Star Trek: The Original Series


3 stars

Air date: 4/13/1967
Written by Steven W. Carabatsos
Directed by Herschel Daugherty

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Alien life seizes control of a Federation colony and its inhabitants, leaving the Enterprise as the last defense from a species of parasitic invaders that induces anguish, madness, and even death in its victims. Among the victims: Kirk's own brother, sister-in-law, and nephew. While investigating on the planet, Spock is attacked by one of the creatures, leaving him in agonizing pain—which he is barely able to control with his Vulcan mental disciplines.

The most appealing aspect of "Operation—Annihilate!" is Spock's struggle of mind over matter—nicely conveyed through Nimoy's balance of wincing, writhing, and snapping back into control. Still, the way TOS plays with the galactic doublespeak can be corny, especially when Kirk and Spock talk about the lifeform coming from another galaxy where "our physical laws wouldn't apply." Come again? Just what galaxy are we talking about? Never mind.

As a body-snatching alien plot, the show is certainly entertaining, if not exactly inspired. I question, however, the wisdom of having an officer say, in regard to one of the fake-looking plastic creatures, "Captain, it doesn't even look real!" Perhaps not, but you never show your cards.

Previous episode: The City on the Edge of Forever
Next episode: Amok Time

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57 comments on this post

Thu, Apr 14, 2011, 1:29pm (UTC -6)
One question. What happens to Kirk's nephew in "Operation: Annihilate"? Both his parents (Kirk's brother and sister-in-law) are dead. Assuming the kid survived -- which we aren't told -- shouldn't Kirk feel obligated to care for him? Oh well. It Takes A Village, I guess.
Wed, Aug 10, 2011, 10:54pm (UTC -6)
I'm with Stubb, I'm dying to know what happened to Kirk's nephew in "Operation: Annihilate!". The last we hear about him in the episode is that he still has an alien living in him, is heavily sedated, and would be in tremendous pain if he woke up. Seems like a pretty significant loose end to me...
Wed, Apr 25, 2012, 12:51pm (UTC -6)
Although it is by no means canon, Kirk's nephew is given a large part in the episodes from James Cawley's PHASE II episodes.
Fri, Jun 1, 2012, 1:29am (UTC -6)
I agree with your comment about watching Spock overcome his pain minute by minute. That was great to watch. I did wonder about Peter, too. I also wondered why the heck McCoy and Spock himself, the ship's Science Officer, didn't know enough about scientific method to wait (what, 10 seconds?) for the results of the first experiment before setting the parameters of the second?
Sun, Aug 25, 2013, 6:22pm (UTC -6)
The "Captain, it doesn't even look real!" line has got to be one of the greatest laugh-out-loud moments of the entire franchise.
William B
Tue, Mar 18, 2014, 2:25pm (UTC -6)
Well, I didn't write that much on TOS season one, but since I finished it as I did for the TNG seasons I'll include my ratings of episode, where they disagree with Jammer's, with the difference between mine and Jammer's in parentheses.

Charlie X: 3 (-0.5)
The Naked Time: 3.5 (+0.5)
What Are Little Girls Made Of: 2.5 (-0.5)
Dagger of the Mind: 3 (-0.5)
The Corbomite Maneuver: 3.5 (+0.5)
The Menagerie: 3.5 (+0.5)
The Conscience of the King: 3 (+0.5)
Balance of Terror: 3.5 (+1)
Arena: 2.5 (+1)
Tomorrow is Yesterday: 3.5 (-0.5)
The Return of the Archons: 2 (-0.5)
Space Seed: 4 (+0.5)
A Taste of Armageddon: 2.5 (-0.5)
This Side of Paradise: 3 (+0.5)
Errand of Mercy: 3.5 (+0.5)
The Alternative Factor: 1 (-1)

This is a really good season.
Tue, Mar 18, 2014, 3:29pm (UTC -6)
Season one was a very good season. They came up with great concepts, alien, and characters. McCoy was obviously the break out character. Sulu and Scotty had some good moments. I actually liked Rand. It's a shame her character left. Uhura did had some good moments in season one, but also got the short stick. I feel like a few roles that went to guest stars could had gone to her character. To be fair season two did do a better job of giving the supporting characters more to do.

