Stardate: 5843.7 (2269)
Original Air Date: February 14, 1969
Writer: Jerome Bixby
Director: Murray Golden
“The joys of love made her Human. And the agonies of love destroyed her…”
The Enterprise is in the grip of a raging epidemic. Three crewmen have died and twenty-three others have been struck down by Rigelian fever, a lethal disease which can kill a person within a day akin to the Bubonic Plague. In order to combat the disease, Dr. McCoy requires large quantities of a substance known as ryetalyn, the only known antidote. Luckily, sufficient quantities of pure ryetalyn have been found on a small uninhabited planet in the Omega system known as Holberg 917G. Kirk, Spock, and Bones beam down to retrieve ryetalyn, they have only four hours to harvest –but suddenly, their sensors register a life form. A small floating robotic device appears and begins firing upon the Enterprise crewmen –their phasers are disabled, and then a mysterious figure named Mr. Flint emerges (played by James Daly), instructing his robot not to kill. Flint has come to this remote planet in order to “retreat from the unpleasantness of earth and the company of people.” However, upon learning that the Enterprise is desperately battling a disease outbreak, he recalls the Bubonic Plague in Constantinople, 1334 which killed “half of Europe.” He grants the crew 2 hours to gather the necessary ryetalyn for an antitoxin, and he offers his robot M-4 for assistance. Do we trust him?
The crewmen are led back to Flint’s ornate palace. Bones notes Flint’s incredible rare book collection, one of the rarest in the galaxy –Shakespeare’s First Folio, a Gutenberg Bible, and a “Creation” Lithograph by Taranullus of Centauri VII. Flint also owns an impressive collection of paintings by da Vinci, Reginald Polllack (20th century), and even a “Sten from Marcus II.” All of these paintings are undiscovered, previously undocumented, and yet entirely authentic. However, Spock’s tricorder indicates these paintings are all of “contemporary origin.” What is going on here?
We soon meet Rayna Kapec (Louise Sorel), Flint’s ward and pupil. Her parents were once killed in an accident, so Flint welcomed her into his house. As an impressive intellectual like Flint, possessing the equivaent of 17 university degrees, Rayna is eager to discuss “gravity phenomenon” and “sub-dimensional physics” with Spock (apparently, all Vulcans are learned in these topics?) Spock and Kirk join Rayna and Flint for dinner as well as “chess, billiards, and conversation” (Bones joins M-4 in Flint’s laboratory to supervise the ryetalyn harvest). Here, the episode begins to wander a bit. Kirk flirts with Rayna while Flint criticizes the Enterprise for having a barbaric mission to colonize and destroy others. Spock begins playing a waltz written by Brahms on the piano, while Kirk and Rayna engage in an extended dance routine. Curiously, Spock notes this is an original manuscript scribed in Brahms’s own handwriting.
Sadly, when Bones returns from Mr. Flint’s laboratory, he announces that the ryetalyn is no good –it contains irillium (one part per thousand) which will render the antitoxin inert and useless. M-4 then attempts to attack Kirk but Spock fires his phaser and destroys M-4. However, moments later M-4 reappears anyway (Flint claims M-4 was merely protecting Rayna and that he constructed a second robot). From this point onward, Kirk and Spock begin distrusting Flint (he has been surveilling their every move). After further research conducted by the Enterprise, they learn this planet was purchased 30 years ago by Mr. Brack, a wealthy financer and recluse. There is no record of a human named Rayna, but tricorder readings of Flint suggest extreme age, perhaps in the range of 6,000 years.
While the ryetalyn quest continues, the crewmen discover a bed with a sign reading “Rayna 16,” and this followed by numerous other bodies “Rayna 15,” and “Rayna 14” and so on. Now, they uncover Flint’s dark secret –Rayna is actually an android created by Flint. Why? When confronted, Flint confesses that he is, in fact, Brahms, da Vinci, Solomon, Alexander, Lazarus, Methuselah, Merlin, Abramson, and so on –a hundred other unknown names. He was born “Akharin” in Mesopotamia in 3834 BC where he served as a soldier, a bully, and a fool. He fell in battle, pierced through the heart, but he miraculously did not die. He is secretly immortal. In need of intellectual companionship, Flint designed Rayna to be his immortal equal. But with his secret revealed, Flint cannot allow the Enterprise to leave the planet. He uses a strange device to freeze the Enterprise and shrink it to the size of a toy. However, Rayna interrupts the scene and claims she will make her own decisions. A fight breaks out between Kirk and a jealous Flint over Rayna, until she becomes overwhelmed by her newfound all-too-human emotions, she in unable to contain herself and then collapses, dying on the floor. Flint had never given Rayna the tools needed to survive the experience of human love.
