Dagger of the Mind

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For the second season Columbo episode of the same name, see List of Columbo episodes.
"Dagger Of The Mind"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 9
Directed by Vincent McEveety
Written by S. Bar-David
Featured music Alexander Courage
Cinematography by Jerry Finnerman
Production code 011
Original air date November 3, 1966 (1966-11-03)
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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List of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes

"Dagger of the Mind" is a first season episode of the science fiction television series, Star Trek. It is episode #9, production #11 and was broadcast November 3, 1966. It was written by Shimon Wincelberg under the pen name "S. Bar-David," and directed by Vincent McEveety. The title is taken from a soliloquy by the title character in William Shakespeare's play Macbeth.[1]

In the plot, the Enterprise visits a planet that houses a rehabilitation facility for the criminally insane where a new treatment has horrifying results. It marks the first appearance of the Vulcan mind meld.


The starship USS Enterprise, commanded by Captain James T. Kirk, makes a supply run to the planet Tantalus V, a rehabilitation colony for the criminally insane. After the Enterprise transports supplies and receives cargo from Tantalus for delivery elsewhere, an escaped inmate emerges from one of the containers and subdues the transporter technician. Upon contacting the Tantalus administration, Kirk, First Officer Spock, and Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy discover that the stowaway is Dr. Simon van Gelder, former assistant to Dr. Tristan Adams, the Director of the Tantalus facility.

Van Gelder makes his way to the bridge, phaser in hand, and demands asylum, but is quickly subdued by Mr. Spock with a Vulcan nerve pinch. Dr. McCoy suspects something is wrong and wants to keep van Gelder for examination. He urges Captain Kirk to investigate, and Kirk transports to the colony with Dr. Helen Noel, an attractive ship psychiatrist.

Upon arrival, Dr. Adams introduces them to a blank, emotionless woman named Lethe and gives Kirk and Noel a tour of the colony. Adams is affable and accommodating, but his staff seem blank and detached. Adams shows Kirk and Noel the device that caused Dr. van Gelder's injury, an experimental beam called a Neural Neutralizer. Adams explains that van Gelder felt compelled to test the device before using it on inmates, and that he used the beam on himself, at full power and was driven insane. Dr. Adams claims the machine is perfectly harmless at low intensities and is only used to stabilize and calm deranged inmates. Dr. Noel is satisfied with this explanation, but Kirk remains suspicious.

Meanwhile, on the Enterprise, Van Gelder issues increasingly frantic warnings that the landing party is in extreme danger. His warnings contain cryptic references to the Neural Neutralizer, but whenever he tries to elaborate, he is racked with pain and unable to continue.

Spock mind-melds with Dr. van Gelder to obtain a clearer picture of his story, which reveals that Dr. Adams himself is insane and is using the device on both inmates and facility staff, treating them as guinea pigs in his studies of the minds by breaking their wills and controlling them. Spock assembles a security team, but the colony's force field blocks transport and communication.

Meanwhile, Kirk manages to access the Neutralizer and decides to test it on himself, with Dr. Noel at the controls. The test begins and Dr. Noel playfully suggests that a previous Christmas party encounter went further than it did. Suddenly, Dr. Adams appears, overpowers Dr. Noel, seizes the controls, and increases the intensity of the Neutralizer. He brainwashes Kirk to believe he has been madly in love with Dr. Noel for years. Kirk and Noel are subsequently taken prisoner and confined to their quarters.

With Kirk's help, Dr. Noel escapes into a ventilation duct, and reaches the facility's control room, and interrupts Kirk's next Neutralizer session by shutting down all power in the complex. Kirk regains himself and subdues Adams, leaving him unconscious on the floor of the treatment room. A guard discovers Noel's sabotage and restores power before turning his attention towards her. Expecting an easy fight against a woman, she surprises and hurtles him into the electrical circuitry with an athletic kick to the solar plexus , killing him. She again turns off the power, takes the dead guard's phaser, and returns to the ventilation duct. With the force field down, Spock, McCoy and a security team beam to the planet. Spock restores power to the colony after disabling the force field, unwittingly reactivating the Neural Neutralizer. Spock and McCoy then reunite with Kirk and Noel.

The crew then soon discovers that when the Neural Neutralizer reinitiated, Dr. Adams was still on the floor in the vacant treatment room; the Neutralizer had emptied Adams' mind, killing him. Van Gelder is treated and recovers his sanity, then takes charge of the colony and destroys the Neural Neutralizer.


Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club gave the episode a "B" rating, noting that the episode had "a handful of excellent moments (the mind-meld, that damn booth) that don't fit as well as they should". Handlen noted Kirk's and Noel's relationship as the plot's "weakest element", and that Adams did not make a compelling villain. On the other hand, he felt that Nimoy made Spock's mind meld sequence "fairly effective". The booth and its effect on Adams were also cited as memorable moments in the episode.[2]

Legacy and influence[edit]

  • In articles in the magazines Starlog[3] and Entertainment Weekly[volume & issue needed], actor Morgan Woodward called the role of Dr. Simon Van Gelder the most physically and emotionally exhausting acting job of his career. Desperate to get out of Westerns and expand his range, he was cast against type for this episode and was so well regarded that he came on board next season to play the tragic Capt. Ronald Tracey in "The Omega Glory". Playing Van Gelder did take its toll on his personal life, as he confesses that for three weeks afterwards he was anti-social towards friends and family. He is grateful that this episode opened up whole new opportunities for him.


  1. ^ Rhiannon Guy, Emma Jones (2005). The Shakespeare Companions. Robson. p. 108. ISBN 978-1-86105-913-0. Retrieved October 20, 2010. 
  2. ^ Handlen, Zack (February 13, 2009). ""What Are Little Girls Made Of?"/"Miri"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2009-08-15. 
  3. ^ Starlog (USA) May 1988, Vol. 11, Iss. 130, pg. 72-73, by: Mark Phillips, "Morgan Woodard: Keeping Sane"
  4. ^ The Deep End of South Park: Critical Essays on Television's Shocking Cartoon Series. McFarland. 2009. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-7864-4307-9. Retrieved December 11, 2009. 

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