Season Three - TOS

Star Trek: The Original Series – For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky – Well-Worn Science Fiction Plot Device, Again

Written by Rik Vollaerts, Arthur H. Singer, and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Tony Leader

By the time we are this far into the third season, the storylines are really starting to be recycled. There are some that still manage to be decent stories, but too many of them feel like something we’ve seen before. Case in point, For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky. Sure, it has one of the longest titles in Star Trek history, but it also recycles a plot we saw just a few episodes ago in the much-maligned (and deservedly so) Spock’s Brain. Its main redeeming feature is the character development of Doctor McCoy and the acting of DeForrest Kelley.

Doctor McCoy (DeForrest Kelley) learns that he has a terminal illness with just a year left to live. He tells Captain Kirk (William Shatner) that he can keep doing his job.

The Enterprise was just attacked by a series of sub-light missiles and is tracking their point of origin. They are surprised to find they came from an asteroid. It is under atomic power and does not follow any orbital course. Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) intend to beam over and investigate. Doctor McCoy wants to accompany them and Kirk relents.

They are captured by the humanoid inhabitants of the asteroid/spaceship who call themselves the Yonada. They are brought into a temple of sorts where they meet the “Oracle of the People.” Guess what – it’s an artificial intelligence that the people have elevated to a God-like status. Big surprise.

Doctor McCoy falls for their leader, Natira (Kate Woodville). He tells her he only has a year to live and decides to spend it with her. This means he must have one of their obedience devices installed. This is how the Oracle punishes anyone who’s disobedient in their world. At the same time, the asteroid is on a path that will have it collide with an inhabited planet and the Enterprise must figure out how to shift its course or blow it up.

If you know anything about Star Trek after the original series ended in 1969, then you know McCoy doesn’t die and doesn’t stay with the Yonadans. Back then, there really was no sense of peril for the regular cast, despite the numerous tight situations they found themselves in. They all came back in the next episode like nothing had ever happened. Of course, that happens here. Everything is fixed a little too neatly once again. And unlike in The Paradise Syndrome, where Captain Kirk finds love only to have his wife and unborn child die, it seems like as soon as he’s cured, McCoy abandons his wife and heads back out with the boys. I guess it would have been too much to kill her off too.

That’s not to say this is a bad episode. What saves it is the acting. DeForrest Kelley sinks his teeth into the role and gets to show he is much more than a one-dimensional crabby old man. From his diagnosis of the terminal disease and discussions with Kirk and Nurse Chapel (Majel Barrett-Roddenberry) to the fast affection he develops for Natira, he is the man facing his mortality and looking for a little more meaning in it. McCoy has always been the one who argues the humanistic view of a situation, so it feels natural that he just wants to feel at peace in his last moments. However, that isn’t what would happen with the peril facing the Yonadans. He’s reaching for something that just isn’t there, and as soon as there’s a chance to go back to the life he knew as a starship surgeon, he takes it and abandons Natira. The ramifications of this are never discussed.

Leonard Nimoy also manages to convey compassion from Spock without breaking character. Initially, McCoy’s condition is kept hidden from Spock. Eventually, it is revealed, and Spock is at his side, striving to do what he can for his friend. The devotion he shows to McCoy conveys that Spock cares deeply for his friend, despite all of the bickering that they normally do.

There’s not much action in this episode. An initial confrontation between the landing party and the Yondans is quickly resolved and after that, there isn’t much else. The effect of the asteroid in space is decent, and we get a glimpse of the Enterprise next to it, but not much else in terms of special effects.

For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky is just more of the same from the series. There’s nothing new to it, really. It’s not an episode I’d seek out, nor is it one I would shut off if it came on. There’s enough good about it to make it watchable, but not compelling.

Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – Day of the Dove

Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – The Tholian Web

6 replies »

  1. Sounds like watchable is good enough, at this stage of the series, and “facing his mortality and looking for a little more meaning in it. McCoy has always been the one who argues the humanistic view of a situation, so it feels natural” does sound interesting.
    Thank you for this review, Patti.