Whooo, welcome to the tenth recap of Star Trek: The Original Series! To celebrate, you should totally crack open a drink of your choice (Left Hand Milk Stout, yum) and follow along on this magical journey across space!
Extra Large Prescription Pills
The first surprise of this episode happens in the opening scene. The Future really doesn’t screw around with prescription meds — they’re sending a human-sized pill bottle down to a penal colony, containing “infra-sensory drugs” — psych meds, according to Memory Alpha.
The engineering crew is having a difficult time sending the cargo, because the penal colony on Tantalus V has an uber security firewall that blocks transporter use. After some back and forth over the communicator, Tantalus switches off the firewall and they exchange cargo.
I’m not sure what the Enterprise was supposed to receive, but I know what they got: a very sweaty and sneaky person.
Meanwhile, Spock dishes out some criticism about human penal colonies. When Bones asks how the Vulcans handle punishment, Spock replies, “Where there’s no emotion, there’s no motive for violence.” Oh so zen. Somehow, I have a feeling we’ll be revisiting a Vulcan history of violence at some point later.
Of course, everyone in the transporter room totally doesn’t notice him til it’s too late. Darnit people, didn’t we learn anything from the Evil Kirk Doppelganger from “The Enemy Within”?
The doctors on Tantalus V realize that someone has escaped, and they send a warning to the Enterprise. Uhura is a badass, announcing a high alert over the intercom, tracking incoming reports of the intruder, and directing security toward him. While she’s not in the middle of a battle scene, it’s great to see her lead from the communications role.
Unfortunately, the intruder makes his way onto the bridge. Spock and Kirk team up. Kirk KICKS the gun outta the intruder’s hand while Spock comes in with the finishing Vulcan nerve pinch. Hells ya.
The intruder wakes up in sickbay and identifies himself as Dr. Simon Van Gelder. But whenever he tries to tell the truth, he experiences excruciating pain. I gotta give the actor, Morgan Woodward, a high-five for these scenes. His sweating convulsions and bulging eyes were very uncomfortable to watch — I truly felt sorry for him!
Does this doc…
…know this doc?
Spock checks the Interweb and learns that not only is Van Gelder a doctor, but he works on Tantalus V — he’s not a prisoner.
Van Gelder is also an assistant to Dr. Tristan Adams. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about doctors in Season One….
They radio Tantalus V and Dr. Adams invites Kirk to the planet, but only with “minimum staff” because of security reasons. Right.
And even though Kirk should recognize a trap by now, he totally wants to beam down.
Kirk asks Bones to recommend a medical team member who is an expert in both psychiatry and recovery. Bones assigns Dr. Helen Noel to the mission — and it turns out that she’s got some kind of awkward history with Kirk involving a Christmas party.
Flying Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Since there’s a woman in power on the screen, they’ve gotta force her next to Kirk somehow. A high-speed elevator scares them into clutching each other.
Dr. Adams greets them downstairs and is all smiles and drinks and hey, nothing bad is happening here. Except all of the prisoners (and workers) are walking around in a comatose stupor, like they’ve been lobotomized.
So why’s everyone in such a weirdo mood? Well one of the Doc’s failed experiments, called the “Neural Neutralizer,” is supposed to calm violent patients with the power of suggestion. Or as Dr. Adams says, “Part of our cure is to bury the past!” Hmmm, that sounds super safe!
Dr. Helen Noel keeps defending Dr. Adams — perhaps because he’s really famous for revolutionizing the prison system. She tells Kirk, “I can assure you that the doctor hasn’t created a chamber of horrors here.”
Spock’s Secret, Intimate Mind Meld
Meanwhile, Bones and Spock are wringing their hands, because the tormented Dr. Van Gelder keeps warning them about how the Neural Neutralizer is terrible and “like death.” He’s having a really hard time speaking, and he keeps writhing around in pain, the poor dude.
Bones begs Spock to use a super-secret Vulcan technique known as the “mind meld.” Hooray! I love Spock exposition episodes! He grasps Dr. Van Gelder’s head and presses on a bunch of nerves.
Dr. Van Gelder calms down and enters a trance. We learn that Dr. Adams is erasing people’s brains and writing his own thoughts in there. If you try and remember anything, you’re hit with a fuckton of pain. “Our mind is so empty, like a sponge, needing thoughts. Begging. Empty. Loneliness.”
It seems as though Spock is sharing in the doctor’s torment, as they speak in unison. Seems painful. I’m not sure if the mind meld is a super power I’d like to have.
Kirk’s still suspicious about the Neural Neutralizer (wonder if there’s a patent on that), and he decides to play lab rat with Dr. Noel. What a brilliant and not at all dangerous plan! He sits down and instructs Dr. Noel to use it on low intensity setting. Whenever she switches it on, his face goes lax and he has no recollection and he forgets everything during those moments.
Kirk asks her to make a suggestion the next time she uses the mind whammy. She tells Kirk that he’s hungry, and he’s instantly ready to “raid a kitchen.” When Kirk instructs her to make a more complex suggestion, she goes off into romance novel fantasy-land, brainwashing Kirk into thinking that they’ve been in love for years!
Her heterosexual storytime is interrupted by Dr. Adams and his lobotomy zombie assistant. Dr. Adams turns the brain beam to full power, causing Kirk excruciating pain, and suggests “You’re madly in love with Helen. You’d lie, cheat, steal for her. Sacrifice your career, your reputation.”
After the torture, Dr. Noel and Kirk are tossed into a locked room. For a split second, Kirk thinks that he’s actually in love with Dr. Noel, and he advances on her.
Luckily, Kirk’s brain is made of stronger stuff, and he quickly remembers the truth. He helps Dr. Helen escape through a conveniently-located ventilation shaft.
Dr. Helen Noel’s Ass Kicking Rampage
I gotta admit, this scene really impressed me. So far, Dr. Noel has been a nuisance of a character, picking fights with Kirk and then trying to plant fake romantic memories in her mind. She decides to redeem herself by opening up a giant can of whoop ass.
Tantalus V has that giant firewall shield preventing Spock and other backup from beaming down to help. So Dr. Noel heads to the main power supply, so that she can shut it down despite a major risk of electrocution.
Several armed security guards arrive, but Dr. Noel don’t care. She pretends to be injured then hits a guard with an EPIC kick. He flies into the control panel, gets electrocuted, and shorts out the power supply. Damn, Dr. Noel. You’re hardcore.
While the power switches from off to on to off again, Kirk and Dr. Adams wrestle in the Neural Neutralizer. Dr. Adams gets caught in the brain ray for too long, his hard drive gets wiped and he dies.
Once the power is shut off for good, Spock beams down and frantically searches for the Enterprise crew members. Looks like the brainwashing is still affecting Kirk, or maybe he’s just stunned by her bad-assery. He grabs her for a smooch and Spock walks in for an awkward moment.
Apparently Dr. Van Gelder is feeling better, because he returns to Tantalus V , destroys the brain ray and resumes his work. Then the Enterprise flies the hell away from this insane asylum.
Growing up, I had never watched a Star Trek episode all the way through. My family members weren’t huge sci-fi fans, and they’d flip the channel whenever Star Trek came on. Now I am embarking on an epic nerd rite of passage, chronicling my reactions to every episode of Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS).