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While aboard the Starfleet ship USS Defiant, Captain Kirk disappears when the dead ship gets pulled into interspace. The Enterprise is under attack by a mysterious local race, the Tholians.



The USS Enterprise searches for the USS Defiant, which vanished without a trace, in unsurveyed space three weeks earlier. They see a green glowing object, shaped like the Starship but sensors indicate that it is not there.

As the ship moves closer, Captain Kirk identifies it as the Defiant and prepares to board the ship. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Chekov beam over to the vessel's forward secton of its bridge in environmental suits. Once aboard, they find the ship at red alert and discover the entire bridge crew dead and the Defiant's commanding officer lying near his chair with another officer's hands on his neck, both dead.

Act One[]

Kirk and Spock explore the Defiant bridge

"There's no sign of life aboard this vessel."

When the party sees the ship's captain having been strangled by a crewman and the dead bridge crew, Chekov asks if there is any record of a mutiny on a Federation starship, and Spock says, "Absolutely no record of such an occurrence, ensign." When they discover there are no life signs on the vessel, the party splits up to investigate.

McCoy checks out sickbay and finds many dead crew members, some restrained to the biobeds, while Chekov finds that the life support section and engineering are littered with dead bodies. After giving his report to Kirk, Chekov suddenly becomes dizzy and loses his balance. McCoy reports that the crew of the Defiant seems to have killed each other, but he cannot determine why. According to the ship's log, the surgeon on board didn't know what was going on either. He encounters a translucent dead body and can pass his hand through both it and a table in sickbay. He determines that the Defiant is dissolving. Kirk orders McCoy to return to the Defiant's bridge immediately. As the Defiant starts to "blink" on and off, repairs are under way on the Enterprise's transporter, which Montgomery Scott reports has become "jammed up." When Kirk and and the rest of the party are ready for beam-out, only three of the landing party can go at once. Spock requests permission to remain behind, but Kirk orders him back to the Enterprise and remains behind himself.

During transport, Scott and Lieutenant O'Neil have trouble getting the three officers to materialize. The Defiant continues to blink on and off, and Scott eventually gets Chekov, Spock, and McCoy back onto the Enterprise. Kirk waits on the Defiant's bridge while the Enterprise tries to beam him aboard. The Defiant disappears and Kirk is lost with it.

Act Two[]


Commander Loskene

Back on the bridge, Spock explains that space in this area is fractured and Kirk has slipped into another universe. He has determined that an interphase occurs for short periods during which one may travel between universes occupying the same point. In two hours, the computer calculates, another interphase will occur. However, the Enterprise must not expend any energy or the dimensional rift will be damaged and Kirk will be lost forever. During this explanation, Chekov becomes enraged and attacks Spock, who has to subdue him with a Vulcan nerve pinch. Clearly the Enterprise crew is subject to the same plague of madness that destroyed the crew of the Defiant. Spock must stay close to the space the Defiant was in in order to rescue Kirk at the right moment, or he will die, as his environment suit can provide air for only 3.62 hours.

The conversation is interrupted by the approach of a geometric, rainbow-colored ship. A Tholian commander named Loskene informs the crew that they are trespassing on territory of the Tholian Assembly and they must leave immediately. Spock says that the Enterprise is engaged in a rescue mission but Loskene points out that there is no other ship present. In the interests of "interstellar amity", Loskene agrees to wait until exactly one hour and fifty-three minutes, the time Spock has calculated until the Defiant reappears from the interspatial rift.

But when the time comes, everything goes wrong. In sickbay, an orderly attacks Dr. McCoy, who was trying to find a cause of the mental derangement. Nurse Christine Chapel administers a hypospray to subdue the orderly. The Defiant does not reappear, as the Tholian ship's use of engines in the fractured space has disrupted the timing of the interphase. McCoy reports that the sickness is not due to an infectious agent; instead, the fractures in space are damaging the Human nervous system. This conversation is interrupted when the Tholians fire upon the Enterprise. Spock mutters, "The renowned Tholian punctuality."

Spock does not wish to attack but locks phasers on target and hails the Tholians. They do not respond, and he orders Sulu to fire phasers. The Tholians stand down, but the Enterprise's power converters have been fused and the ship is adrift. Another Tholian ship appears, and the two touch aft ends briefly before separating, weaving a web between them. Spock analyzes the web and concludes that it is made of energy and "there is no analog to this structure in Federation technology." He announces that if the structure is completed before their repairs are done, the Enterprise will not see home again.

Act Three[]

Kirk's memorial service

Kirk's memorial service

Approximately two dozen crew members assemble for Kirk's memorial service. So far, McCoy's attempts to make an antidote for the space the spaceship is in have failed, while theragen was promisingly tested so far. Spock speaks, noting Kirk's concern for his crewmembers that led him to stay aboard the Defiant. Spock repeats the sequence of events that led to Kirk's disappearance and says that the crew must accept the fact that their captain is no longer alive. One of the crew members becomes unstable at this point, screaming and yelling, and must be removed and taken to sickbay under restraint. Spock concludes that "I shall not attempt to voice the quality of the respect and admiration Captain Kirk commanded. Each of you must evaluate the loss in the privacy of your own thoughts." Scott calls the crew to order, and they observe a moment of silence.

Pavel Chekov falling into madness

"Will I become like Chekov, doctor?"

After the crew is dismissed, McCoy forcefully reminds Spock that Kirk has left a video message in his quarters that was to be played in the event that he was declared dead, and persuades him to view the message at once. He berates the Vulcan for attacking the Tholians and reducing the Enterprise's chances of escape, accusing him of attempting to usurp Kirk's command. After their argument, they play the message, and in it Kirk asks Spock to temper logic with intuition, and if he needs help with the latter he should consult with McCoy. He also tells McCoy to remember that Spock is now the captain and that his command decisions must be followed. McCoy apologizes to Spock for his outburst and they leave to attend to their duties.

Meanwhile, Uhura is off-duty in her quarters dressed in her civilian wear. She feels a sudden pain, and when she recovers she sees an image of Kirk in his EV suit in her mirror. She runs out into a corridor and incoherently tells McCoy what she saw, but he takes her to sickbay as if she had been hallucinating. She wants to tell Spock, but she faints. In the engine room, another crewman goes berserk and attacks Scott. McCoy is attempting to synthesize an antidote that will counteract the debilitating effects of interspace. When McCoy returns to the bridge, Scott reports that he has also seen an apparition of Kirk. Scott returns to the bridge. Spock and McCoy are talking there when suddenly McCoy appears to be fainting. Spock catches him and then turns to see the image of the EV-suited captain, who appears to be trying to shout something. The captain's image then disappears.

Act Four[]

Mccoy and Chapel tend Kirk

McCoy and Chapel treat Kirk on transporter pad

When Uhura is released from sickbay, the crew's fortunes begin to change. Spock and Scott have calculated the next time that Kirk will appear (the phaser battle had blasted a hole in the crazy space fabric sending the Defiant to a unknown place.However as Kirk was still in the trasporter beam he remains interphase trapped). McCoy has found an antidote for the mental degradation with a diluted theragen derivative. Theragen, a Klingon nerve gas, while toxic in its pure form, merely acts as a powerful nerve blocker when dissolved in alcohol. Spock is understandably reluctant to take this antidote, but McCoy orders him to and tells him that it's the "Human" thing to do. Scott, on the other hand, likes it well enough to take the rest of the flask with him to see how it will taste mixed with Scotch.

At the next interphase, Kirk appears in space near the Enterprise. The ship attempts to rescue Kirk as the Tholians apply a tractor field. The Enterprise energy discharge in the fractured space throws the ship clear of the web through the interphase just before the tractor field in completed, and because Kirk is locked into the transporter beam, he is also dragged along.

McCoy and Nurse Chapel stand by in the transporter room with a hypo of tri-ox compound, as Kirk's environmental suit is beginning to run out of air and he is about to suffocate. After one unsuccessful attempt, Kirk is finally beamed back aboard the Enterprise by O'Neil and revived.

