|Star Trek: The Original Series episode|
On Kirk's command, Spock grabs Kara's wrist to deactivate her bracelet.
|Episode no.||Season 3
|Directed by||Marc Daniels|
|Written by||Lee Cronin|
|Featured music||Fred Steiner|
|Cinematography by||Jerry Finnerman|
|Original air date||September 20, 1968|
"Spock's Brain" is the first episode of the third season of the original science fiction television series Star Trek, first broadcast September 20, 1968. It was the first episode to air after NBC moved the show from 8:30 P.M. to 10 P.M. on Friday nights. It was repeated July 8, 1969. It is episode #56, production #61, written by Gene L. Coon (under the pseudonym Lee Cronin) and directed by Marc Daniels.
In this episode, an alien female beams aboard the ship and, after incapacitating the rest of the crew, surgically removes Spock's brain. Kirk and the crew have just hours to locate and replace it before Spock's body dies.
On stardate 5431.4, the Federation starship USS Enterprise, under the command of Captain James T. Kirk, encounters a curious ship of unusual design. Upon contact, the ship emits a transport beam and a mysterious woman appears on the Enterprise bridge. She stuns the entire crew using a bracelet-like device, then examines each of them, taking particular interest in the Vulcan First Officer Spock. When the crew awakens, Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy finds Spock lying on a bed in Sickbay with his brain surgically removed. Thankfully, owing to his unusual Vulcan physiology, Spock's body can survive in this "brainless" state mechanically, giving Captain Kirk about 24 hours to find his stolen brain.
Sensors detect the ship's ion trail and Kirk follows it to the Sigma Draconis system. The system contains three planets that are reported to be inhabited: Sigma Draconis III, IV and VI. However, the recorded technological levels of each world are determined to be incapable of producing the kind of spacecraft that the Enterprise followed here. The sixth planet however, which shows no sign of industrial advancement at all, radiates energy transmissions that Communications Officer Lt. Uhura states as contradictory to its technological scale. Playing on the hunch that the planet may be deceiving, Kirk beams a landing party to the surface.
Sigma Draconis VI is revealed to be a harsh world in the middle of an Ice Age, but the landing party has no trouble locating the local inhabitants, who attack them on sight, believing them to be "The Others". Kirk captures one of the attackers and questions him. The man identifies himself as a Morg and warns Kirk about the "givers of pain and delight". Kirk asks the Morg about the females of his kind, since there were none around, but is only met with the man's bewilderment. Kirk asks the Morg to help him find "the others", but he refuses and runs away.
The landing party soon comes upon the ruins of a buried city: here they find an elevator that leads underground. Kirk calls Dr. McCoy down from the Enterprise, who has fashioned a device to remotely operate Spock's brainless body and has the mechanically controlled Spock accompany him. The team heads down and they encounter a woman named Luma who tries to activate her bracelet, but Kirk quickly stuns her with a phaser. When questioned, Luma shows she only has the mentality of a child. Spock makes contact with the landing party through a communicator, but before anything can be done, Kirk and his party are apprehended by Kara, the same woman who appeared on the Enterprise bridge. She identifies herself as the leader of the Eymorgs, the apparent females of the Morg. The Eymorgs place belts on the Enterprise landing party that they can't remove and that inflict intense pain upon them. Kirk demands to know what the Eymorgs have done with Spock's brain, but the frustrated Kara responds with, "Brain and brain, what is brain?"
McCoy informs Kirk that if all the Eymorgs have such a low intelligence that they couldn't possibly be capable of removing a brain the way Spock's was removed. Someone, or something else must be behind all this.
