Written by Gene L. Coon, Arthur H. Singer, and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Marc Daniels
The third season of Star Trek began with NBC slashing the budget for the series (the budget for the previous seasons had already compromised many of the scripts) and moving it to a terrible time slot. The cast was weary of ridiculous storylines and some had already thought the second season would be the last.
What does one do in the face of all that? They lead off the third season with one of the worst -if not the worst – episodes of Star Trek ever. It’s on lists of the dumbest episodes in television ever. In his book, “I Am Spock” Leonard Nimoy wrote, “Frankly, during the entire shooting of that episode, I was embarrassed—a feeling that overcame me many times during the final season of Star Trek.”
And yes, Spock’s Brain is that bad. I hated having to watch it to review it, never mind having to watch it a few times to decide how to approach it.
The Enterprise crosses paths with an unknown ship in space. All attempts to contact it fail. Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) detects someone trying to beam onto the bridge and Captain Kirk (William Shatner) summons security. A female humanoid in a mini-skirt and gogo-boots appears on the bridge and soon the entire ship has been knocked out. When they awaken, Mr. Spock has been deposited in sickbay, without his brain. The female has kidnapped Spocks’s brain for the purpose of running the planet she’s from.
“He’s worse than dead”
“Come on Bones, what’s the mystery?”
“His brain is gone… removed surgically…”
Doctor McCoy (DeForrest Kelley) gives Kirk 24 hours to find it. McCoy gets Spock’s body ready to move to wherever they find the brain; so Spock can walk around on command with no brain. McCoy controls him with a joystick device. It’s like playing a video game using Spock.
That’s not the worst of it. When they locate the planet where the brain has been brought to, they can hear his exact voice emanating from the computer. With no vocal cords, the computer is Spock’s exact voice.
The planet is called Sigma Draconis VI. It has a dual society with neanderthal men living on the surface, and the aforementioned females in go-go boots beneath the surface. That is where the technology is, although the women have the intelligence and disposition of a young child.
It’s hard to know where to start with why the episode was so bad. The dialogue is awful. The first sign was the dialogue by McCoy when he finds Spock in his sick bay. The situation is so absurd and the way everyone talks about it is even worse. Captain Kirk has deductive moments that make him look like a fool. Pavel Checkov (Walter Koenig) and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) have dialogue that is obviously there to just tell the audience “things you should know.” It doesn’t even seem like it’s trying to flow naturally in the story.
I can’t blame the actors here. What they were given to work with is truly awful. DeForest Kelley actually seems to do a good job near the end when he’s given the knowledge temporarily to replace Spock’s brain in his body. He has moments where he’s appreciative of the knowledge and works faster than humanly possible to restore it, then as the knowledge begins to fade he starts to panic. It’s pretty much the only bright spot.
Of course, once the brain is replaced, there’s not one scar anywhere on Spock. There’s no blood to be seen; not even a hair out of place. Spock is also quite animated once the brain is replaced.
I remember this being an episode I would turn off, even way back during the nightly reruns of Star Trek on our local station. The writing is an insult to the actors and the series. Other than a few moments of DeForrest Kelley’s acting, there’s nothing to redeem this episode.
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – Assignment Earth
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – The Enterprise Incident