Requiem for Methuselah
|"Requiem for Methuselah"|
|Star Trek: The Original Series episode|
|Episode no.||Season 3|
|Directed by||Murray Golden|
|Written by||Jerome Bixby|
|Featured music||Ivan Ditmars|
|Cinematography by||Al Francis|
|Original air date||February 14, 1969|
"Requiem for Methuselah" is the nineteenth episode of the third season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek. Written by Jerome Bixby and directed by Murray Golden, it was first broadcast on February 14, 1969.
In the episode, the crew of the Enterprise encounters an immortal human.
Its repeat broadcast, on September 2, 1969, was the last official telecast of the series to air on NBC. Star Trek would immediately appear in syndication on the following Monday, September 8, a full three years after its debut.
The crew of the Federation starship Enterprise is struck with deadly Rigellian fever, for which the only treatment is the mineral ryetalyn. They arrive at planet Holberg 917-G in search of the substance. Captain Kirk, first officer Spock and medical officer Dr. McCoy beam down and are attacked by an airborne robot, which is called off by its master, Flint. Flint orders them to leave immediately, but is finally moved by their plight.
Flint gives the landing party two hours, offering the help of his sentry robot M4 to gather the mineral. Flint then escorts them to his home, which has an impressive art collection, including undiscovered paintings by Leonardo da Vinci. Spock notices that the brushwork of the paintings is identical to Leonardo's, but his tricorder indicates that they are made with contemporary materials.
The party is introduced to Flint's beautiful young ward, Rayna Kapec, whose late parents, according to Flint, were employees of his. On Flint's suggestion, Kirk plays billiards with Rayna, and they dance to a waltz played on the piano by Spock. The sheet music, apparently in the hand of Johannes Brahms, is written with contemporary ink. Shortly afterward, M4 returns with a container of ryetalyn, but it is contaminated with irilium, and therefore useless. Flint apologizes and accompanies M4 on a search for more ryetalyn.
Oddities begin to mount up. When Kirk kisses Rayna, M4 reacts as if he were attacking her. The Enterprise reports that no information can be found on Flint or Rayna. A tricorder scan reveals that Flint is over 6,000 years old. Finally, the processing of the new ryetalyn, supposedly being performed in Flint’s laboratory, is taking a suspiciously long time.
Rayna comes to say goodbye to Kirk, who has fallen in love with her and begs her to accompany him. McCoy tells them that the ryetalyn is missing, and Spock follows tricorder readings to a laboratory chamber containing android bodies, all labeled "Rayna".
Flint finally reveals the truth. He was born 3,834 years BC, and after falling in battle discovered he could not die. Flint has lived "lifetimes" as Methuselah, Alexander the Great, Leonardo da Vinci, Brahms, and many others. Rayna is to be his mate, now that Kirk has taught her how to love. He intends also to keep the Enterprise crew in a suspended state, to protect his privacy, but relents on Rayna’s objection. A fight then breaks out between the two men for the possession of Rayna. Rayna stops them, claiming her right to choose her own future, and then, overwhelmed by her newfound emotions, dies.
Back on the Enterprise, McCoy discovers that Flint, having left Earth’s environment, is now aging normally. Kirk falls asleep on his desk wishing to forget Rayna, and Spock places a suggestion to "forget" into his mind.
Production and reception
According to fantasy and science fiction scholar Ace G. Pilkington, Requiem for Methuselah is a Star Trek adaptation of the film Forbidden Planet (1956). Actress Anne Francis reported that Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, had talked to her about lifting some ideas from Forbidden Planet. Actor Leslie Nielsen noted the similarities between Forbidden Planet and Star Trek, suggesting that the film served as a pilot for the television series.
Forbidden Planet was the first big-budget science fiction film to be released by a major film studio, in this case Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It differed from previous science fiction films in several ways. The setting of the film was a future era, where mankind is "spreading out into the universe". Humans are using faster-than-light starships in the film. The film is set in part in outer space, and in part on an alien planet. Human beings arrive on flying saucers. A notable character from the film is Robby the Robot. "He" is a robot programmed according to Three Laws of Robotics, as defined by Isaac Asimov.
In turn, Forbidden Planet itself was based on an earlier work, the theatrical play The Tempest (written c. 1610–1611) by William Shakespeare. The Tempest happened to be the favorite play of Irving Block, one of the story writers of Forbidden Planet. He had the idea to use the play as the basis of the film's action and characters. Block co-wrote the main story of the film with Allen Adler. The screenplay was mainly written by novelist and screenwriter Cyril Hume. Hume turned the film into a meditation on the nature of technology, on human ambition and human frailty, on the destiny of civilizations, on power and on fatherhood.
