In this episode Spock states that tritanium is 21.4 times as hard as diamond... yet in "Arena", Kirk claims that diamonds are "perhaps the hardest substance known in the universe".
Regular background cast member Eddie Paskey is killed in this episode. Nevertheless, he continues to appear in future episodes. Presumably an identical twin?
This episode establishes that Vulcan blood is green because it is based on copper, rather than the iron that Human blood is based on.
The short story "The Greater Good" depicts Kirk's time on the Farragut in the Mirror Universe. That Kirk was routinely humiliated in front of the crew by Captain Garrovick, and he arranged for the cloud creature attack which killed Garrovick and 200 others. Mirror Kirk said that he slept sounder after that action than he had in years.
They beam back to the ship where McCoy treats Rizzo. Kirk asks him to check the records of the USS Farragut, which listed casualties 11 years earlier who were killed by the same strange blood draining effect - an incident Kirk was present for. Whilst McCoy works Kirk decides to stay at the planet and investigate the situation, even though the Enterprise is due to pick up highly perishable medical supplies from the USS Yorktown, supplies which are badly needed on Theta VII.
Further scans for dikironium prove negative, prompting Spock to speculate that the creature is capable of changing its atomic structure at will. When Rizzo dies, Kirk asks security officer Ensign Garrovick to come down to the planet to search for the clouds creature. As a friend of Rizzo, Garrovick is eager to accept the challenge and two security teams beam down, with Kirk leading one and Garrovick the other. Kirk orders the creature to be fired upon instant if it appears, with phasers on a maximum disruptor setting.
Garrovick's party encounters the cloud creature, which envelops the men he is with and attacks them. Garrovick hesitates for a moment before firing, and misses the creature when he does. One of the men is killed, the other left in critical condition.
Kirk becomes convinced that the creature is the same one the USS Farragut encountered, a being which killed a great many people on the crew. He is certain that it is both intelligent and extremely dangerous. Spock and McCoy become concerned by Kirk's growing obsession with the creature, which appears to be undermining his command judgment.
Kirk debriefs Garrovick concerning the events on the planet. He questions him quite aggressively, and when Garrovick admits to hesitating a moment before firing Kirk immediately relieves him of duty and confines him to quarters. When McCoy and Spock object, Kirk simply tells them to log any comments disagreeing with his decision.
Kirk continues to become more obsessive. When Scotty reminds him of the urgent nature of their mission to meet the Yorktown Kirk criticises him harshly, angrily stating that he is "tired of my senior officers conspiring against me!" He relents a little afterwards, stating that he should not have used the word "conspire" - but continues to criticise his officers for not trying hard enough to find the creature.
Spock and McCoy discuss Kirk's actions. Spock notes that the Captain of the Farragut was Captain Garrovick, Ensign Garrovick's father, and that he was killed by the creature. McCoy meets with Kirk and discusses the great stress a young officer feels in his first real danger, prompting Kirk to snap that his punishing Ensign Garrovick was his decision. McCoy states that the "young officer" he referred to was actually the young Lieutenant James T. Kirk aboard the USS Farragut. Kirk had also hesitated before firing on the creature, and it had subsequently killed 200 of the Farragut crew, including Captain Garrovick. McCoy states that he is preparing a medical report on Kirk's mental fitness for command, and brings Spock in to act as witness.
They respectfully but firmly state that Kirk's recent actions have given rise for concern and that they require him to justify his behaviour or face being removed from command. Kirk defends his position, stating that he feels that the cloud creature is indeed intelligent, and the same one that attacked the Farragut. He admits that this is merely his own intuition, but states that such intuition is a command prerogative to which he is entitled. Since the Farragut encounter happened in a different solar system then the creature must be capable of interstellar travel, which makes it a significant threat. Although reserving judgment, McCoy indicates that he is not planning to remove Kirk from command.
Sensors detect the cloud heading into space, so Kirk orders the Enterprise to pursue. The creature travels at better than Warp 8, a speed the ship can't match without damage to the engines. Kirk reluctantly gives up the pursuit. However, the creature turns on the ship and attacks it.
In his quarters, Garrovick is increasingly frustrated - he throws a plate cover across the room, knocking the air vent in his quarters open. Finally he leaves and goes to the bridge, violating orders. Kirk orders both phasers and torpedoes fired on the creature, but neither have any effect. The creature catches the ship and enters through an impulse engine vent. It makes its way into the ventilation system, killing one crewmember and injuring another. Kirk seals the system, leaving them with only two hours of air.
McCoy is still dubious about Kirk's actions, but Spock notes that the cloud's actions in attacking the ship clearly do indicate that it is an intelligent life form of some kind. They decide to flush radioactive waste into the ventilation system, hoping to drive the creature out. Spock notes that since their weapons had no effect on the cloud, then any hesitation Kirk had on the Farragut in his first encounter was irrelevant, as nothing he had done would have made any difference. Spock also visits Ensign Garrovick in his quarters to tell him the same thing. However, he is interrupted by the creature emerging through the open air vent.
Spock throws Garrovick out of the room and remains behind to try and block the creature. Outside, Kirk orders the pressure in the room reversed to get the creature back into the vents, and enters to find Spock still alive - his green copper-based blood apparently incompatible with it. The creature departs the ship, and Kirk tells Garrovick that his hesitation would have made no difference, and that it's something they should both put behind them.
Kirk feels that the creature is returning to Tycho IV, the planet where it encountered the Farragut, and Spock adds that it may well be heading there with the intent to reproduce. Over McCoy's continued objections the ship heads to Tycho IV. They decide to use a matter/antmatter charge to destroy the creature - beaming down with a canister of the material and releasing it on the surface will produce an immense explosion, sufficient to destroy the creature. Kirk and Garrovick beam down with the container and a supply of hemoplasm as bait for the creature.
However, as they prepare the antimatter charge the creature appears and eats the bait. Kirk orders Garrovick to beam up, stating that he will act as bait for it. Garrovick attempts to knock Kirk out and beam him up, but Kirk wins the fight and decides that both men will remain. They beam up just as the creature approaches, and the antimatter charge detonates in a colossal blast.
Spock has some trouble getting the officers beamed up, but is able to overcome it. With the creature dead, the ship departs to head for the rendezvous. Kirk offers to tell Garrovick some stories about his father, an offer the young officer is happy to accept.
It's especially interesting to watch McCoy and Spock challenge Kirk. They're polite and respectful... but they're also clearly not far from removing him from command if he can't justify himself. And to Kirk's credit he doesn't fly off the handle or even really seem to resent what they're doing. He just calmly states his reasons and lets them make their call. Everyone is behaving very professionally, which is good to see, especially given Kirk's somewhat "cowboy" actions.
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