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The Enterprise arrives at Omicron Ceti III, where a Federation colony started several years earlier. Later it was discovered that the planet is showered by Berthold rays, a deadly form of radiation which causes severe tissue damage within a few weeks of exposure. To make matters worse, there had been no communication with the colony for quite a while. The Enterprise‍'​s sad mission is to retrieve the colonists' remains and their equipment.

Captain Kirk, along with First Officer Spock, Chief Medical Officer Leonard McCoy, Lt. Sulu, and other crewmen, beam down to the planet's surface and make the startling discovery that the colonists are still very much alive. The crew is greeted warmly by Elias Sandoval, a farmer and leader who assures them that there have been no problems other than a faulty communications system. They encounter another colonist, Leila Kalomi, who fell in love with Spock six years earlier back on Earth. At a loss to explain why these people are still alive, Dr. McCoy arranges to perform medical exams on a number of the colonists while other crew members search the vicinity for answers.

The puzzle deepens as McCoy finds the colonists in flawless health; in reviewing the colonists' medical records, he finds that, although the records indicate that Sandoval had had his appendix removed, his own examination of Sandoval indicated the colonist had an intact appendix. The other members of the landing party discover that there is no animal life present — no livestock, no birds and no insects. Evading Kirk's questions about the fate of the farm animals they brought with them and the general absence of animal life on the planet, Sandoval explains simply, "We're vegetarians."

As Spock is searching the surrounding area for clues, the lovely Leila meets with him and agrees to show him how the colonists have survived. She takes him to a place where there are strange flowers which spray him with spores.

Being half-Vulcan, Spock doesn't normally express his emotions, but moments after exposure to these spores, the formerly logical Spock is able to say to Leila, "I love you." Now free to find bliss with Leila, Spock laughs and with his head in Leila's lap he lolls under a tree with her as they contemplate the clouds. When Kirk attempts to contact him, it is not Spock but Leila who opens the communicator. Unwilling for a moment to stop embracing, nuzzling, and kissing Leila, Spock answers Kirk's questions with amused curtness and refuses to obey orders.

Spock shows the strange flowers to Kirk and other crewmen, but at this point Captain Kirk escapes being hit by their spores as he is just out of their range. When Kirk returns to his ship, it is full of the flowers and their spores. The entire crew, in an open but peaceful mutiny, begin to beam down to the planet. Before she leaves, Lieutenant Uhura sabotages the ship's communications system to prevent contact with Starfleet.

Soon, Kirk is the only person remaining aboard the ship. Since the ship is filled with the plants Kirk finds himself within range of one of them on the bridge, and it shoots its spores at him. Kirk begins to feel at peace and makes plans to beam down to the colony, but as he is about to leave the Enterprise, he has second thoughts in reflecting upon his career, causing him to feel a wave of violent emotions, which overwhelms and destroys the effect of the spores.

Kirk now realizes the spores cannot survive the presence of strong feelings. He asks Spock to come up to the ship ostensibly to help him with some things that they won't be able to retrieve once the last of them leaves. Kirk actually wants to revert Spock's change of personality. The Captain states for his log that his plan to kill the spores by enraging Spock carries considerable risk: Spock is a half-Vulcan, a humanoid far stronger than a human, whose race were once ferocious warriors before their control of emotion ended the slaughter on their world.

Nonetheless, when Spock arrives, Kirk insults him with a stream of racist abuse and taunts him as a freak who dares to make love to Leila. Spock is angered and a brawl ensues but fortunately, his rationality returns to him before he seriously injures the Captain. They collaborate and create a device to send a subsonic frequency through the communicators that will irritate everyone in the colony.

In the midst of this work, Leila asks to see Spock. She beams aboard only to find him no longer "with us", and desperately pleads with Spock to return to the planet so they can be together. Regretfully, he tells her he has responsibilities on the ship and cannot. Leila begins to cry and says "Do you mind if I say I still love you?" Spock makes no objection and she embraces him. Then she asks if he has another name besides Spock. He gently brushes a tear from her cheek. He half-smiles in a regretful way and gently says, "You couldn't pronounce it."

