(written from a Production point of view)
Following a mission to the planet Dramia, Dr. McCoy is held prisoner, accused of mass genocide caused by a deadly plague committed nineteen years earlier during a previous expedition. When the Enterprise attempts to investigate, it too becomes infected.
- "Captain's log, stardate 5275.6. Preparing to beam aboard the Enterprise following the successful completion of delivery of medical supplies to the planet Dramia in the remote Dramen star system."
On the surface of Dramia, the Supreme Prefect thanks Captain Kirk and the Federation for their assistance. Kirk signals Scott for a beam out with his communicator when Commander Demos, the Dramian head of security, informs the landing party that he has a warrant in order for the arrest and trial of Dr. Leonard McCoy, chief medical officer of the Enterprise. Demos claims that nineteen years earlier, McCoy headed a mass inoculation program for a Saurian virus on Dramia II, but after he departed a massive plague ravaged the planet virtually wiping out the entire population. Kirk argues for McCoy but Demos says, "The trial will tell, captain."
Kirk, in the Hall of Justice and aware of the swift Dramian justice system, worries about McCoy's future in the hands of the "kangaroo court." Kirk is adamant that McCoy would not harm other beings but the doctor thinks that the plague may have been his fault. Kirk doesn't buy it so he and Spock begin an investigation into the plague. Spock finds some records of the plague that states it is of unknown origin and characterized by a change in the coloring of skin pigmentation, debilitation and death. Certain species have a natural immunity, most notably Vulcans. They realize they must go to Dramia II to draw some conclusions.
- "Captain's log, stardate 5275.8. Underway for planet Dramia II for investigation of McCoy case. We are beyond subspace communications with Starfleet and proceeding under my own authority."
ETA at the planet is four hours, however, en route they are pursued by a Dramen patrol ship. Kirk surmises that it is Demos following them and asks Sulu to "inadvertently" leave the hangar doors open so Demos can "sneak" aboard. The Enterprise entraps the Dramian ship in the shuttlebay and Demos orders Kirk to report his actions to the Federation. Kirk says he can't because they're out of communication range. Demos tells Kirk he will contact the Federation himself but Kirk tells him that he can't because his ship is impounded. He is a stowaway, after all. So Demos must accompany them. "I have been tricked!", Demos says.
- "Captain's log, stardate 5275.9. We are approaching the planet Dramia II where we hope to find the answers to the questions of Dr. McCoy's guilt or innocence. Situation normal. Aurora reported in the sector, however."
On the surface of the planet, Kirk, Spock, and Demos find a man living among the ruins, who attacks Kirk and then breaks down crying. He was away from the planet when the plague struck and returned home to find his homeworld ravaged by the virus. In his grief, he and others like him chose to stay. There were no actual survivors of the plague. Another Dramian, named Kol-Tai, appears and claims that he is a survivor - McCoy saved his life when he treated him for the Saurian virus. He adds that a man who saves lives does not also kill. Kol-Tai agrees to testify of McCoy's behalf, but the crew must return to Dramia I quickly or it will be too late. Kirk orders warp six and Scott replies from engineering, "I'll pour on the coals, captain."
en route, Kol-Tai turns blue in sickbay, signaling he has the plague and has brought it on board the Enterprise. Kirk insists that he be saved, not because he can exonerate McCoy, but because they place a value on all life. Noting Demos' startled reaction, Kirk asks, "Does that shock you, commander?" Demos is shocked, but it is at the color of Kirk's skin – he is also turning blue. The entire crew is infected, except an immune Spock, so Kirk turns command over to him.
- "Captain's log, stardate 5276.4. We are in orbit around the planet Dramia under the conditions of general quarantine. As commanding officer I have ordered the activation of General Order Six."
That order is to self-destruct the ship if everyone on board has perished, in order to protect others from contracting the virus. Kirk insists they must get McCoy to find an antidote, but the Supreme Prefect thinks Spock is pulling an elaborate trick. Spock's only option is to illegally break McCoy out of prison. On the ship, McCoy discovers he is innocent and the aurora is the cause of the plague. By using blood samples from the infected, McCoy cures the plague with antibodies created to fight the Saurian virus and he shares the information with the Dramians.
- "Captain's log, stardate 5276.8. Preparing to beam aboard the Enterprise following the Dramian ceremonies honoring Dr. Leonard McCoy for his significant achievements in the field of interstellar medicine."