Top five episodes of season 1

Where No Man Has Gone Before - A good Kirk and Spock episode and they killed it with the pilot.
The Corbomite Manuever - A good crew under pressure episode.
Errand of Mercy - A good introduction for the Kligons and Kor was a great villian.
The City On the Edge of Forever - Classic nuff said.
Operation --Annihilate - A great way to end a great season.
Thu, Apr 3, 2014, 10:28pm (UTC -6)
Recently watched this, last known condition of peter he was in sick bay stabilized. If he had died im sure we would have found out when kirk did, since they found way to kill parasites its safe to assume he survived. As for kirk caring for his nephew, ncc1701c wont be around for some while.

to me this ep was a bit slow, just ok. 2 stars
Tue, Nov 18, 2014, 11:14am (UTC -6)
A strong season, but I got a little bit ahead of myself with my top five list.

Top five Season.

The Corbomite Manuever.
The City On The Edge of Forever.
Balance of Terror.
The Enemy within
Tomorrow is Yesterday.
Honorable mention goes out to The Naked Time and Shore Leave.
Sun, May 29, 2016, 12:09pm (UTC -6)

"One question. What happens to Kirk's nephew in 'Operation: Annihilate'? Both his parents (Kirk's brother and sister-in-law) are dead. Assuming the kid survived -- which we aren't told -- shouldn't Kirk feel obligated to care for him? Oh well. It Takes A Village, I guess."

In at least one of the (non-canon, of course) novels, it is stated that Peter was sent to Earth to live with and be raised by his paternal grandmother, Winona.
Sat, Sep 10, 2016, 4:43pm (UTC -6)
In a scene that was shot but not included, Peter is seen on the bridge in an adorable miniature Captain's uniform sitting in the command chair talking to his Uncle Jim. So he definitely survives. If you search the internet you can find still photos from it but I don't believe the footage exists to be seen.
Wed, Dec 21, 2016, 5:38am (UTC -6)
2 stars. I was pretty much bored by this one. It just wasn't very involving
Fri, Feb 17, 2017, 3:16pm (UTC -6)
Really enjoyed this episode -- the creatures flying around and attacking people's backs gave me a good fright after seeing the episode for the 1st time as a kid in the late 70s/early 80s or whenever it was.
It's an interesting story with Spock's acting the strong point - does a great job mimicking what it's like to be fighting through pain while still trying to help the cause. His logic wins out in this episode.
What is puzzling is how it took them so long to figure out that a certain type of light from the sun kills the creature -- from that standpoint the episode dragged a touch, but it was still engaging. Not a huge fan of Shatner's forceful style of acting in storming out of rooms, being very curt with Bones/Spock to figure out the solution. Given that his extended family was killed I think a more vulnerable Kirk would have been better.
Also, the part about Spock being temporarily blinded -- couldn't they have waited for the lab test results? Getting bailed out because of Spock's extra eye-lid is a let-off.
Nevertheless, a solid episode to conclude Season 1 of Trek TOS. I give it 3/4 stars.
Fri, Feb 17, 2017, 7:49pm (UTC -6)
Meh--ok, I guess, but paced very slowly. Definitely needed some resolution for Peter Kirk, if only a throwaway line from someone to the effect that he was sitting up in sickbay eating ice cream, and his grandmother would be waiting for him at Starbase 10 or whatever. A quick google search showed the still shots of him in the Starlet uniform on the bridge with Jim Kirk. Too bad they didn't leave that in.
Fri, Feb 17, 2017, 7:50pm (UTC -6)
Starfleet uniform, of course. Hate autocorrect.
Fri, Apr 7, 2017, 6:42am (UTC -6)
My 2 cents, when Peter's mother died, why didn't Bones try and resuscitate her? They just stood there. At least try and do CPR, right?
Mon, May 8, 2017, 12:12am (UTC -6)
This is one of those episodes I remember seeing as a kid and capturing my imagination. Lame looking aliens or not I give it a 9 out of 10 based on nostalgia alone. Even without the nostalgia it's still pretty good.
Steve McCullagh
Sat, May 20, 2017, 2:44pm (UTC -6)
I can't believe no one has mentioned the final scene; the whole "Vulcan eyes/Vulcan ears" bit is one of my favourite lines in the history of Trek.
Plot Mechanic
Fri, Aug 4, 2017, 12:02am (UTC -6)
Going through the series for the first time ever. This has a great performance by Nimoy. And for some strange reason, we get hammy bad cliche Shatner. I've found his grounded performance really impressive for most of this season, not at all the caricature that is so often parodied (except when he's pushed by melodramatic material in the episode). As others noted, he was the first to find his character. He was Jim Kirk from day one (unlike Nimoy, who took forever to create one of the best characters in the history of television). But here, most of the line readings have that weird cadence and odd gestures. I wonder if he was susceptible to whomever was directing the episode?
Sat, Oct 7, 2017, 8:05am (UTC -6)
Really? 14 science labs couldn't figure out that the sun emits bright light? And then blinded Spock.. Talk about incompetence.
Trek fan
Sat, Oct 14, 2017, 10:20pm (UTC -6)
I found this one cool and freaky as a kid, but now there doesn't seem to be as much to it. It's a good pulpy way to close out Season 1 with a little "Body Snatchers" vibe, a concept that TNG will repeat (as it does with so many things TOS) in its late first season ep "Conspiracy." But there's not much to think about. It's a fairly memorable outing for TOS, which never does another show like this one, bbbut I think Jammer's 3-star rating feels about right.

