Star Trek: The Original Series

"For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky"

2.5 stars

Air date: 11/8/1968
Written by Rik Vollaerts
Directed by Tony Leader

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Enterprise encounters an asteroid that actually turns out to be a huge alien bio-dome-like spaceship—carrying passengers who think they're living on an actual world. This spaceship, navigation having malfunctioned, is on a collision course with another populated world.

Meanwhile, McCoy learns that he has a terminal illness that leaves him with a maximum of one year to live. Upon beaming to the spaceship to investigate, Kirk, Spock, and Bones find that the inhabitants are at the mercy of an apparently computerized oracle that dictates thought and speech—speak the forbidden words and it kills you. Bones is elected to keep Natira (Kate Woodville), the landing party's host who finds herself enamored with McCoy, busy while Kirk and Spock try to figure out how to gain navigational control of the planet-ship.

The "spaceship planet" idea and some of the social implications are genuinely intriguing. There's an implicit analysis of a society built on censored thought, but the story doesn't dig as deep as it could've. Also unfortunate is that Bones' romance with Natira—a key emotional focus point in the story and a good idea—is a major letdown, severely lacking punch and devoid of passion or sweetness, thereby reduced to a plot element. It's a real shame, because I like Bones and would've liked to see this side of him more believably brought to the surface.

Previous episode: Day of the Dove
Next episode: The Tholian Web

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36 comments on this post

Sun, Dec 2, 2012, 4:47pm (UTC -6)
The remastered version of this aired last night -- and it's a big improvement, as far as the shots with the Enterprise and the asteroid.

The real problem with the episode is that Shatner and Kelley seem really off. Shatner's reactions to learning that one of his closest friends is dying is far too muted. And the good bye scene was weird, too.

Shatner's performance could be overlooked, but Kelley really drops the ball. For somebody who was willing to leave the Enterprise to be with a woman he just met, he sure doesn't seem very happy to be with Natira. He hardly smiles!

I wonder if Kelley tried to play Bones in a weakened state? If so, it was a bad call.
Tue, Oct 29, 2013, 2:55pm (UTC -6)
I'm so happy to see Bones finally get some action that I'm willing to overlook all the problems with this episode. Well, almost all of them. The high priestess's acting is terrible!
Jo Jo Meastro
Mon, Feb 17, 2014, 8:56am (UTC -6)
It probably sounded a lot better on paper than how it actually turned out.

I think the main pitfall is the unfortunate lack of an emotional punch. Wether it was the actors or the director or simply an uninvolving script, it leaves you strangely unmoved at times when you should be completely hooked and in the heart of the moment.

Coupled with a very slow pace and a failure to actually do anything interesting or original with its good concepts; it wasn't one of my favourites despite me being a big McCoy fan.

I would rate it a 2/4. I didn't hate it but I was left feeling very indifferent to it which isn't much better. As a side note, I love the episode title and I noticed TOS has a tendency for really cool sounding titles (excluding Spocks' Brain of course)!
William B
Sun, Sep 28, 2014, 11:27am (UTC -6)
This is surprisingly similar to "The Paradise Syndrome," which also features a main character leaving the Enterprise for a brief marriage and an asteroid hurtling toward a planet. It's like someone decided to show the same story from the *asteroid's* point of view, rather than the planet's. This episode avoids many of "The Paradise Syndrome's" flaws and is probably more engaging overall, but I still find this one pretty frustrating. The basic plot of the asteroid colony, who are prevented from understanding their situation or even making proper corrections to their course by an autocratic machine whose original purpose has become corrupted over time, is fine if familiar for TOS. Rather than another computer-goes-awry story (which, you know, this *is*, but still) this is more properly about religious fanaticism, where insistence that no one *question* the way in which one reaches the "Promised Land" actually makes arriving at that destination impossible. The Big Three figure it out and save the people. The Yolandans' faith turns out to be justified, but not in this literalistic way in which no actual pursuit of truth can be allowed. It's uninspired but I guess fine as far as it goes.

