The Tholian Web

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Tholians)
Jump to: navigation, search
"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
Featured music Fred Steiner
Cinematography by Al Francis
Production code 064
Original air date November 15, 1968 (1968-11-15)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
← Previous
"For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky"
Next →
"Plato's Stepchildren"

"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 disappeared three weeks prior. Their sensors detect dimensional fractures in the area of space, which are draining power from all systems. They find the Defiant adrift, and Captain James T. Kirk, First Officer Spock, Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy, and Navigator Ensign Chekov transport across, using environmental suits for protection. Aboard Defiant, they find the crew is dead, apparently having killed each other in the midst of a mutiny.

The boarding party discovers that the Defiant is slowly dissolving as it enters an interdimensional rift. 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 rift in the fabric of space-time, Kirk orders his men to return to Enterprise first. The beaming takes much longer than normal, and they are almost lost. As Chief Engineer Mr. Scott tries to beam Kirk aboard, the Defiant vanishes, taking the Captain with it.

Spock studies the sensors and believes that, because they had locked onto him before disappearing, Kirk will reappear when the rift experiences a spatial interphase, though he notes that this will stretch the oxygen supply in Kirk's suit to the limit. While they wait, an increasingly furious Chekov starts to go mad and lashes out, a symptom that Dr. McCoy believes is due to their proximity to the rift, as happened to the Defiant's crew. McCoy urges Spock to move the Enterprise to safety but Spock refuses, believing that movement will disrupt the interphase, which would result in the loss of the Captain.

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 negotiates to get them one hour and fifty three minutes until Kirk reappears and then promises they will then leave; the Tholian vessel moves away. When the time is up, Kirk does not reappear. Spock determines that the Tholain ship disrupted the interphase, and that Kirk may still be alive but in a different location. McCoy again urges him to leave, believing that Kirk is dead. The Enterprise is attacked by Loskene, and Spock returns fire. The Tholian ship is disabled, but the Enterprise takes damage as well. Scotty warns that the damage from the Tholians in addition to the power being siphoned off by the interspace is causing the Enterprise to drift towards the rift, and he cannot guarantee he can hold their position. A second Tholian ship joins the first, and the two begin to create the filaments of a vast energy web that cages the Enterprise. Spock determines that if the web is completed before repairs are done, the energy field will destroy the Enterprise, but he insists on remaining to recover Captain Kirk.

Amid further reports of crewmen going insane, Spock conducts a memorial service for Kirk. 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. Elsewhere, some members of the crew report seeing ghostly manifestations of Kirk, including Lieutenant Uhura, who is profoundly startled by his sudden appearance in the mirror in her quarters. Eventually, his apparition makes its presence known in full view of the bridge crew. Spock sees that Kirk is still in the environmental suit and appears to be telling them to leave; now that he knows that Kirk is still alive and connected to the Enterprise, he is determined to lock onto the Captain on his next appearance and beam him back into his correct spatial dimension.

With the Tholian Web nearly complete, McCoy devises a palliative to keep the crew sane, and Spock works to determine the time of Kirk's next appearance. They successfully lock onto Kirk's coordinates. Spock, taking a risk, orders the ship into the spatial rift. They end up 2.72 parsecs away, well outside Tholian space. Kirk is still locked onto the Enterprise, and Lieutenant O'Neil, the transporter officer, is able to successfully beam him aboard just as his oxygen runs out.

Kirk recovers quickly as the Enterprise returns to known space. He questions Spock and McCoy about their handling of the emergency, particularly concerning his final orders. Both of his friends assert that the intensity of the emergency was such that they hadn't had time to listen to them. Captain Kirk accepts their answers.


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

A two-part episode set of Star Trek: Enterprise called "In a Mirror, Darkly", followed up the story and revealed what happened to the Defiant after it disappeared: it materialized in the past of the Mirror Universe (before Mirror Kirk's time) and was stolen by the Tholians of the mirror universe, only for the Terran Empire to then steal it from the Tholians. The dissolution and disappearance the ship experienced were apparently the process of its phasing through the anomaly it encountered. For the sequel, the Defiant bridge (as seen in this episode) was recreated in precise detail; even the positions of the dead crewmen were identical.

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 1609462Freely accessible. 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 (2006-05-04). "THE THOLIAN WEB: THE POLITICAL/INSTITUTIONAL CONTEXT OF REGIONAL CLUSTER-BASED ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT" (PDF). Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Retrieved 2015-07-14. 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]