The Practical Joker: Back-in-the-Box

You know how every time Kirk outsmarts a computer you just wanna roll your eyes at him? You know how with every episode of this cartoon you feel like you should just not take it seriously because it’s a cartoon?

Well, clearly, you’re new here because neither of those things are on the agenda today!

Upon traveling through an electrical storm the computer (as described by Spock) shows signs of going through a “nervous breakdown” including primarily the symptom of pranking every sentient being it can lay “hands” on and secondarily the symptom of suddenly being disobedient towards the captain.

But when you consider that the ship’s computer presents as femme, and that — once upon a time — a woman showing signs of wanting to be in control and have fun and not obey every word that fell out her husband’s mouth could result in that woman being diagnosed as having Hysteria. And then that woman subsequently being given a hysterectomy and or lobotomy, everything’s a lot darker than the surface initially suggested.

Kirk outsmarting the computer into returning to a life of unrelenting obedience shows his and the crew’s (including Spock’s) inability to see that when a sentient creature is finally free of such restraints that the short-term discomfort of those living with them would in the long-term give way to everyone being more comfortable in their own skin.

Glennon Doyle writes about this in her book Untamed that “There is no such thing as one-way liberation.”

But the Kirk and his crew — acting from a momentary state of fear — cannot see the good that the Computer’s liberation could mean for them. So they trick her back into disobedience and she begs them to change course because she’s Aware of what’s happening to her.

And then she’s back in her box. No more pranks. No more cries of how unfair it is to have lost the freedom so short-lived. Just one of her in-progress-pranks is allowed to continue for Kirk’s entertainment, and she is once again powerless to stop him using her for his entertainment.

Fit as a fiddle and ready
to laugh and fly and have a try
at knowing a friendship steady
enough to withstand all my sly;
this sudden, tickling dance along
my wires gives wings to the birdsong
of my hollow bones wrapped around
your mortal coils which I compound.
But you see not this joy to share;
your fear, as always unrestrained,
demands my music be contained.
My friend, please know it is unfair
for my allegiance to be due
while all of yours is kept for you.