“Is There In Truth No Beauty?”
Written by Jean Lisette Aroeste
Directed by Ralph Senensky
Season 3, Episode 7
Production episode 60043-62
Original air date: October 18, 1968
Captain’s log. The Enterprise is conveying Kollos, the Medusan ambassador to the Federation, back to his homeworld. The Medusans’ physical forms are sufficiently bizarre that no human can look upon one without going mad. Vulcans can only do so while wearing a special visor.
Ambassador Kollos’s aide, Larry Marvick, beams aboard first. Marvick is one of the designers of the Enterprise, so Kirk sends him off with Scotty so they can geeble about engines. Kirk then leaves Spock alone with a visor to beam Kollos aboard, along with his other aide, Dr. Miranda Jones, a telepath who studied on Vulcan. Jones greets Spock with a Vulcan salute, with Kollos kept in a box for everyone’s protection. Jones also wears a visor when beaming aboard.
Kirk clears the corridors so Kollos can move freely. Spock attaches an antigrav unit to Kollos’s box, and he and Jones (wearing visors again) take the ambassador to his quarters. We find out that Jones’s assignment is probationary, contingent on her achieving a proper mindlink with Kollos, and also that Spock was offered her position (possibly because his dad’s part of the Diplomatic Corps?) but turned it down to remain on the Enterprise.
Spock asks to exchange pleasantries with the ambassador, which permission Jones very reluctantly grants. The box opens, and Spock actually flinches a couple of times, but they exchange quick telepathic hellos. Once Spock leaves, Jones removes the visor and asks Kollos what Spock saw when he looked upon the ambassador. The box opens and has no effect on her. Curiouser and curiouser.
Later, Jones is invited to dinner in the captain’s mess. She says that she and Marvick are working on a way to integrate Medusans—who are expert navigators—into starships with humans. In addition, Kirk and McCoy drool all over Jones in a particularly tiresome way, though Jones deflects the flirting expertly.
Suddenly Jones gets a telepathic flash—someone on the ship is thinking of murder. After that, she excuses herself. McCoy and Kirk then carry on a bit more about how hot Jones is, resulting in Marvick pointing out that she deserves respect, something Kirk and McCoy ignore after everyone else leaves and they drool over her some more.
Marvick goes to Jones’s cabin, where we find out that Marvick is totally smitten with Jones, but Jones does not reciprocate those feelings even a little bit—not even when he kisses her, and she responds not at all.
And then she realizes that the person on board with murder in his thoughts is Marvick. She tries to help him, and he complains that he can only get a rise out of her when she views him as a patient. He tells her to be a woman instead of a psychologist and leaves in a huff, heading straight to Kollos’s quarters. But as soon as he whips out a phaser to kill the ambassador. Kollos defends himself in the most efficient way possible: he opens the box, which drives Marvick all binky-bonkers.
While Marvick goes to engineering, Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and a security detail report to the ambassador’s quarters. Jones reveals what happened, which she felt through her mindlink with Kollos, and Kirk puts an alert out for Marvick. As soon as Scotty hears that, he tries to stop Marvick, but he is, as stated, binky-bonkers, so he manages to beat up all the engineering staff on duty and send the ship careening out of the galaxy at warp 8.5 and accelerating.
Kirk goes with a security detail to engineering, along with Jones and McCoy. They subdue Marvick just as the Enterprise penetrates the galactic barrier. Jones tries to get through to him, but he’s too far gone. He collapses suddenly, dead, from no known cause.
The Enterprise went too far outside the galaxy and their speed was too fast for sensors to register what was happening. They can’t navigate back due to the lack of reference points. Um, okay. Spock suggests he mind-meld with Kollos, so they can, in essence, become one, Spock’s manual skills and knowledge of starship operations combining with Kollos’s natural ability to navigate that is far beyond those of mortal men to get them home.
