The Great Star Trek Rewatch: The Tholian Web

When the Enterprise encounters the USS Defiant adrift in space with the crew having apparently killed each other, it turns out that the cause is the unstable nature of spacetime in the area. And when Captain Kirk is lost in an interdimensional rift whilst beaming back to the Enterprise, Spock will stop at nothing to recover him, even though he must deal with an irate McCoy, the Enterprise crew slowly going mad themselves, a damaged Enterprise and a mysterious alien energy web that may seal them in forever.

I remember finding this episode not very compelling when I first watched it, which was a shame, as I really wanted to like it. Mostly because of the titular Tholian web, which felt like an interesting piece of technology that was a departure from anything we’d seen in Star Trek thus far. Unfortunately, it isn’t enough to save an episode that is so packed with science bollocks that even I, as a physicist, cannot be bothered to unpick it. Worse even than that is the Spock-McCoy relationship in this episode, which feels particularly fraught and sour. Admittedly, McCoy himself might have been suffering from the effects of the unstable space, but still, it wasn’t pleasant to watch.

Character Depolarisation

  • In this episode, McCoy accuses Spock of desiring the command of the Enterprise for himself, and also wonders why Spock won’t give up on Kirk. Is this at all the McCoy we know? McCoy knows that Spock doesn’t desire command because he would rather be science officer, and the McCoy we’ve seen before has usually berated Spock for seeming to give up on Kirk too soon. Aside from the fact that they should certainly trust each other by now, this is all very out of charact, and casts McCoy as a bit of jerk – the only excuse is that he must have been suffering from the effects of the weird region of space.
  • Poor Chekov – in Day of the Dove he was agonising over the death of his fictitious brother, and here he is the first of the bridge crew to go crazy.
  • When Uhura sees the apparition of Kirk, everyone treats her like a crazy woman without any credibility. She’s a highly competent bridge officer – treat her with some respect!

Life in Space

  • The Tholian web is all very well for ensnaring ships that can’t escape, like the broken-down Enterprise in this episode, but it doesn’t seem very efficient for stopping ships that can just fly away before it’s completed. Also, is it closed at the top and bottom? It’s hard to tell from what we see in this episode.
  • It’s been a while since we’ve seen the crew in space suits – last time was the orange numbers in The Naked Time, and these look far more sophisticated.
  • If Kirk was caught in the transporter beam, how could he not be beamed aboard? Was it that they had a lock but hadn’t started dematerialising him yet? Then again, how does anything about where he was and why he showed up, ghostlike, on the Enterprise, even make sense?

Revisiting Day of the Dove once again – some additional Klingon facts

  • Klingons have no devil.
  • Klingons have evolved significantly more into their warrior race characteristics than ever before.
  • “Four thousand throats can be slit in one night by a running man” and “only a fool fights in a burning house” are popular Klingon proverbs.

Summary – The Tholian Web: Science bollocks.

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