Stardate 533.6. The Enterprise volunteers to take a teenage boy, Charlie Evans (Robert Walker Jr., The War Wagon and Easy Rider), the sole survivor of a ship that crashed on the strange planet Thassus, to the colony Alpha V where Charlie’s closest relatives reside. After he feels rejected, Charlie snaps and decides to take over the Enterprise using the mental powers he had acquired on Thassus.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“We’re in the hands of an adolescent.”
Charlie X is a simple but suspenseful episode, well-directed by Lawrence Dobkin from a solid teleplay by D.C. Fontana, one of producer Gene Roddenberry’s closest allies and the woman responsible for some of the best episodes of the TV series.
Charlie X revolves almost exclusively around the titular character. In this episode, the show’s regular characters take a back seat to the title character, played exceedingly well by Robert Walker Jr., the son of actor Robert Walker (Strangers on a Train) and Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Jones (The Song of Bernadette).
Because of the way the story is constructed, the success or failure of the episode depends entirely on Walker Jr.’s acting abilities and he doesn’t disappoint. The actor is able to infuse Charlie with a combination of innocence and creepiness that is disturbing to watch — Charlie remains one of the show’s deadliest adversaries.
Despite Charlie X being centered around Walker’s excellent performance, some of the best remembered moments are provided by the secondary players. Grace Lee Whitney has some good moments as Yeoman Janice Rand.
Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura), in particular, really shines here. An accomplished singer-dancer in her own right, the episode uses her skills to great advantage. Nichols sings “Oh, On the Starship Enterprise” and the love song “Charlie is my Darling” to a bemused Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy). Nichols seems to be enjoying a rare moment in the spotlight. It’s too bad that her participation dwindled over time.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Above all, I liked the episode’s bittersweet ending. The sad finale signals to the audience that while the show is optimistic about the future, it is far from being coy and mushy. Charlie X also introduces a few things that have become part of the Trek lore: The Vulcan Lute and a really bizarre chess game. Color, 50 minutes, Not Rated.