29 "Operation -- Annihilate!"

(airdate: April 13, 1967)

Writer: Steven W. Carabatsos
Director: Herschel Daugherty

Aurelan: Joan Swift

Yeoman Zahra: Maurishka

Peter: Craig Hundley

Stardate: 3287.2

Captain's Log: The Enterprise can't get a response from the Federation colony on Deneva, where Kirk's brother's family lives. The inhabitants appear to still be alive, but they're unusually quiet. Beaming down, Kirk and the landing party discover that Kirk's brother Sam has died, but Sam's wife and son are still alive. Sam's wife Aurelan describes strange creatures that are forcing them to do things, and she dies from the pain and stress she's under. Investigating further, the landing party discovers an infestation of protoplasmic creatures, one of which attack and infects Spock. Spock is able to control the intense pain the creature is subjecting him to and retrieves a sample creature; they thus discover that it is a type of neural parasite linked to a hive mind, spreading out across the galaxy. Kirk determines that the creatures are sensitive to light - specifically ultraviolet light - and so a series of satellites are rigged up around Deneva, blasting the planet with UV light and ending the infestation.

Whoops!: We're told that the intensity of the sun when the parasite loses its grip on the host is 1 million candles per square inch. Converting that into modern terms means that we're at roughly 1.55×109 candela/m2 - so basically the same luminance as our sun viewed through Earth's atmosphere at noon. But luminance doesn't change with distance, so therefore the fact that the sun was at 1 million candles per square inch when the pilot was freed is largely meaningless. (We'll forgive the production team not using the SI unit candela, as that didn't come about until 1979.)
     Now, we might be able to work out the amount of ultraviolet radiation needed to kill the parasite: if we assume that Deneva's sun is roughly the same as Earth's (which might not be true, but for the sake of argument let's go with it for now), then that means that roughly 10% of its output is UV radiation. If the Denevan ship got to about 1 million miles away from the sun before burning up, then that means that the solar irradiance at that point was approximately 2.9×107 Watts/m2 - so 10% of that is 2.9 million W/m2. That's still a horrifyingly high level (UV irradiance at the Earth's surface is roughly 30 W/m2), so everyone on Deneva is going to die from intense radiation burns and all sorts of skin cancers anyway. [A possible way out of this: we don't know how good the radiation shielding on the Denevan ship was. If it was really good then it's possible that the actual amount of UV radiation needed to kill the parasite is actually much lower and the most the Denevans need to worry about is merely a somewhat severe sunburn.]
     Let's also hear it for that old chestnut of coming from a place where different physical laws apply. Fortunately, no one here makes the mistake of saying that since the parasites come from such a place, our physical laws don't apply to them; unfortunately, Kirk speculates that the parasites are from another galaxy, and Spock suggests that physical laws would be different there. But if that galaxy is in the same universe, then the physical laws are going to be the same there as here - and if that galaxy is in a different universe, then why not say so? [Unless you think the galactic barrier from "Where No Man Has Gone Before" is altering conditions inside our galaxy to a radical extent - but if this is the case, it doesn't get mentioned later when the Enterprise passes through the barrier in "By Any Other Name".] And it's not clear in the first place why Spock starts speculating like this - yes, the parasites don't register on the tricorder, but that doesn't mean they don't come from our universe; all it means is that they provide new data to challenge the current assumptions about how the current universe works. (Or, more prosaically, that the tricorders need refinement - given the number of strange things the Enterprise encounters that don't register on tricorders or sensors, this is the more likely explanation.)
     It's not quite clear how the neural parasites travel from system to system. The suggestion is that they use hosts to travel from world to world, and while that works for the more recent places affected, how did they make the jump from an ancient, dead civilization in the Beta Portolan system to Levinius V 200 years ago? Did they float through space? Is there an unknown middle location between the two star systems that they went to in the meantime? Or did they just wait around the Beta Portolan system for centuries before latching on to some unfortunate archaeologist who stumbled into a dark room?

Classic Lines: McCoy to Jim, quietly: "Please don't tell Spock I said he was the best first officer in the fleet." Spock, overhearing: "Why thank you, Dr. McCoy." Kirk: "You've been so concerned about his Vulcan eyes, Doctor, you forgot about his Vulcan ears."

Technobabble: Tri-magnesite and trevium can burn to produce high-intensity light.