The bigger interest and bigger letdown is McCoy's story. McCoy is *dying*; and then he finds the possibility of a year of happiness, even if he has to give up a great deal for it, and he takes it. I was actually fairly willing to accept the somewhat implausible and mostly low-chemistry Natira romance provisionally, on the hopes that it would lead to something of a good story. And there are hints of one. With time running out, McCoy realizes that he really doesn't want to die alone, and his priorities shift with the recognition that this is his last real chance at love. The understated way he deals with the news with Kirk and Spock has some pros and cons -- I agree that the Kirk/McCoy stuff feels a little underwhelming, but there is something very affecting about Spock's reaction all the way through, his completely snark-free touching of McCoy and McCoy's surprised reaction. It's a big development in the Big Three dynamic, which really has continued to evolve throughout the series. It's also a recognition that the Big Three bond, important as it is, is not actually a substitute for romantic love and peace of mind.

But then the computer is destroyed and McCoy just...decides to leave his wife? What exactly has changed here? Now, more than ever, he wants to go out there and find a cure! Um, okay. I mean, yes, it makes sense for McCoy to want to do all he can to work on finding a cure, but I hardly see what has changed between now and when he agreed to give up his freedom for the chance at love and peace. I guess the destruction of the machine thing and his inability to stave off his curiosity made him realize that he couldn't actually sit quietly and wait for the end, but had to look into it? Maybe? But if all it takes is a couple of days of realizing how curious he is, it seems like that marriage thing was a pretty bad decision. I guess it was -- an impulsive stupid decision that was always going to end. actually a potential story choice, because people who just learned they are going to die in a year are likely to make some bad decisions, but the story's portrayal of McCoy and Natira is much more akin to tragic star-crossed lovers than a guy who loses all ability to evaluate himself in the wake of a terminal diagnosis and makes a life commitment that he can only honour for, I don't know, probably a week or something (hard to keep track of the episode's time scale). McCoy should be a lot more apologetic, I guess is what I'm saying.

And then he gets cured anyway! So now his reason for leaving his wife for his remaining year is gone! And so he...still leaves, because, uh...he...actually much prefers being on a starship, I guess. Which again is fine -- but wow, does he even think twice about how his *stated reason* for leaving his wife now being gone might change things? It all just underlines how little McCoy's commitment to Natira meant, and how little his realignment of values in the wake of his potential death has any bearing on his actual view of himself once that proximate threat is gone. It's a shame, really, because there is a potentially interesting story there, and further, if the story more explicitly examined McCoy just bouncing back to his old values after like a day it could be a story about how fundamentally, one shouldn't make decisions in the immediate wake of tragic news, and how McCoy understandably but very regrettably made a stupid call that hurt himself and Natira too. Alas.

I...guess 2 stars?
Tue, Sep 29, 2015, 11:16pm (UTC -6)
This one was memorable to me for the "instrument of obedience" implant controlled by a god-like artificial intelligence. I agree they threw all but the kitchen sink in this one but I wish the writers would have made accessing the Oracle computer involve a sacrifice by Natira to save her people. That would have allowed McCoy to leave at the end. I also wish it would have been difficult to remove the implant and that it would have been implanted in all three from the beginning secretly and then they would have possibly returned to the ship and struggled with its effects. So much material but still a good episode for its time.
Sat, Mar 25, 2017, 7:29am (UTC -6)
"But then the computer is destroyed and McCoy just...decides to leave his wife? What exactly has changed here?"

A thousand times this.

