Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Original Series

"Dagger of the Mind"

***1/2

Air date: 11/3/1966
Written by S. Bar-David
Directed by Vincent McEveety

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Kirk, along with psychiatric expert Dr. Helen Noel (Marianna Hill), investigates the methods of Dr. Tristan Adams (James Gregory), a penal colony administrator who is using unique technology to control and terrorize his patients. The story's tech device is a "neural neutralizer," which allows Adams to cause great pain in patients who disobey him. No points for guessing that at one point in the story Kirk ends up as one of the "patients."

Acting gets the job done in an episode like this. When your neural neutralizer is no more than a little plastic dome on the ceiling with a rotating light in it, you need acting to sell the idea of it causing extreme pain, loss of will, and submission to an authority. Shatner is enjoyable to watch in such a situation, though the true praise deserves to go to Morgan Woodward as the tortured Dr. Van Gelder, who has been forced into deep madness by Adams' "therapy."

The Trek franchise's first mind meld confirms Spock's suspicions that Van Gelder is a victim rather than the problem. "Dagger" is one of those episodes that looks at the side of Trek that rarely manages to rear its head—that of analyzing violent tendencies and the potential madness and corruptibility of people. And by the end, the little plastic dome is actually a pretty terrifying object.

Previous episode: Miri
Next episode: The Corbomite Maneuver

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8 comments on this review

David Brilliance - Mon, Nov 1, 2010 - 5:39am (USA Central)
Watching `Dagger of the Mind', the thing that struck me most was how sick it was to have a woman (Helen Noel) in a very short skirt, black tights, blue panties clearly on view, walking around in a prison for the criminally-insane where a machine is being used to drive people mad, and mixed with scenes of a sweaty, raving madman (Van Gelder). Put a woman wearing a sexy costume into a grim scenario like this, and you end up with something that is kinky/sick, and done for Gene Roddenberry's titillation, as we now know he had a thing about women in short skirts. Im not complaining mind, this is just an observation.
Strider - Tue, Jul 17, 2012 - 8:25pm (USA Central)
I'm glad it wasn't just me...Dr. Noel's skirt was shorter than the usual ones, which are plenty short enough. I've worked in mental hospitals and prisons, and that would not be considered appropriate dress. The male prisoners are still men who get very little sexual contact--why walk around looking like a Starfleet centerfold?
Plain Simple - Thu, Jan 24, 2013 - 1:44am (USA Central)
I just watched the episode again, and by the end I couldn't help but wonder if they had somehow reset the changes made to Kirk's mind in the episode. Or is he still madly in love with Dr. Noel?
Alex - Mon, May 6, 2013 - 2:36am (USA Central)
Yeah, the neuralizer didn't seem to have that much of an effect on Kirk, given how (relatively) easily he managed to resist it's effects both while in the chair, and afterward.
redshirt28 - Sat, Apr 12, 2014 - 11:03pm (USA Central)
Wasnt van gelder the same dude that led the comms against the yangs? Guy plays a good nut.

But not good enough as this one never broke out of the middle of the pack. Just a double.
Markus - Sat, Jul 12, 2014 - 2:10pm (USA Central)
They met at the Christmas party. I guess it was the only mention of such a Christian holiday in the ST-universe ever. But why the hell did they have to name Dr. Noel that way? Made me think she was some illusion in the first place, something written into Kirk's mind.
stallion - Fri, Aug 29, 2014 - 10:54am (USA Central)
This was a great episode. I feel like this episode and what are little girls made of are James Bondish. Kirk goes on a mission with an attractive crewmember and must stop a scientist well in this case doctor. The only thing that was missing in the episode was Kirk having a bedroom scene with Dr. Noel at the end giving her a performance review.

A missed opportunity for this episode is not making this a Kirk and Uhura episode. It would had been a great way to flesh out here character. They could had easily added a line saying Uhura spent time working at one of these places. Of course the love plot would had to been deleted.
Beth - Wed, Nov 26, 2014 - 6:07am (USA Central)
I really enjoyed this episode, and I agree with the rating. The brainwashing/memory-inducing machine reflects the times, when treatment for the mentally ill commonly involved lobotomy and eletro-shock therapy [the latter of which is, yes, still used today, but not as much as it was then]. It also reflects the fact that such treatments, and the conditions of mental institutions, were beginning to be perceived as controversial and highly problematic.

The mental undoing and death of the sick-minded Dr. Adams was particularly poignant, as was Kirk's expressions at the end of the show. It showed that, while he was able to fight the effects somewhat, this "therapy" will stick with him for some time...

...Which makes it unlikely that Dr. Van Gelder would be so quickly reinstated as head of the appropriately-named Tantalus IV Penal Colony. I should think that Van Gelder would need a few weeks or months of real therapy to bring him back to a better state of mind. Or maybe that mind-meld worked wonders on him (which makes one wonder what the long-term effects might have been on Spock).

The only minus for this episode was Dr. Noel (who met Kirk at the Xmas party, har har), the ditzy doctor who is too thick and arrogant to clue into the things that Kirk is noticing about the inmates at Tantalus. At least she was pretty competent in getting the power turned off and kicking the other guy's arse into the high-voltage power unit. Damn, girl, that was smooth!

One small plus that makes up for Dr. Noel's blue panties being visible under her mini-mini skirt is Lethe's really nice poncho dress. I'd kind of like to have me one o' those.

Also, on another topic, I remember what handle I had before - it was Lal. But it's easier to just go by Beth now. :)

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