Star Trek TOS: The Deadly Amoeba That Kills Vulcans
Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 2, Episode 18
The Immunity Syndrome
This was supposed to be an episode of rest and relaxation per Kirk — let’s see how long that lasts.
Not long. Spock was stricken with a terrible intuition, psychically informing him hundreds of his fellow Vulcans died on the Intrepid. For some reason, Spock was whisked to sickbay as a result. There, McCoy and Spock had a testy exchange about human’s rationalization of death. Spock was not in a good mood — and rightfully so after 400 of his countrymen perished.
A giant cloud or dark zone was straight ahead of Enterprise, which really brought out the ominous music from the showmakers. Kirk and Spock speculated the dark zone was responsible for the death of Spock’s people, so now it was personal. Kirk instructed Uhura to forge ahead for the dark zone.
When nearing the dark zone, energy from the ship and the crew began to drain. McCoy announced that the crewmembers — all of them — were systematically dying. Kirk’s decision to pursue the dark zone, for the moment, seemed incorrect and ill-fated.
Kirk picked Spock’s brain on just how the Vulcans dealt with the fierce threat of the dark zone. Spock revealed Vulcans are not the best arbiters of understanding conquer, and they likely felt astonishment instead of fear.
Then, a colorful puffer fish-looking blob appeared outside Enterprise, which Spock identified as the source of the energy drain. It turned out the blob was a gigantic amoeba, invading the crew’s galaxy like a virus.
Kirk, Spock, and McCoy argued about who would travel into the amoeba for a martyr mission. All of the men wanted a crack at the endeavor — certainly noble volunteerism — but Kirk would make the final decision. He talked out the possibilities to himself behind closed doors. And in that moment, Kirk wrestled with who to send “to death.” After deliberation, Kirk nominated Spock as the best-qualified candidate.
McCoy was ticked by the decision — he thought he was better equipped for the mission than anyone — but, of course, wished Spock the best. Spock hopped in the trusty Galileo, and away we went for a climax.
During the assignment against the amoeba, Spock was as cool as a cucumber, making Kirk’s decision extremely vindicated. Meanwhile on Enterprise, Kirk and McCoy came to the realization, due to the size of the amoeba, they were the virus for the blob. Not the other way around.
The solution to slay the amoeba was a familiar Star Trek element — antimatter.
Kirk and Spock separately recorded farewell speeches, illuminating the gravity of the episode. During Kirk’s farewell, he called out the merits of crewmembers involved in the mission to defeat [or perhaps die because of] the amoeba.
The plan to explode the amoeba worked. Spock returned triumphantly on Galileo.
Aside from trusting the right man for the job after careful evaluation, there was no true parable in The Immunity Syndrome. Uncharacteristically for Star Trek, this was just good versus evil in outer space. Normally, the foe in an episode had a redeemable quality of justified rationale for ill-will. But not the amoeba. It was just daunting.
Themes: The Power of Delegating
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).