Warp Speed to Nonsense

Warp Speed to Nonsense

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Season 1, Episode 26 "The Devil in the Dark"

"The Devil in the Dark"
Production Number: 26
Air Order: 25
Stardate: 3196.1
Original Air Date: March 9, 1967

We're setting the scene with a matte painting. Yesssss.

We open this week by zooming in on a planet and cutting to some caverns under the surface. men in yellow and orange coveralls move through the caverns, tracking a "monster" that killed 50 people. A hapless guy named Schmitter is being left on guard with a phaser, and he asks the chief if the Enterprise will be arriving some time within his shift. Already this episode is awesome. I love it when they start straight-away with the conflict rather than dilly-dallying around with the E and a captain's log. In those cases, we have to hear about the conflict from Third-Party Kirk.

The chief and crew leave, and they're maybe one cavern away before an antsy Schmitter turns toward a noise, and screams "Nooooooo!" The others come running to find that Schmitter is toast. Burnt toast. Thank you for not showing Schmitter's burned husk, Star Trek. *shudders* That shit freaks me out.

Kirk's Log 3196.1: The E got a distress call from the pergium production station on Janus VI. Kirk, Spock and McCoy have beamed down to talk to Chief Vanderburg. (BTW: pergium is another element made up by Star Trek. Apparently, we won't discover it for another ten years or so.)
Vanderburg tells our boys that the planet is rife with minerals of all kinds, which get shipped all over the Federation. They opened a new section for mining, and their equipment started eroding. Then men started being attacked by some thing that burns them to a crisp. The creature has been moving up the mining levels, corroding machinery and killing miners. One of the miners, Ed Appel, comes in and says that he got a glimpse of the creature, which was big and shaggy. Vanderburg says that if  the federation wants the pergium so bad, they can just take care of the problem themselves.

Bones leaves to examine Schmitter's body, and Spock asks about a shiny playground ball on Vanderburg's desk. The chief growls that it's a silicon nodule, and that there are millions in the caverns, but that they're worthless. When Bones returns, he says it looks like the body was thrown into a vat of acid rather than burned.

Down in the reactor room, another guard is killed. An alarm goes off, and everyone rushes to that room. A corrosive has eaten through a door and a pump in the device that provides the station with life support has been stolen. Like most government-run operations, everything hinges on the functionality of an out-dated piece of tech.
Kirk pages Scotty, who says that no way in hell do they have spare parts for the planet's antiquated mining equipment. He might be able to jury-rig together something from spare parts he has lying around, but it will probably only run for two days.

Unless he's talking, all shots of Scotty look like this.

In Vanderburg's office, Spock brings up a theory that the monster might be silicon-based rather than carbon-based. Bones thinks he's nuts, but Kirk entertains the thought. The miners are armed with low-level phasers that would be ineffective against such a thing, but Enterprise crew members have a higher phaser setting, and Spock could alter them further to work better against silicon. He is still pondering the silicon nodule. He thinks that the missing pump may be the creature's way of saying "Humans, GTFO."

Scotty has beamed down with a junk drawer of spare parts and is building a replacement pump. Kirk tells him to treat the pump like he treats the E. (I dunno, Scump is a creepier ship that Kirkerprise, if you ask me.) Then the captain goes upstairs to inspect his crack-team of Red Shirt monster bait. He's sending them down to level 23, where the shiny playground balls were discovered.

Kirk and Spock go down to 23 with the Reds. I want to say that at least Kirk is willing to take on the same task as the Reds, but who will run the ship when your ass gets fried, Kirk? Spock is scanning for silicon-based life when they hear a scream. They go running to find a smoking, charred pile. Down one Red.

Kirk and Spock are investigating the scene when suddenly - the thing appears! Dramatic music! They phaser it, knocking a chunk from it, but it quickly scoots into a tunnel and disappears. Spock scans the tunnel and says it was only made in the last two minutes. They surmise that the monster secretes a super-corrosive acid that melts through rock, machinery, and Red Shirts. 
And you just pissed it off. Good job, you guys.

