Star Trek: The Original Series

"The Lights of Zetar"

2 stars

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

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

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

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

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

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

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51 comments on this post

Mon, Jan 7, 2013, 10:57pm (UTC -6)
Y'know what might've given this episode a smidgen of substance? If it had been the Uhura vehicle that fans were promised in 1967. I mean, who cares about a guest character??

For that matter, wouldn't it have been cool to see *Sulu* think his way out of the trap in "The Mark of Gideon"?
Wed, Sep 18, 2013, 8:55am (UTC -6)
Excellent insight, Grumpy. Perhaps the reason this series died was the unwillingness to develop any other characters besides the big four.
Wed, Apr 23, 2014, 2:27pm (UTC -6)
I was thinking the same thing. A lot of episodes would had be better if they rewritten a whole bunch of roles in season 3 for sulu, chekov, and uhura instead of having an unknown crewmember. That would had made season 3 better. Despite the behind the scene changes im surprise the writting staff didnt suggest instead of having an unknwown crewmember play this part why not make it someone the audience know and care about like sulu, chekov, or uhura.
Wed, Apr 23, 2014, 5:43pm (UTC -6)
According to Memory Alpha (named, of course, for this episode), Shari Lewis -- yes, the ventriloquist -- wrote the story so that she could play the lead. So there was never any contemplation of putting a regular cast member in the role.

Although Trek fanfic had been printed since 1967, this story is, in a way, the first to become canonical. Even has a classic Mary Sue!
Sat, May 3, 2014, 2:06pm (UTC -6)
The theme of non-corporeal beings invading the bodies of living people is a major Trekkian theme, so it's interesting to compare it to other episodes like this.

On a different note, I found it kind of annoying that they kept referring to Mira as "the girl". Seems unnecessarily patronizing, especially given that the actress who portrays her is closer to 30 than to a more obviously youthful age.
William B
Mon, Dec 8, 2014, 2:47pm (UTC -6)
A dead civilization "takes over" and finds new life on the Enterprise -- taking over a crewmember in the process. If this sounds familiar, it's because I'm not just describing "The Lights of Zetar," but also "Return to Tomorrow," and, frankly, "The Inner Light." The crew member also happens to be a librarian, which means that one could read the episode as a metaphor for, um, becoming lost in long-dead worlds through, uh, books; one could read "The Inner Light" the same way, given Picard's interest in archaeology. Still, the difference is that "Return to Tomorrow" is a decent episode and "The Inner Light" is a classic, and "The Lights of Zetar" has nothing to say. What does it mean for the Zetarians to be extinct? Who knows or cares.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

just a few thoughts.... if you write something, write it properly.
Lt. Yarko
Fri, Dec 4, 2015, 2:27am (UTC -6)
Oh my dog. The pressure. More pressure. Come on. More. Pressure. Do it. Apply more pressure. Now. More. Yes. More Pressure.

What a godawfully strange and out-of-nowhere solution. Yikes.
Sun, Sep 25, 2016, 12:39am (UTC -6)
Not a terribly horrible episode, but not a terribly good one either.

I will say that, although Scotty babying Mira was a bit much, it was nice to see him seemingly liking her for who she was as a person, as the whole package, without any of the leering that happens in a typical Kirk romance subplot. He was sweet. Too sweet. I think I need insulin. Although if he kept that up it would easily become stifling.
Wed, Dec 14, 2016, 3:46pm (UTC -6)
I still find this episode much better than most Enterprise episodes that are plain dull.
Fri, Jul 14, 2017, 2:19pm (UTC -6)
This was a dull, silly, and pointless episode.

Plenty of issues with it: Scotty being portrayed as a love-struck fool (similar to "Who Mourns for Adonais?"), how the crew kept calling Romaine "the girl" (even the Zetarians call her "the girl"), and of course the basic plot that somehow Kirk hatches up to put Romaine in the pressure chamber to rid her of the Zetarians. There's not even any decent technobabble to justify this.

One of my gripes about Trek is when a character is portrayed as a fool. Obviously, Scotty is a terrific engineer and has proven his worth time and again performing miracles ("That Which Survives", "The Doomsday Machine") and he's an able commander too. But here he's totally unprofessional. It's not like we can really appreciate the romance since Romaine is a guest character. It would have been better if this was an Uhura or Chapel episode.

Can only give "The Lights of Zetar" 1.5 stars. The premise of the episode -- of aliens seeking a suitable human host -- is unoriginal and poorly executed here. The idea of the thoughts/emotions/hopes of people being able to travel at warp speed is a bit much (it's better done in "Return to Tomorrow", for example). I guess it's episodes like this that gave S3 TOS a bad rap.
Sun, Jul 16, 2017, 2:20am (UTC -6)
Hello Everyone!


