(airdate: March 2, 1967)
Story: Nathan Butler [pseudonym for Jerry Sohl] and D.C. Fontana Teleplay: D.C. Fontana
Director: Ralph Senensky
Leila Kalomi: Jill Ireland
Lt. Kelowitz: Grant Woods
Elias Sandoval: Frank Overton
Lt. DeSalle: Michael Barrier
Captain's Log: The Enterprise heads to Omicron Ceti III to check up on a colony that they expect to have been wiped out by a recently discovered form of radiation called Berthold rays. To their surprise, however, the colonists are still alive, long after they should have died. A landing party investigates the colony; while there, most of them are exposed to a strange spore that causes them to abandon their duties. This spore lives on Berthold rays, protecting the host, but it also induces a form of contented apathy in the host. McCoy has the Enterprise beam up the spore-causing plants, and soon the entire crew, with the exception of Kirk, has been affected, beaming down to the surface. Kirk eventually is also hit by the spores, but he manages to shake off the influence due to strong emotion. Kirk has Spock beam aboard and makes him angry, thus causing him to also shake off the spores. Together they create a device that will broadcast down to the planet and make everyone irritable. Once this has been a success, everyone on the planet, including the colonists, beams up to the Enterprise.
Whoops!: For some reason, after being affected by the spores Spock changes into one of the colonists' green jumpsuits. No one else bothers to do this though. Kirk's stunt double is fairly obvious in the transporter room fight. [Director Ralph Senensky couldn't get the camera far enough back to successfully disguise Kirk's double.]
The establishment of the colony is a bit odd with respect to how much the colonists knew ahead of time there would be a problem on the planet. Spock says at the beginning of the episode that the colonists knew there was a risk in establishing a colony on Omicron Ceti III, but also that Berthold rays are a recent discovery - and in a later scene McCoy states that they've had to explain Berthold rays and their effects to Sandoval, so it's not the case that Sandoval knew about them beforehand. Does that mean that there were previous colonies on Omicron Ceti III that were mysteriously wiped out, yet this wasn't enough of a red flag to mark the planet unsuitable for colonization? Or is Spock speaking more generally of the risks associated with any colony? [Sandoval's dialogue at one point ("We determined not to suffer the fate of expeditions that went before us") is phrased in a way that might also imply that previous colonies had indeed been unsuccessfully established on Omicron Ceti III. But if they really were mysteriously and catastrophically wiped out, then establishing another colony there seems like a really bad idea. It might therefore be more likely that Sandoval and Spock are both speaking more generally of other colonies, rather than of Omicron Ceti III specifically.]
So the pod plant spores can heal anyone in fairly record time, judging by McCoy's regrown tonsils, and while they might be in an area covered in Berthold rays, those rays take a little while to take effect, so short-term exposure isn't a concern. And the Enterprise discovers a way to shake off the influence of the spores, leaving those affected in perfect health (McCoy even says so at the end of the episode). So essentially they've discovered a quick, easy, and painless way to heal people of any and all injuries (and diseases too, presumably) - and yet we never hear of this again.
Classic Lines: McCoy, after the landing party meets Sandoval, who was expected to be dead: "On pure speculation, just an educated guess, I'd say that man is alive."
Kirk, describing the problem with the spores: "No wants? No needs? We weren't meant for that. None of us. Man stagnates if he has no ambition, no desire to be more than he is."
McCoy: "Well, that's the second time man's been thrown out of paradise." Kirk: "No, no, Bones. This time we walked out on our own. Maybe we weren't meant for paradise. Maybe we were meant to fight our way through. Struggle, claw our way up, scratch for every inch of the way. Maybe we can't stroll to the music of the lute. We must march to the sound of drums."
"I am what I am, Leila, and if there are self-made purgatories, then we all have to live in them. Mine can be no worse than someone else's."
Cringe Lines: Spock: "I have never understood the female capacity to avoid a direct answer to any question."
Don't Wear a Red Shirt: Kirk and Spock have a brawl in the transporter room, where Spock basically hands Kirk his ass. As a result of the subsonic transmitter, there are fights all over the planet: we see Sulu and DeSalle fighting, Kelowitz fighting with two gold-shirted lieutenants, and McCoy brawling with Sandoval. No red shirts, though.
Alien Love: Six years ago, Leila Kalomi fell in love with Spock, although he never reciprocated those feelings. Once affected by the spores, however, Spock felt comfortable expressing his feelings, smiling at her and kissing her - affection she eagerly returned.
Library Computer: Omicron Ceti III is, from space, a green or yellow-brown planet (depending on the shot) [Earth-like in the remastered version]. It's being bombarded by Berthold rays, however, which is a recently discovered type of radiation that kills animals and insects. Other than that, though, it's a fairly idyllic-looking world, with lots of plants covering the surface (that we see). [So either the Berthold ray bombardment is fairly recent, and the pollinating insects have only been gone for a bit, or some other mechanism is used to pollinate plants. Perhaps the spores perform the task somehow.] It's described as having a moderate climate year-round, with a moderate amount of rainfall, and soil that Earth crops can grow in without problem.
