Who Shall Bring Us Light?

by Peter Anspach <anspach@math.uoknor.edu>

Q: How many members of the original Enterprise does it take to change a light bulb?


Captain's Log, Stardate 5187.8. Having cleared up the diplomatic crisis on Politico, I've managed to obtain a leave for my ship and crew. They are looking forward to this much needed vacation.

(Scene: The Bridge)

Kirk: Mr. Sulu, set course for the planet Luxuria.

Sulu: Yes, sir!

(Suddenly, the ship is rocked by a violent explosion which causes everyone to fall out of their chairs.)

Kirk: Mr. Chekov, report on all Klingon ships in the area.

Chekov: Negative, keptin. Sensors show no enemy wessel in sight.

Kirk: Your analysis, Mr. Spock.

Spock: I assure you, Captain, I am not operating under the influence of illicit mind-altering substances. However, if you think it necessary, regulations do stipulate that--

Kirk: I meant your analysis of the current situation.

Spock: My apologies, Captain. I am still sometimes unable to compensate for the vagaries of human enunciation. It would appear, Captain, that a visional catalyst source has malfunctioned to the critical overload stage. (Noticing Kirk's blank stare, he shakes his head almost imperceptably.) To rephrase my statement into what I believe you humans call `the vernacular': a light bulb blew in Engineering.

Kirk: Sulu, you have the Bridge. Spock, come with me.

(Scene: Engineering. A medical team is dragging off an injured engineer in a red shirt. Scotty is surveying the damage and shaking his head. He spots Kirk and Spock.)

Scotty: Ca'en, sair, seen a' th' bulb ha' burn oot, I kinna see to oper'a' me engines!

(Kirk smiles and nods.)

Kirk (whispering to Spock): What did he say?

Spock: I believe, Captain, that Mr. Scott wishes to register a complaint to the effect that there is insufficient illumination to perform the duties requisite in his capacity as Chief Engineer.

Kirk: Oh. Well, Scotty, get a spare from storage.

Spock: I fear such action would be inappropriate, Captain. Starfleet Regulation 171.34c requires us to travel with a full complement of spare parts at all times. If we were to remove a bulb from storage, then we would not have a full complement, and hence be in direct violation.

Kirk: Damn the regulations, Spock, I've got a ship with 430 people aboard to think of! At least I think there are 430; come to think of it, I've never actually seen more than a couple dozen. Oh well, where is the nearest source of light bulbs?

Spock: I believe the planet Luminos satisfies the specified parameters.

Kirk: Scotty, do we have enough power to make it to Luminos?

Scotty: Ach, I dinna righ'ly ken, Ca'en; we're runnin' a wee bit low. However, if we go strai' thar and dinna hurry, I thin' we migh' possibly duit.

Kirk: Thank you, Scotty. Spock?

Spock: Mr. Scott has formulated the opinion that there is insufficient data for complete analysis; current fuel capacity is scarcely in excess of minimal standards. However, probability dictates our vessel has the capability to sustain the journey under the following two constraints: a direct course must be set and maintained throughout and the ship's velocity must satisfy a maximality condition.

Kirk: Then I'm afraid our little pleasure trip will have to wait.

(Scene: The Bridge. Sulu and Chekov are engaged in conversation.)

Sulu: I think it was Thomas Edison.

Chekov: No, you are wrong; the light bulb is a Russian inwention.

(Kirk and Spock enter.)

Kirk: Mr. Sulu, set a direct course for the planet Luminos.

Sulu (startled): But, Captain, that'll take us straight through the Romulan Neutral Zone!

Kirk: It's a risk we'll just have to take!

(Scene: Enterprise hurtling through space. Cut back to Bridge.)

Sulu: We are now approaching the planet Luminos. I guess the Romulans didn't notice us. Mind you, I did pick up funny blips on our sensors that seemed to follow us.

Kirk: Probably nothing important. Assume standard orbit.

Sulu: Aye, sir.

Kirk (punching intercom): Kirk to Supply. Supply, send down someone to get some light bulbs.

Spock: Captain, may I remind you of Starfleet Regulation 14.2b? `In order to prevent a ship from abandoning a crew-member on a planet, each landing party must contain enough high-ranking officers so that the ability of the ship to function without them is reduced below minimal standards.'

Kirk: Of course, Spock. We'll have myself, you, Dr. McCoy, and three guys in red shirts. I'll get the doctor, you attend to the others.

(Scene: Sickbay. McCoy is tending to the injured engineer. Kirk enters.)

Kirk: Hello, Bones.

(McCoy grunts inarticulately.)

Kirk: What's the matter, Bones, aren't you going to say hello?

McCoy: Dammit, Jim, I'm a doctor not a casino greeter. I've got sick people to attend to, do you hear me, sick people, people whose very lives hang in the balance and depend upon my every action! And you come in here with such high contempt for human life that you expect me to neglect all my patients just to trade some weak social banalities!

Kirk: Come on, Bones, your only patient is this engineer who got temporarily blinded and he looks fine. How are you son?

Engineer: Gosh, sir, now that I've met you I'm all better! We younger crew members thrive on your god-like aura.

