Star Trek TOS: Scotty Falls in Love

Star Trek TOS: Scotty Falls in Love
Star Trek TOS: The Lights of Zetar

Star Trek: The Original Series

Season 3, Episode 18

The Lights of Zetar

The crew headed to Memory Alpha, a mainframe of knowledge for the Federation. From the onset, Kirk announced Scott was in love with a woman named Lieutenant Romaine, so a love interest wouldn’t be a Kirk thing — which is usually the case — in this installment.

Suddenly, while en route, the crew was blinded by a barrage of lights akin to fireworks. The on-screen music ratcheted up, increasing the scene’s intensity, and conflict was afoot. Kirk was rattled, ordering a full evacuation from the current course of Enterprise. Romaine collapsed. Scott offered tender love and care. She recovered and was summoned to sickbay.

Kirk theorized the wild lights were a storm, but Spock was steadfast against the idea. Spock was convinced the lightshow was an attack — not an accident. Remember, Spock is usually right.

In sickbay, Romaine was combative about her symptoms, explaining she was not affected too greatly by the lights. Of course, because Scott was in love, he defended Romaine’s stubborn demeanor.

Meanwhile, Spock announced Memory Alpha had no protective shielding, making it vulnerable to the “storm” of lights, as Kirk continued to call it. The lights were heading for Memory Alpha, so Kirk assembled a landing party in hopes of defending the post. It should be noted, too, that something was suspicious about Romaine as the lightshow reflected in the lens of her eye, implying her involvement in the plot was elaborate. This would later be emphatically confirmed.

On Memory Alpha, Kirk and his men discovered dead crew members. One woman was squirming and bending her face in funky motions. Her face also filled with an array of colors during the contortions. Soon after encountering Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Scott — she died.

Romaine arrived on Memory Alpha, and she was mortified by all the dead folks. She panicked, insisting everyone return to Enterprise because the lethal storm would return. Kirk heeded her advice and returned to Enterprise. Romaine also informed Scott she could see the dead people on Memory Alpha — before actually seeing them. Something to do with the storm of lights enabled her to see the future.

Spock inferred the storm was a collage of lives, separate as a “community of live units.” It had intent. It was not an accidental or natural storm. Kirk issued a vocal warning to the fireworks as if they were human beings. As Kirk tried opening a conversation with a batch of ominous lights, Romaine freaked out again.

Kirk had seen enough. He ordered an attack on the lights, firing phasers at the heart of the light community. When the phasers made contact, Romaine fell to the ground as if she was the one ravaged by phasers. Kirk halted additional phaser strikes, fearing Romaine would die as a result.

A formal investigation was launched about Romaine. Why was the weirdness of the lightshow corresponding to her well-being? Spock determined Romaine’s brain waves were altered to match those of the lightshow. They thought and felt the same.

Kirk decided to use Romaine and her brain likemindedness with the storm as a solution. Like the woman who died on Memory Alpha, Romaine’s face contorted with rich color. Romaine collapsed, and the lightshow took over her voicebox. Kirk spoke to the lights through the soul of Romaine.

The lights identified themselves as former inhabitants of Zetar, a planet extinct of humans for a long time. The lights were desires, hopes, and wills of the last 100 people to survive on Zetar — hellbent on burrowing inside Romaine to live on in human form.

The Zetarians would not accept their own deaths.

In an emotional scene, Scott placed Romaine in a pressure chamber — with the woman’s death a palpable risk — hoping to extract the alien souls. It worked. Romaine levitated in the chamber, but Kirk and friends drove out the Zetarian souls. It was not anatomically clear how all of that worked, but hurray for technology.

Romaine was deemed fit for duty, presumably on course for a full recovery.

This episode was relatively trivial to the greater meaning of Star Trek: The Original Series. The Lights of Zetar tried to be a parable about love reigning supreme, evidenced by quotes from Scott such as, “Mira will not kill me,” when he tossed her in the pressure chamber. To a degree, Scott’s devout belief in the salvation of Romaine was commendable and probably necessary to her survival. So, yes, love played a part in saving the woman beset by an alien-like virus.

But Kirk would’ve saved any human grappling with an alien body invasion if he thought it was possible — so what was the point of Scott loving her for the plot. Kirk was Captain Empathy — always — so Scott’s ardor for Romaine was irrelevant to Kirk’s decision-making.

The episode was not pointless, but far more deeper meanings can be derived from Star Trek than The Lights of Zetar.

Themes: Love, Devotion

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).