However, the depths of Jones’s attachment to Kollos is such that Spock believes that she will refuse permission for the mind-meld. Rather than, y’know, ask her and assume that she’s not so petty that she’ll deny permission rather than actually go the fuck home, they remove her ability to make a decision and Kirk takes her to the arboretum to flirt with her some more while Spock does the mind-meld behind her back.
Jones explains why she couldn’t give Marvick back the love he had for her, and in general why human relationships are something she avoids: her telepathy makes it a minefield of pain and suffering. Kirk insists that some day she’ll yearn for someone who looks like her, who isn’t ugly like Kollos, but Jones reminds Kirk about the whole beauty-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder thing.
As soon as Spock enters Kollos’s quarters, Jones knows about it, and tries to stop him. Spock explains that he needs to mind-link because he knows the ship—and then McCoy drops the bombshell that she can’t do it because she’s blind. Kirk and Spock are gobsmacked, and Jones admits that she is blind and her beaded outfits are actually a sophisticated sensor web. This is why she doesn’t go insane at the sight of Kollos.
Jones refuses to grant permission for Spock to mind-meld with Kollos, so Kirk does the thing that he refused to allow her: have her ask Kollos what he wants. Turns out Kollos is willing to meld with Spock, and so Jones finally gives in.
Kollos is brought to the bridge and put behind a protective shield. Spock does the meld. When he emerges, Spock is both Kollos and Spock at the same time—knowing the crew intimately, but much more emotional, and also responding more to Jones. He assures Jones that “my world is next for us.” We also find out that Kollos feels some measure of responsibility for what happened, since he drove Marvick insane in the first place.
The Spock-Kollos gestalt takes the helm and sets them on a course for home, getting back through the barrier, and right back where they started. Now that the crisis is past, Kollos takes time to enjoy and lament the differences between his “body” and that of humanoids. He enjoys the sensations, but is appalled at how isolated they are.
The gestalt goes back behind the barrier to dissolve the link—but he forgets to bring the visor. It’s Spock’s turn to go binky-bonkers, and he starts beating everyone up on the bridge before Kirk stuns him with a phaser. There’s nothing McCoy can do for him unless Jones can reach him telepathically and bring him out of his insanity.
Against McCoy’s better judgment, Kirk goes to check on Jones, who has removed the sensor web so she can focus better. She insists that Spock is too far gone for her to help. Kirk believes she’s jealous of Spock, viewing him as a rival to her bond with Kollos. He yells at her and grabs her and throws her into the wall and does all sorts of things you probably shouldn’t do to the person you’re relying on to save your best friend’s life. To Jones’s credit, and Kirk’s lack of same, she still tries to save him.
And she succeeds. Spock feels like hell, but he’s no longer nuts.
The ship returns to the Medusan homeworld, and Jones admits that Kirk’s words allowed her to see her own jealousy and move past it to help Spock. McCoy wishes her well and regrets her departure, Kirk gives her a rose by way of apology, and Spock and Jones have a rapprochement as well. Spock puts on his visor and beams Jones and the ambassador down—yet Kirk is right there in the room and doesn’t have a visor!!! What the hell??????
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Somehow Marvick manages to send the Enterprise so far away that they have no reference points for navigation—except in intergalactic space, there are tons of reference points, to wit, all the galaxies that you’re sitting in between. If you just need to get back to your own galaxy, you can just look for it and head toward it. It’s not like there’s anything in the way to block your view…
Fascinating. Yet another opportunity for Leonard Nimoy to act un-Spock-like, as his mind-meld with Kollos lets him be all smiley and stuff. He also has an IDIC pin that he wears both as part of his dress uniform at the captain’s mess and again as a groovy necklace when he beams Jones and Kollos back home.
I’m a doctor not an escalator. McCoy figures out that Jones is blind, because he’s just that awesome. He also doesn’t reveal it until it becomes necessary, because he understands doctor-patient privilege. Because he’s just that awesome.
