Original Airdate: November, 1966
Before he leaves the room, he hassles the lead transporter room guy a little. (Including the look shown that says, "this guy's an idiot.") Lead guy puts up with it graciously and goes to take care of the inbound shipment.
The other transporter room crewman turns his back to the box and takes some readings. As he does so, a sweaty man with wild hair & an oxygen mask slowly gets out of the box, walks over, and karate chops him, knocking him out.
They are hailed by a woman from Tantalus, who explains that the man in the box (he wasn't wearing chains, and his name isn't Alice ... ok, I'm sorry.) is a violent escapee and must be brought back. The Enterprise raises a shipwide security alert as we see the man coldcocking another guy for his uniform.
He goes on a rampage, running, sweaty and wild-eyed, thorugh the ship karate chopping and choking as he goes. They get a bead on him on deck 14 just as Dr. Adams himself calls from Tantalus V, apologizing for the trouble and restating how violent the man is.
Spock takes time out to quietly ride McCoy's ass - you know, work is always so much more enjoyable when you can find something to laugh about - by remarking on humanity's hypocrisy involving violence, and Bones practically has to catch his breath, he's so pissed. Spock finishes by smirkingly playing the "there is no motive for violence where there's no emotion" card.
Suddenly, the wild, sweaty guy bursts onto the bridge, karate-chops the guard in front of the turbolift door and asks which one is the captain. Jim speaks up, and the man says that he is Van Gelder, (getting out his name seems physically painful) and that he wants asylum. Jim tells him to put down the phaser, and he won't, until they promise not to take him back. "No promises," Jim says, advancing on one side of Van Gelder as Spock slowly advances on the other. Between them, they disarm him and knock him out with a neck pinch and get him to sickbay.
Bones stands over Van Gelder, who is sedated on a biobed, and tells Jim that it took a triple dose of sedative to calm him, and that despite the man's talkative nature, he's said nothing informative. Jim tells Bones he's not their problem and Van Gelder reacts angrily. Jim asks again what his name is, and the man barely gets out "Simon Van Gelder" as he chokes with pain. He says also with a great deal of pain, that he was the assistant director of the Tantalus colony.
Spock does some research while they're en route back to the colony and finds that Van Gelder is Dr. Van Gelder and was assigned to Tantalus six months ago as Dr. Adams' associate. This prompts Jim to call Dr. Adams at the colony and ask for some enlightenment on his condition. Immediately Dr. Adams asks solicitously about Dr. Van Gelder, and talks of him sympathetically; the change is notable. Before, he spoke of him only as a clever, violent escapee. He says that Van Gelder didn't feel that he had the right to expect an inmate to submit to an experimental mind ray for treatment until he'd been through it himself.
As he's explaining, Bones comes to the bridge. Overhearing, he mutters that it doesn't quite ring true. Jim puts Adams on hold, and can't get Bones to elaborate beyond "it's just a feeling." Annoyed, Jim rants a little on how wonderful, revolutionary and humane Adams' treatments are. Spock butts in, and tells them they should start by asking Adams if he wants Van Gelder back.
Jim does, and Adams asks if the Enterprise will be passing any superior hospitals on their route - if so, they could drop Van Gelder off there instead, as Adams wants nothing but the best for his former associate. Content with that answer, Jim smiles at Bones, but Bones is firm. He will register his doubts in his medical log, requiring Jim to answer to those concerns in his log. He smiles apologetically, but stands by his decision.
And here is where Spock cocks his head and makes the face seen in our "Bitch Please" Geektress podcast icon. In case you were curious.
Jim tells Adams that he's embarrassed, but according to the rulebook, must come down and open an investigation. Adams, once again, the stand-up guy, tells him he'd be relieved and delighted to have Kirk and as small a party as possible come down and look into things. Jim signs off and tells Bones to find someone in his deptartment with both psychiatric and penology experience. I could swear Bones is smirking as he leaves the bridge...
Later, Bones and Spock agree that moving an agitated Van Gelder isn't wise until it absolutely must be done. They agree to keep him on the ship until the investigation's over. And Bones found that staff member; Dr. Noel, who is waiting in the transporter room.
