The Empath

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"The Empath"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
Episode no. Season 3
Episode 12
Directed by John Erman
Written by Joyce Muskat
Featured music George Duning
Cinematography by Jerry Finnerman
Production code 063
Original air date December 6, 1968 (1968-12-06)
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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List of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes

"The Empath" is a third season episode of the original science fiction television series, Star Trek, and was broadcast December 6, 1968. It is episode #67, production #63, written by Joyce Muskat and directed by John Erman. It was not without controversy and, for many years, was one of a handful of episodes of the series not screened in the United Kingdom by the BBC owing to its perceived disturbing content. It was not broadcast by the BBC until a repeat run in January 1994.

In this episode, while visiting a doomed planet, the landing party is subject to torturous experiments by powerful aliens.


The Enterprise arrives at Minara II to pick up research personnel because the Minaran star is becoming a supernova. When Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, and Science Officer Spock beam to the planet to locate the research team, they find the research camp abandoned and the scientists missing.

The Enterprise is bombarded by solar radiation, causing instrument failure and endangering the lives of the crew. Chief Engineer Scott, on orders from Kirk, breaks out of orbit while the landing party continues the search for the missing scientists. The landing party is teleported to an underground chamber, where they find a beautiful, mute woman McCoy names "Gem". Gem is the prisoner of the Vians, an alien race. When the Vians attack Kirk, Gem absorbs his injuries and reveals that she is an empath.

Spock finds a nearby area, filled with sophisticated machinery and computer banks, for their escape. With the equipment are glass cylinders, two of which contain bodies in ghastly poses. Signs on the cylinders identify the test subjects as the missing research scientists. Three empty cylinders next to them are labeled "McCoy", "Kirk" and "Spock".

A Vian appears; Spock performs a Vulcan nerve pinch and Gem and the landing party reach the surface and an apparent Enterprise rescue party which proves to be a mirage. Two Vians tell them that they only want Kirk. They turn to leave and are transported away, apparently to gauge Kirk's reaction.

The Vians torture Kirk; Gem watches silently. The Vians explain that the research team's fears killed them, sending Kirk back to the chamber where Gem heals him. Dissatisfied with the experiment's results, the Vians demand another subject. McCoy sedates Kirk, intending to offer himself next. Spock wants to offer himself, but McCoy sedates him also and goes with the Vians. Spock wants to return to the surface, but Gem holds up McCoy's tricorder. Kirk, Spock and Gem teleport to the Vians' medical chamber, where they find McCoy near death.

Kirk hopes to persuade Gem to stabilize McCoy. The Vians reappear, imprisoning Kirk and Spock to prevent them from interfering. Gem overcomes her fear and tries to help the doctor, struggling painfully to ease his suffering, and Kirk demands an explanation for the torture.

The Vians explain that they are testing Gem, since they can save only one of the peoples in their system from the supernova. They observe her growing weaker, sacrificing her energy to save McCoy's life but occasionally resting, and determine that she is not willing to give her life for another and her people will die. Gem returns to McCoy, who (aware that her attempt will cost her her life) shoves her away and she falls to the floor.

Spock, observing that the force field's energy increases with strong emotions, overpowers the two aliens; Kirk confiscates the force-field controls. Spock says that since Gem has offered her life, she has earned survival for her planet. McCoy's life is not solely dependent on Gem, and the Vians can save him. They refuse, saying that Gem's sacrifice is insufficient. Kirk accuses the aliens of lacking compassion. They agree, restoring Gem and McCoy to health and sparing her people. The aliens and Gem teleport away, and Kirk and his team return to the Enterprise. He muses about Gem, and Scott calls her a "pearl of great price".

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