Omicron Ceti III is also home to a flowering pod plant that releases a large quantity of spores. People who breathe these spores in become happy and content, but they lose any drive they might have beyond simple subsistence. The plant has a large central yellow-brown stem, large narrow leaves, and a big pink flower, which emits the spores. It appears direct exposure is required to be affected by the spores (Kirk gets a glancing blast the first time and remains unchanged). The pod plants are not native to Omicron Ceti III; according to Spock, they drifted through space until arriving on the planet. The spores thrive off Berthold rays, granting anyone affected by the spores immunity from the radiation's deadly effects and healing any current and past injuries - to the point where organs like tonsils and appendices regrow. The spores can be cleared from a person's body via strong emotions such as anger or sadness.
Berthold rays are a recent discovery by Federation scientists, and as such they're not well understood. What is known is that living animal and insect tissue disintegrates under exposure, although humans can survive limited exposure (about a week on the surface of Omicron Ceti III, according to Spock). There's no known cure for Berthold rays; if a person is exposed long enough, they will die.
Three years ago, following a year-long trip, a colony from Earth was established on Omicron Ceti III. Led by a man named Elias Sandoval (a tall, slender Caucasian male with greying brown hair), the colony's goal was to create an agricultural society that wasn't reliant upon machines or modern technology. (Matching this, the buildings we see look like roughly 19th-century/early 20th century ranch-style houses and barns.) As a result, although they had brought a subspace radio with them, it soon stopped working and no one had the skills to repair it. They brought with them a selection of crops and animals, and while the animals soon died [most likely as a result of the Berthold rays], the crops thrived. The colony's botanist, Leila Kalomi (a young Caucasian woman with long, thick strawberry blonde hair), was the first to discover the pod plants; this enabled the colonists to survive the Berthold rays, but it also meant that their colony was content to do the bare minimum for survival, with few crops beyond those needed to sustain the colony. The 150 colonists divided into three groups, in order to mitigate the risk of a disease sweeping through and wiping them all out; Sandoval's group numbered forty-five. After Kirk and Spock were able to free the colonists from the spores' influence, Sandoval decided to evacuate the colony and set up somewhere else.
Six years prior, Leila Kalomi and Spock spent time together on Earth, where Leila told Spock she loved him; Spock, being Vulcan, did not verbally reciprocate those feelings, but after being affected by the spores he told her he loved her. [The spores don't seem to force people to do things they don't want to do, so it seems likely that Spock did indeed love Leila, but that his Vulcan nature made him unable to express those sentiments to her.] Even after the spores had left his system, Spock stated that for the first time in his life he had felt happy.
When Sandoval was a child, he suffered from lobar pneumonia, which left scar tissue on his lungs. He had also had an appendectomy, although he'd had no major operations beyond this. The spores healed his scar tissue and regrew his appendix. McCoy had his tonsils removed and once broke two ribs, and under the spores' influence his tonsils also grew back (meaning the spores work very quickly). [No word about the ribs.] McCoy's accent also thickened, becoming noticeably more Southern, while his vocabulary became markedly more regional. He appreciated a Georgia-style mint julep.
The Enterprise has automatic controls that allow it to remain in orbit for several months. Kirk cannot pilot the ship alone.
Spock has another name that Leila would find unpronounceable. [We never find out what this name is, and every Vulcan we subsequently see interact with Spock just calls him "Spock".] He has considerable strength, more than a human, and he could kill someone as a result if he were sufficiently incensed. His mother was a teacher, and his father was an ambassador. [See "Journey to Babel" for more information on Spock's parents, as well as further comments about the unpronounceable nature of Vulcan names.]
A subsonic transmitter can broadcast a frequency that makes the listener irritable, though it acts more like an itching sensation than an audible sound.
Kirk has a medal that's of great personal significance to him. The combination of his safe has changed since "What Are Little Girls Made Of?"; now, from left to right, it's the fifth button, then the second, then the third, and finally the first, each button pressed only once.
Leila has never seen a starship before. [Bear in mind that at this point, "starship" refers specifically to ships like the Enterprise (which is Starship-class, according to its dedication plaque), rather than to any space-faring vessel.]
Sulu doesn't know anything about farms.
Spock has seen a dragon on Berengaria VII.
Striking a fellow officer is a court-martial offense.
There's a Starbase 27. There's also an Admiral Komack. [We'll see him in "Amok Time".]
Final Analysis: "I don't know how to get my crew back, how to counteract the effect of the spores. I don't know what I can offer against paradise." Jerry Sohl was unhappy enough to have his name taken off, but that's more to do with the changes from his original version than with the quality of the script itself. It's a thoughtful story, and giving Spock a love interest not only means that Leonard Nimoy has something more to do this week, but also indicates that there's something quite wrong with the spores. And Kirk as the lone holdout works as a strong counterpoint to the blissed-out crew and colonists. Good dialogue, good acting, and a smart plot: this one's a winner.
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Page originally created: June 4, 2019
Page last updated: June 4, 2019