(written from a Production point of view)
Beaming down to a planet to search for the crew of a missing ship, the crew is captured by its alien inhabitants.
- "Captain's log, stardate 5501.2. We are orbiting the planet Lactra VII. Our mission is to discover the whereabouts or fate of a six member science crew. Voice contact having yielded nothing, a landing party beamed aboard to see if the deserted ship's log and computers could give us any information."
Their computer intones, "It is now 32 minutes since our last contact with the three members of our crew on the planet's surface. As the senior officer aboard I, Lieutenant Commander Markel, have made the following decision. The three remaining crew members, myself included, will beam down to effect a rescue. If for any reason we do not return, be it known that..." Kirk cuts off the log while the senior staff sits around the briefing room's table and says, "It was against all orders." McCoy claims, "The crew was apparently desperate." Kirk states, "The captain of a ship, no matter his rank, must follow the book." Spock remarks, "A capability, I'm afraid, out of the reach of most Humans." Kirk wants a landing party to beam down to the last known coordinates the crew used. "Gentlemen, we'll travel light. Phasers, tricorders, communicators and medical kit." Kirk, Spock, and McCoy assemble in the transporter room and are beamed down to Lactra VII by Montgomery Scott.
Their communicator picks up a short signal, but there is no trace of sentient inhabitants. They are attacked by a gigantic beast that seems similar to one on Canopus III, which is many light years away, but the desert area they now occupy is the same. As they continue walking the environment changes. Spock doesn't think that two such disparate ecologies could co-exist so closely. Scott communicates to the landing party that ship's sensors have discovered a large concentration of lifeforms 98.5 kilometers north east. Apparently a city or some sort of central gathering place. Spock's has a theory that they have found a plethora of different habitats and their inhabitants. The various environments have been manufactured, not created by nature.
They are attacked by other creatures, but before any harm can befall them the creatures are stopped by a force field. The crew meets the Lactrans, a group of twenty-foot slugs who capture them. Spock discovers the Lactrans are telepathic, but the speed at which their thoughts flow is too difficult for him to comprehend, except for the most fleeting image. He realizes that they are advanced as much beyond Kirk as he is to a colony of ants. They are taken to an environment like Earth and imprisoned along with the three remaining Ariel crewmembers, Lieutenant Commander Markel, Lieutenants Randi Bryce, and Nancy Randolph. They have become exhibits in a Lactran zoo.
The Lactrans are unaware Ariel's Lieutenant Randolph has become ill, and they were too late to save the first landing party. They have tried every means of escape they could. They have attempted communication with the Lactran lifeforms but only aroused a quivering motion. Kirk asks Spock to try to make contact but he can't. His impression is that they are laughing at him. They all concentrate their need to have McCoy's medical kit that is located outside a force field and ultimately succeed.
Spock notices that the Lactrans can pick up specific thought transmissions from them if they care to go to the trouble. He suggests that one of them should appear to be ill and the rest of them should put strong thoughts in their minds that a communicator is needed for recovery. A child responds, gives them the communicator and Kirk quickly flips it open and contacts the ship, ordering to be beamed up immediately. However, the child snatches the communicator from Kirk's hand and dematerializes up to the ship. The elders are worried about the child and think Kirk made the child disappear. The child's parents are worried and almost kill Kirk in an attempt to contact him. On the starship, the child enters the bridge carrying Scott and reads the chief engineer's brain, all the information contained in the library computer, and sends the Enterprise flying out of orbit. Scott convinces the child that Humans are not pets and to return and let his parents know what he has learned. The child does so and the Lactrans release the crew from their confinement and allow them to leave because the Lactrans do not feel the crew belongs in their zoo. They send a final telepathic message to Spock – that Federation visitors will be welcome back in twenty or thirty Lactran centuries. Spock adds that it will take "some time to figure out how long that is." Kirk replies, "Either way Mr. Spock, it will hardly be our problem."
"You Vulcans are the most impossible, unimaginative..."
"Bones, that's not helping the situation."
- - McCoy, beginning to hurl insults at Spock, when Kirk stops him
"Jim, if the others are lost, why take the risk?"
"Because they may not be dead. We have to find out."
"It's still a risk."
"That's why we're here, Bones."
- - McCoy and Kirk
"My shoes are full of sand."
"Doctor, your lack of scientific interest is amazing."
"I'll be happy to discuss that with you, Mr. Spock, next time you drop in to my medical lab."
- - McCoy and Spock
"They don't seem very interested in communicating with us, if they can communicate at all."
"Perhaps not in a way we understand. I keep receiving impressions."
"Any ideas, doctor?"
"Well, I've got one and I definitely don't like it. I'd guess they're doing exactly what we would do."
"Well, if we came upon an alien creature we'd never seen before, the first thing we'd do is to make sure it was free of harmful bacteria. Then we'd see if it was intelligent."
"Congratulations, Doctor. A most logical assumption."
- - McCoy, Spock, and Kirk
"Are the aliens telepathic?"
"I've come to the conclusion they are, captain, but the speed at which the thoughts flow is too great for me to comprehend, except for the most fleeting image."
"Surely we can communicate with them someway."
"They appear to be as advanced beyond Earth civilization as you are from a colony of ants."
- - Kirk and Spock
"We are considered simplistic, but in the process of evolving into a higher order."
