STAR TREK AT 50: Spock's Brain

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To celebrate the 50th Anniversary, every week throughout 2016 we are looking back at a Star Trek episode picked by one of our team or by a guest contributor. Today Matt Donabie goes in search of Spock('s brain)...


Spock's Brain is one of the episodes that many fans of the series love to hate. Personally, I understand the negativity towards the episode but I still like it, it's an interesting concept but just not handled particularly well. It was broadcast as the opening episode of the series' third and final season, the one salvaged by an unprecedented letter writing campaign at the end of season two. Quite why it was scheduled as the opener is beyond me, because I can imagine that any non-fans tuning in to for the first time to see "what the fuss was all about" would likely have dismissed any further plans to follow the show. Which is a shame, it's almost as if Paramount/CBS/NBC wanted Star Trek to fail after the campaign, but that *cough cough* couldn't be true, could it?

The set up is simple enough - Kara (played by Marj Dusay), the leader of the Eymorgs on the planet Sigma Draconis VI, beams aboard the Enterprise, knocks the crew out, and steals Spocks brain. There's a wonderful moment soon after the titles as McCoy calls Kirk to sickbay to explain how Spock's brain has been surgically removed.
"His brain has gone!"
The delivery by DeForest Kelley makes this scene a classic. In fact, McCoy alone makes this whole episode worth watching again and again.


Spock is alive, on a biobed, but the search is on for his brain. After locating the alien's planet the crew beam down to investigate. The landing party discover primitive men on the surface who have no idea what women are; the do however talk of 'The Others' who 'bring pain and pleasure'. It turns out these 'Others' are women who live in an underground complex. They don't appear advanced enough to have taken Spock's brain yet it turns out his brain is indeed there; being used as the 'Controller'; regulating the operation of the complex. Kirk demands its return but the women aren't so keen on that idea.

The crew are imprisoned and rendered unconscious. When they awake it is to discover they have been fitted with silver belts which are used on all the men on Sigma Draconis VI. The women, who rule this society, use these 'pain belts' to keep the men in line. It's a perfect time, perhaps, for Kirk and co to consider bringing Uhura or another female crew member on away missions in the future!

After the team find and communicate with Spock they realise his brain has been taken by these aliens in order that it can run their society. For example, Spock senses he's breathing, but actually he's activating environmental controls. It seems that the women rulers aren't very technologically advanced themselves, and are only making use of technology left over from olden times. Of course the crew manage to escape and free Spock, McCoy reuniting the Vulcan's body and brain, and Sigma Draconis VI is returned to it's 'normal' course.


There are many interesting themes explored in Spock's Brain; showing disembodied consciousness, technology that can vastly speed up learning, and primitives who have access to said advanced technology (albeit from their own past). The 'pain-belts' are also an interesting concept, it's just somewhere in the execution from script to screen where this episode failed to become fully formed.

There are, admittedly, multiple plot holes and various unexplained (or not really satisfactorily explained) phenomena that often draw a lot of criticism. All the same, is Spock's Brain that drastically different in concept to the majority of other Star Trek: TOS episodes? It's an interesting 'what if?' premise executed within the confines of a 1960s science fiction television show. Possibly a bad choice to open a season with, but one that's still a fun watch, with DeForest Kelley, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and the rest of the crew performing their respective roles to perfection. Although, perhaps, their tongues are slightly further in cheek than usual.

Which is your favourite Star Trek episode (from any series)? If you'd like to share your love for a particular story, and would like to write about your favourite (either a paragraph or two, or a full blown 500-1500 word article) then please contact us at warpedfactor@live.com and put Trek@50 in the subject bar. We'd love to hear from you.

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