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 appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"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 Enterprise, commanded by James T. Kirk, makes a supply run to Tantalus V (a colony for the criminally insane). After the Enterprise delivers supplies and receives cargo from Tantalus for delivery elsewhere, an presumed escaped inmate emerges from a container and overcomes a technician. When they notify the Tantalus administration, Kirk, First Officer Spock and Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy learn that the stowaway is Dr. Simon van Gelder, former assistant to Tantalus director Tristan Adams.

Van Gelder reaches the bridge, phaser in hand, and demands asylum; Spock subdues him with a Vulcan nerve pinch. McCoy, suspicious, wants to examine van Gelder and urges Kirk to investigate. Kirk transports to the colony with psychiatrist Helen Noel.

Adams introduces them to an emotionless woman, Lethe, and gives Kirk and Noel a tour of the colony. Although he is affable and accommodating, his staff seem detached. Adams shows Kirk and Noel a device which injured van Gelder: an experimental neural neutralizer. According to Adams, van Gelder tested the neural neutralizer on himself and became insane. He claims that the machine, harmless at low intensity, is used only to calm agitated inmates. Noel is satisfied with his explanation, but Kirk remains suspicious.

On the Enterprise Van Gelder is increasingly frantic, warning that the landing party is in danger. When he refers to the neural neutralizer, great pain overcomes him.

Spock mind-melds with van Gelder to obtain a clearer picture of his story: Adams is insane, and is using the device on inmates and staff in controlling experiments. The first officer assembles a security team, but the colony's force field blocks transport and communication.

Kirk accesses the neutralizer and tests it on himself, with Noel at the controls. During the test, she playfully suggests that a Christmas-party encounter went further than it did. Adams appears, overpowers Noel, seizes the controls, increases the neutralizer's intensity and brainwashes Kirk into thinking that he has been in love with Noel for years. Kirk and Noel are seized and confined to their quarters.

With Kirk's help, Noel reaches the facility's control room through a ventilation duct and interrupts Kirk's next neutralizer session by shutting off power to the complex. Kirk fights Adams, leaving him unconscious on the floor of the treatment room. A guard discovers Noel's sabotage, restoring power before turning his attention to her. He expects an easy fight against a woman but she tricks him by feigning unconsciousness before surprising him with an athletic kick to his solar plexus when he moves in on her, propelling him into the circuitry and electrocuting him. She turns off the power, takes the dead guard's phaser and returns to the ventilation duct. With the force field off, Spock, McCoy and a security team beam down to the planet. Spock restores power to the colony after disabling the force field (unwittingly reactivating the neural neutralizer), and he and McCoy rejoin Kirk and Noel.

They discover that when the neural neutralizer re-energized, Adams was still on the floor in the vacant treatment room; the neutralizer emptied his mind, killing him. Van Gelder recovers his sanity, 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 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.
  • The second-season South Park episode "Roger Ebert Should Lay Off the Fatty Foods" is a parody of this episode.[4]


  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. 

External links[edit]