Stardate: 7403.6 (2270)
Original Air Date: September 14, 1974
Writer: David Gerrold
Director: Bill Reed
“There are times, Mr. Spock, when I think I should have been a librarian.”
The Enterprise is on a series of exploratory contact missions. A member of a recently contacted alien species is aboard the ship, the Honorary Commander Ari Bn Bem (James Doohan, who else?), from the planet Pandro in the Garo VII System. He is expected to serve as a casual observer while aboard the Enterprise, however Bem soon starts demanding to participate in the Enterprise’s activities where he is revealed to be something of a practical joker. Currently, the Enterprise is in orbit around Delta Theta III, a newly discovered Class-M planet. Records from a previous scouting mission have reported possible aboriginal life forms on Delta Theta III and the Enterprise has been sent to investigate and report back.
A landing party beams down to Delta Theta III, unfortunately joined by Bem who insists on participating against Kirk’s wishes, and they soon encounter a strange phenomenon –a sensory anomaly which turns out to be native reptilian creatures who appear to run off with Bem for food. Then, Spock discovers that the crew’s phasers and communicators have been replaced with forgeries, but before it can be resolved the crewmen are quickly captured and imprisoned by the native species where they re-encounter Bem. However, while in prison, Bem reveals that he can actually split his body in two as he helps the two crewmen escape, but he Bem then runs away.
Next, Kirk and Spock encounter planet’s god, an intelligent being who accuses Kirk and Spock of interfering with the natives whom she refers to as her “children.” She allows the crew to peacefully leave under the condition that they depart immediately, however Kirk decides he cannot abandon Bem who has fled onto the planet. In the end, they locate Bem and the godlike being persuades Bem from destroying himself. As they depart aboard the Enterprise, Kirk asks that this planet be quarantined, never again to be revisited by the Federation (Bem also claims the same for his home planet of Pandro).
My Thoughts on “Bem”
I found “Bem” to be an eminently silly, ridiculous episode. The character of Bem seems to be an entirely annoying guest aboard the Enterprise who is very much undeserving of the crew’s trust from the outset. And it seems clear by the end that Bem will likely face no consequences for risking the lives of hundreds of Federation crewmen and forcing the Enterprise to violate the Prime Directive. The whole plot of this episode hinges on Bem’s clumsy incompetence, which causes lots of unnecessary problems and leaves nothing resolved. How exactly is Bem able to rework the transporter? How is he able to confiscate the crew’s communicators and phasers and replace them with forgeries? Are we to believe all of this was actually a test orchestrated by Bem to learn if the Enterprise crew would rescue him? Why? To what purpose? With all that being said, elements of the Pandronian species are interesting, namely their ability to detach parts of their bodies. Perhaps they will be revisited again one day.
David Gerrold (1944-present) was an early fan of the Star Trek, who was encouraged by Gene Roddenberry to submit scripts for the show (he ultimately submitted a total of five scripts). The first script he submitted was entitled “Tomorrow Was Yesterday,” a sixty-page script about the Enterprise discovering a ship launched from Earth centuries earlier (it was never made into an episode). He later wrote several Star Trek books –both novels and memoirs. He also wrote for a variety of classic science fiction shows such as Land of the Lost, Babylon 5, Sliders, and The Twilight Zone (the reboot). Gerrold wrote the Hugo and Nebula-award winning novelette “The Martian Child.” His other celebrated science fiction novels include The Man Who Folded Himself (1973), and the Hugo and Nebula-nominated When HARLIE Was One (1972). Gerrold remained friends with DC Fontana hence why he was invited to participate in the Animated Series, as well. He wrote two episodes of TAS: “More Tribbles, More Troubles” and “Bem.”
Star Trek Trivia:
- “Bem” is the show with the latest animated stardate.
- When Bem refers to himself in the first person he uses the phrase “this one…”
- Bem is an old science fiction term, an acronym for “Bug Eyed Monster.”
- This episode marks the first time that Captain James T. Kirk’s full name is given, revealing that the middle initial stood for Tiberius, after the Roman emperor.
- “Bem” began as a script for Star Trek: The Original Series’ third season, but it was condensed for The Animated Series’ first season, and was finally produced during the show’s second season. The original story for this episode was considerably different, it was changed as Gene Roddenberry requested that a godlike alien be included.
- In addition to voicing Uhura, Nichelle Nichols also voiced the godlike alien being. James Doohan voiced Bem.
- DC Fontana identified this episode as one of her favorites from TAS.
- In his audio commentary, David Gerrold noted that this episode had a similar conclusion to “Errand of Mercy.”
- Apparently, the Pandronians appear again in Star Trek in Lower Decks.