Stardate 533.6. The Enterprise volunteers to take teenage boy Charlie Evans (Robert Walker Jr., Easy Rider), the sole survivor of a ship that crashed on the planet Thassus, to the colony Alpha V, where Charlie’s closest relatives reside. The teenager’s awkwardness gets on the crew’s nerves quickly and Charlie starts feeling rejected. Eventually, Charlie snaps and decides to take over the ship using the mental powers he had acquired on Thassus.
Reaction & Thoughts:
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.
In Charlie X, the show’s beloved characters take backseat to the title character, played exceedingly well by Walker (the son of actors Robert Walker, Strangers on a Train, and Jennifer Jones, Duel in the Sun). Because of the way the story is constructed, the success or failure of the episode depends almost entirely on Walker’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 — he remains one of the show’s deadliest adversaries.
Although it is Walker’s show all the way, some of the best remembered moments are provided by the secondary players.
Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura), in particular, really shines here. An accomplished singer-dancer on 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.
Grace Lee Whitney (Some Like it Hot and Pocketful of Miracles) has some good moments too as Yeoman Lieutenant Janice Rand.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Charlie X also introduces a few things that have become part of the Trek lore. The Vulcan lute and a really bizarre chess game are neat gadgets. Above all, I liked the bittersweet ending. The sad finale signals to the audience that while the show is optimistic about the future, it is firmly rooted in reality. Color, 50 minutes, Not Rated.