Kirk is back in uniform and sitting in the captain's chair on the bridge, and tells Spock and McCoy that after the Defiant was thrown out of the interphase, he had a whole universe to himself, but he prefers a crowded one instead. He asks them how they got along, and Spock and McCoy say that things went all right, for the most part. Kirk says he hopes his last taped orders were helpful, but Spock and McCoy lie and say that they were so busy with the crisis that they never got a chance to listen to them. Kirk gives them both a doubtful look and orders Sulu to take the Enterprise to warp factor two.

Log entries[]

Memorable quotes[]

"The renowned Tholian punctuality."

- Spock, as the Tholian ship fires on the Enterprise precisely when the allotted time is up

"I shall not attempt to voice the quality of respect and admiration which Captain Kirk commanded. Each of you must evaluate the loss in the privacy of your own thoughts."

- Spock, declaring Kirk dead

"He was a hero in every sense of the word, yet his life was sacrificed for nothing."

- McCoy, on Kirk's death

"Doctor, I am in command of the Enterprise."
"I would like to remedy that situation."

- Spock and McCoy, before viewing Kirk's last orders

"You might find that he is capable of Human insight and Human error."

- Kirk's last orders to McCoy, on Spock

"He's alive! He's alive, Doctor!"

- Uhura, dashing to McCoy after seeing Kirk

"In critical moments, men sometimes see exactly what they wish to see."
"Do you suppose they're seeing Jim because they've lost confidence in you?"

- Spock and McCoy, on the sightings

"I'm sure the captain would simply have said: 'Forget it, Bones'."

- Spock, accepting McCoy's apology

"One good slug of this, and you can hit a man with phaser stun, and he'd never feel it or even know it."
"Does it make a good mix with Scotch?"
"It should."
"I'll let you know." (Scott walks out with the flask)

- McCoy and Scott, on the antidote

"I see him!"
"There he is!"
"It's the captain!"

- Uhura, Chekov, and Sulu see Kirk through the Enterprise's viewscreen

"I must say I prefer a crowded universe much better."

- Kirk, commenting on his interspace experience

"Orders, Captain?"
"What orders are you referring to, Jim?"

- Spock and McCoy, denying that they viewed Kirk's last orders

Background information[]

Production timeline[]

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

Story and production[]

Spock from Chekov's viewpoint

Senensky's unique camera direction

  • Ralph Senensky began the direction of this episode, but was fired for falling a half-a-day behind schedule. (Starlog #72, p. 39) Up to that point, Senensky had used the fisheye lens camera effect to show the viewpoint of a person affected by interspace. This technique had previously been used by Senensky in "Is There in Truth No Beauty?". (The Trek 25th Anniversary Celebration [page number?edit])
  • This is the first episode with Al Francis as the director of photography, replacing Jerry Finnerman. Previously Francis worked on the series as Finnerman's camera operator.
  • Judy Burns, a freelance writer, penned this episode, co-written by her husband Chet Richards, to earn money for a study trip to Africa. [2]
  • Burns came up with the idea of spirits floating in space and around the Enterprise. However, Gene Roddenberry specified in the Writer's Guide for the series that the stories of Star Trek must be based on science and cannot feature unexplained supernatural events. Hence, Burns came up with the idea of the interdimensional rift. [3]
  • Several changes were made from Burns and Richards' early draft ("In Essence – Nothing") to the final draft ("The Tholian Web") including: [4]
  • International adaptations of this episode's title include: [5]
    • Japan – "Crisis of Captain Kirk, Who Was Thrown into Different-Dimensional Space"
    • Germany – "The Spider Web"
    • Portugal – "The Web"
    • France and Quebec – "The Tholian Trap"
  • Nichelle Nichols described "The Trouble with Tribbles" and "The Tholian Web" as two of her favorite shows. In "The Tholian Web", "we think Kirk is dead and I see him floating through the walls of my quarters. That was fun to do – of course, I enjoyed anything that I was able to get out of uniform." (The World of Star Trek, p. 113)
  • This is one of the few episodes in which all of the regular second and third-season characters – Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scott, Sulu, Uhura, Chekov, and Chapel – appear.
  • The close-up of McCoy's hand as it goes through a dead body in the Defiant's sickbay, was filmed in post-production, on an insert stage. [6]
  • The special effects in this episode, as originally aired, were a collaboration by Mike Minor and Vanderveer Photo Effects. Minor said of his work on this installment, "Finally, 'The Tholian Web' came up. That was the one [episode] I worked longest on; it involved three or four months out at Frank Van der Veer's Optical Company. I storyboarded the 17 cuts of effects that the script called for, shot the raw footage and executed all of the animation plates […] I'm told there was a $90,000 optical bill on that one show." (Starlog, issue 25, pp. 36 & 61)
  • Barbara Babcock (Voice of Commander Loskene) was uncredited on-screen, despite having dialogue.

