Who Mourns for Adonais?
Overall Ep :
First Aired :
22 Sep 1967
Season Ep :
Main Cast :
Guest Cast :
Apollo generates an energy field in the shape of a giant hand to hold the Enterprise in position. The crew manage to punch a hole in the field to fire through, yet when we see the ship fire, the hand has vanished completely.
Great Moment :
Kirk's chat with Palamas when he tried to convince her to spurn Apollo.
Body Count :
Sulu uses the ship's tractor beams to repel in this episode, an ability these gadgets will lose by the time of TNG.
The producers wanted an actor with an English accent and Shakespeare experience for Apollo, so they consulted at the San Diego Shakespeare festival. Eventually they hit on Michael Forest for the part. Frost had to strip to the waist in the audition to prove that he had the muscular build required for the part, but was unable to do a convincing English accent. However he could do a Mid-Atlantic accent which the producers decided was better for the part anyway.
In the Star Trek novels it is revealed that Lieutenant Palamas slept with Apollo and conceived a child. One of her descendants, Mark McHenry, still has some of Apollo's powers.
As the Enterprise approaches the planet Pollux IV a gigantic glowing green hand appears in space before the ship. Attempts to evade it are futile, and the hand grabs hold of them. The image of a man appears on the screen, claiming the Enterprise crew as his "beloved children" and congratulating them on their bold venture into space - a venture which is now over. He is dressed in ancient Greek style and reels off the names of various mythological figures such as Agamemnon, Hector and Odysseus. When Kirk repeatedly demands to have his ship released the being threatens to "close my hand" and destroy the Enterprise. Suddenly the force field holding them exerts a terrible pressure on the hull, threatening to destroy it.
Under this threat Kirk agrees to beam down to Pollux IV with some officers. He takes along McCoy, Scotty, Chekov and Lieutenant Carolyn Palamas, an officer trained in archology, anthopology and this history of ancient civilizations.
On the surface they meet the being, who claims to be the god Apollo. McCoy's scans show him to be a simple humanoid, though not quite Human. Apollo claims he and his kind lived amongst Humans in the distant past, coming to be worshipped by the natives for their power and sophistication. He wishes to recreate that situation, with the Enterprise crew living simple lives and worshiping him. He demonstrates his power by fusing their weapons and firing a lightning bolt which injures Scotty.
The crew work on the problem from both ends; on the surface Kirk and the others try to work out who and what Apollo is, exactly, and what weaknesses he may have. Meanwhile in orbit Spock analyses the forcefield holding the ship and probes for weaknesses in it.
Apollo develops a liking for Lieutenant Palamas, and takes her away for a private discussion. It becomes clear that he is attracted to her, and to some extent she returns this attraction. She finds that the "gods" departed Earth because their worshipers turned away from them. Although immortal the group was left hopeless and forlorn without purpose in their lives. One by one the others "spread themselves on the wind", gradually becoming "thinner and thinner... until only the wind remained." Apollo is the last remaining one of his kind, and determined to recreate his glory days of godhood.
Back with the Enterprise officers, they have located a power source in the vicinity and speculate that it seems to feed into Apollo somehow - he has an extra organ in his chest that McCoy cannot make sense of, which may allow him to gather and utilise this energy source somehow. Chekov notes that Apollo often looks tired or pained when he leaves, and they speculate that he has a limited ability to expend energy. It is thus possible that they can provoke him into exhausting himself.
On the Enterprise, Spock proposes to penetrate the forcefield in a few selected areas by generating M-rays on discrete wavelengths. This, he hopes, will allow the ship to then act further against Apollo.
When Apollo next appears Kirk and his officers attempt to goad and provoke him into attacking them, thus weakening himself. Lieutenant Palamas, not knowing the plan, urges mercy and compassion on Apollo, and he relents and departs. Kirk has a talk with her and explains that even if she has some feelings for Apollo, her duty is to her fellow Humans and requires her to act against him. He essentially orders her to spurn Apollo's advances in the most cruel and painful way possible, reasoning that if he thrives on adulation and worship then such an approach may weaken him.
Spock gets sensor readings through the field and is able to determined that the energy source is the Greek-style temple the officers are at. Kirk orders him to be ready to fire on the temple. Meanwhile Lieutenant Palamas spurns Apollo as ordered, laughing at his suggestion that she could possible have loved him and describing him as merely an interesting study project for her work. Combined with the rejection of the other officers Apollo is suitably weakened, and Spock fires a sustained phaser barrage at the temple as the officers take cover. Apollo attempts to fight back, but although his energy blasts rock the Enterprise the ship proves equal to the task, and the temple is reduced to a burned out ruin and Apollo defeated.
A tearful Apollo practically begs Kirk for worship, but Kirk demurs. With no other choice, Apollo "spreads" himself out into nothingness, effectively ending his life. A victorious but saddened Kirk wonders if it wouldn't have harmed them to have given Apollo at least some small part of what he needed, and they depart.
This is one of those episodes that starts off kind of weird, what with the giant hand in space and all. If you buy into that and accept the basic premise then it's a good episode overall. Michael Forest really does a great job as Apollo. Although Apollo is certainly dangerous and threatening, he never does come across as evil
, even at his worst. Even at the outset his bouncing from cheerfulness to anger comes across like a facade stretched tightly over a sea of self doubt and desperation, and in the end you can't help but pity the man. It's genuinely sad to see Palamas gut him emotionally, all the more so knowing that she did it quite deliberately - and that it's the exact opposite of what she actually wants to do. There's something of a credibility gap here caused by Palamas falling for Apollo so fast in the first place, though. It makes her come across as rather flighty, and doesn't really give time for a proper relationship to build - which does undercut how badly she and we feel about her betrayal. Partly that's just a sign of the times. Such "one episode love affairs" were a staple of 60s television, in which episodes were far more self contained than they tend to be now. Still, done properly it can be effective. Look at Marla McGivers and Khan in "Space Seed" for an example where they took the time to establish her character and build a seduction over several scenes. This had the same potential, since Palamas was an expert in history and archeology and thus might well be attracted to a figure like Apollo, but they never really lay the groundwork to establish that attraction. It still works, but it's not as strong as it could be.
It's also funny to modern eyes to hear Kirk's discussion of how Palamas will one day "find the right man, and off she'll go, out of the service." Really, Kirk? The most charitable interpretation of this is to assume that almost nobody who gets married stays in Starfleet. But even then, why does nobody assume that Scotty or Chekov will one day find the right woman, and thus leave the service? No, more likely Kirk is simply assuming that Palamas will naturally abandon her career when she marries, so that she can become a housewife and/or mother. Either way you slice it, it's a pretty blatant example of sexism at work.
In the end, Kirk's summation of this episode is perfect - Apollo asked for something Humanity cannot give but in the end he was not an enemy to be hated, but rather pitied.
The remastered version has the usual upgrades, most notably a much nicer version of the hand - one which doesn't blink out of existence during the phaser firing shots - along with the usual improved look to the planet. Errors in the colouring of the phaser beams have also been corrected.