We learn that the basketball is in the Malarian system. Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down to the surface of Planet Harlem Globetrotters to see what happened to a plastic research igloo that the Federation plopped down there to monitor the unpredictable Malarian star that is due to go supernova any second now. I'd think it'd probably be safer to monitor the imminent explosion from a ship in outer space or, even better, with an unmanned probe sent in from outside the system. The two poor janitors who drew the short straw on this assignment must have backed their hovercar over the Federation president's favorite pet xenomorph.
"I've had it with you two screw-ups! I will personally see to it that you are reassigned next-door to the nearest convenient exploding star! Why, now you've gone and spilled coffee all over my Romulan peace treaty! Gilligan!"
The blue igloo research station is abandoned and loaded with dust and cobwebs. The dust I could handle, but I remember the episode where some evil flying space jellyfish were hiding under a coffee table on a strange planet and made a buffet out of Spock's spinal cord. If I were captain and I'd just marched into a spooky abandoned research igloo loaded with cobwebs, I'd remember the lesson of the airborne jellyfish and wonder where the spiders that made all those webs are and whether or not they can fly and suck your brains out through your toupee. I'd definitely not be so quick to throw caution to the wind flipping on light switches and poking around in dark corners with a stick. Fortunately, the malevolent alien spiders that made the webs weren't written into the script and apparently only came into the igloo long enough to crap out some spooky atmosphere.
Kirk finds a three month old cracker and when he sticks it in the computer a video plays of the two research team members. I recognize one of them as Archie Bunker's bartender from the horrible All in the Family spinoff, and I take a little comfort in the fact that no matter how bad this episode gets there was something worse on TV a decade later.
The planet starts heaving underneath them, and Kirk orders Scotty to take the Enterprise out of range of the solar flares that are wreaking havoc with the Star Trek film crew's stationary cameras. This seems like kind of a boneheaded decision to me since the planet could blow up at any second and the Enterprise could be out of range for days, but maybe this is the Federation's version of hiding under your desk during a nuclear explosion and Kirk figures a fragile plastic igloo will protect them from the worst of an exploding star.
On the cracker, Archie Bunker's bartender and the other guy disappear in a flash of bad special effects. Moments after they view the tape, Spock, Bones and Kirk all disappear in the exact same flash of bad special effects. I'm shocked, since I figured the episode would consist of the three of them hunkering down in the igloo telling ghost stories for 50 minutes until the Enterprise comes back to collect them.
They wake up in the planet's basement that looks a lot like a nearly empty Paramount sound stage with a couple of spotlights turned on.
In the middle of the basement is a chick wearing a purple dress and a pair of blue socks. McCoy thinks she looks harmless, but Spock says that the sand bats of Flimflammer IV don't look bad but are. Maybe he should have thought of that when the invisible spiders upstairs were laying eggs in his ears.
The chick in the purple dress and blue socks puts on a street mime act that makes William Shatner's acting look subdued and the static on McCoy's miniature TV tells him that she's mute so at least, unlike Shatner, we won't be subjected to the horrors of her cutting a cover version of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds."
A couple of aliens in silver bathrobes, wrinkled little old lady lips and giant bulbous bald heads show up but when Kirk pulls his phaser on them they make all the good guys' weapons vanish. Do those things ever work? At least half the time they are rendered inoperative by aliens just by making creepy hand gestures and the other half they're made to vanish entirely. Federation phasers are the Pintos of laser gun outer space hand weapons. With their crummy success rate, I'd say shoot every space alien as soon as you beam into their living room because in two seconds the odds are 90% they're going to render your only weapon as useful as a comb in Williams Shatner's trailer and stick you in space prison where you'll have to share a toilet with an amorous five-armed pus monster from the Kuiper Belt named Bubba.
The aliens with the giant rubber light bulb heads turn on their glittering disco ball and Kirk and the others are forced to dance inside a crazy light show like caged strippers.
Kirk cuts his head in a fit of overacting, and the chick with the blue socks makes the makeup disappear from his forehead and appear on hers in Lon Chaney werewolf transformation slow-motion.
Spock's portable Radio Shack tape recorder leads them to a corner of the planet's basement where the furnace, water heater and oil barrel are. Near some old alien Schwinn ten-speeds hanging from the ceiling they see Archie Bunker's dead bartender stuffed in a giant test tube.
The aliens with the giant rubber bald heads have been butt-probing the crap out of everybody and they show up to tell Kirk that he and his pals are next. Spock says nuts to that, knocks one of the aliens out and steals his car keys. Kirk, Spock, Bones and the chick in the blue socks take off for the surface of Planet Harlem Globetrotters.
Up on the surface, the exploding star is making it a little windy and in the distance they see Scotty standing next to the plastic igloo waving like the Queen of England and grinning like a mental patient who accidentally got a double dose of thorazine in his chocolate pudding cup.
