The Devil in the Dark

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"The Devil in the Dark"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
STDevil inTheDark.jpg
Kirk faces the Horta
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 25
Directed by Joseph Pevney
Written by Gene L. Coon
Featured music Alexander Courage
Cinematography by Jerry Finnerman
Production code 026
Original air date March 9, 1967 (1967-03-09)
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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"This Side of Paradise"
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"Errand of Mercy"
List of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes

"The Devil in the Dark" is a first season episode of the original science fiction television series, Star Trek, first airing on March 9, 1967, and repeating on June 15, 1967. It was written by Gene L. Coon and directed by Joseph Pevney. William Shatner wrote in his memoirs that "The Devil in the Dark" was his favorite original Star Trek episode.[1] He thought it was "exciting, thought-provoking and intelligent, it contained all of the ingredients that made up our very best Star Treks."[1]

In this episode, Captain Kirk and Spock face off with a deadly subterranean creature.


Enterprise arrives at the pergium mining colony on planet Janus VI to help the colony deal with a creature that has killed 50 miners and destroyed equipment with a strong corrosive substance. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy meet with the mine supervisor, Chief Engineer Vanderberg and an engineer Appel, who describe the amorphous creature to them and its behavior. Spock is curious as to a spherical object on Vanderberg's desk, which he just passes off as a worthless silicon nodule that they recover while mining. Suddenly, they are alerted to a problem in the colony's main nuclear reactor, and find its guard killed and the main circulation pump stolen. Chief Engineer Scott rigs a temporarily replacement that will prevent critical failure but a more permanent solution must be found in 48 hours.

Kirk and his team begin to search for the creature. Spock, suspecting the creature may be a silicon-based lifeform, modifies their phasers to be effective against it. They encounter the creature, having the appearance of molten rock, and fire upon it, breaking a part of it of; the creature flees by burrowing through the rock wall at a rapid pace. Spock analyzes the fragment, and affirms the creature is made of silicon, and that it is able to burrow by secreting the same corrosive substance that has killed the miners. They adjust their tricorders to affirm it is the only silicon lifeform for miles, and Spock warns that killing what appears to be the only one of its kind would be a crime against science, though Kirk warns that the creature has proven too dangerous to keep alive.

As all but essential personnel are evacuated before the temporarily pump fails, Kirk and Spock continue to search for the creature, happening upon a chamber with thousands of the silicone nodules like in Vanderberg's office. The creature arrives, causing a cave-in that separates Kirk and the creature from Spock. Though Spock now urges Kirk to kill it, Kirk observes the creature has not attacked him and instead presenting its wound to him. Spock finds a way around the cave-in and joins Kirk, observing the creature. Spock attempts to mind meld with the creature, but it is in far too much pain to complete, though Spock is able to learn that the creature is called a Horta. The Horta, also having gained knowledge, is able to etch the words "NO KILL I" into the rock, demonstrating some sentience. Spock attempts a second meld, and learns that the Horta race died out completely every five thousand years, save for one that protects their eggs. The Horta, though Spock, tells them the location of the stolen pump. Kirk has Doctor McCoy beam down to try to heal the Horta while they recover the pump.

Vanderberg and the remaining miners threaten to attack the creature when they see Kirk and McCoy caring for it, but Kirk explains it was only protecting its eggs, the silicon nodules they have found. The miners fear that thousands of Horta could hatch and ravage their colony, but Kirk convinces them that the Horta are sentient and only want to be left alone. He offers the possibility that in exchange for leaving the Horta alone, they could get the Horta to help them locate more valuable deposits within the rock. Vanderberg agrees to the idea, and the Horta, now fully healed through McCoy's application of thermo-concrete and speaking through Spock's mind-meld, also agrees to this plan. The pump is installed and the colony restored to normal.

Kirk, Spock, and McCoy return to the ship and prepare to leave orbit, and learn from Vanderberg that the eggs have hatched and already the new Horta have found them rich veins of pergium and other rare metals.

Production notes[edit]

The Horta was played by stuntman and acrobat Janos Prohaska, who also designed the costume. Prohaska was promised that if he created something good enough, the producers would rent the costume and pay Prohaska to play the part. Episode writer Gene Coon was convinced of the costume's effectiveness after an impromptu demonstration by Prohaska in the studios.[2]

William Shatner says this is his favorite episode of the series. His father died during its filming, but Shatner insisted on going through with production, and felt closer to the cast and crew for helping him through the difficult time.[1]


Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club gave the episode an 'A' rating, describing it as a classic and noting the well written roles of Kirk, Spock and McCoy.[3]

See also[edit]

  • Home Soil, the eighteenth episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where a naturally-occurring crystalline life form is encountered
  • HORTA — a backronym used in the mining industry, based on the Horta in this Star Trek episode


  1. ^ a b c Shatner, William (1993). Star Trek Memories (paperback). Harper Torch. p. 200. 
  2. ^ Herbert Solow, Robert Justman (1997). Inside Star Trek The Real Story. June: Simon & Schuster. pp. 214–125. ISBN 0-671-00974-5. 
  3. ^ Handlen, Zack (10 April 2009). ""This Side Of Paradise" / "The Devil In The Dark"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 

External links[edit]