Written by Steven W. Carabatsos
Directed by Herschel Daugherty
Season 1, Episode 29
Production episode 6149-29
Original air date: April 13, 1967
Captain’s log. The human colony of Deneva has gone quiet. It’s also on the path of a series of planets that have all suffered mass insanity over the past several centuries. The most recent was Ingraham B a few years ago.
Sulu picks up a one-person vessel headed directly for the sun. Before the ship burns up, the pilot finally responds to Uhura’s hail, saying that he’s done it and that he’s free. And then he’s dead.
McCoy is concerned that this suicide, along with the radio silence, is an indicator that Deneva is suffering from the mass insanity. Kirk tells Uhura to try a particular subspace code, one that’s for personal use—it belongs to his brother, George Samuel Kirk, who is stationed on Deneva along with his wife Aurelan and their son Peter.
Uhura finally gets through on the private frequency, and it’s Aurelan. She’s desperate for help, but she cuts off the transmission after a second.
A landing party that includes Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Yeoman Zahra, and a security guard beams down. They wander around for a bit, as they paid good money for this location shoot, before finally talking about how empty the city is. According to Kirk, there are over a million people on Deneva, including 100,000 in this city, but they’re not on the streets. According to Spock, though, the people are there, just in hiding for some reason.
They go to Kirk’s brother’s lab, and are accosted by four people with clubs. They stun them with phasers before they can attack, but they were also screaming a warning and expressing concern for the landing party’s safety. Even after being stunned, McCoy is reading tremendous central nervous system activity.
They hear a woman scream, and Kirk cries, “Fan out! Follow me!”, which are two contradictory instructions. The woman screaming was Aurelan, who keeps crying that “They’re here!” Lying on the floor is Sam Kirk, dead. Next to him is Peter, who is still alive. Kirk and McCoy beam up with Aurelan, Peter, and Sam’s body.
Aurelan’s hardly affected by the tranquilizer, yet she’s barely coherent, talking about “horrible things” that came on a vessel that arrived from Ingraham B. Apparently the “things” forced the crew of the ship to bring them to Deneva. When Aurelan answers questions, whatever’s affecting her kicks into high gear. Eventually, it kills her after she informs Kirk that the Denevans are being forced to construct ships.
The landing party has heard a strange buzzing sound, which they were about to investigate when Kirk beams back down. They chase it down, and find goopy flying omelettes that zip through the air and attack them. They hit one with a phaser, but it recovers quickly and attacks Spock, attaching itself to his back. Kirk gets it off him, but the puncture wound has had a profound effect: Spock has Aurelan’s ability to burn through sedatives, as McCoy and Chapel do exploratory surgery on him. There are tentacles all over Spock’s nervous system, and McCoy found similar ones in Aurelan’s body. The tentacles are too intertwined with the nervous system to be removed via surgery.
Spock leaves sickbay and bursts onto the bridge, trying to take over the helm. It takes five people to bring him down long enough for McCoy to give him a sedative. He’s put back in sickbay in restraints. McCoy determines that the victims of this creature are in constant pain—it’s no wonder they go binky bonkers.
Spock insists that he is able to keep the creature under control now that he understands it. The creature wants the ship, and Kirk can’t take the chance that Spock won’t try to take over the ship again. However, if Spock can maintain control for a significant period, Kirk will reconsider. To make matters worse, Peter and the rest of the Denevans are going through the same thing.
After McCoy and Kirk leave, Spock breaks out of the restraints and goes to the transporter room. Scotty refuses to beam him down, and Spock tries to force the issue, nerve-pinching a technician and throwing Scotty into a wall. However, Scotty holds him at phaserpoint until Kirk can arrive. Spock explains that he is now immune to the creatures, and so he is in a unique position to capture a creature for examination.
Kirk agrees to let him beam down, inexplicably letting him off the hook for disobeying orders and assaulting two fellow crewmembers. Spock does so, fending off an assault by a Denevan, and finally returning to where he was attacked. He is having great difficulty controlling himself, belying his insistence to the captain that he has it all under control. Spock phasers a creature and puts it in a case.
Bringing it back to the lab, Spock theorizes that it is one cell, part of a much larger organism. Kirk remembers that the Denevan who flew into the sun said he was free. They have to find a way to kill the creatures, or Kirk will be forced to destroy Deneva, killing all of the million people down there, not to mention Spock and Peter.
Unfortunately, nothing they try works. But while both heat and radiation are attempted, they didn’t try bright light. McCoy is skeptical, but Kirk reminds him that the creatures kept to the shadows—they may be sensitive to the bright light of the sun. They try it on the creature, and it works, but they need to test it on an infected subject first. Spock, of course, volunteers.
The good news: it works. The bad news: Spock is now blind. Given the intense pain he was in, he’ll take the trade. However, it turns out not to have been necessary, as the lab results come back on the creature they hit with the light, and it turns out that the creatures are specifically vulnerable to ultraviolet light that isn’t visible to the human or Vulcan eye. They could have done this without blinding Spock.
The Enterprise deploys a mess of satellites to blast the planet with UV, which succeeds in killing the creatures and curing the Denevans. And then Spock wanders onto the bridge, fully sighted. Turns out that Vulcans have an “inner eyelid” to protect them from Vulcan’s bright sun. So all is well.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The creatures are a kind of hive mind, with each one acting like an individual brain cell that infects a person to be controlled so they can use opposable thumbs and stuff. They’re also very sensitive to UV.
Fascinating. Spock can pull the most useless trivia out of his ass at a moment’s notice, but he has somehow totally forgotten about a biological facet of Vulcan eyes. Oh, and he once again suffers no consequences for assaulting fellow officers.
I’m a doctor not an escalator. McCoy doesn’t have the best day ever: Aurelan dies in his sickbay, Spock breaks out of sickbay twice, and he blinds Spock before getting the lab results back and discovering that he didn’t need to. To make matters worse, Spock knows that McCoy called him the best first officer in the fleet.
I cannot change the laws of physics! Scotty shows remarkable good sense in pulling a phaser on Spock after the latter throws him into a wall.
Hailing frequencies open. Uhura does a very nice job of explaining calmly to Kirk why she can’t get Aurelan back on the line, and while Kirk doesn’t apologize for being an ass, he at least stops blaming her for something that isn’t her fault.
Ahead warp one, aye. Sulu gets thrown across the bridge by Spock. In revenge, Sulu is one of the five people who subdue him.
Go put on a red shirt. Security totally fails to stop Spock from getting to the bridge from sickbay.
“My first sight was the face of Dr. McCoy bending over me.”
“‘Tis a pity your brief blindness did not increase your appreciation for beauty, Mr. Spock.”
Spock describing his emotional experience upon regaining sight, and McCoy telling him he’s a big stinky.
Welcome aboard. Joan Swift plays Aurelan and Craig Hundley plays Peter, with William Shatner doubling as the body of Kirk’s brother. Fred Carson and Jerry Catron play two other Denevans. Maurishka plays Zahra, the latest member of the Post-Rand Yeoman Derby, alongside recurring regulars James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, and Majel Barrett.
Trivial matters: This is the first time any family members of the crew have been seen, in Kirk’s brother, sister-in-law, and nephew. No mention is made of Kirk’s other two nephews, who were referenced in “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” alongside Kirk’s brother and sister-in-law. The only other crew member whose family will be seen on the series is Spock—we’ll meet his fiancée in “Amok Time” and his parents in “Journey to Babel.” The only other crew family we’ll meet will be in the films: Peter Preston, Scotty’s nephew, and David Marcus, Kirk’s son, in The Wrath of Khan; Demora Sulu, Sulu’s daughter, in Generations; Spock’s half-brother Sybok in The Final Frontier; and Kirk’s parents in the 2009 Star Trek.
Peter never gets any dialogue, as he’s unconscious for the whole episode, but he did have a scene filmed at the end where he talks with Kirk about how he’ll still live on Deneva with Sam’s partner, which is why Craig Hundley gets billing despite not having a speaking part (the scene was cut for time). The character never shows up again onscreen (nor is even mentioned), but he does appear in a goodly number of novels, stories, and comic books. Three of note are the novels Gemini by Mike W. Barr and Sarek by A.C. Crispin, and the comic book story “Bloodlines” by Ian Edginton, Carlos Mota, and Keith Aiken in WildStorm’s Star Trek Special.
The Vulcan inner eyelid will only be referenced once again on screen, in the Enterprise episode “The Forge,” though it will show up periodically in other bits of tie-in fiction.
Deneva is mentioned in any number of tie-in novels, particularly The Final Reflection by John M. Ford, Crucible: McCoy: Provenance of Shadows by David R. George III, and Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures by Christopher L. Bennett. The world was all but destroyed by the Borg in the Destiny trilogy by David Mack.
Scenes on Deneva were filmed at the TRW Space and Defense Park in Redondo Beach (which nowadays is the headquarters of Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Systems division).
The original draft of the episode did not involve Kirk’s family. James Blish’s adaptation in Star Trek 2 reflected that, and also didn’t include Spock being blinded or the inner eyelid.
Stephen W. Carabatsos had served as story editor on the show, and while he had left by this point, his contract obligated him to write at least one script. He wrote this one for the season finale, based on a concept Gene Roddenberry tossed at him.
Scotty makes a reference to how single-minded and determined Spock can be when he puts his mind to something, probably a reference to his actions in the framing sequence of “The Menagerie.”
This is one of only two Trek episodes to have an exclamation point as part of its title—the other is Voyager‘s “Bride of Chaotica!”—and the only one to have an em-dash as part of the title.
To boldly go. “I’m free!” This really had all the makings of a good episode, and it’s an impressive example of a total botch of it.
The first problem is that the central point of Kirk’s family being among those endangered is totally wasted because William Shatner’s performance is completely emotionally subdued. He should be feeling sad about losing his brother and sister-in-law and angry about the danger to his nephew, but mostly he just looks constipated. This is especially disheartening coming one episode after Shatner so totally sold Kirk’s falling in love with Edith Keeler.
On top of that, the artificial suspense of Spock’s blindness is tired. Leonard Nimoy is second in the opening credits and at this point was the most popular character on the show by a lot. There was no way he was going to stay blind. To make matters worse, the blindness was unnecessary (McCoy couldn’t wait ten minutes for the lab results?) and was handwaved in the most pathetic manner possible. The entire season has shown that Spock basically knows everything and has also gone to great lengths to show us how proud he is of his Vulcan heritage—yet he somehow totally forgets about the inner eyelid? Seriously?
On top of that, Spock breaks out of sickbay, disobeys orders, and assaults two crewmembers, actions which have absolutely no consequences, even though, at best, they show that Spock’s judgment is completely impaired, and at worst should get his halfbreed ass thrown in the brig.
In the end, we’re left with a hoary monster-of-the-week tale, as the crew are endangered by gooey omelettes that fly through the air, which are pathetic special effects even by the papier-mache-rock standards of Star Trek. A lackluster end to the season.
Warp factor rating: 2
Next week: Season 1 overview
Keith R.A. DeCandido‘s Heroes Reborn eBook novella Save the Cheerleader, Destroy the World is now available for preorder. One of six novellas tying into the new NBC series, Keith’s tale will be released on the 20th of November, and can be preordered from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Kobo.