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(written from a Production point of view)

For the unseen namesake prop book, please see The Mark of Gideon (production art).

Kirk is held captive on an empty duplicate of the USS Enterprise.




The Enterprise orbiting secretive Federation candidate Gideon in 2268

The USS Enterprise is in synchronous orbit over the capital city of Gideon, a candidate for Federation membership. This is itself unusual, as Gideon has repeatedly refused to establish diplomatic relations with the UFP before this. The physio-cultural reports the Gideons have submitted to the Federation describe their planet as a virtual paradise, with a germ-free atmosphere. Yet for the duration of the delicate negotiations, Starfleet has agreed to the Gideons' unusual stipulation that no surveillance scans be carried out upon their planet. Hodin, the Gideon Council's de facto ambassador to the Federation, accordingly provides the coordinates for the landing party's beam-down – 875-020-079 – a spot he says is within the Council Chamber. Furthermore, the Enterprise landing party must comprise of only one particular individual: Captain Kirk. After being beamed down by Commander Spock, Kirk arrives in what seems to be a completely depopulated Enterprise. He presumes the beam-down was unsuccessful, and upon arriving on the empty bridge satisfies himself from looking at the viewscreen that he and the ship are "still orbiting Gideon."

Act One[]


The Gideon High Council's point man in full prevarication

In a corridor, Kirk continues to search every part of the ship, and can find no-one. He has sustained a bruise on his arm, but has lost any recollection of the incident or, indeed, the minutes in which it occurred.

While speaking to Spock via a video screen, the High Council's Ambassador Hodin denies responsibility for the loss of the captain, suggesting that the Enterprise's equipment must be faulty. Hodin repeats the coordinates for Kirk's transport that were given to the Enterprise, which Chekov confirms on a PADD that he was sent to. He frustrates ship's surgeon McCoy and even First Officer Spock with his steadfast refusal to drop his planet's sensor-jamming shields. He claims they are necessary to protect the Gideons against any "contaminating contact" with violent otherworldly nature. Hodin does assent to a "thorough search" but pretends that Spock has agreed that the High Council should be the party to institute it.

While continuing his search, Kirk encounters a young woman wandering the empty corridors of the ship in an ecstasy of new-found personal space. Telling Kirk that her name is Odona, she says that on her world "thousands pressed in against me. I could hardly breathe." When she evinces fear Kirk consoles her, offering his hand. She notes that Kirk too seems to be troubled. The captain says he is; "I seem to be the only one of my crew left on board the Enterprise. 430… and I apparently am the only one left."

Lieutenant Uhura tells Spock that Starfleet wants him to go through diplomatic channels – the Federation – but that the department she has been referred to, the Bureau of Planetary Treaties, has, of course, no treaty with the Gideon and wishes Starfleet to handle the crisis. Spock muses that diplomats and bureaucrats may function differently, but they seem to achieve the same results.

Seeing the chronometer on the astrogator, Kirk says that there are indeed some nine minutes that are unaccounted for since his transport. Odona is plainly a Gideon, but apparently is not in the habit of calling her world by that name. Putting the Enterprise's forward environs onto the main viewer, Kirk finds that they seem no longer to be in orbit, but rather in some unfamiliar quadrant.

Act Two[]

Meanwhile, back on the real USS Enterprise, the ambassador informs Spock that Kirk is not on Gideon after conducting a thorough search of the planet by the natives. However, Spock insists on transporting to the planet. The ambassador grants permission with the provision that a Gideon co-worker beam aboard the Enterprise. Spock agrees, and Scotty beams Krodak, a Gideon representative aboard, but when Spock begins to press for his beam-down to the planet, the Gideon ambassador prevaricates again, and claims that he has acted outside his authority to grant Spock the permission to come to the planet. Spock is clearly insistent and exasperated by both the bureaucratic logjam in the Federation, and by the diplomatic stonewalling of the ambassador. He tells Uhura to demand an answer from Starfleet about the issue of beaming to the planet's surface.

At the same time, Kirk and Odona are together on the bridge of the empty Enterprise, and unable to raise any form of communication at all. At the engineering station, the captain drops the ship out of warp, explaining this to Odona, who remarks that it feels exactly the same as when they were at warp. This raises Kirk's attention because there "is no change in how the ship feels." He grows suspicious and looks at the viewscreen, which is displaying a field of stars moving slowly. Odona asks Kirk if he is having a problem with the way the stars look.

After Odona and Kirk toy with the idea of remaining alone aboard the Enterprise, Kirk decides he has to discover and contact whoever is manipulating them. He asks Odona about her homeworld, and she says she does not remember; she only knows that she is, at the moment, happy. She explains that her home planet is packed to the brim with people. There is not one area on the surface where an individual can find solitude, in fact, there are some who would kill for it. Odona and Kirk embrace, but as they do so, the faces of other hooded people appear on the viewscreen unseen by them.

