The Enterprise is summoned to a mining planet that is experiencing a series of killings. Some sort of underground monster is killing the men by means of a highly corrosive chemical that eats away the body leaving just some ashes.
Kirk, Spock and McCoy lead the investigation. Administrator Vanderberg explains that a few months ago the miners opened up a new level and shortly afterwards the attacks began. While listening to his story Spock noticed a spherical silver mineral specimen on Vanderberg’s desk and asks him about it. Vanderberg tells him that thousands of these nodules were discovered on the new level.
Spock theorizes that the monster may be a silicon-based lifeform and advises that a more powerful phaser weapon be used to attack the creature. When Spock discovers that the creature is the only one of its kind in the area, he states that destroying it would be a crime against science. Kirk states that killing the creature is the only choice available.
After several more deaths the creature steals the circulation pump for the colony nuclear reactor. Emergency repairs by Scotty allow a temporary reprieve but very shortly the colony will need to evacuate or suffer a meltdown. Finally, Kirk and Spock find the creature and wound it with their phasers. Eventually they corner it and seeing that the creature seems intelligent Kirk changes his mind about killing it and lets Spock mind meld with it to find out where it has hidden the pump and why it is attacking the colonists.
Meanwhile Kirk summons McCoy to heal the badly wounded creature. When Kirk orders him to help the creature, McCoy makes one of his trademark statements, “I’m a doctor, not a bricklayer!” Spock performs his mind meld and discovers that the Horta is a peaceful creature. It is the only one around because every fifty thousand years all the Hortas but one die off and the remaining one guards the eggs and serves as mother to a whole generation of Hortas. When the miners opened the new level, they unconcernedly destroyed thousands of the silicon nodules which, of course, are the Horta’s eggs. The angry colonists calm down once they realize that they were the original aggressors and can find a way to live and let live with the Hortas. But Spock reminds them that all this may be moot because the Horta is badly wounded. Suddenly McCoy speaks up and says that the Horta will survive. He had the Enterprise beam down a hundred pounds of thermo-concrete and he troweled it on the wound and it will form a bandage until the Horta heals. He becomes so excited he yells out, “Why I can cure rainy day!”
As the Enterprise is preparing to depart the planet, we hear from Vanderberg that the baby Hortas are hatching out and they are providing the miners with tunnels to help them find minerals more quickly. So, everybody’s happy.
This episode has a lot of things going on. There is some interesting interaction between Kirk and Spock. Spock exhibits human emotion when he thinks Kirk is in danger. In fact, in a radio exchange during a cave in Spock calls him Jim, which doesn’t sound very Vulcan. The story is definitely interesting although the secret of the silicon nodules is fairly transparent. Bones, of course has the best lines in the episode. But there is a dark side. During his mind meld with the Horta Spock takes on the voice and facial expressions of an hysterical woman. The weeping and agonizing are awful to have to watch.
My rating. As a show the grade is 8! Shatner mocking isn’t a thing here but for this episode I’ll substitute mockery of Spock. The mind meld is awful and deserves a 9. Total score 8 // 9.
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