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The Empath

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Series :
The Original Series
Rating :
Disc No :
Episode :
First Aired :
6 Dec 1968
Stardate :
Director :
Year :
Writers :
Season :
Guest Cast :
Stunts :
Jay Jones as Kirk's stunt double
Paul Baxley as McCoy's stunt double
When the Vians torture Kirk they remove his uniform top, only to put it back on him when they send him back. Obviously they didn't want to get it all bloody or anything. Considerate torturers, these Vians.
Body Count :
One, the empath herself.
Factoid :
The name Lal is Hindi for "Beloved", and will be used again in TNG as the name of Data's daughter.

This episode was written by fan Joyce Muskat, and was one of only three such scripts which made it to production for TOS.

This was DeForest Kelley's favorite TOS episode.


The Enterprise arrives at the star Minaria, due to go nova in a short time, to evacuate a Federation research outpost which has been monitoring the system. On arrival Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down to find the facility deserted. They choose to remain on the planet when a giant solar flare forces the Enterprise to leave the system for several days, confident that the atmosphere will protect them from any radiation. No sooner has the ship left than the landing party is beamed to a chamber deep underground where they encounter Gem, a mysterious alien woman with empathic powers but no language capability. A pair of aliens called Vians appear and explain that they are testing Gem to see if her species is worth of salvaging from the effects of the nova. Gem is capable of using her mental abilities to absorb the pain and injuries of others into herself; the Vians intend to torture the Enterprise officers in order to find out whether Gem will cure them despite the suffering it will cause her. If she is ultimately willing to sacrifice herself for others, the Vians will take this as a sign that her life is worth saving.

The Vians put the Enterprise officers through a series of ordeals, with the three practically fighting amongst themselves to be the one who will be tortured in place of their friends. Ultimately Gem does indeed take all of their suffering upon herself, ending her own life. Declaring themselves satisfied, the Vians return the Enterprise officers to their ship and the Enterprise continues on its way.


A good episode in theory, this one is essentially a lesson on the importance of self sacrifice. However, though I buy into the message and I think the setup is quite an interesting one, there's just something about this that doesn't gel for me. I can't quite put my finger on it... the acting is good, and this is one episode where we get to see just how much the "big three" TOS characters really do care about one another. Gem is an interesting character who is very well played, the Vians are one of the better done alien species we've seen in TOS... but somehow the whole is less than the sum of the parts.
© Graham & Ian Kennedy Page views : 27,581 Last updated : 23 Apr 2010