(written from a Production point of view)
Prisoners on the planet of the condemned sentence Captain Kirk to share their fate!
- "Captain's log, Stardate 19:03.4 – On the outer fringe of the galaxy Nabu, came upon a strange belt of uncharted asteroids – strange for obvious reasons."
The asteroids ahead of the starship Enterprise are glowing, like nothing the crew has ever seen before. Captain Kirk tells the navigator to set a course to the nearest glowing planet so that they can investigate. Just as they are preparing a landing party, the ship is hit with atmospheric turbulence. Kirk orders the infra-red periscope raised to see what is outside and discovers that they've in an electronic field shielding the planet. The ship is immobilized, and the landing party beams down to the planet to discover the source.
On the planet, the party discovers large supply dispensing machines, one for food, another for clothing. As they investigate, they are set upon by a group of aliens, but a parlay ensues and Kirk discovers that the aliens, led by Targu, were marooned a year before when their freighter crashed. However, Targu knows nothing about the electronic field.
The party sets out and eventually discovers a crashed ship, but do not recognize the controls within. They radio their discovery to Spock and he notes that the ship is not a cargo ship. As they discuss this, another alien arrives and introduces himself as Lara, telling them that Targu is a bad man and a liar. Lara informs them that they are all members of what are known as "the Condemned", convicts from their home planet. The convicts are gathered at the rocketport, put into missiles, and fired at the glowing planets in the asteroid belt where they wait for their sentence to be carried out – execution.
Meanwhile, Targu and his men have spotted Lara talking to Kirk and they round up the others and prepare to attack, unless Targu can talk their way out of things. Targu throws his weapon at Lara, knocking him out, and begins to talk. As Kirk accedes to the idea of further talks, Targu and his men attack, surprising the Enterprise team.
On board the ship, Spock and Scotty free the starship by flooding the area with counter energy. That action cuts a hole through the force field and the with the Enterprise's rockets on full, the ship is free! However, when they do so, the needle on the infra-red seismograph jumped, giving a critical reading. They get in touch with Kirk and prepare to beam them up, however Targu and his men entrap the landing party in a net, meaning that if Spock beams them up, he will bring the aliens with him.
Meanwhile, Spock discovers that the heart of the glowing asteroid is a "molten ball of fire", and that it will supernova within 24 hours.
- "Captain's log, Stardate 19:04.5 – We are in a desperate plight! Mr. Spock has just informed us that the criminal asteroid we are upon is due to explode within 24 hours... and there is no chance of escape without endangering the Enterprise and her mission..."
It appears that this is the method of execution for the criminals, and why they did not know the time or date of their executions. Targu explains their story and expands on Lara's details. Targu also tells Kirk how he came to be the leader, letting Kirk know what kind of creature he really is.
Targu contacts the Enterprise with Kirk's communicator and demands that Spock beam him and his trusted men off the asteroid. Spock refuses, insisting that he only takes orders from Kirk. Targu gives the radio to Kirk and Kirk tells Spock to take command of the Enterprise, and to take the ship as far from the asteroid as possible.
On board the ship, the crew is dismayed, telling Spock that he can't leave the Captain there to die. Spock tells them that he must obey the order, but is free to ignore the second, since he is now Captain, not Kirk. He and Scotty go to work on some quick plans to save the Captain and the other members of the landing party.
That night, as Kirk and the others wait for their doom, they spot a rocket trail – another rocket of the condemned coming to the asteroid. Targu and his men race toward the landing site to take control, as per usual. The rocket comes down awkwardly, crashing through prisoner huts, but Targu is undeterred, only interested in the food dispensers. The door opens, and Spock has sent Scotty down with a raiding party to free Kirk and the others. Spock beams the raiding and landing parties up and puts the rockets on full, taking the Enterprise away from the asteroid.
Kirk confronts Spock, telling him that he had disobeyed a direct order, but Spock defers to Scotty and Dr. McCoy on the matter, noting that he enjoys being Captain so much that he might never turn command of the vessel back over to Kirk. As they talk, the asteroid suddenly explodes, but the Enterprise is undamaged by the explosion and heads off to her next mission.
"Ready to teleport you and your party back to the Enterprise, Captain Kirk!"
"No, Mr. Spock! You'll bring back some undesirables with us! If these creatures get aboard, they could doom the Enterprise! We'll just have to fight our way out of this spot!"
- - Spock and Kirk, as the landing party faces down the enemy
- - Kirk, expressing dismay at the electronic field about the planet
"Don't attack unless I give the word! Maybe I can still talk our way out of this!"
- - Targu, looking for the "diplomatic" solution
"Captain Kirk! I-I've found the problem on your prison planet! Its heart is a molten ball of fire! ... An internal volcano that will blow the planet into a super nova within twenty-four hours!"
- - Spock, explaining the fate of the asteroid Kirk is on
"You heard the captain's order, gentlemen! On the other hand, you also heard the captain give me command of the ship prior to that! So technically, I am not bound by that order!"
"Spock, your Vulcan logic wins again!"
- - Spock and a Crewmember, on taking control of the ship
"Shades of Pluto! I think I have the answer!"
- - Spock, being struck with a solution
- This story was reprinted in Enterprise Log 1 and a later reprint of that volume from the Star Trek: The Key Collection series.
- This issue had two cover prices, 12 cents and 15 cents. It is unknown as to what the difference between issues is.
- The photograph of Kirk on the cover is from TOS: "Where No Man Has Gone Before", while Spock is from TOS: "The Galileo Seven".
- Canon characters listed below are linked to the main article about them. Non-canon characters are not linked, but those that recurred, appearing or being mentioned in more than one story, are defined further in Gold Key TOS characters.
Regular and recurring
- James T. Kirk
- Enterprise captain.
- Vulcan Enterprise exec and science officer.
- Leonard McCoy
- Enterprise chief medical officer.
- Montgomery Scott
- Enterprise chief engineer.
- Enterprise crewman. Mr. Foster mused how senseless it would be to die on the prison asteroid.
- Enterprise security guard.
- Leader of the blue-skinned aliens on the planet.
- The alien that attempted to warn Kirk of Targu's plan.
- The Condemned
- Criminals rounded up on the blue-skinned alien homeworld and launched to barren planetoids (asteroids) in missiles.
- Referred to as a "galaxy", Nabu is a star group explored by the Enterprise.
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