I do like the location shooting, possessed townspeople shouting warnings as they prepare to attack, the creature design, and Spock showcase struggle to regain intellectual and emotional control -- a welcome and common theme in Season 1 where Spock, except in "Paradise," generally proves victorious. I also appreciate the chance to learn a little bit about Kirk's family, even though they're out of it in the episode, as it makes a good lead-in to the Spock family episodes coming up next season in the opener "Amok Time" and "Journey to Babel." So there's a lot of good and fun stuff here, including the Vulcan second eyelid bit.
Sun, Nov 26, 2017, 3:47pm (UTC -6)
It's surprising TOS never did another episode like this. Henceforth, battles with bugs and monsters are staged as elaborate bluffs, and we end up sympathising with the beasts. This episode, however, plays the genre straight. It's a US vs THEM narrative.

Anyway, this is the end of Season 1 of TOS. I'm a young viewer and regard is as the best, most consistent season of Trek; lots of original, unique premises, lots of exploring, lots of first contacts, lots of humor, lots of world building, great crew camraderie, cool retro sets, and a very alien, surreal feel. As a huge SF fan, TOS feels like good 1950s pulp SF with a 1960s progressive edge. I feel Jammer rated virtually all the episodes too low; I bet seeing the new remastered copies will change his mind on most of them.

My favourite episodes of the season? Conscience of the King, Balance of Terror, Court Martial, Miri and City at the Edge of Forever. I feel this season only has 2 bad episodes: Squire of Gothos and The Alternative Factor.
Fri, Feb 16, 2018, 7:13pm (UTC -6)
The mystery of of what happened to Peter Kirk.

A tag scene was removed for time from the final cut where we would have seen Peter on the bridge sitting in the captain's chair in his miniature Starfleet uniform. Kirk would enter and they'd exposit on how Peter would be returning to Deneva to live with his father's research partner and his family.

