Stardate: 5431.4 (2268)
Original Air Date: September 20, 1968
Writer: Lee Cronin (Gene L. Coon)
Director: Marc Daniels
“What have you done with Spock’s brain?”
At last, we arrive at the infamous season three opener which many fans regard as the worst episode in the whole series! A strange object is rapidly moving through space toward the enterprise via ion propulsion at a high velocity. Scotty marvels at its beauty –it even has its own internal atmosphere. Suddenly, a female humanoid lifeform appears on the bridge. She pushes a button attached to her wrist which essentially renders all lifeforms on the Enterprise unconscious –we later learn her name is Kara (Marj Dusay).
When the crew awaken, they find that Spock is missing. He is later found in sickbay on a table. Is he dead? No, he is “worse than dead” –his brain missing! Thanks to his Vulcan autonomic functions, Spock’s body is able to survive absent his brain. Kirk decides to track down the thieves. With only twenty-four hours left to relocate Spock’s brain, the Enterprise begins following the ion trail of the invading ship. It leads them into the Sigma Draconis system where there are nine planets (three of them Class M). The third planet is categorized with a Letter B on the industrial scale (or the Earth equivalent of the year 1485), the fourth planet is categorized with the letter G (or the Earth equivalent of the year 2030), but the sixth planet has no sign of industrial development with a surface-level sapient life form living in a primitive state. Kirk and the crew deliberate over which planet to investigate, ultimately deciding on Sigma Draconis VI.
With time running out, a landing party encounters a primitive glacial planet where they are accosted by a band of hostile natives. After the scuffle these “Morgs” speak of others on the planet who visit and offer “pain and delight.” With a braindead Spock following the landing party, the crew find an underground cave where they meet Luma (Sheila Leighton), an “Eymorg,” and they receive a communicator transmission of Spock’s brain. However, they are quickly captured and learn these Eymorgs live under the rule of a great Controller which turns out to be Spock’s disembodied brain (his brain replaced an older Controller). The Controller keeps their civilization functioning. The Eymorgs were able to steal Spock’s brain via “old knowledge” from the builders of this civilization, a “Teacher” which turns out to be a computer. The Teacher provides knowledge that only lasts for a mere three hours. Dr. McCoy is given knowledge from The Teacher but he soon loses it so he is forced to rely on his own medical knowledge to revive Spock. Somehow, Spock himself is able to assist Dr. McCoy in the surgical procedure to reattach his brain (his vocal cords are attached first??).
The episode ends with Kirk assuring Kara that the women (or Eymorgs) can learn to live peacefully with the surface-level men (Morgs) on Sigma Draconis VI. Spock blabbers on about this civilization and Dr. McCoy whimsically regrets reattaching Spock’s brain.
This is surely a far cry from “Balance of Terror” or “The City on the Edge of Forever,” but at least it shows the versatility of a 1960s science fiction show. For all its faults, and there are many, I would still rank “Spock’s Brain” above “The Omega Glory” and “The Alternative Factor” and perhaps a few other season three episodes.
This is quite literally mindless entertainment –colorful and silly, campy and clumsy—I still enjoyed this ridiculous adventure, almost as if it had a laugh track. What makes this episode doubly absurd is that it stands out as the third season’s opening episode, rather than some late season filler. What can I say about this episode that has not already been said before? The brain in a vat concept has also been already used in “The Gamesters of Triskelion” –cue the Descartes memes. How is Spock’s brain able to communicate to the crew via a communicator? Who are the ancient builders of this planet? Are they connected to the Old Ones as featured in “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” And why did they select Spock? How did they come upon the Enterprise? How are they able to survive as a civilization with such rampant institutional forgetfulness? There are many questions to be raised here, but perhaps it’s best to simply remove our brains and simply enjoy a goofy show for a while.
Former producer Gene L. Coon was still under contract to write a few more episodes for the show. Some suggest he wrote this script as a joke, or perhaps as a jab at NBC executives, hence why he used the pseudonym “Lee Cronin.” However, his original script received significant revisions before it was made into an episode.
This episode was Marc Daniels’s final episode. He was apparently sick of the chaotic production of Star Trek as well as budget cuts among other frustrations, though he did remain involved during the brief Animated Series.
Star Trek Trivia:
- Almost everyone involved in this episode has publicly condemned it. William Shatner called this one of the series’ worst episodes, in his 2008 book he labeled the episode’s plot a “tribute” to NBC executives who slashed the show’s budget and placed it in a bad time slot. Leonard Nimoy wrote: “Frankly, during the entire shooting of that episode, I was embarrassed—a feeling that overcame me many times during the final season of Star Trek.”
- With many other critical production crewmembers leaving the show, Marc Daniels joined their ranks. This was his last episode.
- At this point, NBC moved Star Trek from 8:30pm to 10:00pm on Friday nights.
- The third season was only made possible by the efforts of numerous Star Trek fans, not least of whom was Bjo Trimble, who wrote countless letters to the studio to keep the show alive.