Star Trek: The Original Series

“The Immunity Syndrome”

3 stars.

Air date: 1/19/1968
Written by Robert Sabaroff
Directed by Joseph Pevney

Review Text

The high-concept description would read simply: "Giant amoeba in space!", which pretty much sums it up. Hoping not to become the victims of an 11,000-mile-long single-celled organism as did the Vulcan starship Intrepid, the Enterprise crew attempts to figure out how to escape the organism's dark, mysterious void before being sucked into the protoplasm.

Dare I ask just where an 11,000-mile-long space amoeba came from? I don't think I will. Anyway, "The Immunity Syndrome" is well-executed starship-based entertainment. The core of the episode resides in Kirk being forced to choose between sending either Spock or Bones on a suicide shuttlecraft mission to study the organism from the inside, in the hopes of finding a way to destroy it. The engaging rivalry between Spock and McCoy, who both want to go on the mission, is particularly interesting ... it's an episode like this (in which, for example, Bones can't bring himself to wish Spock luck until after he has left the room), that makes the Spock/McCoy relationship so memorable.

As always, Sol Kaplan's score makes a big difference in selling the excitement, and Spock's sarcastic edge ("Thank you, Captain McCoy.") boosts the episode on the "pure enjoyment" scale. It's not particularly meaningful, but who said all Trek had to be meaningful?

Previous episode: A Piece of the Action
Next episode: A Private Little War

Like this site? Support it by buying Jammer a coffee.

◄ Season Index

Comment Section

60 comments on this post

    Trek never cares about how the crazy lifeforms it conjures up, with the apparent notion that they are simply and inexplicably unique, could have come into existence. We've had this amoeba, and the planet killer from this series, the crystalline entity from TNG, the telepatcic pitcher plant from Voyager; never was the subject addressed in the slightest.

    The conversation between Spock and McCoy in sickbay is very ironic considering the events of Wrath of Khan.

    Excellent ep, combines sci-fi imagination and good character work very well. One of my faves. 3.5 stars

    This episode needed a guest star to give it some conflict or someone else's perspective. Without it this as story remained all it could hope to be -- a straight forward problem solving episode with every character doing precisely what he or she predictably does up to and including Scotty's dire warnings about the ship loosing power. Spock is not on a suicide mission simply because you know he isn't going to die. Spock and McCoy are at odds but that's nothing new. And why of all things an 11,000 mile long ameoba? I didn't find the task before Kirk and crew intriguing or frightening. It's okay but is hardly only one star short of the suspense and tension in the Doomsday Machine.

    Why an 11,000-mile-long amoeba?

    Possibly Robert Sabaroff had found inspiration in the 1966 film "Fantastic Voyage." Or wanted to rip it off a bit. ;)

    Incidentally, I immediately thought of this episode when, in the new movie, Spock describes Khan as the most dangerous enemy he ever faced. Uh, space amoeba! Or the Doomsday Machine. Or Nomad. Or V'ger. Or Lazarus. What of Lazarus? What... of Lazarus?

    Sorry. I tried to avoid one small spoiler but I let a big one slip through.

    @Grumpy: Well, Khan nearly stole the Enterprise, he stole the Reliant, he killed most of the people on Regula 1, he stole the Genesis device, he nearly killed the entire Enterprise crew and his actions led to Spock's death.

    Anyway, I think Spock was comparing Khan to other humanoid enemies. V'Ger, the cigar tube in ST:IV, Nomad, the Doomsday Machine were all more machine than man. Other than maybe Chang and Kruge -- and Spock probably has no memory of Kruge -- was there a super-villain that haunted the Enterprise crew like Khan?

    I mean, the closest thing to a repeat villain appearance (other than Khan) was probably Harry Mudd! None of the Klingon or Romulan bad guys from TOS appeared more than once.

    So, yeah. Khan probably was the most dangerous adversary.


    Yes, I took that to mean "most dangerous adversary" by virtue of the fact it cost the crew the Enterprise and Spock himself, for a period of time. Granted those things were a bit random, they were the result of battle damage as opposed to specific genius acts by Khan, but nonetheless the encounter with him was the most costly of all.

    PS Hey, the anti-spam question changed! This has rocked my world.

    I guess Gary Mitchell didn't measure up as an adversary because they didn't have the budget to cut loose. But that's more a criticism of the new movie than this episode.

    Unless... What if this amoeba *is* Gary Mitchell?? I never believed that he could be stopped by a rock falling on him. Assuming he survived, perhaps his powers mutated out of control, like Tetsuo in "Akira," and this Lovecraftian monster is his final form.

