Written by Robert Sabaroff and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Joseph Pevney
How much right does a life-form have to exist? That’s the question here when a new life-form is encountered that threatens the entire galaxy
On their way to Starbase 6 for some much-needed R&R, Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) has an Obi-Wan Kenobi moment when he senses the death of all of the Vulcans on board the Intrepid. When Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) finally established communication with the Starbase, the Enterprise is ordered to investigate the loss of communication not only with the Intrepid, but the entire system it was in. System Gamma 7A once had billions of inhabitants, but Chekov (Water Koenig) reports that the entire system is dead.
As they make their way to the system, the Enterprise encounters an area of blackness that seems to block out everything inside it. The Enterprise attempts to investigate and is soon drawn into it. They find not only power being drained from the ship, but also from the people on board the ship. Doctor McCoy (DeForrest Kelley) begins loading people up with stimulants to keep the ship functioning.
What they have encountered is a giant space amoeba, pulling them towards the center of the giant cell. It is attempting to reproduce, which is why it is draining energy from everything around it. Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Spock, and Doctor McCoy make a last, desperate attempt to stop this from happening.
Were this in the Next Generation, there would have been more gnashing of teeth over the creature’s right to exist, even at the expense of billions of lives. It’s not overtly hostile; it’s simply trying to exist and doing what is natural to it. Here there’s none of that It’s simply an adversary that must be destroyed. Even Spock doesn’t try to argue against it.
What’s also different here is the liberal use of stimulants to keep the crew functioning. During the 1960s, amphetamines weren’t seen as all that bad and their abuse was widespread. McCoy thinks nothing of just piling on the stimulants to the crew, instead of suggesting they need rest. I always wondered if there was a secondary crew that was a relief for the main crew or did they just keep them on stimulants until they went insane. It’s definitely a different approach to a crisis like this then we would see all these years later.
This issue, coupled with the initial set-up that has the crew tired and “looking forward to some much-needed R&R” sets up a degree of irritability among them that is evident. Kirk snaps off at Chekov for his enthusiasm when it was a fairly innocuous moment.
The acting here is really good. The cast seems to really be completely at ease with each other. The camaraderie between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy is at its finest, with McCoy and Spock squabbling with each other in perfect rhythm. Both think they are singularly qualified to pilot a shuttle into the nucleus of the amoeba and argue their points. There are also some great snarky moments between the two near the end that really build on the relationship between the three of them.
The special effects are decent, especially in the remastered version. The space amoeba looks quite genuine around the ship. The shuttlecraft penetrating it with Mr. Spock is also a good effect. There’s nothing to really argue about here. More modern effects could be more spectacular, but sometimes simplicity is the better way to go.
Overall this is a good episode, its main flaw is the lack of depth of the adversary. The cast really shows how they have come together. It’s enjoyable to watch even after all of these years.
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – A Piece of the Action
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – A Private Little War