The Enterprise arrives at Gamma Trianguli VI, a planet that appears to be a tropical paradise with very rich natural resources. Captain James T. Kirk leads a landing party including Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy, Ensign Chekov, First Officer Spock, Yeoman Martha Landon, along with other security personnel. They quickly find the paradise is extremely hostile; they lose security members to plants that shoot poisonous darts, explosive rocks composed of uraninite, hornblende, and quartz; soon, bizarre lightning storms follow. Transporting back to the ship is impossible as an energy field is drawing power from the Enterprise rendering the transporters inoperable.
Kirk orders the team towards a primitive village, carefully avoiding the planet's hazards. They find a native of the planet watching them from nearby bushes. The frightened native, Akuta, says he is the chief of the people known as the "Feeders of Vaal". Small antennae on Akuta's head allow him to communicate with "Vaal", acting as the entity's eyes and ears for his people. During this, Chief Engineer Scott reports that the Enterprise is slowly being pulled towards the planet by a tractor beam. Kirk, suspicious of the "Vaal" entity, asks Akuta to take them to it. Akuta leads them to a rock formation that has a dragon-like head figure on one side. Spock's analysis shows that the entrance is protected by a force field, but appears to lead to an underground complex with a computer system, perhaps constructed by a long-dead civilization, which he believes is what is affecting the Enterprise. Akuta says that Vaal may wake to speak with them, but in the meantime, offers to show the crew his village.
The Enterprise crew find the villagers to be young and healthy, like Akuta, but lacking sophisticated knowledge. McCoy finds that they do not procreate, a practice forbidden by Vaal, but instead, a "replacement" is provided if needed. As they observe, they find that the villagers have a symbiotic relationship with Vaal; they provide Vaal with a supply of the explosive rocks from the planet, while Vaal appears to provide them with all other resources such as food and shelter. Spock and McCoy argue over the ethics of such practices, but Kirk reminds them they need to find a way to free the Enterprise.
During their time at the village, Chekov and Landon have begun flirting with each other, and go to a secluded area to kiss. When the natives see this, they try to emulate it; Vaal is instantly aware, and through Akuta, orders the natives to kill the strangers. One of the crew men is killed. The rest of the crew defend themselves including Landon who shows that the female members of the crew are also skilled in self-defence by using a combination of judo and karate to knock out two of her male attackers. Scott reports that the ship has only fifteen minutes of emergency power remaining which they are using fighting the tractor beam.
Kirk orders his crew to prevent the villagers from feeding Vaal any more of the explosive rocks, believing them to be powering Vaal, and instructs Scott to fire the ship's phasers on the rock formation, hoping to drain Vaal's power before the Enterprise's. Vaal's power supply runs dry, and the force field collapses. The Enterprise is free of the tractor beam and returns to orbit for repairs. Engineering crews on the ship are ordered to prepare to investigate the Vaal computer systems, while Kirk tells a distraught Akuta that his people will now be able to experience normal life. Aboard the ship, Spock contemplates whether their actions were the equivalent of the apple of knowledge and driving the Feeders from their Garden of Eden.
Errors and Explanations
The Nitpicker's Guide for Classic Trekkers
- While wandering in the moonlight with Chekov, Landon comments that if it weren't for Vaal, the planet really would be paradise. Even without Vaal, this place has exploding rocks and plants that shoot poison darts. Maybe Landon thinks they won’t be a threat with Vaal gone.
- The rock not exploding when Spock breaks it in half. Perhaps it only explodes when impacting the ground or another rock.
- Spock allowing himself to be knocked over by Vaal's force field. He probably wanted to test the field's effectiveness.
- During the attempt to break the ship free of Vaal‘s tractor beam, Scott flies backward into the captain's chair. The chair's pedestal actually lifts off the floor. Shouldn't a starship be a bit sturdier? Or did the designers purposely construct the pedestal to absorb the shock of hitting the chair’? The brackets holding the pedestal to the floor could have failed for some reason.[N 1]
- Chris Franz on Saturday, October 17, 1998 - 2:19 am - One of the things that really bothers me about this episode, that I never really noticed before, is that we never found out who built Vaal and why. I realize there is only so much time in an episode, but at least in Return of the Archons we find out a little bit about what Landru was all about. In this episode, these people have lived for thousands of years. They didn't age or die. Wouldn't someone there remember what was before Vaal? It's too bad we'll never know. Vaal probably predates the inhabitants.
- Donald Carlson on Saturday, October 17, 1998 - 9:40 pm - I think it's pretty remarkable the "Feeders of Vaal" could run around half naked with agressive Sun Flowers spitting poison darts and exploding rocks all over the place without a high mortality rate. Seems to me they'd have to breed like bunnies to keep up the population. They have probably developed the knack, over thousands of years, of not triggering the exploding rocks and dart firing plants.