I could not agree more with regards to Scotty. For some reason, they had him lose his marbles more than once over a "girl". "Who Mourns for Adonais?" comes to mind, and saying he'd had a distrust of women in "Wolf in the Fold" because he'd been damaged in an accident by one.

Scotty was the perfect third in Command, level-headed and able to think outside the box during a crisis. He was done a dis-service with the episodes where he's an unthinking Neanderthal when there is a lady involved.

I just never understood that...

Regards... RT
Fri, Sep 1, 2017, 7:18pm (UTC -6)
So... Atmospheric pressure. Whee did that "solution" come from? Was there some conversation I missed, or was this simply terribly writing? This episode was... Weak. Though, Lt. Mira was rather attractive.
Fri, Nov 17, 2017, 11:46pm (UTC -6)
Oh no, no Trekfan review yet? I'd gotten in the habit of reading Jammer's review (usually negative), then William's review (usually verbose and analytic), then Trekfans (usually positive and upbeat). They unintentionally mirrored the tone of Bones, Spock and Kirk.

Anyway, I agree with the consensus on "Zetar", though I thought the new "gravity chamber" set was interesting and quite imaginative. The idea of a "cluster of lights" being a sort of floating hive mind which desired "individual bodies" is also interesting in theory. That the episode is written by a famous puppeteer is also interesting, in that it works metaphorically as the tale of a woman who becomes a puppet to a group mind, wrestles over whether or not this makes her a pawn or frees/empowers her creatively as an artist, and then is reborn after surving (literally lol) pressures from controlling men.
Sun, Dec 3, 2017, 6:30am (UTC -6)
So the Zetarians can exist in the vacuum of space but high atmospheric pressure kills them? I guess Scotty's relationship with Lt. Mira didn't last , asshe was never seen or mentioned again.
Trek fan
Thu, Dec 7, 2017, 11:27pm (UTC -6)
@Trent -- Never fear, here I am! Your final paragraph actually makes it sound like you enjoyed the episode. Or at least brings out some of its stronger points.

Over the years, I've watched TOS and other Star Trek episodes in random order, finding much fault with them. But as I rewatch TOS in airdate order (except that I started with The Cage and Where No Man Has Gone Before) for the first time right now, I find myself appreciating the creativity more deeply in its original context. And yes, I'm finding I enjoy many of the episodes, even ones I've disliked in the past.

With "Lights of Zetar," I see more evidence that TOS (from little moments like the garbled speech effects to the guest star characterizations) was still doing very creative things in Season 3, trying to show us new stuff even with a new (and evidently inferior) group of writers and directors. There are also touches of continuity throughout this season, including here the return of Chief Kyle (absent for quite a few shows) and the medical decompression chamber (called a gravity chamber here) we haven't seen since "Space Seed" in Season 1. I find the Zetarians interesting, their choice to victimize Romaine intriguing, and the mystery fairly interesting here. So yes, I give "Zetar" 2 1/2 or 3 stars!

Memory Alpha, the namesake of the great Trek wiki, is a cool little throwaway concept here. Jan Shutan offers a bit more personality as Romaine than the blonde alien of the week we've seen lately. And I actually find Scotty's protective attitude toward women fairly in-character for someone who is clearly a blue collar, hard-drinking, working class Joe: This is not a man we expect to have hip and progressive attitudes about women, but a somewhat awkward/clumsy math and science guy (again, this makes sense for the type) who goes all gooey around women.

On this note, let me point out another realization in the long list of "things TNG lifted directly from TOS" that I'm accumulating in my rewatch: Like Scotty, Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge ALSO acts like a TOTAL IDIOT around women (see Leah Brahms, whom he awkwardly lures to a romantic dinner without realizing she's married) throughout TNG. Like Scotty, his professional boundaries go all over the map with the professional colleague he likes. But unlike Scotty, self-righteous Trekkies (and there are many of us, myself included at times) do not accuse Geordi of embarrassing sexism even as he *clearly* crosses professional boundaries. So again, allow me to call BS on Trek fans who view TOS as somehow uniquely sexist in comparison to the uniquely enlightened TNG. I'm sorry, but all of the stuff people find backward-looking about TOS (i.e. the miniskirts on crewwomen) was edgy and hip and provocative for TV at the time it aired, whereas TNG merely added 1980s leotards and bland self-righteousness to the elements it recycled. There's a difference between truly pushing boundaries and self-consciously pretending to do so in safe ways, and I can only say for myself: More TOS, please.

