“Day of the Dove”
Written by Jerome Bixby
Directed by Marvin Chomsky
Season 3, Episode 11
Production episode 60043-66
Original air date: November 1, 1968
Captain’s log. Kirk, McCoy, Chekov, and Lieutenant Johnson from security beam down to Beta XII-A, phasers ready, responding to a report of a human colony being attacked by an unknown ship. But Chekov detects no sign of the colony nor of any sign that it was destroyed, or even that it ever existed, and McCoy reads no life signs.
Then Spock calls from the Enterprise—there’s a Klingon ship approaching. However, Sulu scans the Klingon ship and discovers that it’s disabled, with multiple explosions. Commander Kang beams down with a landing party and strikes Kirk, accusing him of firing on his ship and disabling it, while Kirk accuses Kang of destroying the colony on the planet.
And even as Kirk and Kang confront each other, there’s this swirly thing floating nearby…
The Klingons on the planet have the upper hand, and Kang orders Kirk to surrender his ship to Kang. Kirk refuses, so Kang offers to torture the members of the landing party one by one. Chekov volunteers to go first by accusing the Klingons of killing his brother Piotr, one of a hundred killed on Archanis IV.
One of Kang’s officers tortures Chekov until Kirk gives in and agrees to call the ship. Kang urges Kirk not to try anything crazy, and Kirk says he’ll beam them on board—once there, no tricks. Kang fails his saving throw versus “clever wordplay” and agrees. Kirk orders Spock to beam everyone up in a wide field, but also covertly signals him. Scotty beams the landing party up, but holds everyone not in the party in the transporter buffer until Johnson can summon two more security guards. Kang and his people materialize and are taken prisoner. Kirk also beams the remaining survivors off of Kang’s disabled ship, including his wife and science officer, Mara. Mara expects them to be tortured, but Kirk surprises them by confining them to the crew lounge and ordering the food synthesizers to be programmed to suit their needs. (Given what we found out about Klingon food in TNG‘s “A Matter of Honor” and beyond, it’s probably for the best that we didn’t get a lunch scene.)
Kirk orders the sector searched, as they still don’t know what actually happened to the colony. Spock points out that Kang’s ship was too far away to have been responsible. Chekov and McCoy, though, are sure the Klingons are involved, and both of them are way more bloodthirsty on the subject than usual.
On the bridge, Uhura reports that they can’t get through to Starfleet Command. Sulu scuttles the Klingon ship for reasons that are never made clear, then they leave orbit.
The swirly thing is now on board, and gadding about the ship.
In the crew lounge, Kang still plans to take the Enterprise, unconcerned with the fact that they are forty against four hundred.
Back on the bridge, Uhura still can’t get through to anyone, and then the Enterprise suddenly changes course: neither Sulu nor Scotty can get control of the ship, which is now hurtling out of the galaxy at warp nine. Uhura reports that emergency bulkheads have closed all over the ship, trapping 392 of the crew. Kirk immediately goes to Kang, who is amused at being accused of sabotage he could not possibly have performed while trapped in the lounge.
Suddenly, various items in the lounge transform into swords—as do the phasers held by Kirk, Johnson, and the other security guards. A melee ensues, with Johnson badly wounded. He’s taken to sickbay while Kirk reports to the bridge, the Klingons now free to roam the ship, the Starfleet crew now also all armed with blades.
Spock points out that neither they nor the Klingons have the technology to transmute matter like this. Plus, even if it was the Klingons, why give the Starfleet crew the same weapons?
Chekov leaves his post, hungry for revenge for his brother Piotr—except after he leaves, Sulu says that Chekov’s an only child. Spock also detects an alien life force on board, and it’s probably responsible for everything that’s happening that doesn’t make sense. McCoy comes to the bridge and goes on a very un-McCoy-like harangue about how they should wipe out all the Klingon murderers and how Kirk and Spock need to act like military men.
Scotty checks the armory, only to find that the phasers have been replaced by more bladed weapons. He grabs himself a Claymore…
Kang’s people take over engineering and shut off life support to the rest of the ship. Scotty reports to the bridge and goes on an anti-Klingon rant that then becomes an anti-Vulcan rant against Spock, at which point Spock and Scotty almost come to blows. Kirk manages to get everyone under control, and is more determined than ever to find the alien.
Then life support comes back online. Sulu has no idea how it happened, and neither does Mara. Kang, frustrated at the power that supports their battle but starves their victory, sends Mara to physically cut off the life support systems on deck six.
However, she runs into Chekov, who kills her escort, and then decides that Mara’s reeeeeeal purty and starts to sexually assault her. Kirk sees this and promptly beats the shit out of him before Spock stops him.
Kirk tries to appeal to Mara to help them stop the alien, but Mara says nothing in reply, refusing to cooperate. They bring her and the now-unconscious Chekov to sickbay. McCoy reveals that all his patients’ wounds are healing on their own—the swirly thing is keeping the numbers consistent and equal.