So the monster looks like Pizza the Hutt from Spaceballs. Go on. Tell me I'm wrong.

I'm actually kind of hungry for pizza now. As goofy as it is, though, I can rag on it too hard. This is the first time Star Trek has really attempted to create a non-humanoid alien that's more than just a hand-puppet plant or a dog with antennae.
Think of the logistics of this thing. It has to move, so it probably has someone inside moving it, or else being controlled by remote (IMDB says that a performer built it, and the producer liked the costume so much that he actually wrote this episode to feature it). Parts on the outside move, which means hidden bladders and pumps. It's more than just putting make-up and a costume on an actor.
Spock scans 100 miles out in a circle. His tricorder finds all of their men, the miners, thousands of tunnels... and one creature. He says that to make that many tunnels, the creature is either very old, or else it is another space buffalo.
"It would suck to kill it," says Spock.
"Man, fuck that noise," says Kirk. "My space buffalo record is 2-0. It's silicon-based head will grace the walls of my quarter. Besides, the pergium from these mines powers the life support systems for half the federation."
"I guess so," says Spock, pouting in the way that Vulcans pout.

Red Shirt reinforcements have arrived, and Kirk tells them to aim their beefed-up phasers at what they guess it the creature's head, and then everyone should fire together for maximum damage. Spock tells the Red Shirts to capture the creature, but Kirk gets mad and tells them to kill it. When the Reds disperse, Kirk confronts Spock.

He gives the Vulcan some passive-aggressive bullshit about wanting him to help Scotty with the pump. Spock immediately calls him on it, stating that Scotty knows more about nuclear reactors that he does. Kirk then tries to say that it's not a good idea for both the first and second in command to be on the same mission. Really, Kirk? Then go back to the fucking ship. Spock counters with the calculated odds of them both being killed, which are 2000+ to 1.
"Okay," Kirk concedes. "You got me."
OMG, you guys. Just kiss already.
Scotty interrupts their interlude to say that the pump has finally broken. Kirk gives the order to evacuate most of the miners.
(Fun fact: it was this scene, with Kirk's passive-aggressive rank-pulling, that convinced me to start this blog. I really, really wanted to make fun of Kirk. He has not disappointed.)

The six remaining miners are assigned to the two teams of Reds, and Spock and Kirk encounter a pair of tunnels that merge further on.
"Let's split up," says Kirk, who has just told groups of men not to go anywhere alone.
So if Kirk and Spock split up and go into separate tunnels, which one will meet the serial killer? I think it's Kirk, who is simultaneously The Jock and The Slut. According to Joss Whedon, killing Spock is optional.
Kirk's tunnel is filled with shiny playground balls. Spock tells Kirk over the comms that he has a theory, and warns Kirk not to harm the playground balls.The Pizza Creature moves in the shadows, creating a cave-in. Spock is concerned, but Kirk reminds him that the tunnels meet up further down. Only - dramatic music! - the Pizza Creature tunnels out of the wall and traps Kirk!

Not The Shat. Totally a stunt double here.

There's a stand-off between Kirk and the Pizza Creature, and Spock radios in to tell Kirk to kill it. When Kirk asks why Spock changed his mind, Spock replies that Kirk is in danger.
Aw, Kirky. He luuurrves you. He wants to have your gaybies.
Spock comes running down the tunnel to find Kirk and the Pizza Creature kickin' it. Kirk says that the creature has not attacked him because it is injured. Yeah, you guys did that...
"I have an idea," says Spock. "What if I mind-meld with it?"

This is totally a screen capture of Spock doing a mind-meld. It
only looks like Leonard sneezing.

Spock does a touch-less mind-meld with the creature and ends up yelling "pain!" before stumbling backward. recovering, he tells Kirk that the creature is a Horta, is highly intelligent, and that it's in extreme pain from the wound they inflicted upon it. The Pizza Horta moves over a flat rock and corrodes it to say "No Kill I". Apparently, it's a quick learner, although it has a terrible grasp on grammar.

Kirk pages Bones to get down there with his bag of tricks. He hopes to patch up the wound that they gave the Horta.