I liked the Priestess actor in this and it would have made a good two parter.
Wed, Apr 19, 2017, 4:25am (UTC -6)
I rewatched this episode yesterday after, at least, 10 years. It's another case of a great idea (the generation ship and its society) which was wasted by the execution. Wouldn't it be more interesting if for example Kirk &co have found a residtance to the oracle by some of the people and a society torn by social unrest rather than the dull McCoy-Natira romance?
2 stars from me.
Sun, Jun 4, 2017, 1:17pm (UTC -6)
Love the security guards Italian clown outfits.
Fri, Jun 23, 2017, 10:20pm (UTC -6)
Another example of a TOS episode piecing together ideas from prior episodes: "The Paradise Syndrome" as William B. mentioned, but also a bit of "The Return of the Archons" for the computer controlled society. Some interesting twists on those themes but, by and large, nothing new here.
McCoy's romance with Natira doesn't work - it makes sense to have McCoy get this opportunity but Kelley doesn't do the part justice. Natira wasn't too convincing either.
I liked the romantic music for Natira/McCoy which is also used in "The Empath" for Gem. TOS had some wonderful musical scores.
What also doesn't work for me is how McCoy has 1 year to live so I guess he goes along with the idea of marriage and living on Yonada but then a cure is found in the extensive library behind the Oracle and then there's no more romance.
I think the episode has a good premise -- the Creators building Yonada to escape the destruction of their solar system some 10000 years ago. But it goes off course etc.
I don't know why the Oracle decides to heat the room when the Big 3 violate it instead of using electrocution again -- this miscalculation gives Kirk & Co. time to get the book etc. So it's somewhat convenient how this leads to solving the problem as everything else falls into place nicely.
I'd give this a strong 2 stars, nearly 2.5 -- seems like this episode dropped the ball a few times, unused potential.
Sat, Jul 8, 2017, 2:47pm (UTC -6)
This one deserves an extra half-star just for how improbable it was that they executed such a good title drop....
Tue, Aug 29, 2017, 2:15pm (UTC -6)
I LOVE the name of this episode, such a good name, unfortunately the episode it's self does not live up to this and is rather forgettable.
As the general consensus is, it had a beautiful potential but was executed poorly and not given much thought in writing so was lacklustre, which is a shame because there isn't much McCoy central episodes and it would have been nice to have a sucessful McCoy themed episode as he one of my faves. I guess i'll just imagine a better version of the episode in my head... hahaha.

The few good and convincing parts of this episode was McCoy and Spock, where Spock actually shows he cares and is worried for him, which is sweet and really contributes to the mccoy/spock friendship (or ship lol). Shame Kirk was not as involved but then again he already knew before the episode began, and maybe he just didn't know how to react on knowing this information, perhaps he never believed it was true.
Trek fan
Mon, Nov 27, 2017, 5:57pm (UTC -6)
I liked this one as a kid, when I found it somewhat moving, and am still rather fond of it despite the flaws. The crisis of the generational asteroid ship is cool and the McCoy disease subplot generates some good Bones-Spock dynamics even if it feels somewhat muted and overshadowed by the bigger plot. I give it 3 stars.

The A-B story structure in this episode, where a character's personal drama works within a larger Sci Fi plot, really resembles what most Star Trek episodes from TNG onward will look like. Indeed, this structure is a hallmark of TOS Season 3, and it's easy to imagine the show would have further developed into what TNG became had it not been cancelled after this season. Season 4 would have developed many of the minor characters like Sulu, Chekov, and Uhura, as happened on a smaller scale in the 30-minute episodes of TAS. Indeed, episodes like "For the World is Hollow" truly debunk the fans who draw a sharp dividing line between TOS and everything from TNG-DS9-VOY-ENT, as if there's nothing in common between TOS and the later shows. Season 3 of TOS proves that these shows are all cut from the same larger fabric, as much of the stuff we see here provides germs for later shows.

Anyway, I do like McCoy getting his own story, perhaps only the second time (if we don't count "The Man Trap" where he was really just a jumping-off point) since "Friday's Child" in Season 2 that this has happened. And I actually think Kelley, as much as we might criticize his low-energy and downbeat portrayal of a man facing death, makes an acting choice here that fits his character: McCoy may be irascible, but he's not the type to have an emotional scene after being diagnosed with a terminal illness that won't really affect him for a year, and it's quite possible that someone with so lively a personality might well react with denial and/or muted depression to this kind of news. So I find McCoy's behavior here plausible enough.

