WARNING: This episode contains rapidly flashing lights, colors and disorienting imagery that may trigger epileptic seizures in photosensitive persons. Reduce the risk by viewing in a well lit room.
OK, boring warnings out of the way, onto the plot! The Enterprise is hosting a visit from the Medusan ambassador Kollos and his companion Dr. Jones. Spock is given the duty of beaming aboard the ambassador as only his Vulcan sensibilities combined with a special visor can prevent him from going mad at the sight of a Medusan. Dr. Miranda Jones, however, is quite easy on the eyes. You can tell how captivating her beauty is in that Spock slightly raises a brow on his otherwise impassive face.
A formal dinner is held. Unfortunately, due to the fact that he is an Energy Being and one whose sight causes madness in humans, Kollos cannot attend. However, Dr. Jones does attend, as does Dr. Larry Marvick, an engineering genius who has been working with Kollos and Dr. Jones on a project to combine Medusan navigation know-how with Federation starship technology. It's revealed that Dr. Jones is a born telepath—rare among humans. She has lived on Vulcan to better learn control of her abilities. She excuses herself, saying that someone on the ship is contemplating murder. Marvick also excuses himself, and follows her back to her quarters. Marvick desires Dr. Jones, and has repeatedly refused to accept that she's not interested in him, and certainly not willing to entertain his demand that she give up her career among the Medusans so they can be together. She tells him to get lost, and very kindly doesn't have him arrested for harrassment.
Marvick decides the only sensible thing to do is put Dr. Jones out of a job by murdering Kollos. Yeah, just sneak up and pull a phaser on that mini-Eldritch Abomination. Great idea. Next thing we know, Marvick has strangled a Red Shirt (Scotty. He gets better), KO'ed several others, taken control of the ship and driven into an alternate universe filled with nothing but purple clouds as far as the eye can see. And then he's inconsiderate enough to die before steering them out! But wait, Kollos is a navigational expert! All he needs is a physical body. Dr. Jones volunteers, but there's just one problem. She's blind and the VISOR hasn't been invented yet!
Looks like it's up to you, Spock!
Tropes from this episode include:
- Ace Pilot: Kollos is an incredibly good pilot, capable of driving a starship through a Negative Space Wedgie with an unmatched precision.
- Blind Seer: Dr. Jones is a blind telepath.
- Brown Note: Viewing a Medusan unprotected will drive most people irreversibly insane.
- Color Motif: The color green is used often in this episode where envy is a theme.
- Death by Despair: Apparently, this is the cause of Marvick's death. In his madness, he sees Miranda as some murderous being, and he can't reconcile it with his love for her. So, he just dies.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Dr. Jones is very frosty, warming up at the very end.
- Disability Immunity: Since Dr. Jones is blind, she can't be driven insane by Kollos' appearance.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Dr. Miranda Jones considers pity to be the worst of all the human emotions, partially because of her blindness and partially because of her attachment to Medusan ambassador Kollos, whose people are said to be so hideous, they drive any humanoid who sees them to madness.
- Eldritch Abomination: A rare case of a jovial and friendly one. Just don't look at it.
- Gem-Encrusted: Dr. Jones wears a gem studded net shawl over her dress. It is revealed to be a high tech sensor web that helps her detect objects' distance and movement.
- Goggles Do Something Unusual: The red goggles prevent people from going mad while looking at a Medusan, provided they also have extensive mental training.
- Go Mad from the Revelation: What happens when someone looks directly at a Medusan.
- Green-Eyed Monster:
- Marvick is envious of Jones's attachment to Kollos. (It can't be called jealousy as he never had her love to start with.)
- Dr. Jones is envious of Spock's superior mental abilities.
- Idiot Ball:
- Marvick must be carrying one to think assassinating a mini-Eldritch Abomination is a good idea.
- Scotty can be forgiven for endangering the ship since, after all, Marvick was one of the designers of the Enterprise engines and it wasn't like he was wearing a sign that said "Hello, I'm crazy today".
- The ball must've been picked up by Kollos who just forgot that his host needed those red goggles to look at himself without making his host lose his mind. Spock seems to have caught it too. Kirk suspects that Dr. Jones used her telepathy to make him forget. She denies it, but her jealousy makes it a very real possibility nonetheless.