If you believe that James Cawley's Phase II is canon, Peter SORASed into an Academy graduate who was assigned to the Enterprise late in the five-year mission as a redshirt...oops! I mean security officer.
Joe Menta
Sun, Jun 24, 2018, 8:09am (UTC -6)
There should have been a line at the end where Kirk says something like, “Now it’s time to visit all those other infected planets and see what we can do there, now that we have the antidote.” Would have been a nice bit of closure.
Wed, Sep 12, 2018, 7:24pm (UTC -6)
This was an excellent episode, more like true science-ficton than many of the episodes in later seasons and shows. I especially liked the ending dialogue among Kirk, Bones and Spock! I give a 3 1/2 star rating.
Wed, Feb 13, 2019, 8:38pm (UTC -6)
Amazing that two red shirts beam down to a hostile environment, spend substantial amount of time in dangerous condition, and neither dies! A rare occurrence.
Good review by Jammer, not a bad episode, even over three decades after the last watch.
Mon, Apr 8, 2019, 7:42pm (UTC -6)
Standard TOS fare.

I liked the character development for Kirk, though there was an awkwardness to both the the dialogue and the performances as Kirk suddenly looses a brother and a sister-in-law and has an orphaned nephew.

The creatures and the technobabble were also contrived and awkward.

Just not smooth flowing.

Nimoy does a good job with a challenging story for his character.
Sarjenka's Brother
Thu, May 16, 2019, 1:10pm (UTC -6)
A good episode. Better than I remember (this is one of the few that only saw once way, way back in the day).

The yeoman du jour was kind of intriguing.

Kirk got over the loss of his brother and sister-in-law a little too quickly. Such was episodic TV in those days.
Thu, Jul 25, 2019, 8:21am (UTC -6)
This episode had its strong points, but I agree with Lizzzi that it was paced slower than many of the other S1 episodes. It *should* have been more exciting than some other episodes, but most of the others in this season never seemed to drag.

- As said before, seeing the California filming locations was very nice.

- I’m surprised the inner eyelid and Spock’s blindness is not more criticized as a cheap way to add drama. I haven’t seen Amok Time in a while but remember that the big twist at the end was done better.
Mon, Sep 30, 2019, 5:52pm (UTC -6)
Although the review is from 2011, I have to agree on a point Stallion made regarding Uhura.

There were a whole slew of guest starring minor roles and red shirts (that ultimately didn't perish) lines of dialogue that could have been given to Uhura. She's such an iconic character that never really did get her just due.
Mon, Oct 7, 2019, 10:13pm (UTC -6)
I see an interesting connection here between the alien parasites and the Borg. Spock's description of the "brain cell" that attacks his back is that it's part of a much larger unit, much like a Borg drone is. They don't have to be in physical contact in order to receive orders from some kind of collective mind -- and that's where they draw their resilience/strength from. They essentially assimilate their hosts but they keep control over them using pain and will kill them if they don't cooperate, which is a bit of a difference.

Of course, the alien parasites don't seem to have some kind of affinity for technology and it's not clear what their ultimate goal is. They seem to want to move from star system to star system, rendering inhabitants insane.

I see it less as a body-snatcher show actually. It's more like an infection. Other Trek episodes bring out the body-snatcher theme better like "Return to Tomorrow" etc.
Sleeper Agent
Mon, Dec 16, 2019, 5:44am (UTC -6)
A spectacular episode to end a fantastic first season.

The story is intriguing, and the way it unfolds with Kirk, Spock and Bones at peak level, leaves almost nothing left to wish for.

I liked that Scotty also had a albeit short, but still memorable scene. Have to agree with some of the comments though that Uhura was way too underused, not only in this episode but in the whole season. She's such a likable character (shame on Kirk for questioning her in the beginning!)

"The yeoman du jour was kind of intriguing." I agree with this as well.

It was very entertaining to see the aliens in action, like flying pancakes XD

4/4, one of the best season 1, and way better than the previous episode.
Mon, Apr 13, 2020, 10:15am (UTC -6)
Ellison was a whiny little bitch. The ending was perfect. Kirk always chose duty over love. And besides, it’s Roddenberry’s character.
Fri, Jul 10, 2020, 7:01am (UTC -6)
Best moment:

McCoy: We should run some more tests
Kirk: There's no time. Put Spock in there now!
McCoy: But ...
Kirk: Now Bones. Now!!!!!