Library Computer: Deneva is a blue-white planet, colonized a century ago and considered one of the most beautiful planets in the galaxy. [Well, according to Kirk, at least.] The planet was originally colonized as a freighting-line base in the area, making regular trips from Deneva to the miners in the [system's] asteroid belt, taking out supplies and bringing back cargo. The Denevans had their own configuration of spaceship [although we don't actually see what that looks like]. There are nearly a million inhabitants on Deneva, with more than 100,000 in Deneva's capital city. The parts of the capital city we see have large artistic structures, with white buildings and grassy areas. Kirk's brother Sam was stationed on Deneva as a research biologist, along with his wife Aurelan and his son Peter. The call sign for their private transmitter was GSK-783, subspace frequency 3. Sam looked a lot like his brother Jim [one guess as to why...], albeit with a thin mustache. He died on Deneva. His wife Aurelan died aboard the Enterprise, a victim of the parasites. Their son Peter survived. [No word of what happened to Sam and Aurelan's other two sons, mentioned in "What Are Little Girls Made Of?", although McCoy's statement that Peter is "the last survivor of your brother's family" suggests that they had died at some point between that episode and this one.]
     There's a pattern of mass insanity that has destroyed civilizations in this section of the galaxy, following an almost straight line. The earliest victims, according to archaeologists, were the ancient civilizations of the Beta Portolan system. Two hundred years ago, Levinius V was swept by mass insanity, followed by Theta Cygni XII. Two years ago, Ingraham B was affected, and Deneva was the next system in line. The cause appeared to be a strange type of beige-colored creature, roughly dish-shaped and about 12 inches across, with red coloring on its body. [The dialogue and script only ever refers to them as "creatures" and "things". The fan work Star Fleet Medical Reference Manual called them "blastoneurons", while the semi-official Star Trek Encyclopedia referred to them as "Denevan neural parasites", despite their not originating on Deneva. We'll refer to them as "neural parasites".] The neural parasites were brought to Deneva eight months earlier by a ship from Ingraham B, under the control of the parasites. These parasites could attack a person by stinging them, leaving behind a fast-growing tissue that entwined itself with the host's nervous system; the parasites were thus able to control the victim by administering pain, increasing it to intolerable levels if the victim didn't do as the parasites desired. The entwining was far too involved for conventional surgery to remove. There's a suggestion that controlled victims could not be easily sedated [McCoy notes that Aurelan has a "high tolerance" for tranquilizers, while Spock comes out of anesthesia during surgery twice]. The parasites wanted to expand through the galaxy, and were forcing the Denevans to build ships to help them do so. The neural parasites themselves could attach to walls and ceilings and were capable of flight, and they made a buzzing sound, mixed with occasional chirps; they also pulsed slightly, as if breathing. Their physiological makeup indicated that they were one-celled creatures resembling a large brain cell, connected in some way to the other creatures and essentially creating a giant brain. This shared nature, Spock theorized, allowed the individual parasites to withstand intense phaser power. The parasites were also resistant to various levels of radiation and heat up to 9000 degrees. [It's not clear if this is degrees Celsius or degrees Fahrenheit.] The parasites were incredibly different from any known living matter or energy - so much so that they didn't even register on a tricorder. However, they were vulnerable to ultraviolet radiation, although it took an intense amount to affect them - the doomed Denevan pilot was at a brightness of 1 million candles/in2 before he was freed. When a neural parasite is hit with a sufficiently high dose of ultraviolet light, it begins to smoke and then to dissolve.
     210 satellites are deployed around Deneva at an altitude of 72 miles in order to provide sufficient UV radiation to kill the neural parasites. They are [possibly] producing this radiation by burning tri-magnesite and trevium. [It's not clear if this is still the case, since tri-magnesite and trevium were brought up when they were discussing including the visible spectrum of light as the solution.] This radiation is sufficiently strong to affect even parasites and controlled victims in dark and closed areas.
     Vulcans consider pain to be an emotion and thus one that can be overcome. Spock's half-human nature meant that he had some additional difficulties controlling his pain, but he was able to manage. Due to the brightness of the Vulcan sun, Vulcans have developed an inner eyelid which acts as a shield against high-intensity light; this eyelid's use is so instinctive that Vulcans don't think about it.
     The K3 indicator on a biofunction monitor [the monitor above the beds in sickbay] registers the level of pain.
     A phaser set at force 3 is sufficiently powerful to destroy most organisms.
     Scott has made the run from Deneva to the asteroid belt as an engineering advisor.

Final Analysis: "There's more than two lives at stake here. I cannot let it spread beyond this colony, even if it means destroying a million people down there." A fairly straightforward story told reasonably well, but lacking a certain spark. "Operation -- Annihilate!" is focused primarily on the plot, which is decent, but it does mean that there aren't as many character moments as one might hope. Making Spock the victim is an interesting move, but it does rob the situation of some of the drama, as the audience knows he'll be all right by the end of things.

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