Star Trek TOS: An Ugly Box Makes You Go Insane
Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 3, Episode 5
Is There in Truth No Beauty?
Kirk and the gang were on tap to meet Medusans, a group whose appearance was so hideous their looks would drive people insane. But Vulcans with visors could shield from the alleged ugliness. A strange premise for an episode, but that’s never stopped them before. And wouldn’t you know it, Star Trek had a Vulcan on Enterprise for the job.
The assignment was to transport the Medusan ambassador, Kollos — who was in a box — to his home planet. Dr. Miranda Jones and Spock carried the Medusan box around the ship like it was a batch of nuclear codes. Jones was a telepath.
She also had a thing for Spock. When Spock exited a room with the Medusan box left behind, she admitted aloud jealousy toward his infatuation with the box and instead of her.
Kirk’s team had drinks with Dr. Jones where she detailed her telepathic powers. The group discussed the broadly-scaled themes of beauty and ugliness. During that chat, Kirk, McCoy, and Spock seemed rather smitten with the doctor.
When Jones came aboard, a man named Larry Marvick came along with her. He also had the hots for the good doctor. Jones began to speculate, via her telepathic powers, that Marvick had murder on his mind.
Instead, he found his way to the Medusan box, opened it, and promptly went insane. Marvick began fighting everyone in his path, taking over steering controls of Enterprise. He propelled the ship to the edge of the galaxy, remaining hysterical as Kirk and his lieutenants tried to subvert the madman.
Marvick issued a ranting, last-gasp speech, warning everyone not to fall in love with Dr. Jones because she’d kill them. Then, out of dread, Marvick keeled over and died. The Medusa reputation was real. McCoy determined Marvick died from “not being able to live with what he saw or what he felt.”
When the ship was jolted to the edge of the galaxy, the trip was spearheaded by the Medusan box — which had super navigational tendencies. To return back to regular orbit, Kirk needed the same tools from the ugly box. So, he distracted Jones with a romantic talk about the future while Spock and McCoy manipulated Kollos.
Jones revealed she was blind and kept it secret because she had no interest in pity from others. Kirk convinced her that his cooperation was vital to channel the power of Kollos for Enterprise’s return “home.”
Spock melded his mind to Kollos and began speaking on behalf of the unsightly Medusan. This enabled him to pilot the ship back to its original course. Spock then offered a Shakespearian speech, probably inspired by his mind-meld with Kollos:
“How compact your bodies are. And what a variety of senses you have. This thing you call… language though – most remarkable. You depend on it, for so very much. But is any one of you really its master? But most of all, the aloneness. You are so alone. You live out your lives in this… shell of flesh. Self-contained. Separate. How lonely you are. How terribly lonely.”
This episode was Star Trek’s stab at the definition of beauty. Humans champion it. Jones, with her blindness, had an alternate interpretation — and rightfully so. Spock eventually understood that language was more important than beauty.
Finally, there was an unusual amount of point-of-view camera action in Is There in Truth No Beauty? And those were intertwined with several ties to Shakespeare.
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).