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The Enterprise'​s Chief Medical Officer discovers he has a rare, incurable disease called xenopolycythemia (as in polycythemia) and has only one year to live. At the same time, the ship's sensor array detects a set of ballistic missiles targeting the ship; however, the Enterprise quickly disposes of the primitive weapons. The missiles' point of origin is quickly determined, and the Enterprise approaches. It is a large asteroid called Yonada which is on a deadly collision course with the Federation world of Daran V, a planet with nearly four billion inhabitants. Unless a way is discovered to divert Yonada, the asteroid will destroy the planet in just over a solar year.

When the asteroid is discovered to contain a breathable atmosphere, Kirk assembles a landing party consisting of himself, Dr. McCoy and First Officer Spock to beam into the habitable interior to investigate.

Upon their arrival, the landing team discovers several metal cylinders that strangely protrude from the ground. The team is then quickly captured by a group of humanoid men who emerge from the cylinders, along with a stunningly beautiful woman who appears to be their leader. The woman identifies herself as Natira, the High Priestess of Yonada, and orders her men to take the prisoners below.

The three officers are escorted to a chamber that appears to be some kind of temple. Natira kneels on a platform and communicates with the Oracle. Kirk steps forward and tries to explain that their team came in peace. Natira wants to believe the party, but the Oracle threatens severe punishment if the party members are found to be enemies. As a show of force, the Oracle strikes the party with a powerful electric shock that knocks them unconscious.

Kirk and Spock awaken sometime later; however, McCoy recovers slower owing to his medical condition. Kirk tells Spock about McCoy's condition. An old man comes into the room. He tells them that the others on Yonada do not know they are living in a hollow sphere and how, when he was young, he climbed a high mountain and discovered the secret for himself, saying "...for the world is hollow and I have touched the sky." As he is talking he cringes as though in pain, and collapses dead at Kirk's feet. A red glow appears under the skin at the temple of the old man's head. Natira comes into the room with a small entourage and informs Kirk, Spock and McCoy that the man has been killed by the Oracle for uttering "forbidden words". It is then revealed that the Oracle controls the people with an implanted device referred to as an "instrument of obedience".

McCoy's health upsets Natira who quickly shows an attachment to the doctor. Natira tends to McCoy giving Kirk and Spock an opportunity to have a look around. The two discover that the entire asteroid is artificial. It is a giant spacecraft housing millions of people. The Yonada people do not seem to be aware of; all except for the old man, who realized that Kirk and Spock were visitors.

Kirk and Spock then make their way to the Oracle chamber. They discover ancient texts inscribed in the wall by a race known as the Fabrini. It is learned that the Fabrini constructed the asteroid ship 10,000 years ago, before their star exploded in a supernova. They created the ship in hopes of saving members of their race, and later transplant them to a new world. All the current inhabitants of Yonada are Fabrini descendants.

Kirk wishes to get a closer look at the Oracle which he and Spock believe is nothing more than a central computer, but they hide when Natira enters the chamber to pray. She expresses to the Oracle that she wishes McCoy to become her mate. Kirk's and Spock's forbidden intrusion into the temple chamber is discovered and again they are painfully stunned and taken away to be punished for their transgressions. Meanwhile, McCoy has grown fond of Natira and expresses his desire to remain behind on Yonada, since he has one year to live. He agrees to Natira's marriage proposal only if she allows Kirk and Spock to go free.

Natira agrees, but if McCoy is to remain behind, the Oracle demands that he be implanted with a punishment device like all the others. McCoy accepts under the circumstances, and Kirk and Spock are released. They attempt to convince McCoy to return with them since Starfleet will resort to destroying the generation ship if they cannot divert it, but McCoy is adamant about staying; his friends return to the Enterprise. Kirk, however, never gets the chance to reveal Yonada's secret and warn Natira of its imminent doom. McCoy undergoes the implant procedure. Afterwards, he and Natira are married in an elaborate ceremony.

After the wedding, McCoy is allowed to look at the "Book of the People", the sacred text that reveals information on numerous star systems and Fabrini technology. McCoy excitedly contacts the Enterprise with his communicator about the discovery of the book, but the Oracle discovers what he is doing, activates McCoy's punishment device, and terminates the communication to Enterprise.