But I just really love the central concept of this story about a generational ship hurtling toward its doom. The priestess character is sharply drawn and the society of people who don't realize they live on a ship is a fascinating idea. The idea of the ship computer ruling over people like a god and the imposition of previous generations' ideology on the society's future are worthwhile concepts adequately executed here. And, as with many third season TOS stories, I find this show fairly thought-provoking and unpredictable overall. I appreciate the effort at doing something fresh.
Mon, Mar 18, 2019, 11:53am (UTC -6)
Not a bad episode, but I always wondered why the mccoy is dying subplot??, were they trying to write the actor out of the series??
Thu, May 23, 2019, 2:23am (UTC -6)
A great concept, poorly executed.

The McCoy Instant Big Romance was more convincing than Jadzia's in Meridian, because at least he had the excuse of terminal illness to explain his crazy decision. But points off this ep right there, for making me think of Meridian.

Very little chemistry though the actors were charismatic enough. Natira looked about 20 yrs younger than the Doc, which didn't help. And there was almost zero interaction before undying love was declared. Ugh.

Some good Spocky moments and I liked the interaction with Christine.

I think maybe there was meant to be some parallel between McCoy's hollowness and the asteroid's, and how crisis can reveal what's lacking and give direction and purpose to our journeys.

Sarjenka's Brother
Sat, Aug 31, 2019, 8:26pm (UTC -6)
Lord have mercy, that's a long title for an episode.
Thu, Oct 17, 2019, 8:08pm (UTC -6)
I think Springy has a good point about the title. Think of it as spoken by McCoy himself: "My world has been hollow, but I have touched the heights of happiness."

I think it was meant to be his Paradise Syndrome, but it didn't really convey the poignance of the road not taken. Perhaps if Natira, like Miramanee, had died … But that would have been just the same story, wouldn't it?
Wed, Feb 26, 2020, 3:40pm (UTC -6)
The generation ship gone wrong story was also done in a rather more horrifying way in Space:1999 with the episode "Mission of the Darians". You should watch that.
Sun, Oct 18, 2020, 3:18pm (UTC -6)
The thing that never made sense to me is why they developed a religion around hiding the identity of the generational ship. Wouldn’t that just make it more difficult to correct accidents, like the one that almost happened?

I think that McCoy getting married is 1960’s for “had sex”.

The takeaway I have is that Arthur C. Clarke seems to have gotten a small seed of inspiration from this episode for his Rama series- at first, they think it’s an asteroid, but it turns out to be a generational ship. His story is better in my opinion though.
Fri, Nov 13, 2020, 2:18pm (UTC -6)
I think I figured out the “a technological society’s descendants become a religious society on an asteroid” angle.

It is probably based on The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester (aka Tiger Tiger in the UK), which was written about a decade before TOS. In a chapter that would be completely offensive today, the main character crashes into an asteroid. The original inhabitants, 200 years prior, were scientists, but the descendants are “savages” (Bester’s words) who practice superstition and are very religious.

Personally, I think it’s cool to see how sci-fi stories influence each other. For example, Discovery’s new storyline about being flung into the future makes me think of Tau Zero by Poul Anderson, in which the ship’s crew must deal with the psychological effects of being flung very far into the future. And Tau Zero itself seems to have been influenced by TOS in some respects. Tau Zero’s constable character also seems to have influenced the character of Odo in DS9.

I could go on all day long but yeah sci-fi is cool :)
Fri, Dec 25, 2020, 5:51pm (UTC -6)
The title is fantastic, almost a high concept pitch itself.
Mon, Jan 11, 2021, 12:18am (UTC -6)
The best title in all of Star Trek ruined by mediocre execution. The ideas here are fantastic

- the exploration of closed-off cults,

[After Spock removes the Instrument of Obedience]
NATIRA: He is not part of our people. You've released him from his vow of obedience.

- silly old men as truth tellers,

NATIRA: Forgive him for he was an old man, and old men are sometimes foolish.

- RTFM!!!,

NATIRA: This is the Book of the People, to be opened and read when we reach the new world of the promise. It was given by the creators.

