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Whom Gods Destroy redirects here; for the unseen namesake prop book, please see Whom Gods Destroy (production art).

Kirk and Spock are held captive in an insane asylum by a former Starfleet hero.



Kirk and Spock beam down to the Elba II asylum with a revolutionary new medicine to treat the inmates' mental disorders. They are met in the asylum control center by Dr. Cory, the governor of the penal colony. He explains that in order to maintain security they are under a transport shield, and so he laughingly won't take "no" for an answer on his invitation to Kirk and Spock to dinner. He also explains that the colony has just increased the number of fourteen inmates by one, and that new inmate is Garth of Izar. Kirk mentions that Garth was a legendary Fleet Captain before going insane, and that his exploits were required reading for cadets at the Academy.

Kirk asks to see Garth, so Dr. Cory leads Kirk and Spock to his holding cell, only to discover the actual Dr. Cory restrained and looking roughed-up. At this point, the man who had appeared as Dr. Cory reveals himself to be Garth and electronically opens the remaining holding cells, releasing the inmates of Elba II, including a Tellarite, an Andorian and a beautiful, young, Orion woman.

Act One[]

After Spock is stunned by Garth with a phaser and dragged away by the Andorian and Tellarite, Kirk is placed into the holding cell with the real Dr. Cory. Garth demands to be called "Lord Garth" and talks about destroying his enemies. Destroying the medicine, he is intent on taking command of the USS Enterprise, seeking vengeance against his former crewmembers, planning to hunt them all down. He instantly morphs into Kirk in front of the real Kirk and goes to the control room.

When he leaves, Dr. Cory explains that Garth had learned how to morph his cellular structure from the Antos natives on Antos IV to look like other people, unfortunately only after he had escaped his cell. Dr. Cory also says, "He claims to have developed the most powerful explosive in history and I believe him."

Scott, who is in command of the Enterprise, asks "Kirk" for the transport code sign: "Queen to Queen's level three," but Garth/Kirk is unable to respond with the correct countersign. Finally understanding, Garth/Kirk tells Scott that it was just a test and signs out. Fortunately, Scott is suspicious, and considers options to investigate. Garth/Kirk becomes enraged over almost succeeding to escape the planet, causing him to revert to his true form. Standing silently after his rant, Garth tells the Andorian and the Tellarite that they will take over the Enterprise even if he has to "shatter every bone in Captain Kirk's body."

Garth goes mad


Act Two[]

Realizing that he can't board the Enterprise without the countersign, Garth returns to Dr. Cory's cell and renews his dinner invitation for Kirk and Spock but states that Governor Cory is not on the guest list, an intentional oversight, as Garth puts it. They all proceed to an elaborate feast with the inmates providing the entertainment, including a seductive dance by Marta, the Orion inmate seen earlier. Kirk and Spock whisper to each other the idea of causing some sort of distraction which would allow Spock to get to the control room and de-activate the shield. Kirk surmises that Scott has already put together a security detail on the Enterprise and all they need is a few seconds. Garth silences them and asks that they instead pay attention to Marta's recitation of her "poetry", which is actually by Shakespeare and Housman.

After the feast, Kirk and Spock talk with Garth about his record including the battle of Axanar as well as his attempt to destroy the inhabitants of Antos IV. He clearly had gone insane over some rejection and his crew mutinied to prevent his actions. Spock tries to reason with him, only to be carried away.

Garth then brings in a rehabilitation chair which he has modified to cause pain. He places Governor Cory in the chair and tortures him for a short while, demanding that Kirk provide him with the countersign. Kirk still refuses to give in, then Garth places him in the chair for some torture as well. Marta begs that Garth cease the torture on Kirk, but Garth continues.

Act Three[]

Marta again protests the torture, saying she can convince him, and Garth agrees. Kirk is placed in a separate room where Marta pours him a drink and goes over to him. She begins to seduce him on his bed. While they kiss, she suddenly reaches for a dagger under a pillow and tries to stab Kirk, who manages to fight her off. Spock arrives with a phaser and Marta explains that Kirk is "her lover and she must kill him." Spock prevents her from doing so, apparently by administering a Vulcan nerve pinch.

