“Day of the Dove”
Written by Jerome Bixby
Directed by Marvin Chomsky
Season 3, Episode 7
Production episode 3x11
Original air date: November 1, 1968
Recap: David Mack
Kirk leads a small landing party to answer a vanished colony’s distress signal. They find no trace of the colony or evidence of what made it disappear. Spock hails them to warn of a swiftly approaching Klingon battle cruiser. Kirk orders Spock to sound Red Alert, raise shields, and get ready to throw down, because he blames the Klingons for wiping out the missing colony, whether it was their fault or not.
But wait! The Klingon ship is critically damaged. Several of its officers, all looking like victims of the worst self-tanning disaster in history, beam down to the planet and confront the landing party. The Klingon commander, Kang, backhands Kirk to the ground, accuses him of an unprovoked attack upon his ship, and declares Kirk and his men are his prisoners and that he is claiming Enterprise for his own.
Meanwhile, a few yards away, a spinning blob of light and noise seems quite pleased with itself for spreading lies and fomenting rage, proving Fox News still exists in the 23rd century.
Kirk and Kang argue like an old married couple, accusing each other of faking a distress signal (from either the lost colony or a destroyed Klingon ship) and of trying to start a war. Kang demands Kirk order the Enterprise to beam up him and his crew; Kirk tells him to “go to the devil,” prompting the revelation that the Klingons don’t believe in a devil—but they sure do believe in torture. Kang asks for a volunteer; no one seems willing until the spinning light blob—can we call it a “splib,” for short?—mucks with Chekov’s brain and makes him start ranting about how Klingons killed his brother Piotr. That’s enough to earn Chekov a date with the Klingons’ portable pain gizmo.
Watching Chekov squirm in agony is more than Kirk can take. He agrees to have Kang and his men beamed up to the Enterprise. Kang warns that any tricks will result in mass fatalities. Kirk hails Spock and tells him to beam up the landing party and its guests—while slyly holding down the silent “we’re in up to our necks, please save our butts” button on his communicator. Everyone is beamed up, but the Starfleet team materializes first, enabling Kirk to summon some redshirts to take Kang and his men into custody.
Unable to contact Starfleet Command for guidance because their signals are being blocked, and realizing the situation aboard the Klingon cruiser is urgent, Kirk orders the rest of the Klingon vessel’s crew beamed over. Among the first wave of self-tanning victims is Mara, Kang’s science officer and wife. (Nice to see at least one culture in the galaxy is progressive about integrating family life and space exploration).
Also hitching a ride inside the Enterprise is our pal, the splib.
Once all forty-odd Klingon survivors are aboard, Kirk orders their wreck of a ship destroyed, ostensibly for the safety of interstellar navigation, but more likely because it amuses him to do so. The Enterprise then warps out of orbit. Meanwhile, belowdecks, the splib wanders unnoticed, thanks to the deserted state of the ship’s corridors during season three. Just think: if NBC had coughed up a bit more cash for extras, someone might have spotted that meddlesome thing before the situation got out of hand.
Down in the lounge, Mara complains they are outnumbered ten-to-one by the Enterprise crew, prompting the grand-prize winner of the Imperial Bad Goatee Contest to remark, “Four thousand throats may be cut in a single night by a running man.” (Yeah, if that man is Usain Bolt and the four thousand intended victims are drugged, restrained, and lined up with their throats all at the same level, and it’s winter solstice in the Arctic circle so that night lasts for two frickin’ months. Otherwise? Less than helpful, genius.)
An unseen force (guess who?) seizes control of the ship, sends it hurtling at Warp Nine toward the edge of the galaxy, and traps nearly four hundred members of the Enterprise crew belowdecks—giving the Klingon prisoners even odds in their conflict with the Starfleet personnel. Kirk assumes the crisis is of Klingon making, so he and his men confront Kang, who quite justifiably calls Kirk an idiot. Then random objects turn into swords, enabling the Klingons to arm themselves. Kirk and his men draw phasers—which also become swords. As does every advanced weapon in the ship’s armory.
O-kaaaay. Or should I say, en garde?
Spock tries to reason out what turned all the phasers into rapiers while Chekov rants about his dead brother—prompting Sulu to inform us Chekov was an only child. Scotty makes a token effort at doing his job before developing a crush on a bucket-hilt claymore. For some reason, the Enterprise computer stops talking like an adult woman and starts sounding like a teenage boy with a helium-sucking addiction.
Spock shows Kirk internal-sensor data that proves there is an unknown alien inside the Enterprise, something neither human nor Klingon that appears to be their mutual agent provocateur. They try to think up some way to negotiate a truce with the Klingons, but Kang trumps them by seizing engineering and shutting off the lights and life-support systems on the bridge. Scotty bursts in and starts ranting (more than usual, I mean), and within moments he, Spock, and Kirk nearly kick one another’s asses.