MCCOY: Do the people know the contents of their book?

NATIRA: Only that it tells of our world here and why soon, one day, we must leave it for the new world.

- friendship versus love (h/t @William B),

NATIRA: You have lived a lonely life?

MCCOY: Yes, very lonely.

And so much more packed into one tiny hour!

It is also a shame that Bones and the high priestess have zero chemistry. As @Trek fan points out, "Friday's Child" could have been a model here - maybe the actress was lacking?

So far this season, Kirk has been tempted to leave by Miramanee, Spock by the Romulan Commander, Bones by Natira, and Chekov by Sylvia. Who's next?

@Rama, interesting write up about "The Stars My Destination". Of course JMS was a huge Al Bester fan, and named the character played Chekov on Babylon 5 after him.

You might enjoy the Babylon 5 novel "Final Reckoning", which is the last stand of Alfred Bester.
Wed, May 5, 2021, 2:46am (UTC -6)
I’ve read the comments and criticisms, and I agree with many of them. But I still like this episode and give it 3 stars.

The main problem - which no-one has said - is that the main idea (great sci-fi) is really too large for less than 50 minutes of a space adventure series. It would have made a better movie if given 90 minutes to fully develop the themes, for example McCoy’s romance with Natira. I have to forgive the writers for shoehorning the whole story into the allotted time, and applaud the producers for recognising a great thing when they saw it. Just a shame that the regular format of TOS could not accommodate it.

As for the criticisms about the Oracle being a metaphor for religious oppression - couldn’t it just as equally be the only method, as foreseen by the “creators”, that a society would be kept “on course “ for the original purpose and destination if it was not allowed to deviate into a chaotic state, which might have happened naturally over generations? Yes, it was authoritarian, but the society - constrained by circumstances - was happy and stable if somewhat stagnant.

A good idea and another proof that Series 3 wasn’t so bad after all.
Jeffery's Tube
Sat, Jul 3, 2021, 3:08pm (UTC -6)
I find that McCoy's romance with Natira makes sense, but only because he's a dying man. An end is coming for him very soon, and this seems like it has the potential to be a better end than he's likely to find anywhere else in the time left to him. He's not in love with her, but he's intrigued and anyway, it's his last chance. Remember he's an explorer, used to throwing himself headlong into the unknown (despite his frequent protestations about it, haha). Explorers aren't people who hem and haw over making decisions, so of course he wouldn't hesitate long to seize this chance. And when he's no longer a dying man, of course he leaves. He wouldn't have been interested in upending his entire life for this romance if he'd thought he still had a life to upend. So, when he does, that's it.

As for Natira falling in love with McCoy just by looking at him, well, she's an alien. Who knows how their biology works. I guess there was some evolutionary reason for females behaving this way on her planet. Right?
Thu, Sep 30, 2021, 10:24pm (UTC -6)
Awful sets, terrible costumes, really bad acting by the regulars and Natira, and a very weak story. Poor directing too. Why was Scottie just standing on the bridge in the opening scenes with nothing to do? Reminded me of high school plays where people on the stage without lines just stand there motionless. The clip clopping of everyone’s shoes on the metal sound stage floor that was supposed to be Yonata was distracting. The opening fight when the Italian clowns in swimming caps came out of the cardboard cylinders made me laugh out loud. The Oracle eye and its voice talking to Natira were awful. (Give me the Malthusen image and voice any day over that phony Oracle). I have always been willing to overlook cheap costumes and sets when they come up in TOS because the stories and acting were so good. Not in this episode.

