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The Enterprise arrives at the planet Elba II, an inhospitable world known for its very poisonous atmosphere and underground asylum for the few remaining Federation citizens that are criminally insane. The Enterprise brings with her a shipment of a new medicine that will at last cure the insanity.

Captain Kirk and First Officer Spock beam down to the facility with the shipment of drugs and meet with the facility director, Donald Cory, who oversees the treatment of fifteen of the most dangerous mental patients in Federation custody. Along the way, one of the inmates, Marta, a mentally unstable Orion female, warns Kirk and Spock that their host, Dr. Cory, is not who they think he is.

They soon discover the real Cory is imprisoned in a cell, put there by the impostor, who is none other than Garth of Izar, a former starship Captain and one of Kirk's personal heroes. Garth's crew had mutinied against him when he had gone insane, the result of injuries in a rescue mission. Aliens from Antos tried to teach Garth just enough shapeshifting abilities to heal said injuries; he taught himself complete shifting. Garth tried to attack Antos before his crew rebelled.

Garth imprisons Kirk and Spock and tries to beam himself to the Enterprise masquerading as Kirk. He plans to use it to track down his mutinous crew. When Chief Engineer Scott does not receive a certain countersign passcode from "Kirk" (the countersign to "queen to queen's level 3" is "queen to king's level 1"), he refuses the beam up order. A force field is in operation which prevents Scott from attempting a rescue.

Garth later invites Kirk and Spock to a dinner where they hear Marta recite Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 which she claims she wrote herself. She then performs a strange "exotic dance" that Spock compares to a dance performed by Vulcan schoolchildren. In the meantime, Garth boasts about his incredible career as a starship captain, bragging that he has charted more planets and catalogued more star systems than any other man in history. Later, Kirk appears to confirm this point by reminding Garth that he was an admired and prototype starship captain. He fishes for Kirk's pass phrase, but Kirk doesn't fall for it.

Garth tries to get the code by torturing Doctor Cory and Kirk. This fails. Marta's seduction attempt of Kirk fails when Spock subdues her. The duo, Kirk and Spock, communicate with the ship. A concerned Kirk has Spock give the code but he cannot, as he is actually Garth.

Kirk is subdued again. The crew on the Enterprise learn they cannot break through the shield without killing many innocents. Garth puts on a coronation ceremony, declaring himself "Master of the Universe"; the other inmates are delighted. He states that he will be successful, more than others in history, such as Alexander the Great, Caeser, Napoleon, Hitler, Lee Kuan, and Krotus. He kills Marta, whom he has named consort, to demonstrate the power of an explosive he has created. Spock disables his guard, acquires a phaser and finds two Kirks in the control room.

Spock attempts to distinguish between the two by asking: "What maneuver was used against the Romulans near Tau Ceti?" One Kirk replies "the Cochrane Deceleration", but the other points out that it is a classic battle maneuver any good captain would know. The two Kirks begin to fight, but eventually one of them tells Spock to stun them both — to ensure the safety of the Enterprise. Knowing that only the real Kirk would make a demand like that (putting the safety of the ship ahead of his own), Spock stuns the other Kirk, who is revealed to be Garth.

With the matter resolved and Garth back in custody, control of the station is given back to Dr. Cory. The experimental drugs are administered to Garth and the other inmates who begin a long road to recovery.[1]

Errors and ExplanationsEdit

The Nitpicker's Guide for Classic TrekkersEdit

Plot OversightsEdit

  1. It has not been a good year for Starfleet. In The Tholian Web, Spock emphatically states that-until the discovery of the mutinous crew of the USS Defiant-there has never been a mutiny aboard a starship. Yet this episode states that Garth’s crew mutinied when he ordered them to destroy the inhabitants on Antos lV. So either Garth's mutiny happened some time ago and Spock simply forgot, or Startleet has had two mutinies in very recent history. Garth is described as the newest inmate at the asylum, which logically means his mutiny must have occurred AFTER the events of The Tholian Web.
  2. When Garth changes from the appearance of Cory back to himself, his clothes alter as well. The real Cory states that Garth’s ability to assume different appearances comes from cellular manipulation. If that's true and the clothes change, then the clothes must be part of Garth’s body. This actually makes sense because of the ring on Garth's right index finger. Alter Garth as Kirk discovers that the real captain has created a special password to gain access to the ship, he gets very angry. He pounds the floor and reverts to his normal appearance. In the process, the top of his ring goes bouncing across the floor. Yet, in a later scene, it is suddenly back together. It the ring is pan of his body, Garth could simply pick it up, hold it against his skin, and command the cells to reconnect. Garth’s abilities are even more amazing than this, however: When he changes from Cory to Garth, a working phaser appears on his waist. Did he hide this phaser in his stomach, or can he actually create functioning machinery from body parts? Maybe a combination of the two.
  3. Spock's behavior at the end of this episode is nothing short of ridiculous. There are a multitude of ways to determine which is the real Kirk, and Spock avails himself of none of them. The simplest way would be to stun them both—a suggestion that Kirk finally throws in the face of the Vulcan at the end of the fight, since Spock seems unable to conceive it. They are standing too far apart for Spock to hit them poth with a single stun beam, which would be the only way to imobilise both at once (Stunning them in turn is too risky, as stunning the real Kirk first would allow Garth to attack Spock. In any case, stunning them might impair the effectiveness of a mind-meld.) Only slightly more complex is asking information that only he and Kirk would know. For instance, “What was the first weapon used in the Koon-ut-kal-if-fee?" (It was the Iirpa, for those of you who do not remember.) There is a possibility of Garth working out the correct answer from the question. [N 1]
  4. At the very end of the episode, Kirk talks with Spock about his method of flushing out Garth and comments, “Mr. Spock, letting yourself be hit on the head is not exactly a method King Solomon would have approved.” Garth didn’t hit Spock on the head. He shoved the Vulcan into a wall as Kirk watched. [N 2] Spock's head must have hit the wall when Garth pushed him.

Nit CentralEdit

  1. John A. Lang on Friday, June 13, 2003 - 5:43 pm: Just why are there TWO planets for insane people? (Elba II & Tantalus IV) Isn't there room for the 15 people on Elba II to live on Tantalus IV? Sure, the people on Elba II are more insane, but still, 15 more people on Tantalus IV shouldn't take up THAT much room! Just put an addition on one of the buildings and there you go! Tantalus IV - from Dagger of the Mind - may have been closed down, possibly due to either the actions of Dr Adams, the retirement of Dr Van Gelder, or both.

Internet Movie DatabaseEdit

Revealing mistakesEdit

  1. When Garth (as Kirk) and Kirk are fighting, it is very obvious that Garth/Kirk is a double. The stress of the fight is sufficient to disrupt his impersonation of Kirk.


  1. Of course, Spock exercises an option fraught with unpredictabilities. He lets Garth push him into a wall and then watches as the two captains duke it out. (I suppose we can allow this over-sight, given that Spock's brain was reconnected by McCoy at the beginning of this season. Yes . . . it's the excuse that keeps on giving!)
  2. I know. I know. I've read about this episode in Star Trek Lives. I know that the fight scene was rewritten because Nimoy adamantly refused to have Garth knock him out with one blow to the head. Quite correctly, Nimoy held fast to the premise that Spock had never been knocked unconscious before in a fight, and he felt it would violate his character. This is the wonderful thing about being a nitpicker. l don't have to deal in reality! - Phil Farrand


  1. Whom Gods Destroy at Wikipedia

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