Spock and Kirk proceed to the control room, which is guarded by the Tellarite inmate. Spock stuns the Tellarite and retrieves Kirk's phaser from him. Once inside the control room, they contact the Enterprise and lower the planetary force field. Spock attempts to get Kirk to give the countersign to Scott. Kirk suspects a trick and demands that Spock give the countersign himself. He steps back and draws his phaser instead. Overhearing the commotion between Kirk and Spock, Scotty prepares to beam the security detail down to intervene. At this point, "Spock" morphs back into Garth and energizes the force field again. Kirk's phaser, not surprisingly, is uncharged.

Kirk now tries to appeal to Garth's better impulses, asking him to remember the man he was "before the accident." Kirk wants Garth to be the sort of man he was before he went mad, the sort of man that Kirk and so many others admired. Garth is nearly persuaded, until he wavers and shouts, "I am Lord Garth! You doubt me only because I have not as yet had my coronation." Unsuccessful, Kirk rushes for the shield controls. Garth, however, stuns him before he can reach them.

Act Four[]

When Kirk awakens, Garth is trying yet another tactic: he has arranged an elaborate coronation ceremony for himself, also naming Marta as his consort, giving her a necklace, and names Kirk as his heir apparent, perhaps as an appeal to Kirk's vanity. When the ceremony is over, however, Kirk is not returned to his cell, but brought to the asylum control center. There, as a show of power, Garth displays the explosive Dr. Cory had alluded to earlier that has enough power to destroy an entire planet and explains that he has put a very small portion of it in Marta's necklace. Through the window in the control room, Kirk is forced to watch Marta choke in the poisonous atmosphere of the planet, brought out in the open by inmates in environmental suits. With no real motivation or remorse behind his actions, Garth is clearly and completely insane. Garth kills Marta by triggering a massive explosion.

The explosion registers above the planet. Scott and McCoy on the Enterprise change their orbit to focus their phaser banks on weak areas of the force field, to no avail.

Meanwhile, Garth has decided he may get further in his quest for the code with Spock, since he is "a very logical man." He sends the Tellarite and Andorian inmates to retrieve him from his holding cell. Spock feigns unconsciousness when the inmates approach. They de-activate the cell force field and carry him out, each with one arm around their neck. After a few steps, Spock jumps to his feet and incapacitates them both with a double Vulcan nerve pinch. An alarm sounds in the control room. Garth turns on a security monitor and sees Spock with a phaser walking alone in the corridors and making his way toward the control room.

Spock enters the control room and finds two Captain Kirks. Obviously, one of them is Garth in Kirk's form once again. Spock asks for the countersign to "Queen to Queen's Level Three", but one of the Kirks refuses to answer, claiming that's exactly what Garth wants to know while the other Kirk rebuffs the claim, saying it's what he was going to say. Spock arranges for a security team from the Enterprise to be beamed down, but one of the Kirks objects, saying they may beam into a trap, while the other one agrees. Spock asks the two Kirks what maneuver the Enterprise recently used to defeat a Romulan vessel near Tau Ceti. One of the Kirks answers with the Cochrane deceleration maneuver, but the other Kirk states that every starship captain would know such a classic battle strategy, to which Spock agrees. Spock decides that whoever is Garth must be expending a great deal of energy to assume the appearance of Captain Kirk, which cannot be maintained indefinitely. He intends to wait Garth out and begins to pull up a chair. However, Garth, still disguised as Kirk, attacks Spock. The two Kirks begin to struggle, with one of them gaining the upper hand on the other. This Kirk prepares to clobber the other Kirk with the chair and demands that Spock realize that he is his captain and shoot the other. The other Kirk agrees that Spock must indeed shoot, but he must shoot both of them, as it is the only way to ultimately guarantee the safety of the Enterprise. This is all the evidence Spock needs; he shoots the Kirk holding the chair, who crumples to the floor and resumes his true form of Garth. Deactivating the force field, Spock signals the Enterprise and gives the proper countersign: "Queen to King's level one."

Spock two Kirks

Spock encounters Kirk and Garth (disguised as Kirk)

Dr. McCoy has beamed down to the asylum with Lieutenant Brent to administer newly synthesized doses of the medicine to the inmates. Dr. Cory places Garth in the rehabilitation chair (the non-painful version) and returns him to a sedated state. As he is being moved from the chair to his cell, he notices Kirk and very calmly asks if they know each other. Kirk tells him that they do not, and Garth is led away. Kirk asks Spock why it was so impossible for him to determine who the real Kirk was earlier. Spock tells his captain the interval of uncertainty was actually fairly brief; it only seemed long for him. Kirk notes that Spock let himself be hit on the head by Garth to make his determination, a method he does not think that King Solomon would have approved of.