As for "Zetar," despite appreciating its efforts to do new stuff, I can't go higher than 2 1/2 or 3 stars partly because the long computer analysis of Romaine in the briefing room kills the pacing for me. Like "The Deadly Years" in Season 2, this long and talky sequence that reveals the aliens taking over Romaine's brain patterns tends to over-talk things past the point where we need exposition to advance the plot. It's at about this point in the story that my attention wanes and mild boredom or disengagement sets in. Also, while the Zetarians prove irreducibly hostile, I do lament the loss of Trekkian idealism in this episode's conclusion that is content to relegate them to oblivion. It would have been nice to see a great effort on the part of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy to at least attempt a solution.

But in the end, I find Scotty's central role in this episode to be a plus, as his warmth for Mira Romaine yields that great scene of trust at the end. And her fight to assert her personality with Scotty's help is fitfully engaging. For a split second as he expressed his belief Mira would not hurt him, I sensed Scotty's vulnerability and thought he might actually die, even though I should probably have known otherwise. As Scotty episodes go, this one ranks among the best for showing us a personal side of the engineer, and may even exceed "Wolf in the Fold" where he is more of a cog in the slasher film plot than a character.
Trek fan
Fri, Dec 8, 2017, 3:03pm (UTC -6)
PS - On second thought, I'll give this episode a steady 3 stars, perhaps a bit on the low side there. It was late when I rewatched it last night, but an earlier commenter mentioned something I failed to observe: The aliens on "Zetar" are REALLY creepy when they take over people. There's still a certain point -- I've never quite been able to figure out where -- when the energy goes out of the show, my mind wanders, and suddenly everyone is in sickbay ready for the climax. But there's a definite sense of the unknown with the Zetarians, a sense of torment to their possession of people, and a lack of resolution that is once again (compared to most neat TOS resolutions) strong in leaving more questions than answers. This one just seems to need a little extra shot of energy; the execution seems to be getting a bit tired as the series progresses into late third season. Anyway, not a great show by any means, but I think "Zetar" is entertaining enough.
Frances yozawitz
Sun, Mar 4, 2018, 12:41pm (UTC -6)
Star Trek was the best tv show
Dan Bolger
Mon, May 21, 2018, 4:13pm (UTC -6)
This isn't a review of this episode. But generally, Christ on a stick, aren't most of these season 3 episodes boring. Yawnsville! I'm onto where I left off, deep space 9 season 3 after, as I'm nearly done with watching all of the original series.
Sun, Sep 2, 2018, 10:24pm (UTC -6)
I’m with Trek Fan, I think this is for sure a 3 star. With the very creepy garbled voice when the Zetars possess people, it is actually a solid understated horror flick.

Sure, there are warts, like calling Mira “the girl”, and clunky lines from Uhura/Chekov/Sulu. And I agree in principle that the episode would be stronger if it featured a regular crew member, but I don’t hold structural show issues against specific episodes, and this actress knocked it out of the park.
Peter G.
Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 8:21pm (UTC -6)
I never much liked this episode. When I was a kid the distorted croaking sounds freaked me out so much I couldn't watch it, and when I was older I felt like not that much was happening. Funny how time can change my opinion. This is just the sort of episode that the networks didn't want: cerebral sci-fi, where the tension is built through dialogue instead of action and special effects. In the investigation scene, when they realize that the brainwaves are those of the aliens, it's a downright creepy moment sold my nothing more than the performances and lines. That's good stuff, and honestly how I would prefer much of Trek to be. For all the good I'll say about TNG and DS9, they rarely managed to captured the dark emotions conveyed by TOS like creepiness, deep tension, and sometimes even scary situations. They do it on rare occasion, but only rarely.

