Star Trek was scheduled to be cancelled after its second season, but fans undertook a letter-writing campaign to keep the show on the air. Although they won the battle, they lost the war -- the third season was given very little budget, and scripts and sets suffered as a result.
"Whom Gods Destroy" is a re-worked version of a first season episode, "Dagger of the Mind." It is shot on the cheap - very little in the way of sets, and a lot of henchman who have no dialog at all (therefore being able to be paid scale.)
It begins with the Enterprise orbiting Elba II, an insane asylum where the last incorrible criminally insane people in the galaxy are imprisoned. Elba, as history buffs know, is the island where Napoleon Bonaparte was imprisoned, and Garth of Izar is a galactic Napoleon, even wearing an emperor's robe, and suffering from delusions of grandeur as Lord of the Universe.
Kirk and Spock beam down to the planet - guarded by forefields - to deliver a revolutionary new medicine. The governor of the colony, Dr. Donald Coryy, turns out to Garth of Izar himself - who has the ability to shape-shift into whatever form he desires.
Garth, the madwoman Marta, and his two silent henchman - an Andorian and a Tellarite, imprison Kirk along with Dr. Cory, while Spock is taken to a separate cell. Steve as Garth begins pulling out the stops on his performance immediately - he is larger-than-life, theatrical, brimming with self-confidence and just a bit of psychoticness.
Then Garth, as Kirk, goes to the command center and orders Scott to beam him up. Scott asks for a countersign, which Garth doesn't know. Garth says "Just testing," and signs off. He then throws a temper tantrum (most of it in guise as Kirk) before recovering his composure, and vowing to get the countersign from Kirk if he has to break every bone in the man's body to do it.
Throughout the rest of the episode, Garth attempts to make Kirk divulge the contersign. First, Kirk and Spock attend a dinner, in which they are entertained by the Andorian and the Tellarite. Then Marta dances, and in these scenes both Garth and Marta reveal the forms that their psychoses take... Marta claims to write poetry, which Garth points out was written by Shakespeare a long time ago. "Which doesn't change the fact that I wrote it again this morning." And Garth casually threatens her with grievous bodily harm, when he's not jealous of her flirting with Kirk.
Finally, Spock is removed, and Dr. Corey and a chair are brought it. (The chair from "Dagger of the Mind," as it happens.) Garth tortures Corey, but Kirk remains obdurate. Then Garth puts Kirk in the chair. At this point Marta intervenes, saying she can get the countersign from Kirk.
These are excellent scenes for Ihnat and Yvonne Craig (better known as Batgirl.) Ihnat rings the changes of emotions, from genial host to psychotic killer to jealous lover, and Craig is very cloying and off-the-wall as well. They are clearly enjoying themselves, and indeed, in real life were good friends.
Marta is in Kirk's room when he awakens. She attempts to seduce him, but as she kisses him, she also takes out a knife and tries to stab him. "He's my lover and I have to kill him." At this point, Spock enters the room, having escaped. He dispatches Marta, and he and Kirk make their way to the command room, where Kirk calls Scotty. But it's all too easy...Kirk knows that Spock is actually Garth.
Garth reassumes his proper form. Kirk tries to talk to him, to reach the real Captain Garth. And for a few seconds it seems to be working. Garth loses that maniacal light in his eyes, and seems to be trying to remember... (note that as Kirk first begins to talk, Garth circles with him, warily, but when Kirk is apparently getting through, Garth stops moving, and allows Kirk to get out of his line of sight)...but he is mad, after all, and the madness reasserts itself. Kirk will believe him lord of the Universe, after he's had his coronation.
And it is here that Garth's resemblance to Napoleon is complete. Just as Napoleon had himself declared emperor, complete with crown, robe and coronation, so Garth has himself declared emperor. Then, because the plot must be moved along, Garth starts talking about an explosive he's developed - the most powerful explosive in the galaxy. He demonstrates it by having Marta brought out into the poisonous atmosphere of the planet, and then blows her up. He looks at Kirk with a smile, and Shatner as Kirk gets to do a bit of emoting of his own. Meantime, the bridge crew of the Enterprise fuss at their impotence.
Garth sends the Andorian and Tellurite to fetch Spock. Spock feigns unconsciousness, and is carried in such a way that he is able to "Spock pinch" his two assailants. He then heads for the command center. Garth sees him coming, and decides on a final gamble. When Spock enters the room, it is to see two Kirks. Spock allows Garth to think he has knocked him out. He then waches as the two Kirks fight...and Spock stuns the victor, since he believes - correctly as it turns out - that Garth's insane strength will give him the advantage over Kirk.
Leonard Nimoy was very dissatisfied with how this final sequence was presented, as he felt he should have been able to simply ask a question that only the real Kirk would know. But Star Trek had a formula, and that was to have a climactic battle at the end of every episode, so the fight between the two Kirks was allowed to happen. When Spock does shoot Garth, the unconscious form returns to its original appearance. (Let's face it, Spock just wanted to see if Garth - the greatest captain starfleet had eer known, could really beat up Kirk, the up-and-coming captain.)
Released from his imprisonment, Dr. Corey administers the medicine to the insane members of the colony. Garth is also treated in the chair (reverted back to its original, healing purpose.) All memory of Marta and the previous few days has apparently been wiped from Garth's mind. He is calm, docile...and there is hope for him to regain his sanity.
Fans of this episode praise Ihnat's bravura performance as Garth. People who dislike it claim that he is over-acting outrageously. I disagree. He is playing an insane megolomaniac, after all. He is certainly uninhibited, and allows all emotions to play over his face without concealing them. He is certainly enjoying himself. But this "larger than life" acting allows him to contrast even greater in the two scenes where the "real" Garth shows through - for a few seconds when Kirk is trying to reach him, and at the end, after he's been treated in the chair.
William Shatner also comes in for "Over-acting" accusations, in the scene where he throws a tantrum after Scott refuses to beam him aboard without the countersign. Most of it is fine...people do express their anger, rage and frustration by destroying things...the problem is when he falls to his knees and begins pounding the floor, not with both hands like a grown man would, but alternating both fists like a child. That takes a bit away from the character of Garth, for all that it's Shatner doing the acting. And it's interesting that it is Shatner who gets to play the majority of this scene...he transforms into Garth only at the very end, at tantrum's end. One wonders if Ihnat didn't want to play it that crazy.
What's the other flaw in the episode? Well, since Kirk didn't know about Garth's shape-shifting ability, why did he set up a sign-countersign with Scotty? Although it is not explained in the episode, it is doubtless because the Enterprise is orbiting a planet chock-full of criminally insane individuals. Under such circumstances, ensuring that no unauthorized personnel can request beam up to the Enterprise only makes sense - regardless of whether they're a shapeshifter, or just have a phaser in their back coercing them to request transport.
As for Garth of Izar, why did his madness assume the form it took? All is explained in this story: The Madness of Garth of Izar.
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