The total lack of chemistry or romance between McCoy and Natira made their scenes together cringeworthy. (Shatner was WAY better in the Paradise Syndrome and his ”wife” was a much better actress and more interesting character than Natira.) The only good scene in this episode was the old man who delivered the title line when they first got to the spaceship world. The rest of it: Ugh! 0 stars.
Mon, Dec 27, 2021, 11:12pm (UTC -6)
NO NO can someone PLEASE REASSURE me that the fsct that this eoiaode had a sort kf generational shipmidea does not mean that Voyager's episode The Disease is not an original concept since that episode also had a generational ship..but that episode the shipnwas made of isentical segments each representing like a link in the chain and the ship had ben traveling for isn't this just one fkying asyeroid or planetoid ship that isnt really a generational ship but just descendants of some ancestora that used to live on a planet and so is very different?? Hope someone can respond. I can't have Voyager losing any more originality.
Thu, Oct 27, 2022, 7:32pm (UTC -6)

The concept of a generational ship was invented before any of the Star Treks, so I am afraid neither this nor Voyager's version was fully "original." These are not even the only two occurrences within Trek. The episode "By Any Other Name," for example, shows the Kelvans as being on a journey spanning generations.

I'm not sure I'm following what you mean about this one not really being a generational ship. Natira's people have been on a journey from their former planet to one they intend to settle on, and the journey is taking them a number of generations. Isn't that what a "generational ship" is?
matt h
Sun, Nov 27, 2022, 12:14pm (UTC -6)
Plothole-- when our guys are finally mortally storming the Oracle's core, the only thing it does to stop them, led by none other than Kirk the Computer Slayer with multiple CPUs mounted on his cabin wall, is to turn up the thermostat, whereas in earlier scenes it could zap them insensible strictly for demonstration purposes.
Fri, Dec 9, 2022, 8:22am (UTC -6)
I certainly hope that Bones got that marriage consummated before she had a headache. Just an average episode.
Tue, Feb 14, 2023, 8:25pm (UTC -6)
Just finished watching this episode. I always take pleasure in Jammer's thoughtful reviews and the comments and analysis that follows. The one item omitted about this wonderful sci-fi concept of generational spaceships is lack of mention of that classic novel by Robert Heinlein: "Orphans of the Sky", written in the 1940s. The crew of that ship for many generations have also forgotten they are on a spaceship, and interpret technical manuals describing space and ships operations as religious literature that has no relevance to their lives. TOS has been able to incorporate many sci-fi tropes into their storylines with varying degrees of success. I give it 3 stars for the casting of such a lovely woman as Natira (Katherine Woodville) and one of the most familiar titles of any episode in Star Trek.
Peter G.
Tue, Feb 14, 2023, 8:32pm (UTC -6)
For I have Written a Script That Calls Upon the Extant Literature but Has Its Own Particular Detailing As Well As Just a Bit of Charming Romance and Yet Fits Within 45 Minutes While Touching the Sky
Thu, Feb 16, 2023, 10:26am (UTC -6)
I’ve always wondered if this episode is meant to be a kind of criticism of religion. There’s some evidence that the society of Yonada is characterized by religious myths, beliefs and rules: the oracle could be seen as a deity; Natira introduces herself as the “High Priestess”, and I think it’s quite obvious that her leadership is based on that role. And it turns out that the oracle exerts control over the people of Yonada to prevent them from realizing that they are on a spaceship. It’s not clear why, but it seems nobody has ever dared to discuss the reason or request an explanation – which reminds me of religious taboos and bans on independent thinking. The episode establishes a conflict between religion and faith on the one hand and science and knowledge on the other hand, with the latter represented by the old man who – accidentally but empirically – has found out the forbidden truth. However, this knowledge is kept back from the people of Yonada, and the old man gets punished.

In a way, the whole story reminds me of the dispute between Galileo Galilei and the Pope over the heliocentric system: Based on scientific research, Galileo had proven the Copernican hypothesis that Earth is orbiting the Sun and not the other way round. But the Pope wouldn’t have this because it didn’t fit into the worldview of the Church. Even though it was impossible to falsify Galileo’s findings, they did what they could to silence him… just as Yonada’s oracle demands obedience and doesn’t tolerate any questions or doubts. It’s telling that the oracle’s power is broken when Natira starts doubting it.
Peter G.
Thu, Feb 16, 2023, 11:05am (UTC -6)
@ Lannion,

"And it turns out that the oracle exerts control over the people of Yonada to prevent them from realizing that they are on a spaceship. It’s not clear why, but it seems nobody has ever dared to discuss the reason or request an explanation – which reminds me of religious taboos and bans on independent thinking."

