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In The USS Defiant (NCC-1764) story arc, The Tholian Web is preceded by In a Mirror, Darkly.
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The Enterprise enters an uncharted region of space to search for her sister ship, the USS Defiant, which disappeared three weeks previously. The Enterprise '​s warp engines begin to slowly lose power for no apparent reason and sensors detect nearby dimensional fractures in space.

They visually find the Defiant, adrift and glowing eerily, despite sensors reporting the vessel is not really there. Captain Kirk assembles a boarding party consisting of himself, Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy, Science Officer Spock and Navigator Ensign Chekov in environmental suits, as the life support conditions of the Defiant are unknown. They discover the entire crew dead, having apparently killed each other. What's worse, the ship appears to be dissolving as McCoy is able to put his hand through a corpse and a table.

The dematerializing of the Defiant is causing the Enterprise '​s transporter frequencies to be blocked; only three are working and even these are dubious. Kirk orders the landing party back while he remains. The other three barely make it back, but before Kirk himself can be beamed off, the Defiant disappears altogether, taking the Captain with it.

Spock determines that due to the Enterprise '​s transporter lock, Kirk has been left in the interdimensional rift when the Defiant phased out, and they can recover him again during the next period of spatial interphase. Spock notes that the Captain has just over three hours of oxygen left in his environmental suit.

Meanwhile, Chekov suddenly goes berserk and attacks the bridge personnel. McCoy surmises that the spatial interphase causes psychotic effects in the human brain, and the same murderous hostilities that affected the Defiant '​s crew will eventually overcome the Enterprise crew. McCoy strongly suggests that they put some distance between themselves and the Defiant but Spock refuses, believing any movement from their position could disrupt the delicate fabric of space in their region and jeopardize their chances of finding the Captain.

A small vessel of unknown configuration approaches the Enterprise. A crystalline being initiates contact and identifies itself as Commander Loskene of the Tholian Assembly, and demands that the Enterprise leave their territory immediately. Spock apologizes for their intrusion and explains their situation to Loskene, asking they be given time to retrieve the Captain. Loskene agrees to give the Enterprise precisely the 1 hour and 53 minutes Spock had asked for until the next spatial interphase period.

The moment comes when the Defiant should phase in again, and Spock attempts to lock onto the Captain; however the ship is not where she is supposed to be. Spock believes the arrival of the Tholian vessel has somehow disturbed the Defiant '​s position and they have apparently lost Captain Kirk for good. Before any other action can be taken, the Tholians punctually open fire on the Enterprise and refuse any attempts at communication. Spock returns fire and disables the Tholian vessel. Chief Engineer Scott (James Doohan) reports that the Enterprise '​s damage coupled with the lack of power means he cannot hold the Enterprise purely stationary and she might even drift through the rift herself.

Meanwhile, another Tholian vessel arrives and begins to form a filament structure between itself and the other ship. This filament thread is spun by either ship around the Enterprise in a web-like pattern. Spock scans it and learns that it is an energy field that, if activated before the Enterprise is repaired, means they "will not see home again."

After Spock conducts a memorial in the ship's chapel, he and McCoy adjourn to the Captain's quarters where McCoy plays a recording Kirk made for them just if he was ever killed on a mission. The somber recording gives the officers their final orders and some words of advice for their future missions without him; especially when he exhorts them to use their constant arguments and different points of view to support and help each other.

After the message is heard, Spock orders the Enterprise to leave the area. However, in the midst of her private memorial for Kirk in her quarters, Communications Officer Lt. Uhura notices a ghostly image of the Captain, still in his space suit, and floating inside the ship, speaking and making gestures. McCoy thinks Uhura is beginning to go mad and seeing things and confines her under restraint in Sickbay, but then Scott later reports catching a glimpse of Kirk in engineering.

Wondering if they might be about to lose their Chief Engineer, Spock, McCoy and others see a similar apparition floating on the bridge and confirm that Uhura isn't going mad.

Although Kirk is trying to tell Spock to leave him and just save the ship, Spock rushes to locate the Captain, but Kirk phases out again before he can get a lock. If indeed the Captain is still alive, his pressure suit's life support would be dangerously low and his time is running out.

More reports of Kirk's "ghost" come in from around the ship and Spock tries to lock a tractor beam on him when he appears again. In the meantime, Dr. McCoy has developed a preventative/curative agent for the madness from the phasing effect by using a diluted form of the deadly Klingon nerve agent, Theragen.

As the Tholian web is nearing completion, Kirk's image is spotted once more and Spock locks onto him with the tractor beam.

Just before the Tholians were able to complete the web, Spock takes a gamble and activates the ship's engines. The Enterprise briefly drops into the rift, and is hurled 2.72 parsecs away, enabling it to escape the Tholian web. They manage to retrieve Captain Kirk from the rift using the transporter, barely in time, for his oxygen supply was exhausted.

Kirk makes a full recovery and is keen on learning what happened aboard his ship while he was "away". He was surprised to learn McCoy and Spock worked well together, and a little disappointed when McCoy claims they didn't have time to open their Captain's "last orders" and his words of wisdom had gone unheard.