Soon after the subsonic frequency is sent fights break out in the colony, quickly ending the spores' influence. McCoy, irked by Sandoval's denigrating the need for his medical skills, decks the colony leader with two punches, breaking the hold of the spores on both of them in the process. McCoy explains again that due to the Berthold Rays, the colonists cannot remain on the planet. Sandoval says that he and the colonists would like to do what they set out from Earth to do: colonize a new world. McCoy tells him he is sure the Federation will be happy to help them.

As the Enterprise with the colonists safely on board departs the planetary system, McCoy, Kirk and Spock are on the bridge trying to come to terms with what happened on Omicron Ceti III. Kirk offers the opinion that perhaps mankind is not meant to stroll to the sound of the lute, but rather must march to the sound of drums, clawing its way up and scratching for every inch. Spock comments about his experiences, observing, "I've little to say about it, Captain ... except that for the first time in my life, I was happy."

Errors and ExplanationsEdit

The Nitpicker's Guide for Classic TrekkersEdit

Plot OversightsEdit

  1. Non modular appearance of the colony dwellings. The colonists probably used local materials to augment the dwelling modules.
  2. Kirk's orders to evacuate the colony. The Federation can’t allow people to live on a planet found to be bathed with radiation.
  3. The microbes in Spock surviving his intensely happy emotions. The microbes are only killed when exposed to emotions such as anger.
  4. Possible use of the spores on the planet to cure many diseases. The Federation are more likely to have Omicron Ceti III quarantined, as the health giving properties of the spores could be misused. In addition, two thirds of the original 150 colonists died from exposure to Berthold radiation, before the spores had a chance to take effect.

Internet Movie DatabaseEdit

Factual errorsEdit

  1. Layla says to Spock, "I've never seen a starship before." She is a space colonist that arrived to the colony four years ago and met Spock six years ago, so how did she arrive on the planet if not by starship? She's using the term starship in reference to a Starfleet vessel, as opposed to the obviously commercial transport ship used to transport the colonists.

Nit CentralEdit

  1. Hans Thielman on Saturday, December 12, 1998 - 12:26 pm: Perhaps the Federation should have considered using the planet from this episode (I can't recall the planet's name) to assist the Son'a (Star Trek Insurrection) in their efforts to rejuvenate themselves. Even if the planet hasn't been placed under quarantine, they probably wouldn't want to run the risk of the radiation killing them all before the spores could take effect - after all, two thirds of the original 150 colonists died from exposure to Berthold radiation, and there are likely to be less than 100 Son'a. In addition, they may not be willing to move away from the Briar Patch.
  2. Adam Bomb on Sunday, May 07, 2006 - 3:08 am: Just where did Spock get that jumpsuit after he was infected with the spores? And, why should he have bothered? The Starfleet uniforms appear more comfortable. Todd Pence on Monday, May 08, 2006 - 12:43 pm: I think that Spock changed his uniform for a jumpsuit to show that he had cast off the military life of Starfleet and had now joined the colonists. Actually, I think that looser jumpsuit would be more comfortable than the tight-fitting Starfleet uniforms.


  1. Credited under the pseudonym Nathan Butler, following his objections to D. C. Fontana's rewrites.

The Original Series Season 1
Pilot episodes: The Cage I Where No Man Has Gone Before
Regular episodes: The Corbomite Maneuver I Mudd's Women I The Enemy Within I The Man Trap I The Naked Time I Charlie X I Balance of Terror I What Are Little Girls Made Of? I Dagger of the Mind I Miri I The Conscience of the King I The Galileo Seven I Court Martial I The Menagerie Part 1 I The Menagerie Part 2 I Shore Leave I The Squire of Gothos I Arena I The Alternative Factor I Tomorrow Is Yesterday I The Return of the Archons I A Taste of Armageddon I Space Seed I This Side of Paradise I The Devil in the Dark I Errand of Mercy I The City on the Edge of Forever I Operation: Annihilate!