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Star Trek TOS - Season 1 - Episode 02

Star Trek TOS - 1x02 - Charlie X

Originally Aired: 1966-9-15

A powerful teenage boy wreaks havoc aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

My Rating - 4

Fan Rating Average - 1.87

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Filler Quotient: 2, filler, but an enjoyable episode nevertheless. You can skip this one, but you'd miss out on some fun.
- There's no essential plot or exposition in this episode that renders it unskippable, but it's a decent episode, even though it could have been better.

- Kirk's uniform mysteriously changes during his turbolift trip with Charlie.

- This episode establishes that there are 428 people on board the Enterprise. This number is up from 203 that were aboard when Pike was in command.

Remarkable Scenes
- Charlie: "Is that a girl?" Kirk: "That's a girl."
- Charlie slapping Rand on the ass.
- Kirk and McCoy arguing over who will mentor the boy.
- Uhura singing to Spock's harp playing.
- Kirk trying to explain why you don't slap women on the ass to Charlie and utterly failing at it.
- Rand trying to hand Charlie off to Yeoman Tina.
- The athletic scene with Charlie and Kirk.
- Charlie making Spock say odd things.
- Kirk taking on Charlie, gambling his powers were being overtaxed.
- Charlie begging to stay on board when the non-corporeal green aliens came to take him away.

My Review
A boy growing up in isolation only to be reintegrated with civilization during his adolescence is a fantastic premise for a story, but this wonderful premise is largely ruined by the annoying supernatural influences injected into the plot in order to make Charlie more menacing. Not every episode of Star Trek needs to have aliens, and this episode certainly could have benefited from a simpler story.

That said, despite the handicaps, Charlie X is still a decent story. We certainly do get to see shades of what such a reintegration of a lost child would be like during the scenes when Charlie isn't using his superpowers. The scoring of the episode is also particularly good, especially in the earlier scenes.

The best moments are when Kirk is forced to play a sort of father figure for Charlie against his will. In spite of his stumbling through it, Kirk's pretty good at it! Overall though the episode is high on potential and low on payoff. A better story would have simply shown us what Charlie's reintegration with his closest family on the colony would have been like. Superpowers simply for the sake of seeing superpowers just isn't a compelling drama.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From cowboy dan on 2010-06-03 at 12:26am:
    This is perhaps my least favorite episode of this otherwise stellar show. Charlie is excruciatingly annoying and Uhuru's singing scene is, without doubt, the low point of the series' run. Bottom line? children and stark trek do not mix.
  • From CAlexander on 2011-04-03 at 7:44pm:
    You review was interesting, I never thought about this episode having two plots before. I think you may be right, the "Charlie learns to integrate with society" plot could have been the more interesting one. As it was, though, most of this show was a remake of the Twilight Zone episode "It's a Good Life", but not as good. I'm really not fond of the episode.
    - It is notable that Captain Kirk is absolutely unable to think of any diplomatic way to deal with out-of-control Charlie. All he does is get angry and try to order Charlie around. The crew's total lack of creativity in dealing with Charlie is part of what makes the episode boring; once he goes out of control, the episode just marches inexorably towards the conclusion. The one idea Kirk finally has, overloading Charlie, is rather weak.
    - Kirk totally loses control of Charlie, and decides that it is way too dangerous to let Charlie lose on an inhabited planet. But when the Thasians come, he suddenly argues that Charlie should stay so the Federation can teach Charlie to use his powers wisely. Has he totally forgotten everything that just happened?
  • From Mike Meares on 2012-01-26 at 7:56pm:
    Again I have to agree I too never even considered two plots to “Charlie X.” That was a wonderful point you made Keithinov.

    Although I always felt the strong part of this story was the scenes with James Kirk and Charlie talking about life and relating to other humans. I wish this aspect of the episode had been more fully developed.

    I also agree that the overused supernatural powers really hurt this story. After watching this episode several times I thought had Charlie merely had the ability to make things disappear, then that may have helped the story line.

    I think that would have given Kirk the stage to struggle within himself to decide if Charlie was worth saving. Giving Charlie so many powers it left Kirk with no option but to defeat him, rather than try and change him. Early on Charlie seemed like a kid who was lost and you really felt sorry for him. But by the half way mark you just wanted someone to take a phaser to his ass.

    Looking back now the Charlie X story was becoming a little too much like the Gary Mitchell story of Where No Man Has Gone Before. It had all the same elements. And more development of the struggles of a young man trying to intergrate into human society would have been so much better.
  • From Wiley Hyena on 2012-05-18 at 2:01pm:
    Reviewer's rating is too low here. This episode is one of the most memorable if not iconic, but no consensus can be established as to why. Because of the divergent opinions give it a 6. But the bottom line is all Trek fans remember Charlie X.
  • From Strider on 2012-10-01 at 1:28am:
    I agree with the earlier comment comparing this episode to Where No Man and the Gary Mitchell predicament. Charlie's like a young Gary here in terms of his powers. Obviously WNMHGB was filmed first...and using that order, why isn't Kirk's first thought (stemming from his very hard-won lesson) that the only way to deal with Charlie's powers is to kill him? He almost waited too long with Gary! Even going in the order the episodes were aired, and assuming Kirk had to deal with Charlie before Gary, why didn't Kirk contact the Thasians when Gary started going nuts?

    I know I look for too much continuity between episodes, and I know it's a lot to expect considering each episode had different writers and directors. But still, I like it best when an episode sees itself as part of a whole, not an individual blip in time.
  • From Schreck on 2013-05-23 at 4:09am:
    another weak first season original series episode that really offers nothing to be hopeful of...i give it a brother gives it a 5.75
  • From John Swaisey on 2013-08-25 at 7:18am:
    I like this episode, You kind of half feel sorry for Charlie and half want to get rid of him, i thought the ending was good and the crew were sad at Charlies fate.

    A good episode, of all Charlies tricks i liked it when he made the womans face disappear.
  • From Chris on 2018-08-19 at 11:39pm:
    I really love this episode and think even today, it is plausible in some goofy reality! If notions of beings that are omnipotent exist, then this is perfect and an awesome vehicle to take a run with! The guy who plays Charlie was pretty much perfect and all of his interactions struck me as exactly like any 17yr old child might act under the same circumstances! The whole show was great and the Thasians needed to be explored in more detail down the various roads of Trek.

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