Another thing I just realized is the meta-narrative going on here. The episode begins with some exposition about how Scotty has finally fallen in love, and although she's more shy about it we're led to believe that it may be mutual. We don't know her yet, but in Scotty's case we know that he's basically been married all this time to technical manuals and the engines, so engaging with a real person would be a different thing to explore. And lo and behold, we get a sci-fi plot whose reveal is that her mind is being changed due to her receptivity to new situations. She sees through another's eyes, has thoughts in her head that don't come from her - in short, she's experiencing a metaphoric effect of falling in love! The dread of losing herself and simply becoming the mind of the aliens is the very dread some people have of losing themselves in their partners. So they introduced a scary and threatening sci-fi element to graphically portray how scary it can be to enter a relationship with a person. Brilliant! It's still not entirely the most fascinating episode, although it does have the noteworthy introduction of Memory Alpha. But boy, conceptually this is how to write real sci-fi. It's not just about the spatial anomaly of the week.
Sun, Oct 28, 2018, 1:15pm (UTC -6)
Watching this episode I was sharply reminded of one of the most terrifying aspects of science-fiction: the invasion of the body snatchers. It matters not what form they take; it matters not whether they even exist. As I watched I found myself holding my breath and wondering how the Enterprise and her crew were going to get out of this predicament. I thought back to another old sci-fi-series I used to watch---"The Invaders"---and how those aliens, in the pursuit of their nefarious schemes, had taken human form---and I thought about how Lt. Mira Romaine, because of her psychological aspects, had gotten into this fix which was not of her making. I reognized that Scotty was human, that he had feelings and was not afraid to express them. I got caught up in how Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock once again teamed up, as they always seemed to be doing, to find the solution to the problem. And again I thought of that old series, and I remembered that whenever one of those invaders was shot he disintegrated---and I was able to relax as the antigravity chamber did its work and the Zetarians were beamed out into space. Fascinating---the word in Vulcan is "sem-rik"---how the more things change the more they remain the same.
Wed, Nov 28, 2018, 3:20pm (UTC -6)
Notice how they never actually discuss Kirk’s plan, and even in sickbay, Spock is circumspect about it, saying merely that they to carry out the Captain’s plan.

Seems likely the production knew perfectly well that lilling the aliens with high atmospheric pressure made no sense. Swapping that out for some technobabble radiation would have really helped.
Sat, Dec 15, 2018, 7:26pm (UTC -6)
I really liked the horror aspects of this episode, yes it has some plotholes and the solution is not so believable (pressure) but it was definitely not one of those episodes where you start checking how many minutes still left to the end. in general pacing was good, dialogues were fine, Scottys romance with the guest actress worked, yes this episode had not a real message to think about, but I dont expect that from every episode. Had shore leave in season 1 a message? Not really, but was rated 3 stars for being fun. I had fun with this episode, suspense was there for me, so I give it 2,5-3 stars.

Im right now asking myself how shore leave and some other episodes would have been rated if they had been aired in season 3, this season is not as bad as people say it is.
Tue, Jun 4, 2019, 11:10pm (UTC -6)
Got super bored with this one about 2/3rds through I'd say - could barely hang in. Scotty may have been in love, but I wasn't. It was hard to care about Mira or the not-so-good people of Zetar.

Scotty insistence that his One True Love's weird symptoms were just space sickness was an unbelievable and irritating plot device.

Some kind of brain (Spock) vs heart (McCoy) vs soul (Scotty) theme, I guess. In the end, they all agree Mira is a fine, strong lass.

Not much happened. Just blah.

Below average.
Sarjenka's Brother
Sat, Aug 17, 2019, 3:06pm (UTC -6)
The girl.

The girl.

The girl.

The girl.

The girl.

The girl.

The girl.
Tue, Oct 29, 2019, 7:40pm (UTC -6)
Yes it’s slow moving but I like the scenes where the lass speaks in tongues when attacked by the lights. Face contorted “Glarble glarb rrrr” with that funky slip-sliding music over all. I’d like to know how they did the voice sounds, and whether there is actually something being said pre-manipulation.
Sleeper Agent
Thu, May 14, 2020, 12:57pm (UTC -6)
Yes, it would've been amazing if Uhura served as the alien vehicle. I don't mind the guest actress, she did a very good job, especially when channeling those of Zetar; but man Uhura would've KILLED it.

Overall a good episode with a cool enemy, some creative plot elements and solid dialogue. A bit slow sometimes, but hey it's TOS. The pressure chamber felt somewhat random; and man did they milk those last minutes "Just like that Spock! Just little more, yes; perhaps a teeny weeny bit more ..."

Also, Scotty might not always be spot on with his diagnosis "It's just space!", but what he lacks in concluding, he makes up for in bed side manner.

Sun, May 24, 2020, 4:29pm (UTC -6)
Maybe this TOS episode might be the most similar to Star Trek Continues: "Come Not Between the Dragons" with a no-name ensign figuring prominently in a kind of alien invasion story. As always, I greatly appreciate the careful integrity of STC in producing shows that really have the feel of TOS. But "Dragons" was the weakest of the first 6 episodes for me.

