The Enterprise is nearing orbit of Pollux IV, a Class M planet, for a survey. Suddenly, a huge energy field in the shape of a glowing green hand appears and grabs the Enterprise; halting its movement. Kirk tries to wriggle the ship free of the "hand" by using the ship's impulse engines, but to no avail.
A humanoid apparition, wearing a golden laurel wreath on its head, appears on the bridge viewscreen and addresses the ship's crew as his "beloved children." The words of the figure boom with a godlike presence, and he seems impressed with the human species for finally making their way into deep space. Kirk demands that the ship be set free, but the being responds by tightening the grip, threatening to crush the ship. Kirk backs off, and then the apparition invites them down to the planet, all except for First Officer Spock, whose pointed ears remind him of Pan's annoying nature.
Kirk leads a landing party that also includes Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy, Chief Engineer Scott, Ensign Chekov, and Lieutenant Carolyn Palamas (who specializes in archaeology and anthropology, and for whom Mr. Scott shows increasing affection). The team arrives in what appears to be an ancient garden from Mount Olympus, complete with marble columns and Greek statues. They soon encounter an attractive male being dressed in a short chiton. The humanoid identifies himself as the god Apollo. He informs the party that he will not allow them to leave, and renders the team's communicators and transporter room nonfunctional. He indicates that he wants the crew of Enterprise to settle Pollux IV, to serve and worship him as their god. Kirk refuses.
Annoyed, Apollo grows to a gigantic height as a show of his awesome power, but his attention shifts toward Carolyn, which angers Mr. Scott. Apollo admires her beauty, and the lady seems flattered as he takes her hand. Scott steps forward to defend her against Apollo's advances, but Apollo destroys his weapon then transforms the Lieutenant's uniform into a revealing peplos and announces he will take her as his consort and the mother of the thousands of gods he wishes to sire. Scotty protests again, but Apollo repels him with an electrical shock.
After this display of his power, Apollo appears drained, retiring with Carolyn to another area of the planet, which leads Kirk to the idea that he needs time to recuperate. McCoy scans Apollo, discovering that though appearing essentially normal he has an extra organ in his chest, which McCoy cannot identify, though he guesses it has something to do with the alien's powers. Kirk schemes a plan to provoke Apollo to test the limits of his power, and perhaps weaken him enough to allow the landing party to overpower him.
Meanwhile, Carolyn, starry-eyed in love, learns that Apollo belonged to a group that were god-like, though not in the sense that the ancient Greeks believed them to be. Kirk and McCoy conclude that he is indeed the real Apollo, but was part of a group of powerful aliens that visited Earth 50 centuries ago, and thrived on the love, worship, loyalty and attention of the ancient Greeks. Eventually all of the aliens, with the exception of Apollo, realized that humanity no longer worshiped them. They spread themselves "upon the wings of the wind" and faded away into nothing.
After an attempt at provoking Apollo, which Carolyn stops by convincing the powerful being not to hurt her friends, Apollo then instructs Kirk to make arrangements for the people of the Enterprise to come down to the planet with supplies, food, and tools. Once that is done he will destroy the ship and begin a new society that he may rule. Kirk takes Carolyn aside and tells her to reject Apollo if he does not comply with Kirk's demands to leave, as she will condemn all of them, including herself, to slavery if she takes Apollo as her consort. At first, she does not believe him, so Kirk takes her hand to remind her that she is human and that her duty as a member of Starfleet is to her shipmates, the Federation, and liberty. She reluctantly agrees to help.
Meanwhile, in orbit around the planet, Mr. Spock manages to find the power source for the force field holding the Enterprise as part of the Greek temple in which Apollo appears to reside. When finally able to communicate with the landing party, he asks Kirk if there is a structure nearby. Kirk confirms the temple, but tells Spock to hold off firing at it as the landing party is scattered and they want to know where Apollo is when the building is attacked.
Reluctantly putting responsibility before her own romantic desires, a love-sparked Carolyn lies through her teeth and tells Apollo she was only using him to get information, that she is not a "simple shepherdess that Apollo can awe" and could no more love him than she could love a new species of bacteria. Angered and hurt, a broken-hearted Apollo calls down thunder and lightning and prepares to punish the landing party. Kirk orders Spock to lock phasers on the temple in order to draw Apollo back to it. Spock is able to punch through the force field with the ship's phasers, destroying the temple.
Apollo is stunned when his powers are nullified. Weakened, he turns to the sky, growing gigantic again, and pronouncing sadly that, indeed, there is no room left in the universe for gods. He tells the Enterprise crew that he would have taken care of them and would have loved them as a father loves his children, and that he legitimately loved Carolyn with all his heart. He then pleads with his fellow deities to take him away. Rejected by a mortal woman and bereft of his powers, Apollo fades away.
Although they appreciate their freedom, the landing party shows remorse for Apollo, with Carolyn devastated and Dr. McCoy wishing that the crew weren't forced to take such extreme measures. Kirk also remarks with some regret that Apollo and his fellow gods had once been a major inspiration for mankind, driving civilization to new heights in art and philosophy. With that in mind, he says: "Would it have hurt us, I wonder, just to have gathered a few laurel leaves?"
Errors and ExplanationsEdit
The Nitpicker's Guide for Classic TrekkersEdit
- Apollo doesn’t identity himself until after Kirk and company beam down. Since Spock stays on the ship, he has no way of knowing who the being claims to be. Yet near the end of the episode, when Kirk speaks with Spock and addresses Apollo by name, the Vulcan acts as if he knows precisely what his captain is talking about. Knowing Spock, he probably made an educated guess, based on the face that appeared on the viewscreen before the landing party beamed down, and the being's mention of Pan. [N 1]
- To convince Palamas to shun Apollo, Kirk gives a rousing speech about the bond of humanity, how we‘re all the same and share the same history. As he holds her hand, he says that man or woman, it makes no difference. He states that they are all human. All well and good, but if we're all the same, why isn't there a female captain of a starship? “Turnabout Intruder" states that a human woman has never served as captain of a starship. (I wonder what happened to Number One‘? She was the second-in-command on Christopher Pike's Enterprise—see “The Cage"—and certainly seemed like command material.) Perhaps Starfleet couldn’t find a woman in it’s ranks who wanted to command a starship?
- In this episode, Sulu adjusts the tractor beam to repel. This capability of the tractor beam was lost somewhere in the years that follow, because everyone is shocked when Wesley does it in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Naked Now." Probably discontinued for some reason, such as excessive power requirements.
Continuity and Production ProblemsEdit
- Throughout the entire show a hand grips the Enterprise. Then, when Spock ﬁres the phasers, it suddenly disappears. It the crew of the Enterprise succeeded only in punching holes in Apollo’s force field, shouldn't the graphics show a hand with holes in it’! Apollo could have replaced the hand with an invisible force field. [N 2]
- Jack B. on Sunday, October 25, 1998 - 5:47 pm: Spock called the hand a "human appendage". Couldn't that be a hand from a Vulcan, or a Romulan, or a Andorian... He was using the term Human to mean Humanoid.
- Later on, Apollo refers to Hercules. That was the name the Romans used. The Greeks called him something like "Heracles". Mike Konczewski on Monday, October 26, 1998 - 10:27 am: Apollo was called that name by both the Greeks and the Romans. Heracles was the Greek name for Hercules.