Act Three[]

While Kirk and Odona walk about the ship and discuss Kirk's bruise, they hear a strange thumping noise. Though Odona believes it is the engines or a storm, Kirk says he knows every sound the Enterprise makes and that is not one of them. He opens a viewport, which shows an ordinary star field after a momentary ghostly appearance of the dense planetary population en masse – all of whom wear bodysuits covering all but their faces and hands – with Kirk surmising the thumping sound was the heartbeats of all the people he saw outside the window.

As Kirk begins to request answers from Odona, she begins to feel faint with the manifest prognostics of illness as the ambassador – her father – and his aides watch on a video screen in the council chamber, unknown to them. Hodin, accompanied by two bodysuited guards, then boards what Kirk now knows to be a fake Enterprise. The captain and the ambassador partake in a brief exchange regarding Odona's health before Hodin takes Kirk prisoner and lays Odona in a bed in the captain's quarters.

Act Four[]

Spock contacts Starfleet Command and argues with Admiral Fitzgerald, who refuses to allow Spock to beam down to the planet's surface without being able to determine that Kirk's life is in immediate danger.

On the planet, Hodin comforts Odona in Kirk's quarters, expecting her to die. However, he asks her what pain is like, foreign to both of them, and is proud of her strength in fighting the infection. Going outside to Kirk, he reveals he knows what she has – Vegan choriomeningitis – and that they sought Kirk out because they knew he had once almost died of it. Kirk attempts to subdue the guards unsuccessfully.

On the Enterprise, Spock finally resolves to violate Starfleet orders and search for Kirk. He demonstrates the slight difference between the coordinates given them for beaming down Kirk to those beaming up the Gideon councilman, Krodak. He orders McCoy and the others to remain aboard the Enterprise, leaving Scott in command.

Hodin explains to Kirk in the council chambers how Gideon was once a paradise, and its atmosphere has always been germ-free. The people's lifespans increased, and death became almost unknown to the Gideons. The birthrate continued to rise until Gideon became encased in a "living mass," with no space to live in comfort. Hodin says sterilization is impossible as their organs renew, and contraception is unthinkable because of their "love of life." Eventually, they decided to introduce mortal illness to Gideon, choosing Kirk as its source, and Odona as an inspirational model of self-sacrificial heroism. Hodin tries to convince Kirk to stay and provide the necessary virus, but Kirk argues against it. They are notified of the approaching death of Odona and they go to her.

Meanwhile, Spock initiates a search for Kirk on the duplicate Enterprise and surmises that this is some experiment and Kirk is in danger. Reaching the captain's quarters, Spock quickly subdues the guards outside: one with a Vulcan neck pinch, and the other knocked out after Spock grabs and hurls him down the corridor. On Kirk's orders, Spock asks Scotty to beam up him, Kirk, and Odona to the Enterprise immediately. But before they dematerialize, however, Spock warns Hodin not to interfere – "I already have one serious problem to resolve with upper echelons."

In sickbay, McCoy then cures Odona and Kirk shows her around the real Enterprise, now filled with people. She tries in vain to persuade Kirk to go live with her on Gideon, wishing her homeworld could now fit one more person on it. Kirk alerts Transporter Control that they have a person to beam down, as Kirk and Odona prepare to part ways. Kirk returns to command the Enterprise and Odona returning to Gideon to save her people. The Enterprise travels on through space, en route to its next destination.

Log entries[]

Memorable quotes[]

"We must acknowledge once and for all that the purpose of diplomacy is to prolong a crisis."

- Spock, to McCoy

"Diplomats and bureaucrats may function differently, but they achieve exactly the same results."

- Spock, to Sulu

"And just when I was beginning to think you might find a whole new career as a diplomat, Mr. Spock."
"Do not give up hope, doctor."

- McCoy after Spock is yet again unsuccessful in gaining permission from Hodin to beam down to Gideon

"You're mad!"
"No. We are desperate."

- Kirk and Hodin, on Odona's deliberate infection

"Your report to the Federation was a tissue of lies! You described conditions that would make Gideon a virtual paradise!"

- Kirk to Hodin, in the council chamber

"We are incapable of destroying or interfering with the creation of that which we love so deeply. Life, in every form, from fetus to developed being. It is against our tradition, against our very nature. We simply could not do it."
"Yet you can kill a young girl."

- Hodin and Kirk

"Your Excellency, please do not interfere. I already have one serious problem to resolve with upper echelons."

- Spock's parting words to Hodin

"How can you bear to look at me after the way I deceived you?"
"At least you owe me the privilege of letting me look at you."
"You are a gentleman, Captain Kirk."

- Odona and Kirk, after her recovery

"As crowded as my planet is, I could wish for it to hold one more person."

