Star Trek: Season 3, Episode Seventeen “That Which Survives”

Stardate: Unknown (2268)
Original Air Date: January 24, 1969
Writer: Michael Richards and John Meredyth Lucas
Director: Herb Wallerstein

“Beauty… survives.”

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The Enterprise approaches a “ghost planet” half the size of earth’s moon, with a similar mass and atmosphere to earth, but which is only a few thousand years old, thus making it theoretically too young to support the kinds of vegetation and atmosphere found. It is a place filled with inconsistencies. Kirk, Sulu, Bones, and a geologist named Lt. D’Amato (Arthur Batanides) beam down to investigate. However, while beaming down to the planet, a strange woman named Losira (Lee Meriwether) suddenly appears in the transporter room and instructs them not to go. She attacks Ensign Wyatt (Brad Forrest) in the transporter, killing him, but since the beaming process is already underway, the landing party arrives on the planet –and moments later the planet entirely disappears.

Suddenly, the Enterprise, now helmed by Spock, has been “displaced through space” approximately 990.7 lightyears away from the ghost planet, though Scotty notes that the ship now “feels” off. Something is wrong. Meanwhile, Losira appears to Scotty’s assistant, John B. Watkins (Kenneth B. Watkins), and then kills him. Spock and Scotty discover the Enterprise has been tampered with, the emergency overload bypass system of the matter-antimatter has been fused, giving the ship about 15 minutes (or 14.37 seconds per Spock) before it explodes. Throughout this whole scene, the drama is boring and barely tense, despite the apparent impending explosion. At any rate, the Enterprise uses Warp speed to head back to the “ghost planet.”

Then, while the landing party investigates the planet, Lt. D’Amato is shockingly killed “every cell in his body disrupted” by Losira who emerges from the shadows. While burning a grave in the ground for D’Amato with his phaser, Kirk discovers something unusual –his phaser does not cut through the planet’s rock surface (he notes it is likely 8,000 centigrade melting rock, and looks like igneous rock but infinitely denser). Sulu concludes the basic substance of this planet is an alloy of diburnium-osmium. Later, while taking the first night watch, Losira confronts Sulu. He attempts to shoot her but his phaser merely deflects, and she touches his shoulder which kills every cell in his shoulder, but Kirk and Bones quickly come to his rescue. She then disappears again.  

Losira then comes for Kirk, but Sulu and McCoy stand in her way so that she cannot touch him and destroy the cells in his body. She calls Kirk an “invader” and says she is “commander of this station” who is sent to kill Kirk in defense of this place. When she fails to touch Kirk, she disappears once again. Bones notes that she does not register as a life form, but her presence marks a power surge “like a door closing.” From here, Kirk, Bones, and Sulu discover the entrance to a nearby cave. It being the only likely source of food and water on the planet, they enter the cave and find Losira under a giant cube-computer which begins producing replicas of Losira. The three replica Losiras immediately reach out to touch Kirk, Bones, and Sulu respectively –but suddenly, the Enterprise arrives (having solved its matter-antimatter issue) and Spock fires his phaser, destroying the computer.

The episode ends as a recording of the real Losira plays (Bones suggests it was likely recorded thousands of years ago). She explains that this “Kalandan” planet was created by her race but accidentally unleashed a disease killing all, Losira was the last survivor left awaiting vital supplies. However, when it became clear that she would not survive, she set the planet’s computer defense mechanism to automatically fight any non-Kalandan races who might attempt to land on the planet. Thus, the computer began creating replicas of Losira to attack specific people. In the end, Kirk, Spock, and Bones remark on Losira’s beauty and this strange adventure concludes.      


My Thoughts on “That Which Survives”

In another disappointing and mediocre episode, “That Which Survives” raises more questions than it answers. At least there are some memorable scenes of special effects, particularly of Losira disappearing and Scotty repairing the matter-antimatter fusion which he says “looks like an aurora borealis”

Admittedly, I still enjoy some of these obviously mediocre third season episodes, despite odd character portrayals (i.e. Kirk being rude to Sulu, or Spock behaving like a disgruntled curmudgeon) and awkward pacing (i.e. Spock and Scotty seemingly unconcerned about the impending explosion of the Enterprise). At any rate, this is a mostly confusing, skippable episode for the casual viewer.


Writer/Director

Written by John Meredyth Lucas (based on a story by D.C. Fontana under the pseudonym Michael Richards). It was originally titled “Survival” and Losira was portrayed as a more violent, dangerous figure. DC Fontana was so disappointed with how this episode turned out that she requested that her name be removed from the credits, and a pseudonym “Michael Richards” be listed instead. This episode was John Meredyth Lucas’s final episode (though he was not permitted to direct it).

This was one of four TOS episodes directed by Herb Wallerstein (1925-1985). He directed a number of other shows including The Brady Bunch, Gunsmoke, and I Dream of Jeannie. Mr. Wallerstein was horrifyingly beaten to death by his housekeeper one evening in 1985. She was then controversially found not guilty after claiming self-defense. 


Star Trek Trivia:

  • Dr. M’Benga (Booker Bradshaw) makes his second of two appearances in TOS in this episode.
  • This is apparently the last episode of TOS in which crew members are shown to die.
  • This is the last episode to have an unknown Stardate.
  • Actress Lee Meriwether (1935-present) played Losira in this episode and was known for having played Catwoman in the 1966 Batman film. In addition to Star Trek, she appeared in a host of ‘60s television shows –Mission: Impossible, Perry Mason, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and others.
  • In this episode, Sulu references the “Tunguska Event,” in which a 200-foot asteroid crashed in Siberia in 1908, demolishing about 80 million trees. It is the largest impact in recorded earth history, though there were much larger impacts in prehistoric times.  

Click here to return to my survey of the Star Trek series.

1 thought on “Star Trek: Season 3, Episode Seventeen “That Which Survives”

  1. Despite this episode’s drawbacks, it was a favorite for me in childhood because of how beautiful Lee Meriwether was as Losira. I liked her as Catwoman too of course. Thank you for your review and trivia.

    Liked by 2 people

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