The Enterprise arrives at Capella IV to negotiate a mining contract for topeline. The Capellan inhabitants are described by Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy as strong, warlike humanoids who average 7 feet in height; and, despite their violent tendencies, the Capellans do have a strong sense of honesty. McCoy is familiar with the Capellans since he spent a few months of his Starfleet career stationed on their world; he speaks their language and knows a great deal about their customs. Kirk is also aware that the Capellans are known to have dealings with the Klingons, which may make the negotiations difficult.
Kirk beams down to the planet with Dr. McCoy, First Officer Spock and a security officer, leaving Chief Engineer Scott in command. He warns him to keep alert for Klingon ships in the area, since they may try to interfere in the talks.
Kirk's fear is realized as soon as he arrives, finding Kras, a Klingon emissary, is already present. Kirk's security officer reacts without thinking and draws his phaser on the Klingon, but the Enterprise security guard is immediately killed by a Capellan guard with his kligat, (pronounced "Klee-got"), a weapon that is part boomerang and part dagger. The Capellans order Kirk and his party to hand over their weapons just as the Klingon had done. Despite the hostile greeting, the Capellans treat the party as honored guests.
Kirk is offered some food by a Capellan woman, but McCoy manages to restrain Kirk from physical contact with a small bulbous object that she is holding, for touching it mandates hand-to-hand combat with her closest male relative. McCoy explains that the Capellans consider such fights entertaining. Kirk's restraint actually annoys the woman's male relative, who was looking forward to a deadly duel with the Captain.
Kirk and the Klingon emissary meet with Akaar, the Teer - leader - of the Ten Tribes, and the talks begin, with McCoy interpreting for his colleagues. While Akaar seems to favor the Federation's offer over the Klingons', Akaar's rivals seem to disagree, especially Maab, who challenges Akaar. A coup d'état ensues and Maab kills Akaar, thus winning the throne and becoming the new Teer. Kirk wisely takes this in stride, but the Klingon demands that the Enterprise crew members be killed. Maab begins to disparage the Klingon, who showed fear, and to respect Kirk, who did not.
Maab orders the death of Eleen, Akaar's wife, for she is pregnant with Akaar's child, who was to be the next Teer in line of succession. As Eleen comes into the main tent expecting to be killed, Maab trips her with the flat of his sword, so that she falls against a lit torch and burns her hand. When Kirk and McCoy intervene, Maab becomes greatly angered by the break of tradition, and has Kirk and his party imprisoned along with Eleen, who herself is upset, claiming that she was prepared to die. Kras wickedly smirks, for the scales have tipped in favor of the Klingons' offer.
Meanwhile, the Enterprise receives a distress call from the SS Deirdre. Mr. Scott takes the Enterprise out of orbit to find the ship, but when it arrives at the coordinates, he finds nothing. He notes the call strangely asked for the Enterprise by name, and no civilian ship would have direct knowledge of the Enterprise 's whereabouts. Realizing he had been duped, he races back to Capella IV, but receives another distress signal along the way, this time from the USS Carolina. Scott ignores it saying "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me", which Ensign Chekov reports is an old Russian saying. When the Enterprise shows up at Capella, Scotty finds a Klingon warship waiting to ambush him. Forced to deal with a heavily armed adversary, the Enterprise is rendered unable to help its captured crewmembers imprisoned on the planet.
Kirk and his party, along with Eleen, manage to overpower their captors and escape into some nearby hills. McCoy is worried about Eleen's arm, and persists in touching her to determine the possible time of her giving birth. She resists and slaps him twice, very hard, which causes McCoy to slap her in response. Due to the militaristic ideology of her culture, this actually impresses Eleen, and she allows McCoy to examine her. He discovers that she is ready to give birth at any time. He is concerned about his ability to deliver the child, since the Capellans are not human but humanoid, and he might not be able to handle complications. Eventually the party finds a cave to hide in. The way to the cave is steep and rocky, and Eleen insists McCoy, and only McCoy, help her up, whereupon he comments "I'm a doctor, not an escalator!" Kirk and Spock start a fire and begin to fashion primitive bows and arrows to defend themselves.
Maab and his warriors, now hot on their trail, are getting closer. Kirk and Spock use their communicators to create a frequency that will disrupt the rocks above them. They cause an avalanche which kills some of the Capellan pursuers. Kras uses this opportunity to obtain a Federation phaser weapon for himself from a fallen Capellan, whom he kills.
Meanwhile, McCoy attempts to deliver Eleen's baby. She refuses to have it born, struggling against the contractions, saying that it isn't hers, and that it must be killed. McCoy tells her to repeat the words: "it is mine", but she misinterprets, thinking McCoy is claiming the child as his own. Due to her medical state, McCoy refrains from attempting to convince her of her error. The delivery is successful. Thinking everything will be fine, McCoy nods off, just as Eleen knocks him unconscious with a rock, and heads out to surrender to Maab. When she meets him she claims she killed the baby, as well as the humans, while they slept.
