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The Enterprise is delivering supplies to Tantalus Five, a “progressive” penal colony directed by Dr. Tristan Adams. A Tantalus inmate escapes to the starship, and demands asylum. An apparent raving madman, the patient is subdued and taken to sick bay, where he is identified as Dr. Simon van Gelder, Dr. Adams's assistant.

Kirk and psychiatrist Dr. Helen Noel beam down to Tantalus, to make sure all is well there. After they have left, Spock uses a Vulcan mind meld on Dr. van Gelder, and determines that Adams has turned Tantalus into a chamber of horrors, using a “neural neutraliser” - a device responsible for Van Gelder's incoherent state.

Kirk and Helen experience the device first hand, when Adams uses it to convince Kirk that the captain is hopelessly in love with Dr. Noel. Helen risks her life to cut the colony's power, so that Spock and a landing party can beam down through the planet's defensive force field. During the attack, Dr. Adams accidentally perishes in his own machine, and Dr. van Gelder becomes the new director of Tantalus, where is first act is to dismantle the neural neutraliser. [1]

Errors and ExplanationsEdit

The Nitpicker's Guide for Classic TrekkersEdit

Plot OversightsEdit

  1. Van Gelder managing to escape the penal colony. Addams didn’t expect Van Gelder to become lucid enough to attempt escape.
  2. Kirk failing to destroy the neutralizer. Kirk is naturally reluctant to risk an explosion by firing on the machine from directly underneath.
  3. Apparent lack of change in Kirk's behaviour after his 'treatment' by the neutralizer. Addams must have instructed Kirk to act normally in front of the crew.

Changed PremisesEdit

  1. Spock’s constant use of mind melds despite referring to them as 'highly personal' and part of a Vulcan’s 'private life'. Spock knows that a mind meld is the only means of establishing the truth in certain situations, especially if time is of the essence.

Equipment OdditiesEdit

  1. McCoy remarking that Adams' statements don't ring true, while Adams is able to hear what McCoy says. Perhaps McCoy wants to discuss the discrepancies with Adams direct.
  2. McCoy injecting sedatives through uniforms. Either the Hyposprays or the uniforms - or both - were upgraded since ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’, in order to allow this.
  3. Use of an old style door for the neutralizer room. A hinged door must be easier to keep locked.[2]

