Star Trek: The Original Series

"The Lights of Zetar"


Air date: 1/31/1969
Written by Jeremy Tarcher and Shari Lewis
Directed by Herb Kenwith

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Lt. Mira Romaine (Jan Shutan), whom Scotty has fallen for, takes an important role when she is somehow connected with the bizarre non-corporeal entities called the Zetarians, who were responsible for deaths on a Federation outpost. Romaine suddenly begins having visions of the future, including one in which Scotty is dead.

While "Lights" is not an incredibly insulting episode, it is surprisingly devoid of substance. Really, there's not much that happens in the story. The lights appear, cause strange visions and take control of Romaine's body, and are destroyed when Kirk puts Romaine in a high-pressure chamber to expel them from her body.

Much of the episode consists of lackluster scenes where the crew attempts to determine the nature of the Zetarians and their hold over Romaine, and a few scenes analyzing Romaine herself as a crew member having trouble adjusting her attitudes to her new assignment. There's simply not much here worthy of mention for good or ill (though the inability for an understanding to be reached between humanity and the Zetarians is perhaps a telling sign of the decline of the series' idealism). Overall, a tolerable but fairly pointless episode.

Previous episode: That Which Survives
Next episode: Requiem for Methuselah

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12 comments on this review

Mon, Jan 7, 2013, 10:57pm (UTC -5)
Y'know what might've given this episode a smidgen of substance? If it had been the Uhura vehicle that fans were promised in 1967. I mean, who cares about a guest character??

For that matter, wouldn't it have been cool to see *Sulu* think his way out of the trap in "The Mark of Gideon"?
Wed, Sep 18, 2013, 8:55am (UTC -5)
Excellent insight, Grumpy. Perhaps the reason this series died was the unwillingness to develop any other characters besides the big four.
Wed, Apr 23, 2014, 2:27pm (UTC -5)
I was thinking the same thing. A lot of episodes would had be better if they rewritten a whole bunch of roles in season 3 for sulu, chekov, and uhura instead of having an unknown crewmember. That would had made season 3 better. Despite the behind the scene changes im surprise the writting staff didnt suggest instead of having an unknwown crewmember play this part why not make it someone the audience know and care about like sulu, chekov, or uhura.
Wed, Apr 23, 2014, 5:43pm (UTC -5)
According to Memory Alpha (named, of course, for this episode), Shari Lewis -- yes, the ventriloquist -- wrote the story so that she could play the lead. So there was never any contemplation of putting a regular cast member in the role.

Although Trek fanfic had been printed since 1967, this story is, in a way, the first to become canonical. Even has a classic Mary Sue!
Sat, May 3, 2014, 2:06pm (UTC -5)
The theme of non-corporeal beings invading the bodies of living people is a major Trekkian theme, so it's interesting to compare it to other episodes like this.

On a different note, I found it kind of annoying that they kept referring to Mira as "the girl". Seems unnecessarily patronizing, especially given that the actress who portrays her is closer to 30 than to a more obviously youthful age.
William B
Mon, Dec 8, 2014, 2:47pm (UTC -5)
A dead civilization "takes over" and finds new life on the Enterprise -- taking over a crewmember in the process. If this sounds familiar, it's because I'm not just describing "The Lights of Zetar," but also "Return to Tomorrow," and, frankly, "The Inner Light." The crew member also happens to be a librarian, which means that one could read the episode as a metaphor for, um, becoming lost in long-dead worlds through, uh, books; one could read "The Inner Light" the same way, given Picard's interest in archaeology. Still, the difference is that "Return to Tomorrow" is a decent episode and "The Inner Light" is a classic, and "The Lights of Zetar" has nothing to say. What does it mean for the Zetarians to be extinct? Who knows or cares.

About all I can say about the Scotty/Romaine romance is that it makes me glad there weren't any other Scotty romantic subplots. (I guess there's also that scene in Star Trek V where Uhura hits on him.). It is somehow dispiriting that the only official "Scotty-centric" TOS episodes are this and "Wolf in the Fold," which focuses on how he maybe murdered a woman (but don't worry, he didn't!). Scotty's version of love means speaking patronizingly, speaking for Mira, ignoring Mira's repeated concerns that there is something wrong with her and some degree of prescience even in the wake of her unexplained fainting and unexplained (even by the episode!) near-loss during transport. Scotty's affection is meant to be endearing, but wow is it ever not. It's stated as a joke by Chekov that Scotty didn't even notice that Mira *has* a brain, but joke or not that's more or less how he acts, that Mira is a dumb but pretty bag of sweetness who needs to be protected from the world and her own hysteria by Scotty. The episode *almost* moves into criticism of Scotty for this, when it's revealed that Kirk et al. heard about her premonitions and connection to the "storm" hours late because Scotty kept telling her not to come forward, but at the end Kirk, Spcok and McCoy basically all agree that Scotty gets lots of, or maybe all of, the credit for Mira's recovery because he's so supportive. This fits with, as Alex points out, the continued patronizing way they all refer to her as "girl."