The problem is that this sci-fi scenario doesn't really map well onto anything in our world, so we can't just assume their religion is our religion, the choice to keep them in the dark is equivalent to our religions keeping people ignorant, and so forth. There's nothing very meaningful to glean from the episode if we just take it as a blanket condemnation of religion or something like that.

I'll point out that Natira seems like a kind and wise leader, and this detail shouldn't be lost in regard to what kind of people they are and what effects (if any) the plans of their ancestor are having in the present. True, the asteroid is out of control and needs help, which was not part of the original plan. But on the other hand we don't really know the circumstances leading them to think that their generational ship out to live simpler lives. Maybe their people had become decadent with their use of technology and wanted to train in a more humble breed to land on their new world; like trying to get rid of the worst of themselves. Maybe they feared if the crew knew it was a spaceship they could use it for ill, attacking some innocent world and lacking the patience to wait the necessary generations to get to the chosen one. We aren't told these things and therefore it's hard to say.

One image that strikes immediately is that of touching the sky. This brings up the Tower of Babel right away, where the sin was to try to reach toward God with a physical edifice instead of trying to become holier. My above hypothesis someone echoes this image: maybe too much technological might and not enough simplicity leads to the creation of towers of Babel. This image does get turned on its head in the episode, where the man saying he touched the sky is in fact telling the truth that's been hidden from them, so here the tower motif becomes one of reaching up toward something good (the truth) rather than trying to cheat one's way to God. So perhaps the caution can extend both ways: don't avoid trying to become better people, but also don't lose sight of dealing with reality.

It's not that important to pick on this point, but I wanted to throw in an objection to your depiction of Galileo. The general understanding thrown around in culture is a rather inaccurate one, at minimum lacking nuance. It wasn't the case that the Pope rejected the Copernican idea and banned the idea. In fact Galileo was absolutely given permission to publish his theories, with the proviso that he had to include the currently taught belief alongside so the reader could see both. He chose instead to include the Pope in caricature saying stupid things, and named him Simplicio. Well, duh, he got in trouble for that. You see, back then it wasn't considered acceptable to just write books saying anything you want, letting your nonsense compete in the 'marketplace of ideas'. It was, for reasons we can now understand very well, considered dangerous to publish misinformation or unconfirmed theories, and have people who didn't know any better believe them; especially when it would radically alter their worldview. At the time the establishment was VERY slow to update things and verify new ideas, and although this was no doubt grating to scientists it did have some merits, such as the avoidance of the white noise machine that publication is today.
Thu, Jul 27, 2023, 1:39pm (UTC -6)
Say what you will about TOS’ third season, it had some great episode titles. For The World is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky is one heck of a highfalutin mouthful of a name. It’s also a title that has both symbolic and literal connection to the shows content, which is interesting.
Thinking about this episode, it gets my mind moving and produces a lot of cool avenues of thought, but I have to ask myself is it actually good? Because, honestly I’m not totally sure. It’s got a lot of what I love in a TOS episode: character beats, high-minded concepts, more than a bit of camp-style silliness, but it also has a somewhat compressed feeling, a rushed pace that can leave things with an unfinished impression. Even the introduction is presented mid-crisis, missiles bearing down on the enterprise, but we never get any follow up on how or why the oracle ship would be shooting missiles around, we just move right along into the guts of this ancient bio-domed society. But ultimately I think this episode is more good than bad, and I enjoyed it. Mainly because I really like the underlying concepts at work.
On the one hand it’s difficult to gage what the ultimate message here is. Without knowing what the original creators of this ship intended it’s difficult to know what the episode’s intentions are; is the oracle simply malfunctioning or is this oppressive state the actual design by which it was meant to operate?
On the other hand, that mystery sort of works in its own way, as the yonadans have come to accept whatever the oracle demands of them, malfunction or no. In that sense I take this episode’s focus to be about the virtue of reason, a very common TOS theme, with the generational ship as an elaborated version of Plato’s Cave. The yonadans are locked in a mental prison, much like the unfortunate souls chained to the wall of the cave, both are seeing what they think reality is from their limited point of reference, and both are hostile to the idea of having that reality challenged. The only path to enlightenment, and thus survival, is to break free of that prison through reason. But perhaps the original intent of the oracle’s creators was to use oppression as protection, and to see reason as a threat. To build a religion around this ship/planet illusion in order to maintain control for the sake of stability. As such, curiosity and reason could have been seen by the creators as dangerous, unpredictable. The old man who falls victim to the oracle’s punishment can be seen as representative of man’s disruptive desire to know being suppressed by man’s desire for security. In the cave those chained to the wall, in a miserable condition, still cleaved to that existence, even when given the implication of a better, or truer, worldview. I, incidentally, found it ominous when nadira said that old men sometimes act foolish, implying this isn’t the first time someone has given in to the temptation of the mountain in their old age and paid a price for their transgression.
For us, the audience, we’re intended I think to see the situation as terrifying and wholly undesirable. We see reason as salvation. The unquestionable dogma of the oracle, a poison leading the yonadans to their doom. But perhaps this was how their society was designed to function, with the creators intention being to protect the yonadans from themselves by encasing them in rigid religious doctrine to establish a sort of cryostasis of the mind. The fear being that understanding their situation might lead to tampering or even deviating the ship from its purpose, a sort of parallel with the apple of knowledge in the garden of Eden.

