Stardate 1704.2. USS Enterprise is sent to the inhospitable planet of Exo-III to look for renowned scientist Dr. Roger Korby (Michael Strong, The Great Santini), who happens to be Nurse Chapel’s (Majel Barrett) ex-fiance. Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and crew quickly realize that the seemingly benevolent Korby is hiding something.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“You think I could love a machine?”
The curiously-titled What Are Little Girls Made Of? (the title refers to a 19th-century nursery rhyme) revolves around two of science fiction’s most popular themes: Tech-anxiety and Artificial Intelligence. The idea of technology getting ahead of us is something that we often find in science fiction books, stage plays, TV shows and movies, and Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek isn’t the exception to the rule.
The episode was written by famed author Robert Bloch, best known for creating the character of Norman Bates. The basic premise of Bloch’s teleplay is definitely interesting and timely. The idea that technology can rob humans of their humanity is something that never gets old, especially in today’s tech-obsessed world.
Not surprisingly, the Star Trek franchise has examined this issue ad nauseam. What Are Little Girls Made Of? is notable as the franchise’s first exploration of the issue of techno-phobia. The episode also touches upon long-discussed ideas such as eugenics and Nietzsche’s superman theory. Perhaps it is a little too much to handle for a TV episode (the episode falls short of its potential), but I appreciated the effort. I did wish writer Bloch had done a better job integrating the regular characters into the narrative.
As far as I am concerned, What Are Little Girls Made Of? squanders a perfect opportunity to pit Spock’s cold Vulcan logic against the scientist’s goal of creating an emotionless super-being that is part-human, part-machine. Instead of interesting philosophical discussions, we get yet another episode with William Shatner playing dual roles: Kirk and his synthetic duplicate. A missed opportunity indeed!
Anyhow, this is the only episode that focuses on Nurse Christine Chapel, played by Majel “Mrs. Roddenberry” Barrett. As the show became more and more focused on the big three (Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy), the character of Chapel was pushed to the background until she completely disappeared (I’m not shedding any tears since I’ve always found the character unnecessary). Best of all is the always imposing Ted Cassidy (Lurch in TV’s The Addams Family) as Ruk, the gigantic “Guardian.”
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
In the context of the long-lasting franchise, What Are Little Girls Made Of? is mildly interesting. Subsequent episodes — The Ultimate Computer, just to name one — deal with the same issues in a far more thought-provoking manner. Still, a pretty good, sometimes intriguing and entertaining episode. P.S. This is the episode where Kirk holds the infamous penis-looking stalagmite! Color, 50 minutes, Not Rated.