- The biggest problem I have with the episode is Scott sitting up there in the Enterprise, wasting HOURS of time that could have been used to evacuate most of the crew to the surface by shuttlecraft. Maybe the ship would have been lost, maybe not. But at least some of the crew would have survived to wait out rescue by Star Fleet instead of them all burning up. Not to mention, Scott could have sent a shuttle down to pick up the landing party when the transporters failed. It may have been considered too dangerous to use a shuttlecraft.
- Murray Leeder on Sunday, October 18, 1998 - 10:17 pm - In The Omega Glory, Kirk says that a captain's most solemn vow is that he will give his life, his entire crew, and even his ship to prevent a violation of the Prime Directive. I guess that doesn't count in the instance that the nasty computer doesn't allow any hanky-panky. JM on Monday, October 19, 1998 - 10:09 pm - Even the way you put it that is true. I could see Kirk sacrificing the Enterprise and her crew to preserve a vibrant and developing culture. I could see him leaving Vaal alone and posting quarantine buoys. As you say though the combination of a stagnant culture and a threat to his ship and crew was enough to seal Vaal's fate.
- Keith Alan Morgan on Friday, April 16, 1999 - 6:56 am - As Spock handles the explosive rock, it sounds like Styrofoam. Also Spock mentions quartz and hornblende as part of its makeup. While quartz and hornblende are not especially heavy the rock seems unusually light. Maybe it has lots of hydrogen for explosiveness? Either that or the inside of the rock is extremely porous.
- There didn't seem to be a reason given for why Vaal attacked the Enterprise in the first place. Oddly enough, if Vaal hadn't attacked the ship then there wouldn't be an excuse to 'free' these people. Vaal obviously recognised Enterprise and her crew as a threat to it's exsistance.
- MattS on Thursday, May 13, 1999 - 12:41 pm - Shortly after the landing party beams down, Kirk says there's a village seventeen kilometers away, and they start off in that direction. They're going to walk seventeen kilometers?! I guess Kirk feels that his crew needs some exercise. Why did they beam down so far away from the village? Perhaps they wanted to see this part of the forest, and perhaps they didn't want to beam down in the middle of the village, but at least they could call the ship and have themselves beamed closer. Kirk probably felt it was necessary, as the forest would screen them from the natives, while giving the landing party a chance to evaluate the environment first hand.
- Is there any good reason why Vaal is spending energy pulling on the Enterprise with a tractor beam (one presumes he intends to destroy it and the crew). Does it just have a mean streak? A weapon impact would push Enterprise away, increasing the chances of the ship escaping.
- I don't understand why Spock comes to the conclusion right away that Vaal is a machine, not a life form. It eats fruit, for one thing. Considering the life forms they have met in the past that have harnessed power, such as Trelane and Apollo, I don't see why Vaal would have to be a machine (even if it did turn out that it was). Anonymous on Friday, May 14, 1999 - 2:10 pm - Simply put, the thing was carved in stone. They were worshipping a graven image. [N 2]
- John A.. Lang on Tuesday, February 13, 2001 - 1:39 pm - Once again, the red alert light stays on after it is activated...it's supposed to flash on and off. This could be an experimental setting.
- LUIGI NOVI on Sunday, May 27, 2001 - 1:45 am - Why does Kaplan disappear when hit by a lightning bolt? After he is shot, he turns blue and disappears, as if hit by a phaser, and is replaced by a smoldering burn mark on the ground. Lightning does not do this. It burns and electrifies what it hits. It doesn’t make it vanish. Many people have been hit by lightning; none of them were vaporized. John A. Lang on Sunday, May 27, 2001 - 6:10 am - Perhaps the lightning on Gamma Trianguli VI is more powerful than Earth's lightning. That's all I can figure. KAM on Sunday, May 27, 2001 - 6:24 am - Since Vaal uses it as a weapon, I think it's more than just electricity.
- Sophie Hawksworth on Sunday, July 01, 2001 - 6:47 am - This episode demonstrates a recurring nit in TOS. They do not know about Vaal when they beam down, yet somehow land within walking distance of the only place on the planet from where the infernal machine can be shut off. They may have detected evidence of a powerful energy source.
Internet Movie Database
- Yeoman Landon pronounces Vaal as if it rhymes with "gal" or "pal." Everyone else pronounces it the way Akuta pronounces it, rhyming with "ball" and "fall." This would only occur from actress Celeste Yarnall (playing Yeoman Landon) reading the script where the deity's name is spelled V-A-A-L rather than V-O-L. The character of Yeoman Landon would only have heard the name uttered, rather than read it anywhere, and, thus, pronounced it correctly. Many names have additional pronunciations which do not match the spelling.
- ↑ Listed under Revealing Mistakes in the IMDB entry.
- ↑ Seniram 20:41, September 30, 2014. In addition, there is no evidence of any life form larger than a standard humanoid living in the area, such as foot/paw prints, which would have to be visible for Vaal to be a life form.