It’s time for Star Trek Saturdays #10!
This week’s episode is “Dagger of the Mind” and it’s an interesting twist on an old story: the perfect prison with something sinister going on behind the scenes. This, of course, isn’t something new to fiction in general or even science fiction, but it’s neat to see how Trek took it on.
Our story opens with the Enterprise beaming supplies down to, and receiving a crate from, the Tantalus Penal Colony on the planet Tantalus V. However, the crate the Enterprise has received has been emptied of its contents and replaced with a stowaway, one Simon Van Gelder.
Van Gelder (Morgan Woodward) subdues several crewmen and storms the bridge, violently declaring that “I won’t go back there!” He’s subdued by Spock with a Vulcan nerve pinch and placed in sickbay; he begins explaining how he was tortured by Dr. Tristan Adams, the head of the colony, but is wracked with pain and unable to continue. Kirk contacts Adams and discovers that Van Gelder is actually a doctor himself and a colleague of Adams who injured himself at work. Kirk, required by Starfleet laws to investigate, beams down with ship’s psychiatrist Helen Noel (Marianna Hill) who has some interesting memories she tries to bring up of Kirk at the science lab Christmas party.
(insert your own va-va-voom noises here)
They beam down, meet up with Adams (James Gregory) who shows them the neural neutralizer, a device that wipes one’s mind and allows select memories to be implanted. He tells them that Van Gelder used the device on himself without supervision and wound up in the severe condition they found him in. But Kirk and Noel aren’t so sure about that…
This episode is distinct in that it’s the introduction of the Vulcan ability of mind melding, although it’s not called that here. Spock has to use it in order to help make Van Gelder more lucid so they can understand what it is he’s trying to tell them.
That’s also the point where I was actually able to appreciate Woodward’s acting the most. For the most part, he plays to the backlights, shouting and raving, in a performance that makes the show feel like the serials it evolved out of rather than the serious drama it was intended to be. He’s not that great. As Helen, Hill not only looks good but is able to hold her own against Kirk as far as bravado goes; definitely a go-getter. Gregory is more of a subtle villain as Adams, a lot more quiet than the villains one usually associates with this sort of story.
Kirk has some nice heroic moments, McCoy and Spock develop their bond further and Nimoy has a couple of instances where a simple facial expression provides a killer comedic beat. Mix all that together with some nice, tense directing by Vincent McEvetty, returning here from “Balance of Terror” and a keen, well-paced script by S. Bar David (real name: Shimon Wincelberg) and you have a nice little episode. Recommended.
Thanks to Memory Alpha, the official Star Trek wiki for the pics and episode information, as well as Amazon Instant for hosting the show. We’ll see you next Saturday and until then, live long and prosper.