Errors and ExplanationsEdit

The Nitpicker's Guide for Classic TrekkersEdit

Plot OversightsEdit

  1. During the mission to the Defiant, McCoy passes his hand through a dead crew member and a table in sick bay. He reports these actions, and Kirk orders everyone to reassemble for transport. if the crew member is fading from reality as is the table, shouldn't the floors be fading from reality as well? (A similar problem occurs in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The Next Phase.) The floor must have a lower phase variance than the table and the crewman.
  2. With the captain presumed dead, Spock holds a wake for Kirk. At the end of it, Scott calls, “Attention!” Everyone stands. Some put their hands behind their backs, some in front/some at their side. Some slouch. Some stand up straight. l wonder what “at ease" looks like? It probably involves at least some crewmembers leaning against the walls.
  3. Eventually McCoy discovers a substance to protect the crew from the effects of the unstable space. He mixes alcohol with a Klingon nerve gas called theragen. When administering the antidote to Spock and Scott, the Vulcan expresses surprise at the doctor's solution. Evidently Spock wasn't listening when McCoy told the Vulcan earlier in the episode that he was pursuing a cure based on theragen. Spock's surprise is more likely due to McCoy having significant quantities of a Klingon nerve agent available.
  4. With twenty minutes to go before the Tholians close their web and Kirk's last possible opportunity for rescue, Scott hoists a bottle lull of the theragen-alcohol mix and strolls out the door. On the way, he tells McCoy that he will let the doctor know if it makes a good mixer with scotch. Supposedly it is a cute moment. Do the creators really expect us to believe that Scott is going off to get drunk at a time like this’? He probably wants to privately test the effect the scotch would have when combined with the theragen-alcohol mix.
  5. Although not absolutely verifiable, it appears that Chekov is "in" on the playful banter at the end of the show concerning whether Spock and McCoy listened to Kirk's final instructions. He shouldn't be. He was in sick bay the entire time. He's attempting an educated guess, based on what he knows about his shipmates.

Equipment OdditiesEdit

  1. After the Tholians launch their first salvo, Uhura reports minor structural damage to the ship. In response, Spock increases power to the shields. Then the Tholians attack again. This time the weapon that caused only minor damage when the shields were set at a lower intensity suddenly shorts out some really important power thingamajigs. Does this seem right? Perhaps the Tholian weapon is designed to draw power from the shield of it's target, just as the Vian shield in The Empath draws energy from the body of the test subject.
  2. Spock does repay the Tholians for their attack. He hits them with the phasers, a good, clean hit—a hit so good you can actually see stars shining through the back end of the Tholian ship. Spock's shot probably blew a hole in that section of the Tholian ship.
  3. Alter Chekov wigs out, McCoy tells the security guards to take him to sick bay and put him in restraints. The next time we see Chekov he has the upper calf and biceps straps, but he also has a strap across his waist. lt wraps around each wrist. This will not work. If Chekov twists his hands, the strap will pop right off. Tightening the strap will only make it easier to remove, because the action will force his wrists in the direction they need to move to break tree. There may be additional straps, plus reinforcements, that are not visible.
  4. In Journey to Babel, it is mentioned that Kirk has to squat down to see himself in his mirror. In this episode it appears that the mirror in Spock's quarters is even lower, with respect to his person.As stated before, this mirror is probably made to a standard design.
  5. Just as the Tholians close their web, Kirk appears and Spock says, “Ready to transport on my order.” Then the Vulcan brings the ship to full power and the discharge throws the Enterprise clear of the tractor field. Moments later, Spock claims that the transporter beams had locked on to the captain and pulled him with them. Note that Spock never said, “Energize.” In other words, the transporter chief locked a beam on the captain with only Spock's instruction to get ready to transport. (I suppose this isn't really impossible, but I always had the impression that locking a beam on someone came during the actual transportation process.) The transporter chief probably realised there was no time to wait for the order, due to the sudden departure of Enterprise, and acted instinctively to retrieve Kirk.
  6. After Kirk beams aboard, McCoy gives him a hypo right through the spacesuit. Isn't the suit designed to be impervious to air and liquid? A porous spacesuit is as effective as the old screen door on a submarine. The suit may still be partially phased at this point.[N 1]

Continuity And Production ProblemsEdit

  1. One last thing before l move on. During the fight, the bottles on the table fly everywhere. They don't look very heavy, and they certainly aren't bolted down. Yet when the Tholians attack and the impact of their weapon tosses McCoy and Chapel around in sick bay, the bottles stay perfectly still. (ls that amazing, or what?) The sickbay bottles were probably better secured.

Internet Movie DatabaseEdit

Revealing mistakesEdit

  1. The first shot of Chekov in the Defiant's engineering room shows him bobbing back and forth unnaturally, because the film was rolled backward and forward a few times as filler. This could be a possible side effect of the interphase.


  1. Listed in the IMDB entry as a Character Error

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