The Tholian Web

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"The Tholian Web"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
STTholian Web.jpg
The Tholians weave an energy web around the Enterprise.
Episode no.Season 3
Episode 9
Directed by
Written by
  • Judy Burns
  • Chet Richards
Featured musicFred Steiner
Cinematography byAl Francis
Production code064
Original air dateNovember 15, 1968 (1968-11-15)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky"
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"Plato's Stepchildren"
Star Trek: The Original Series (season 3)
List of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes

"The Tholian Web" is the ninth episode of the third season of the original American science fiction television series Star Trek. It is episode #64, production #64, first broadcast on November 15, 1968, and repeated August 19, 1969. It was written by Judy Burns and Chet Richards and directed by Herb Wallerstein.

In the episode, Captain Kirk is caught between dimensions while the crew of the Enterprise works to retrieve him. All the while, the Tholians are weaving a destructive energy web around the Enterprise because Spock will not leave Tholian space without his Captain.


The Federation starship USS Enterprise enters an uncharted region of space while searching for her sister ship, the USS Defiant, which has been missing for three weeks. Sensors detect what seem to be fractures in space, and an unexplained power loss affects all systems. The Defiant is found adrift, and Captain James T. Kirk, First Officer Spock, Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy, and Navigator Ensign Chekov transport across wearing environmental suits for protection. Aboard Defiant, they find the entire crew dead, apparently having killed one another.

The boarding party discovers that the Defiant is slowly dissolving. At one point, McCoy is able to pass his hand through an almost invisible man and a table. With limited transporter functionality due to the unexplained malfunctions, Kirk orders his men to return to Enterprise first. The beaming takes much longer than usual, and as Chief Engineer Mr. Scott finally tries to beam Kirk aboard, the Defiant vanishes, taking the Captain with it.

Spock determines that the local space is experiencing periods of "interphase", and believes that Kirk will reappear during the next one. As he explains the situation, Chekov lashes out in anger, a symptom that Dr. McCoy believes is due to their proximity to Defiant. Spock, however, refuses to move the ship, fearful of disrupting local space, which would result in the loss of the Captain.

A view of Loskene, one of the Tholian aliens

With two hours to go before the next interphase, the Enterprise is approached by a small, unfamiliar ship. Its captain, Commander Loskene of the Tholian Assembly, asserts that the Enterprise has violated Tholian space and must leave. Spock persuades him to wait one hour and fifty-three minutes. When the time is up, Kirk does not reappear, and Spock concludes that the arrival of the Tholian ship has disrupted the interphase.

When the Enterprise is attacked by Loskene, McCoy again urges Spock to leave, believing that Kirk is dead. Spock chooses to return fire and the Tholian ship is disabled, but the Enterprise takes damage as well. Scotty warns that because of the damage he cannot guarantee that he can hold their position. A second Tholian ship joins the first, and the two begin to weave a vast energy web that cages the Enterprise. Spock determines that if the web is completed before repairs are done, they will be unable to escape.

Spock conducts a memorial service for Kirk, during which another man becomes insane. Spock and McCoy then view a tape left by Kirk meant to be played in the event of his death, which asks the two of them to work together for the benefit of the ship. Lieutenant Uhura and Scott both report seeing ghostly manifestations of Kirk. Finally, this apparition is seen on the bridge; Kirk is still in his environmental suit and appears to be urging Spock to "hurry".

With the Tholian Web nearly complete, McCoy dispenses an antidote to the effects of the local space, and Spock determines the time of Kirk's next appearance. They successfully lock onto Kirk's coordinates, and Spock orders the activation of ship's power, which carries them through the spatial rift to a point 2.72 parsecs away. Kirk is brought along by the transporter lock, and he is beamed aboard just as his oxygen runs out.

Back on the bridge, Kirk questions Spock and McCoy about their handling of the emergency, particularly concerning his final orders. Both claim that they had not had time to listen to them, and Kirk accepts that answer.


The completed Tholian web around the alternate universe ISS Enterprise (NX-01) from Star Trek: Enterprise.

In a two-part episode of Star Trek: Enterprise called "In a Mirror, Darkly", it is revealed that the Defiant has reappeared in the Mirror Universe of Archer's time, where it is first salvaged by the Tholians and then stolen by the Terran Empire. The Defiant bridge is recreated in precise detail, even to the positions of the dead crewmen.

Cultural impact[edit]

In 1997 it became known that United States Customs investigators had used the name "Tholian Web" for a technique for embroiling child porn enthusiasts in internet conversations to trick them into illegal activity.[2][3] By 1997 it had triggered hundreds of prosecutions.

In 2010 Gerry W. Beyer, of the Texas Tech University School of Law, cited a video recording introduced in this episode, which Captain Kirk, Captain of the starship Enterprise, had left for his two most senior officers to play in the event of his death, urging them to overcome their personal animosity.[4] Beyer described this fictional recording as one of the first recorded instances of what he called a "video-will".

Political scientists have compared the metaphor of the entrapment in this episode with the deep challenges politicians and administrators feel when confronted with competing factions and lobby groups.[5][6][7][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ DM Hughes (1999). "Pimps and Predators on the Internet" (PDF). Women's International Network News. p. 30. Retrieved 2015-07-14. In a joint investigation and sting, known as the “Tholian Web,” agents of the US Customs Service and the New York State Attorney General Dennis C. Vacco’s office spent eighteen months tracking and gathering evidence on child pornography traffickers in the United States, Germany, Switzerland and Great Britain. By the end of 1997 the operation had resulted in 120 prosecution referrals and 32 convictions across the United States.
  3. ^ Nancy Garland (1997-09-18). "Child-porn trial focuses on internet". Bangor, Maine: Bangor Daily News. pp. 2, 12, 16, B6. Retrieved 2015-07-14. Named for a device used to ensnare spaceships in a "Star Trek" television show episode, the earthbound Tholian Web has resulted in hundreds of prosecution.
  4. ^ Gerry W. Beyer (2010-04-01). "Video-Recording the Will Execution Ceremony". Texas Tech University School of Law. SSRN 1609462. From Star Trek’s Captain Kirk leaving a video to be watched upon his death in his attempt to get Spock and McCoy to work together in an emergency situation to Rodrigo Rosenberg making an 18-minute video to be viewed upon his disappearance in May 2009, which allegedly named his murderer, people have wanted to “speak from the great beyond” to their family and friends.
  5. ^ Chad R. Miller (May 4, 2006). "THE THOLIAN WEB: THE POLITICAL/INSTITUTIONAL CONTEXT OF REGIONAL CLUSTER-BASED ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT" (PDF). Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 14, 2015. Retrieved July 14, 2015. Going back to the metaphor of Captain Kirk and the Tholian web that started off this story, this dissertation was not meant to be about “high” public administration theory and network governance, but it could be the basis for research in that area.
  6. ^ Chris Hergesheimer, Emily Huddart Kennedy (2010). "Farmers Markets, Local Food Systems and the Social Economy: A Thematic Literature Review" (PDF). Athabasca University. p. 64. Retrieved 2015-07-15.
  7. ^ Ward Ooms, Miranda Ebbekink (2015-06-15). "Buddies or foes: the importance of personal proximity and personal '(dis)clicks' to cluster governance" (PDF). Rome, Italy: Druid Society. p. 36. Retrieved 2015-07-15.
  8. ^ Miranda Ebbekink (April 2015). "Eindproduct Leewarden" (PDF) (in Dutch). Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen. p. 29. Retrieved 2015-07-15.

External links[edit]