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Dagger of the Mind

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Title :
Dagger of the Mind
Series :
Rating :
Overall Ep :
First Aired :
3 Nov 1966
Stardate :
Director :
Year :
Writers :
Season Ep :
1 x 11
Main Cast :
Guest Cast :
Stunts :
Irene Sale as Dr. Noel's stunt double
Security at the penal colony seems extremely lax. The 'cells' have ventilation ducts that you can crawl through, and they don't appear to check their cargo containers for escaping prisoners.
Great Moment :
Spock's mind meld. The first one ever seen, and a truly alien moment for Spock.

Also, I have to mention Helen Noel. Trek tended to plaster attractive women all over the place, often seemingly more as decoration than anything, but Noel stands up to Kirk, gets in on the action at the colony, and ultimately kills a bad guy and saves the day. Excellent stuff for a one-off character!
Body Count :
Two in the asylum
Factoid :
This episode features the first use of the famous Vulcan mind meld, though it's not actually referred to as that.

Another first - Dr Noel is the first woman in Star Trek to kill somebody.

In the original story idea it was Rand who accompanied Kirk down to the planet. The writers changed it to a guest character so as to avoid showing romantic attachment between Kirk and Rand.

The episode title is from Macbeth. "Or art thou but a dagger of the mind, a false creation proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?"

Morgan Woodward put such physical and emotional energy into the part of Van Gelder that afterwards he went home and rested for four days to recover.

Marianna Hill, who plays Helen Noel, was born Marianna Schwarzkopf and is a cousin to the well known American General "Stormin" Norman Schwarzkopf who commanded the allied forces in the first Gulf War.


On a routine mission to deliver some cargo to the Tantalus Penal Colony, the Enterprise takes has a little trouble beaming down the crates because the colony has a shield around it. Quickly correcting the problem the ship is able to complete its mission. However, unknown to them one of the inmates has stowed away in a crate beamed up to the ship. He makes his way to the bridge, demanding asylum. Spock renders him unconscious and he is taken to sickbay. However, things don't quite seem to add up. The man proves to be Van Gelder, one of the Tantalus staff rather than an inmate there. He was assigned only six months earlier, and it seems strange that he would have deteriorated quite so much in such a short time.

Kirk beams down with Doctor Helen Noel, a psychiatrist. He's rather embarrassed to be in her company as the two shared a little private time at the Christmas party, but continues regardless. Beaming down the pair meet Adams, who tells them than Van Gelder injured his mind during the testing of an experimental therapy device called the neural neuralizer.

On the ship McCoy tries to care for Van Gelder, but the man is raving. Whenever he tries to discuss the situation on Tantalus he acts as though he is deeply traumatised and in extreme pain. Spock suggests that he may be able to help by performing an ancient Vulcan procedure called a "Mind Meld", a form of touch telepathy that may allow him to probe Van Gelder's mind despite the resistance and learn what has happened to him. Although McCoy is a little dubious they proceed. Spock is able to contact Van Gelder, effectively merging their minds for a period. He learns that Adams has been carrying out experiments on the inmates of Tantalus, altering their thoughts.

Back on the surface Kirk and Noel wait for a quiet time and slip in to take a look at the neuralizer. Kirk sits in the treatment chair and Noel turns it on. The effect is startling - Kirk's face and mind go completely blank whilst the machine is on, leaving him with no idea that any time has passed. They try again, and this time she suggests that he is hungry. When the machine is turned off, Kirk comes to and instantly starts talking about how hungry he is. When Kirk suggests she try a more unusual suggestion, Noel paints a somewhat more romantic picture of their Christmas party meeting in his mind. However, Doctor Adams arrives and takes over. He turns the machine to a higher setting, causing Kirk considerable pain, and tells him that he is madly in love with Noel. The two are locked in together in a room. When Kirk recovers he is instantly in love with Noel, much to her discomfort. She manages to talk him around a little and they decide to make an escape attempt. They open up one of the ventilation ducts and Noel crawls down it, trying to find the shield controls.

Adams arrives to take Kirk for more "treatment". Meanwhile Noel reaches the shield system. She is attacked by a man but fight him off successfully, and ultimately shoves him into a high voltage circuit panel, electrocuting him. With the shield down Spock and a security team are able to beam down to the facility. In the struggle Adams is accidentally left on the neuralizer chair with it set to high. He is not found for some time, by which prolonged exposure to the machine with no orders to be implanted has resulted in his mind being all but wiped clean away. Van Gelder, cured of his own condition, takes over the running of the colony. He reports that he has dismantled and destroyed the machine.


Not a terrible effort, but this one really suffers in the characterisation of the bad guy. Of the three main guest characters, Noel is absolutely wonderful, a smart, competent woman who can hold her own with Kirk and take down a bad guy when she has to. Van Gelder is wonderfully manic and tortured, a great performance. But Adams... oh my. What's his motivation here? Is he using this machine to honestly try and cure people for their own good? If so then why is he suddenly torturing people towards the end? As soon as it is clear that Kirk and the Enterprise are on to his game, he's sunk. He surely must know he's not going to be able to reprogram Kirk and Noel sufficiently to send them back to the Enterprise and have it turn out well, and he can't seriously think he's going to hold the Enterprise off forever with his forcefield. We know he needs supplies from the outside, so sooner or later he will run out of something important and the game is up. So he's torturing Kirk and Noel for... what? His own personal amusement? He's bad for the sake of being bad.
© Graham & Ian Kennedy Page views : 42,856 Last updated : 27 Jul 2022