Devil In The Dark is one of my all time favorite TOS episodes, because to me it exemplifies the best of what Star Trek is all about. This episode is typical TOS in many ways, and is particularly rich in Klassic Kirkisms:
1) Spock, despite being a pacifist, turns out to be a kick-ass fighter,
Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beam down to mining colony Janus 6 to pick up some urgently needed pergeium (a mineral). The problem is the miners can't meet their quota because they are being terrorized by a killer creature. McCoy examines what's left of a body and says the guy was killed with a highly corrosive acid. Spock puzzles over a round silicon doodad that chief Vanderberg has displayed on his desk. Spock pronounces it to be a rare "geological oddity".
As the guys are discussing the problem, the reactor alarm goes off. Oh no! Another guard is toast, and the reactor's main circulating pump has been stolen, apparently by the creature! Kirk calls Scotty down to rig a temp replacement pump. This jerry-rigged pump can't last long. The situation is now critical. They only have a short time to solve the problem.
Spock has a hypothesis: what if the creature is a silicon-based lifeform? Kirk likes the idea. McCoy expresses skepticism. Nevertheless, Kirk has his guys armed with specially modified #2 phasers that can have an effect on such a creature. Spock also modifies his tricorder to read for such a creature, and the hunt is on.
After giving Scotty a colorful pep talk about keeping the temp pump working by whatever means necessary...
"...kind words, tender loving care, kiss it, baby it, flatter it if you have to, but KEEP IT GOING!"
...Kirk meets with his guys on the 23rd level underground and gives them instructions, then turns them loose.
[NOTE: K/S alert. Look closely at the following interactions between Kirk and Spock]
Jim and Spock are now alone in the dark, together. The idyll doesn't last. Within a minute one of Kirk's poor redshirts is toasted only a few yards away. Kirk and Spock hear the scream and come running to the rescue, but it's too late. The guy's now nothing but a smoking smear on the ground. Jim kneels beside the spot and looks like he's going to be sick. Spock discovers a freshly created tunnel. As the two guys examine it, they hear a noise, and turn to see the hulking, volkwagen-shaped beastie. Without a word, Kirk shoots it, then Spock joins in. They both shoot a combined, sustained phaser blast at the thing, and succeed in driving it off. They run after it, and follow it to the opening of another fresh tunnel.
Two redshirts run up and get the story. Now Kirk and Spock jointly examine a still pulsating hunk of the monster which they had phasered off of it. Spock pronounces that his hypothesis is confirmed: they are definitely dealing with a silicon creature which uses acid secretions to cut instantly through rock, and to kill. Kirk tells his redshirts to tell the others. This leaves him alone in the dark with Spock, again.
[NOTE: this is now the second time Kirk has arranged to be alone with Spock. Is this militarily necessary?]
Spock tells Kirk that according to his tricorder, there is only one creature within 100 miles. He then draws Kirk's attention to the possibility that it might be the last of its kind, and says, "To kill it would be a crime against science!"
Kirk understands Spock's misgivings, but he quickly reminds Spock that they are there to get pergeium, and that they are not on a "zoological expedition."
"I'm sorry Mr. Spock, but I'm afraid the creature must die!"
Spock responds, "I see no alternative myself Captain, it merely seems a pity."
[NOTE: So far, so good, but watch what happens next]
Moments later, Kirk is addressing his troops. He gives the floor to Spock, who proceeds to instruct the men to surround and attempt to capture the beast. Kirk instantly tells the men that their orders are to shoot to kill!
"Protect yourselves at all times!" Kirk adds, then dismisses the men. Then he calls Spock over for a private tete a tete...
[NOTE: this is now the third time Kirk has arranged to be all alone with Spock, in the dark.]
...a very weird conversation then ensues:
Kirk: "Mr. Spock? Capture it? I don't recall giving any such order."
Mr. Scott hails Kirk and tells him the temp pump has failed. Their short time limit just got shorter. Kirk orders an evacuation of all non-essentials. Moments later he's giving the troops more instructions. He explains what everybody is supposed to do, and adds:
"Mr. Spock and I will control the operation from a central point."
[NOTE: Hey, look. Kirk just arranged to be alone with Spock, *again*. BTW, where exactly is this central point? It's apparently wherever Kirk and Spock are, because they don't stay put, they start moving right away.]
Alone in the dark with Spock, completely alone, at last! Kirk sees to his dismay that Spock looks unhappy. Oh, whyfore this unhappiness, pale knight?
Spock: "We are being watched."
[NOTE: Hey, what a handy ability! Spock can tell when they are being watched! That explains why the camera so rarely actually catches them doing anything really incriminating!]
Kirk and Spock start walking away from their central point, apparently because they would rather be in a place where they are not being watched.
[NOTE: Good luck! You are on TV, dude!]
They come to a fork in the tunnel, and confront the most awful, the most gut-wrenching choice in the whole episode.
Spock: "Should we separate?"
Kirk reassures Spock that they will soon meet again, where the two tunnels converge, and orders Spock to go left. Kirk proceeds alone down the right fork, and Spock stands and watches him go, reluctant to lose sight of him, until Kirk rounds the bend and can't be seen anymore. Then Spock swallows hard and starts down his lonely chute, all by himself.
[NOTE: I wonder what the odds are, right now? Doesn't look to me like Kirk has done all he can to keep the odds in his favor.]