McCoy: Shut up, you! I'm the doctor and I'll make the diagnoses around here! By the way, Jim, just what the hell did you want?

Kirk: I'm taking a landing party down to Luminos and I want you along.

McCoy: What in blasted blue blazes are you thinking of, Jim? What about my patient?

Kirk: He seems to have snuck away just now.

McCoy: Again? Damn! Why do they always do that?

Kirk: There, there, Bones. Maybe there are sick people down on the planet.

McCoy: Do you really think so? Oh, okay, I'll come. But if I don't get someone to operate on, you're next in line.

(Scene: Transporter Room. Scotty is at the controls and Spock and the red shirts are standing on the pad. Kirk and McCoy take their places.)

Kirk: Ready to beam down. Mr. Scott, you have the con.

Scotty: Tha' ya, sair. I ha' always wanned ta gi' ordairs, but so far nay one has e'er lissend ta me.

Kirk: Sure, whatever. Energize.

(Scene: A lush jungle near rocky terrain. The landing party materializes.)

McCoy: Well, this looks like a safe enough place.

(A huge hole opens up in the ground and swallows one of the men in red shirts.)

Kirk: Yes, Bones, and the vegetation makes a pleasant change from the ship.

(Another guy wearing a red shirt reaches out, touches a plant and explodes. Kirk, Spock and McCoy turn and stare expectantly at the third guy in a red shirt. Spears comes whizzing through the air and one lodges in his chest. McCoy bends over and examines him, then shakes his head.)

McCoy: He's dead, Jim.

Kirk: Well, at least that's over with. Did anyone see where the spears came from?

Spock: Not directly, but perhaps inferentially. Analysis of relevant data yields a 99.4% probability that the fusillade emanated from that direction. (He points.) Observe the grouping of antagonistic aboriginals evincing primitive projectile weaponry.

McCoy: You mean savage-looking tribesmen waving spears! Why can't you just come out and say what you mean? Criminy, sometimes you really get on my nerves! Hey, my phaser's jammed!

Kirk: Now, Bones, you shouldn't be shooting at the natives anyway.

McCoy: Who said anything about natives? Let me borrow your phaser, Jim.

Spock: All our phasers are inoperative. It would appear to be a combined result of local atmospheric and geologic conditions. Or possibly the tribesmen's tacky hairstyles.

(Scene: The Bridge. Scotty enters and sits in the captain's chair.)

Scotty: Sta'us rapor'.

Sulu: Hunh? What'd he say?

Chekov (excitedly): Comrade Scott! My sensors indicate an approaching Romulan wessel. It is trawelling straight for us and moofing wery fast. I vould have reported it earlier, but I had a hard time thinking of a sentence vith enough wee's and double-oo's to comically mispronounce.

Scotty: Ta'e us oot a arbit an the dibble!

Sulu: I hope he said to get the hell out of here, `cause that's what I'm doing!

(The Enterprise leaves orbit. Unfortunately, three other Romulan ships decloak around them. A Romulan admiral appears on screen.)

Admiral: Intruders, we have found you in direct violation of the accords governing travel through the Neutral Zone. Under the rules of the accords, your ship is now forfeit to us. Are you prepared to surrender, or will we be forced to destroy you?

(Scene: The planet. The tribesmen are approaching and encircling the landing party.)

Kirk: Well, looks like it's time to get out of here. (flipping open communicator) Kirk to Enterprise. Kirk to Enterprise...

(Kirk shakes his head and closes the communicator. He nods to Spock and McCoy and they begin to fight the tribesmen. They manage to knock out five or six, but are overwhelmed and captured.)

Kirk: Wait! We come in peace. We mean you no harm.

(The tribesmen turn and look at their fallen comrades, then look back at Kirk.)

Kirk: Uh...

(The one with the tackiest hair moves forward.)

Chieftan: You do not belong to my tribe. You are prisoners!

Kirk: Listen. We are members of the starship Enterprise. Our seemingly never-ending mission is to explore strange new worlds, seek out slimy blobs and poorly-dressed weirdos, to boldly--

Chieftan: Shut up. Our tribe is bored by pompous talk.

Spock: Logic suggests that we should not attempt further action until we obtain more data.

Kirk: Excuse me, Spock, but you keep saying `probability dictates' and `logic suggests'. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

Spock: Fascinating. I will have to further explore this idiosyncratic linguistic anomaly. Meanwhile, I believe I may be able to simplify the current situation. I shall now ascertain which aspect of Earth's cultural history these people mirror completely except of course for one minor but nonetheless significant difference. Tribal Chieftan, how do you live?

Chieftan: We are a free people. We travel much and live off the land. We hunt animals for food and dig for roots. We weave to make clothes and manufacture light bulbs for religious purposes.

McCoy: Light bulbs? Great! We'll take a dozen.

Chieftan: Sacrilege! You will all die painfully for this.

Kirk: Well, Bones, you've put your foot in it now. Hey, Chief, are there any scantily-clad ingenues on this planet? Just thought I'd ask.

Chieftan: Why, yes, my daughter Arianna is one. Here she comes now.