- Odona, to Kirk

Background information[]

Story and script[]

  • The story for this episode was co-written by Stanley Adams, who previously played Cyrano Jones in "The Trouble with Tribbles". Reportedly, Adams was deeply concerned about the issue of overpopulation and had some casual discussions with Gene Roddenberry, during the production of "The Trouble with Tribbles", in which he suggested that Star Trek do an episode reflecting that subject matter. This episode, on which his writing partner Geroge F. Slavin collaborated with him, is the evident result of those conversations. (Star Trek: The Original Series 365, p. 324) Adams' writing of this episode was influenced by advice from his son. Explained the writer, "My son says, 'Dad, you're in a position to really say something about the overpopulation problem.' He stood over my shoulder while I wrote around the beehive society." However, neither Stanley Adams nor his son were as pleased with the episode's final form. In hindsight, Stanley Adams commented, "[My son] sees the TV version. He says, 'What did they do?!' But they do it to you. When you write for TV, there's an old expression: 'Take the money and run.'" (Starlog issue #3, p. 29) A detailed description of the episode's initial story outline can be found here.
  • Fred Freiberger, producer of Season 3, was satisfied with this episode. He related, "One of my pet themes is overpopulation and I thought this was a good idea. We were taking a shot at something fresh and gutsy, and it worked out pretty well. That one was also shot entirely on the Enterprise. I felt that if we had to do the show under those restrictions, we had to come up with good stories and that one worked." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 74)
  • Remarkably, this episode did not run afoul of NBC censors, despite Kirk broaching such sensitive matters as sexual sterilization and birth control.


Looking through the Exterior viewing port

The view from the exterior viewing port is not what Kirk expected

  • This is also the only episode showing an exterior viewing port. The only other time a window looking outside the ship is seen is on the observation deck in "The Conscience of the King". Of course, in this case, the port seen is not on the real Enterprise. The exterior viewing port from this episode is the same design as the one used to witness Marta's execution in "Whom Gods Destroy".
  • This is the second of two TOS episodes that show an empty Constitution-class bridge, the other installment being the first season outing "This Side of Paradise" (which shows the bridge of the actual Enterprise).
  • When Kirk tries to address anyone on the ship, one of the shots, showing an empty corridor, is recycled from "Is There in Truth No Beauty?". Also, another shot shows an empty Sickbay – with the Red Alert indicator light flashing, an obvious pickup shot from an earlier episode.

Cast and characters[]

  • Among the many disembodied Gideon citizens seen on the viewscreen is frequent background performer William Blackburn. His face is pointed out in the finale of the bonus featurette "Billy Blackburn's Treasure Chest: Rare Home Movies and Special Memories", offered on the third season DVD collection of Star Trek: The Original Series.
  • Despite their playing father and daughter, David Hurst was actually only nine years older than Sharon Acker.


  • In their unofficial reference book Trek Navigator: The Ultimate Guide to the Entire Trek Saga (pp. 138 & 139), co-writer Mark A. Altman scores this episode 2 out of 4 stars (defined as "mediocre") while fellow co-writer Edward Gross rates the installment 1 out of 4 stars (defined as "lousy").
  • Cinefantastique gave this episode 1 and a half out of 4 stars. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 11/12, p. 104)
  • In the unauthorized reference book Beyond the Final Frontier (p. 50), co-writers Mark Jones and Lance Parkin give their opinions of this installment; "An episode that starts out spooky and tense, but collapses well before the end under a mass of plot holes – leaving aside how the people of Gideon built such an exact replica of the Enterprise that even Kirk is fooled, there's just no reason why they build it. And if Kirk's so infectious, why is he allowed to beam down to planets in the first place?"
  • The Star Trek Concordance (p. 82) also laments the plot holes; its synopsis of the episode unusually editorializes that "Odona … is to die as a symbol (of the faultiest logic in the galaxy)."


Shane Johnson's book The Worlds of the Federation identifies Gideon as planet number VII in the Delta Dorado star system, as the Star Trek Maps had earlier in the decade. Both Worlds and the Maps point out, first, that the planetary population was estimated at over 500 billion, exceeding the Federation's total population, and second, that the introduction of Vegan choriomeningitis ultimately wiped out some 97 percent, or upwards of 485 billion, of the inhabitants. Johnson adds that even though the planet's remaining inhabitants, estimated at just over 15 billion after the planet-wide plague, continued their repeated refusal to establish diplomatic relations with the Federation, they did accept a gift of phaser-energy disposal units to dispose of the corpses of the dead before additional diseases could develop, leaving Gideon a lonely, and largely empty, planet.

Production timeline[]

During the syndication run of Star Trek, no syndication cuts were made to this episode.

Video and DVD releases[]

Links and references[]


Also starring[]


Guest stars[]

Uncredited co-stars[]


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External links[]

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