In the corridor, Kirk, Spock, and Mara see the swirly thing. Kirk tries talking to it, but then Johnson shows up, having checked himself out of sickbay, and insists on killing the Klingons no matter what. He refuses Kirk’s orders to stand down, and then attacks Kirk, though Spock is able to neck-pinch him.
Spock reports that the swirly thing’s energy level increased when Johnson was ranting and raving, then decreased when Johnson fell unconscious. Kirk and Spock hypothesize that it feeds on hatred, and also has created a situation that allows it to maintain a constant state of violence: edged weapons that are more brutal, exacerbating race hatreds, keeping resources and numbers equal.
Kirk contacts Kang, who refuses to even speak to Kirk. Scotty reports that the dilithium crystals are deteriorating. Soon the ship will be adrift. Reluctantly, Kirk tries to use Mara’s life as leverage, but Kang calls the bluff, saying that Mara is a victim of war, and she understands. (No one mentions the fact that Kirk could kill Mara all he wants, she’s gonna come back…)
When Mara realizes it’s a bluff, she agrees to help Kirk to convince Kang of the truth. Kirk and Mara beam directly to engineering. Mara tries to get Kang to listen to reason, but he refuses (the torn tunic doesn’t help). Kirk and Kang clash swords, but only the sight of the alien gives Kang pause. Finally, Kirk throws away his weapon and tells Kang to kill him—it won’t matter, he’ll be resurrected to keep fighting. Mara insists that she would never lie for Kirk.
Finally, Kang tosses his weapon aside, saying Klingons kill for their own reasons, not somebody else’s.
Kirk has Uhura put them on shipwide, and both Kirk and Kang declare hostilities to cease. Everyone stops fighting. Then, at Spock’s suggestion, they engage in good spirits to help drive it out. Kirk and Kang laugh with each other (Kang slapping Kirk hard enough on the back to cause Kirk to stumble forward a foot) and the swirly thing leaves, denied its lunch.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Kirk and Mara go to engineering by beaming there from the transporter room. Intraship beaming is described by Spock as risky, and this is the only time it is attempted on the original series. By the 24th century of the first three spinoffs, it will become commonplace.
Fascinating. Fittingly, Spock’s version of getting “angry” is to talk in a much lower monotone than usual and then try to pound Scotty on the head.
I’m a doctor not an escalator. McCoy, upon realizing that they’re being manipulated by the swirly thing, abashedly apologizes for his bloodthirsty ranting and raving on the bridge.
Ahead warp one, aye. This is the second time Sulu gets to wield a sword, both times due to external factors forcing him into it, though at least he’s in his right mind, unlike in “The Naked Time.” While swordfighting will be part of Sulu’s character in many works of tie-in fiction, the character won’t be seen wielding a sword again until the 2009 Star Trek.
He’s also the only speaking crew member who is never seen to be affected by the swirly thing.
It is a Russian invention. It is established that Chekov is an only child, which is why the swirly thing invents a dead brother for him to grieve over.
Hailing frequencies open. The swirly thing only affects Uhura insofar as it makes her frustrated with her inability to communicate with anyone outside the ship.
I cannot change the laws of physics! Scotty has an affection for Claymores and is turned into a racist by the swirly thing, referring to Spock as a green-blooded halfbreed, urging him to transfer out, and calling him a freak.
Go put on a red shirt. Thanks to the swirly thing, redshirts can die and come back! It’s like Christmas!
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. The swirly thing, in addition to giving Chekov a phantom dead sibling, also turns him into a rapist.
Channel open. “You killed my brother!”
“And you volunteer to join him. That is loyalty.”
Chekov wanting vengeance, and Kang accepting the offer.
Welcome aboard. Susan Howard plays Mara, the first Klingon woman we’ve seen on screen, while Mark Tobin plays another Klingon. David L. Ross, having been killed as Galloway in “The Omega Glory,” comes back as a totally different security guard named Johnson in this one. (He’ll be back as Galloway, miraculously resurrected, in “Turnabout Intruder.”) And we have recurring regulars George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, and Walter Koenig.
But the big guest is the great Michael Ansara bringing tremendous gravitas to the role of Kang, a role he inhabited so perfectly that he was asked back twice to reprise the role, in DS9‘s “Blood Oath” and Voyager‘s “Flashback.”
Trivial matters: Jerome Bixby’s script originally called for Kor from “Errand of Mercy” to return, but John Colicos was busy filming Anne of the Thousand Days and was unavailable, so the role of Kang was created. Kor and Kang (and Koloth from “The Trouble with Tribbles“) would later be established as old friends in DS9‘s “Blood Oath.”
This episode establishes the Klingons’ preference for bladed weapons, which will become even more codified in the spinoff series, and also their predilection for hunting. Two lines from the episode also become known in tie-in fiction as Klingon sayings: “four thousand throats may be cut in a single night by a running man” and “only a fool fights in a burning house.”