(Enter a gorgeous blonde with perfect teeth wearing a fur bikini and way too much eye make-up. Switch to soft focus. She catches sight of Kirk.)

Kirk: Hello.

Arianna: No man has ever spoken to me with such tender beauty. Oh, kiss me, kiss me passionately, Stranger! Father, you can go ahead and disembowel the other intruders but spare this one if you would spare your daughter.

(switch to regular focus)

Chieftan: Go to your hut, Arianna; we will talk later. Bring the prisoners to the Deathcave where my son lies. They will stay there while the sacrifice is made ready. Perhaps they will find my son Ranor fitting company during the hour of preparation.

Kirk: Listen! I am Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise and I demand you release us.

Chieftan: Your former titles mean nothing here, Captain.

(Scene: A gloomy cave. Kirk, Spock and McCoy are standing by a boulder that has sealed off the entrance.)

Captain's Log, Stardate 5188.2. I have made contact with a lady named Arianna. She's a foxy blonde and she's really hot for me. They all are. I sometimes wonder: is it my good looks or my terrific personality? Not that I really care; just so long as they know the score. Oh, also Dr. McCoy, First Officer Spock and myself beamed down to Luminos in attempt to secure much needed light bulbs and are trapped in a cave awaiting sacrifice at the hands of savages while the Enterprise appears to have left planetary orbit.

McCoy (eagerly pointing): Look, Jim, it's a sick guy! Oh boy, this is great! (adopting a professional tone) There, there son. I'm a doctor and I'm here to help you. What seems to be the trouble?

Ranor (moaning): I have...a hangnail, which is fatal to the people in our tribe. Our witchdoctors have searched...many generations -- aaagh -- for a cure, but have not found one. Do -- ungh -- do you have the knowledge and medical skill to remove it?

McCoy: Astounding! Our culture solved that problem centuries ago. Now I'm just a simple country doctor with advanced surgical training and high-tech equipment, but I'll have you cured in no time.

(McCoy sets to work, and Kirk turns to Spock.)

Kirk: Let's see, the chieftan made a remark that we would have an hour until the sacrifice. How much time do we have left?

Spock: I would estimate about 7 minutes 17.4 seconds.

Kirk (amused): Thank you, Spock. I don't suppose you could come up with a `rough sketch' of an escape plan?

Spock: Actually, Captain, I have formulated 13 different plans of escape, with probabilities of success ranging from near certainty to 342,984.6 to 1 against. However, extrapolation based on estimated psychological profiles suggests that none of them would involve another passionate interlude between Arianna and yourself.

Kirk (pounding his fist on a rock): Well, then, we'll JUST have to FIND another way! There must BE....another way.

(The boulder moves and tribesmen enter.)

Chieftan: Now, strangers, we disembowel you. We will start with the one my daughter has the hots for.

Ranor: Look, father, I'm better!

Chieftan: Ranor! The strangers have healed you! Strangers, you must possess great mystic powers. In gratitude for returning my son to life, I free you and give you a dozen sacred light bulbs. You who can perform such miracles will be worthy caretakers.

(A witchdoctor grudgingly hands over some light bulbs. Suddenly, Kirk's communicator beeps. He flips it open.)

Uhura: Enterprise to Captain Kirk, Enterprise to Captain Kirk.

Kirk: Yes, Token Female Communications Officer Uhura, we read you.

Uhura: We are back in orbit and ready to receive you.

Kirk: Acknowledged. Stand by to beam us aboard.

(Switch to soft focus. Arianna enters and flings herself on Kirk.)

Arianna: Say you won't go!

Kirk: I'm sorry, but I have to. I have other, greater responsibilities.

Arianna (wiping away tears): I understand. But I will always remember you! I will remember you until this jungle withers away. (She kisses him passionately.) I will remember you until the mountains become flat. (Another passionate kiss.) I will remember you until the stars shine no more in the night sky. (A final long firm kiss, reluctantly tearing her lips away.)

Kirk: Yes, and I'll remember you until the next cheap bimbo comes along. Energize.

(Scene: The Bridge, regular focus. Kirk is back in the captain's chair, with McCoy, Spock, and Scotty gathered around.)

Kirk: Tell me, Scotty, how did you escape the Romulan battleships?

Scotty: I dinna rightly ken, sair. I star'e' ta try an' negotia' wi' 'em, an' th' Ramoolans ga frus'ra'ed an' sel'-destruc'ed.

Kirk: Uh, whatever. (begins scratching.) Ugh. What it is, Bones?

McCoy (also scratching): Apparently we all picked up a minor rash on the planet. It should go away in a couple of hours, but it'll be extremely uncomfortable.

Spock: I appear to be unaffected, Gentlemen.

McCoy: Damn that green blood of yours!

Kirk: Now, Bones, settle down. Yes, Mr. Chekov, what is it?

Chekov: Keptin, my chair by the veapons console has lost a ballbearing and von't rewolve anymore.

Kirk: Don't worry, Chekov, we'll take care of it and get a new ballbearing right away. Mr. Sulu, set course for the planet Metallicus.