Stardate: 5630.7 (2268)
Original Air Date: October 18, 1968
Writer: Jean Lisette Aroeste
Director: Ralph Senensky
“A madman got us into this
and it’s beginning to look as if only a madman can get us out.”
The Enterprise has been assigned to convey the Medusan ambassador to the Federation back to his home planet. The Medusans are unusual alien creatures –their thoughts are said to be the “the most sublime in the galaxy” while their physical appearance is exactly the opposite. They are formless and apparently hideous, causing total madness to any human who simply catches a glimpse. While the Medusans beam aboard the Enterprise, Kirk and the others leave the transporter room as Spock remains behind wearing a unique visor intended to block any maddening effects caused by sight of the Medusan ambassador. A female telepath named Dr. Miranda Jones (Diana Muldaur) beams aboard –she has studied on the planet Vulcan– and alongside her is the ambassador named Kollos, though he remains enclosed inside a protective vehicle. They are also joined by Larry Marvick (David Frankham).
The Enterprise speeds away at Warp Factor 2 while Spock requests the opportunity to exchange greetings with the ambassador. Later over dinner, they discuss Dr. Jones’s work with Kollos –how can she work alongside an ambassador who has the potential to drive men mad? Spock recalls the “outdated” human notion, which is derived from the ancient Greeks, that what is good must also be beautiful. In fact, ugliness has its utility, too. Then, Dr. Jones suddenly receives a telepathic apprehension that someone in the room is having murderous thoughts. Later, it is revealed to be Larry Marvick. He is in love with Dr. Jones and attempts to kill the ambassador, but when he pulls out his phaser, the ambassador drives Larry mad in a blinding flash of light.
Larry Marvick then runs amok aboard the ship, attacking crewmen and commandeering the engineering bay from Scotty. The Enterprise then rapidly veers off course at Warp factor 8.5 until it soon lies derelict in uncharted space, trapped inside a completely unknown void. Larry then dies following his fit of insanity, and since it would be risky for the Enterprise to use its warp drive, Kirk suggests the Medusan ambassador can help them navigate back across the barrier of this space-time continuum. Kirk decides to distract Dr. Jones with flirtatious conversation, while Spock attempts a mind-meld with Kollos.
Despite Dr. Jones’s protestations, later on the bridge, Spock completes the mind-meld with Kollos which leads him to stroll about the room, smiling as he greets his fellow crewmen (this scene showcases the true versatility of Leonard Nimoy’s acting prowess). Then Spock, along with the conjoined mind of Kollos, successfully completes the starship maneuver such that the Enterprise escapes stasis by crossing the barrier. A huge sigh of relief falls over the crew. The mind of Kollos begins marveling at humanoid bodies –the simplicity impresses him, yet the sheer complexity of the mind baffles him. But sadly, in the process of transferring Kollos back into his protective encasing, Spock is driven mad when he accidentally neglects to use his visor. In the end, it is up to Dr. Miranda Jones to use her special connection with Kollos to rescue Spock and the Enterprise completes its mission of transporting Kollos to his destination. In the transporter room, both Kirk and Spock give a fond farewell to Dr. Jones –Kirk hands her a flower, while Spock gives the Vulcan salute and says, “live long and prosper.”
I was under the impression that Season 3 contains some of the worst of Trek, but thus far I have been surprised. Color me impressed. Even the sillier episodes have something to offer, like “Spock’s Brain” or “And the Children Shall Lead.” In “Is There in Truth No Beauty?” we find an intriguing premise, top-notch performances, and some impressive cinematography, such as the use of fisheye lenses and first-person, hand-held camerawork to highlight varying degrees of madness.
This is also a pretty solid Spock episode –all throughout the episode we are left to wonder about his romantic inclinations for Dr. Miranda Jones. Does he reveal his true emotions at certain points? Also, is it strictly logical for Spock to exchange greetings with the Medusan ambassador? Kollos serves as a fascinating (and cheap) alien creature as he is mostly carried around in a box like the ark of the covenant for most of episode. Still, as with episodes like “Devil in the Dark,” seeing strange new non-humanoid creatures throughout the galaxy is always great.
Jean Lisette Aroeste (1932-2020) was a librarian at UCLA and later she worked as a reference librarian at Princeton. She submitted this script unsolicited to Star Trek, and Robert Justman read it and adapted it. The original title for this episode was entitled “Miranda” and this became one of only two television credits for Ms. Aroeste, the other being the Star Trek episode “All Our Yesterdays.”
Director Ralph Senensky (1923-present) was a prolific television director, including six episodes of Star Trek and he also directed an episode of The Twilight Zone (“Printer’s Devil”) among many other episodes of popular shows.
Star Trek Trivia:
- Spock notes that Uhura’s name means “freedom” in this episode.
- Diana Muldaur previously appeared as Science Officer Dr. Ann Mulhall in the Season 2 episode “Return to Tomorrow.” She later appears as Dr. Katherine Pulaski in 20 episodes of TNG. Both she and fellow guest actor David Frankham in this episode are still alive today as of the time of this writing (2022).
- There are a variety of classical allusions in this episode –the Medusa, Prospero’s daughter Miranda from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and the title points to John Keats’s famous poem even though it is directly taken from the poem “Jordan” by George Herbert. Shakespeare’s “Brave new world” speech is quoted from The Tempest, and Spock quotes Lord Byron: “She walks in beauty, like the night.”
- The container for Kollos was designed by set designer Matt Jefferies.
- Jessica Walter was the first choice to play Miranda.
- This was the final episode in the series to feature Eddie Paskey as Lt. Leslie according to production order, however the final episode to feature him by release date was “Elaan of Troyius.”
- The Vulcan philosophy of “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Variations” first appears in this episode.