Log entries[]

Memorable quotes[]

"How can we be powerful enough to wipe out a planet and still be so helpless?"

- McCoy, to Scott

"We are going to take the Enterprise. Do you hear me? We are going to take her if I have to shatter every bone in Captain Kirk's body."

- Garth, to his followers

"Why can't I blow off just one of his ears?"

- Marta to Garth, on Spock

"I may have you beaten to death."
"No, you won't, because I am the most beautiful woman on this planet."
"You're the only woman on this planet, you stupid cow!"

- Garth and Marta, as she accuses him of jealousy

"You wrote that?"
"Yesterday, as a matter of fact."
"It was written by an Earth man named Shakespeare a long time ago!"
"Which does not alter the fact that I wrote it again yesterday!"

- Garth and Marta, after she recites Sonnet XVIII

"What is your reaction, Mr. Spock?"
"Well, I find it, uh, mildly interesting and somewhat nostalgic, if I understand the use of that word."
"Yes. It is somewhat reminiscent of the dances that Vulcan children do in nursery school. Of course, the children are not so… well-coordinated."

- Garth and Spock, during Marta's dance

"Gentlemen, you have eyes, but you cannot see. Galaxies surround us. Limitless vistas. And yet the Federation would have us grub away like some ants on some… somewhat larger than usual anthill. But I am not an insect. I am master of the universe, and I must claim my domain."

- Garth, asking Kirk and Spock to join him

"They were humanitarians and statesmen. And they had a dream. A dream that became a reality and spread throughout the stars. A dream that made Mr. Spock and me brothers."

- Kirk, on Starfleet's peace missions

"On your knees before me!! All the others before me have failed! Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler, Lee Kuan, Krotus! All of them are dust! But I will triumph! I will make the ultimate conquest!"

- Garth, to James T. Kirk, before stunning him with a phaser

"In the midnight of November, when the dead man's fair is nigh. And the danger in the valley, and the anger in the sky."

- Marta

"He's my lover and I have to kill him."

- Marta to Spock, after she tries to attack Kirk

"Captain Garth, starship fleet captain. That's an honorable title."

- Kirk, appealing to Garth

"Captain Kirk, I presume."

- Spock, after stunning Garth

"Queen to queen's level three."
"Queen to king's level one."

- Scott and Spock, giving the sign and countersign

"Letting yourself be hit on the head, and I presume you let yourself be hit on the head, is not exactly a method King Solomon would have approved."

- Kirk, on Spock's solution in finding out who was the real Kirk

"Should I know you, sir?""
"No… Captain."

- A newly-cured Garth's inquiry to Kirk, having no recollection of his recent actions

Background information[]

Story and script[]

