For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky
Overall Ep :
First Aired :
8 Nov 1968
Season Ep :
Great Moment :
McCoy's argument with Chapel, followed by his admission to Kirk that he has a year to live.
Body Count :
One Fabrini man.
James Doohan did double duty in this episode as Scotty and as the voice of the Oracle; Doohan often did such voiceover work for The Original Series and The Animated Series.
In the original episode, the footage of Yonada is a re-use of the asteroid seen in "The Paradise Syndrome". One of the changes in the remastered version is to render two different asteroids for these episodes.
This is the longest title of any episode in any incarnation of Trek.
Guest star Katherina Woodville, who played Natira, was married to Patrick Macnee, star of cult British series The Avengers, from 1965 to 1969.
The Star Trek novel "Ex Machina" shows the Enterprise crew revisiting the Fabrini after their journey is completed. Set after The Motion Picture, the book explores the "Computer as God" idea which Star Trek visited from time to time, as well as following up on McCoy's relationship with Natira.
The idea of the crew on a multi-generational mission forgetting that they were on a ship at all originated with Robert Heinlein in his book Orphans of the Sky.
The Enterprise is attacked in space by a group of nuclear missiles. Easily destroying the threat, the ship proceeds to track the missiles back to their origin, locating a massive asteroid drifting through space. When its course is plotted it becomes clear that it will eventually impact with an inhabited planet, killing all three billion inhabitants. Kirk's handling of the situation is complicated by McCoy's admission that his recent physical revealed that he has Xenopolycythemia, a rare but incurable illness that will kill him within the year.
Kirk beams down to the asteroid, but his party is quickly attacked and overpowered by the inhabitants, who call themselves the Fabrini. He discovers that the entire asteroid is a spacecraft designed to carry a whole civilisation on a centuries long journey through space. The society is ruled over by "The Oracle", an apparently god-like entity that issues commands via a disembodied voice and punishes wrong behaviour by using an implant in the body to cause tremendous pain.
During their time on the asteroid, which the Fabrini call Yonada, McCoy falls in love with Natira, a high priestess of the Oracle, and she with him. He finds that the passengers are entirely unaware of the true nature of their home - indeed the Oracle forbids such knowledge, and punishes any who question the nature of their world or seek to explore it too far. Despite the tyrannical nature of the society McCoy's love for Natira is such that he resigns from Starfleet and recieves an implant so that he may become one of the Fabrini.
Further research discovers that the Oracle is in fact a computer built to pilot the great ship on its journey. Yonada was built ten thousand years ago to preserve the Fabrini civilisation when their sun went nova. Over time a religion grew up around the mission to a new world, and the true origin of the asteroid was forgotten. A fault in the Oracle caused a course change, resulting in the imminent collision. Spock and Kirk are able to disable the Oracle and repair it; Spock also accesses the Oracle's extensive database of medical knowledge, which includes a cure for Xenopolycythemia.
Thus cured, McCoy rejoins the Enterprise. Spock points out that the Fabrini are due to arrive at their destination in 390 days, and McCoy pledges to be there when they arrive.
One of the many times TOS revisited the "false god" story, this is one of the better examples of the kind. The idea of a multi-generational asteroid ship has been proposed as a real way to travel between stars, and it's fascinating to see such a concept brought to the small screen. That the inhabitants of such a ship might forget their original mission and develop an essentially new culture en route is a commonly suggested one in science fiction, and again is an interesting one.
I'm undecided about McCoy's illness, though. On the one hand it does add a nice twist to the proceedings, and gives him a credible reason why he might want to leave Starfleet and spend his remaining time with Natira. But it is just a little too convenient that the illness appears and then is cured in the space of a single episode; it would have been better if the illness had been diagnosed three or four episodes before and then finally cured here. But the nature of sixties TV was such that multi-episode story arcs were virtually nonexistent, and we can hardly blame the writers for that. Overall I think the episode just about gets away with it.
The usual revamped shots of the Enterprise appear. Most notably, the footage of the ship destroying the missiles is replaced with a better version, and the asteroid Yonada is replaced with much more realistic footage.