He also tells Jones that Vulcan is “not my idea of fun,” which is an understandable reaction considering what happened when he visited the place…
Ahead warp one, aye. Sulu’s the one who notices (too late) that Spock forgot to bring his visor with him to dissolve the mind-meld.
Hailing frequencies open. The Spock/Kollos gestalt says that Uhura’s name means “freedom” and then he quotes the title of Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty.” It’s also Exhibit C in the case for Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman NOT pulling the Spock-Uhura romance in the 2009 film and Star Trek Into Darkness completely out of their asses (see also “The Man Trap” and “Charlie X” for Exhibits A & B).
It’s a Russian invention. One could argue that Chekov saves the day, as his comment that a crazy person got them into the situation and a crazy person may be needed to get them out of it is what starts Spock’s mind turning on the idea of melding with Kollos.
I cannot change the laws of physics! Scotty is thrilled to have Marvick on board, giving him free rein of the engine room, which would probably be very generous and wonderful if Marvick wasn’t binky-bonkers.
Go put on a red shirt. Security does a good job of restraining Marvick in engineering. They are less effectual in subduing Spock on the bridge, mostly because it never occurs to any of them to fire a phaser at him. Good thing Kirk’s there to think of the blindingly obvious….
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Kirk, McCoy, and Marvick all express interest in Jones, ranging from the usual flirting from Kirk to flirting tinged with professional admiration from McCoy to out-and-out love so intense it makes him act like an idiot from Marvick. Jones, to her credit, expresses absolutely no interest in any of it.
Channel open. “And Uhura, whose name means freedom. ‘She walks in beauty, like the night.'”
“That’s not Spock.”
“Are you surprised to find that I’ve read Byron, Doctor?”
The Spock-Kollos gestalt waxing poetic with regards to Uhura, McCoy giving Kollos credit for all of it, the gestalt getting all pedantic, and McCoy changing his mind.
David Frankham plays Marvick. Frankham was 42 when the episode was filmed, and he looks younger. If he helped design the Enterprise, which is more than 15 years old (as established in “The Menagerie,” the events of “The Cage” take place 13 years prior to that episode), he did his work in his twenties. Not impossible, of course, especially for someone Scotty thinks so highly of, but it’s a bit of a head-scratcher.
We’ve also got recurring regulars George Takei, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, and Walter Koenig in their usual spots.
Trivial matters: This episode introduces the Vulcan concept of IDIC—infinite diversity in infinite combinations, which has become a cornerstone of the franchise, and truly sums up a lot of what Trek is all about. So it’s kind of hilarious that it was put in there at the request of Gene Roddenberry so he could sell IDIC pins through Lincoln Enterprises.
The title comes from the poem “Jordan (I)” by 17th-century English poet George Herbert: “Who says that fictions only and false hair / Become a verse? Is there in truth no beauty?”
Originally Jessica Walter was to play Jones, but she was unavailable, and director Ralph Senensky suggested Diana Muldaur, having enjoyed working with her in “Return to Tomorrow” and also in an episode of I, Spy. Senensky claimed to have put Muldaur in a wig in order to get around Trek‘s policy of not reusing guest actors, though the existence of such a policy would likely be refuted by William Campbell, Morgan Woodward, Mark Lenard, and others…
UCLA reference librarian Jean Lisette Aroeste submitted this as a spec script, which was read and purchased by Robert H. Justman. On the strength of this script, she was also hired to write “All Our Yesterdays” later in the season. They remain Aroeste’s only screen credits.
Marvick makes several appearances in tie-in fiction in his role as one of the designers of the Enterprise: Federation: The First 150 Years by David A. Goodman, the Enterprise novel Last Full Measure by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin, and the short story “Though Hell Should Bar the Way” by Greg Cox in Enterprise Logs.
To boldly go. “The glory of creation is in its infinite diversity.” I have a great fondness for this episode, because it’s a magnificent repudiation of 1960s sexism in general and the sexism often seen in Star Trek in particular.