Jim & Spock head on down and see Dr. Helen Noel, who is a tall, thin, gorgeous, dimpled brunette who looks (and sounds) like she could be Geena Davis's mother. Jim is shocked, especially because she smugly mentions that they've already met. Spock raises his eyebrow to the ceiling at Jim, as she breathily mentions the science lab Christmas party.
Just before they beam down, Jim tells Spock sotto voce that he needs to tell McCoy that she better be the best assistant he ever had. He will be disappointed, I fear, because for most of the rest of the episode, this woman behaves like an unprofessional pain in the ass who vamps and flirts and mugs for the camera like it's her day job. And while it might be the actress's, it is surely not the character's. There had to be so many ways to play off the backstory they gave that character and this actress decided to go with "smug, annoying, and entitled." I think it was a bad choice.
Upon beaming down, they find the place apparently deserted. As they step into the elevator, Noel tells him to call her Helen, and she's just about to get ickily personal about it when the floor drops out from beneath them and they cling to each other like howler monkeys. The elevator moves downward incredibly fast, he's wigged out, and yet she is still more focused on having scored by having gotten his arms around her.
It stops, and the door opens to Dr. Adams smiling at them. Noel smoothly introduces herself by hoping he'll call her Helen, "after all," she says, "with so many titles, we won't know who's talking to who!" And suddenly I hear the scene from Spies Like Us playing out. "Doctor." "Doctor." "Doctor." "Doctor." "Doctor."
Jim says that rules dictate he hands over his weapon and Adams tells him that won't be necessary in his case, just keep it hid so the inmates don't see it.
This Adams ... he's a hell of a guy!
Jim tries to use his communicator, but Adams, pouring drinks, tells him that it won't work because of the field, and shuts it off briefly for Jim to call.
A woman wanders in wearing a hippie caftan, a flip hairdo, and a heavily sedated manner. She's introduced as Lethe (the River of Forgetting?) and explains that she was once a patient but is now a counselor and loves her job. Jim asks her what she was in for, and sounding stoned to the gills, she says it's unimportant, that that woman is gone now.
Adams raises a toast to filling the universe with love and warm fuzzies and then gives them the fifty cent tour. Stoned folks in colorful jammies waft through the corridors and then we see a little booth. Jim wants to know what it is, and Adams tells him nothing, just a failed experiment. Jim wants to see anyway, and Noel tells him basically to back up offa Dr. Adams, but Adams chuckles jovially and shows them in.
Aboard the ship, Spock and McCoy are pumping Van Gelder for information about the neural neutralizer he mentions. They don't get far, because the subject makes him so agitated that he has to be sedated again.
A patient in a chair sits under a lamp with spinning lights and stares up at it. Adams explains that this is the neural neutralizer, and it's pretty much useless. Jim asks why he bothers with it, and Adams and Noel explain that constantly pumping chemicals into someone to sedate them isn't ideal, and there is hope that this may help. They move on, leaving Jim behind to ask the tech how it works. Adams & Noel turn back and Adams says a bit sharply, "Captain!" Jim isn't trying to insinuate that he's created a chamber of horrors, he says, but he is curious about where Van Gelder had his mishap.
Right here, Adams says - he was a stubborn man and could have sat under it indefinitely at that setting or higher, but he sat under it alone and at the highest setting. Adams walks away sadly and Jim thanks the tech for demonstrating it, but the tech doesn't acknowledge him. Jim follows the others, a little confused.
Once he's gone, the tech cranks up the setting and tells the patient to forget everything he's heard or he will feel great pain. The higher the setting, the more pain the patient feels.
Spock calls Jim and asks where he is; upon hearing that he is with Adams at the time, Spock is hesitant to continue but Adams tells him to speak freely, as he needs to step out and take care of something anyway. He is so understanding and genial!
