The Great Star Trek Rewatch: Dagger of the Mind

The 23rd century is a great place. Penal colonies are more like resorts, where offenders are offered treatment and rehabilitation. In this idyllic future, surely nothing could possibly wrong – that is, until one of the dangerous prisoners escapes onto the Enterprise. Or could it be that the escapee isn’t the real danger, and that his tales of unethical brainwashing taking place on the colony are true?

As we’re already coming to learn, scientists on Star Trek are generally mad, megalomaniacs, or both, and this episode is true to form. In fact, this episode is true to form in many ways, so get your Star Trek bingo cards out and prepare to cross off the following:

  • We meet a misguided scientist who is using a powerful device for dubious purposes. In this case, penal colony director Dr Adams is using the ‘neural neutraliser’, a device which makes the subject extremely susceptible to the controller’s suggestions – to the extent of implanting false memories, or causing pain if they disobey.
  • Kirk gets it on with a beautiful woman. He first liaised with Dr Helen Noel at the science lab Christmas party, but thanks to the power of the neural neutraliser, he ends up believing that he’s deeply in love with her.
  • Kirk beams down to a planet and gets captured and tortured, yet thanks to his superhuman starship captain endurance, does not break under pressure.

There is a first in this episode, however, and that is Spock performing the Vulcan mind meld. At this point in the series, it is said to be a deeply private thing – in fact, this is Spock’s first time performing it with a human. I think he gets a little more casual about using it in the future, as well as some other convenient telepathic abilities. I haven’t noted it as we’ve gone along, but we have already seen the nerve pinch in a couple of earlier episodes – Leonard Nimoy’s answer to not wanting the pacifist Spock to start shooting people.

Procedure aboard the Enterprise and the penal colony

  • It was a nice touch to see Kirk reprimand a transporter operator for not realising the colony would have its forcefields up – and just after I’d commented out loud on his incompetence.
  • I would have made sure the items beamed up from the penal colony were scanned for life forms, so that Dr Van Gelder couldn’t just beam aboard unnoticed. Once his presence aboard ship was known, I would once again have used a lockdown to stop hm moving freely. To be fair, Spock did lock down Deck 14 once Van Gelder’s location was narrowed down, but why not lock down the whole ship and then unlock the safe areas later?
  • The air conditioning ducts on the penal colony should not have been big enough to fit a person – isn’t this exactly the sort of place where prisoners might try to escape? Also, the power grid would not have been so easy to deactivate. And while we’re on the topic of the power grid, let’s take a moment to enjoy Kirk saying, in all seriousness, “megavoltage”. That’s a million times worse than plain old voltage.

Admittedly, with my procedures in place, the good guys would not have saved the day, but hopefully I would have other failsafes to prevent a single mad scientist from ruining everything.

Summary – Dagger of the Mind: I think I enjoyed this episode, but maybe I was just feasting my eyes on Dr Noel.

A small fact I forgot to note from The Enemy Within – it has now been stated on screen that Kirk has a brother – George Samuel Kirk – who has three children, and whom only Jim refers to as ‘Sam’. I’m not sure, but I believe George is an older brother, which means he really should exist in the reboot timeline of Star Trek (2009).

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