Editor’s note: Rental Rehab is pleased to welcome itself back from the dead with a witty new series by guest writer Joshua, who will view and review the Star Trek Original Series.
Episode: Charlie X – Season 1, Episode 2 (1966)
Director: Lawrence Dobkin
Teleplay: Dorothy C. Fontana
Writer: Gene Roddenberry
The Enterprise is tasked with transporting young Charlie Evans (Robert Walker, Jr.), a solitary shipwreck survivor, to his relatives. Having essentially raised himself for 14 years on an alien planet, the boy is a crazy-annoying adolescent whiny prankster. No less charming, Charlie also has astounding, secret-psychic powers that threaten the Enterprise with destruction. Only Captain Kirk, having established himself as a father figure, has any control over the kid.
Forget how much danger the crew is in, because the situation quickly devolves into a pair of bulls snorting over who owns the fertile females. The extent of Kirk’s guile is to flip too many light switches and then fistfight the kid. Just a reminder: Charlie can make people disappear by rolling his eyes.
The solution is obvious: throw a randy yeoman at the kid and wait for the post-coital coma to disintegrate him with a hand phaser. Clearly the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one, especially when he’s an overwrought boy-god with all the oxygenated blood locked-up south of his navel. It’s lucky for everybody that the benevolent aliens show up when they do to take him away and prove once and for all that Kirk wasn’t meant to be a father.
Unlike a lot of serial sci-fi, this episode plays better now than it did when I was eight years old. In fact, it’s a good illustration of what science fiction as a genre is good for: illuminating the ordinary with extraordinary circumstances.
Adolescence is a time of ferocious impulses in conflict, when nothing goes right, everything feels like a humiliating tease, and sex is a secret no one wants to share. But it also marks the emergence of new powers that require whole communities to channel effectively. Boys are born knowing how to be boys; they’re taught how to be men lest they wreak havoc, erasing chick’s faces or exploding space ships from across interstellar distances.
While “Charlie X” succeeds in exaggerating every conflict on display, it fails in the complete lack of useful information supplied by any member of the crew to young Charlie (and by extension, the audience), a being whose only real flaw is immaturity. It also misconceives the void in Charlie’s life to be exclusively male, the absent father, while bypassing the fact that the boy has never had a mother. Conveniently, that’s also my diagnosis of the entire series.
If you’re interested in seeing the boy-god theme depicted with consummate artistry, please watch “It’s a Good Life,” the 1961 Twilight Zone episode based on the Jerome Bixby story of the same name. It is genuinely frightening, and why I’m suspicious of all young children.
 The conversation where McCoy convinces Kirk to take this role is hilarious. It’s all like “I’m a doctor, so I can handle explaining the mechanics, but he respects you as a masculine authority,” when everyone knows that Kirk’s masculine authority comes from being such an expert in the mechanics. (I mean of boning.) It’s the first time in the series that Kirk gives McCoy the look saying “Bones, you are such a little bitch.”
 Sadly, only Uhura seems to understand that any straight teenage boy can be effectively nullified by an attractive older woman flirting with him. This in the scene where she sings a couple of provocative erotic songs to entertain the other lounge patrons because she’s, what, black or something? That’s strike two, Roddenberry.
 I have only seen this episode twice, and as I said the first was when I was very young. The scene where Charlie makes a woman’s face disappear (because she was laughing) scarred me for life.