I guess if STC is looking for themes to explore in a Trek sci-fi way, the idea of a father being more gentle with his son is worth a shot but it wasn't compelling here. TNG's "The Icarus Factor" wasn't good either. The other theme is this ensign who had a troubled relation with her father and the alien creature (which looks like something TOS could reasonably design) singles her out for support -- how this comes about requires some wild imagination.

And then these pulses from the father cause the crew to become enraged until a solution to neutralize the effects are found. So we get some TOS-style fisticuffs. I thought that when these actors had to emote rage, it didn't quite come off like the pros do, so the acting suffered slightly in this one, particularly McCoy.

2 stars for "Come Not Between the Dragons" -- ultimately pushing too hard with the sermonizing to the alien creatures father. Kirk realizes he's not the one to do the communicating and wisely steps aside, which was good -- he puts his faith in the no-name ensign. Might have been good to make better use of Uhura or another main cast member for such a purpose. Also liked that there is a friendship between 3 of the women -- so there is a broadening of the overall crew. The story/premise here just wasn't ambitious enough here.
Sam Dracula
Sat, Jun 20, 2020, 9:39pm (UTC -6)
I found this episode having a lot of potential but instead of focusing more on the antagonist, we have the Montgomery Scott turns into an obnoxious pussy. I’d still give 2 stars but after watching it tonight, I’m hoping Mr Scott gets stuck in a Jeffries tube.
Sometimes, I think the writers were high and decided to cut corners out of laziness
Thu, Jan 21, 2021, 9:46am (UTC -6)
The Lights of Zetar

Star Trek season 3 episode 18

"When a man of Scotty's years falls in love, the loneliness of his life is suddenly revealed to him.”

- Kirk

2 1/2 stars (out of 4)

James Doohan was 48 when this episode aired, and was on his second (of three) wives. He was already a father of 4 (he’d eventually have 3 more children with his third wife). Six years after this episode aired, when Doohan was 54, he married his third and last wife. She was 18 on their wedding day.

None of that side of Doohan’s personality comes across in his portrayal of Scotty. I guess that’s why they call it acting!

What is it like for a man of 48 who has never been married and is essentially a work-a-holic, to find a woman he loves? I can’t say I really know. But my guess is he sees stars. Everything is bright and multicolored. Like the Lights of Zetar. @Peter G. looks at the episode from Lt. Mira’s point of view. But this is in the end a show about our four heroes - Kirk, Spock, Bones and Scotty. Kirk (age 37) met a woman he might have been happy to leave everything for in “Paradise Syndrome.” Spock (age 37) met his equal and opposite number in "The Enterprise Incident.” Bones (age 48) thought he might settle down on a World that is Hollow and which was hurdling to its doom. And what of Scotty? Well, at age 48, we finally get to find out.

[When she says "anything else" in ^ that clip, Mira almost sounds like Princess Leia.]

What’s lovely about the episode is how happy Kirk appears that Scotty has finally found someone. I noted in my review of the would-be pilot “Where no Man has Gone Before,” that when Scotty gives a sarcastic answer in that episode, Kirk just smiles and is amused. Kirk is clearly fond of his crew. Scotty in particular. And Kirk cuts Scotty a lot of slack. Here more than maybe any episode up till now. To wit,

KIRK: Scotty, where've you been? Where are you?

SCOTT: In the Sickbay.

KIRK: Are you sick?

SCOTT: Oh, no. I was just checking on the lass. She's going to be fine now. There's nothing wrong with her.

KIRK: Well, I'm relieved to hear your prognosis, Mister Scott. Is the doctor there with you, or will I find him in Engineering?

There is an easy banter and unspoken warmth between them that adds a charm we don’t really see as much of in later iterations of Trek. They tried it a little with Sisko and Dax in DS9, especially in “Meridian,” but it doesn’t work there nearly as well as it does here - maybe because in “Meridian” the writers felt the need to kick the tension up to 11 by threatening us that Dax was going to leave Starfleet for love. Here, in “Zetar," we just have a healthy affection building up between two people, causing at least one of them to slip a little at work. Happens to the best of us :)

I’ll also echo what @Trek fan says, there are definitely some special bits in this episode. If “Spock’s Brain” gave us that iconic view of the bridge from directly behind the captain’s chair, then here in “Zetar,” we get a nice reused shot taken almost directly from above Kirk, as he's sitting in his captain's chair. Even things we’ve seen before - if not for a long while - like the pressure chamber from “Space Seed,” are nice to see again. We get Nurse Chapel with a Scottish accent. All nice touches.

The concept of Memory Alpha is also a unique one and if we are to judge by the success of that website ( ), a very popular idea at that.

