Star Trek TOS: The Molten Blob Acted in Self Defense
Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 1, Episode 26
The Devil in the Dark
Unfamiliar miners were under siege by a mysterious force on Janus VI, a planet that looked a lot like Jupiter. One of the miners was “burned to a crisp,” so Kirk and his crew would be roped into assistance. The consensus was the killing entity was a monster. Interestingly, only one person saw the creature before formulating the monster theory.
Spock discovered a silicon ball while debriefing the miners. Because Spock acknowledged it, silicon would assuredly factor into the resolution. He was just that damn smart.
Another death occurred via the monster, this time involving the damage of a nuclear reactor. The hits kept on coming. Pivoting back to his silicon idea, Spock speculated perhaps the creature was a silicon-based menace. Then, Kirk and Spock joined the miners in pursuit of the monster. More miners died thereafter. The body count for this episode seemed to dwarf its predecessors.
The creature appeared — and it was nasty and orangeish. Indeed, it was impervious to Kirk and Spock’s weapons. Halfway through the episode, there was no allegory for the plot, instead showcasing a cat-and-mouse dual to conquer a creature.
After encountering the blob thing, Spock hinted to Kirk efforts should be made to capture the creature. Kirk disagreed, suggesting the death of the monster was paramount to the mission. So, there was the rub for the episode — capture for analysis or kill? It’s also of note that Spock was absolutely steadfast about quarantining the creature — rather than killing — indicating something is up Spock’s sleeve, probably for the betterment of everyone.
Kirk came face to face with the moving blob, so, you know, judgment day. It basically looked like a moving pile of molten dung. Immediately, Kirk and Spock reversed roles — Spock instructed Kirk to kill the damn thing, whereas Kirk second-guessed the plan. The molten dung and Kirk began talking (well, Kirk, not the creature) as Kirk warmed up to the blob. Perhaps it was not as hostile as previously broadcast.
Spock, using Vulcan voodoo, tapped into the “brain” of the monster. What a gift. But all he experienced was pain — meaning the blob itself was in pain. The monster was wounded, convincing Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy to sympathize and help heal it.
The blob was actually very thoughtful and caring — if that can be believed after its reign of terror on the miners.
The creature was identified as a “Horta,” shoved to the edge of extinction by humans. The silicon balls that Spock prophetically uplifted early on were eggs. Ergo, this episode turned into a case study on the environmental fallout of human industry.
McCoy saved the day with silicon from Enterprise, which he beamed down as a medical fix. The Horta would live. The eggs hatched, increasing the number of tunnels on Janus VI — an advantageous circumstance for the miners.
If humans can open their eyes and ears rather than systematically ravaging their surroundings, compromise can be reached, preserving the environment and empowering smart engineering.
Themes: Man vs. Environment, Sympathy
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. His odyssey with Star Trek starts from beginning to finish, watching ‘The Original Series,’ all the way to the present day. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).