(airdate: November 15, 1968)
Writer: Judy Burns and Chet Richards
Director: Herb Wallerstein, Ralph Senensky (uncredited)
Lt. O'Neil: Sean Morgan
Loskene (voice): Barbara Babcock (uncredited)
Captain's Log: The Enterprise is investigating the disappearance of the USS Defiant, which vanished in an unsurveyed area of space three weeks earlier. They discover the Defiant fading in and out of existence due to an interspatial rift. A small team beams over and finds that everyone is dead, having apparently killed each other. The team beams back but Kirk is left behind, unable to be transported in time. While waiting for the next appearance of the Defiant, the Enterprise is confronted by a Tholian vessel, which demands that the Enterprise leave Tholian space. When the Enterprise fails to do so, the Tholians begin constructing an energy field around the Enterprise to tow it away. After a failed attempt to rescue Kirk, Spock pronounces him dead - but he is soon proven wrong. Just before the Tholians' web is completed, the Enterprise escapes, pulling Kirk with them, where he is successfully rescued.
Whoops!: Spock describes the first Tholian ship as being disabled as a result of the Enterprise's phasers, yet it's later seen helping to create the web. [Maybe only its weapons were disabled.] Nurse Chapel spends an awfully long time watching McCoy grapple with his attacker before doing anything to help. During the climactic rescue of Kirk, there's a close-up of the transporter console showing a Lieutenant Commander operating it, but the next wide shot reveals that O'Neil is only a Lieutenant. [The shot is a reuse of Scotty operating the controls earlier in the episode.]
What causes Uhura such pain in her quarters? It can't simply be the appearance of Captain Kirk, given that his later appearance on the bridge doesn't seem to cause anyone physical distress. So what was it?
Classic Lines: McCoy: "It's a diluted theragen derivative...mixed with alcohol, it merely deadens certain nerve inputs to the brain." Scott: "Oh, well, any decent brand o' Scotch'll do that."
Don't Wear a Red Shirt: The entire crew of the USS Defiant killed each other prior to the start of the episode, due to the deleterious effects on the brain of the region of space the ship found itself in.
Library Computer: The USS Defiant is a Federation vessel, presumably Starship [(Constitution)]-class. Its registry number is unknown. [At least, in the original version. The Star Trek: Enterprise episode "In A Mirror, Darkly" - both a sequel to this episode and a prequel to "Mirror, Mirror" - shows the registry as NCC-1764, a number which originates from a 1973 article by Greg Jein. The remastered version of this episode follows suit.] It entered an unsurveyed region of space which periodically overlapped with the area of another universe, causing it to fade in and out of existence - making it invisible to sensors - as it moved between the two universes. This phenomenon caused the crew of the Defiant to go mad and kill each other. The Defiant was apparently lost to the other universe when the Tholians and the Enterprise exchanged fire. [For the eventual fate of the Defiant, see the aforementioned episode of Enterprise.]
This region of overlap leads to the appearance that space is literally breaking up. It affects the power systems of both Federation ships (though not obviously the Tholians) and jams transporter frequencies. It also can cause objects to appear like ghosts, visually present but with no substance, presumably as those objects pass between the two universes during the period of overlap (a "spatial interphase"). Spock believes that the transition from one universe to the other would be fatal without some form of protection. The occurrence of each interphase is not at a regular interval, but it can be calculated.
The instability of the area leads to a distortion of the "molecular structure of the brain tissues in the central nervous system." This distortion appears to initially manifest itself as spasms of pain and increased irritability [at least, we assume that's what's wrong with McCoy in this episode - and this is at least partially confirmed], leading to "murderous fury". McCoy discovered that the effects could be countered by a diluted theragen derivative which, when mixed with alcohol, deadened "certain nerve inputs to the brain." There appear to be no lasting ill effects from this condition when treated.
The Tholians are a race of beings, possibly crystalline in nature. They glow red, with two white slits for [presumably] eyes. They seem to be governed by the Tholian Assembly. Their ships are pyramidal, tapering toward the front of the vessel, resembling a three-pointed star from head-on, and they can obtain speeds of at least 51% of light speed. Their weapons look like a red, amorphous haze that can damage a Federation vessel. Two Tholian craft can join forces to create a lattice of energy [the eponymous web] that can be used as a tractor device to tow ships [and other large objects, one assumes]. This lattice resembles a triangular pattern, similar to horizontally bisected diamonds, in a spherical arrangement. There is no analogue to this field in Federation technology. The Tholian Assembly claims the region of space that the Defiant was lost in.
The Enterprise has special silver-colored environmental suits, individually tailored to each wearer [or at least the helmets are]. They have an orange panel on the front with a built-in communicator, as well as a blue and a pink panel with similar buttons; their function is unknown (although the pink panel looks like it may operate a flashlight). The helmet appears to be attached to the suit via a black connection on the wearer's left. They can provide a limited supply of breathable air (in Kirk's case, roughly four hours). [Note these are a significant redesign from the suits seen in "The Naked Time" - but then those weren't designed to be sealed environments like these are.]
Theragen is a nerve gas used by the Klingons, but it's fatal only in its pure form.
There is no record of a mutiny on a Federation starship [but see "Whom Gods Destroy" and Star Trek: Discovery].
The transporter room seen here has a viewscreen behind and to the left of the transporter console. Meanwhile, a chart about Exo III ("What Are Little Girls Made Of?") is visible in the Defiant's sickbay, when McCoy puts his hand through a table.
Final Analysis: "The Tholian ship has been disabled. But as a result of the battle, we must accept the fact that Captain Kirk is no longer alive." Taut, gripping, and never dull. The design of the Tholians is simple yet striking, and their web is deservedly well-remembered. Easily one of the best episodes of the third season.
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Page originally created: April 20, 2013
Page last updated: March 6, 2017