The other reading is that the oracle is malfunctioning, has been for some time, and the yonadans have gradually adapted to their circumstances, including the instrument of obedience which perhaps had a more benign function that has been corrupted into a means of despotic control. Either way, I find it all pretty interesting.
A few other thoughts:
-is Darren V the yonadans actual destination? If so somebody might want to let the people living there know that they’ve got company on the way.
-return of the archons meets paradise syndrome vibes.
-McCoy and nadira’s romance is a bit rushed. I guess the yonadans are pretty straight shooters when it comes to dating.
-Spock loves McCoy!

2.5/4 inexplicably jester-themed security guards.
Thu, Aug 24, 2023, 3:48am (UTC -6)
Even though it was inevitable that the Reset Button would be pressed by the episode's end, I have always found distasteful McCoy's willingness to abandon his wife as soon as her people's knowledge gave him back a longer life expectancy. Was he in love, or was he just killing time until, he expected, time would kill him?
Beard of Sisko
Mon, Sep 4, 2023, 6:01am (UTC -6)
The short conversation about the Prime Directive in this episode renders other episodes like TNG's "Homeward" or Voyager's "Time and Again" completely unnecessary. When the two choices are cultural change or annihilation, the former is always preferable no matter what.

And it gets really infuriating whenever an episode tries to treat it as some sort of debate. There is no debate to be had.
Mon, Sep 11, 2023, 3:53am (UTC -6)
@Beard of Sisko

Yeah, the whole idea of what the Prime Directive was, and what it forbade, and whether it had room for exceptions, didn't seem very consistent, even within a single series, even less so across different ones.

I suppose one could take it as the kind of evolution and reinterpretation that tends to happen in real life with principles upheld as crucial to a civilization's self-concept. But it really seems to me to just be whatever the writers need it to be in any given episode, in order to make the plot do what they want.

I think, actually, my favorite way of them handling it, even though it was far from my favorite episode in all of Trek, was in TNG's first-season "Symbiosis," where the entire population of one planet is convinced they have a fatal disease and are only kept alive by what is essentially an addictive recreational drug supplied by another planet in their star system. Picard uses the Prime Directive as the excuse to do what will ultimately be better for the exploited civilization, when he refuses to give them the parts to keep their cargo ships running. When they get through withdrawal, they can start their real lives. Doctor Crusher protests that she could have made it "easier" for them, but that in itself is kind of a way of controlling them by shielding them from immediate pain, instead of letting them find out just how independent they can be.

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