Episode: 09Title: Dagger Of The MindStar Date: 2715.1Writer: S. Bar-David (Shimon Wincelberg)First Shown: 3rd November 1966
The ninth episode of The Original Series, Dagger Of The Mind, is pivotal in Trek history, because this is the one where Spock first uses the ancient Vulcan ritual of mind melding on a human, but actually it’s also an interesting story on a number of levels.
The Enterprise is dropping off supplies at the Tantalus Penal Colony, when an insane inmate stows away onboard. Once they’ve caught the highly unstable Simon Van Gelder, they begin to unravel a trail of inconsistencies that leads them back to the colony, and its highly respected Doctor Tristan Adams who runs it.
This whole concept works because of the two actors they got to play Gelder and Adams. Morgan Woodward who plays Gelder is entirely bonkers, to the point where I’d be concerned to be alone with the actor, never mind the character he plays.
His track record of playing heavies in Westerns is second only to the famous Jack Elam, and he guest starred on Gunsmoke nineteen times, and on Wagon Train eleven. He’s fantastic in this. He’s retired now, but carried on working until his last TV appearance in an episode of Millennium in 1997. The other side of this personality coin is James Gregory as Adams, who delivers his highly polished snake-oil salesman routine here as the deceptive doctor experimenting on the inmates and staff of the colony. His resume reads like a catalogue of Sixties and Seventies TV, and he also managed a few big screen outings like Beneath The Planet Of The Apes, and The Sons Of Katie Elder.
Once they’re suspicious of what’s happening in the colony, Kirk goes to investigate, taking with him Doctor Helen Noel, who is not only an expert in psychiatry, but also fun at Christmas parties it appears. As Kirk and she get in over their heads with Doctor Adams, Bones and Spock use unusual techniques to probe the disturbed mind of Van Gelder and ultimately learn the truth.
Adams has devised a device called the neural neutralizer which can be used to brainwash people, which is exactly what he’s using it for. They realise this when Kirk allows the amorous Doctor Noel to experiment with it on him. She starts having a fantasy about bedding the good Captain, the details of which he’s enjoying until Adams turns up and decides to reprogram Kirk entirely.
Their opportunity to fight back comes when Kirk sends her into the air-conditioning system to locate the power system, which is creating a security shield that is stopping Spock coming to their aid. Despite having no knowledge in power systems, she manages this feat and Kirk escapes from the neural neutralizer room, leaving Adams unconscious there. When the power comes back on Adams is killed by his own machine, as without someone else there his mind is entirely emptied and he dies of loneliness – we’re told.
I can’t say I was overly thrilled with the way this story is resolved, or the 2D character of Helen Noel, but the madder-than-a-box-of-snakes performance of Morgan Woodward more than makes up for those weaknesses. The revamped version is also rather nice, as there are some excellent effects of the Enterprise, my favourite of which was it making a 180 degree turn to come back to the colony.
This story was written by Shimon Wincelberg under the name of S. Bar-David. He went on to contribute the equally strong The Galileo Seven episode to the original series. The only surprise here is that he didn’t get offered more writing duties on Star Trek, as he famously wrote the Time Tunnel pilot and the first five stories of Lost In Space.
Next up, a personal favourite of mine and so many other Trek fans across the world: The Corbomite Maneuver.