When the coast is clear, Spock tells him about the neural neutralizer and the agitation and that Van Gelder says he's in great danger. Noel stops carelessly fondling what is probably an expensive sculpture and bursts out with "that's foolish!" Spock asks her to repeat and she more calmly details his condition. Bones understands, but still expresses reservations. Jim wants to spend the night and Van Gelder erupts, protesting the decision and repeating the danger.
Spock tells Jim to check in every four hours and ends the call.
They need Van Gelder to elaborate on his fear that Jim might be killed, but he can't get it out for the pain so Spock attempts his first mind meld on a human.
Below, Jim goes to Noel's quarters and asks her what she thinks about the stoned, wafty patients. He thinks they're a little too blank. She spends this scene swinging back and forth between smug innuendo and pissiness at his opinion of the psychiatry practiced here. Jim tells her to get her ass in gear and come investigating with him, and pouting like an adolescent, she flounces out into the hall after him.
Van Gelder, under the meld's influence, is calm and quiet as he recounts Adams' using the neuralizer on him and replacing his memories with Adams' implanted ones. He remembers being so lonely as his thoughts emptied out.
Meanwhile, Jim is foolishly following in Van Gelder's footsteps as he prepares to sit in the chair and have Noel start the neuralizer. He asks if she'll be able to tell if it's harming him, and she sullenly answers yes. She runs it for a couple of seconds at the lowest setting, and when she stops he tells her she can start anytime. Confused, she tells him that they just did, but he felt nothing. She says that something happened - his face went completely blank.
They try it again and she tells him that he's hungry. When she turns the neuralizer off, Kirk says (in one of Shatner's worst line readings that I've seen) that when they're done, he'd like to locate and raid a kitchen somewhere. Told that she gave him that suggestion, he says it's awfully effective for a machine Adams was ready to write off.
Last attempt - he wants her to use a suggestion that's unusual enough to prove the machine works. Obligingly,she puts the suggestion in his head that the Christmas party during which they met had a different ending to the evening; that instead of dancing together and looking at the stars, he carted her back off to his quarters and tried to seduce her. We see it in a fictional flashback, his whispering sweet nothings and her coyly worrying about her reputation ("but it would be different .. if you cared about me." Oh, eugh.)
He turns into a cad in her little Mary Sue visualization, his voice turns harsh as he asks, "you want me to manufacture a lie?" He kisses her roughly, she joins in enthusiastically, and we fade to black.
The dopey smile on Kirk's face as he sits in the chair "remembering" all of this is hilarious.
Suddenly, Noel is grabbed from behind and dragged away by the tech, and Adams steps up to the neuralizer to give the captain a complete demonstration. He cranks up the power and tells him that Jim loves Helen, has loved her for years and would sacrifice anything for her "... and now," he turns the power up higher, "she's gone."
As Jim anguishes over that, he directs him to throw down his phaser or the pain will get worse. With some resistance, Jim does. Adams then tells him to throw down his communicator; Jim almost does, but quickly tries to use it to hail the Enterprise. Immediately, with a twisted smile, Adams cranks up the pain.
Later, Helen stands over Jim in his room and he awakens, moaning, "Helen ... I've loved you for years...." To her credit (for once), she tells him to try to remember the pain and Adams' voice, that he put that in Kirk's head. Jim does remember and heads straight for a wall panel (amusingly, Helen thinks he's headed for her and skedaddles out of the way) that he pries away from the wall with her help.
Seeing the size of the air conditioning ducts, he nominates her to be the one who goes slithering through the complex to shut down the power grid.
There's a funny bit where he asks her if she has experience with hyper power grids, she says no, he says, basically,"one false move and you're crispy," then lifts her up in the ducts with no hesitation. She really has been getting on his nerves.
Practically the moment he shuts the panel behind her, the goons come to take him for another treatment, to which he reacts awfully cheerfully. You'd think they'd suspect something.
Adams turns the dial up pretty high as he tells Kirk that he must believe in him totally. Jim agrees that that is totally the case. Adams tells him that he's impressed - at this point, Van Gelder was sobbing on the floor.
Lethe enters and relays the information that Helen's missing. Adams cranks the dial higher, asking Jim where she is. He arches up out of the chair in pain and lands on the floor but holds it together enough to refuse to tell where she is.
