Star Trek: The Animated Series

“One of Our Planets Is Missing”

3 stars.

Air date: 9/22/1973
Written by Marc Daniels
Directed by Hal Sutherland

Review Text

A mysterious cloud comes sweeping through a star system, destroying the planets in its path. It's on a collision course with the Federation colony of Mantilleswith, a planet with a population of 80 million, which will be destroyed if the Enterprise crew can't figure out how to stop the cloud or change its course.

While trying to investigate the cloud's mysterious properties, the Enterprise is pulled inside of it, and Spock discovers that it's a massive and complex organism that is traveling through star systems and consuming planets as food. The Enterprise ventures through what is theorized as the organism's digestive tract, and must avoid the digestive system's villa that absorb nutrients, since contact with the villa and its anti-matter properties will cause the ship to explode. Further investigation reveals the being has a brain, which could possibly be destroyed if the ship can navigate to it.

I'm impressed by this episode's willingness not to patronize the ostensible audience of children by talking down to them. There's an almost stunning amount of sci-fi technobabble in this episode (including much talk of antimatter), and aside from spelling out the threat of possible explosion, the script is content to let it exist on a Trekkian plane rather than a children's one.

The massive organism bears some conceptual resemblance to the giant amoeba in "The Immunity Syndrome," but rather than trying to destroy it, the crew makes an effort to try to communicate with what may be an intelligent lifeform, even with the long odds, high stakes, and ticking clock. Spock is able to mind-meld with it to convince it to change course rather than wiping out the millions of intelligent lives it's not even aware of. I like the Trekkian spirit of communication over attack, even if Spock's mind-meld here more closely resembles the Force.

Thematically, this covers a lot of the same territory as Discovery's fourth-season DMA/10-C arc, except it's told in 22 minutes rather than 13 episodes. Granted, it's done with this series' completely bare-boned and non-cinematic approach, but there's some respectable efficiency in that.

Previous episode: Yesteryear
Next episode: The Lorelei Signal

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8 comments on this post

    A very Trekkian episode on connecting with a totally alien life form, not killing it but instead communicating with it and averting disaster. There are a lot of farfetched operations that arbitrarily work, but nothing too unusual for TOS Trek. Very much like "The Immunity Syndrome" except that they believe the entity may be intelligent and worth an attempt at communication. There is also a strong sci-fi component of being inside a living entity as a foreign object and trying to stay alive.

    Kirk shows that even though he was set on trying to kill the object and sacrifice his own ship, he can try every option, although the episode gives the impression that he cut it pretty close with losing the opportunity to self-destruct at the right moment.

    We have to assume the cloud can recognize when planets have life forms on them and to not consume them. This is decent procedural problem-solving sci-fi with all key characters contributing something including the alien who replaces Chekov, Lt. Arex.

    2.5*

    Yes, a decent science fiction episode. It was interesting in a weird way to see the Enterprise stuck inside what looked so much like an intestine. I did start to zone out in the waves of technobabble with the matter/antimatter /engineering issues, but that's just Trek being Trek. The crew working together to problem-solve reminded me of PIC season 3, episode 4 , No Win Scenario--where everyone works together to save the Titan from drifting down the gravity well. Of course, in TAS they are trying to save the planet as well as themselves, and I kept mentally looking for scenes that weren't there: Probably due to time constraints of the 24 minutes, they could not fit in the heart-rending planetary evacuation stuff that would have added dimension and texture. Spock communicating with the cloud reminded me of him mind-melding with the Horta in the TOS episode Devil in the Dark.

    I share JammerMs appreciation of this episode’s humanity and sophistication. It exemplifies the strength of TAS in treating its family audience with intelligence. There’s none of the stupidity that sometimes holds back Lower Decks. And while Prodigy exists on a similar plane of sophistication to TAS, TAS accomplishes the rare feat of telling a kiddie-accessible story through adult characters rather than through the kids of Prodigy, which takes a while to give us a more adult frame.

    That said, I think 3 stars is fair for this one. It’s good but not super memorable except for the hands-out mind meld scene and thoughtful resolution. The latter recalls the best of season one TOS, before Star Trek began a decades long slide into more conventional “us vs. aliens” storytelling. (Perfected, ironically, during the TNG era of giving hostile aliens ever more-grotesque makeup prosthetics.)

    Whatever. Just like the first episode, It has an interesting villain, but again you need more than that. This one is a better story in a plot and slightly more interesting.

    Nothing original, but I like this episode more than "Yesteryear". Classic, almost hard, SF with interesting, non-humanoid alien (and, regrettably, with telepathy... i mean... mind meld too). Somehow resambles TMP, Hoyle's "The Black Hole" and Silverberg's "The Man in the Maze" ending, simultaneously.

    @Q How is this episode not original? The lifeform alone is very original, isn't it??

    @Leif

    Do you know mentioned Hoyle's novel? ;) But, ok, for Star Trek standards (and I write that as almost fanatical Treker) it is original, far from humanoid-of-the-week trope.

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