Star Trek TAS: Season 1, Episode Fifteen “The Eye of the Beholder”

Stardate: 5501.2 (2269)
Original Air Date: December 15, 1973
Writer: David P. Harmon
Director: Hal Sutherland       

“They appear to be as advanced beyond Earth civilization as you are from a colony of ants.”

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Enterprise is orbiting the planet Lactra VII, a Class-M planet with a variety of life forms, to discover the whereabouts or fate of a six-member science crew whose vessel has been unresponsive. Voice contact has yielded nothing and so a landing crew has beamed aboard the deserted ship to listen to its last recorded ship log. From the log, the Enterprise crew learn that science crew vacated their ship and beamed down to Lactra VII, against Starfleet orders. Why?

Kirk, Spock, and Bones beam down to the planet’s surface near a scalding hot lake and they quickly encounter a lake with a dragon creature emerging and other hostile creatures that seem to gather strength from phaser fire. Then, they are kidnapped by a pair of giant slugs and imprisoned in a zoo for entertainment. The zoo is protected by remarkably advanced technology. Here, the crewmen reunite with Lt. Commander Tom Markel and biologist Randi Bryce. Their navigator, Lt. Nancy Randolph, has fallen ill –they are the only three survivors of the science expedition.

With their technology and tools confiscated, the crewmen are unable to make contact with the Enterprise. However, the slugs communicate telepathically and when the crew concentrates on a communicator, the Enterprise accidentally beams aboard one of the baby slugs while Kirk is mentally attacked by the parent slugs. In the end, Scotty returns with the baby and claims this baby slug thinks extremely quickly, learned the ins and outs of the Enterprise, and has an IQ in the hundreds. The slugs have advanced centuries beyond humanity and so they release the Federation crewmen, though they are invited to return in approximately 10,000 years.

My Thoughts on “The Eye of the Beholder”

The idea of an intergalactic zoo in Star Trek was put to use in “The Cage” in a rather more convincing manner. It was also explored in the classic Twilight Zone episode “People Are Alike All Over.”

Elements of this episode are pretty silly –why exactly did the science team beam their entire crew down to Lactra VII while effectively abandoning their ship? And why were Spock, Kirk, and Bones beamed into the middle of the desert on Lactra VII where they encounter a bunch of cartoon monsters? The giant slugs are interesting as advanced telepathic creatures, and even Spock claims he ‘finds them strangely attractive.’ The slugs are reminiscent of the Hutts in Star Wars, only less underworld criminals, and more highly intelligent beings. Unusual creatures are always welcome in my book, especially creatures that could not have been possible in live-action TOS. This is a fun idea –fitting for TAS—but not the best story Trek has ever developed in my view.


David P. Harmon (1918-2001) also wrote episodes of Star Trek TOS episodes: “The Deadly Years” and “A Piece of the Action” (co-written with Gene L. Coon). This was the only episode of TAS he wrote (it came at the request of DC Fontana). He later expressed disappointment with this episode, and with animation in Star Trek more broadly.

Star Trek Trivia:

  • In this episode, Spock acknowledges that Vulcans are somewhat telepathic with their own species and a few others.
  • In Alan Dean Foster’s novelization of this episode, the science crew’s ship is known as the Ariel, which may have come from Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
  • This episode is not to be confused with the classic Twilight Zone episode “Eye of the Beholder.”
  • In addition to M’Ress, Majel Barrett also voiced Randi Bryce and James Doohan voiced Tom Markel in addition to Scotty and Arex.
  • According to the stardate this episode takes place shortly after “Spock’s Brain.”
  • Director Hal Sutherland (1929-2014) directed all episodes of the first season of TAS. He gained early career recognition working on large Disney animation movies before switching to Filmation where he worked on TAS, as well as Flash Gordon, Batman, and Superman animated shows. Notably, pink is a recurring color in TAS. This is because Sutherland was colorblind and thought he was actually selecting the color grey.

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

1 thought on “Star Trek TAS: Season 1, Episode Fifteen “The Eye of the Beholder”

  1. Spock being more open as time goes on about his special Vulcan abilities is always interesting. For one thing, when he first demonstrates the mind meld in Dagger Of The Mind, he tells McCoy that it isn’t hypnosis. Yet later on in The Omega Glory, Spock appears to hypnotize Sirah into activating a communicator to ask for help from the Enterprise. Depending on the new story where something new is needed for a character to make something work, it may be general acceptable. I had gotten used to it quite a lot with Dr. Who. Aliens may have proven to be the most dimensionally fictional characters in this sense. So long as doesn’t feel too tacked on and therefore serves the character in the most purposeful ways, I guess I’m still okay with it. Thanks for your review and trivia.

    Liked by 2 people

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