11 "Dagger of the Mind"

(airdate: November 3, 1966)

Writer: S. Bar-David [pseudonym for Shimon Wincelberg]
Director: Vincent McEveety

Dr. Tristan Adams: James Gregory
Dr. Helen Noel: Marianna Hill

Dr. Simon van Gelder: Morgan Woodward
Lethe: Susanne Wasson

Stardate: 2715.1

Captain's Log: After delivering supplies to the Tantalus Penal Colony, the Enterprise crew discover that a dangerous stowaway has been beamed aboard. However, this stowaway is not a patient but in fact Dr. Simon van Gelder, an associate of the head of the Tantalus Colony, Dr. Tristan Adams. Kirk beams down to the colony along with an expert on rehabilitive therapy, Dr. Helen Noel, in order to learn what's going on. Adams tells Kirk and Noel that van Gelder was working on an experimental treatment, a neural neutralizer, that went wrong, turning him into a raving, dangerous lunatic. Kirk and Noel surreptitiously examine the neural neutralizer and discover that in fact it works perfectly: the device makes the patient susceptible to suggestion and inflicts pain if the patient tries to resist. Adams has been using the device to perform unethical experiments on people and to control the Tantalus Colony, and now he uses it on Kirk, convincing him that he's madly in love with Dr. Noel. Kirk resists long enough to tell Noel how to shut down the power. She does so while Kirk is in the treatment room; the power failure allows him to recover and knock out Adams, while Spock beams down and restores power after shutting off the security shield. Alone in the treatment room, Adams dies from the neural neutralizer; with no one there to watch over him, his mind was completely emptied.

Whoops!: Should we question the use of large man-sized air conditioning ducts that lead throughout the complex, even if penal colonies are more like hospitals than prisons now?
     So why does Dr. Tristan Adams, an accomplished, renowned expert with twenty years of revolutionary progress in the area of rehabilitative therapy with regards to prisoners - a man who single-handedly changed the course of penal approaches and treatment - suddenly decide to become "evil" and start emptying people's brains and harshly conditioning others, ethics be damned? There's a small suggestion that he sees this all as a great experiment, so maybe he couldn't get the Federation equivalent of IRB approval but decided to run the experiment anyway. But frustratingly, there's no clear-cut motivation given.
     Just as in last week's episode ("Miri"), Kirk orders Spock, not the helmsman, to go to warp 1, and once again Spock acknowledges the order.

Cringe Lines: Spock being smug: "Interesting. Your Earth people glorify organized violence for forty centuries, but you imprison those who employ it privately."

Don't Wear a Red Shirt: Van Gelder knocks out a transporter technician, a security ensign, and a security guard on the bridge, all of whom are dressed in red. Dr. Noel accidentally kills one of the penal colony's guards when she shoves him into the live hyper-power circuits, frying him almost instantly.

Alien Love: Kirk and Dr. Noel had an encounter at a Christmas party that didn't seem to get very far, though it nevertheless makes Kirk uncomfortable. Dr. Adams implants the idea that Kirk is madly in love with Dr. Noel, and he starts to act upon it, though he's able to regain control of himself before things get too far.

