The Tholian Web
Overall Ep :
First Aired :
15 Nov 1968
Season Ep :
At the end of Kirk's memorial service, Spock calls the crew to attention. Everybody stands, but their arms are all over the place - some behind their backs, some in front, some at the sides. I know Starfleet don't go in for all this military drill stuff in a big way, but really I would have thought they would make a better showing for this occasion.
Great Moment :
Kirk's message to Spock and McCoy.
Body Count :
The entire crew of the USS Defiant.
The Tholian ship was later modified and used as the space cruiser Aurora.
This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for best special effects.
In Japan, this episode is known as "Crisis of Captain Kirk Who Was Thrown into Different Dimensional Space."
In this episode Spock calls McCoy "bones", the only time he ever does so.
The Enterprise is dispatched to search for the USS Defiant, a ship which vanished without trace three weeks previously. They enter an area where space itself seems to be "breaking up", creating an effect known as "interphase". The Defiant is indeed located, but when Kirk leads a party over to the ship he finds the crew dead, all apparently having killed one another in a terrible violent rage.
When the Defiant begins to fade out of existence the remainder of the officers beam back, but Kirk vanishes with the ship. Spock's analysis of the sensor readings indicate that the Defiant is fading in and out of our dimension, and he calculates the time when the ship will next appear in hopes that Kirk might be rescued at that time. It is also determined that the strange nature of this area of space affected the minds of the Defiant's crew, driving them to kill one another - and that the same thing is now happening to the Enterprise crew.
As the ship waits, a Tholian vessel approaches. Its captain claims that the Enterprise is in Tholian space and must leave. Informed of the missing Defiant the ship's commander agrees to allow the Enterprise to wait for another two hours until the ship reappears. However, when the time arrives there is no sign of the Defiant. Spock speculates that the entry of the Tholian ship into interphase space may have altered the timing - but the Tholian commander refuses to believe him, and fires on the Enterprise. Spock quickly disables the ship with a phaser strike and sets about recalculating Kirk's reappearance.
Another Tholian ship arrives, and together the two vessels begin to weave an intricate web of energy filaments around the Starship. When complete the web will trap the Enterprise, with no possible escape. As Spock and McCoy both begin to suffer the effects of interphase space Kirk finally reappears, and they are able to rescue him and escape the Tholians just in time.
An episode full of interesting ideas and good character moments. The idea of interphase space is one of Trek's very first attempts at the "anomaly" idea which would become so popular in later incarnations of the show. The idea that it induces a form of madness in Humans is a bit of a credibility stretch, but it's not impossible I suppose.
The Tholians are an interesting species, one of the less Humanoid races we see in any incarnation of Trek. The idea of a major race which exists in such a completely different environment is a good one, enough to keep our interest even though the special effects of the time aren't really up to the job. Then we come to the Tholian web... which I'm in two minds about. On the one hand the it's always nice to see a novel weapons concept, but on the other, the way it is depicted in this episode the web is virtually useless as a weapon. It takes an age to encase a target - an hour plus. Given how easily the Enterprise dealt with the original ship, in the time it took to spin the web the Starship could easily have knocked off a whole fleet of them! And even an unarmed opponent could merely wait until the web was almost complete, then move to one side a few kilometres and make them start all over again.
Practically the only thing this weapon could be used against is a crippled ship unable to either move or fight - essentially the situation the Enterprise was in during this episode. And that must surely be a rather rare opportunity for the Tholians.