The Enterprise arrives at an earthlike planet in anticipation of deflecting an asteroid headed for it. With some time to spare, Captain James T. Kirk, First Officer Spock and Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy transport to the surface for a brief survey. They find an obelisk with strange markings as well as a humanoid species whose customs seem to follow those of various North American Native tribes. Returning to the obelisk, Kirk starts to communicate with the Enterprise but his actions open a trap door within the obelisk which Kirk falls into. Spock and McCoy are unable to open the door, and forced to return to the Enterprise to oversee the asteroid deflection.
Kirk awakens with amnesia, and finds his way out of the obelisk. Women from the native people witness his appearance and proclaim him as a god, and take him back to their village. Miramanee, the tribal priestess, attempts to sway the elders of the tribe of Kirk's divinity, but they demand he prove himself. At that moment, other villagers arrive with a boy that had drowned in a nearby lake. Salish, the medicine chief, declares the child dead, but Kirk uses mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to revive the boy. The elders accept Kirk as their god, forcing Salish to give up his position. Kirk, when asked his name, can only recall it as "Kirok".
Meanwhile, the Enterprise arrives at the asteroid and attempt numerous means to disrupt its course. However, these fail to do any significant damage, leaving the ship's weapons and warp systems offline and the asteroid still on a collision course. Spock orders the ship back to the planet, now a two-month ordeal on impulse power, staying just ahead of the asteroid all the way. During this time, Kirok becomes accustomed the village life and as the village's new healer, though hounded by memories of "the strange lodge that moves through the sky". Traditionally, the healer and priestess are husband and wife, and Kirok and Miramanee find growing affection for each other, while Salish's jealousy grows. Kirok agrees to officially "join" Miramanee. On the day of joining, Salish cuts Kirok with a knife and attempts to show the elders that Kirok is mortal, but the elders do not believe him. Later, Miramanee reveals she is pregnant with their child.
As the Enterprise nears the planet, Spock reviews the data of the obelisk and determines that it may be an asteroid deflector built by the Preservers, an ancient race believed to have seeded life across the galaxy. Spock surmises the obelisk may have failed, and recognize that they only have a short time when they arrive to figure out how to reactivate it, coming to the conclusion that musical notes may be the key as when the device responded to Kirk's communicator.
As the asteroid nears the planet, the sky begins to darken and gale-force winds sweep the surface, and the elders tell Kirok he must go into the temple to stop the storm. They take him to the obelisk but Kirok cannot recall how he got inside. Salish steps forward and declares Kirok to be a false god, turning the rest of the tribe against him. They begin to stone him, and Miramanee attempts to stop the stoning only to be mortally wounded herself.
Suddenly, Spock and McCoy transport nearby, scaring the villagers away. Finding that Kirk does not recognize them, Spock uses a mind meld to reach Kirk's mind, while McCoy tends to Miramanee's wounds. Kirk regains his memories and Spock quickly alerts him to the situation. Kirk uses his communicator again, opening the trap door, and he and Spock go inside to repair the deflector beam. The obelisk activates and deflects the asteroid with minutes to spare.
Later, in the lodge where Kirok and Miramanee lived, McCoy tells Kirk that she will not survive. Kirk holds Miramanee in his embrace as she dies.
Errors and ExplanationsEdit
The Nitpicker's Guide for Classic TrekkersEdit
- Not to be insensitive about the safety of the inhabitants of the planet, but since when did Starfleet take on the role of guardian angel for nonaligned worlds’? From the looks of things, this planet runs through some sort of asteroid alley. McCoy expresses disbelief at the beginning of the episode that the world isn't covered with crater holes. When the crew decided to save the planet from destruction, they were not aware of the asteroid deﬂector. Did they intend to send a starship by every so often to make sure other asteroids aren’t endangering the world? Does Starfleet really have the resources to do this? More likely they were able to reactivate the deflector.
- The creators need to decide whether this parallel Earth business should be considered an incredible occurrence or not. The first time they used it, in Miri, everyone on the bridge crew expressed amazement. Then they were incredulous over the Nazi paraphernalia until they discovered John Gill's inﬂuence in Patterns of Force. Then they were astounded at the replication of the struggle between the Yankees and the Communists in The Omega Glory. So far, so good. But then Kirk shrugs off the similarity to Rome in Bread and Circuses by referring to Hodgkin's Law of Parallel Planet Development. Okay, so maybe parallel planets aren't that big a deal. With this episode the crew is back to amazement! They weren't expecting a tribe of Native American style inhabitants.
