This may be one of the most famous episodes from the Original Series. Throughout, most of the cast are sweaty after contracting the strange disease, which we’ll learn about in a second. But this is the episode where Sulu chases his own crewmates around the ship with a fencing foil. This would inspire a scene in the Kelvin-timeline Star Trek (2009) film and many references and even a Christmas ornament.
The story had the crew of the Enterprise exploring a planet (PSI 2000) which Captain Kirk described as an “ancient world, now a frozen wasteland.” The Enterprise was tasked to pick up a team of scientists who had been studying the planet and then observe the planet’s destruction.
One thing that will strike the modern viewer immediately is the silly red biosuits that Spock and his companion, crewman Joe Toromlen wore to inspect the planet. The headpieces were not even attached to the shoulders of the suit itself. Spock wouldn’t be protected from someone else’s sneezes, let alone a freezing atmosphere or hazardous site. Oh well.
After Spock and Joe returned to the ship, Kirk asked if there was anything that would cause the ship to be in danger while observing the planet’s collapse. Scotty said that unless the crew were “taking showers while dressed” then the ship would be fine.
Later, in Rec Room, Area 3-9, Sulu and Crewman Kevin Riley tangled with Toromlen, who accidentally stabbed himself. The effects of the mysterious, yet undiagnosed disease was causing Joe to act erratically. As they wrestled with Toromlen, Riley and Sulu became infected as well.
A cool thing would happen as the infected crewmembers rubbed their hands together… almost a rattlesnake-like sound. This lets the viewer know that the person was being affected by the disease. Fun!
While the planet started to contract in size, Kirk asked Scotty to tie the controls from the bridge directly to engineering. Meanwhile, Toromlen died in surgery… McCoy cannot explain why this happened, saying that he must not have wanted to live. Kirk then supposes that something must have been missed in the decontamination scans when Joe and Spock have beamed aboard.
Spock sends Riley to sickbay, Lt. Uhura takes over his station. Next, Riley gives the disease to Nurse Chappel and Sulu starts running wild in the corridors of the ship with his sword.
Suddenly, the helm stopped responding, and Kirk was unable to raise anyone in engineering. Just as he was about to enter the turbolift, Sulu burst onto the bridge yelling “Richelieu, at last!” Richelieu is the name of a character in the Three Musketeers. Kirk and Uhura tussle with Sulu, and Spock subdues him with a Vulcan neck pinch. So for trivia’s sake, Sulu became one of the very first characters in Star Trek lore to be neck-pinched.
Somehow, Kirk and Uhura were able not to catch the infection while wrestling with Sulu, even though they make direct skin contact with the helmsman … uhh, swordsman. Hmm.
Scotty tries to burn through the walls to engineering with a phaser. Spock tells him that he’s going too slow. But then McCoy synthesizes an antidote to disease. But not before Nurse Chappel tells Spock that she loves him. Spock then is infected by Chappel. Spock then starts wandering the ship as he whimpers and struggles to control his emotions.
McCoy gives the antidote to Sulu, who is completely cured. McCoy realizes that the disease is spread through sweat.
Kirk finds Spock feeling sorry for himself, but Kirk explains that if they don’t move quickly, the ship will be destroyed. Spock starts talking about love for his mother and Vulcan customs, then Kirk slaps Spock 2-3 times. It must have been one helluva slap because Spock then came to. Spock then slapped Kirk so hard that he flipped backward over a table.
While Kirk is infected, he starts talking about his love to the Enterprise, as if the ship were a human female. Hmm! As soon as Kirk steps back aboard the bridge, McCoy rips a hole in his uniform to vaccinate the captain from the effects of the disease.
Just as the ship is about to burn in the atmosphere of the planet, Kirk orders a recovered Sulu to point the ship back to where they came from. Spock and Scotty engage the new way to start the ship’s engines (after Riley turned them off while in engineering).
A strange noise affected the crew (and their ears), and caused suffering pain. This experimental formula that Spock and Scotty used to break free from the atmosphere caused the ship to surge back in time — three days in the past. This would be the same formula that would be used later in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The crew realizes that they are going backward in time after their engines “imploded.”
Spock announces that they are back to standard time, but three days in the past. Spock and Kirk then decide that they’ll “risk” going back in time if need be.
It seemed that this ending was a bit strange as if it did not fit the rest of the episode. There was no mention from the captain on how they would log the outbreak of the disease or how it might be treated in the future across other ships. No quarantine announcement. Just time travel and an abrupt ending.
TREK REPORT SUPPLEMENTAL:
This was an excellent entry, featuring a great plot and an exciting finale. Fans got to see almost the complete “original” cast in action, except for Chekov, whose character has yet to be introduced into the show. This, to many, is the episode where Sulu runs wild on the ship — and that’s it. But don’t let this summary fool you, nor the image of a sweaty George Takei. This was a good one — not some cliché, and worthy of some of the very best praise for an Original Series episode.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5