- Informed Attractiveness: The men are constantly falling all over themselves to tell Dr. Jones how beautiful she is.
- Well, DIANA MULDAUR.
- Informed Deformity: Everyone refers to Medusans as so ugly it drives people insane, but as Jones points out, it might as well be insanity-inducing beauty.
- Left Your Lifesaver Behind: Spock forgets the visor which would protect him from Kollos' appearance when he goes to undo the mind link. It's hinted that Dr. Jones may have been the cause behind this, but isn't confirmed.
- Literary Allusion Title: Straight from a George Herbert poem, Jordan.
- Love Makes You Crazy: Marvick wasn't exactly playing with a full deck even before he was exposed to Kollos' true form.
- Meaningful Name:
- "Medusan" obviously is inspired by Medusa of Greek Mythology. Kollos hints this is only what others call his race, not what they call themselves. (According to Shane Johnson's The Worlds of the Federation, which is semi-canonical, their planet is called Visalayan and it's something like Venus.)
- Dr. Jones' first name is Miranda, meaning "Fair to look upon". She certainly is attractive. Kirk calls her "The loveliest human to grace a star ship." Kollos realizes her connection with the character from The Tempest when he says "O brave new world that hath such people in it."
- Mental Fusion: Spock Mind Melds with a Medusan to save the Enterprise.
- Negative Space Wedgie: When Marvick goes crazy and takes over the ship, he ends up flying them through one and stranding them beyond the known galaxy. Spock has to merge with Kollos to fly back through it, lest the ship be forever stranded outside the galaxy.
- P.O.V. Cam: We can tell Spock's crazy when his POV is shot from a Fish-Eye Lens.
- Product Placement: In real life, the Vulcan IDIC was created as a way for Gene Roddenberry to sell merchandise. After protest from the actors, its presence was trimmed down considerably.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Kirk is near-heartbroken at the prospect of losing Spock and channels that into pure rage as he tells Dr. Jones what he thinks of what he perceives as half-hearted attempts to revive Spock.
- Right for the Wrong Reasons: The Enterprise crew argues that Dr. Jones, even if she telepathically links with navigational expert Kollos, cannot help pilot the ship back because she's blind, so Spock is chosen instead. The assertion that her blindness is an issue seems ridiculous since her sensor net allows her just as much ability as anyone with natural sight. However, the completely correct assertion that she's not qualified to be at at helm while Spock most certainly is never seems to occur to anyone.
- However, it's only said that the sensor web allows Miranda to judge distances and recognize objects in general. Nothing is said about it allowing her to read the gauges on the control panels or watch the viewscreen. Without that ability, piloting a starship under those conditions would be at best unadvisable, and at worst impossible.
- Secret Keeper: Played with. When the episode begins, Dr. McCoy feels something is off about Dr. Jones, but can't quite figure it out. Eventually he deduces her blindness, but then keeps it to himself out of respect for her clear wish to be seen as capable and normal. In the end however he is forced to reveal it to justify Spock melding with Kollos.
- Ship Tease: While mentally merged with Kollos, Spock quotes love poetry to Uhura.
- Shout-Out: Kollos-Spock quotes Byron ("She walks in beauty like the night") and Shakespeare ("O brave new world, that has such people in it!")
- Sufficiently Advanced Alien: The Medusans.
- Take Our Word for It: The sight of a Medusan is so hideous it drives one of the Enterprise's chief designers completely insane. The flashing lights might not drive a viewer insane, but it just might trigger epileptic seizures. They're also supposed to have the most sublime thoughts in the galaxy, another reason they need a telepathic counterpart who can interpret.
- Wham Line: In-Universe. When Miranda states she'd be better at melding with Kollos than Spock, McCoy objects, saying that while she can do many things, piloting a starship isn't one of them because it requires sight. Kirk and Spock are visibly taken aback at this.
- When He Smiles: This is one of few episodes where Spock is seen smiling. It does wonders for his looks.
- Yandere: Marvick demands Dr. Jones loves him and goes to kill Kollos when she won't. Dr. Jones is accused of hovering on the edge of being one. It isn't proven either way.