Original Air Date: April 13, 1967
Writer: Steven Carabatsos
Director: Herschel Daugherty
“I cannot let it spread beyond this colony even if it means destroying a million people down there.”
A plague of insanity has been sweeping across the galaxy, infecting a string of planetary civilizations one at a time. The spread first began in the Beta Portolan System, a system filled with ancient civilizations beginning with the planet Levinius V, then Theta Cygni XII, then Ingraham B, and now the plague of madness has hit the next planet, Deneva (a place which has not been contacted by the Federation in about a year). As the Enterprise approaches Deneva, Uhura struggles to make contact with any major transmitting station on the planet. Kirk suggests trying “GSK-783” on subspace frequency 3 –a private transmitter. We soon learn that Kirk’s brother Sam is stationed on Deneva with his family. Sulu announces that Enterprise sensors have picked up a Denevan ship which is headed directly for the system’s sun, the Enterprise attempts to intercept the ship, but all they receive is a strange communication of someone muttering they are finally free as the Denevan ship burns up in the sun. It is a dark and tragic fate for an apparently suicidal group of people.
Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Yeoman Zahra, and crewman Bobby beam down to the planet surface and they are soon accosted by a band of club-brandishing madmen apparently attempting to “brain” the Enterprise crew. Inside a building, Kirk finds his nephew Peter Kirk (Craig Huxley) and sister-in-law Aurelan Kirk () among others who are being mentally tormented by strange parasitic beings: single-celled creatures who fly through the air and are mostly immune to phaser fire. Worst of all, they possess a kind of hive mind. They appear to be slimy, pulsating creatures as if some mix of jellyfish and starfish which fly and stick to the walls. One of the creatures attacks Spock and the pain sends him into a frenzy, but as a Vulcan, Spock soon discovers that he can control himself. Dr. McCoy studies the situation and learns that these creatures inject a certain substance into its victims spinal columns.
Kirk hosts a senior staff meeting and pushes his fellow crewmen to discover a way to destroy the neural parasites. Kirk recalls the ship from the outset whose pilot announced they were finally free before burning up in the sun. They decide to try burning the parasites with visible light, and it works! They destroy a creature in sickbay and Spock volunteers for exposure to ultraviolet light which kills the parasitic infection but sadly strikes Spock blind. The Enterprise beams ultraviolet light down onto the surface of Deneva via satellites burning tri-magnesite and trevium killing all the neural parasites. It saves a million people. And just before the Enterprise departs, Spock notes that his eyes have actually recovered as a result of his superior Vulcan biological heritage. The Enterprise speeds away at Warp Factor One.
I thought this was a mostly great episode, somewhat in line with “Devil In The Dark” in that we are introduced to another a-typical hostile alien species. Wah Chang did an absolutely terrific job creating these little flying creatures filled with apparently “fake vomit.” The effect creates an unsettling parasite that foreshadows the face-huggers in the Alien series. We also learn a bit of personal information about Kirk and Spock, and it was nice to see a brief reappearance of Majel Barrett as Nurse Chapel. It is not the strongest episode of Star Trek, but still an enjoyable adventure to end the first season of Star Trek.
This was the first episode of the series to be directed by Herschel Daugherty (1910-1993). Mr. Daugherty would later direct Season Three’s “The Savage Curtain” as well.
Writer Steven W. Carabatsos (1938-Present) was the editor of Star Trek between the tenures of John D. F. Black and D. C. Fontana. He was obligated to complete this script while departing from Star Trek.
Star Trek Trivia:
- This episode is widely known for William Shatner playing both the roles of Captain Kirk and his brother, a moustache-brandishing Sam Kirk.
- The original title for this episode was “Operation: Destroy.” It had a somewhat different set of characters which were later rewritten to appear closer to Kirk.
- The set for Deneva is actually the Space Park in Redondo Beach, CA where the offices of Northrop Grumman offices currently reside. The scene outside of Sam Kirk’s laboratory was filmed on the campus of UCLA.
- The neural parasites were created by prop designer Wah Chang from bags of “fake vomit.”
- Brightness of the Vulcan sun allowed for an advanced evolution of the optical nerve of Spock and other Vulcans like him.
- This was the first appearance in Star Trek for child actor Craig Hundley who played Peter Kirk, Captain Kirk’s nephew. He would later also portray Tommy Starnes in the third season episode “And the Children Shall Lead.” In the draft of this episode, there was one scene of Peter Kirk edited out of the final episode, leaving Peter’s future in question.
- Apparently, Steven Carabatsos had already technically left his role with the show as story editor by the time this episode was made, though eh was contractually obligated to complete it.