Spock's Brain

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"Spock's Brain"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
Leonard Nimoy William Shatner Spock's Brain Star Trek 1968.JPG
On Kirk's command, Spock grabs Kara's wrist to deactivate her bracelet.
Episode no. Season 3
Episode 1
Directed by Marc Daniels
Written by Lee Cronin
Featured music Fred Steiner
Cinematography by Jerry Finnerman
Production code 061
Original air date September 20, 1968 (1968-09-20)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"Assignment: Earth"
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"The Enterprise Incident"
List of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes

"Spock's Brain" is the first episode of the third season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek, first broadcast on 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 the 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 restore it before Spock's body dies. The episode is widely regarded as the worst episode of the series.


On stardate 5431.4, the Federation starship USS Enterprise, under the command of Captain James T. Kirk, encounters a ship of unusual design. Upon approach, the ship emits a transfer 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. Because of his unusual Vulcan physiology, Spock's body can be kept alive in this "brainless" state for no more than twenty-four hours, giving Captain Kirk that much time to recover his stolen brain.

Sensors detect the ship's ion trail and Kirk follows it to the Sigma Draconis system. The system contains three planets known to be inhabited: the third, fourth, and sixth. However, the observed technological levels of each world are insufficient to produce the type of spacecraft that the Enterprise encountered. The sixth planet, however, which shows no sign of industrialization at all, radiates regular energy pulses that Communications Officer Lt. Uhura says could be natural. Playing on a hunch, Kirk beams a landing party to the surface.

The planet is revealed to be a harsh world in the middle of an ice age, but the landing party has no trouble locating the inhabitants, who attack them on sight. Kirk captures one of the attackers and questions him. The man warns Kirk about the "others", also known as "the givers of pain and delight". Kirk asks the man about the females of his kind, since there were none around, but is only met with the man's bewilderment. Kirk asks for help finding "the others", but he refuses and runs away.

The landing party soon comes upon a chamber containing food and tools, along with an elevator that presumably leads underground. On Kirk's orders, Dr. McCoy beams down from the Enterprise, accompanied by Spock's body, controlled by a device McCoy has fashioned. The team heads down and they encounter a woman named Luma, an "Eymorg", whom Kirk stuns before she can activate her bracelet. When questioned, Luma shows she has the mentality of a child. Spock's voice is heard through a communicator, but before the conversation goes further, Kirk and his party are rendered unconscious. On waking, they find themselves facing Kara, the woman who appeared on the Enterprise bridge, and who now identifies herself as the "leader". Belts have been placed on the Enterprise landing party which they can't remove and that inflict intense pain. Kirk demands to know what they have done with Spock's brain, but Kara claims not to understand what a brain is. As they try to explain the function of a brain, she realizes that what they are seeking is the "Controller", on which the Eymorg civilization is completely dependent.

The landing party is left in the care of a "Morg" (male) guard, whom they manage to overpower. They then follow Spock's signals to a control complex containing a black box in which his brain has apparently been placed. They also meet Kara, who attempts to immobilize them using the pain belts. Acting on Spock's information, Kirk uses Spock's body to activate Kara's bracelet and release the belts. Continuing their discussion with Spock's brain via communicator, they realize that Spock, the Controller, operates the essential systems of the Eymorgs' underground complex, recirculating the air, running heating plants, and purifying water, among other things. Kara informs them that the new Controller is expected to last 10,000 years. She also reveals that the skills needed to acquire and install the Controller were provided by a machine called the "Teacher", and that knowledge so obtained lasts no more than three hours. Kirk forces Kara to use the Teacher again, hoping she can then be persuaded to restore Spock's brain. She refuses, instead threatening them with a phaser, which Kirk is able to take away.

McCoy decides to risk using the Teacher himself, and then quickly begins the procedure to restore Spock's brain. His new knowledge begins to leave him before the operation is complete, but Spock provides assistance after McCoy reestablishes his ability to speak.

Without their Controller, Kara fears for the Eymorgs' existence. Kirk assures Kara that the Eymorgs and Morgs can learn to survive together.

Reception and influence[edit]

The episode is generally regarded by most fans, and those who took part in its production, as the worst episode of the series.[1] 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.[2][3] 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."[4]

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".[5] Despite the episode's negative reputation, it was included in iTunes' "Best Of Star Trek" compilation.[citation needed]

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.[6]

A device similar to that used to remotely operate Spock's brainless body is used in the episode The Magnificent Ferengi of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

The hand prop used to represent that remote control device was held by Spock himself in the later episode That Which Survives, although the Spock character uses it as though it has the function of a data entry terminal rather than a remote control.

The rock band Phish performs a song entitled "Spock's Brain".[7]

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.[8]

The episode was referenced in Modern Principles: Microeconomics by Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok of George Mason University 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.[9]


The episode was written by former Star Trek producer Gene L. Coon under the pen name "Lee Cronin".

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".[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Herbert Solow, Robert Justman (1997). Inside Star Trek The Real Story. June: Simon & Schuster. p. 402. ISBN 0-671-00974-5. 
  2. ^ Shatner, William (date unknown). Star Trek: Memories. Memoir.
  3. ^ Shatner, William (date unknown). Up Till Now. Full general autobiography.
  4. ^ Nimoy, Leonard (1995). I am Spock. p.115.
  5. ^ Handlen, Zack (December 4, 2009). ""Spock's Brain"/"The Enterprise Incident"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 5, 2010. 
  6. ^ David Hofstede (2004). What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History. Back Stage Books. pp. 57–58. ISBN 0-8230-8441-8. 
  7. ^ "Mike Gordon Busts Out Spocks Brain In NYC". Jambase. March 2, 2014. Retrieved March 2, 2014. 
  8. ^ http://mikecarano.com/startrek.html
  9. ^ Cowen, T & Tabarrak, A, Modern Principles, Macroeconomics, 2nd Edition, pg. 14

External links[edit]