Spock does a second mind-meld while Bones scans the wound.
"It's like rock," Bones complains. "I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer."
"You're a healer," argues Kirk. "Work your magic and shit."
Spock, through the mind-meld, directs Kirk into a side tunnel where he can find the pump, and Kirk ends up in a room full of the silicon nodules, some broken open.

he brings the pump part back and drags a tearful Spock away from the Pizza Horta. Now this is an emotional Spock that I can buy. He's upset because he's essentially absorbed the feels of another being. So much more believable than "Tra-La-La, I'm High" Spock.
The miners, which suddenly number far more than 6, are angry at the Pizza Horta, and come barreling down the tunnel to kill the creature.

Kirk and Spock explain to them that every 50,000 years, the entire Horta race dies, leaving one female and thousands of eggs. The remaining Horta was cool with sharing the planet with humans until they busted up her nursery, and she had to go all Mama Bear.
"Here's the deal," says Kirk. "The little dudes will hatch. They ingest rock, and tunnel. You will then have access to minerals that you didn't have access to previously, and you'll be a million times more efficient." Really? You're choosing compromise and diplomacy over phaser fire? Is that a first, Kirk? You also let a space buffalo live! I'm shocked.
"Wait," says Spock. "We fatally wounded her."
"Naw, we're good," says Bones, who is up to his elbows in gray stuff. "I had the E beam down the silicon-based compound that we use to build emergency shelters. I made a plaster from it. She'll be fine, cuz I'm the shit."

Up top, Vanderburg calls the bridge to report that the Horta juniors are all hatching, tunneling, and opening up scandalously rich pockets of minerals. he says that the Horta aren't so bad once you get used to their appearance.
"Mama Horta said the same thing about humans," Spock remarks.
Kirk and Bones try to give him some crap about being a Vulcan and being less attractive than humans.
"Whatever, ho," says Spock. "She liked my ears."


RIP Roll-Call

This dude Schmitter

This blond miner

This Red

Surprisingly, out of all the Reds we had on this episode, we only lost one.


This week I wasn't thinking too much and bought a box of Safeway brand tea, Amaretto Rooibos. I guess if you live in an area where they have Safeway grocery stores, you can possibly find this tea on the shelf. I was attracted to two things: 1. It's a rooibos, always a winner with me; and 2. It's amaretto-flavored (almond and vanilla). Curious, I opened the box and the inner bag to smell it. It smells like tiny, expensive, fancy cookies. The tea bags were the pyramid ones, and they included a string, which I like. It's much heavier on the almond flavor than vanilla, but not unpleasantly so. It's a bit like liquid biscotti. It's tasty.


  1. This has more or less convinced me that if I had to beam down to an unknown planet with only one crew member, it would be Bones. We may or may not figure out the "moral" of whatever conflict we end up in the middle of, but I'd have about 100% faith in his ability to keep me from dying. I can't say that for anyone else.

    1. I love that Kirk calls Bones because he's a "healer". Sure, the good doctor bitched about it initially, but when Kirk told him to just "figure it out", he hunkered down and got shit done. Bones is definitely an underrated guy.

  2. One: I can't get over the fact that that dude's name was Schmitter. I have literally been giggling about that since you initially reminded me of it (I have no clue why that's so hilarious to me, but there you go).

    Two: this is in my top five favorite episodes. I like that Kirk does some thinking, I love protective!Spock, I like the innovative and intelligent creature. Basically this episode pushes both my shipper and intellectual buttons. Also, has a dude named Schmitter.

    1. OMG, I totally needed that the laugh I just got from that. Thank you, guys :D
      Wryder: I couldn't agree with you more. I feel like Kirk, in this episode, dropped his typical "shoot first and ask questions later" stance, and gave the situation more thought than usual. I also like the brief flip-flop that occurred when Spock changed his mind because Kirk was in trouble. Depending on your outlook, it's a really nice bro/shipper moment, but also adds to the fact that these two men are not only shipmates, but friends. It's a nice brush with Spock's human side, without being overt about it.