Kirk figures it out: they’re all pawns in a war orchestrated by the alien for its own purposes. So, what to do? First, they go after the alien itself. Instead, they catch Chekov in the process of molesting Kang’s wife, Mara, and Kirk slaps Chekov half to death before Spock intervenes and reminds him the incident wasn’t Chekov’s fault. Mostly.
Seeing an opportunity to turn a foe into an ally, Kirk makes the case to Mara that his crew and Kang’s are being used by an outside force, one against which they must unite. He and Spock bring Mara and Chekov to sickbay. McCoy says that crewmen who only hours earlier had been dealt mortal wounds have already healed. Kirk realizes the same entity that forces the two crews to fight will also keep them alive indefinitely—there can be no release from this vicious cycle, not even through death.
With Mara along as a witness, Spock and Kirk track the splib through the corridors. A confrontation with a crazed Enterprise crewman momentarily strengthens the splib—but after Spock’s nerve pinch brings the conflict to a swift and nonviolent end, the entity’s radiance fades. Kirk and Spock realize the being feeds on hostility, and that the only way to break its hold over the crews is to end the fighting, before the splib becomes too powerful to resist—and before the Enterprise’s warp engines turn to slag.
Only minutes away from a main-power meltdown, Kirk tries to get Kang to talk truce by threatening to kill Mara, but Kang calls Kirk’s bluff, saying Mara’s death would be a “casualty of war.” Mara is surprised to learn Kirk is bluffing, and that the Federation is not the savage entity described to her by Klingon propaganda. Impressed by Kirk, Mara agrees to help him reach and negotiate with Kang.
Mara and Kirk beam down to main engineering and confront Kang. Despite his wife’s pleading, Kang’s not in a talking mood. He faces off in single combat against Kirk, who tries to talk sense between thrusts and parries. Meanwhile, swordfights break out all over the ship, and the episode devolves into an Errol Flynn movie.
In the chaos, the splib gets so big and red that even the Klingons notice it. Kirk throws down his sword and spells it out for Kang: the splib is using them, laughing at them, counting on them to be useful idiots, good little soldiers who never question orders. It’s an argument so clear and simple that even Kang takes it seriously.
Kang tosses aside his sword and declares:
KANG: Klingons kill for their own purposes.
Kirk and Kang order their respective crews to cease fighting, and together they laugh at the splib, they mock it, and they tell jokes about how fat its mother is. As its color fades, Kang declares:
KANG: Out! We need no urging to hate humans. For the present, only a fool fights in a burning house.
It’s a back-slapping good time. Specifically, it’s time for Kang to slap Kirk’s back so hard that he nearly knocks the captain on his face. Now that’s funny. Fade out.
This simple bottle show (one filmed using only standing sets) is surprisingly effective for being so corny. I always remembered this episode as one of my favorites from my youth. Watching it now, I’m not sure it completely lives up to my memories.
The entity’s origin and powers are never explained, and there are long periods of inactivity throughout the episode, making its pacing less than stellar. It works well as an allegory for the rapaciousness of the military-industrial complex and the need for citizens of all nations to oppose it, but its resolution feels just a bit too pat to convey any lesson other than the absurdly trite, “Fighting is bad, mm-kay?”
Still, in a season that began with “Spock’s Brain” and has “For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky” coming up next week, I think an episode such as this one deserves to be graded on a curve.
David’s Rating: Warp 4 (on a scale of 1 to 6)
Analysis: Dayton Ward
“Day of the Dove” represents another “middle-of-the-pack” entry in Star Trek’s third season, and it’s one I don’t mind watching from time to time, mostly because of Michael Ansara’s memorable turn as Kang, the commander of the Klingons who are first prisoners and then adversaries of Captain Kirk and his crew. Kang is the first Klingon since Kor, from the first season’s “Errand of Mercy,” who I think lives up to the threat these prime foes of the Federation were supposed to represent. They’re remarkably similar, which comes as no surprise when you think about it, as actor John Colicos allegedly was intended to reprise his role of Kor for this story. However, he had to be replaced when he was committed to filming a movie, resulting in Ansara’s casting as Kang. That’s to our benefit, as he would remain one of the enduring guest characters from the original series, and Ansara eventually would reprise the role twice, decades after his initial performance in this episode. First, he would join Colicos and William Campbell (returning as Koloth from “The Trouble With Tribbles”) in the 1994 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Blood Oath.” Two years later, he would provide a brief appearance for the “Flashback” episode of Star Trek: Voyager.
And since I’m talking about Klingons, can anyone else explain why they’re carrying agonizers from the Mirror Universe? I’m honestly surprised that I or one of my fellow Star Trek novelists have not yet exploited this obvious dangling plot thread and found a way to tie “Mirror, Mirror” to “Day of the Dove.” Perhaps Kang journeyed to the Mirror Universe some time before meeting Kirk, only to find that Klingons of the parallel dimension all sit around getting blazed, eating Doritos, and playing Hacky Sack. (“tlhingAn HoL, dudes!”)
