The Enterprise follows an automated audio-visual distress call to the planet Scalos, which is outside known Federation space. When the ship arrives, Captain Kirk beams down with a landing party to investigate, finding a beautiful but empty metropolis, with not a single being around. In fact, the only trace of life found is heard in what sounds like the buzzing of unseen and un-scanable insects.
Soon after their arrival, Crewman Compton vanishes in a wave of energy right before the party's eyes. After a wide search of the area, Compton is still missing, and Kirk orders the landing party to return to the Enterprise.
Once aboard however, strange things begin to happen as equipment fails and ship systems become erratic. A strange alien device suddenly appears in engineering, seemingly attaching itself to the main life support system. The strange buzzing of insects encountered on the planet is now heard aboard the ship.
Kirk puts the ship on full alert, and while he takes a coffee break on the bridge, he notices the movements of the bridge crew seem to slow down to a stop as if time itself is being manipulated. Suddenly, a beautiful woman in a colorful gown appears on the bridge and addresses Kirk. The woman identifies herself as Deela, Queen of the Scalosians, and she explains to Kirk that the bridge crew has not slowed down, but he has been sped up, having been matched to the Scalosian's "hyper-accelerated" physical existence. It is only through this accelerated process that the aliens can interact with humans.
From the perspective of the bridge crew, Kirk has simply vanished the same way Compton did. Compton however, is alive and well, and aboard the Enterprise, having already been physically accelerated to the Scalosians' existence. Deela explains that exposure to radiation has caused the hyperacceleration of her people, and at the same time has made all the males sterile. She reveals her plan to have the crew of the Enterprise cryogenically frozen, providing an uncontaminated genetic stock her people can use to rebuild their population. She also claims Kirk as her consort, and demands that he join her on the planet below.
Kirk of course, has no say in the matter, and having been accelerated as well, he cannot interact with his slow-moving crew or give them warning of what is going to happen. Kirk's only hope is Mr. Compton, but Compton has been won over to the Scalosians' cause. When Compton attempts to defend his Captain against an assault by a Scalosian, however, he himself is knocked down, damaging his skin. The damage proves to be fatal as he rapidly ages and dies.
In the meantime, Deela meets with her fellow Scalosian and chief scientist, Rael. Kirk takes the opportunity to buy time to sabotage the transporter systems and delay the aliens' departure
Meanwhile, back in real time, Science Officer Spock, and Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy try to figure out what happened to their Captain. Spock discovers that the strange buzzing is the hyperaccelerated conversations of the aliens, and learns they exist outside normal physics.
Analyzing Kirk's coffee cup, McCoy discovers traces of radioactive water from Scalos in the beverage, and realizes it must have something to do with Kirk's disappearance. McCoy and Spock use the Scalosian water to make an antidote that could reverse the acceleration effect. Armed with the antidote, Spock drinks some Scalosian water and hyperaccelerates himself to rescue the Captain.
Rael manages to repair the transporter and the other aliens aboard beam down to Scalos. Kirk meanwhile tricks Deela into thinking he has adjusted to their cause, until Kirk surprises her and steals her weapon. Kirk then joins Spock and the two rush to engineering to destroy the alien machinery that has been wired into the ship. The two escort their Scalosian prisoners to the transporter room and return them to their planet empty-handed.
Kirk then takes the antidote and returns to the normal speed of time. Spock however, remains accelerated a while longer and makes the necessary repairs to the ship's vital systems at lightning-fast speed. Spock then returns the ship, along with himself, to normal. Then Spock says to the Captain that he had an "accelerating" experience. The scene ends with the Scalosian's audio-visual distress call accidentally replaying on the large viewing screen.
Errors and ExplanationsEdit
The Nitpicker's Guide for Classic TrekkersEdit
- The episode opens with Scott making a log entry. Kirk and company are on the surface, trying to locate the source of a distress call. Just how often do Starfleet officers make these log entries? Has the landing party really been gone long enough for Scott to record one, or did Kirk simply forget to do it before beaming down? The apparent urgency of the distress call probably precluded Kirk making a log entry until the landing party had arrived, and checked the location the call was coming from.
- Of course, the really big question with this episode is: How fast are these Scalosians? What is the ratio between hyperaccelerated and normal existence? There are a few hints. First, the crew can‘t see them. That means a Scalosian cannot be in one spot for more than one sixtieth of a second. Otherwise their image would “ghost” due to persistence of vision. Second, Deela dodges a phaser blast! Obviously—even though phasers use some type of electromagnetic energy-—the discharge from a phaser must not travel at the speed of light. If it did, Deela would have to exceed the speed of light to get out of the way. According to our current understanding of physics, that's not possible. Third, Scott's entrance into the transporter room gives us a final clue. From the time the chief engineer appears in the transporter room doorway until Kirk decelerates to normal time, there are about seven minutes of running dialogue in the accelerated existence. In that time, Scott barely moves a step—maybe one half-second in normal time. Using this ratio, the Scalosians would live 840 minutes for every minute of normal time (7 minutes times 60 seconds times 2, because Scott only moved half a second’s worth). This estimate is probably low, because Deela did dodge a phaser blast, but it is sufficient for our needs. Here’s the nit. If it takes the Scalosians eight of their hours to install their deep-freeze device, how much time does the crew have to: (1) figure out that they've been invaded, (2) find the agent responsible for accelerating Kirk, (3) devise an antidote, and (4) dispatch Spock into hyperaccelerated existence to assist Kirk in thwarting the Scalosians’ plans? Even with the low estimate of the ratio between normal and hyperaccelerated existence, our fearless crew would have only 34 seconds to accomplish these teats! [N 1] Starfleet officers can work quickly when the need arises!
- Near the beginning of the episode, Kirk and Spock go to the life support area and examine the Scalosian equipment. The wall behind them holds a vertical stack of objects that look amazingly similar to the knowledge library that Spock discovered on Yonada in the episode (everyone take a deep breath so you have enough to get through this title) For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky. In that episode, Spock identified them as the accumulated knowledge of the Fabrini. [N 2] The Fabrini probably provided Enterprise with a copy of the library, to be shared with the Federation, as a sign of gratitude for their assistance.
- Turbolifts and doors provide an interesting challenge for accelerated existence. Do the Scalosians actually use the turbolifts? Wouldn't that form of transport be insulferably slow’? And what about the automatic doors? The creators conveniently sidestep this issue for the majority of the episode by showing the doors open. Most of the time there’s no one near the doors, however. So why are they open? [N 3]The Scalosians probably embedded an override signal in the distress call.
Internet Movie DatabaseEdit
- At the beginning of the episode we see stock footage of Chekov although he does not appear in the rest of the episode. He may have been off duty for most of the episode.
- Why doesn't McCoy pass his cure to the Scalosians? They may have been in their accelarated state too long for it to be effective on them.
- ↑ Just for the sake of argument, let's say the ratio is much lower, in the range of 120 to 1. The crew would still have only 4 minutes to stop the Scalosians. Hardly enough time for Spock and McCoy to argue over how to proceed!
- ↑ I would hate to think that Starfleet absconded with this very important information.
- ↑ Because it would take forever for them to open for those living in a hyperaccelerated existence, and it's only a one-hour program!