    I know its a bit late but you commented that the story needed a guest star to act as additional conflict I agree it could have made the story more interesting however I think they tried that with the dialog between Kirk and bones when they first returned the "dark zone" bones determined crew dieing bones recommended leaving to save the enterprise Kirk to argue and override must explore dispite danger it was brief but I think the writers wanted to draw our attention to "all" the enterprise was capible when they pulled resources and talents together.....

    One of the things about the original series that makes me laugh with some delight is that not only do music cues get reused again and again, but those music cues are startlingly specific. Part of the score from "The Doomsday Machine," where Decker (and later the Enterprise) approach the planet-eater, gets reused again and again as the music theme for, "SLOWLY APPROACHING GIANT BIZARRE SPACE MONSTER OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN," such as in "Obsession" and this one. Just as the "Amok Time" battle theme comes to be the "ENTERPRISE CREW IN RITUALISTIC COMBAT PLANETSIDE!" ala "Gamesters of Triskelion." These are very specific situations which repeat with surprising regularity.

    In a season that also gives us "The Doomsday Machine" and "Obsession," "The Immunity Syndrome" doesn't seem quite as essential in the GIANT SPACE MONSTER genre. Unlike those ones, though, this episode is not about obsession, but about togetherness. It's about the Enterprise crew as a unit, in general and especially the Big Three. In some ways the TOS episode it's probably closest to is probably either "Balance of Terror" or "The Corbomite Maneuver" -- an episode that is devoted to how the Enterprise crew reacts to a crisis on-ship, and how they weather the increasing strain that near-death puts on them. It begins with Spock's anguished cry at a ship full of Vulcans dying, with a line to McCoy about the difficulty caring about a large number over an individual, and ends with the fates of Spock and the Enterprise crew overall intertwined, as we wonder if both the ship and the individual will escape. Spock, for his commitment to the Vulcan people and feeling for them, devotes what he believes are his last moments to speaking highly of the crew of the Enterprise, "the finest ship in the fleet," demonstrating that his belonging to the Enterprise crew overrides, in some sense, his sense of belonging with the Vulcans. The Enterprise crew responds in kind, saving Spock at risk to the whole of the ship, in one of those need for the many/need for the one balancing acts that forms the crux of TWOK and TSFS. Kirk names the key crew members on the bridge for commendation as they wonder if they're going to get out, and he singles them out both as individuals and as their function/rank, in an episode in which we spend a lot of time on each crew member's duties. In combination with the GIANT SPACE AMOEBA, and McCoy and Kirk's conversation about the possibility that the Enterprise and her crew constitutes antibodies combating a virus infecting the galaxy, the episode seems to me to be showing something like belonging, Kirk et al. both being individuals capable of their own choices and conflicts, and also little functional parts of the giant cell/organism which is the Enterprise.

    The Big Three interplay, especially Spock/McCoy, is delightful, especially in that last segment (the sarcastic "thank you, Captain McCoy" Jammer points out). I love the way in which Spock and McCoy's competitiveness and subtle desire to protect each other comes through here -- and Kirk trying to figure out a way to manage them, as if they're squabbling children.

    I would give it 3 stars as well.

    As the episode moved along and it became clear that this was a space amoeba episode, I feared the worst. I mean, Enterprise crew must find a way to escape weird space anomaly episodes are usually acceptable at best and rarely among the best. But I did end up pleasantly surprised at how this one progressed. And I think there's two reasons for that.

    For one, I think there was an actual sense of danger in the episode. Yes, we know the Enterprise will be saved, and we even know that Spock won't die either. And yet, the tension was enough that we could still pretend that they could. It felt real, akin to Balance of Terror or Corbomite Maneuver. Perhaps part of the reason the threat felt real was because the crew was committed to finishing the mission, not necessarily to save their own necks, but rather to save the galaxy. There was at least the possibility that a heroic sacrifice might be needed. So when Kirk ordered Scotty to keep a little bit of impulse power in reserve, it allowed you to think, sure, they will use it to escape... but maybe they won't. Maybe they'll have to use that power. And plus there was the tension of the shuttlecraft, and how they would be reunited. So yes, I think the episode did a good job of building up the suspense.

    And secondly, the Big Three all did a good job this episode. Sure, there were some parts that were very awkward, such as Spock continuing to needle McCoy even while on a very dangerous mission (I would get McCoy doing that to Spock, but not the other way around). But in general, the banter and the concern over all aspects of the mission were real. I liked Kirk's dilemma of who to send, and I thought his and Bones' concern for Spock when they thought him dead were nicely understated. Obviously, they couldn't focus on it too much at the time, they needed to complete the mission. But you could tell it was in the back of Kirk's mind, and more or less the front of Bones' mind. Someone said this episode needed a guest star, and I disagree. I think the three leads all contrasted nicely with each other, and no real need to have someone else there to provide a different perspective.

    Of course, all of that is against the backdrop of an admittedly hokey premise (so it eats energy, so everyone feels tired, but because it eats energy we need to move forward to move back, and antimatter will kill it because its negative energy?). And for all the buildup of their impossible situation, it's a bit of a deus ex machina ending (we are told they don't have enough energy to escape, and then... they do, somehow. With the shuttle intact, no less). So while it may be a good space anomaly episode, it's not exactly a real classic. Just good enough to be an acceptable hour of entertainment.

    This is my favorite episode. I've seen each episode hundreds of times, and my favorite ones are those that have something to say, or have personal interplay. Sure there are many holes (Not including the holes in the amoeba!) - But the important part is the story. As always there are continuity errors out the wazoo - switching for meters to miles was particularly annoying - But I overlook that as I usually overlook "believability". With of course exceptions like Spock's Brain.

    What made this story remarkable was that I think the only sets were the ship and the shuttlecraft. No guests, little other characters. Just the story. Of course we know that no one ever dies who is important - Even Spock lived in ST III, which kind of made his awesome dying scene in ST II a bit bogus. I just loved the character interplay and storyline.

    Just another "giant dangerous space-creature" plot. But since this is TOS, I suppose this is where the trend began so it was original at the time I guess.

    More interesting to me was to watch the interactions between Spock and McCoy. Reminded me why I can't stand Vulcans and their thinly-veiled arrogance under a mask of "logic", and am glad the sub-sequent series did a good job of knocking them off their high perch (especially enjoyed the destruction of Vulcan in JJ Abrams first movie, probably the only thing good about that crap, I can't think of any species who deserved it more, just for being so fucking insufferably arrogant and with a house-sized superiority complex). "Superior capability" my ass, so he got knocked around in there a bit, and he tells McCoy he wouldn't have survived it? Oh please.

    And the way McCoy took that crap from Spock so passively... if it were me, that pointy-eared freak would have got a earful on the subject, to say the least.

    I like TOS, it has it's moments, but Spock manages to ruin most of it for me, just by being there and sucking the air out of the bridge with his god-complex, and the way the crew holds him in awe. Something to be said for the Terra Prime movement, the mirror universe and the Terran Empire, where we put those arrogant Vulcan jerks in their place by a shotgun to the chest and subsequent conkuest. So much for their "superior capability". Until... lo and behold... a Vulcan fucks it up for us 100 years later. Surprise, surprise...

    Anyway... 1.5 stars. And thats being generous, since the plot was original at the time. The Spock/McCoy dynamics made me sick to my stomach, as they do most of the time.

    It is. Vulcans, to me, are a metaphor for all the self-righteous, arrogant types. No shortage of people like that in the world today. So it's not so much about being "racist" as having an issue with certain kinds of people and attitudes.

    I'm just not clear on why they see this unknown mass ahead and after one probe fails they drive into it. They know it killed another starship ( and a galaxy.) If I were the Captain though, it would be a boring show.

    The Spock/Kirk/McCoy dynamic never gets old to me (I refuse to accept that Star Trek V is canon.)

    I think this is a terrific epsiode - very similar to "The Doomsday Machine" but not quite as great - but I consider the DM to be the best TOS episode (and possibly the best in all of Trek - but there's plenty of TNG, DS9, VOY for me to still see - doubt ENT gets anywhere near this level of excellence).
    Terrific dynamic betweek Kirk/Spock/McCoy - reminds me a bit of something like Masterchef when Kirk breaks the news to Spock that he's going - when first watching it you think the captain has selected McCoy.
    To me the big difference between the IS and DM is that IS doesn't benefit from a supporting actor like Bill Windom - who elevated DM with his performance. Also, the pacing of IS isn't as good - it's quite slow to get going.
    I've even wondered who would win between the DM and the space amoeba. (I think the amoeba takes it).
    The ending seems a bit fortunate - the tractor beam on the shuttle with Spock holds after the anti-matter explosion (but of course it would).
    But the suspension of disbelief is par for the course in Trek and it doesn't take away from the interaction of the Big 3, which is top-notch.
    For me, "The Immunity Syndrome" gets 3.5 stars out of 4.

    I think one of the biggest disappointments was how Star Trek never followed up on the idea of an all-Vulcan starship. Or maybe in the wake of what happened to the Intrepid Starfleet decided it wasn't a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket.

    Hello Everyone


    I've wondered about that before. My Star Trek answer is that the Vulcans demanded and received a ship of their own, because, you know, Vulcans. After it was destroyed, perhaps all parties realized that was a bad move.

    My regular answer is that they just wanted Spock to "feel" the ship die, and that the crew felt "astonishment". And from that we got the Intrepid.

    Regards... RT

    The Immunity Syndrome obviously influenced TNG's Where Silence has Lease, and at least 2 similar Voyager episodes. In my opinion, however, nothing beats this original. It's stripped down, minimalist, and one feels the ship and crew slowly dying as the "space amoeba" sucks away at all life.

    Hadn't watched this episode in years. I was remembering this as like a "2" episode, but after seeing it again and thoroughly enjoying it, I would now give it a 3 1/2. The interactions of the Big Three, the crew working as a cohesive unit, Kirk at the top of his game. Loved it.

    I'm not a fan of "bizarre space phenomena" episodes on Star Trek, but this one (because of its character moments) and TNG's "Where Silence Has Lease" (because of its entertaining unpredictability) are exceptions. For me, "The Immunity Syndrome" is a slow burn that tends to lull me to sleep in the first half's Heart of Darkness-style journey due to the lack of human drama, but the climax redeems it. I give it 3 stars and I think Jammer's review is fair.

    It's not terribly entertaining or dramatic to watch the stars disappear and crew members get sick in the first half here, as this episode treats the problem in an extremely cerebral fashion, and the crew sits around and talks about it rather than acting. Watching everyone look sick, depressed, and short-tempered doesn't yield any pleasant viewing moments. But one thread sticks out to me: Spock's lack of answers and eventual scientific need to explore the space amoeba firsthand in a shuttlecraft. Kirk's irritation at Spock lacking answers feels genuine and is somewhat diverting, as he (and we) expect Spock to explain everything we encounter with the info dump theories he's dispensed throughout the series up to this point. His lack of answers prepares us to expect the unexpected.

    Indeed, the general outline of this episode feels like Star Trek The Motion Picture without the eye-popping visuals, full of expositional padding: The Enterprise journeys into a great void, discovers an object (an amoeba instead of V'ger here) at the center, and Spock journeys to the center (in a shuttle rather than thruster suit here) with his usual scientific curiosity to get answers firsthand. What sets "Immunity Syndrome" apart is the Spock-McCoy conflict where we realize that beneath the surface of their [urine] contest they are actually willing to die for each other and the crew. Their conversation in the hallway after Kirk decides to send Spock on a possible suicide mission, where McCoy's belated "good luck Spock" makes us realize he's struggling to say goodbye to a friend, is a good moment. Spock's sarcasm toward "Captain" McCoy as he faces his own possible death is also great stuff.

    So this is where the interest level picks up for me, around the 27-minute mark, but the lack of a personalized adversary (even V'ger communicated through Ilia!) and any guest stars make the show a bit soporific. Watching people look awful and faint puts me to sleep and makes me feel awful too. Yes, this one is a good example of the crew facing a space obstacle together and striving to work together in overcoming it, but I don't care for this one as much as other TOS space adventure plots like "Balance" and "Corbomite" or even "The Changeling" with its TMP overtones. In the end, I think "Immunity" is good, but not great. You really have to fight to stay awake watching people who look tired and sick to make it to the payoffs at the end, and perhaps the show makes viewers work a bit too hard by over-selling the crew's low energy in a way that makes us feel low energy in watching them. Just my two cents.

    There was another all-Vulcan ship on DS9. It was the one whose captain was Sisko's old rival and they played a baseball game against in Season 7.

    According to Memory Alpha, it was also mentioned on TNG that the Hera, the ship commanded by Geordi's mother, had mostly, (but obviously not entirely), Vulcan crew. Makes you wonder what the crew dynamics would be like on a ship full of Vulcans commanded by a human.

    Over the many years that TOS has run I usually recommend to myself not to watch this one. However, tonight I am allowing it to play thru because I am waiting on DS9 and 7.2 Shadows and Symbols and I don't want to miss that one. I have my reasons.

    Firstly, I reject the title of amoeba for this thing and call it A BLOOD CLOT. This thing is outside the ship and I would like an answer: How can it pull human energy out of humans who are enclosed in a metal can? The human beings would die if their "energy" was "pulled" out of their bodies. The Vulcan's died and were absorbed.

    Yes, oh, yes, give commendations to all but how will Starfleet find the "black box"? The blood clot will have eaten the ship too. It must have eaten the Vulcan ship since no one saw the ship. It absorbed the Vulcan's, n'es cest pas?

    Did I spell that right? Haven't written it since 1975.

    To be purely honest, I never let myself think of the writing in these or any other programs since the understanding of those dialogs would cause me to be "turned" off and not watch anything on tv. Not because I am so smart, etc., but because I would be irritated to death if I knew and so on and on........

    TNG's The Chase is on and that old jerk-wad just died. Don't get me started about the foolishness of allowing an old man to travel in the universe on a shuttle all by himself. Nasa [and doctor's and probably the government] never let our astronauts make repeat trips into space. Guess why. Look it up you don't know why.

    If I was going to score this ep., I'd give it a zero because it is stupid. The writing did get better when TNG came along. The actors acted like they were on a mission and no one quarreled at anyone else the way McCoy bashed Spock. Granted, TNG's crew persons could go off the deep end screaming in fear...............let me explain it again, going into space requires years of training. If you decided to get angry and dash out the door to cool off ------- guess what? Open the door and fall into vacuum.

    An entertaining hour.

    The premise itself is very screwy and nonsensical, but the character interaction as we watch Jim choosing which friend to kill, etc., is well done.

    Average to slightly above.

    Is everybody else okay with those weak women being the ones who immediately started fainting left and right?

    Of course, it did give us an opportunity to see more female crew members than in probably any other half dozen episodes combined.

    "Is everybody else okay with those weak women being the ones who immediately started fainting left and right?"

    For what it's worth, it seems to be physiologically evident that women have worse circulation and are more prone to fainting.

    @ Peter G.
    Is this true?
    I know that women get fatigue fractures, for example during very long marches, far more often but I never heard that they had less efficient circulation?

    @Trek Fan: I think you nailed it for me what this episode drags on. It should be more interesting based on the ideas, but seeing everyone slowly drain and fainting over and over gets old and puts the viewer to sleep. Yo

    @Trish: Yeah, this definitely stood out, not in a good way. *Of course* they made Uhura faint first, of the line of crew members outside sickbay was all women. Sigh ... On the general topic, Kirk is not usually the womanizer he has the popular reputation of being, but his glancing at the yeoman twice in this episode is pretty slimy. “I could definitely do with some rest and relaxation on some ....... lovely ...... planet.”

    @ Robbie,

    "his glancing at the yeoman twice in this episode is pretty slimy. “I could definitely do with some rest and relaxation on some ....... lovely ...... planet.”"

    This is a tough thing to address. On the one hand, if a person like Kirk expressed this out loud IRL, *in earshot of the object of his attention*, it would certainly be slimy. On the other hand this is TV and TOS didn't engage in inner monologue, so the only way to know what a person is thinking (besides glances) is for the dialogue to spell out what's on their mind. Do you actually think it's slimy for a guy to have the thought that it would be lovely to spend time with a lovely lady?

    With episodes like this in existence, why does everyone always say that Roddenberry never allowed conflict between the crew? If Spock were human McCoy would just about have pushed him to a fist fight. The spock / mccoy dynamic seems to be becoming more antagonistic every episode. I like it, but it doesn't fit with the dogma at all

    It appears that the "no conflict" mentality came in with TNG, in part to distinguish it from TOS.

    How did the Enterprise back out of the amoeba when then spent the entire show unsuccessfully from getting sucked in?

    Okay, the biggest mystery from this episode for me is:

    WTH Does the episode title even mean?????

    @okrad del diablo

    You have some serious anger issues, racism issues and a glorification of violence. Your way is clearly “the American way”. Democracy through the barrel of a gun, other cultures can go F themselves in the face of our superior might....

    Why you watch Star Trek at all is hard to fathom, and I say that as a fairly right wing individual myself. Roddenberry’s pacifism annoys me at times, but I don’t go around hating on an entire race with an interesting and well developed culture. God forbid anyone like you would ever represent our species, you’d get us all killed because someone looked at you wrong or failed to recognise the superiority of humans (the deep irony that you have a god complex toward humans (and Americans I suspect) while hating the Vulcans for the same.

    It’s reactionary, low-intelligence bullshit of the highest order, and your comments in this thread where you are violently hating on Spock (wanting him slapped harder until he bleeds) are deeply disturbing, to say nothing of cowardly (anonymous Internet thug talks violently about others, yawn). I worry for whoever you live with, no doubt if they looked at you wrong you’d give them a slapping too.

    Seriously, get help. And by the way, I don’t love Vulcans, I’m not a pacifist or a serious Trek fan, so don’t try and misdirect toward those things. This is about your unpleasantness and nothing else.

    I'll give this episode a middling score. It had some nice moments that differentiated it from similar episodes, like the Doomsday Machine. But it was also, as someone mentioned above, fairly boring at the beginning as it took a while to get into.

    Plus two stars for the two times Kirk says "lovely... planet." And minus two stars for the two times McCoy smiles with his teeth visible.

    "I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if 400 Vulcans cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.”

    - Spock

    2 1/2 stars (out of 4)

    If the much-maligned "The Gamesters of Triskelion” provides the DNA for Star Trek: Discovery, then I submit, the over-hyped "The Immunity Syndrome” holds the DNA to Star Trek: The Next Generation.

    Here we have a crew that is exhausted, limping towards the nearest starbase for vital R&R, when all of a sudden, they are diverted by the Star Fleet (the episode uses “the” in front of the fleet on multiple occasions), to investigate the sudden death of a ship of 400 Vulcans (@Alex & @RT, we see at least one all-Vulcan ship on DS9).

    No one is happy about this assignment. You can see the incredulity on their faces. Dude, we’re exhausted!! But no one complains out loud.

    They all - the entire crew - march forward to do their duty. Even, as @Trish points out, the women ;)

    I do want to disagree with @Peter G. here. Kirk leering is not a tough thing to explain. He is tired and is losing self control. He needs R&R to be a good captain. He is a human, not a robot. The great thing about Kirk - what makes him a great leader - is that he recognizes that without rest, he will no longer be able to do his duty properly, which includes lots of things, including acting appropriately. Loss of good judgment is a normal reaction to fatigue.

    Anyway, where were we? Oh yeah, no one complains about the delayed R&R. Not even Chekov.

    Just a few weeks ago on “The Deadly Years,” Chekov could he heard complaining about every little inconvenience. His ability to carry out his duty under the harsh condition in "The Immunity Syndrome” will be the hallmark of even the most junior officers on TNG. No Bailey’s freaking out here; no Garrovick’s hesitating before action. No Bones seconding guessing his abilities (as we had in spades just a few weeks ago on "Journey to Babel” when Bones questioned whether he had enough experience to operate on Sarak).

    The scene that really hammered home - for me - the roots of TNG in this episode, was between Spock and Bones and Kirk, where they each make their case to Kirk that they should be the one to go. I could easily see that same scene in Picard’s ready room, Data and Beverly, each making their case, that they should be the one sent into the giant Space Amoeba.

    Of course Picard too, like Kirk picking Spock, would have sent Data. I love how @Rahul describes it as a “Masterchef” moment :-) I wish TNG had a little of the TOS humor. Maybe the chemistry on TNG just wasn’t up to that level? You have to have real comfort between characters before humor can be friendly, and not the sarcastic, cutting humor we’ve come to expect on modern Trek. Maybe that says more about our uncomfortable age than it does about the show - which after all, is just a reflection of its era.

    Here we have a crew working hard under difficult conditions to solve a problem, as professionals. There is still professional rivalry, but there is also deep respect for each other’s competency. In many ways, "The Immunity Syndrome” reminded me (and @Trent) most of TNG’s “Where Silence has Lease.”

    I agree with @Jammer and @William B that the music really elevates this hour. I was very happy to hear my favorite Vulcan theme play over the scene of Spock in the shuttle recording his log.

    Just as the theme did in the scene from “Journey to Babel” between Spock and his mother, the music really does wonders to convey that while Vulcans may be stoic on the outside, inside, their feelings run deep.

    Bones should have wished Spock good luck. I agree with @Trek fan and @MossBoss, my interest in the episode only picked up here, after the half-way mark.

    All in all, a worthwhile, workman-like hour of Star Trek.

    There are some surprisingly negative reviews here. Despite the very hokey science, the interaction of the crew, especially Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, makes this episode stand out in my opinion. It is probably the best “Spock vs McCoy” sequence of them all.

    I wouldn’t probe the science too far — it’s the on-board story that makes this episode so good.

    3.5 stars for me.

    I got the impression that the reason they were able to escape the amoeba was that the negative energy field was outside the amoeba and that once they were inside they weren't affected by it

    Another great concept in this episode. The Enterprise being the anti- body of the universe. Highlighting the relationship of the characters very well.

    The last couple of times I've seen this episode on H & I, I've meant to come back and note that McCoy's reference to the female crew fainting, which was how I recalled the line, is now "half the crew." The image in Sick Bay still shows only women in line for their hypospray, and the subsequent images of crew members on beds being monitored are women, and given that in other episodes generic crew are almost alway male unless there is a specific reason for them to be female, I do think that my recollection reflects the original script, but clearly an effort was made to fix a line that was considered problematic at some point. It makes it seem as if those images just "happened" to show women, rather than only women being affected.

    If not for those images of women being treated in Sickbay and for Uhura being the first of the bridge crew to be struck, I would have thought that perhaps I was recalling the line incorrectly because of having read the James Blish adaptations, which were based on earlier versions of the scripts and therefore sometimes differ from what was ultimately shot. However, I think the line as first broadcast, and broadcast for some years thereafter, was probably consistent with the footage that was shot, that is, with the phenomenon first and most strongly striking women.

    Interestingly, I think the episode flows more logically with that tiny change in McCoy's line. Only moments later, the men on the bridge, including Kirk, show clear signs of being struck by the sudden fatigue, yet no one mentions that it's affecting the males now, too. I don't recall any line in the original that remarks on that development. The story works just fine with the implication that both sexes were affected from the start.

    It amazes me how people can be bored on the original series but not on the next generation. Next has the most dull characters of all startrek series. It helps to have diversity and humor to living things up. Granted maybe some science is a little off on the original series. But it doesn't take away from the entertainment value. Live long and prosper people


    Well, there's no accounting for personal tastes. Would you believe some people don't like Star Trek AT ALL???? I know, how can this be? ;)

    Personally, my favorite is TNG, but I enjoy TOS, too. Voyager was just okay, and I dislike most of DS9. I could never really get into Enterprise.

    I confess that it sort of amuses me how you think this episode is free of boy's-club '60s sexism until its very last seconds. And then: boom! Wham! In your face!

    Until this point in TOS, McCoy's antagonism for Spock has been measured and couched in respect. In The Immunity Syndrome, McCoy goes way over the top. It's not consistent with his character.

    "Star Trek never followed up on the idea of an all-Vulcan starship. Or maybe in the wake of what happened to the Intrepid Starfleet decided it wasn't a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket."

    If Kirk/SHatner were allowed to command them, we could call it "Green Eggs and Ham".

    ""Star Trek never followed up on the idea of an all-Vulcan starship. Or maybe in the wake of what happened to the Intrepid Starfleet decided it wasn't a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket."

    Not true. Sovak's ship was all Vulcan in DS9's Take me Out to the Holosuite.

    @Jason R.

    I think Lower Decks showed an all/mostly Vulcan ship in 2x09 if you count that as canon.

    I always imagined that the Sovak ship was full of Vulcan racists and the Federation was trying to kill them by sending them into battle constantly but they were too superior.

    One of the better episodes on my list. Sure, it has some hokey elements, but rarely is there ever an episode of TOS that doesn't give you that Spock eye brow urge.

    When it comes to science fiction, the last thing I ever give a damn about is the “science” part of it. Giant amoebas, sentient gas clouds, accidents that teleport you to an alternate reality, salt vampires, warp speed, even “miles” versus “meters”--who cares? They’re all just a means to tell a story.

    Space is a dangerous place, and this is one of those Star Trek episodes that effectively conveys that existential truth by actually dwelling on it. If you think about it, when you’re captaining or crewing a starship, every single time you’re traveling through space--especially unexplored space--you’re risking your life. It’s like being a law enforcement officer on his or her beat, a soldier during wartime, or an airline pilot. You can prepare for the worst, you’re trained to expect the worst, but you just never know what’s going to happen.

    There are two marvelous moments in this episode that complement each other well and are moving testaments to the reality of risk-taking that Kirk and his crew experience every day. They’re both heavy in dialogue. The first is Spock, alone in the shuttle, reporting on his situation to the rest of the crew. The message is garbled and filled with static. He calmly, dryly relays that he’s slowly losing life support and shields. The camera, meanwhile, is doing something that no director in 2023 would dare have it do anymore. It’s lingering. We’re fixed patiently on the faces of Kirk and McCoy, taking in their dread, their worried expressions, as they are hearing Spock’s report and glancing at each other. They’re basically listening to a lone astronaut in serious trouble, powerless to help him. What a moment and message for 1968, where the space program was in full force but still a rather perilous novelty for its participants and their families.

