Every series has had episodes that bombed; The Apple was one for Star Trek: The Original Series
The fifth episode of the second season of Star Trek: The Original Series didn’t hit the mark like the writers planned. In fact, in 2017, Den of Geek ranked this episode as the ninth worst episode of the series. I’m not sure everyone agrees with this ranking, but there are plenty of fans out there that dislike The Apple. (Games Radar has a rather hilarious take on the death of Crewman Hendorff who was killed by a plant.)
The episode is about a group of people living on Gamma Trianguli VI whose sole purpose seems to be feeding Vaal, an entity who supposedly supplies their every need. The inhabitants are led by Akuta who is Vaal’s eyes and ears and passes down Vaal’s laws to his people. It turns out, Vaal is nothing more than a machine, and it isn’t perfectly clear how he operates, how he got started, or how long this has been going on. Kirk and company, after beaming down to the planet, incur Vaal’s wrath, and he orders them killed which gives Kirk no choice but to silence the machine forever. So what could possibly be good about this episode?
It reinforces the importance of not following someone blindly. The inhabitants of the planet didn’t question who or what Vaal was. They simply followed the commands Akuta gave them without asking why they weren’t allowed to do something. We’ve evolved enough as a society to know that blind allegiance is dangerous. The most important word, of course, being blind.
Following someone’s leadership isn’t wrong unless you know what they are doing is. Vaal had no real communications with the citizens and used a combination of fear and provision to convince the people to serve him. After all, what would they do without him? In essence, Vaal had created a cult to worship him, and this episode highlights the dangers of not asking questions, of following without really knowing who or what you’re following. Overall, I think the episode has a strong message that still resonates today like many other episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series.