  • The title is based on an anonymous Greek proverb often wrongly attributed to Euripides[1], and quoted by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in The Masque of Pandora: "Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad."
  • The story outline was produced 26 July 1968. In the first draft script (5 September 1968) Garth of Titan threw the asylum guards out into the poisonous atmosphere. The conditions inside the asylum were also more graphic, with inmates displaying symptoms of various mental illnesses. Produced mid-October 1968.
  • The plot of inmates taking over the asylum and impersonating the warden closely resembles "Dagger of the Mind", right down to the "agony chair" prop which is reused from that episode. In his memoir I Am Not Spock, Leonard Nimoy shares a memo that he wrote to the producers to complain about the similarities.
  • According to an interview published in Star Trek Lives by Sondra Marshak and Joan Winston, Nimoy also complained at some length about discrepancies in the script, including but not limited to inconsistencies in his own character. He blamed the director for making changes in the script to focus on "action" rather than on intelligent problem-solving, and felt the changes were a form of lying to the audience. He also complained about Spock not being able to tell the difference between the real Kirk from the impostor. Nimoy sent the memo to both producer Fred Freiberger and Paramount Television executive in charge of production, Douglas S. Cramer.[2]
  • Kirk tells Spock that he doubts King Solomon would have approved of the Vulcan's manner of determining who was Kirk and who was Garth. The two of them, along with Dr. McCoy, met Solomon (an immortal Human who was born Akharin and was then living as Flint) not long afterward in TOS: "Requiem for Methuselah". Similarly, Garth had earlier referred to Alexander the Great, another of Flint's assumed identities.
  • Kirk refers to Spock as his "brother" and Spock agrees with this figurative interpretation of their relationship. Kirk referred to Spock as his "brother" again in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
  • Spock's sentence "Captain Kirk, I presume?" is an allusion to the famous question asked by explorer Henry Morton Stanley (1841-1904) to David Livingstone (1813-1873) on the shores of Lake Tanganyika on November 10, 1871: "Doctor Livingstone, I presume?". The question was later alluded to in the title of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Doctor Bashir, I Presume".
  • Despite the apparent success of the drug in this episode being able to cure the mental illness of Garth and the other inmates, it seems never to have been employed again. In future episodes of TOS, the Enterprise crew encounters characters who are pronounced insane (such as Dr. Sevrin from "The Way to Eden"; Lenore Karidian from "The Conscience of the King" and Janice Lester from "Turnabout Intruder"), but no mention is made of using the drug introduced in this episode to cure them. (It could be, however, that this drug was only successful in the treatment of criminal/homicidal insanity and not all mental illness generally.)
  • There is no need for Spock to watch Garth and Kirk fight in order to determine who the real Captain Kirk is as he can stun both men non-fatally and reveal the impostor. This is obvious later as Garth sits unharmed in the chair receiving the insanity cure. In his interview in Star Trek Lives, Leonard Nimoy said the original script called for Spock to ask a series of questions and determine from the men's answers which is the real captain. When Kirk makes a remark about the safety of the Enterprise being more important than his own life he establishes his own identity. (This is the version of the story used by James Blish.) According to the Star Trek Lives interview with Nimoy, this is what the director threw out in favor of more "action".
  • Although the Elba II asylum is mentioned in this episode as being the last of its kind, mental asylums are mentioned as being maintained in future incarnations of Star Trek, such as the "Federation Funny Farm" from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Frame of Mind", though the former may simply be an unofficial nickname for the Elba II asylum. Unless, Captain Kirk's claim that Elba II was the only treatment facility for "the few remaining incorrigible, criminally insane of the galaxy" is meant to differentiate criminally or homicidally insane individuals and those individuals suffering from mental illness or insanity of a type without criminal or homicidal tendencies. In such a case, there may be many other institutions throughout the Federation to treat mental illness without there being another, beyond Elba II, for the treatment of the criminally insane.
  • Elba II derives its name from the Earth island of Elba where Napoléon I was exiled to following his forced abdication. This notion is reinforced by the further dictatorial similarities between Garth and Napoléon, as well as the scriptwriters including the French emperor among the names of those failed leaders whom Garth references.
  • After already having claimed to have written a poem that is really by Shakespeare, Marta later recites another poem she claims to have written. It is not original either: they are from Last Poems XIX, by A. E. Housman. The exact fragment is "In the midnight of November, when the dead man's fair is nigh. And the danger in the valley, and the anger in the sky."


  • In the episode, Garth is stated to have already been a famous Starfleet Captain when James Kirk was at Starfleet Academy, and was known as the "Hero of Axanar" which was a battle established to have taken place sometime in the mid 2250s, approximately 15 years prior to the episode. The script notes also called for Garth to be an "aged starship captain in his late 40s or mid 50s," thus implying that Garth is perhaps fifteen to twenty years older than Kirk. Actor Steve Ihnat was in fact three years younger than William Shatner and wore silver hair coloring on his temples to make himself appear older. (Star Trek Compendium (3rd edition); Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 12, p. 34)
  • This is the second consecutive episode to guest star an actor from the Batman TV series – namely, Yvonne Craig, and the third in a row to feature an actor connected to Batman, as Lee Meriwether (Losira in "That Which Survives") played the Catwoman in the 1966 feature film. Previously, Frank Gorshin who played the Riddler played Commissioner Bele in "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield".
  • Walter Koenig (Pavel Chekov) does not appear in this episode.
  • According to James Doohan, Yvonne Craig was considered for the role of Vina in "The Cage" (mostly because of her exceptional dancing skills).[3]
  • Steve Ihnat worked with Gene Roddenberry (and DeForest Kelley) in his failed pilot Police Story, which led to the former being cast as Garth.[4]