It is a shame, because I like Scotty and wish that there were a good Scotty vehicle in the series; his support role as captain in a few episodes works pretty well and he gets to show some nice comic shading in eps like "The Trouble with Tribbles" and "By Any Other Name." Apparently James Doohan's favourite episode is "The Doomsday Machine," and Scotty's intense, excitable nature helps build up the tension there, too, and there are other episodes like "Mirror, Mirror" and "The Galileo Seven" which succeed very well and benefit from Doohan's support work. But "Wolf in the Fold" doesn't really reveal much about Scotty at all, and this episode just puts him in a terribly annoying light.

The episode is padded and substance-free. Ron Moore reportedly picked this as his worst episode of the series. I wouldn't quite go that far, but it is pretty hard to get through. 1 star, maybe? I could see going lower, but I'm not sure if it has that extra edge of awfulness.
William B
Mon, Dec 8, 2014, 2:56pm (UTC -5)
Oh, right -- I should say, I did like that Scotty was sure that Mira wouldn't hurt him, and that this faith turned out to be justified. This does somewhat help with Scotty's annoying, patronizing behaviour earlier in the episode, because his initial misplaced faith that there is nothing wrong with her becomes a better, more precise kind of "faith" that she is strong enough to not hurt him, even though she fears she would. That moment did help and was a good moment for the character.
Frances Yozawitz
Mon, Jun 22, 2015, 6:23pm (UTC -5)
I love Star Trek.& Lost in Space.
Sun, Nov 15, 2015, 3:28pm (UTC -5)
Bad story, plotholes the size of a planet.
writer was bad, why do they film a story without writing it properly.

What is that bogus about staying alive by sheer willpower, things don't work like that (unlike we are talking some form of ascention, but at least name it so)

*how did the zetar transfer themselfs from corporeal to energy.
(that story is NOT covered proberly, they had a plan, but the plan went wrong..)
And what plan might that be, what was the original intended outcome of the plan, and how did it going wrong make them in what they are now, sentient energy)
I write here some lines here
Option A : they planned to beam themself away with extreme-long-range beaming technology, but somehow never materialised on the spot. (that would leave them trapped somewhere between space and subspace)
Option B : they tried to ascend themself to pure energy (star gate style), but did not ascend as far as they wanted, leaving them in some halve-ascended shape. (like anubis in star gate)
Optiom C : they created some form of stasis-field/time-dialation-field, to preserve their concience, but recently it failed, resulting in their current form, and now they need body's to restore the field.

Why were they so keen to become fysical again..
-they seemed to live forever, have sentience, and were able to intereact to some degree with objects, why would they become mortal again...
some options
Option A : imortality is just overrated, ir can drive you mad, and they want to die and in their current state cannot.
Option B : they cannot truelly interact with things, only with minds/computers and only resulting in killing/destroying those, living forever as an observer only, and they rather want to be able to act again.

speaking of that, what is preventing them to do that on their own, theire made of sentient energy, can't they just re-materialise themselves (de-ascent?)

And than there is the problem of a whole group of people (10? 100? couple 100?? different numbers listed at different times..)
who have enough to one body to live out their lifes... why do they need to inhabit one body as a group...
makes no sence, they are so keen to live out their lifes, would they really want to share it?
And if they want to share it why would adding 1 more (the owner of said body) be such a problem?
That said where did that hive mind originiated from, if they are a group.. how did it came to be..

just a few thoughts.... if you write something, write it properly.
Lt. Yarko
Fri, Dec 4, 2015, 2:27am (UTC -5)
Oh my dog. The pressure. More pressure. Come on. More. Pressure. Do it. Apply more pressure. Now. More. Yes. More Pressure.

What a godawfully strange and out-of-nowhere solution. Yikes.
Sun, Sep 25, 2016, 12:39am (UTC -5)
Not a terribly horrible episode, but not a terribly good one either.

I will say that, although Scotty babying Mira was a bit much, it was nice to see him seemingly liking her for who she was as a person, as the whole package, without any of the leering that happens in a typical Kirk romance subplot. He was sweet. Too sweet. I think I need insulin. Although if he kept that up it would easily become stifling.
Wed, Dec 14, 2016, 3:46pm (UTC -5)
I still find this episode much better than most Enterprise episodes that are plain dull.

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