Helen arrives somehow at the engineering room and despite an interruption by security goons looking for her, manages to shut off the power, but is grabbed just as she gets it shut down.
The power interruption shuts down the neural neutralizer, and as Adams and the tech come to pick him up and get him in the chair, Jim punches the tech and karate chops Adams, knocking him out.
In the engineering room, the goon who grabbed Helen knocks her to the floor and gets the power back on. He stands over her, about to do God knows what, and she kicks him right into the little area marked High Voltage, where he goes out with a bang. And sparks. And probably a smell of burning hair.
Helen ducks back into the ducts (didja see what I did there?) and takes off as the sound of the transporter is heard. Spock, who's had the transporter room guys working away at the force field, seized the opening Helen gave him and beamed down. Quickly, he drops the field again and turns on the power.
So the neutralizer flares back to life with Adams underneath it on the floor.
Helen and Jim return to his room about the same time. Jim pulls her out of the vent and sweeps her up in a passionate embrace, just as Spock bursts in. Once again. our unemotional Vulcan wears a hilarious expression. Maybe around Jim, he just feels freer letting it all hang out? If Ambassador Sarek were around, that expression would surely earn Spock the "too much human influence" speech.
Noel fights him off, saying "Adams did this to you!" The mention of Adams wakes Kirk up, and he runs off to the torture chamber, Helen and Spock in tow.
On the way, we see security officers from the Enterprise rounding up patients who've presumably gotten free in the hubbub, and Bones stops what he's doing to help, running off after them.
Bones pronounces Adams dead. Noel says that the setting wasn't high enough to kill him and Jim says, "imagine a mind emptied out by that thing. Not even a tormentor for company."
Back on the bridge, Jim enters and Uhura tells him that Van Gelder called from Tantalus to let him know that the room was dismantled and destroyed.
Bones says "it's hard to believe that a man could die of loneliness." Jim answers quietly, with a haunted tone, "not when you've sat in that chair."
Bones and Spock look saddened and worried about Jim. He notices and smiles to reassure them that he's all right, and gives the order to warp out. Spock smiles back in that little way he has, and acknowledges the order.
And life goes on aboard the Enterprise.
Best Line of the Episode
"Interesting. Your people glorify organized violence for 40 centuries, but you imprison those who employ it publicly."
Spock, effortlessly pissing off McCoy.
Midcentury Design Moment
It's a little hard to see, but both the modern art sculpture on the table and the carafe and glasses next to it are just about as good as it gets.
It's Worse Than That, He's Dead Jim
"He's dead, Captain." (Adams)
Special Guest Star
James Gregory plays Dr. Tristan Adams; it's obvious from the moment we "meet" him through voice contact only. Gregory has been everywhere, in everything. You've seen him in lots of movies, including The Manchurian Candidate, The Sons of Katie Elder, and Beneath the Planet of the Apes, and in the tv shows The Wild Wild West, Barney Miller, Rawhide, Hogan's Heroes, F Troop, Tarzan, Hawaii Five-O, The Mod Squad, Mission Impossible ... yeah, he was in everything in the '60s and '70s. You know this guy.
Vulcans can mind meld with beings of many races to get at information that the person cannot communicate for one reason or another. Throughout TOS (and the TOS movies), Spock mindmelds many times; in this episode it's because Van Gelder can't get past the pain he was conditioned to feel so he can spill his knowledge; in another example, The Devil In The Dark, he melds with the Horta because it can't communicate through voice.
In this episode Spock exposits that it is a very private thing for a Vulcan, because the Vulcan in question is not only opening up the subject's full mind to him or her, but also their mind is opened to the subject.
In the series Enterprise, there is some retroactive continuity applied, and they establish that 100 years before TOS, Vulcans who can and do mind meld carried a stigma and opened themselves up to a shameful disease - Panar Syndrome - that eats away at the brain. (Yes, it was actually purposely meant to be a heavy-handed AIDS analogy.) However, in the hands of someone who knew what they were doing, a mind meld could also correct the syndrome.