Kras steps forward, and with phaser in hand, demands to see Kirk's dead body to verify Eleen's story, which is seen as a sign of extreme disrespect for the widow of a High Teer. When one of the Capellans tries to kill Kras with a kligat, Kras vaporizes him with the phaser. Kras and the Capellans quickly discover that Kirk and Spock are still alive when arrows – a weapon unknown on Capella IV – begin to fly. One strikes Kras in the knee. Kras returns fire. An exchange of fire ensues between Kras, Kirk, Spock and the Capellans. Kras threatens to kill any Capellan who raises a weapon against him. Maab takes defensive action, saying he will allow Eleen to live in exchange for his own death. Maab confronts Kras, and is vaporized. As arranged, a Capellan warrior takes advantage of the distraction and kills Kras. At this point, Mr. Scott and a squad of security officers show up and stop the fighting.
With the conflict over, McCoy reunites Eleen with her baby. The Capellans then hail their new infant leader. As allowed by custom until the newborn Teer comes of age, Eleen acts as her son's regent, naming him Leonard James Akaar, and authorizes the mining agreement with the Federation. In a rare display of emotion, Spock is astonished and supposedly jealous at the child's name and when Kirk and McCoy talk of how great a name it is, Spock declares that the two "will be insufferably pleased with themselves for at least a month".
Errors and ExplanationsEdit
The Nitpicker's Guide for Classic TrekkersEdit
- In the captain’s first log, Kirk says that Capella IV has an abundance of a rare mineral vital to the life support systems of colonies. What is with this Federation, anyway? Why do they keep establishing colonies highly dependent on rare minerals? In The Devil in the Dark, we discovered that many colonies need pergium to operate their reactors, and now we find out that they must have topaline for their life support systems. The systems in question probably work better when using rare minerals, which are difficult - if not impossible - to produce synthetically.
- After the new leader takes over, he brings Eleen in for execution. Of course, Kirk hauls her out of the way. This makes Eleen furious, and she demands that Kirk die for touching her. The leader seems to agree that Kirk’s actions warrant death. Then the scene changes to the Enterprise. When the action returns to the planet’s surface, Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Eleen are back in another tent. What happened to Kirk getting killed? The dialogue never mentions any stay of execution or even if Kirk is scheduled for execution. The Capellans can’t afford to risk war with the Federation.
- Is the Organian Peace Treaty no longer in effect? The Organians are most likely staying in the background, to see if the Federation and Klingons will resolve the situation themselves.
- Why does McCoy say that the Klingons are their sworn enemies? Such hostile attitudes take time to recede
Continuity and Production ProblemsEdit
- Supposedly Kirk shoots Kras in the leg with one of his crooked arrows, but when the camera switches to a wide shot, the arrow disappears. Kras may have pulled it out without anyone noticing, especially it it wasn't deeply embedded.
- Scott Neugroschl on Saturday, October 31, 1998 - 10:24 pm: Where was the Prime Directive in this episode, anyways? The Capellans seemed to be at about a medieval level. Or does the Federation say, "These guys have a valuable mineral, let's ignore the Prime Directive"? stephen on Saturday, September 28, 2002 - 12:25 pm: There are so many alien races out there, one of them might have contacted the Capellans already, they already know about aliens, so there wasn't much use trying to apply the Prime Directive to them any more.
- Johnny Veitch on Wednesday, December 16, 1998 - 2:09 pm: When the Enterprise picks up the fake distress call from the SS Dierdre, Uhura refers to it as an "Earth vessel". Why "Earth vessel" and not "Federation vessel"? Do starships with an SS prefix not belong to the Federation? Later on, however, Scott calls the same ship a Federation vessel. Do they think that "Earth" and "Federation" are synonymous? Spockania on Wednesday, December 16, 1998 - 5:06 pm: It's possible the vessel has Earth registry. This would make it a Federation vessel as well, since Earth is a member of the Federation. Sort of like saying a "Connecticut" or "American" registry vessel. Mentioning the homeworld might have additional necessity in the future so rescue vessels could know what species would most likely to be aboard. LUIGI NOVI on Monday, May 28, 2001 - 2:14 am: I know it's late, but regarding the Earth registry vs. Federation registry: I think the difference is the same difference between the registry of an aircraft carrier to F-16 fighter jet, and someone's Corvette. The Earth vehicle may simply be one owned by an Earth citizen, like the Raven, owned by Seven of Nine's parents. This, of course, is just a theory, and doesn't explain why it's referred to as both a vehicle of Earth and Federation registry in the episode. Perhaps Scotty made a mistake with the latter label.
- Keith Alan Morgan on Tuesday, April 13, 1999 - 2:32 am: Where did Kirk keep the device that was recording his Captain's logs? stephen on Saturday, September 28, 2002 - 12:25 pm:When we hear Captain's Logs or Ship's Logs as voiceovers, those log entries were done later, not at the same time as the events we're seeing on the screen.
- McCoy says, "I guess I'll skip psychology.", but I thought he was a space psychologist? stephen on Saturday, September 28, 2002 - 12:25 pm: McCoy was being sarcastic.
Internet Movie DatabaseEdit
- After Kirk and Spock use the transmitters to create a cascade of rocks we can see some boulders shift position near the end of the rockslide, due to a cut that skips some frames. The rocks are just settling into place.