-- later ---
Spock: I'm blind
Chapel: Here's the results of the test you order Dr. McCoy
McCoy: Oh dear. I didn't have to expose him to all wavelengths of light. He didn't have to be made blind.
Kirk: Bones! You f'd up!!
Tue, Nov 24, 2020, 5:23am (UTC -6)
Well gentlemen, it has been an absolute pleasure watching season 1 with you. It is pretty incredible that we are still watching this show 55 years after it first aired.

And an amazing thing about the 21st century, is that we can virtually walk around the location where "Operation—Annihilate!" was filmed.

How cool is that!
Wed, Dec 9, 2020, 10:01pm (UTC -6)
The show looks great in the location shooting. It does make their brightly colored uniforms look a bit more fake than the usual soundstage shooting.

The colonists running at the landing party while yelling we don’t want to hurt you was clever.

Great episode, though you’d think they would have given Spock an eye mask.
Jason R.
Thu, Jan 21, 2021, 4:20pm (UTC -6)
So McCoy tried every form of "radiation" but not "light"? Ummmmm. And then we find out only "ultraviolet" light works. Wow McCoy isn't very bright, pardon my pun.
Tue, Mar 30, 2021, 2:49am (UTC -6)
One of the silliest episodes. The Warts from Planet Acne are surely the worst aliens until the murderous oil puddle that did for Tasha Yar in TNG? There was some blindingly obvious dialogue in addition to what has already been mentioned.

Away team member rolls over body revealed to be Shatner with a moustache:
“Is this your brother, Captain?”

McCoy, Kirk, and Spock in a huddle:
“What qualities does the sun have? We’ve mentioned heat and radiation, but what else?”
Concentrated thinking...
“Wait. - It’s BRIGHT!l

Perhaps I’m being picky but near the beginning there was also the moment where Kirk says “Follow me, fan out “, so of course they all follow in a straight line. Sigh.

The episode was slightly redeemed by Spock’s fight against his pain, but his “inner eyelid” was a complete cop-out.

Sorry, but this was a weak way to end the season, especially after ‘City.....’. 1.5 stars.
Mon, Jun 14, 2021, 7:26pm (UTC -6)
I just want to agree with Nic's comment all the way back in 2013: Yes, the "it doesn't look real" line is a great way of handling the state of this episode's special effects.

Hey, who says a deadly alien species WOULDN'T look like a cross between manta ray conjoined twins, a unit of whole blood, and a plastic puddle of novelty vomit, with the flight skills of a vampire bat.

It's a big universe, after all.
Sun, Aug 29, 2021, 9:11pm (UTC -6)
I've been rewatching the series from the beginning. I just noticed that in this episode, McCoy is wearing a pinky ring! I don't remember ever seeing any jewelry on any of the male characters before. Did I imagine it?
Fri, Oct 15, 2021, 5:38pm (UTC -6)
I've just watched this and it is quit impressive the performances that the main trio of actors deliver in this one, particularly William Shatner. For all of his bad rap as an overacter, his performance here is incredibly nuanced, deep and subtle, and delivers a very big range. Truly a motion picture level performance with the schedule of a TV series with 30 episodes per season. It is a shame that as an actor he has been so reduced to clichés over the years by critics and comedians.
Fri, Feb 18, 2022, 8:35am (UTC -6)
I always wondered why Spock didn't seem to notice that he was blind until he walked into that table? "It worked, the aliens are gone and I'm all good now (walks into object). Hey wait a minute, I'm blind!" Why was he so surprised anyway, they all knew the light would blind him before he even went in.
Sat, Apr 23, 2022, 8:57pm (UTC -6)
I think it's good but it's a bit trying with a great many problems that have been listed.

There is a single cell organism that can grow to 6 inches or so though so these creatures aren't completely implausible.

