For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky

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"For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
Episode no. Season 3
Episode 8
Directed by Tony Leader
Written by Rik Vollaerts
Featured music George Duning
Cinematography by Al Francis
Production code 065
Original air date November 8, 1968 (1968-11-08)
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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"Day of the Dove"
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List of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes

"For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky" is the eighth episode of the third season of the original science fiction television series, Star Trek. It was aired by NBC on November 8, 1968 and was written by Rik Vollaerts, and directed by Tony Leader (legal name: Anton Morris Leader).

In this episode, the crew of the Enterprise rush to stop an asteroid from colliding with a Federation world, but discover the asteroid is actually an inhabited generation ship.


On stardate 5476.3, Dr. McCoy, the Federation starship USS Enterprise's Chief Medical Officer, discovers he has a rare, incurable disease called xenopolycythemia (as in polycythemia) and has only one year to live. At the same time, the ship's sensor array detects a set of ballistic missiles targeting the ship; however, the Enterprise quickly disposes of the primitive weapons. The missiles' point of origin is quickly determined, and the Enterprise approaches. It is a large asteroid called Yonada which is on a deadly collision course with the Federation world of Daran V, a planet with nearly four billion inhabitants. Unless a way is discovered to divert Yonada, the asteroid will destroy the planet in just over a solar year.

When the asteroid is discovered to contain a breathable atmosphere, Kirk assembles a landing party consisting of himself, Dr. McCoy and First Officer Spock to beam into the habitable interior to investigate.

Upon their arrival, the landing team discovers several metal cylinders that strangely protrude from the ground. The team is then quickly captured by a group of humanoid men who emerge from the cylinders, along with a stunningly beautiful woman who appears to be their leader. The woman identifies herself as Natira, the High Priestess of Yonada, and orders her men to take the prisoners below.

The three officers are escorted to a chamber that appears to be some kind of temple. Natira kneels on a platform and communicates with the Oracle. Kirk steps forward and tries to explain that their team came in peace. Natira wants to believe the party, but the Oracle threatens severe punishment if the party members are found to be enemies. As a show of force, the Oracle strikes the party with a powerful electric shock that knocks them unconscious.

Kirk and Spock awaken sometime later; however, McCoy recovers slower owing to his medical condition. Kirk tells Spock about McCoy's condition. An old man comes into the room. He tells them that the others on Yonada do not know they are living in a hollow sphere and how, when he was young, he climbed a high mountain and discovered the secret for himself, saying "...for the world is hollow and I have touched the sky." As he is talking he cringes as though in pain, and collapses dead at Kirk's feet. A red glow appears under the skin at the temple of the old man's head. Natira comes into the room with a small entourage and informs Kirk, Spock and McCoy that the man has been killed by the Oracle for uttering "forbidden words". It is then revealed that the Oracle controls the people with an implanted device referred to as an "instrument of obedience".

McCoy's health upsets Natira who quickly shows an attachment to the doctor. Natira tends to McCoy giving Kirk and Spock an opportunity to have a look around. The two discover that the entire asteroid is artificial. It is a giant spacecraft housing millions of people. The Yonada people do not seem to be aware of; all except for the old man, who realized that Kirk and Spock were visitors.

Kirk and Spock then make their way to the Oracle chamber. They discover ancient texts inscribed in the wall by a race known as the Fabrini. It is learned that the Fabrini constructed the asteroid ship 10,000 years ago, before their star exploded in a supernova. They created the ship in hopes of saving members of their race, and later transplant them to a new world. All the current inhabitants of Yonada are Fabrini descendants.

Kirk wishes to get a closer look at the Oracle which he and Spock believe is nothing more than a central computer, but they hide when Natira enters the chamber to pray. She expresses to the Oracle that she wishes McCoy to become her mate. Kirk's and Spock's forbidden intrusion into the temple chamber is discovered and again they are painfully stunned and taken away to be punished for their transgressions. Meanwhile, McCoy has grown fond of Natira and expresses his desire to remain behind on Yonada, since he has one year to live. He agrees to Natira's marriage proposal only if she allows Kirk and Spock to go free.

Natira agrees, but if McCoy is to remain behind, the Oracle demands that he be implanted with a punishment device like all the others. McCoy accepts under the circumstances, and Kirk and Spock are released. They attempt to convince McCoy to return with them since Starfleet will resort to destroying the generation ship if they cannot divert it, but McCoy is adamant about staying; his friends return to the Enterprise. Kirk, however, never gets the chance to reveal Yonada's secret and warn Natira of its imminent doom. McCoy undergoes the implant procedure. Afterwards, he and Natira are married in an elaborate ceremony.

After the wedding, McCoy is allowed to look at the "Book of the People", the sacred text that reveals information on numerous star systems and Fabrini technology. McCoy excitedly contacts the Enterprise with his communicator about the discovery of the book, but the Oracle discovers what he is doing, activates McCoy's punishment device, and terminates the communication to Enterprise.