The Dramians agree to forget about the unorthodox manner of McCoy's "release", and Kirk will forget about their "stowaway". When Spock scolds McCoy in the transporter room for forgetting to dispense vitamins to the Enterprise crew, McCoy points out what they've just been through. Spock tells him "Hippocrates would not approved of such lame excuses," and Bones begs Kirk, "Jim, if I'm ever in jail again don't send that Vulcan to release me. Just let me rot!" Kirk has a good laugh over this.
"Is this some kind of joke?!"
"The wanton slaughter of hundreds of people is not a joke, captain."
- - Kirk, upon seeing the arrest warrant for McCoy from Demos
"I have been tricked!"
- - Demos
"Spock, have you and Jim gone out of your minds? Why, this is a jailbreak."
"Doctor... just come with me please."
"No, Spock. It's illegal, that's what it is. Besides, I must stand trial, I have to find out!"
"Doctor, you WILL stand trial. You WILL find out. After you find an antidote for the plague which is about to kill everyone aboard the Enterprise."
"Plague, why didn't you tell me?"
"You wouldn't give me a chance. You realize doctor, if you go, and fail to find an antidote, you too will die."
"I'm a doctor, Spock... a doctor. Get us beamed aboard!"
- - McCoy and Spock
"Blast it Spock, work harder. They're in the terminal stage!"
- - McCoy
"Bones... that's it. Aurora... changing... color."
"Jim! Aurora, what... Spock, feed in the data without mentioning the color change symptoms."
"That's it doctor. The color change symptoms were misleading the computer."
"Because they were caused by an aurora!"
- - Kirk, McCoy, Spock and, McCoy again
"... and I'm ready to get back to some of that monotonous, ol' routine sickbay work"
"Including, I would hope some of that "monotonous, ol'" dispensing of the regular vitamin rations to the crew."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"Well, you have been derelict in your duties, of late, doctor."
"Spock, you know as well as I do what we've all just been through."
"Hippocrates would not have approved of lame excuses, doctor."
- - McCoy and Spock
- One draft of this episode's script was submitted on 19 June 1974 though some pages were revised on 27 June 1974.
- This installment apparently contradicts the Writers'/Directors' Guide for Star Trek: The Original Series, which describes McCoy as having joined Starfleet only in middle age, after he was divorced; that would mean he couldn't have worked on Dramia II during his early adulthood. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 17, p. 73)
- In a production inconsistency, after beaming up to the Enterprise near the end of the story, Dr. McCoy is seen wearing a gold shirt instead of his usual blue one, while Scotty appeared with captain braids for that scene and a majority of his other transporter scenes.
- The unauthorized reference book Beyond the Final Frontier (p. 57) criticizes this outing, saying, "'Albatross' is a great idea for a live-action story, but loses most of its bite and nuance as a cartoon."
- The editors of Trek magazine collectively scored this episode 3 out of 5 stars (a rating that they termed "good"). (The Best of Trek #1, p. 112)
- In The Star Trek Files magazine, John Peel critiqued, "This has to have been the most simplistic and childish of all of the episodes ever written for the animated series. The aurora causing the disease was obvious to anyone once it is spotted, and the fact that no-one even thought of it is staggering – the entire crew of the Enterprise must have had brain rot, or something. And the cure is equally as obvious, once the fact that Kolti is the only survivor is given, and that he was treated for Saurian virus. Talk about significant clues. Needless to say, we've seen this whole thing so many times over that it's just a terminal bore once again to suffer through it. Bones has to cure yet another deadly, inexplicable disease with no known antidote. Yawn [...] What amazes me is the wonderfully callous way that the rest of the deranged survivors of Dramia II are mentioned and then totally ignored when the plot is resolved. Presumably, then, they were left to rot there?" (The Star Trek Files: The Animated Voyages End, pp. 44-45)
- In the book Trek Navigator: The Ultimate Guide to the Entire Trek Saga (pp. 2 & 3), co-writer Mark A. Altman rates this episode 2 out of 4 stars (defined as "mediocre") while fellow co-writer Edward Gross ranks the episode 2 and a half out of 4 stars (defined as "average").
- In Star Trek Magazine's "Ultimate Guide" (Star Trek Magazine issue 163, p. 27), this episode was rated 4 out of 5 Starfleet arrowhead insignias.
- "Albatross" was novelized by Alan Dean Foster in Star Trek Log 6, which was published by Ballantine Books in March 1976.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (CIC Video): Volume 6, catalog number VHR 2540, 17 February 1992
- As part of the The Animated Series DVD collection
- As part of the The Animated Series Blu-ray collection
Links and references
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- "Albatross" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Albatross" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Albatross" at Wikipedia
- "The Practical Joker" & "Albatross" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
"The Practical Joker"
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"How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth"