Season Three - TOS

Star Trek: The Original Series – The Lights of Zetar – The Case of the Disappearing Lover

Written by Jeremy Tarcher, Shari Lewis, Arthur H. Singer, and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Herbert Kenwith

The third season is winding down. I’d like to say they were hopeful for the next season, but the third one had felt like it was limping along for quite some time. While The Lights of Zetar establishes the canon of Memory Alpha, overall it fails to do much else.

The Enterprise is on its way to Memory Alpha, which is a planetoid that has been designated as sort of a galactic library and collection of knowledge. They are delivering equipment and a technician to the planet. Mr. Scott (James Doohan) is quite taken with Lt. Mira Romaine (Jan Shutan), the technician bringing equipment to Memory Alpha.

They encounter a phenomenon that seems to be a storm in space. Even with the shields up it seems to have a physiological effect on some of the crew. Mira passes out on the bridge and ends up in sickbay. She becomes defensive when Doctor McCoy (DeForest Kelley) is examining her and somewhat verbally combative. Scotty tries to smooth things over, but the Doctor takes issue with her attitude.

The Enterprise tracks the phenomenon to Memory Alpha, which is defenseless since it’s supposed to be a knowledge repository. After it reaches the planet, Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) cannot pick up any energy or life readings from the planet. After the storm clears, Captain Kirk (William Shatner) takes a landing party down to the planet. They find no one left alive except for one woman who seems to be trying to tell them something. She is exhibiting the same symptoms Mira did after she regained consciousness. However, she doesn’t recover. Mira warns them the phenomenon is headed back to the planet. At first, Spock dismisses her warning, but the Enterprise soon contacts the landing party and tells them the storm is rapidly approaching.

Spock concludes it’s not a storm, but a cloud of alien life-forms. Their intelligence begins to merge with Mira’s brain as the phenomenon maintains a distance outside of the Enterprise. Through Mira, it tells the Captain that they are the last essence of life from the planet Zetar, where all corporeal life was destroyed long ago. They have been searching for a body to inhabit and finally found one that was compatible: Mira.

Once again, previous plots have been regurgitated, where an alien wants to inhabit the body of a member of the crew. That might not be so bad if it was done well. The problem is there’s nothing much compelling in the story here. When the energy beings make contact with life forms, it seems to kill them. However, that didn’t happen with Mira, so they just decide that everything is great and they can use her. Mira herself is a character brought on just for this episode, so it’s not like viewers have anything invested in her.

And apparently, neither does Scotty. For all of his mooning over her and all of the talk of love, she disappears after this episode and is never seen again in the Star Trek universe. She makes a couple of cameos in various novels, but there’s no talk of her as a woman in Scotty’s past, nor is she seen on the remaining episodes of the series.

Chekov: I didn’t think Mr. Scott would go for the brainy type.
Sulu: I don’t think he’s even noticed she HAS a brain.

Granted, this was written and filmed in the 1960s, which is why it’s hard to look at it as futuristic. Shari Lewis, of Lambchops fame, wrote the episode and it’s generally looked at that she wrote it with the idea that she would star as Mira Romaine, but the producers apparently had other ideas. Mira doesn’t seem to be considered much more than eye candy here. The fact that she’s a woman with a career in Starfleet as a scientist doesn’t seem to matter at all either. Scotty moons over her like a lovesick puppy, to the point, that he commits dereliction of duty.

There are some weird camera angles used which becomes distracting at times. One shot looks down on the Captain from above and seems to be unstable as it does so. We get a good look at William Shatner’s hairline from above. On the remastered version, I have to say the effects are much better. Even the cheap way the lights of the beings are shown look good, especially coming from a time when there was no CGI.

I’d say that most people have forgotten about The Lights of Zetar in the Star Trek universe. It’s with good reason. There’s nothing compelling here to remember about it and the story isn’t all that great. It’s not horrible, but there are a number of cringe-worthy moments and not much to hold the viewer’s interest.

Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – That Which Survives

Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Original Series – Requiem for Methuselah

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