The Enterprise is raided by an alien force that steals Spock's brain, leading Kirk and McCoy in a desperate race to retrieve it. (Season Premiere)
The crew of the USS Enterprise encounters a ship that is being propelled by ion drive, something that Scotty finds particularly interesting. Soon though, a strange woman from that ship transports herself onto the bridge and renders everyone unconscious. She slips deliberately amongst the crew until she finds Spock. Mysteriously, she presses her hand against the first officer's head.
When the crew awakes, they find that Spock is missing from the bridge. Dr. McCoy calls Captain Kirk down to sickbay, where he finds Spock on a biobed. McCoy struggles to explain that, somehow, Spock's brain has been surgically removed, leaving the body alive but on full life support. Kirk proposes to find Spock's brain, but McCoy warns that the unique properties of Vulcan physiology give them only 24 hours to reintegrate it into the science officer's body.
The Enterprise uses the bulk of those hours following an ion trail to the Sigma Draconis system. Chekov places a schematic of the system on the viewscreen, pointing out that there are three Class M planets. With only eight hours remaining to save Spock, Kirk has time to visit only one of the planets before Spock's body expires, so he holds an informal staff meeting with Chekov, Sulu, and Uhura to arrive at a decision. None of them seems capable of supporting interstellar flight, but Uhura finds large, regular energy pulsations on the otherwise glaciated and pre-industrial Sigma Draconis VI. The unlikely world thus becomes Kirk's best hunch.
Kirk, Montgomery Scott, Chekov, and two redshirts beam down to the surface. There, they detect five large, primitive male humanoids. Following an ambush, they subdue one of the humanoids with a phaser. The humanoid, a Morg, is confused because Kirk and Scott do not seem like "the Others", whom he describes as giving "pain and delight." Kirk is puzzled because the Morg does not understand what it means to have a mate nor does he seem to understand exactly what a female is.
Chekov finds evidence of an underground city with his tricorder. Scott finds food and weapons stored in a cave, but Kirk sees that there is a sensor and surmises that the cave is a trap the Eymorg use to capture the natives. McCoy beams down with Spock, whom he has fitted with a remote-controlled device to substitute for his brain. They allow themselves to be captured. Chekov and the redshirts remain above ground; Chekov uses his phaser to heat a rock to help them stay warm.
In the underground city, they encounter "the Others" – a race of beautiful females, the Eymorg, who live in comfort below the surface of the planet, but have the minds of children. Captain Kirk finds that he is able to establish contact with Spock's brain by using his communicator. He reports that he is well but that he does not know where he is. They find the woman they saw on board the Enterprise immediately before Spock's brain was removed, who renders them unconscious. They are taken prisoner.
When the away team comes to, they find that they have been outfitted with silver belts that have large, round green devices at the abdomen. Kirk demands to know what has happened to Spock's brain, but the Eymorg do not understand what a brain is or what is the Enterprise. Finally they understand that the "Controller" the Eymorg speak of is Spock. It seems that these women have somehow connected Spock's brain into their computer and that his brain is responsible for running their expansive underground dwelling because they, as a race, have long forgotten how to take care of themselves.
Having been left alone, McCoy, Scott, and Kirk incapacitate the guards. Kirk speaks to Spock using the communicator. They inform him that his brain has been removed and it is being used as some sort of controller. Spock reports that he has a body that stretches into infinity and his medulla oblongata seems to be breathing, pumping blood, and maintaining temperature. Spock suggests that the project to restore his brain might be impractical; he would trust McCoy to remove a splinter but the knowledge to replace his brain does not exist in the universe. Kirk, however, insists that if the knowledge exists to remove his brain, there must be knowledge to put it back. He instructs Spock to send out a signal so that they may find where he is being kept. Spock complies.
As they make their way to the chamber, Kirk asks about the belts. Spock accesses the information: one must press a red button on a bracelet in order to release the belt. They enter the chamber where Spock's brain is kept, but an Eymorg is in the chamber and activates the pain belt. Kirk uses the remote control device to use Spock's body to grab Kara's bracelet and press the red button, releasing the belts. With the crew freed, Kara pleads that Spock's brain must remain connected or their civilization will die.