Yes, I also loved the unusual lampshading in dialog that prop was crap "doesn't look real!" Though it really wasn't that bad a prop for its time.
Sun, May 1, 2022, 8:09pm (UTC -6)
As good a place as I can think of to ask... I'm teaching a course on SF in the fall (College level) and want to include one ep of TOS, to make a point about the development of SF in the 60s (before things get really weird and interesting in the 70s). I'm interested in focusing the conversation on what SF can and can't do (i.e. raise interesting ethical issues, and avoid being about the present rather than the future) and the inevitable pitfalls (dating itself faster than most other genres, for instance), so I want to avoid getting sidetracked by the blazing misogyny of (otherwise wonderful eps like) Space Seed. Top contenders at present from Season 1 are The Naked Time, What are LIttle Girls Made of?, and Devil in the Dark. Suggestions?
Sun, May 1, 2022, 8:32pm (UTC -6)

I'd suggest "Where No Man Has Gone Before" as a good example of the sci-fi you're thinking about. I think it's a good classic sci-fi story with plenty of analogies/allegories.
Peter G.
Sun, May 1, 2022, 9:10pm (UTC -6)
@ Jules,

For the best of TOS *as sci-fi*, I would suggest Ellison's City on the Edge of Forever, or maybe Fontana's The Ultimate Computer. Both are strong sci-fi, different types, and both ask hard questions. A lot of TOS in general follows patterns of classic sci-fi, much more so than the series that followed. D.C. Fontana has the virtue of being one of the series most prominent writers, so that does represent the spread a bit more if what you want to cover is what TOS is like. If TOS is merely a vehicle to address 60's sci-fi then perhaps using one of the more well-know scifi authors like Ellison, or even Sturgeon (he wrote two eps, one of which you won't pick...). Given its present timeliness, you may also consider The Cloud Miners, which features not only the topic of mask-wearing but also that of an artificially stratified society kept in status quo through industrial exploitation.
Mon, May 2, 2022, 10:38am (UTC -6)

I suggest "A Private Little War" , it had a very contemporary allegory about the Vietnam war when it aired In 1968.

Good luck, let us know how well it goes.
Sat, May 7, 2022, 7:23pm (UTC -6)
Thanks, all! I will keep you posted. The Ultimate Computer is a good suggestion, and I love D.C.Fontana. There's a whole secondary narrative about how she had to use initials to camouflage her gender since SF in the 60s was assumed to be a man's game. I love City on the Edge of Forever but am avoiding time travel tropes at least at the very beginning of the semester, because they are in so many ways therir own thing. Where No Man Has Gone Before is an interesting ep on a great many different levels, but the lead actor (his name escapes me and I'm too lazy to look it up right now) just bugs the bejeezus out of me. Going to forge ahead into S2. So much fun rewatching these. I used to watch them in reruns when I came home after middle school and found the house empty... classic Gen X story, my parents assumed I was actually doing homework and for some reason never checked up on me. Apparently I came out more or less ok, though. TOS is a great ethical education.
Proud Capitalist Pig
Fri, Jun 3, 2022, 3:20pm (UTC -6)
Oh boy, mass insanity! And for TV in the 1960’s, that can only mean one thing--lots and lots of screaming. I wasn’t disappointed.

At first they have no idea why everyone on the planet is going batshit crazy. McCoy insists there’s no medical or scientific explanation. I had a theory at first--they ought to check to see if the population watched any Nancy Pelosi lectures recently. But I kid.

Spock was great. Leonard Nimoy put in a particularly superlative performance through his body language and voice inflections when he was under the alien influence. I think this was all meant to represent how hard it is to keep your cool when you’re exposed to outside stamina trying to screw with your mind. Fight the pain, fight the insanity.

Kirk and McCoy seemed to be under the grip of all the tension even without being affected by the creatures. Both of them acted like dicks--Kirk to Uhura (and his crew in the conference room) and McCoy to Chapel--which I guess is typical 1960’s shorthand for showing how someone is trying to keep it all together.

The flying, farting jellyfish were a hoot and Kirk was put through quite the sympathetic wringer--his close family dead*, and the prospect of killing human hosts to eliminate the parasites’ spread was a very real possibility for him. The simplistic plot itself was nice but nothing too exciting. I agree that McCoy could have waited a few minutes to get Chapel’s test results back before frying Spock’s eyes. (DeForest Kelley really sold the poor country doctor's devastation.) But the resolution of Spock’s special alien physiology saving his day was a nice little touch.

The ending did seem oddly upbeat, considering what just happened. But maybe it’s to show that although Kirk has lost his family, he’s gained some semblance of another one in his crew.

Best Line:

Kirk -- “I am faced with the most difficult decision of my life. Unless we find a way to destroy the creatures without killing their human hosts, my command responsibilities will force me to kill over a million people.” (How was your day?!)

* = Yes, all ended well for the nephew. It's too bad they had to cut the scene that explained this, as it sounds kind of heartwarming.

My Grade: C+
Fri, Jun 17, 2022, 8:24pm (UTC -6)
I find this episode a decent story, but it's hard for me to get the full sense of the angst it is supposed to produce. I think the reason for that may be 1960s attitudes toward disability and the disabled. I'm inclined to agree with Spock that being blinded by the treatment that eradicated literally maddening pain and ended the risk that he might have to be eliminated along with the entire population of a colony is an "equitable trade," and the fact that the full-spectrum treatment McCoy and Spock agreed on can be tweaked to avoid this side effect seems a matter of learning from experimentation. We are clearly supposed to consider it a horrible tragedy.

I think for many in the 1960s, blindness seemed a fate worse than death.
Peter G.
Fri, Aug 5, 2022, 11:29pm (UTC -6)
Wow! I hadn't seen this one in many years, and I had completely forgotten the detail that the parasites were (a) controlling people directly, and (b) parts of a collective intelligence. This element makes the episode strikingly similar to TNG's Conspiracy, to the point where it's almost a sure bet Conspiracy was a deliberate return to a classic TOS story. It also explains why Conspiracy was so tonally dissonant with the rest of TNG, being essentially a horror story, since this episode was (at times) as well.

The concept of a collective intelligence, where each unit forms only a cell of the entire being, would seemingly later be re-tooled into an insectoid collective, and finally into the Borg. And in fact the Borg almost have more in common with this alien species than with that of Conspiracy, since here they also assimilate individuals by touch and take over entire planets at once. Another commonality is that the Borg appear to be calm and machine-like on the surface, but if Picard's experience is to be an example, are apparently suffering on the inside at being taken over. Likewise here, the colonists appear passive and mostly docile, until one or more of them are commanded to do something by the parasites.

One of the most thought-provoking elements to the parasites is the possibility that they not only form a disconnected being, but that this being may span very large ranges (like the Borg). It's also possible that each 'collective' is confined to one planet, or even smaller parts of a planet. But the galactic scope of the invasion almost seems to make it seem like a more coordinated and defined effort, suggesting that all of the parasites everywhere have an agenda. Of course I'm assuming they're intelligent in the way we understand it; perhaps it's all instinctive and the being they collectively form is still a primitive one. But then how could they know how to command people to pilot starships for them? And more, Aurelan (Kirk's sister-in-law) said they even made people *build* ships for them. So it sounds a lot like they're highly intelligent, which is chilling. If not for this trick of killing them with light, I imagine the Federation might have had to go to total war with them, destroying entire planets to get rid of them.

A lot to think about, packed into an episode with a great deal of screen time devoted to both personal stakes (even Nurse Chapel's) and to galactic-level issues. The acting is excellent, Nimoy going above and beyond, and overall it's a really good episode. As a kid I hated it because the creatures freaked me out, but now I think there's a great deal more than just a monster of the week here.
Mon, Dec 19, 2022, 7:47pm (UTC -6)
If anyone is interested, in a comment on the episode "Court Martial," I left comments counting up TOS episodes with insanity as a huge part of the premise. So far, I'm up to 19 out of 80.
Proud Capitalist Pig
Tue, Dec 20, 2022, 7:25am (UTC -6)
@ Trish -- That is interesting, keep it up! I can think of a few episodes in Season 2 that would fit your list. Out of all the Star Trek tropes (idiotic smiles, Twilight Zone planets, godlike superbeings messing with the crew), you just may have identified the most intriguing one. It's a sign of the times they were in, after all. Nothing like the realization that the entire civilized world could blow up in minutes to make everybody a little kooky.
Tue, Dec 20, 2022, 1:09pm (UTC -6)
I think a distinction has to be made between actual insanity versus megalomania or some kind of mind/body possession or something else. So to say that like 1 out of every 4 TOS episodes involved actual insanity sounds like a bit of hyperbole to me.

Even with this episode, Kirk & co. are investigating what they believe is mass insanity spreading from solar system to solar system. What it turns out to be is mind/body possession, so I don’t think insanity is some kind of major feature here. The actions taken when trying to rid oneself of the parasites may appear insane but aren't technically speaking.

However, I’d say it’s probably at most like 1 in 8 episodes where actual insanity is an important part of the premise and basically is the plot device to create problems for the Enterprise crew.

- The Naked Time (or more like extreme intoxication?)
- Dagger of the Mind (penal colony — but is insanity really an important part of the premise?)
- The Conscience of the King (Lenore is bonkers)
- Court Martial (Finney, an insane antagonist)
- The City on the Edge of Forever (McCoy)
- The Doomsday Machine (Decker is suicidal)
- The Ultimate Computer (Daystrom is insane)
- Is There in Truth No Beauty? (Marvick goes insane after gazing upon the Medusan)
- The Tholian Web (similar to The Naked Time)
- Whom Gods Destroy (another insane asylum, Lord Garth is nuts)
- The Way to Eden (Sevrin is insane)
- Turnabout Intruder (Janice Lester’s insane jealousy)

No doubt TOS revisited certain themes, plot devices frequently but I didn’t really used to think insanity was one of them. But maybe it was.
Tue, Dec 20, 2022, 9:48pm (UTC -6)

Perhaps rather than literal "insanity" in the sense of a diagnosable mental illness, the category I'm talking about is people not being "themselves." It's not so much that possession is a type of insanity as that insanity is analogous to being "possessed" by a mind not quite one's own. That's why one of the time-honored way of describing it is to say that someone is "out of his mind."
Tue, Dec 20, 2022, 10:14pm (UTC -6)
@Proud Capitalist Pig

I am indeed keeping it up. With help from @Rahul, I have updated my list on "Court Martial" to 25 out of 80 episodes …

… and counting?
Sat, Jun 24, 2023, 2:43pm (UTC -6)
The first season comes to a close, and what a good first season it is. When I first watched Operation: Annihilate I thought it was an odd choice for a season finale, but having rewatched it I think it actually makes sense. It’s a fairly classic sci-fi alien invaders kind of premise with pretty large scale stakes, so it functions well as a closing episode for season 1.

I had never noticed before the similarity, at least in theme, between this episode and TNG’s season 1 closer Conspiracy. Interesting parallel. I also find the slight Borg similarities interesting. Overall this is a pretty solid outing, with a creepy monster and compelling mystery factor.

My only real gripe is the poor scientific method applied by Bones and Spock, they really should have known better to wait for the results of their risk averse test before charging ahead with their Spock-as-labrat test. And Spock’s vestigial-not-vestigial eyelid thing was a bit too convenient. But these are minor issues for me and certainly don’t ruin the show.

One of my favorite parts of the episode is Kirk’s brother being played by a fake mustache wearing William Shatner. I found that amusing.

Now that season one is done, I’ll put up my top 5:
1- balance of terror
2- city in the edge of forever
3- a taste of Armageddon
4- the corbomite maneuver
5- arena

Bottom 5:
5- the man trap
4- squire of gothos
3- shore leave
2- Mudd’s women
1- alternative factor
Out of these only the alternative factor is actually *bad*, the rest are still pretty good, just not as strong as the rest of the season.

Also, I’ll go ahead and declare my opinion that TOS is overall the best Star Trek series. TNG and DS9 have strong cases to be made(I won’t entertain any pitch for VOY, ENT, or especially NuTrek), and the mass of criteria that must be considered to measure any of these series is extremely complex, not to mention the nostalgia-factor, but after thinking it all out, I’m team TOS.

On to season two!

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