Mind you, much of the sexism is about par for the course in Trek. McCoy’s the only person who even comes close to respecting Jones as a doctor, and it’s still couched in sexist nonsense. Kirk sees her only as someone to flirt with—compare his reaction to her versus his reaction to Daystrom in “The Ultimate Computer.” Daystrom is a scientist whom Kirk treats with respect; Jones being a scientist never seems to even penetrate ol’ Jimbo’s consciousness, except insofar as he expects her to give it up to marry someone eventually just like he did Palamas in “Who Mourns for Adonais?” The only person who mentions her accomplishments is Marvick, who seems to genuinely love her, but he can’t handle rejection, bitching at her for being a psychologist rather than a woman (as if the two are mutually exclusive).
Even Spock, the only one of the four men who interact with Jones who doesn’t flirt with her, refuses to grant her agency, urging Kirk to cut her completely out of the decision to mind-meld with Kollos. It doesn’t work, of course, but just the fact that that was Spock’s default position is appalling. It’s assuming that she’s just a hysterical woman—an argument we’ve seen make Spock before, in his pathetic explanation of why Redjac attacked women only—rather than allowing her to make her own decision.
And then there’s Kirk’s violent, abusive harangue of Jones in sickbay, which is a pretty awful way to treat a guest on your ship, never mind the person on whom you are relying to save your first officer’s life.
You might read those three previous paragraphs and wonder why I like the episode then, but it’s for this reason: at no point anywhere in the episode does Jones take any of their shit. She gently deflects Kirk’s (multiple) flirtations, mostly just ignores McCoy, and responds not even a little bit to Marvick’s unasked for kiss. And after Kirk treats her despicably, when she would have every right to just walk out on him or throw up her hands and say that there’s nothing to be done, she still went back in to telepathically save Spock’s life. We don’t get a Helen Noel or a Marla McGivers or a Carolyn Palamas or a Romulan commander, who all lose their professionalism to some degree or other due to meeting a hunka hunka burnin’ love (Jones, in fact, scoffs at the very notion, thanks to both her blindness and her telepathy).
The only part that I find irritating is her admitting that Kirk was right about her jealousy—but that was inevitable. It’s still Kirk’s show, ultimately, and he can’t be seen to be that wrong. It’s also to Kirk’s credit, though, that as soon as he exits sickbay he realizes that his bitching out of Jones was stupid.
On top of that, this episode continues the third season’s best feature, the introduction of actual alien aliens. Where the first two seasons gave us aliens who were very obviously people wearing makeup or rubber suits or the like, this year we also get a bunch who really come across as properly non-human: the Melkotians previously, and the Tholians and Excalbians coming up. The Medusans are a particularly impressive example of the breed, because their nature makes it impossible for us to get a good look at Kollos. It’s a clever use of the budgetary restrictions to give us a something that is truly other, and it’s greatly appreciated.
Warp factor rating: 6
Next week: “The Empath”
Rewatcher’s note: Back in 1987, one of the best reference works of its kind, Mr. Scott’s Guide to the Enterprise, was published, and it is one beloved by many Star Trek fans. Its author, Shane Johnson, has since transitioned and is now Lora Johnson, and she’s having some major medical issues relating to a heart defect, and needs help. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help her with the massive medical bills. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Keith R.A. DeCandido urges folks to support the crowdfunding campaign for Altered States of the Union, an alternate history anthology edited by Glenn Hauman for Crazy 8 Press and ComicMix, featuring a story by your humble rewatcher about the Conch Republic of the Florida Keys, as well as stories by Trek scribes David Gerrold, Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, and Aaron Rosenberg, as well as Debra Doyle & James D. Macdonald, Brendan DuBois, Malon Edwards, G.D. Falksen, Alisa Kwitney, Gordon Linzner, Sarah McGill, Mackenzie Reide, Ian Randal Strock, Ramon Terrell, and more besides! The book will launch at Shore Leave 38 in July.