Scotty was ordered to take the Enterprise to a safe distance, so the first thing I'd wonder was why he was there waving to me like Nick Rivers at the end of Top Secret!, but the landing party doesn't smell anything suspicious, so maybe I have trust issues when it comes to omnipotent alien kidnappers with bubble heads who can make things randomly appear and disappear at will.
Kirk sees the bubble head butt-probing aliens hanging around by some Styrofoam rocks and he runs at them in slow motion like Bo Derek on the beach. I wonder if Shatner's 1960s toupee would look less bad with cornrows.
The aliens take everybody back to the basement, which makes me wonder why they let them all loose in the first place. They decide it's high time they tortured Kirk, so they take off his stunt double's shirt, suspend him from some gymnastics rings and hike his pants up to his armpits like an old man at the mall in order to, I guess, give him a wedgie. Always with the butts, you aliens.
After a little gymnastics torture, Kirk is sent back to the others. Bones runs his humming lipstick over Kirk's chest and declares him pretty, and the Marcel Marceau lady in the blue socks touches Kirk and his bruises disappear from him and appear on her. There's a little bit of a delay after the manacle marks vanish from Kirk's wrists and appear on hers, which makes me wonder if she couldn't have let go just a few seconds earlier and let the manacle gashes drop to the floor between them onto a passing invisible spider.
Take us to your buttocks.
Kirk, Spock and McCoy play rock, paper, scissors to see who gets to be tortured next, and McCoy cheats by injecting them with a hypodermic. Heroin beats paper.
When McCoy is taken away by the bulbous-headed butt-probers, the chick in the blue socks cries like that PSA garbage Indian.
The aliens torture Bones with gymnastics, and in the next room Kirk says "the best defense is a good offense" and William Shatner mispronounces "offense." Hey, if we're going to haul out ancient Earth PSAs, forget the garbage Indian, let's try a different one: Reading Is Fundamental, Bill.
Spock is fiddling with the Wii control the aliens let them keep for some reason, and he gets it to transport them to where the aliens were viciously torturing McCoy by making him use the pommel horse.
They are too late to help McCoy, because the makeup department has already applied rubber cuts and Maybelline bruises.
We learn from the rubber-head aliens that all of this has been an elaborate series of tests to find out if the planet of the chick in the blue socks is worthy of saving. The baldies are a superior race but apparently, we learn at the eleventh hour, there are all kinds of inhabited planets in the Malarian solar system. Since the sun is about to explode and they are only able to evacuate one planet, they've decided to butt-probe people to find out what planet is worth saving. Kirk and the others are there to teach humanity and compassion and all-around wonderfulness to the idiot mute mime chick, and if she learns to be a nice guy too the butt-probers will save her race.
So it turns out that this may actually be the stupidest Star Trek episode with the most moronic alien motivation in the entire run of the show. We find out only now that there are a bunch of inhabited planets out there, yet Starfleet is doing nothing to help evacuate their inhabitants before the sun blows up. In the middle of the solar system lives a secret race of butt-probing aliens who are capable of evacuating whole worlds, yet instead of doing so they waste months staging elaborate psychological games involving torture for the benefit of one representative from each world to decide which race in their system deserves saving. So what happens if they randomly selected the Mother Teresa of Planet Charles Manson and the Charles Manson of Planet Mother Teresa? "Oops, we just saved an entire race of psychopathic narcissists because we happened to butt-probe the one nice person on the planet. Our bad." Not to mention the fact that their scheme hinged on the random, impossible-to-predict arrival of a Starfleet ship. And, oh, instead of butt-probing everybody for months on end, if they'd just spent that time evacuating worlds maybe they could have emptied out the star system before the sun went supernova. After learning that which motivates the aliens I'm pretty sure that, after jabbing Kirk and Spock, Bones injected everyone in the writers' room with H, too.
The chick peels off McCoy's rubber bruises and glues them to her own face, but the butt-probers don't think she's nice enough yet to save her planet until Kirk gives them such a sanctimonious tongue-lashing that they heal Bones with their Wii control just to get Captain Smug out of their baldheaded hair.
The alien butt-probers take the chick in the blue socks and shrink up into the rafters of the Paramount sound stage in an elaborate special effects-laden finale that looks like somebody was stuffed into a black leotard, glued the aliens' picture to the end of a stick and backed from the room.
Back on the Enterprise, the boys have a hearty laugh and don't seem the least bit concerned that they are about to sail away having made no effort to save even one of the apparently billions of lives that are about to be wiped out when the Malarian solar system's sun explodes, but we can forgive the multiple genocides because maybe they have to hurry across town to teach somebody else the wonderfulness of human compassion and self-sacrifice.