"Yes. Even Vulcans."
- - Spock and McCoy
Story and script
- The writer of this episode, David P. Harmon, had previously written TOS: "The Deadly Years" and co-written (with Gene L. Coon) "A Piece of the Action". Harmon recalled about "The Eye of the Beholder", "I did that for Dorothy Fontana." (Starlog issue #117, p. 44)
- The text commentary for this episode supposes that the USS Ariel "may have been" named after the character of a certain magical spirit from the Shakespeare play The Tempest.
- The final draft of this episode's script was submitted on 24 October 1973.
- The text commentary for this episode, written by Michael and Denise Okuda, speculates, "Like many animated Star Trek episodes, 'The Eye of the Beholder' could easily have been an episode of the original series. Assuming, of course, that the original series could have afforded the sets and the effects." These elements would actually not have been possible, though, for the original Star Trek, as the text commentary explains. "[The] sea creature [near the start of this episode] illustrates the advantage of animation over traditional live-action filmmaking. It would have been very difficult for the original Star Trek to afford such a creature [....] The slug-like Lactrans are far beyond anything that would have been attempted on the original series. Similarly, the other animals and [the Lactran city's elaborately] futuristic architecture would all have been beyond the resources of the original series [....] [The Lactrans' tentacle-like] snouts would have been a significant challenge if attempted in live-action puppetry."
- The episode's text commentary implies that the effect of both the landing party from the Enterprise beaming to Lactra VII and steam that can be seen rising from a marshy lake upon the group's reintegration were classed as special animation effects and, as such, were included in the purview of Reuben Timmins.
- The shots of the Enterprise that are shown when Kirk contacts the vessel were an economical measure, as they lessened the amount of character animation that had to be created for the installment. Another such measure was the fact that the Maravel dragons that attack the Enterprise landing party used a recycled character design that appear as the Swoopers in the earlier TAS installment "The Infinite Vulcan" and are seen again as the mechanized sentinels in the episode following this one, "The Jihad". These cost-cutting measures enabled Filmation to concentrate on the unique designs needed for this episode, such as the Lactrans and their city. (TAS DVD text commentary)
- The design of the Lactrans was well-suited to animation. For example, their mode of travel was very economical, since the animators did not need to illustrate moving feet, and the large eyes of the aliens proved an effective means of conveying emotion without dialogue, thereby helping to minimize not only the quantity of lip movements that had to be drawn and synced with the speaking in the episode's soundtrack but also the amount of dialogue that had to be recorded for the episode. The Lactrans' snouts did require a considerable number of drawings, but only when they were moving. (TAS DVD text commentary)
- Kirk's response to McCoy worrying about the risk involved in the captain's plan of beaming a landing party to the last known coordinates of the USS Ariel's crew (specifically, "That's why we're here") is a subtle reference to a well-known speech that Kirk makes in TOS: "Return to Tomorrow", wherein he says, "Risk is our business."
- The predicament that the captured Starfleet officers find themselves in (i.e., being confined to the Lactra VII zoo) is similar to a situation in which Captain Christopher Pike finds himself in TOS: "The Cage" (wherein Talosians are the zookeepers).
- The characters of Arex and Hikaru Sulu appear very briefly in an overhead shot of the bridge at 19:25, but do not appear otherwise.
- This is one of three TAS episodes in which the character of Uhura does not appear, the others being "Yesteryear" and "The Jihad".
- David P. Harmon was dissatisfied with this episode, later remarking, "I wasn't that happy with it." He went on to relate that this was because he didn't believe animation, which disappointed him generally, was suitable for the emotional depth of Star Trek. (Starlog issue #117, p. 44)
- 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. 111)
- In The Star Trek Files magazine, John Peel commented, "A pretty straight-forward story that works quite well, despite the obviousness of the plot. The idea of the Lactrans being so advanced that they do not recognize the crew as intelligent seems a little far-fetched, but it isn't impossible, I suppose. One thing that puzzles me about the story is the logic of it, however." In particular, Peel struggled with the plot point that three crew members from the USS Ariel had beamed down in search of a lost landing party, leaving the vessel unoccupied. "Aside from the fact (as Kirk points out) that this is against Starfleet regulations," said Peel, "one thing occurs to me – how did they expect to return to their ship, since there is no-one up there to manipulate the transporter? It couldn't work on automatic, since they would have moved from their original beam-down point. It seems like a very silly error to make." (The Star Trek Files: The Animated Voyages End, pp. 26-28)
- In the unofficial reference book Trek Navigator: The Ultimate Guide to the Entire Trek Saga (p. 80), co-writer Mark A. Altman rates this episode 2 and a half out of 4 stars (defined as "average") while fellow co-writer Edward Gross ranks the episode 2 out of 4 stars (defined as "mediocre").
- In Star Trek Magazine's "Ultimate Guide" (Star Trek Magazine issue 163, p. 26), this episode was rated 2 out of 5 Starfleet arrowhead insignia.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (CIC Video): Volume 5, catalog number VHR 2539, 17 February 1992
- As part of the The Animated Series LaserDisc collection
- 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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- "The Eye of the Beholder" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "The Eye of the Beholder" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "The Eye of the Beholder" at Wikipedia
- "The Eye of the Beholder" & "The Jihad" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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