Middle Earth – The Final Frontier

Damnit Jim! I’m a Doctor, not a philologist!

You know, I’ve been thinking about that horrible video clip for The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins and I think I’ve figured it out.

It’s actually footage from the famous, lost, season three Star Trek episode I May be Hollow, but I have Touched Gene’s Wallet. This episode starts with the Enterprise being caught in a powerful tractor beam emanating from Sigma Aldronis 6 – a supposedly uninhabited planet. Kirk, Spock and McCoy find themselves transported down to the planet’s surface where they are confronted by a beautiful Sigman woman wearing pointy plastic ears. She welcomes Spock as ‘my Lord’ and orders that the others – his ‘servants’ – be locked up until ‘the festival’. Spock protests but is knocked unconscious and carried away by guards (who are also wearing plastic pointy ears).

Kirk and McCoy are grabbed by more guards. McCoy’s medical tricorder (which he happened to have on him when they were abducted) is confiscated and they are locked in an underground dungeon (where they are forced to wear plastic pointy ears). They begin plotting an escape and while attempting to recruit some of the Sigman prisoners they encounter talk of ‘baggins’, ‘the shire’ and ‘hobbits’. They quickly conclude that the planet’s culture has been contaminated at some point in the past. Kirk suggests that they could use this fact to help them escape and asks McCoy for any ideas. “Damnit Jim! I’m a Doctor, not a philologist!” he replies. Undaunted Kirk uses his knowledge of elementary chemistry to fashion a primitive firework from convenient rocks and a short section of metal pipe, and announces to the other prisoners that he is ‘the Wizard Gandalf’. When they doubt him, he sets off the firework, convincing them and winning their loyalty.

Meanwhile Spock regains consciousness to find himself in a luxurious bed chamber. His attempts to leave and find Kirk and McCoy are blocked by several guards who state that he cannot leave the room until ‘the festival’. Examining the room he finds his tricorder (which he happened to have on him when abducted) and then a copy of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien on a lectern. He quickly reaches the same conclusion as the others about cultural contamination.

The woman who initially greeted them enters the bed chamber. Introducing herself as ‘Beorna’ she explains that the Sigman people are truly honoured to have a Elf visit them just in time for the festival. Spock protests that he is not an Elf, but she refuses to listen, indicating his pointy ears as proof. She insists that he sing ‘Rivendell style’ at the festival that afternoon, and implies that if he does not agree both ‘his servants’ and his ‘Elven sky-ship’ (the Enterprise) will be destroyed. Spock continues to debate with her, but surreptitiously scans her with his tricorder as he does so.

Kirk and McCoy’s plotting continues. Kirk finds just enough convenient rocks for one more shot from his firework. Bard – the leader of the Sigman prisoners – agrees to stage a fight to distract the guards.

Spock reluctantly gives in and agrees to perform to save Kirk and McCoy. He is dressed in ‘Elvish’ clothes consisting of white slacks and a navy sports blazer and marched out to the festival grounds. Just before he leaves however he slips a disc from the tricorder into his pocket.

The prisoners stage a fight as arranged. As the guards rush in to break it up, Kirk sets off his firework, stunning them. He and McCoy lead the Sigman prisoners out of the dungeon and into the crowd heading for the festival grounds. They are closely followed by several other guards who weren’t stunned by the pyrotechnics.

At the festival grounds Beorna announces to the crowd that this year’s celebration of Durin’s Day is especially blessed by the presence of an Elf who will sing Elvish songs for them. Just as she is about to hand over to Spock, Kirk and McCoy burst from the crowd. They are quickly surrounded by guards who move in to finish them off with spears…

Spock intervenes with a loud “Halt”. He demands that ‘his servants’ be spared. Beorna objects, but he announces that he will only perform if his servants are unharmed – reminding Beorna that this is part of their deal. She reluctantly agrees. He also insists that McCoy be given back his medical tricorder so he can ‘record the performance’. On seeing this done he ascends the stage (a large pile of rocks) and launches into his song, a musical re-telling of The Hobbit accompanied by a group of dancing Sigman teenagers in brightly coloured shirts and plastic ears.

Beorna encourages him to ‘smile’ and ‘look happy’ by threatening Kirk and McCoy with spears. He does his best and although his smile and cheery demeanour are obviously very forced, the crowd seems to be enjoying the show. The guards remove their attention from Kirk and McCoy, enchanted by his performance.

Halfway through the song, on the line ‘a magic ring he stole’ Spock produces the tricorder disc. He twirls it around his finger a few times, and then throws it to McCoy. McCoy slips it into his tricorder and finds a complete bio-scan of Sigman physiology. He quickly analyses it for vulnerabilities and discovers that a refracted semi-theta wave sequence will knock the Sigmans unconscious. He programs the tricorder to generate one, and sets it off just as Spock’s song finishes.

All the Sigmans fall to the ground, and a team of Enterprise security personnel beams down – explaining that the tractor beam holding the ship and disabling the transporter has turned off. They beam back up to the ship and Kirk orders them away from the planet.

McCoy asks Spock why he demeaned himself and his Vulcan logic by performing a song and dance about a children’s book. Spock replies that it was the only logical way to get the tricorder disc to him. McCoy agrees, but suggests that he seemed to be enjoying it all just a little too much. Spock denies this at which point Kirk suggests they settle the matter by examining the recording. “Recording Captain?” queries Spock. “Of course Mister Spock” replies Kirk with a grin “As your loyal servants we had no choice but to obey your every command”. McCoy presses a button on the tricorder and the rich tones of The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins float out of the speaker. Spock says nothing. “I’m sure we’ll enjoy your performance for many years to come Mister Spock” smiles Kirk. He and McCoy walk off, leaving Spock looking slightly disgruntled.

(The episode was due to be screened on July 8, 1969, but Paramount Executives thought it was too silly and repeated Spock’s Brain instead.)

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