Star Trek (S1E29): Operation — Annihilate!

Today’s the day my Facebook account gets permanently deleted. As I pondered the very idea of it, the words “I did it. It’s finally gone. I’m free!” came unbidden to my thoughts and they sounded awfully familiar. After some further thought, I realised where they came from: they were the words said by the Denevan pilot as he flew his ship directly into the sun in the STAR TREK episode OPERATION — ANNIHILATE! Now you might not need to hurl yourself into the nearest main sequence yellow dwarf to free yourself from Facebook but when you get down to it, there are a lot of prescient parallels between the final episode of STAR TREK’s first season and the present day blight of social media.

Star Trek Operation Annihilate Review

Investigating a path of mass insanity which has devastated several Federation planets, causing the civilisations there to collapse, the USS Enterprise heads to Deneva, a Federation colony where Captain Kirk’s brother is stationed. Unable to raise the colony, the crew watch horrified as a Denevan space shuttle flies directly into the sun, its pilot crying out about finally being free as the ship is destroyed. Beaming down, Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the landing party discover a handful of survivors raving about creatures, creatures which lurk in the shadows.

Star Trek Operation Annihilate Review

The first – and up to STAR TREK VOYAGER’s BRIDE OF CHAOTICA! – only episode of STAR TREK to contain an exclamation mark in its title, OPERATION – ANNIHILATE! brings us a classic TREK mix of morality, technobabble and the holy trinity of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. Kirk may seem to take the death of his brother in his stride, but that’s probably because he has bigger things on his mind, to wit: genocide. If he can’t find a way to reverse the parasitic infection, he’ll be forced to destroy the planet to prevent its spread anywhere else. It’s just the kind of meaty moral dilemma STAR TREK did so well. Layered on top there’s some nice interpersonal drama between Spock and McCoy as the pair race to find a cure for the stricken colonists – and Spock himself, with a terrific performance from Nimoy as the normally effortlessly stoic Vulcan struggles to resist the pain and influence of the Denevan neural parasite and McCoy struggles with the guilt of what appears to be a Pyrrhic victory.

But it’s in the unidentified parasitical creatures that the episode reaches impressive levels of prognostication. Seen through a 21st century lens, the parallels between the neural parasites and the worst social media platform on the planet are irresistible.

The parasites spread from community to community, exerting influence and causing dissent and division. Sound familiar?

The parasites cause perfectly normal people to change their behaviour in hostile, irrational and dangerous ways. Like Facebook.

Spock receives a particularly insistent ‘poke’

The parasites are mere building blocks to form a hive mind that seeks to dominate, manipulate and control everyone and everything. Just like Facebook.

The parasitical mastermind behind the whole thing looks like pale, fake plastic vomit. Just. Like. Facebook.

Star Trek Operation Annihilate Review

Reinterpreted as a sci-fi allegory for the very real dangers of agenda-driven groupthink brought about by social media, OPERATION — ANNIHILATE! feels fresher than ever and sees STAR TREK’s first season end on a strong, confident and thought-provoking note. I’m not saying Facebook is as useful to society as fake plastic vomit, but I’m not not saying it either. Delete Facebook or hurl yourself into the sun – it’s all about freedom of choice, really.

Star Trek The Original Series s1e29 Operation Annihilate
trek score 8

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