Kirk continues until he finds a chamber full of the big balls that have been called "silicon nodules". He tells Spock via communicator, and as they are talking the tunnel behind him caves in. (We see that the creature they are hunting is responsible.)
Kirk is now blocked in. Spock desperately calls for Kirk on the communicator:
Spock: (getting emotional) "Jim! JIM!"
Jim is OK, but can only move in one direction, forward, but he was headed that way anyway, so he blithely tells Spock not to worry and continues. Spock worries anyway. He desperately quickens his pace to intersect with Kirk.
Suddenly the creature appears and blocks Kirk's way. Trapped like a rat! Alone in the dark with a mean killer creature, and he's trapped! Oh my gosh! This is a very dangerous situation! Kirk tells Spock that the creature is ten feet away from him, and Spock freaks out.
Spock: "KILL IT CAPTAIN! QUICKLY!"
Pass the popcorn!
Spock: "I remind you, it's a proven killer! I'm on my way!"
[NOTE: Hang on Little Nell! Dudley is on his way! It's worthwhile to pay attention to the fact that nobody else has been notified of the situation. Spock is putting himself in the position of playing Good Guy Dudley for Kirk's Little Nell... and all by himself, too. And Kirk lets him, too. Please ask yourself: is this militarily speaking, wise? Is it necessary? Does it actually make any goddam sense?]
Kirk tries talking to the beast. No good. Spock arrives, and raises his phaser to fire upon the animal, but Kirk orders him not to shoot. After a long, tense pause, Kirk calls Spock over to his side.
Alone in the dark with Spock, and their quarry. The three all look at each other for a couple of seconds.
Now begins what is IMHO one of the most beautiful segments ever filmed in Trek history.
Spock tentatively reminds Kirk that he can magically join minds to possibly communicate with the thing. Kirk delicately responds,
"Mr. Spock, I know it's a terrible personal lowering of mental barriers...but if there's a chance...!" and he points at the beast, indicating Spock should feel free, if he is so inclined.
Spock cautiously approaches the animal. He centers himself, and holds out his hands and from a distance of several feet away, makes mental contact with the creature. He screams, crying, "PAIN! Pain!" Then falls away to tell Kirk that the "monster" is in agony.
The creature moves a bit away to reveal a message it has carved in the rock:
"NO KILL I"
Amazingly, its brief contact with Spock gave it enough knowledge to write a comprehensible message! Obviously it's a very intelligent creature! Spock tells Kirk it calls itself a Horta. Kirk impulsively decides to call McCoy to the scene, to see if he can help the creature somehow.
Kirk and Spock want to know more, but to really communicate well with it, Spock says he'll have to :::gulp::: touch it. THIS TAKES BIG BRASS BALLS. Spock very bravely advances slowly and respectfully toward the aggrieved Horta, and tenderly touches it, then leans into it to make real good contact. He gets right in there, balls to the wall, and leans on the Horta as if he's getting ready to milk it. Good Lord!
Kirk keeps his pistol trained on the critter, and watches intently.
Spock gets all teary as he begins to commune with the suffering Horta. He lends the Horta his voice and begins to speak for her:
"Murderers! The Chamber Of The Ages! The Altar Of Tomorrow! Monsters! Kill Them! Strike Back! (etc.)"
McCoy arrives and reluctantly examines the Horta as this is going on. He reports back to Kirk:
McCoy: "You can't be serious! That thing is virtually made of stone! I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer!" Kirk: "You're a healer - that's a patient - that's an order!"
Kirk reminds Spock to ask the critter for the pump back. Tearfully, Spock tells Kirk in a weird voice that the thing can be found "In the chamber of the ages." and adds that Kirk should remember to tread carefully there.
Close-up on Spock's tormented face:
"Sorrow...for the murdered children! The end of things!"
The crowd of miners that have been held at bay by Kirk's men get ugly, now they overwhelm Kirk's guards and rush to the scene, in an ugly mood.
Kirk finds the pump and thousands of the big balls, some cracked open like eggs. No duh! They *are* eggs! Horta eggs, to be precise. Kirk brings the pump back. He has to call Spock's name four times before Spock snaps out of it and breaks it off with the Horta.
Suddenly the mob of angry miners rush in, homicidal as hell. They take aim at the Horta.
"Hold your fire!" Kirk hollers. "The first man that fires is dead!"
Vanderberg is momentarily stunned, then shouts, "That thing killed over 50 of my men!"
"And you killed thousands of her eggs!" Kirk retorts.
Spock then explains it all for everybody, adding that the Horta is the mother of her race, and that, sadly, she might now die before seeing her babies hatch.
McCoy has his big moment, declaring that he cured the mother Horta with some cement troweled into and over her wound.
Kirk then excitedly wrangles a deal, persuading both the miners and the Horta to agree to peacefully co-exist, eloquently pleading the Horta's case to the now penitent miners.
At the end, we learn that the babies have hatched, and already it looks like the new arrangement is working very well.
Of his amazing experience, Spock says:
"The Horta has a very logical mind, and after close association with humans, I find that curiously refreshing!"
All things considered, I'm not sure Spock would know logic if it bit him on the ass, but let's draw a curtain and examine that point no closer, for mercy's sake.
Copyright L. Goodwin 2001
My Wild Ideas