The second episode of Star Trek The Original Series, “Charlie X”, is an example of why you don’t leave a teenage boy in charge. So the Enterprise picks up a passenger named Charlie Evans. Charlie was the sole survivor of a crash on a planet called Thasus and lived there for 14 years until he was picked up by a merchant ship called the Antares. Charlie seems strange, but the crew initially chalks it up to the fact that he’s a teenage boy who was alone on a planet for most of his life. He seems eager to be liked, pretty quickly takes to Kirk and develops a crush on Rand.
Things go south when the crew of the Antares attempts to convey a warning to the Enterprise, but the ship explodes (I think?) before they can get their message across. As it turns out, Charlie has the ability to make things disappear, melt, etc, which can in turn have catastrophic consequences. For example, he made one of the Antares’ shields disappear, which caused its destruction. When Charlie wants Rand’s attention, he makes Uhura lose her voice so that she can’t sing and monopolize Rand’s attention. Eventually, he makes crew members (including Rand) and weapons disappear.
Charlie is determined to get to Colony 5 and threatens to continue wreaking havoc on the Enterprise unless he gets what he wants. Kirk realizes that there must be some limits to his powers and thinks that maybe they can overcome Charlie if he spreads himself too thin. What ends up happening is that a Thasus ship appears. They explain that they gave Charlie his powers so that he could survive on their planet. It is impossible for Charlie to be reacclimated to human society at this point – he can’t not use his powers. So despite Charlie pleading with Kirk not to send him back, the Thasians reclaim Charlie. The crew members and items that disappeared were returned to the ship.
I began this post by saying that “Charlie X” is an example of why you don’t leave a teenage boy in charge. Before you comment on this post with “not all boys!” or something, let me say that I realize not all teenage boys are the same. Rather, Charlie fits into the stereotype of a teenage boy: eager to be liked, impulsive, etc. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Charlie fits the stereotype of a spoiled teenage boy: he thinks he’s entitled to Rand’s attention and affections just because he has a crush on her. Charlie acts like he can have whatever he wants. And I guess he can have whatever he wants as long as he has his powers.
Can Charlie be taught not to use his powers? I’m tempted to say that as long as he has those powers and knows how to use them, he’s probably going to use them. And it’s unlikely that any humans who know about his powers are going to want him around. Yet, he seems so eager for a human connection – which he can’t have.
So those are my thoughts. What did you think about this episode?