There is much to like here, and about equally as much to dislike. The premise represents potentially good Trek, but the script ultimately has too many holes to be satisfactory.
The plot involves many layers which must be unraveled. Unfortunately, the more you tug at one string, the more the whole thing comes apart. Ostensibly, the story is about Miranda (a blind woman whose name means, literally, "seeing") and her acceptance of an assignment to act as aide/translator for an amdassador of a race whose appearance is unbearable to humans. That the Medusans, when viewed by humans, cause madness is a good place to start asking questions about beauty and ugliness. And indeed, the episode gets some of those questions out amid a large assortment of flowers.
Like the plot of this episode, Miranda's character is deeply complex, and Muldaur is well-suited to the task. Her Dr. Jones is human, but was born a blind, natural telepath. Then she studied on Vulcan in order to control her own mind and shut out others. In addition to being blind, she chooses to disguise herself as sighted. And she is beautiful enough that men seem to fall for her instantly, though she appears to have no interest in human men. Whew. That's about enough for five episodes right there. But it is so much that we never really get to explore any one of those many interesting traits. And the plot we are given really touches none of them.
Instead, we explore an unexplained fixation on the ambassador and a deep jealousy of Spock. She goes so far as to accuse Spock of insulting her by his choice of jewelry. This is a bit implausible for someone who lived for so long on Vulcan, and it is clear that the IDIC is inserted here by someone other than Aroeste (I think I remember reading that Nimoy had something to do with it). Her jealousy seems also to be inserted to provide tension later on when the jeopardy (lame as it is) is introduced, plus a reason for Kirk to seduce her (which is most unbecoming of a starship captain).
But the elaborate setup never pays off. Her actions never seem well-motivated. Kollos never seems like a real character at all. And the other guest star becomes the latest to disappear halfway through the episode and not be missed. There is no real entry point (beyond puzzlement) for the Trek regulars, who are then left to create a weird scheme to deceive Miranda while working directly with her charge.
Frankly, the whole thing makes no sense. Miranda has no real reason to object to what transpires, but also no role within it. Something is missing here. Is she having trouble communicating with Kollos? Is she insecure about her role? Or is she falling in love with him/it? We know that Spock isn't a true rival, so that little twist goes nowhere. And the revelation of Miranda's blindness, though a wonderful scene, gets us nowhere in the episode as a whole. By the time Kirk is yelling at her in sickbay (for what reason, I cannot say), the audience can't make heads or tails of why anyone is doing anything.
As mentioned, the jeopardy is particularly weak. This crew has penetrated the galactic barrier before (it's one of our cliches). Each time they simply turned around and went back the way they came. Here, for some unknown reason, they can't figure out how to get back. Add this to the fact that Medusans are conveniently good at navigation, and you have the dire situation we need. But it's artificial, and feels every bit as much inserted as the IDIC.
There are memorable scenes, including the revelation of her blindness, and the dinner conversation in dress uniforms (which, though convoluted, does have a very pleasant feel of light dinner conversation). The acting is quite competent throughout, and there is another lovely new Enterprise set (the arboretum, probably a redress of something else, but it works). Most notably, Durning has provided a new musical love theme which will be heard throughout the remainder of the series.
But this mess of a script bears the same imprint as "And the Children Shall Lead", throwing a bunch of partially-connected ideas out and letting the viewer sort it all out and make whatever they want of it. This makes me wonder if Singer, in his new role as script supervisor, isn't the one responsible for rewrites on both (and some of the dogs yet to come).
There is some very fine work lost in here.
Rating: Middle (4)