Kirk, Spock and McCoy are in the shuttle craft with Federation Commissioner Nancy Hedford (played by Elinor Donahue of “Father Knows Best” fame) returning from a space treaty negotiation on Epsilon blah blah blah. Hedford has been infected with a rare but potentially deadly disease and needs treatment on the Enterprise to restore her to health. But the shuttlecraft is intercepted by an energy entity that tows the vessel to a planetoid that possess an earth-like environment.
Once there they discover that the shuttle engine and communication devices are inactivated and they begin to worry how they will get back to the Enterprise before Commissioner Hedford dies.
A man appears and introduces himself as Mr. Cochrane and explains that the entity rescued him when he was a very old man dying in a space ship that passed by the planetoid. They discover that Cochrane is the famous Zefram Cochrane, the inventor of the warp drive. And his appearance convinces them that the 239-year-old Cochrane is being kept young and alive by the entity.
The entity has brought them to the planetoid to keep Cochrane company. It turns out that the entity is female and loves Cochrane. But now Hedford is actually dying and Kirk and Spock rig up a translator to allow them to talk to the entity. They explain that not being a woman she can never love a man but that humans cannot live in captivity and so eventually Cochrane will die of loneliness. When they tell the entity that Commissioner Hedford is dying the entity leaves them.
Suddenly Hedford shows up apparently healed and explains that she is both the entity and Hedford in the same body. She saved Hedford’s life by joining her. Now the shuttle can leave and Cochrane asks if the woman will come with him back to civilization. But the entity reveals that her life force is fused to the planetoid and if she left, she would die. Out of gratitude but also love Cochrane decides to stay on the planetoid with the woman. He asks Kirk not to let the outside know that the famous Zefram Cochrane is living on the planetoid. As they’re leaving Spock asks how the peace talks can proceed without Hedford and Kirk says, “I’m sure the Federation can find another woman, somewhere, who’ll stop that war.”
The idea of the story is kind of interesting. A legendary historic figure made immortal by a lovestruck ion cloud. Combining a career woman who couldn’t find love with an alien that needs a woman’s body to actualize the attraction she feels for a man is clever.
But the action we see is kind of lame. At one point, Kirk and Spock rig up a device to disrupt the cloud’s electric field and essentially kill it. But the entity foils their plan and then proceeds to choke them to death somehow. As Shatner and Nimoy writhe around on the floor clutching their throats, DeForest Kelley growls out in his typical outraged way, “Stop it, your killing them!” I mean, isn’t it obvious that’s what the entity is trying to do? Elinor Donahue provides a sufficiently annoying bureaucrat. All things considered, Cochrane and the entity are the only sympathetic characters in the teleplay.
I’d call this a 6. The Shatner mockery score is significantly enhanced by the writhing strangling scene so let’s call it a 6 // 7.