In the end, the Enterprise receives the ryetalyn it needs, and Flint decides to work toward the betterment of humankind as he suddenly begins to age because he left earth. He is now set to live the rest of his life like a normal human. Privately, Bones laments that Spock will never truly know love. Bones hopes that Kirk can forget Rayna, they both look over at Kirk while he sleeps on a table. At the conclusion, Spock walks over to a sleeping Kirk and places his hands upon Kirk’s head while saying, “forget.”
My Thoughts on “Requiem for Methuselah”
Flint the immortal is one of the more intriguing figures in the Star Trek universe –he has lived many lifetimes, married hundreds of women, and claims to be a key figure throughout the history of humanity. Despite being written by one of the great Star Trek writers, Jerome Bixby, this is a somewhat clunky episode. What are we to make of Flint actually claiming to be Brahms and da Vinci and so on? Don’t all of those figures have their own well-documented childhoods and deaths? As an immortal, is Flint immune to the effects of the Rigelian fever outbreak? Also, why does Kirk allow himself to be overcome with passion for Rayna, even after learning she is an android? Shouldn’t he be focused on saving his crew instead? And when we cut back to Scotty and Uhura on the bridge of the Enterprise, why doesn’t anyone seem to be alarmed about the rapidly spreading illness? Isn’t time rapidly running out?
With some awkward scenes of Kirk and Rayna dancing to a Brahms waltz, and several wholly out-of-character moments for Kirk, aspects of this episode just seem to drag, as if to fill time. Nevertheless, I find myself drawn to the hermetic life of Flint, an immortal classical aristocrat surrounded by Renaissance paintings and great books, living atop a remote palace filled with culture and learning. In some ways, he is reminiscent of Trelane from the Season 1 classic “The Squire of Gothos” (only far less playful), and he also displays echoes of Dr. Roger Korby’s android experiments from another Season 1 classic “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” (although Flint is far less maniacal). Of course, Flint’s robot M-4 is reminiscent of Nomad in the Season 2 episode “The Changeling” (indeed, parts of Nomad were recycled by the production crew to create M-4). In closing, “Requiem for Methuselah” is an episode that lives in the shadow of the foundational science fiction film Forbidden Planet (1956). It begins with a great premise filled with lots of compelling ideas, but the episode steadily declines as it unfolds, particularly with Kirk entertaining a barely believable romance with Rayna, and seemingly forgetting about the plague ravaging his crew aboard the Enterprise.
Jerome Bixby (1923-1998) was a classic science fiction writer who wrote the incomparable Twilight Zone episode “It’s A Good Life” and also several classic Star Trek episodes including “Mirror, Mirror,” “By Any Other Name,” and “Day of the Dove.”
Murray Golden (1912-1991) was a television director and an associate producer who worked on many shows including Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, Perry Mason, and even The Twilight Zone. This episode was his only directorial effort for Star Trek.
Star Trek Trivia:
- Some characters from this episode have apparently been incorporated into the extensive Trek novel-verse.
- Saurian brandy makes a brief reappearance in this episode.
- Jerome Bixby later wrote the 2007 film The Man From Earth which contains a starkly similar plot to this episode.
- The Brahms waltz featured in this episodded was written by Ivan Ditmars specifically for this episode. The visible sheet music is from Brahms’s 16 waltzes, Op. 39.
- Louise Sorel and William Shatner previously appeared together in an episode of Route 66. Glenn Corbett also appeared in this episode, who previously played Zefram Cochrane in the TOS Season 2 classic episode “Metamorphosis.”
- Flint’s magnificent castle is a reused matte painting of Rigel VII from “The Cage.”
- Jerome Bixby’s original actor of choice to play Flint was Carroll O’Connor, and in the original treatment Flint was intended to be a neanderthal. Bixby’s original choice to play Rayna was Barbara Anderson who previously appeared in the TOS episode “The Conscience of the King.”
- Methuselah is a mythic figure who appears in the Old Testament. Said tto have lived for over 900 years, he was the son of Enoch, and grandfather of Noah.
- According to the Star Trek Encyclopedia, Rayna Kapec was named for Czechoslovakian science fiction writer Karel Capek who first coined the term “robot.”