Where this episode loses massive points is in the Briefing Room scene. Like the random and insanely boring court martial shoved into "The Deadly Years”, the briefing room scene in “Zetar” completely kills the momentum of the episode. It is a great idea to have the crew try and figure out what the fuck is going on, but I have to say, the Briefing Room concept only ever really worked on TNG. In DS9, most of the action would be just before or just after the briefing, not during. And on VOY, I never understood why Janeway bothered with briefings, since she never listened to anything anyone ever suggested. By the time we got to ENT, briefings were pretty much a thing of the past (future?), and nu-Trek doesn’t even bother. So don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of the Briefing Room scene, but the execution here was piss poor and killed the episode.

Still, I don’t mean to quibble. I enjoy this episode when I rewatch it. It is a diverting diversion.

The concept of the “Zetar” may not be terribly unique, but the way they are portrayed is frankly beautiful, and I appreciate the effort. Also, they actually bothered to hire a good actress for Lt. Mira, which made things quite pleasant. And for once, all four of our heroes, Kirk, Spock, Bones, and Scotty, completely agree. Which leads to what is one of my favorite Kirk/Scotty exchanges,

KIRK: Mister Scott, how's Lieutenant Romaine?

SCOTT: Beautiful, Captain.

KIRK: Yes, Mister Scott.

Yes indeed.
Thu, Jan 21, 2021, 12:01pm (UTC -6)
I saw this episode on Dailymotion last night.

The concept of souls / energy beings from a long dead civilization was good but they did nothing with it. Energy beings taking over bodies was done better in Return to Tomorrow. They could have done something like The Inner Light regarding the dead civilization, making us feel the sorrow of cultural extinction, perhaps letting their civilization live on in some form.

Wasted potential - 2/10.
Sun, Feb 7, 2021, 1:24am (UTC -6)
Whoa. Lt. Romaine would have given Mary Ann a run for her money in an Adorable-Off back in the day! Miss America. I’m Just a bit worried Doohan was not acting. No wonder Scotty missed that master warning caution, and Kirk had to shoot him a look.

Thankfully, Spock’s “by Vulcan God these humans are stupid” filter had reset itself from the last episode’s clonk to his noggin. Although I gotta say, “That Time of the Month” Spock was just about the funniest thing in TOS. So Mr. Nimoy, if you can read this, thank you.

And no shield for the most important historical computer records for the whole galaxy? Typical NATO defense budgeting...

I thought the Disco Jelly Blob must have fried Kirk’s brain when he didn’t drop a spread of photon torpedoes into that thing when it was pursuing the Enterprise. “Maybe I can talk to it?” Dude. It just brain melted a planetoid of librarians. Like he knew in advance that Romaine would get zapped? No way. Blast that thing! I guess you just have to be that good to be a starship Captain...

It was so touching to watch the look of empathy and concern on Spock’s face as the young Lieutenant is getting her brain waves munched on by the Zetan blob. He would have made such a kind, caring father for any lucky daughter...

Anyway, Scotty’s stock value for me went through the roof during this episode. I just hope he doesn’t redline the engines while his thoughts are elsewhere. Unfortunately, between the scotch and the skirts, no way he makes Captain...
Mon, May 17, 2021, 2:05am (UTC -6)
I liked this episode despite the flaws. In fact I thought it was a typical TNG episode, concentrating on a single crew member and developing a good back story along with psychological profiles that brought to life what it means to be a new crew member, first time in space and vulnerable to space sickness.

No, there was not a great deal of tense action, and the love theme between Scotty and Romaine was clumsy, but the story was nicely developed and gave the regular crew members a chance to function well and naturally.

My main beef is that they saw killing the Zetarians as the only solution. Could they not have kept them in a pressure chamber and dropped them off at a planet at the “caveman” level of development?

I also liked the growing sense of the producers that aliens need to look sufficiently different to humans, as portrayed on Memory Alpha.

3 stars, but only just.
Mon, May 17, 2021, 2:08am (UTC -6)

Disco Jelly Blob - LMAO!
Sun, Jun 27, 2021, 10:19am (UTC -6)
Yet another really beautiful woman to grace the show. I think being gorgeous was the top qualification for female crewmen for Starfleet duty. The episode had potential but seemed to drag and become unexciting. It wasn’t clear what the Zatarians wanted. The point of it all seemed more about the hots that Scotty had for Lt. Romaine than anything else. Then these powerful aliens that could destroy all life on a planet and penetrate the Enterprise’s shields were defeated by a measly pressure chamber? I give it a C.
Jeffery's Tube
Sun, Jul 4, 2021, 5:37pm (UTC -6)
This is apparently Ronald D. Moore's pick as the worst episode of TOS.

