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Star Trek: The Tholian Web

"I must say I prefer a crowded universe much better."

This episode, like many in season three, featured a combination of recycled plot elements: response to a distress call, an encounter with a technologically superior alien race in a bad mood, and the crew suffering from extremely ill effects of something they'd never encountered before. (Unfortunately, those effects didn't include singing in Engineering, or taking showers with their clothes on.) To make the bad even worse, Kirk apparently disintegrated after selflessly ordering everyone else back to the ship first. Bummer.

It would have been logical for Spock to postpone the Captain's memorial service until they were out of danger, but that would have meant no tense, emotional viewing of Kirk's "last orders." And the conflict between Spock, who was doing what he thought best while still hanging on to the hope that Kirk could be retrieved, and McCoy, who was, as always, reacting negatively and overemotionally, was the best part of the episode. (Although you'd think by now McCoy would have internalized that Spock isn't interested in command.) Kirk knew they'd be fighting, and his final instructions were for them to depend on each other's wisdom. Lovely.

(I also really liked that Spock and McCoy, apparently without consulting, decided to fib to Kirk about seeing the "last orders." It was an unspoken acknowledgement that what Kirk had left them was perfect, and shouldn't be changed.)

This is one of Nichelle Nichols' favorite episodes, probably because she got to do something different, i.e., reacting to seeing Kirk's half-phased body floating in her quarters. She also got to wear a very cool-looking red patterned caftan and a sweet blue hospital gown that was way cuter than any hospital gown I've ever worn. And since I'm talking costumes, I should mention that the space suits were a vast, vast improvement on the repurposed shower curtains in "The Naked Time," and the suits even looked cool with the helmets off.

Funny how Uhura saw Kirk and they thought she was crazy, but Scott saw Kirk and everyone believed him. Okay, if Scott had seen him first, maybe McCoy would have tied him down in Sick Bay, too. I like to think so.

Ben says...

The Defiant has just appeared in my family room... I will write this review very slowly or risk disrupting the time-space-TV fadeout continuum. Uh oh, there it goes and Bones just stormed in here and called me a fool for even trying to write this review. First, that was weird (not the least because I think DeForest Kelley died some time ago) but second, this captures the two items that I think are worth mentioning in this episode: the long suffering Defiant, and the need to adjust the good doctor's medication level.

Let's start with Bones. What's the deal? Seriously, we know you and Spock are doing the whole frenemies thing, but could we maybe do the whole superior officer thing when the crew, the ship and the captain are at risk? And it's not like Jim didn't see it coming. He pre-recorded a message from beyond the grave telling McCoy to quit being a dick. So no "unstable space" excuse here.

I remembered this episode being much better than it actually was. Not that it was terrible, but I mostly enjoyed it for the promise of episodes to come. The Defiant was fun in part because we can look forward to it showing up 100 years in the past and 40 years in the future (depending on how you measure it) when it pops up on Enterprise and we get Empress Sato. It's not a great sign when I am thinking fondly of Enterprise during a TOS episode.

Which reminds me. I don't usually have much to say about the remastering and fx upgrades on these episodes, but this was a real failure to use the new special effects in an episode that begged for it, and which had later-day Tholian webs to draw from. I am tempted to pronounce the whole remastering thing a waste of time and money. Damn the Vulcan logic that drove us to its creation! (Sorry, I went all Bones on that one).

Wait, the Defiant is fading in again and I can see Shatner in my mirror.

Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

— Stardate 5693.2. The remnants of the U.S.S. Defiant in Tholian space.

— The Enterprise has encountered a sister ship with the entire crew dead twice before, in "The Omega Glory" and "The Doomsday Machine."

— A fisheye lens was again used to show that a crew member was succumbing to the space sickness, as they did in "Is There in Truth No Beauty?"

— Chekov got to scream again. Why was it always Chekov who got the screaming scenes? It's like Dean always getting the eating scenes on Supernatural.


Sulu: "Mr. Spock, we're being fired upon."
Spock: "The renowned Tholian punctuality."
Was that a joke, since they'd never heard of the Tholians before?

Kirk: (taped message) "Bones, Spock. Since you are playing this tape, we will assume that I am dead, that the tactical situation is critical, and both of you are locked in mortal combat."

Spock: "In critical moments, men sometimes see exactly what they wish to see."
McCoy: "Do you suppose they're seeing Jim because they've lost confidence in you?"

Spock: "I understand, Doctor. I'm sure the captain would simply have said: 'Forget it, Bones'."

McCoy: "One good slug of this, and you can hit a man with phaser stun, and he'd never feel it or even know it."
Scott: "Does it make a good mix with scotch?"
McCoy: "It should."
Scott: "I'll let you know."

Two out of four really cool silver space suits,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. I actually liked this episode and it played out so well in a future episode of Star Trek Enterprise where the Defiant phased into the "Mirror Mirror" universe.
    Love your reviews as always Billie!

  2. I was surprised how much I liked this episode, though equally annoyed by the attitudes towards Uhura seeing Kirk, and Scotty seeing him (which also felt like it was going to a weirdly Biblical place...). Perhaps the fact that my knowledge of season 3 is confined to 'Plato's Stepchildren' and the awful last episode made this look better by comparison!

  3. Juliette, season three is undeniably their worst, but it's not wall-to-wall bad. There are several excellent (IMHO) episodes in season three -- "The Enterprise Incident", which spawned a tremendous amount of fanfic, "Is there in Truth no Beauty?", "Day of the Dove", "Requiem for Methuselah," and "All Our Yesterdays", which inspired a couple of Star Trek novels. There are probably a few more in season three that might be described as 'pretty good', too. If that helps.

  4. I must look some of those out - they have lovely poetic titles!

  5. Why was it always Chekov who got the screaming scenes?

    Walter Koenig had one of the best screams in show business, that's why.

  6. Definitely a family favourite, this one. I remember my older brother (who introduced me to Star Trek) loving this one the best. I rather like it too. The battle between Spock and McCoy is regrettable sad but McCoy's arguments, as usual, did not make much sense. Still, he did apologise and mean it.

    It was also good to see a full episode without Kirk in it; his command style is very distinct and it's interesting to consider the ship without his leadership and decisive personality. I loved his 'last orders'. Quite moving.

  7. I love when they encounter new alien ships, not as much as I did as a kid, but even 53 year old me is very 'Yes! New spaceships!'. And the Tholians have a lot of rules for their webs in Star Fleet Battles, so another cool tie in between the show and one of my favorite board games.

    It is a lot of rehash of course, but I still like this one. Uhura gets to shine, even if they did treat her sighting of Kirk unevenly compared to Scotty's sighting.

    Bones and Spock's constant bickering is one of my favorite things in the show, because it wasn't born of ambition, greed, or hatred, but two different approaches to solving the problems they face, and I like that neither of them is always right or wrong, which adds some nuance too. Too often when we have emotion vs. logic, or technology vs. nature, or other such things in shows, one is clearly right and the other wrong, and that's a gross over simplification.

    Decent stuff, and I also agree on the spacesuits!


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