    The other moment is Kirk’s log entry toward the end of the episode, which is clearly a possible “goodbye message” to be left behind for all time. Kirk’s thoughts are for his crew, and he wants it recorded that they performed valiantly and competently throughout the crisis. We somehow know, because this is a 1960’s television show, that they’re obviously going to survive this--even Spock. But with Shatner’s delivery that truly elicits sympathy, it was hard for me not to get misty-eyed.

    The rivalry between Spock and McCoy added some realism to the story. The dilemma they have about which one of them should be sacrificed was pretty damn amusing. I’d suggest to them that they draw straws or flip a coin, but in their case, the “loser” would be the one to *not* sacrifice himself for the greater cause. How strangely admirable.

    “The Immunity Syndrome” was like watching a nail-biting sports game but with actual stakes that could prove fatal. I was swept up in the central crisis more than I’ve been for most episodes of Star Trek. I also think that Kirk’s aforementioned log entry reminds us that sometimes it doesn’t even matter if the game is won or lost as long as it’s played well. I celebrated along with the crew at the end, a vicarious participant in their victory. But if Star Trek had been nothing more than this one-off movie wherein everyone died tragically at the end, I still would have been in awe of these characters and how they faced such a complicated danger. Whether his team wins or loses, my son still gets a big hug from his dad at the end of the game.

    Speak Freely:

    Kirk -- “What do you think, Scotty? Forward thrust?”

    Scott -- “I don’t know, sir. It goes against the rules of logic.”

    Kirk -- “Yes, doesn’t it? Well, if it doesn’t work, I’ll never let Spock live it down.”

    My Grade: A

    One of the better bottle episodes, and without any guest stars they’re really able to just focus on the crew of the Enterprise.

    Also: I liked the remastered VFX, especially the Enterprise surrounded by complete darkness, very reminiscent of those superb shots of Voyager in the ep “ Night”.

    My favorite exchange in this episode:

    Mister Spock, analysis of that last burst of noise before we started losing power.
    That sound was turbulence caused by the penetration of a boundary layer, Captain.
    What boundary layer?
    Boundary layer between what and what?
    Between where we were and where we are.
    Are you trying to be funny, Mister Spock?
    It would never occur to me, Captain.

    @Okrad why may I ask are you against space cresture plots..aren't they ach UNIQUE and ORIGINAL space creatures anyway and each different and somewhat original in their own way?

    Near the beginning Bones casually walks upon the bridge and injects Kirk without explaining anything or asking his permission, like where's his bedside manner? Not even Voyager's original un-evolved EMH would do that. Ah, well, at least it lives up to the "new life" in the title theme.

    Final score: 2/4 Space Amoebas

    This is kind of an underrated episode. It doesn’t usually come to mind right away when thinking about TOS’s “hits”, but it’s actually a very strong show. The idea that our galaxy could be considered one massive organism that can be infected by a mega-virus(ok, fine, amoeba), leaving the various species living here to function as an immune response is a pretty interesting setup.

    It takes a bit to really get going, the first half of the episode is on the slow side, but once we get to the heart of it all it’s pretty great stuff. The character interplay in particular is solid, especially the tension between McCoy and Spock essentially locked in a game of emotional chicken.

    There are some similarities between Immunity and Doomsday Machine, with DM being clearly the better episode. However I personally like to imagine that Immunity is a sort of sequel to Doomsday. In this imagining the Doomsday machine was actually a weapon designed millennia ago in another galaxy to combat these giant invasive space amoebas. What was the outcome of this crazy space battle? Unknown, but at least one amoeba escaped into the inter-galactic void pursued by one autopiloting doomsday machine only to have our crew stuck cleaning up the mess.

    3.5/4 heartfelt posthumous log entries.

    A lot of good commentary in this episode thread, so I’ll just ask one question - how many more centuries until they install seatbelts? :)

    I can explain that. Those Federation engineers got all figured out. The chairs are like super advanced. Every time there is so much movement, that people could be thrown off, the buttemplacement field activates. Keeping everybody comfy in their chairs. I cannot go into the details, it's just too advanced.

    Submit a comment

    ◄ Season Index