“The Mark of Gideon”
Written by George F. Slavin and Stanley Adams
Directed by Jud Taylor
Season 3, Episode 17
Production episode 60043-72
Original air date: January 17, 1969
Captain’s log. The Enterprise has arrived at Gideon, a planet whose entry into the Federation has been delayed by the natives’ refusal to allow any delegations to the planet, nor any sensor surveys (which makes you wonder why they’re being considered in the first place). They’ve finally agreed to a delegation of one: the captain of the Enterprise, requested specifically.
Spock beams Kirk to coordinates provided by Gideon and relayed to Spock by Uhura. Kirk dematerializes and rematerializes on the transporter platform—but the room is empty. As is the rest of the ship. According to the viewscreen, the ship is still in orbit of Gideon, but the other 400+ people are gone. He also has a bruised arm that he doesn’t know how he got, and based on the Enterprise chronometer, he’s missing nine minutes.
Ambassador Hodin contacts the Enterprise, wondering where Kirk is, as he never materialized in the council chambers. Hodin confirms the coordinates provided, and refuses to allow Spock to beam down to investigate. He promises that they will search for Kirk on the surface while Spock should check the ship for malfunction. Spock grumpily tells Uhura to contact Starfleet while ordering Sulu to search space for Kirk just in case.
Kirk finally finds another person on the Enterprise: a woman named Odona, who doesn’t know how she got there, and assumes Kirk brought her. The last thing she remembers is being in an overcrowded place. She’s thrilled at all the space and freedom of the Enterprise corridor. Odona has never heard of Gideon, and has no idea how she got on board. Kirk takes her to the bridge, only to see they’re no longer in orbit of Gideon, but moving through space.
Hodin contacts Spock and assures him that Kirk is nowhere to be found on Gideon. Spock manages to convince Hodin to let Spock beam down to test the transporter. Hodin first asks that they beam one of his fellow councillors, Kroda, to the ship. Scotty does so—but the coordinates provided have two numbers flipped from what Uhura received earlier.
Even as Uhura attempts to Starfleet Command, who have been slow in responding to their requests for orders on how to more effectively get their captain back, their captain tries to contact Starfleet Command also. But of course he receives no response, though he is able to take the ship out of warp speed.
Odona would love to stay alone on the ship with Kirk forever. She loves the open space, and Kirk playfully assures her that there’s enough power and food to last a lifetime. Odona dreams of being alone, which surprises Kirk. But she sadly proclaims that there is no place where one can be by oneself where she’s from. He comforts her and smooches her—and when he’s busy staring at her, the viewscreen changes to a huge number of people watching.
Kirk takes Odona to sickbay so he can treat the bruise on his arm. But he hears a noise, one the Enterprise doesn’t make—and which seems to be coming from outside the ship. They go to a viewing port, and they see more faces staring at them—but then it reverts to a star pattern. Odona is frightened, and Kirk wonders if the noise was thousands of people pressing against the ship. But if they’re in space, people can’t be out there.
Odona starts to feel faint, and she collapses. Kirk tries to bring her to sickbay, but he is stopped by Hodin and two guards, who take her away. Odona is Hodin’s daughter, and she is ill—but Hodin is grateful for it. He takes Odona away. Hodin explains that they requested Kirk specifically because he once contracted Vegan choriomeningitis. They extracted the virus from his blood and infected Odona.
Admiral Fitzgerald refuses to grant Spock permission to beam down, even though he now knows that Kirk wasn’t beamed to the council chambers. Spock decides to disobey orders and beam down anyhow. He goes to the original coordinates, and also arrives in the transporter room of the faux Enterprise.
Hodin brings Kirk to the council chambers and explains the situation: Gideon’s atmosphere is germ-free, and the people suffer no disease, are able to regenerate, and grow to extreme old age. It has resulted in horrible overpopulation, as they also believe life is sacred—and apparently they’ve never heard of condoms and diaphragms. (More invasive birth control wouldn’t work, thanks to their regenerative capabilities.)
Odona’s fever rises, and she calls for Kirk. Hodin had been hoping Kirk would stay willingly having fallen in love with Odona—apparently the same intelligence about his medical history also mentioned his rather extensive love life—but he refuses to dedicate his life to making them all terminally ill.
Spock takes down the Gideon guards and has Scotty beam himself, Kirk, and Odona to the real Enterprise, to Hodin’s dismay. McCoy cures Odona, and she apologizes for deceiving Kirk. However, now that she has the disease in her blood, she can serve the purpose Kirk was going to: being the carrier of the disease for all who want to volunteer to die to make Gideon livable again. She and Kirk exchange pleasant goodbyes and Odona goes down to the surface.
Fascinating. For someone whose father is a diplomat, Spock sure has a lot of nasty things to say about the profession over the course of this episode.