The landing party manages to overpower their guard and follow Spock's instruction to the central "controller" which is actually his brain kept alive in a black box that is tied to a control panel. Here, they also find Kara, who immediately immobilizes the team using the pain belts. Kirk uses the remote that controls the mechanically operated Spock and makes him grab Kara's wrist and press the release button on her bracelet. Once free of the pain, Kirk listens to Spock's brain via communicator. They realize that Spock is now the "Controller" - a living computer that the Eymorgs hope will last 10,000 years. Spock says he operates the power systems of the planet, recirculating the air, running heating plants and pumping water - all functions that require a supreme intelligence for the regulation of a planet-wide life support system. He also informs them that the Eymorgs can gain temporary understanding of ancient knowledge from a machine called "the Great Teacher" to which Kara leads them. Kirk forces Kara to use the Teacher, hoping it will teach her the techniques necessary to replace Spock's brain. After using the machine to boost her intelligence, Kara instead uses a phaser to threaten Kirk. Chief Engineer Scott pretends to faint and Kirk uses the distraction to grab Kara's phaser.
McCoy then tries the Teacher on and discovers how to perform a "reverse brain transplant" on Spock. McCoy conducts the surgery and nearly manages to do so within the three-hour time limit that the implanted knowledge lasts. However, the knowledge leaves McCoy before the operation is complete. Mr. Spock provides some assistance himself after McCoy reestablishes Spock's capacity to speak verbally.
Without their Controller, the Eymorgs fear for their existence. Kirk then informs Kara that the Eymorgs will have to take their chances on the surface and live as the Morgs do. He suggests the two societies can share "the Teacher" device and learn together. Kara is not overly enthusiastic about the prospect, but Kirk at least offers some assistance.
Reception and influence
The episode is seen by both fans, and those who took part in its production, as the worst episode of the series. William Shatner called this one of the series' worst episodes, calling the episode's plot a "tribute" to NBC executives who slashed the show's budget and placed it in a bad time slot. Leonard Nimoy wrote: "Frankly during the entire shooting of that episode, I was embarrassed - a feeling that overcame me many times during the final season of Star Trek."
Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club gave the episode a "D" rating, describing the writing as bad and repetitive and the direction as weak. He added that it had its funny moments and some parts had "a lumpy B-movie charm". Despite the episode's negative reputation, it was included in iTunes' "Best Of Star Trek" compilation.
In his book What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History, author David Hofstede ranked the episode at #71 on the list.
A stage production of the episode, adapted and directed by Mike Carano, was produced in 2004 for a limited run in Irvine, California at the Irvine Improv. The play used the original script for the episode. The production is viewed as a success.
The episode was referenced in Modern Principles: Microeconomics by Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok of George Mason University Press as an example of how it is virtually impossible to have a command economy; in that not even Spock's brain could run an economy and many fans consider the episode the worst ever.
Having McCoy use the plastic "Teacher" helmet is lifted from the classic SF film Forbidden Planet but fortunately it doesn't kill McCoy as it did the ship's doctor Doc Ostrow (Warren Stevens, who starred in a Star Trek episode of the previous season).
Star Trek co-producer Robert H. Justman ruefully recalled in the book Inside Star Trek The Real Story, that he was the person who suggested that Spock's brain, after being rescued by the Enterprise crew, actually "takes over during surgery and instructs Dr. McCoy exactly how to go back reinserting it back where it came from - inside Spock's skull".
- Herbert Solow, Robert Justman (1997). Inside Star Trek The Real Story. June: Simon & Schuster. p. 402. ISBN 0-671-00974-5.
- Shatner, William (date unknown). Star Trek: Memories. Memoir.
- Shatner, William (date unknown). Up Till Now. Full general autobiography.
- Nimoy, Leonard (1995). I am Spock. p.115.
- Handlen, Zack (December 4, 2009). ""Spock's Brain"/"The Enterprise Incident"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 5, 2010.
- David Hofstede (2004). What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History. Back Stage Books. p. 57-58. ISBN 0-8230-8441-8.
- Cowen, T & Tabarrak, A, Modern Principles, Macroeconomics, 2nd Edition, pg. 14
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: "Spock's Brain"|
- "Spock's Brain" at StarTrek.com
- "Spock's Brain" at the Internet Movie Database
- "Spock's Brain" at Memory Alpha (a Star Trek wiki)
- "Spock's Brain" at TV.com
- "Spock's Brain" Side-by-side comparisons of the remastered version at TrekMovie.com