Nit CentralEdit

  1. Keith Alan Morgan on Wednesday, April 14, 1999 - 11:03 am - Kirk and Dr. Noel beam down to a penal colony and no one, not even a guard is there to greet them? Maybe Adams believes his method is reliable enough for him to operate without guards.
  2. Doctor Noel acts very unprofessionally in this episode. In this day and age a psychologist can lose his or her license to practice if they try to force someone to become their lover. (I know, this was made in the 60's before professional conduct in psychology became a big deal.) Actually, she isn't doing the forcing - Adams is!
  3. On page 37 of the Classic Trekkers Guide, Phil wondered why Dr. Adams is torturing Kirk. When I watched it this last time I thought of the Nazi doctors who had been given carte blanche to conduct any kind of medical experiment they wanted on Jewish prisoners. Clearly Dr. Adams thought he had the same kind of right. (Which says a lot about the rights of a convicted criminal in the 23rd century.) John A. Lang on Monday, January 31, 2000 - 10:34 am - I think Dr. Adams was torturing Kirk so he wouldn't file any report to Starfleet about what's going on at the penal colony. Remember...Dr. Adams brainwashes Kirk to "Trust me"
  4. Will Spencer on Tuesday, January 23, 2001 - 10:22 am - When Van Gelder attacks a crewman and steals his phaser, the alert siren is going off in the background, but the alert panel in the corridor isn't flashing. The bulb may have burnt out, and Scotty hasn't got around to replacing it (assuming they have spare bulbs on board!)
  5. During the tour, Kirk, Noel, and Adams walk past a man and a woman; the man is wearing the same clothing (shiny top, and plaid shorts) as the man being tortured by Adam's assistant. Is this Tantalus haute couture? Or could they be twins? Most likely standard clothing design for male patients.
  6. John A. Lang on Wednesday, August 08, 2001 - 5:26 pm - At the start of the show, Kirk has to remind the transporter dude to ask the Penal Colony to lower its screens. However, when Kirk & Noel beam down, there's no mentioning of any screens going down or needing to be lowered. The transporter may have been reset, in order to transmit a 'Ready to beam down' signal, which would alert the colony shield operator to drop the screens long enough for Kirk and Noel to beam down.
  7. Will on Friday, November 15, 2002 - 10:22 am - After the Dr. Adams makes his speech to Kirk and Noel over drinks, the scene ends with Lethe staring blankly ahead. The next scene is superimposed over her face, and starts with a black vent in a hallway, then the camera moves and people are seen walking by. I believe the intention of the director was to show that poor Lethe's mind is a big, black empty space, like the black area framed by the vent. Well, her memories have been - effectively - wiped!
  8. John A. Lang on Monday, May 31, 2004 - 8:01 am - When Noel throws the main power switch to the "Off" position, Spock beams down...ALONE! He knows the Captain may be in danger and he beams down ALONE? Where's the logic in that? Taking a security team would put Spock at a moral and tactical disadvantage.
  9. Later in the same scene, Spock smashes a lock and presses some buttons and tells the Enterprise that the force field is disabled. EXCUSE ME...the force field was already disabled when Noel threw the main power switch! R on Monday, May 31, 2004 - 7:25 pm - yeah but it was only disabled while the power switch was set to OFF. If someone reset it to on then it wouldn't be disabled anymore. What Spock probably did was pull the fuse (flip the circuit breaker) and make it so it won't work no matter what the switch position is. [N 1]
  10. John A. Lang on Thursday, May 25, 2006 - 5:49 pm - How come Kirk doesn't take at least one Security Guard with him when he beams down to Tantalus with Helen? I mean, SOMETHING happened to Van Gelder & Kirk beams down with no guards! If Riker were Kirk's First Officer, he'd be hopping mad! I must add Spock makes the same mistake when he beams down. Sure...the Security Guards beam down a few minutes later, but, A LOT CAN HAPPEN in a few minutes! Nove Rockhoomer on Saturday, May 27, 2006 - 11:34 am - Maybe he didn't want to offend Dr. Adams or make him suspicious, since he hadn't been proven to have done anything wrong at that point. Adams could have just kept the forcefield up, claiming it was out of principle, and then Kirk wouldn't be able to find out anything.
  11. Tim McCree (Tim_m) on Thursday, September 11, 2008 - 10:43 pm - I have a question, why are the staff of Tantalus V willingly going along with Dr. Adams and his experiments (such as the security personal who escort Kirk to and from the treatment room). This is clearly a criminal act going on here, and don't they know that they will be held accountable. Why didn't they turn on Adams when he started his experiments? This ain't Nazi Germany here, you don't have to follow orders if said orders are wrong, which they clearly are here. The only other example of a large group of Federation personal willingly committing amoral acts I can think of is the crew of the Equinox (VOY). However, this was a unique case, the Equinox was stranded thousands of light years from home, they had lost half their crew, the ship was practically destroyed, and supplies were dangerously low. For this reason, I can see the crew willing following Captain Ransome in torturing the other dimensional creatures to get home. They were in a desparate situation. This does not apply to the staff of Tantalus V. Did Adams manage to brainwash all of them? He probably convinced them that the benefits would outweigh the dangers, while subtly hinting that any dissent could damage their careers and/or their health.


  1. Seniram 17:16, September 23, 2014 (UTC) The force field would - logically - have a back up power supply, which is probably what Spock is deactivating in this scene.


  1. Asherman, Allen. The Star Trek Compendium - Third edition. Titan Books Ltd. 1993. ISBN 1 85286 472 9 Page 41.
  2. Farrand, Phil. The Nitpickers Guide for Classic Trekkers. Titan Books. 1994.

The Original Series Season 1
Pilot episodes: The Cage I Where No Man Has Gone Before
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