Sets and props[]

McCoy in environmental unit

McCoy's environmental unit

  • This episode introduced a more spaceworthy environmental unit, replacing the suits first seen in "The Naked Time". These suits were created by Costume Designer William Ware Theiss and consisted of silver lamé with a fabric helmet with screen mesh visor. [7] This allowed the actors to breathe more easily while wearing the suit. (The Trek 25th Anniversary Celebration) Mike Minor, together with Theiss, constructed the helmets. (Starlog, issue 25, pp. 35, 61)
  • The spacesuits were made from a very slick material resembling silver lamé and featured no zippers in order to achieve a completely smooth, unseamed look. As a result, when any of the actors had to visit the men's room, they had to completely remove the costume, then put it back upon returning to the set. This ate up precious shooting time. [8]
  • The spacesuits were later reused in "Whom Gods Destroy".
  • One of the helmets was worn by Conrad Janis in the "Mork and Mindy" first season episode "Mork Goes Public". [9]
  • Dr. McCoy's spacesuit from "The Tholian Web"' was sold on 7 October 2006 as Lot 978 in the 40 Years of Star Trek: The Collection auction. The auction estimate for the suit was US$6,000- $8,000; the sale price was US$120,000 ($144,000 with premium). Spock's suit was previously sold as Lot 149 in the Profiles in History auction, The Ultimate Sci-Fi Auction of 26 April 2003, also having had an estimate of US$6,000-$8,000.
  • The ship's chapel, which had previously appeared in "Balance of Terror", was a redress of the briefing room. (The Making of Star Trek incorrectly states it was a redress of the transporter room.)
  • Denis Russell was involved with the Tholian ship's special effects. [10](X)
  • This is the first appearance of a Tholian in Star Trek — in this case, Commander Loskene. For this appearance, Loskene appeared only on the Enterprise's viewscreen and was portrayed simply by a puppet created by Mike Minor, for which Barbara Babcock provided the voice. (Star Trek Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., p. 508)
  • The antique Napoleon III ebonized cabinet pedestal found in Spock's quarters had previously appeared in the films It's a Wonderful Life and Citizen Kane. The piece, which was originally part of the RKO Property Department, later came into the possession of Paramount Pictures, and was sold in late 2008 as part of the "Profiles in History" auction, where it was sold for US$6,000. [11]
  • The lab apparatus and tubing that McCoy uses in attempting to synthesize the theragen derivative appears to have been recycled from "The Devil in the Dark", where it was used as part of Scott's makeshift replacement for the main circulating pump of the PXK pergium reactor.
  • The operations division uniform with lieutenant commander's braid, originally made for Dr. Ann Mulhall in "Return to Tomorrow", is worn by an unnamed female background character during the chapel scene. She is sitting on a bench directly behind McCoy.