Kirk and Spock waste no time in beaming back to Yonada to find McCoy. He is unconscious, and Natira is nearly hysterical with worry. Spock operates on McCoy and removes the punishment implant. Kirk explains to Natira that her world is really a spaceship that will be destroyed if she does not convince the Oracle to alter course. She believes him, and confronts the Oracle for the truth. The Oracle responds to her "blasphemy" with a blast of pain from her punishment implant, almost killing her.

McCoy rushes to Natira's side and begins to remove her implant. Kirk and Spock enter the temple chamber to retrieve the book and find a way to shut down the Oracle computer. The Oracle becomes furious at their attempts to gain access, and the stones of the chamber begin to glow red-hot. Kirk and Spock retreat, but having seized the book they find a way to bypass the Oracle's defenses and shut the machine down. They also discover a secret room containing the navigation controls for the asteroid ship.

With the Oracle disabled, Kirk and Spock enter the room and learn that a malfunction in the navigation system has moved Yonada off its intended course. Kirk and Spock make the proper repairs to the ancient navigation system and redirect Yonada onto its proper heading, sparing both the ship and Daran V.

Kirk and Spock discover Fabrini medical records, including a cure for xenopolycythemia. McCoy is returned to the Enterprise for a successful treatment, but hopes to see his "wife" Natira again once the Yonada people reach their new homeworld in just over a year.


The episode has the longest title in the Star Trek franchise.[1]


Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club gave the episode an 'B-' rating, describing it as having potential, but being hampered by a script that fails to act on that: "we have Kirk and Spock unraveling the mystery by the halfway mark, and then spending the rest of the episode on clean-up duty. You know McCoy is coming back, you know he'll be cured, and you know that the computer will be defeated. About the only question is whether or not Natira will make it to the end credits, and happily, she does—which means McCoy, unlike Kirk, isn't a widower."[2]

Star Trek novelist Dayton Ward wrote,

"For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky" is a decent idea, in and of itself. The idea of a generational ship encased in an asteroid is well worth exploring. After all, variations on the concept were already a staple of science fiction long before Star Trek came along. My biggest problem is why someone—the Fabrini—felt it necessary to conceal the truth behind the "worldship" from its population. Wouldn't it make more sense for the generations of Yonadans to be informed as to their purpose, and be working and training the next generation(s) to be ready for when the ship arrives at its destination? Instead, they're wandering the halls, apparently doing little more than tossing Frisbees and getting the occasional spanking from the Oracle. ... The episode is typical of the third season: Long on talk, light on action, adequate yet hardly spectacular in execution.[3]

David Alan Mack, also a Star Trek novelist, remarks on the episode's

peculiar similarity to The Paradise Syndrome, which aired only five weeks prior. Both episodes involve the Enterprise being tasked with altering the trajectory of an asteroid headed toward a populated Class M planet, discovering a displaced culture with a love of peculiar obelisks, and one of our series regulars getting married to the culture's high priestess. In fact, these episodes are so similar that they reused the effects shot of the asteroid from The Paradise Syndrome as a stand-in for the asteroid-disguised generation ship Yonada.[4]

Mack writes that he "simply didn't buy the romance between McCoy and Natira," but otherwise liked the characterizations:

The episode's performances are quite good, all things considered. William Shatner's scenery chewing is kept in check, and DeForest Kelley brings a quiet dignity to his portrayal of McCoy facing his own imminent demise. The argument between McCoy and Nurse Christine Chapel (Majel Barrett) feels genuine and heartfelt, and Leonard Nimoy brings the perfect degree of quiet compassion to the moment when Spock, having learned of McCoy's illness, reaches out to steady his wounded friend, and McCoy reacts with understated surprise at Spock's sudden display of concern. In fact, that scene is the best one in the entire episode, because it captures the dynamics of the three principals' friendship in a single, eloquently dramatized moment.[4]

Samuel Walters called it "a surprisingly effective episode about blind faith in rules and dogma, as well as a touching love story," with the qualification that the story "does a good job of providing character growth for McCoy. Had the episode not succumbed to an easy solution to his predicament—purely because these episodes need their characters to remain, essentially, the same—then this could have been a profound, moving narrative."[5] A negative review by Michelle Erica Green focused on plot illogic: "Why are the men wearing shiny plaid suits and carrying swords when wrongdoers can be punished for their crimes by a computer? Why are the women wearing provocative gowns when only the priestess is allowed to choose her own mate?"[6]

Game creator Jon Van Caneghem used the plot of this as the basis for his first computer game, Might and Magic Book One: The Secret of the Inner Sanctum.


  1. ^ Keith DeCandido (May 2014). "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: "Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places"". Retrieved May 4, 2015. 
  2. ^ Handlen, Zack (January 8, 2010). ""Day Of The Dove"/"For The World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 7, 2010. 
  3. ^ Ward, Dayton. "Star Trek Re-watch: "For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky"". Retrieved September 3, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Mack, David Alan. "Star Trek Re-watch: "For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky"". Retrieved September 3, 2012. 
  5. ^ Walters, Samuel (November 9, 2008). "3.08 - For the World is Hollow". Dauntless Media: Reviews and Analysis of Modern Media. Retrieved September 3, 2012. 
  6. ^ Green, Michelle Erica (September 29, 2006). "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky". Trek Today. Retrieved September 3, 2012. 

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