I’m a doctor not an escalator. McCoy offers to beam down with Spock to Gideon, but Spock refuses because he can’t allow someone under his command to disobey Starfleet orders.
Ahead warp one, aye. Sulu expresses dismay at Starfleet’s rather bland reaction to Kirk going missing.
Hailing frequencies open. Uhura shows initiative by going straight to the Bureau of Planetary Treaties, though they insist she go through Starfleet channels.
It’s a Russian invention. Chekov mostly gets to sit around and fret. Oh, and copy down the coordinates that Hodin provides, for whatever reason.
I cannot change the laws of physics! Scotty is outraged at the accusation by Hodin of the transporter malfunctioning. This prompts Hodin to make a delightfully snide comment about Spock’s “excitable repairman.”
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Kirk and Odona flirt pretty impressively, and Kirk remains charming even after he finds out she lied to get infected by him. He respects her sacrifice, even if he doesn’t agree with it, and they part on remarkably mature terms.
Channel open. “We must acknowledge once and for all that the purpose of diplomacy is to prolong a crisis.”
A 100% out-of-character comment for Spock, given (a) who his Dad is and (b) the oft-stated Vulcan preference for talking over violence.
Welcome aboard. Gene Dynarski, last seen as one of the miners in “Mudd’s Women,” plays Krodak; he’ll return on TNG as Quinteros in “11001001.” Richard Derr, last seen as a commodore in “The Alternative Factor,” plays an admiral here. Sharon Acker plays Odona and David Hurst plays Hodin, along with recurring regulars George Takei, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, and Walter Koenig.
Trivial matters: This episode grew out of Stanley Adams’s concerns about overpopulation. He expressed them to Gene Roddenberry when he was on the set playing Cyrano Jones in “The Trouble with Tribbles.” Roddenberry encouraged him to write a story treatment for an episode that addressed the issue, and this was the result. It is one of the few times an actor from the show has received a writing credit in Trek.
Vegan chroriomeningitis will be mentioned again in the novels Invasion!: Time’s Enemy by L.A. Graf and Gateways: Doors Into Chaos by Robert Greenberger and the videogame Voyager: Elite Force. The Federation Bureau of Planetary Treaties will be referenced again on TNG in “The Ensigns of Command.”
There is a scene in James Blish’s adaptation in Star Trek 6 that is not in the episode that may have been in the original script, in which Odona scorches off the tip of one of her fingers and it regenerates. It’s possible that it was not included for budgetary reasons.
To boldly go. “I already have one serious problem to resolve with upper echelons.” Only in the budget-razed third season of Star Trek could you have an episode about the dangers of overpopulation in which the primary visual is a bunch of empty corridors.
Which is one of many ways in which this episode doesn’t make sense. The Enterprise is huge—a thousand feet long—and you expect me to believe that the folks on Gideon just built a perfect replica in the middle of their incredibly overpopulated planet? I’m sorry, but there’s no way it makes sense that a world whose overpopulation is so bad that there are no surfaces left to be alone in that they would then construct an entire flipping starship and leave it empty.
Also, why does the Federation even want these people? It’s not the best idea to let a world into your little club that won’t even let you look at the planet.
While the verbal fencing back on the Enterprise has its moments, it’s all fairly rote, and mostly is there as episode filler. It also makes very little sense that Starfleet Command would be so blasé about Kirk’s disappearance and not view it as a major diplomatic incident. Nothing about Gideon indicates that it’s important enough to cater to them as much as Starfleet does, certainly not enough to justify not investigating a captain’s disappearance. In addition, hearing Spock dismiss the profession of diplomat is just wrong on every level. Plus, the fact that it takes so long for anyone to say anything about the changed coordinates is maddening. Spock or Uhura should have said something the moment Krodak’s coordinates were provided, yet Spock waits until after he hears from Starfleet and even then, he has to explain it to the crew, who all seem surprised. (Weren’t any of them paying attention????)
The one part of the episode that works is the chemistry between Kirk and Odona. Sharon Acker and William Shatner play off each other quite well. In addition, David Hurst does a superb job as the deliberately obfuscatory Hodin, from his oily fake politeness to Spock and the crew to his paternal concern for Odona to his passionate defense of his idiotic actions to Kirk. In fact, it’s a good thing that Acker is so compelling, because she’s the only reason why anyone should even consider the possibility of caring what happens on Gideon. As it is, the people come across as assholes who should be left to stew in their own juices. There are so many better solutions to their problem (Kirk mentions a few, plus some people could, y’know, relocate) than people volunteering to die of an awful disease.
Warp factor rating: 4
Next week: “The Lights of Zetar”
Keith R.A. DeCandido will not go gently into that good night.