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Star Trek – The Empath (Review)

This July and August, we’re celebrating the release of Star Trek Beyond by taking a look back at the third season of the original Star Trek. Check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the latest update.

Like Is There in Truth No Beauty? before it, The Empath is very much “weird big ideas” version of Star Trek.

It is a simple story, as Kirk and his away team visit a planet in a star system about to go nova. It deals with fairly universal themes, like compassion and humanity. There are stakes, there are aliens, there is a test of worthiness. In many ways, The Empath is a quintessential Star Trek episode, one of those classic “humanity proves their worth to a powerful alien species” narratives in the style of Arena or Spectre of the Gun. The biggest deviation from that template is the fact that it is not humanity on trial; it is an unknown species represented by an anonymous mute.

The triumvirate triumphant.

The triumvirate triumphant.

However, The Empath works in large part due to this simplicity. There is an elegance to the story, one that distils a lot of core Star Trek ideals down to their very essence. The Empath is very much a “humans are special” story, in the vein of episodes like Lonely Among Us or The Last Outpost. However, it works better than most of these stories because it hits on a very strong core idea. The Empath suggests that what makes humanity special is not necessarily unique or intrinsic or intangible. According to The Empath, what makes humanity special is pretty basic.

As the title implies, humanity’s greatest virtue might be its empathy or its compassion.

Shirtless Shat.

Although humanity also offers “Shirtless Shat.”

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