According to IMDB ratings, this is the fifth-worst episode of TOS (albeit in a three-way tie with Catspaw and The Omega Glory--Spock's Brain, The Alternative Factor, The Way to Eden, and And The Children Shall Lead round out the bottom four). While I quibble with IMDB rankings, placements, and individual scores, in my experience they are generally good at picking out what the best and worst episodes of a show are, broadly speaking. It's safe to say this episode is very much not well-liked.

Well, I don't think it's as bad as all that. It isn't good, don't get me wrong. But it's notably better than all the other episodes I listed above. It doesn't deserve to be tied with The Omega Glory and Catspaw--I mean, YIKES.

All the "the girl" stuff is really, really bad. Even for 1968 I'm struggling to understand how this made it into a script. Especially one that was apparently written by a women! Even random Yeoman #27, who is obviously only there to be a skirt, is treated more respectfully than this by every single previous script. But she's not even meant to be a yeoman, at that--she's written to be a lieutenant, for crying out loud. Could you imagine a script treating Uhura this way? I'm glad this part went to Mary Sue Romaine, I think it would have harmed Uhura's character if it had featured her like some previous commenters have suggested (though, I imagine that suggestion entails keeping the general premise but with a substantial rewrite, anyway).

I can't put my finger on exactly why Romaine comes off as such a Mary Sue when there's any number of episodes featuring guest characters who come in, are special, the plot of the episode revolves around them, they romance a main character, they're instrumental in resolving the situation, etc. But she does. She just does.

I gather the writer wanted to play the part. It's basically her fantasy episode of Star Trek prominently guest starring herself. And it's barely disguised; I mean, just very, very obvious. So perhaps the irritation that engenders is why it ranks so very low in popular esteem.

But there's nothing in it that's just outright BAD like the others. There's some good character moments, some decent tension, nothing's unintentionally funny. Scotty gets a bigger role, which is rare.

I don't see how it can fairly be picked as THE worst episode, or even in contention with the other worst episodes. Even though it isn't very good. No, not very good, at all.
paul f.
Sat, Dec 4, 2021, 6:39pm (UTC -6)
i get the reviews saying its not a good episode...but, i liked it...prob put it in my top 10...the episode did not drag on, and i liked the last 10 min (loved the fact we didnt acually see the zetars).......also i think the show brings in guests for ratings...stories around crew members wouldnt get you three years..
Sat, Aug 13, 2022, 10:57am (UTC -6)
Disappointed that even Spock keeps referring to the Lt as ‘the girl’

At least Scotty is more respectful call her the ‘Lass’

Not a good ep from Kirk or Bones either

2 stars
Wed, Feb 8, 2023, 8:13pm (UTC -6)
I'm not as hard on this episode as some, though "the girl" was irritating to me even when I WAS a "girl" (let alone after Sister John Miriam Jones told all the female members of my freshman class at Notre Dame, "I call you 'Women of Notre Dame,' because that is what you are. Never call yourselves 'girls' again!").

I think this episode had some unrealized potential. They did a good job making the alien possession disturbing, and there was something compelling about the idea that the aliens were long-dead beings' hopes and aspirations that refused to die. I just think the writers needed to beef up the plot a bit, so more would be happening.

I think it's funny that several commenters mentioned liking the part where Scotty is sure Mira won't kill him. As a kid, I remember one of my sisters and I practically shouting at the analog TV screen, "But it's not HER you have to worry about! It's the things that have taken over her body!"

Now, when I watch this episode I am struck by her strength of will. That's what this episode is about, a contest of strong wills. This seeming wisp of a "girl" outfought alien willpower that had thus far conquered death itself. Maybe the repeated references to her as "the girl" were meant to contrast with her inner strength, but even telling myself that doesn't make me less irritated. I almost wonder if the writers didn't pick her character's name until the last minute and never got around to replacing all the placeholder text. I picture a script with sentences like "Put ***THE GIRL*** in the machine." (Not that I think that's literally what happened, but it sounds like it.)

I also find myself wondering why a pressure chamber would damage incorporeal beings and not the corporeal being they had inhabited.

