Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Original Series

"The Tholian Web"


Air date: 11/15/1968
Written by Judy Burns and Chet Richards
Directed by Herb Wallerstein

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

An Enterprise away party beams over to the USS Defiant, found dead in space, to assess why its crew had gone mad and apparently mutinied itself to death. When the Defiant begins dissolving and enters an "interphase realm," the party hastily returns to the Enterprise, except Kirk, who is left stranded on the Defiant when a lack of power causes his transport to be delayed.

Spock plans to retrieve the captain when the Defiant returns to normal space from its interphase cycle, provided Kirk's atmosphere suit can keep him alive long enough. The situation grows more complicated when the Tholians intervene, ordering Spock to leave the area, which they claim as their own. Whether it's Spock's interphasic theories, the Tholians' energy webs, or McCoy's medical research to cure the insanity that has spread from the Defiant to the Enterprise, "The Tholian Web" provides a good example of Trekkian tech plots being juggled in relatively interesting fashion. And although the "interphase" plotting rules are conjured at will, they're somehow still believable on the story's terms.

What gives this episode its lasting power, however, is the way Spock and McCoy work with and challenge each other—as McCoy questions Spock's dangerous plan to retrieve the captain at the expense of the ship's safety. Eventually, it is Kirk's final recorded message that reveals the way Spock and Bones require each other for guidance, nicely highlighting the cemented relationships within the Big Three.

Previous episode: For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky
Next episode: Plato's Stepchildren

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6 comments on this review

Paul - Thu, Dec 27, 2012 - 11:39am (USA Central)
This isn't a great episode -- the space madness stuff is tired by season 3 and the scenes on the Defiant are clunky. Also, I never understood how the Enterprise was "thrown clear" of the web.

But the McCoy/Spock stuff is great and the scene where McCoy gives "a medical order" is one of the best in the series. TOS was clearly showing it's age by this point, but in spots, it still had its moments.
emma - Thu, Sep 19, 2013 - 6:53am (USA Central)
nice web ,and movie reviews ,thanks.

Jo Jo Meastro - Mon, Mar 24, 2014 - 7:49am (USA Central)
I'll start with what I liked. The director did a great job in creating an atmosphere and I love the use of first person perspective and unusual camera angles. It was nice to see Uhura get a chance to sign which was all too rare on TOS. There were some imaginative and fun sci-fi which makes a nice addition to the TOS cannon. The Bones / Spock conflict was a mixed bag for me but at least the pay-off was very good.

As mentioned, the conflict needed to reach that pay-off was a mixed bag. This was down to Bones being completely unprofessional and undermining Spock with little reason. I agreed with Spock every time he essentially told him to shut up and get on with his work. I also found the outbursts of space madness unintentionally hilarious!

All in all though, it was highly enjoyable and a good insight into the crew dealing with a crisis without their captain. A solid 2.5 star outing imho.
Jo Jo Meastro - Mon, Mar 24, 2014 - 7:51am (USA Central)
nice to see Uhura get a chance to shine*
Alex - Wed, Mar 26, 2014 - 3:47pm (USA Central)
I thought it was a pretty dramatic reversal for McCoy, in that he was haranguing Spock for the decision to stay and try to rescue Kirk, whereas usually his problem is that Spock isn't doing enough in similar scenarios. It's as if he's bent on taking a contrarian to Spock's as often as he can.
dgalvan - Wed, Jun 4, 2014 - 4:36pm (USA Central)
I was looking forward to this episode because I had heard good things about it, and because it had a tie-in with an episode of Enterprise (the series I watched before TOS) that takes place in the mirror universe.

I found Tholian Web to be just too much complexity and plot without enough clarity on any one aspect of the story. How the Defiant disappeared into another universe was completely esoteric and not well explained. Why Kirk didn't quite disappear with it was a bit better (he was "caught in the transporter beam at the time"), but still wanted for more effort of explanation. For example, why did he keep halfway appearing at odd places of the ship? The Tholians were ok as meddlesome side-antagonists, but the "space madness" sickness was just the straw that broke the camels back. Too many things going on at once made the episode feel like it was trying to do too much, and nothing ended up feeling whole.

Yeah, the Spock/McCoy interaction was good, I'll give it that. Just would have preferred a less hairy plot to support that interaction. Weirdly, I feel like this same plot would have come across better if it were stretched into a 2 hour movie. Hey, could be good for the third new Star Trek movie, as there hasn't been much McCoy/Spock interaction in those as of yet.

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