Star Trek: Season 3, Episode Eighteen “The Lights of Zetar”

Stardate: 5725.3 (2268)
Original Air Date: January 31, 1969
Writer: Jeremy Tarcher and Sheri Lewis
Director: Herb Wallerstein

“Now we have all the time in the world”

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Enterprise is en route to Memory Alpha, a planetoid established by the Federation “solely as a central library containing the total cultural history and scientific knowledge of all planetary Federation members.” Onboard is a specialist named Lt. Mira Romaine (Jan Shutan) who has been brought along to supervise the transportation of equipment from the Enterprise to Memory Alpha. During the voyage, Scotty and Mira have worked closely together, and Scotty has fallen in love with her.

However, before arriving at Memory Alpha, the Enterprise encounters a strange light phenomenon in space which temporarily paralyzes the ship’s crew. It affects people’s nervous systems and it leaves Mira Romaine in an unconscious state on the floor muttering strange garbled noises. Soon, she begins having dark visions, but her rather dismissive fellow crewmen merely suggest she is “space sick” and needs to grow her “space legs.” The light storm then continues onward to Memory Alpha, destroying the station’s core computer, killing many employees, and leaving the whole facility an “irretrievable” mess. Presumably, great portions of Federation records housed at Memory Alpha are destroyed (with no surrounding shield, Memory Alpha is a vulnerable target). Upon arrival at Memory Alpha, Kirk, Spock, Bones, and Scotty investigate the station where they find scores of dead bodies and one still-living woman who begins emitting the same disturbing noises as Mira. Next, in one of the more terrifying moments from TOS, she suddenly dies and the light storm returns to Memory Alpha. Meanwhile, there is an error with the Enterprise transporter (yet again) and Mira is almost lost.

The Enterprise then tracks the light storm through space and a red alert is issued as the strange light phenomenon enters the body of Mira where we learn these flashing lights are actually the voices of the last hundred survivors of a dead planet called Zetar. They seek to inhabit Mira’s body in order to regain their own lives. However, when Scotty tries to lift Mira her body she launches Scotty across the room. Mira is then enclosed inside a pressure chamber –the crew tries removing gravity and increasing pressure on Mira’s body in order to drive out the Zetarians. When they finally depart, Mira is thankfully returned to normal.

Scotty channels James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service when he says, “now we have all the time in the world.” In the end, Kirk, Spock, and Bones discuss the ways in which Scotty’s love for Mira unfolded in this whole affair. The Enterprise then heads for Memory Alpha so that Mira can lead the recovery efforts of the library.


My Thoughts on “The Lights of Zetar”

In a surprisingly chilling episode, “The Lights of Zetar” uses remarkably haunting horror tropes, even if surprisingly little actually happens during the episode. Once again, incorporeal aliens with incredible powers have invaded the bodies of Enterprise crewmen and they must be forcibly ejected. Why have they chosen Mira Romaine? Is there something unique about her? All of this feels a bit contrived to me, but at least it’s a much better episode than the likes of “The Alternative Factor,” “Plato’s Stepchildren,” “The Omega Glory,” or “Catspaw.” In particular, I was drawn to the introduction of Memory Alpha, a gigantic public library a la the Library of Alexandria which sits in the middle of space and is freely available to all. I look to revisiting this idea again down the road (hopefully). And despite some uncouth sexist undertones in this episode (i.e. multiple references to Mira as “the girl”), this is still a decent middle of the road Trek adventure which at least shines a welcome spotlight on everyone’s favorite Scottish engineer, Lt. Commander Montgomery “Scotty” Scott.


Writer/Director

This episode was written by Jeremy Tarcher and his wife Shari Lewis. Shari was best known as a children’s entertainer –a ventriloquist– being the original puppeteer of the sock puppet “Lamb Chop.” She also wanted to play Mira Romaine, but was not cast.

This was the only Star Trek episode directed by Herb Kenwith (1917-2008). He was a close personal friend of Lucille Ball and asked her if he could direct an episode of Star Trek.  


Star Trek Trivia:

  • The online Star Trek wiki is entitled “Memory Alpha” in honor of this episode.
  • In this episode, Alexander Courage’s music from “Where No Man Has Gone Before” is used extensively.
  • Some fans have speculated whether or not the medical decompression chamber used in this episode has a door left over from the Season 1 classic “Space Seed.”
  • Barbara Babcock did the voice-work for the Zetarians in this episode.

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

3 thoughts on “Star Trek: Season 3, Episode Eighteen “The Lights of Zetar”

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