Star Trek TOS: Possessed Grieving Kids
Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 3, Episode 4
And the Children Shall Lead
Kirk and his two lieutenants beamed down to Triacus for an investigation. On the planet, the group immediately encountered a slew of dead bodies. The initial reporting suggested they all committed suicide.
While Kirk wrestled with the notion of suicide, a large group of happy, frolicking kids stormed the area. Kirk looked like a peeved dad upset by too much tomfoolery, but he was likely just shocked by all the dead bodies.
McCoy tried to explain why the kids could be so gleeful with the bodies everywhere, causing Spock to opine on human resilience. Spock noted, “Humans do have an amazing capacity for believing what they choose and excluding that which is painful.”
After a while, Spock tweaked his theory of mass suicide. He speculated the dead folks might’ve encountered a virus or a mental breakdown leading to suicide by compulsion. Kirk picked up the presence of something in a nearby cave, and he and Spock had a look.
The cave delivered anxiety. Kirk got all panicky, whereas Spock, the half-human, felt no nervousness. But the experience did trouble Kirk.
The children of the deceased and Kirk’s group beamed back up to Enterprise. It didn’t take long for the kids to turn spooky. Several of them danced in a circle chanting, summoning a ghost-like figure who showed up in a green cloud. The glowing guy was a humanoid called Gorgan. He gave them marching orders — take control of Enterprise so they could all reach the planet Marcos XII.
So, this was like an attack.
The main boy, Tommy, tried to manipulate Kirk into steering the ship toward Marcos XII, attempting to fulfill the will of Grogan. Meanwhile, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy review tapes from the final moments of life for the folks on Triacus. With that, they come up with the theory the children could be culpable for the deaths of the adults. Their detection was close to spot-on.
The kids continued to act demonic on the bridge of Enterprise, inviting Gorgan back to the ship. This time, Kirk was front and center when he (it?) appeared. Fears were planted in the brains of Kirk’s crew by the children (or Gorgan?), making them see horrible things and become outwardly defiant. Spock refused orders. Uhura was convinced she was around 100 years old. Sulu saw flying swords barreling toward him. Stuff got weird.
The kids totally overran the ship with mind control, shaking their fists as the ominous signal of infiltration. Kirk called the screwy mind games “the beast.” Of course, Captain Sympathy (Kirk), felt bad for the kids as they were conduits to overtake Enterprise, not wicked all on their own.
Kirk figured out Gorgan was the culprit, possessing the children for his evil will. He replayed video footage of the children happy with their parents — an antidote to Gorgan’s evil ways. The kids realized their parents were dead, invoking natural emotions of sorrow and tears. Gorgan rallied for one final world domination speech. But it didn’t work.
Gorgan’s evil was worthless without children as the vehicle. The kids staved off his final push for domination, and he vanished. Kirk ensured the children were safe.
The parable was one of grief, although it was not written for the screen very well. Kirk was cold to the children during much of the episode, an odd characteristic for the almost always wholesome captain. Somewhere deep in the script, there was a tale about the resilience of children.
In retrospect, many critics hated this episode.
Themes: Suicide, Grief
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).