Kirk tells Spock that he is in a black box connected by light rays to a control panel. He wonders if the sensations he is feeling means that Spock is recirculating air, running heating plants, and purifying water. Kirk asks Kara how she was able to remove Spock's brain by placing on her head a device known as the "teacher". They place it on her head, and she suddenly speaks with erudition. She admits that she does have the knowledge, but she also now knows to use a phaser, which she points at Kirk. It is set to kill.
Kara and Kirk debate over the proper disposition of Spock's brain. Scott pretends to faint and distracts Kara; they take the phaser from her. She says that the teacher will provide knowledge for three hours, which McCoy says would be long enough to effect the transplant, but she refuses to perform the operation. McCoy points out that he has medical knowledge and should be able to use what he already knows and retain the knowledge. McCoy places the teacher on his head and receives the knowledge; when he recovers, he says "Of course; of course. A child could do it. A child could do it."
McCoy is able to use the same knowledge to put back Spock's brain as was used to remove it. However, after a time, McCoy begins to lose the knowledge he has gained. He exclaims in despair, "I am trying to thread a needle with a sledgehammer!" Drawing on his own skills with only a few minutes left, he connects Spock's speech center so that Spock is able to speak, and is able to assist in completing the reconnection of his brain to the rest of his body. "I'll never live this down," McCoy says, "this Vulcan is telling me how to operate."
When Spock is restored, he makes a speech that explains the history of this retrograde civilization and the split of the genders. McCoy then laments, "I should have never reconnected his mouth." "Well, we took the risk, doctor," Kirk jokes.
"His brain is gone!"
- - McCoy to Kirk, as Spock lies unconscious in sickbay
"What if you guess wrong, captain?"
"If I guess wrong, Mr. Spock is dead. Spock will die."
- - Chekov, when Kirk selects Sigma Draconis VI as the possible location of Spock's brain
"Call Chekov and tell him to send my stomach down."
- - McCoy, after rapidly descending in the Sigma Draconis VI elevator
"Brain and brain! What is brain?!"
- - Kara, frustrated by the constant inquiries about Spock's brain
"Pain and delight, he said up above."
"I'm sure you noticed the delight aspect."
"Yes, I certainly did notice those delightful aspects."
- - Kirk and McCoy, on the females of Sigma Draconis VI
"This fellow is keeping us from our property."
"Well, isn't there a way to correct that situation?"
- - Kirk and Scott, before overpowering the guards
"While I might trust the doctor to remove a splinter or lance a boil, I do not believe he has the knowledge to restore a brain."
- - Spock, on McCoy's difficulty in restoring his brain
"The Controller is young and powerful. Perfect!"
"How very flattering."
- - Kara and Spock, after the pain bands fly off from Kirk, McCoy, and Scott
"No one may kill a man. Not for any purpose. It cannot be condoned."
- - Kirk to Kara, as she points a phaser at him
"A child could do it."
- - McCoy, after receiving the medical knowledge from the Great Teacher
"I should have never reconnected his mouth."
"Well, we took the risk, doctor."
- - McCoy and Kirk, after Spock starts describing the culture of Sigma Draconis VI
- Story outline by Lee Cronin, 22 April 1968
- Teleplay, 16 April 1968
- Story outline, 11 May 1968
- Filmed: 8 July 1968 – 15 July 1968
- Score recording, 26 August 1968
- Original airdate, 20 September 1968
- Rerun airdate, 8 July 1969
- First UK airdate 13 October 1971
Story and script
- This was the third season's premiere, written by "Lee Cronin", the pseudonym of former writer and producer Gene L. Coon. Based on his April 1968 story outline, this episode underwent significant revisions before the final draft.  Among the early concepts:
- Spock's brain was taken while he, Kirk, and McCoy were exploring the surface of an asteroid.
- The antagonists were from the planet "Nefel," and were known as the "Nefelese." Their leader is a male named "Ehr Von." Also, there is no mention of the "Teacher."
