that Charlie was gone. So much for being all powerful beings.

The Thasians could give Charlie some amazing powers but for some plot-friendly reason cannot take them back. Again, so much for being...

Deduct a few points for the crappy special effect of the Thasian hovering over the bridge.

Here Come Da Judge
I guess there's something that could have been done to improve this episode, but I'm at a loss to figure out what.

Things start out innocuously, although from the behavior of the Antares boys, it's clear that something is amiss. From there, we are fed a series of well-constructed and executed moments that gradually increase the tension. There's the swat and other interactions between Charlie and Rand, the space jam where Spock gets shut down and Uhura loses her voice, the card tricks, and the chess game with melted chess pieces. The last of these and the unexplained destruction of the Antares start to raise some flags for the crew. But it's only after Kirk's "birds and the bees" talk and judo buddy Sam being wished to the cornfield they're on full alert.

Which could have been for nought, if it hadn't been for the efforts of Robert Walker, who treads a fine line between being a scared, maladjusted kid who wants to be liked and a vengeful monster who goes off the rails at the slightest provocation. In many of the earlier scenes, Walker captures the character's awkwardness and social ineptness with such skill that it's enough to make the viewer cringe. Good stuff.

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