Star Trek TOS: Spock and McCoy Try to Coexist Sans Kirk

Star Trek TOS: Spock and McCoy Try to Coexist Sans Kirk
Star Trek TOS; The Tholian Web

Star Trek: The Original Series

Season 3, Episode 9

The Tholian Web

Enterprise was searching for a vanished ship, the USS Defiant, and Kirk’s team landed in unsurveyed territory during the quest. Defiant was quickly located, outlined in a shadowy green aura out in space. Kirk and his pals decided to transport aboard the ship for a closer look. 

Dressed in glorious hazmat-looking suits, Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Chekov arrived on Defiant. On the vessel, folks were dead. Chekov speculated the deaths might’ve been the result of mutiny. Why? Well, the captain’s neck was snapped. Quite the clue for mutiny. 

The ship was functioning, so Spock theorized the mutineers were possibly burrowed somewhere on the ship — although it initially seemed vacant. McCoy believed the cause of death was homicide — like all over the place. “These people killed each other,” the doctor proclaimed. 

During the investigation, it appeared the ship was “dissolving,” because all items were nearly invisible to touch. The plot thickened. The dissolving phenomenon was contagious, evidenced by Scott announcing the innards of Enterprise were at risk. 

Kirk went back to Defiant, and unsurprisingly, the ship dissolved — with Kirk on it. Where was the captain? 

When contemplating how to retrieve Kirk, Chekov went nuts. He flipped out, passed out, and shocked the crew. His fury was reminiscent of what likely happened to passengers on Defiant. Ergo, this was big deal. The whole crew — sans Kirk because he was missing — could be susceptible to murderous rage. 

In Kirk’s absence, Spock took control of the ship. A reddish, bird-looking foe showed up on Enterprise’s radar, threatening Spock with warnings of trespassing. Spock argued with it — it was called Loskene — explaining the territory was neutral. Loskene didn’t care, issuing a warning for Spock to leave within an hour. 

The Tholian ship wasted no time, firing on Enterprise a blaze of fire. The impact rocked the ship back and forth, forcing Spock to blast phasers back at the enemy. Another Tholian ship arrived, making the battle all the more ominous.

Spock deduced Kirk was likely dead, so he notified the crew. They did not take the news well as a couple of redshirts freaked out with Chekov-like rage. Meanwhile, with the raw emotion of Kirk’s demise palpable, Spock and McCoy bickered about the next steps of the command.

Spock and McCoy played a tape of Kirk giving orders in the event of his death. Kirk urged Spock and McCoy to coexist as the former captain evidently predicted strife in the immediacy of his death. He was right. 

Then, Uhura saw Kirk in her mirror, fully outfitted in his environmental suit. No one believed her, considering her tales of Kirk apparitions that of hallucination. However, Scott soon saw the apparition, too, so he was either nuts as well — or Kirk was haunting the bunch. Shortly after, Scott, Spock saw it. This was a real thing. 

McCoy concocted an alcohol-infused “antidote” that, in theory, would combat the mental degradation affecting various crewmembers. Spock and McCoy drank it, prepping to intercept Kirk’s next apparition arrival. 

Kirk, indeed, showed back up, and the grew beamed him back onto Enterprise. He was as good as new. 

The episode was a vehicle to portray the essential necessity of a leader. Without Kirk, folks devolved into rage, Spock and McCoy fought like teenage brothers, and the ship’s overall command was disjointed. Spock did an apt job of ultimately reclaiming Kirk from universal limbo, but it is Kirk who is best served to lead the charge of Enterprise. Even at the end of the episode, Kirk inherently knew Spock and McCoy encountered turmoil in his absence. But like a good leader, he let it go knowing the emotional duress they experienced. 

Oh, and the actual “Tholian Web” was a force field designed by Loskene to entrap Enterprise if it didn’t leave in time. Thankfully, Kirk was found in the nick of time, and Enterprise vamoosed. 

Themes: Necessity of Leadership

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).