- When Kirk contacts Spock's brain, he instructs the brain to go into the slon porra, the Vulcan state of complete mental control.
- McCoy received no transfusion of any special surgical knowledge except for a study of the planet's advanced surgical techniques. Only when combined with his existing surgical knowledge is he then able to perform the surgery.
- After McCoy completes the brain implant surgery, Spock experiences several side effects from McCoy having reversed the connections of several nerve endings, causing Spock to, among other things, laugh when he wants to sneeze. He is, however, able to restore the errors with his own mental disciplines.
- Co-Producer Robert Justman, who described the episode as being "late lamented," contributed to this story by suggesting that Spock's brain direct Doctor McCoy in the operative procedures of replacing it into Spock's body. (TOS-R Season 3 DVD special features)
- In Up Till Now, his 2008 autobiography, William Shatner jokes that the plot of this episode is a "tribute" to NBC executives who had slashed the show's budget and placed the show in an undesirable time-slot.
- This is the only episode title of the original series that includes an Enterprise crew member's name. However, working from an early draft of "The Man Trap", James Blish gave that episode the title of "The Unreal McCoy" in his collection Star Trek 1. Spock was honored again in the title in the motion picture Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. In the later Trek series, few of the main cast ever had this privilege, and never the actual captain. The character name most present in titles is Data in TNG: "Datalore", "Elementary, Dear Data", "Data's Day", and "A Fistful of Datas". The second one, with two titles, is Julian Bashir from DS9: "Our Man Bashir" and "Doctor Bashir, I Presume". The others had just one title each: Deanna Troi (who shared it with her mother Lwaxana) in TNG: "Ménage à Troi", Quark, in DS9: "The House of Quark", Tuvok and Neelix (who had to share the same character) in VOY: "Tuvix", and the EMH Doctor in VOY: "Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy". Among recurring characters, Q has the lion's share with no less than eight titles: TNG: "Hide and Q", "Q Who", "Deja Q", "Qpid", and "True Q", DS9: "Q-Less", and VOY: "The Q and the Grey" and "Q2". Notably, none of the captains (Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway and Archer) are cited in a title.
- This was the last episode to be directed by regular Trek director Marc Daniels.
- The score for this episode (by Fred Steiner and recorded on 26 August 1968) was re-used in later episodes during the playback of Kirk's final message in "The Tholian Web" and Kirk's return in the transporter room in the same episode, for example. The battle music from this episode later scored Kirk and Kang's sword fight in "Day of the Dove".
- This is the first and only episode besides the first pilot, where characters walk in front of the main viewscreen showing a moving starfield. This was achieved by using rear projection instead of the usual post-production matte used in viewscreen shots.
- A gag scene was filmed during the production of this episode, showing Leonard Nimoy in handcuffs, with a prop gun pointed at him, holding a newspaper with the headline, "Spock gets 2-year prison term". Psychologist Benjamin Spock was sentenced to prison after encouraging draft evaders and claiming the Vietnam War to be anti-constitutional on 11 July 1968, during the filming of this episode. 
Sets and props
- Westheimer Effects created the unique glaciated planet seen from orbit in this episode.
- The "control device" used to pilot the brainless Spock, later identified as a neural stimulator, was designed by Matt Jefferies. Sketches depicting several design variations of this prop, including an optional variant with antennae and a chest band variant (reminiscent in design to the pain bands), appeared in the Star Trek: The Original Series Sketchbook (pg. 53).
- Footage of the Eymorg's computer displays in operation is recycled footage from "Assignment: Earth" and "The Paradise Syndrome".
- The jumpsuit that Leonard Nimoy wears on the planet's surface appears to have been the same one he wore in "This Side of Paradise", complete with black shirt.
- This is the only instance of Sulu recording a log entry while in command during TOS. In his log entry, he refers to Sigma Draconis VI as Sigma Draconis VII, a mistake Kirk made in an earlier log entry as well. The lexicon in the Star Trek Concordance also makes note of this oversight in dialog. Kirk also lists the wrong "stardate" at the beginning of Act Two as 4351.5, when it is supposed to be 5431.5.