USS Defiant NCC-1764 engineering patch

Defiant patch

  • The ultimate fate of the Defiant was revealed nearly 37 years later when the vessel is discovered in the Mirror universe in the 21st century in the episodes ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly" and "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II", where the vessel is first salvaged by the Tholians before being stolen by Commander Jonathan Archer of the Terran Empire. According to Mike Sussman, ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly" and "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II" were written to be 'a prequel to "Mirror, Mirror" and a sequel to "The Tholian Web",' two of his favorite episodes. [12](X) In regards to the creating a sequel, "For me, it was an irresistible idea that the USS Defiant from "The Tholian Web" was still floating out there somewhere in interphase, and we never knew what happened to it," Sussman said. "To me that was a tantalizing story idea I wanted to explore." [13](X)
  • This episode is the only time that Spock refers to McCoy as his nickname, Bones, and even then, it is to tell McCoy what Kirk would say.
  • This is the third time that the Enterprise has encountered another Constitution-class starship with the entire crew dead. The others were in "The Doomsday Machine" and "The Omega Glory". By the end of "The Ultimate Computer" a fourth Constitution-class, the Excalibur, is also lifeless. Additionally, Spock had sensed the demise of an entire crew on yet another Constitution-class vessel in "The Immunity Syndrome".
  • The Defiant is not among the names of the fourteen Constitution-class starships that were established in The Making of Star Trek.
  • The approximately two dozen crew members who attend Kirk's memorial service appear to constitute the largest assemblage of Enterprise personnel in the original series.
  • The Exo III graphic from "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" reappears in the sickbay of the Defiant.
  • No insignia was created for the Defiant crew's tunics; however, in creating "In a Mirror, Darkly", the wardrobe department came up with something new: "a variation on the standard Starfleet arrowhead, tilting it and adding an extra angle to its shape." [14](X) In the original TOS episode, some Defiant crew members may be seen wearing the Enterprise assignment badge. [15]
  • In "Turnabout Intruder", Kirk (in Janice Lester's body) mentions the events of this episode to try to convince Spock of the mind switch.
  • In this episode, Spock says there is "absolutely no record" of a mutiny on a Federation starship. This contradicts the instance that the crew of the Enterprise mutinied in "This Side of Paradise", and was again contradicted only seven episodes later in "Whom Gods Destroy", in which it is revealed that his crew had mutinied against Captain Garth in the past. Spock himself confessed to committing mutiny in "The Menagerie, Part I" having stolen the Enterprise without orders. Also, in the later series Star Trek: Discovery, Commander Michael Burnham is court-martialed and convicted of mutiny during the Battle of the Binary Stars some 12 years before the events of "The Tholian Web". In the latter case, however, Burnham was later pardoned and her record expunged, which may explain the seeming inconsistency.
  • The episode features a blooper when stock footage of Chekov in front of the viewscreen is used moments after his character is escorted to sickbay after displaying signs of the space madness.
  • Scotty's hair returns to its more familiar style from the first and second season in this episode after James Doohan objected to the combed back style producers had experimented with at the start of the third season.
  • The Enterprise's escape from the Tholian web is glimpsed in ST: "Ephraim and Dot". In that story, the Tardigrade "Ephraim" is pursuing the Enterprise, in which she has laid her eggs, and is nearly caught in the Tholian web herself.

Miscellaneous Information[]

Enterprise in Tholian Web

Animated Tholian web


  • Star Trek was nominated for an Emmy Award for the special effects in this episode. Mike Minor, who once mistakenly reported that this outing actually won the Emmy Award for its effects, was somewhat relieved by such recognition. Influenced by the award nomination, he later stated about his work herein, "I guess it was worth it." (Starlog, issue 25, p. 61)

Remastered information[]

The remastered version of "The Tholian Web" aired in many North American markets during the weekend of 31 March 2007. Some of the effects shots were virtual recreations of the original footage, whereas others were more dynamic and showed angles of both starships never before seen. The Tholian starship retained the essential design elements of the original model, but more detail and internal lights were added. The scene involving Commander Loskene was left intact and no new images of the Tholians were shown.

The next remastered episode to air was "The Immunity Syndrome".

Video and DVD releases[]

Links and references[]


Also starring[]



Uncredited co-stars[]

Stunt doubles[]

  • Frank da Vinci as stunt double for DeForest Kelley
  • Jay Jones as stunt double for James Doohan
  • Jesse Wayne as stunt double for Walter Koenig


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External links[]

Previous episode produced:
"The Empath"
Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 3
Next episode produced:
"For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky"
Previous episode aired:
"For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky"
Next episode aired:
"Plato's Stepchildren"
Previous remastered episode aired:
"Wolf in the Fold"
TOS Remastered Next remastered episode aired:
"The Immunity Syndrome"