  • Garth's uniform appears to be the same one worn by Commissioner Ferris in "The Galileo Seven". It also appeared in the second season episodes "Wolf in the Fold" and "Journey to Babel", worn by background extras. However, Garth wears the outfit with one silver boot and one gold boot. Garth's furred robe is the same one worn by Anton Karidian in "The Conscience of the King".
  • The dress Marta wears in the Teaser was originally worn by an Tantalus Colony inmate played by Jeannie Malone in "Dagger of the Mind".
  • While the Andorian inmate is wearing an almost boa-like red costume, one of the Human inmates is wearing the traditional Andorian costume seen in the second season (and which can be seen again on an Andorian corpse in "The Lights of Zetar").
  • The environmental suits are reused from "The Tholian Web".
  • The treatment smock worn by Dr. Cory has the same insignia as the one worn by Adams in "Dagger of the Mind".
  • Garth's uniform includes a medallion from which three beads are hanging. In the scene where he is shouting and punching the floor, right after shifting from Kirk's form, one bead can be seen falling and spinning next to him, and when he stands up, his medallion has only two beads. In later scenes the beads are restored back to three.
  • In The Fifty-Year Mission: The First 25 Years, Yvonne Craig recalled having her eyebrows shaved off without her knowledge, and Nimoy's humourous response when her heard of it. "I adored Leonard Nimoy, he just had the most droll sense of humor. The first time I went into makeup I had my eyes closed, and when I got home I realized they had shaved my eyebrows. They could just as easily cover them with mortician's wax and I was furious. I said, 'If my eyebrows don't grow back, I swear to God I will sue them..."Leonard said, 'Yvonne, I couldn't help but overhear what you were saying and I just wanted to say when I started the show I went to a dermatologist and he assured me that anyone who can grow a beard can grow their eyebrows back.' And with that he turned and left. So I'm standing there saying, 'Grow a beard?' He was so funny. He has a great sense of humor." [5]


Shatner and his stand-in, Whom Gods Destroy

Shatner and his split-screen stand-in during filming

Other information[]

  • This is the only episode where Spock performs a simultaneous double Vulcan nerve pinch on two distinct alien species.
  • In this episode a Human, Garth, performs a Vulcan nerve pinch while impersonating Spock, although it is possible that Marta is playing along with the deception. This is also one of four episodes where Leonard Nimoy plays a character other than Spock, the others being: "Is There in Truth No Beauty?", "Return to Tomorrow", and ""Mirror, Mirror".
  • In the United Kingdom, the BBC skipped this episode in all runs of the series through to the early 1990s, due to its content. An official BBC statement by Sheila Cundy of the Programme Correspondence Section reads: "After very careful consideration a top level decision was made not to screen the episodes entitled "Empath" [sic], "Whom The Gods Destroy" [sic], ""Plato's Stepchildren"" and ""Miri"" [actually transmitted in 1970, but not re-aired until the '90s], because they all dealt most unpleasantly with the already unpleasant subjects of madness, torture, sadism and disease" (BBC form letter, undated, Reference 28/SPC). "Whom Gods Destroy" was finally shown for the first time on 19 January 1994. The UK satellite channel Sky had already acquired the rights to show the banned episodes before the BBC did. [6]
  • Contrary to popular belief, the Tellarites in TOS always had three fingers, even in this episode. The fingers are sleeker in appearance than they were in Season Two. "The Lights of Zetar" would be the only time we see a Tellarite with five fingers in TOS.
  • This was the last appearance of the Orions in a live action episode or movie until ENT: "Borderland" in 2004. However, Orions also appeared in the Star Trek: The Animated Series episodes "The Time Trap" and "The Pirates of Orion".
  • In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Kirk and McCoy must escape a penal facility that is surrounded by a force field. Their escape is ultimately facilitated by a shapeshifter named Martia, who impersonates Kirk.

Production timeline[]

Video and DVD releases[]

Released with "Plato's Stepchildren", the volume was originally unrated, as it was released prior to the Video Recordings Act 1984. After 1985, it received a rating of PG.
Because of the BBC's decision to omit this episode from its initial runs, this release was the first time that UK viewers could see it.

Links and references[]


Also starring[]


Guest stars[]


Uncredited co-stars[]



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External links[]

Previous episode produced:
"Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"
Star Trek: The Original Series
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Previous episode aired:
"Elaan of Troyius"
Next episode aired:
"Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"
Previous remastered episode aired:
"A Private Little War"
TOS Remastered Next remastered episode aired:
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