- This marks the second of five times that Sulu is seen in the captain's chair while temporarily in command. The first time happened in "Errand of Mercy". The next three occur in "The Enterprise Incident", "The Lights of Zetar", and "The Savage Curtain".
- The novelization of this episode explained that McCoy was the only person who could use the Great Teacher since he had pre-existing medical knowledge, showing why the other members of the crew could not use the Great Teacher to assist in healing Spock.
The episode marked several script-appropriate departures from the original broadcast version. Given the generic design of the original ion starship, it would seem unlikely that Scotty could have recognized its propulsion system just by the hull design. The remastered version thus gives the hull a unique, easily identifiable shape.
The CBS description of the model stated:
- "In the episode "Spock's Brain" the ion propulsion spacecraft spotted by the Enterprise in 2268 certainly impressed Scotty with its design and technology. The comparison between the original and the remastered version provides two totally different looks, with styles defined more by the contemporary technology. The original is a standard rocket-shaped configuration. At the time, "spaceships" tended to fall into one of two classic looks, the other being the flying saucer.The new, remastered version of the ion propulsion craft is smaller and more utilitarian, reflecting its single-person occupancy, and it ditches the unnecessary missile/rocket configuration. The design also reflects more modern-day ion propulsion prototypes."
The planet Sigma Draconis VI received a fresh, computer-generated appearance both from orbit and from the surface. In the original orbit shot, the planet appears to have a wide band of ocean peeking out from a less-than-uniform ice cap. In the remastered version, the ice coverage is solid, with only small strips of land present, as the script demands, "at the tropics". Also, the color of the planet from orbit closely matches the color of the land on the surface. On the surface, the landscape has been modified as well. In the original, there was only a slight indication that the action was taking place on a planet that was mostly ice. By contrast, the remastered version makes this more apparent through the use of a new matte painting. 
Video and DVD releases
- Original US Betamax release: 1988
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 32, catalog number VHR 2384, 1 October 1990
- US VHS release: 15 April 1994
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 3.2, 29 September 1997
- Original US DVD release (single-disc): Volume 31, 28 August 2001
- As part of the TOS Season 3 DVD collection
- As part of the TOS-R Season 3 DVD collection
Links and references
- James Doohan as Scott
- Walter Koenig as Chekov
- George Takei as Sulu
- Nichelle Nichols as Uhura
- Majel Barrett as Nurse Chapel
- James Daris as the creature
- Sheila Leighton as Luma
- William Blackburn as Hadley
- Frank da Vinci as Brent
- Roger Holloway as Roger Lemli
- Pete Kellett as a Morg guard 1
- Jeannie Malone as Yeoman
- Eddie Paskey as Leslie
- Unknown actresses as
- Unknown actors as
- Paul Baxley as William Shatner's stunt double
- Unknown stunt performers as:
- James Doohan's stunt double
- DeForest Kelley's stunt double
1485; 2030; apish; atrophy; autonomic nervous system; boil; blood; "Bones"; brain; bread; class M; control bracelet; Controller, the; deaction shift; Earth; evolution; Eymorg; Eymorg starship; forge; ganglia; heating plant; ice; industrial development; industrial scale; ion power; ion propulsion; ion trail; glacial age; Great Teacher; life support; magnetic lock; manager; medulla oblongata; meter; mile; Milky Way Galaxy; mistress; Morg; needle; nerve; neural stimulator; nitrogen; nuclear pile; oxygen; pain band; physiology; priestess; red alert; remote control; Richter scale of culture; Romans; sapient life; Sigma Draconis; Sigma Draconis system; Sigma Draconis I; Sigma Draconis II; Sigma Draconis III; Sigma Draconis IV; Sigma Draconis V; Sigma Draconis VI; Sigma Draconis VII; Sigma Draconis VIII; Sigma Draconis IX; sledgehammer; sonic separator; spaceship; spectral type; speech center; splinter; standard interstellar symbols; Starfleet uniform (mid 2260s-early 2270s); starship design; surgery; tape; training device; transferal beam; tri-laser connector; vocal cords; volcano; Vulcan; water purifier
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