We see this episode from the perspective of Kang and his crew in the comic book Blood Will Tell #4 by Scott & David Tipton and David Messina. That comic established that Kang’s ship that was destroyed at the top of the episode was called the Voh’tahk and also named much of Kang’s crew. Your humble rewatcher used the crew established in that story in his and J.K. Woodward’s comic Alien Spotlight: Klingons (which focused on Kang, and which has “four thousand throats may be cut in a single night by a running man” as its theme), and again in his novella “The Unhappy Ones” in Seven Deadly Sins.
Among the many other tie-in appearances by Kang: Pawns and Symbols by Majliss Larson; the My Brother’s Keeper trilogy by Michael Jan Friedman; Forged in Fire by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin; the Seekers series by David Mack, Dayton Ward, & Kevin Dilmore; Traitor Winds by L.A. Graf; Mere Anarchy: The Blood-Dimmed Tide by Howard Weinstein; issues #77-80 of DC’s second monthly Star Trek comic by Kevin Ryan, Rachel Ketchum, and Steve Erwin; “A Bad Day for Koloth” by David DeLee in Strange New Worlds 9; and your humble rewatcher’s The Art of the Impossible and The Klingon Art of War.
The swirly thing will reappear in two works by Greg Cox: The Q-Continuum trilogy, which gives the creature’s origin, and the short story “Night of the Vulture” in Tales of the Dominion War, which has the creature having a blast during that 24th-century war.
Kang references the treaty between the Klingons and the Federation, established in “The Trouble with Tribbles” as the Organian Peace Treaty, signed following “Errand of Mercy.” He also says 1) that it was three years previous, when it was only about a year and a bit, but whatever and 2) that the Klingons have observed the treaty “to the letter,” which is a generous interpretation of Arne Darvin’s sabotage in “Tribbles.”
Kang tells Kirk that the Klingons have no devil, though TNG‘s “Devil’s Due” will establish that there is a kind of Klingon devil, Fek’lhr (though Fek’lhr is more like Charon than Lucifer), and Kor will use the phrase “deal with the devil” when speaking to Kang in “Blood Oath.”
To boldly go. “We need no urging to hate humans!” I have written a rather absurd amount of Klingon fiction over the years, starting with my first-ever Trek novel, Diplomatic Implausibility, which primarily took place on a Klingon ship, all the way to my most recent Trek fictional work, The Klingon Art of War. I have a great fondness for Klingons, one that goes all the way back to, well, this very episode, and it’s primarily due to Michael Ansara’s Kang.
Good antagonists are important in dramatic fiction, because unworthy antagonists make for weak protagonists. Strong bad guys make the good guys’ victories that much more impressive and sweeter. In Kang, we have the Klingon equivalent of Kirk. He’s smart, stubborn, clever, determined, thoughtful, and he’s got the best voice ever.
Way back when I was first watching Trek as a little kid in reruns on Channel 11 in New York City, I remember being utterly captivated by Kang, precisely because I actually believed he could take over the Enterprise, that he could beat Kirk. He was just that much of a badass. He wasn’t played as just a dumb savage, in particular at the climax where you can see the wheels turning as the swirly thing goes red and Kirk and Mara try to talk sense into him.
Once again, we have a script that takes the razed budget of the third season and puts it to good use. The contrivances of the story are actually made part of the story—specifically arranged by the swirly thing to further its agenda. So the limited number of crew, the edged weapons (no special effects!), the use almost entirely of standing sets (plus the generic empty planet set), it’s all in service to the plot while still saving money.
It’s easy to lose track of Susan Howard, trapped as she is in the shadow of Ansara’s magnificence, but that does a disservice to Howard’s Mara, who follows very nicely in the footsteps of Miranda Jones and Natira (and, to a much lesser degree, of Elaan, Miramanee, Gem, and the Romulan commander) of strong female characters in this third season. Mara’s refusal to talk to Kirk until Kang calls his bluff of killing Mara is beautifully played by Howard, her facial expressions showing the character’s defiance, her curiosity, and her confusion. Just a superlative performance, with the only sop to her gender being Chekov’s awful attempted rape—which is shown as yet more deviant behavior alongside Spock and Scotty’s bigotry and McCoy and Johnson’s bloodthirstiness.
The episode’s primary flaw is in the main actors’ inability to convincingly be assholes. DeForest Kelley, William Shatner, David Ross, and James Doohan all are incredibly artificial in their craziness. Yes, it’s imposed from the outside, but that shouldn’t make it unconvincing. The exceptions are Leonard Nimoy, who wisely underplays it, and Walter Koenig, who actually is quite effective as a revenge-crazed rapist and murderer. (Certainly more so than he was as an ambitious snot in “Mirror, Mirror.”)
Warp factor rating: 9
Next week: “Plato’s Stepchildren”
Keith R.A. DeCandido will be Author Guest of Honor at Ro-Con 2 in Mystic, Connecticut this weekend, alongside Local Media GoH Chion Wolf, Metageek GoH Jeff Mach, Science GoH Ken Fink, and Guest of Awesome D.L. Carter. Keith will be selling and signing books and also doing programming. His full schedule is here.