Library Computer: Tantalus V is a cloudy copper-colored planet [a muddy brown in the remastered version, which also adds a couple rings for no obvious reason] which is home to the Tantalus Penal Colony, an underground facility run by a Dr. Tristan Adams. The surface of the colony is an industrial-looking place, with large round tanks in the background and a large rectangular building housing the surface entry to the colony. [This is an adaptation of the matte painting used for Delta Vega in "Where No Man Has Gone Before"; the remastered version has a simple round building surrounded by poles and nothing else.] Like all Federation penal colonies, the Tantalus colony is surrounded by a forcefield to prevent unauthorized beaming. The staff at the colony all wore loose pale blue jumpsuits with a large symbol on the left breast of a white right hand holding a dove, with a sun placed above and to the right of the hand. Regulations state that visitors to the Penal Colony must check any weapons they bring, although Adams waives this in Kirk's case. The Tantalus Penal Colony had the most advanced hospital facilities in the area.
     Dr. Tristan Adams was the head of the Tantalus Penal Colony. He was an older man with curly, greying hair and brown eyes. Adams was an expert in treating and rehabilitating criminals; over the past twenty years prisons had made significant advances, thanks to his recommendations, with criminals receiving the treatment they needed to help cure their mental illnesses, and penal colonies more like hospitals or "resort colonies" than traditional prisons. Part of the treatment was to "bury the past" and have patients leave their former selves behind, as a shifting of memory patterns was basic to psychotherapy. The colony also used intra-sensory drugs, which had to be shipped in from outside.
     At the Tantalus colony, a neural neutralizer was developed. This was a machine that, according to Dr. Adams [who is standing next to Helen Noel when he says it, so it's probably true], neutralized brain waves and relaxed the patient. It also made them susceptible to suggestion, able to instill feelings in them, from hunger to intense romance. This was done via a neutralizing beam (a circle with a light that appeared to spin around a central point at varying speeds), controlled by a relatively simple control panel which could adjust the intensity of the beam. If the patient tried to resist the suggestions being given, they would experience extreme pain. Similar techniques had been tried back on Earth, but none quite like this. Although the neutralizer itself was [presumably] relatively benign, in the wrong hands it could be abused, as Adams demonstrated. Adams made a number of patients completely docile and brainwashed, and those who fought against the treatment, such as Adams' associate Dr. Simon van Gelder, experienced constant pain and psychiatric breaks when they tried to remember things. When Adams used it on Kirk, he told Kirk that he was madly in love with Helen. He also tried to use it to bend Kirk's will to his own, but Kirk was able to resist, at least for a time. If the neutralizer was left on with a patient but with no attendant, the neutralizer would ultimately empty the patient's mind, killing them - even if it wasn't at the highest setting; this was how Adams ultimately died. After Adams' death, Dr. Simon van Gelder had the treatment room dismantled and the neutralizer destroyed.
     Dr. Simon van Gelder was a doctor assigned six months ago to the Tantalus Penal Colony. He was tall, with white hair and blue eyes. Van Gelder was Adams' assistant, but something caused Adams to turn against him and use the neural neutralizer on him. [This was almost certainly van Gelder objecting to Adams' use of the neutralizer on patients, but it's not explicitly stated.] Van Gelder found his mind almost completely emptied, suffering from neuro-synaptic damage, but he was still able to smuggle himself aboard the Enterprise and to demand asylum from Kirk, even if he had a hard time focusing or staying coherent. Van Gelder was able to remember some things with the help of Spock. By the end of the episode he seemed to be fully recovered.
     Vulcans have the ability to look into another's mind; this is an ancient ability and a hidden, personal thing for a Vulcan, not something they willingly share with others. [In other words, this is the first use of the Vulcan mind meld, which will go on to show up in every Star Trek series to date.] The technique is potentially dangerous, and it only affects the person who the Vulcan touches. Spock has never used this technique on a human before. It involves Spock placing his hands on either side of the recipient's head (in this case, Dr. van Gelder), allowing Spock to make pressure changes in the recipient's blood vessels and nerve endings; this leads to a merging of the minds, whereby Spock can read the recipient's mind and help the recipient to speak coherently about certain memories and experiences. In this case, it also seemed to calm van Gelder down [and may be part of the reason why van Gelder recovers by the end of the episode].
     Dr. Helen Noel was an ensign aboard the Enterprise, dressed in sciences blue. She was of average height, with dark hair in large curls and dark brown eyes. Noel was a psychiatrist with a background in rehabilitative therapy. She had some knowledge of using beam neutralization as a form of therapy, although she was unfamiliar with the particular setup of the neural neutralizer. She had attended the science lab Christmas party, when Kirk had dropped by; the two of them danced, while Kirk talked about the stars. Little else happened (although the memory made Kirk somewhat uncomfortable), but there's a suggestion that Helen may have wanted things to go a little further. Noel has no training in hyper-power circuits, although she's able to switch off the main power supply to the colony without too much difficulty.
     Lethe was a former patient at the colony who came for rehabilitation but stayed on after her treatment as a therapist. She's of average height, with long straight dark hair and slight strabismus (crossed eyes). She also seems somewhat vacant [probably due to the neural neutralizer, though this isn't made explicit]. Before her treatment she was malignant and hateful.
     Should the medical officer aboard a starship have any doubts which they then enter into their log, the commanding officer is forced to respond to those doubts in their own log.
     The Enterprise has a vault where things can be stored. [See Star Trek Beyond for probably the most prominent use of this facility.] The personnel director and a science library are located on deck 14.
     Kirk has visited penal colonies before. He records his captain's log on a tricorder.
     There's a Central Bureau of Penology in Stockholm on Earth, which is located in Eurasia-NE. [This can't possibly mean "Northeast", unless Eurasia means something drastically different in the 23rd century.]

Final Analysis: "I'm not acquainted with this particular style of equipment, but I can assure you that Dr. Adams has not created a chamber of horrors here." Some interesting ideas here, including prisons in the future and how criminals might be rehabilitated. It's just too bad that the reasoning behind why things have gone wrong is so unclear, as it weakens the finished product. On balance, "Dagger of the Mind" isn't without its charms, but it's not strong enough to stand out as a true classic.

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Page originally created: August 6, 2018
Page last updated: August 6, 2018

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