Ruth Morse, a Shakespearean scholar, has written on the influence of The Tempest on Forbidden Planet and Requiem for Methuselah. Flint, the powerful recluse, seems to be based on Prospero and Methuselah. Rayna appears to be Flint's daughter and is based on Miranda, Prospero's daughter. The twist here is that "Rayna-Miranda" (as Morse calls her) is an android, not Flint's daughter. Flint hopes that the female android will fall in love with him. Flint offers her knowledge and intellectual stimulation but Rayna falls for the "irresistible" James T. Kirk. The female android faces new and (to her) unfamiliar emotions, having to choose between two men. The pressure causes her to short-circuit into self-destruction, her version of death.
Morse finds it is unusual for "the Miranda" in a Tempest adaptation to die but points that this version of Miranda is neither a true daughter to her Prospero, nor even human. She is a creation who came to life and was intended to be an immortal companion to Flint. She finds Rayna's story to be similar to that of Galatea from Greek mythology. Galatea was a female statue who came to life and mated with her creator Pygmalion. Morse finds the depiction of the relationship between Flint and Rayna surprisingly innocent. Flint is Rayna's creator/father and her intended mate but there is not a hint of incest or sexual abuse in this pairing.
An original point of the episode is the motivation of Flint. He is immortal and apparently unable to die. He has outlived his human attachments and it is hinted he has repeatedly outlived them in his long life. He wants a female android to be his mate, because he hopes that Rayna would also be practically immortal. His previous loves were apparently mortal women, whom he has lost to the ravages of time. He suffers from the pain of loss. Flint wants to awaken emotion in his creation but Morse observes that Flint has apparently lost his own ability to feel strong emotions.
Morse observes that this is not the only Star Trek episode which refers to Shakespeare and his works. The Conscience of the King makes references to Hamlet and Catspaw makes references to Macbeth. Morse finds that the romance story of the episode has some similarities with a much earlier Tempest adaptation, The Tempest (1667) by William Davenant and John Dryden. She finds it likely that the Star Trek writing team was unfamiliar with this version but they apparently came up with similar ideas.
There is an allusion to a different work in Requiem for Methuselah. There is a locked door in Flint's laboratory and behind it are the bodies of women, duplicates of Rayna. This alludes to Bluebeard, who kept a locked underground chamber in his castle. The chamber contained the bodies of women, the murdered corpses of his former wives.
40th anniversary remastering
This episode was remastered in 2006 and aired June 21, 2008 as part of the remastered Original Series. It was preceded a week earlier by the remastered "The Way to Eden" and followed a week later by the remastered "The Savage Curtain". Changes made specific to this episode include:
- Flint's home is now a large palatial home, complete with observation tower. Originally, Flint's home was represented by a reuse of the matte painting of Rigel VII from "The Cage".
- Planet Holberg 917-G is now more realistic, with two moons orbiting behind it.
- The effect of the Enterprise being miniaturized from space is remastered.
In other media
In several non-canonical Star Trek novels, the crew meet up again with the character Flint. The Cry of the Onlies by Judy Klass is a follow-on from both "Requiem for Methuselah" and "Miri". He is also encountered in Greg Cox's The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh as Dr. Evergreen, a 1980s scientist who discovers a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica, in Immortal Coil by Jeffrey Lang, and in Federation by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens as Zefram Cochrane's benefactor Micah Brack. The author of the Star Trek screenplay, Jerome Bixby, would write a film script at the end of his life which has many plot elements of this previous story, including an ageless man who is 14,000 years old, and has been a student of the Buddha, while he himself was the basis for the story of Jesus. This film, The Man from Earth, was released in 2007. In the crossover comic Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes, the crew of the Enterprise joins forces with the Legion of Super-Heroes to investigate an alternative timeline where Earth has become a galaxy-conquering empire, learning that the villain is immortal Vandal Savage, who turns out to be an alternative version of Flint, Flint being a Vandal Savage who turned his back on violence and conquest.
- Pilkington (2015), p. 43–44
- Morse (2000), pp. 164–171
- Morse, Ruth (2000). "Monsters, Magicians, Movies: The Tempest and the Final Frontier". In Holland, Peter (ed.). Shakespeare Survey: Volume 53, Shakespeare and Narrative: An Annual Survey of Shakespeare Studies and Production. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521781145.
- Pilkington, Ace G. (2015). "Forbidden Planet: Aliens, Monsters and Fictions of Nuclear Disaster". In Kapell, Matthew Wilhelm; Pilkington, Ace G. (eds.). The Fantastic Made Visible: Essays on the Adaptation of Science Fiction and Fantasy from Page to Screen. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0786496198.
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