Life comes in many shapes and sizes as Kirk and team learn in the episode that originally aired on March 9, 1967. This is Devil in the Dark.
Captain’s Log Stardate 3196.1
The Enterprise is sent to investigate disturbances at a mining colony where a strange being is disruptiong production and killing workers. Upon investigating they soon discover that the creature is a silicon based lifeform that could indeed be the last of it’s kind. Although Spock insists there must be some way to save the being, Kirk is determined that the only way to deal with this threat is to eliminate it. Soon Spock encounters the being and initiates a Mind Meld learning that the being known as The Horta is quite intelligent and is simply trying to protect it’s young. Kirk explains the situation to the Miners, while McCoy patches the hurt Horta up. Now with an understanding between the Horta and the Miners, the baby Horta begin to help them find new minerals that they would have otherwise missed.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
Devil in the Dark is easily one of the most well known episodes of this classic first season. Most episodes in a scifi series like this tend to follow the ‘monster of the week’ theme where a threat appears and the crew handles it by the end moving on to the next threat or problem. While this episode starts that way, with a powerful and frightening threat, writer Gene Coon takes the ‘monster of the week’ trope and turns it on it’s head making the REAL monsters the miner’s themselves and the creature one that is simply trying to protect it’s own.
One thing I find interesting is that we get a glimpse of the ‘Shoot to kill’ Kirk that he has become know as, even though much of this season we have seen a rather sensible, and deductive officer. However, Just when you think that Kirk is ready to obliterate the Horta, he shows that he is indeed a reasonable and understanding person, only attacking when truly in danger. In fact, he encourages Spock to mind meld with the being knowing that this could be their only way to finally understand this strange new lifeform.
That being said, there is a moment where one of his crewmembers are killed and we see a very angry and determined Kirk, one who seems to want vengeance for the death of his crewmember. The thing is, that dead ‘red shirt’ crewmember is pretty quickly forgotten even when meeting with the dead man’s supervisor. Kirk doesn’t even mention the death making his vendetta a little, unbelievable. It’s sad and makes Kirk come across as a rather heartless commander.
That aside, this is a truly classic moralistic Star Trek story that really asks viewers to question their preconceptions. The lesson here is simple, it’s best to never make a snap judgement even in a threatening situation. Sometimes an altercation can just be caused by a misunderstanding, which was very much the case between the miners and the Horta. Both saw one another as threats when they could have easily helped each other in ways that would have greatly benefited the other. Makes you wonder how many wars of our own could have been avoided, simply by trying to communicate.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- Spock mind melds with his first inorganic being!
- We hear the fist ‘I’m a doctor not a’ line from McCoy.
- Apparently the Horta liked Spock’s ears.
Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review, I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: Errand of Mercy
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Late To The Game 1/28/2022
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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