- ln The Alternative Factor, we see the dilithium crystals held in something like a flip-down bureau drawer. In this episode they are held in a small pop-up container on those big round things in the center of Engineering. The flip down drawer could have been too easy to break into, and the floor container may provide a more effecient connection to the drive systems.
- Unable to deflect the asteroid, Spock orders full phasers to try to split it. When the power circuits burn out, the Enterprise spends the next two months retreating in front of the asteroid as it makes its way toward the planet. What happened to the photon torpedoes? Aren't they self-powered? Can't the crew fire them even if the warp drive and phasers are down? The power circuit burn out probably disabled the power connection for the torpedo launchers.
- And speaking of the warp drive being out, Scott claims they can't repair it just hanging in space. Does that mean they will have to dock at a starbase to fix it? How far away is the nearest starbase? It takes them almost two months just to get back to the planet. The nearest starbase could be years away without warp drive, so a repair ship would probably be sent to assist with the repairs.
- The transporter chief evidently told Nurse Chapel about the surface conditions on the planet before she beamed down. Materializing at the end of the episode in the strong, dust-filled wind, she keeps her eyes closed. Perhaps she is developing an aversion to the transporter!
- Murray Leeder on Monday, November 09, 1998 - 8:13 pm: These Indians (the episode's term) have been on this planet for four centuries or so. Unless the Preservers make an active effort to "preserve" them, why have they not developed technologically or socially, even a little? Does this episode reflect a bit of roundabout racism? Think about it- the Indians are unable to progress until Kirk steps in to bring them civilization. Hmm... Todd Pence on Tuesday, November 10, 1998 - 12:04 pm: "Progress" is a relative term. Maybe the Indians were happy with their society and felt no need to improve upon it. The real-life native Americans may not have had the technological advancements that the European settlers had, did have a viable and stable civilization with enough knowledge of how to live off of their environment and arrange their society. In many ways, they may have been a happier people then we are today . . .
Internet Movie DatabaseEdit
- When Salish confronts Kirok on his wedding day, he says Kirok's name without moving his lips. Another example of natural ventriloquism!
- At the beginning, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are standing at the edge of the forest by the riverside without any camouflage or concealment, where the Indians could easily look over and see them. Usually, these characters go to great lengths to make themselves invisible when on an observation mission like this, in accordance with Starfleet's Prime Directive of not doing anything to interfere with or unduly influence a less-advanced culture. They seem to be hiding in the shadows on this occassion.
- The Native Americans depicted display none of the cultural elements of the tribes described by Kirk & Co. (Navajo, Delaware, Mohican) The houses are tipis, used by plains peoples. The clothing bears no resemblance to actual Native American clothes, and the names of the characters match no Native naming styles. Also, the Navajo were not peaceful, but were very fierce warriors. The Mohican are a fictitious tribe created for the stories of James Fenimore Cooper who combined the names Mohawk and Mohegan, also warrior tribes. The Delaware were not called "Delaware," but rather, were the Lenne Lenape, as a scholar should refer to them in formal references. These changes could have been covertly engineered by the race that brought the villager's ancestors to the planet, as part of the plan to preserve their culture.
- Spock orders the Enterprise to rush towards the asteroid at Warp Nine. This seems to imply the asteroid would be far outside the planetary system, possibly light years away. This would mean the asteroid would require thousands of years to reach the planet. Spock probably wants as much time as possible to scan the asteroid, in order to locate any weak points, thus increasing the likelihood of splitting the rock with the phasers.
- When debating on whether to return to the ship or search for Kirk, McCoy exclaims that the asteroid won't reach the planet for two months; however, later in the same conversation, Spock uses two rocks to show the position of the planet and the changing position of the asteroid. If the speed of Spock's "example" is correct, the asteroid will hit the planet in mere minutes, not months. Spock may be subconsciously increasing the speed of the 'asteroid' in his demonstration, in order to convince McCoy of the need to return to the planet as soon as possible.
- Given the urgency of heading off the asteroid, what was Kirk & co. doing on the planet surface at the start of the story? This seems an unnecessary waste of precious time - their ability to confirm the presence of human life from orbit, via ship's sensors, had long since been established. There may be natural elements in the area which could make it difficult to confirm the presence of human life from orbit, thus requiring a visit by a survey team.
- When Captain Kirk has to be abandoned on the planet, no one thinks of the logical next step: beaming down a search party (comprising the usual red-shirts-of-the-week) to look for Kirk while the ship is away. This would be too risky, due to the possible hostile reaction of any natives encountering the search party, combined with the need to stay hidden - especially if they find Kirk long before the Enterprise is due to return.