Or, maybe not.
As my fellow re-watcher Mr. Mack pointed out, “Day of the Dove” is yet another “bottle show,” intended to contain production costs by telling a story utilizing only the show’s standing sets. However, the budget-stretching strategy works here, thanks to a straightforward yet intriguing storyline. While the episode does reasonably well with the material provided, there are several questions left unanswered. The notion of a non-corporeal being that thrives on the “energy” generated by emotional responses of living organisms is something worth exploring, but we don’t get any of that. Where does the mysterious energy being come from? Why is it compelled to “feed” in this way? Are there others? What happens to the entity once it’s forced to leave the Enterprise? We’re left to ponder such ideas while Kirk and company engage the Klingons in their version of Highlander: The Home Game.
(Star Trek novelist Greg Cox does revisit the creature a couple of times. First, in Q-Strike, the third novel in his Q-Continuum trilogy, and later in “Night of the Vulture,” a short story from the Star Trek: Tales of the Dominion War anthology.)
Given the ever-stressed budget afflicting most third-season episodes, quite a number of extra actors are employed this time around, filling out Starfleet and Klingon uniforms for the various fight scenes sprinkled throughout the story. It’s nice to see all those red shirts running the halls and swinging swords, as they serve to give the episode an appearance of possessing additional “heft.” Of course, it’s possible that all of those guys simply were borrowed from the cafeteria, or are nephews of the producers, or maybe they just lost a bet.
Here’s another Klingon-related question: When they escape from their confinement, why doesn’t Kirk—or anyone, for that matter—think to position guards near the auxiliary control? Kang and the gang just mosey on in like they own the place, and get the info they need to take over the ship’s vital systems. Remember this plot device, as in decades to come it will evolve into a regular occurrence, sometimes in multiple episodes, of every season of 24.
This episode is notable for providing us our first look at a female Klingon, something that won’t happen again until 1984’s Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. The presence of Mara, Kang’s wife, as well as a second female, is also at odds with a comment made by Captain Koloth in “The Trouble With Tribbles,” that Klingon ships don’t carry women (referred to in that episode by the rather sexist euphemism “nonessentials”). Mara’s presence also allows for what is arguably one of the more disturbing scenes from all of the original series: Chekov’s attempted sexual assault. It’s all presented in a mostly chaste manner, though their expressions and his unwanted kissing—to say nothing of the unmistakable sound of clothing being torn—are more than effective at conveying the intent of the scene.
Despite her attempts to help Kirk and convince Kang that they’re all being influenced by the alien, Mara comes off for much of the episode in only slightly better fashion than most female television characters of the 1960s: window dressing. This is unfortunate, particularly as later Star Trek adventures would leave little doubt that Klingon women can stand toe to toe with their male counterparts, even if their culture doesn’t view them on equal terms.
William Shatner is at his scenery-chewing best this time around. Whether he’s railing against the effects of the alien’s control over them, carrying an unconscious Chekov through the barren corridors as he laments their seemingly hopeless situation, or appealing to Mara (and later Kang) to listen to reason, the captain seems poised on multiple occasions to eat his way right through the bulkheads. Being manipulated by the energy creature also gives sufficient justification for the other cast members to let loose with The Drama™, most notably James Doohan, who confronts Spock on the bridge in a rather unsettling—and convincing—bout of race hatred. DeForest Kelley isn’t left on the sidelines, either, as he basically tells Kirk and the others to extract their heads from whatever body cavity, and get on with fighting before the Klingons overrun them.
The one scene in this episode that never fails to make me laugh is near the end, when Kirk and Kang order their respective crews to end the fighting. There’s a cut to a scene of crewmen and Klingons going at each other in a corridor, and once the command is given, everybody just stops, as though somebody off-camera rang a bell or something and called for Happy Hour.
And just for the hardcore Trekkies, here’s another bit of trivia for you: “Day of the Dove” is one of two third-season episodes that eventually would be adapted as one of those twelve sweet “Fotonovels” published by Bantam Books in the late 1970s. It’s #10 in the series, in case you’re wondering or are about to point your browser to eBay or something.
In closing, “Day of the Dove” succeeds more often than it stumbles, and though tending to be a bit talky instead of giving us more of that delicious sword-fighting action, it does manage to make effective use of its premise and makes you wish one of the shows had revisited the alien in some form or another. Of course, I could still be suffering aftereffects of “And the Children Shall Lead.”
Dayton’s Rating: Warp 3.5 (on a scale of 1 to 6)
Next episode: Season 3, Episode 8 — “For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky.” U.S. residents can watch it for free at the CBS website.
Check the Star Trek Re-Watch Index for a complete list of posts in this series.
David Mack is amazed at how much Mara’s makeup in this episode makes her look like one of his cats.
Dayton Ward is seriously considering pitching that whole Kang/Mirror Universe/Baked Klingons idea to his editor, just to get a reaction.