Oh, and when Kirk is shaking his fist and growling through clenched teeth, "Pressure!", I hear David Bowie singing.
Mark P.
Sat, Feb 11, 2023, 9:21pm (UTC -6)
Make it so.
Mark P.
Sat, Feb 11, 2023, 9:25pm (UTC -6)
This is the first episode of TOS I ever saw back in 1968. I thought it was well written and not as outlandish as Lost in Space which was popular at the time. I became a fan with this episode.
Wed, Mar 22, 2023, 11:48pm (UTC -6)
Boring, self-contradictory, insulting to the Scott character, and plain stupid.

Sat, Apr 1, 2023, 4:27am (UTC -6)
I guess I just see this as a very fine diamond in quite the rough.

The Mira/Scotty romance and especially Mira being regarded as "the girl" are clunky, to put it mildly. Still, Mira is an officer, a lieutenant even.

But the episode does "possession" in a strikingly unique and frightening way. The possessed people croaking out still scares me, even if the glow on their face is silly.

I also still find the lengthy conference scene where they figure out what the Zetars are doing to be quite effective.
Sat, Apr 1, 2023, 4:51am (UTC -6)
Look, it's a possession story, but well couched (mostly) in sci-fi terms.

And it has significant world building that lives on today.
matthew h
Sat, Apr 29, 2023, 1:45pm (UTC -6)
I always thought Kirk's final "if only" was a statement of guilt about having severed the relationship with Janice L back in the day. In his ego, he might have assumed that's what pushed her over the edge.
Top Hat
Sun, Jul 2, 2023, 7:31am (UTC -6)
This is a rare episode where there's a false note in DeForest Kelley's performance. When the woman dies on Memory Alpha, he announces her death with the casualness of someone declaring that the laundry's done.
Michael Miller
Fri, Jul 28, 2023, 5:17am (UTC -6)
Totally unresolved episode and stupidly written. Why the fuck would air pressure have any effect on some energy beings that are freely traveling through space?? What kind of solution was that? They also never resolved what they actually were? Ghosts? Something actually paranormal or does their species actually transcend like that into energy and light naturally? How did Spock not flip out from all the illogic in this episode. I also don't get the crap with aliens altering the persons voice when they take over their body. If they are using their body to communicate it's going to be their voice box generating the sound and not them. Started out as a 3-4 star episode but then ended at 1 star due to the absolutely ridiculous pressure chamber solution and total cliff hanger ending.
Mon, Aug 14, 2023, 12:35pm (UTC -6)
There’s not a lot to be said for this episode, it almost feels like the script was unfinished or something. We don’t learn enough about the zetars, their origins or motivations, to get a sense of gravity in the episode. Their planet was dying so they just…continued? Like they’re ghosts? At least in Return to Tomorrow Sargon and co disembodied themselves into orbs intentionally as part of a plan. But the zetars evidently didn’t mean to take a non-corporeal form, it just happened. Fairly weak sci-fi writing. As a result, when the zetars are pressure expelled and go…wherever they go, the moment lacks poignancy.

I didn’t really buy the Scotty/Mira romance. Maybe it’s because Scotty already had a few episodes where he acted like a doofus towards women, but every time he interacted with Mira it made be uncomfortable. And it wasn’t really clear if Mira had feelings for Scotty or if it was more platonic on her end. Just not a ton of chemistry. Although I did feel for Scotty, it’s hard to feel helpless in the face of a crisis pertaining to someone you care about. Shades of mental illness struggles and how they can impact loved ones.

I found McCoy’s assessment of “occasional psychosomatic illnesses and teenage routine incidents” to be interesting, Lt. Romaine, you rebel you! But the persistent use of “the girl” to describe Mira was cringy. Even the zetars described her that way, weird. There were scenes where Kirk alternated between referring to her as lieutenant and girl, which made it all the more strange. It’s like the scriptwriter lost their thesaurus or something, furthering the unfinished feel here.

I’m also not sure what to make of the damage to Memory Alpha, it seems like a bit of a throw away plot point considering it’s, as Spock describes, a disaster for the galaxy. It also seems like a bad idea to create an invaluable information hub without any sort of protection. Cosmic storms and asteroid impacts are a legit danger, so while it’s a nice gesture to leave Memory Alpha open to all, without shields to avoid the perception of hostility, I agreed with Kirk’s sarcasm when he said “I hope the storm is aware of that rationale.” Speaking of sarcastic Kirk, I loved his “is the doctor there, or will I find him in engineering?” crack. Snarky kirk was on point!

There’s a pretty good creep vibe when the zetars possess people, the weird garbled noises that come out are particularly spooky. And it’s a fairly well executed episode, good acting, decent pacing, even good effects for a season three outing. But ultimately Lights of Zetar feels like a filler episode, somewhat inconsequential.

2/4 decompression chambers of salvation.

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