Kirk and Spock waste no time in beaming back to Yonada to find McCoy. He is unconscious, and Natira is nearly hysterical with worry. Spock operates on McCoy and removes the punishment implant. Kirk explains to Natira that her world is really a spaceship that will be destroyed if she does not convince the Oracle to alter course. She believes him, and confronts the Oracle for the truth. The Oracle responds to her "blasphemy" with a blast of pain from her punishment implant, almost killing her.

McCoy rushes to Natira's side and begins to remove her implant. Kirk and Spock enter the temple chamber to retrieve the book and find a way to shut down the Oracle computer. The Oracle becomes furious at their attempts to gain access, and the stones of the chamber begin to glow red-hot. Kirk and Spock retreat, but having seized the book they find a way to bypass the Oracle's defenses and shut the machine down. They also discover a secret room containing the navigation controls for the asteroid ship.

With the Oracle disabled, Kirk and Spock enter the room and learn that a malfunction in the navigation system has moved Yonada off its intended course. Kirk and Spock make the proper repairs to the ancient navigation system and redirect Yonada onto its proper heading, sparing both the ship and Daran V.

Kirk and Spock discover Fabrini medical records, including a cure for xenopolycythemia. McCoy is returned to the Enterprise for a successful treatment, but hopes to see his "wife" Natira again once the Yonada people reach their new homeworld in just over a year.[1]

Errors and ExplanationsEdit

The Nitpicker's Guide for Classic TrekkersEdit

Plot OversightsEdit

  1. At the beginning of this episode, McCoy tells Kirk that he has a terminal disease and makes two requests. Having only a year to live, McCoy asks that Kirk allow him to continue working and that the captain keep the information to himself. According to the captain’s log, Kirk promptly asks for a replacement for McCoy. Then the captain almost refuses to allow him to go with the next landing party, and a short time later tells Spock about the doctor's illness. Do these sound like the actions of a friend? Kirk has to consider the welfare of the entire crew.

Changed PremisesEdit

  1. Beaming over to the inner surface of the asteroid, the landing party soon discovers several large cylinders. Suddenly the cylinders behind the landing party rise, and Yonadan guards jump out. The cylinders make a deftinite humming sound as they rise, yet Spock — with his supersensitive hearing (see Operation: Annihilate!) - is taken by surprise along with the others. There's only one possible explanation for this: McCoy didn’t get Spock’s hearing hooked up correctly when he reinstalled the Vulcan's brain (see Spock's Brain). Perhaps the humming seemed to come from ahead of them.

Equipment OdditiesEdit

  1. Yonada has a room where Natira speaks with the "Oracle," a computer that poses as the voice of the creators. Alter capturing the landing party, she leads them to the Oracle room. Once there, she holds out a phaser and a communicator and says of the landing party that they bear instruments that she and her people do not understand. Of course, the whole time one of the Yonadan guards holds a phaser trained on the landing party. For not understanding these devices, the Yonadans apparently know how to use them. The guards obviously recognised the phaser as a weapon, due to it's gun shaped design.
  2. Once again, a landing party from the Enterprise leaves weapons of sophisticated design behind on a less developed world. No indication is ever given that Kirk recovered the three phasers confiscated by the Yonadans from the original landing party. This probably happened after the episode.

Continuity And Production ProblemsEdit

  1. Before beaming over to Yonada, Kirk orders Sulu to match the speed of the apparent asteroid. Moments later, a graphic shows the Enterprise flying in front of Yonada, which is clearly gaining on the Enterprise. Enterprise has obviously been caught in Yonada's gravitational field.


  1. For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky at Wikipedia

The Original Series Season 3
Spectre of the Gun I Elaan of Troyius I The Paradise Syndrome I The Enterprise Incident I And the Children Shall Lead I Spock's Brain I Is There in Truth No Beauty? I The Empath I The Tholian Web I For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky I Day of the Dove I Plato's Stepchildren I Wink of an Eye I That Which Survives I Let That Be Your Last Battlefield I Whom Gods Destroy I The Mark of Gideon I The Lights of Zetar I The Cloud Minders I The Way to Eden I Requiem for Methuselah I The Savage Curtain I All Our Yesterdays I Turnabout Intruder