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Dagger of the Mind (episode)

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A routine visit to the Tantalus Penal Colony proves dangerous for Kirk and an Enterprise psychiatrist.

Summary Edit


While on a routine cargo drop to the Tantalus Penal Colony, the USS Enterprise takes on a stowaway, the violently insane Simon Van Gelder.

Act OneEdit

Security is alerted to search for Dr. Van Gelder, but he surprises one of the guards looking for him, overpowers him, and takes his phaser. He then heads to the bridge where he easily dispatches the bridge guard and then demands asylum. After he's captured and restrained, Spock determines that Van Gelder is a former associate of Tantalus administrator Doctor Tristan Adams, assigned to the colony only six months prior.

Required by regulations as quoted by McCoy to investigate Van Gelder's injury, Kirk decides to visit the penal colony with someone who has psychiatric experience.

Act TwoEdit

Tantalus V surface remastered

The entry to the penal colony.

Kirk beams down to Tantalus V with Doctor Helen Noel, a psychiatrist with whom he's been previously acquainted. In the transporter room, she tries to remind Kirk about their previous encounter, but he cuts her off. After Kirk and Noel take a very fast turbolift down to the colony, Adams meets with the two and informs them Van Gelder injured his mind by testing an experimental therapy device on himself, the neural neutralizer. Adams shows the device in operation on a patient, but says that it is of limited therapeutic value.

Kirk and Noel embrace

"I wouldn't recommend it for weak hearts."

On board the Enterprise, Spock and Dr. McCoy continue to investigate Van Gelder, whose ravings are difficult to decipher. However, at one point, Van Gelder claims Dr. Adams will destroy "like death".

Act ThreeEdit

Vulcan mind meld

Spock performs a mind meld on Dr. Simon Van Gelder

Spock decides to employ an ancient technique, the Vulcan mind meld, to learn the truth that Van Gelder cannot speak aloud. Although Spock had never previously performed a mind meld on a human, the procedure meets with some success. He learns that Adams has been experimenting on various individuals, including Van Gelder, using the neural neutralizer.

Adams shows Kirk and Noel the neural neutralizer

Dr. Adams shows Kirk and Noel the neural neutralizer

At the colony, Kirk and Noel investigate the neural neutralizer privately. Kirk wants first-hand experience with the device. After Noel provides assurance that an experiment can be done safely, Kirk sits in the treatment chair. Using a very low setting, she suggests to Kirk that he is hungry. A few seconds later, unaware of the suggestion, Kirk does in fact suggest they find a kitchen to raid. Then, at Kirk's request, Noel begins with a more elaborate suggestion; that Kirk and Noel went back to Kirk's quarters for a romantic evening after a meeting at the previous year's science labs Christmas party, which didn't really occur. Suddenky Adams surprises them, immobilizes Noel, and begins using the device to condition Kirk, including the suggestion that he is desperately in love with Noel, and using very high settings that are obviously causing Kirk great distress.

Act FourEdit

Fighting off the suggestions placed in his mind by Adams, Kirk dispatches Noel through the air conditioning ducts, in the hope she can find the power controls and deactivate the security force field. That field protects the facility, and prevents transporters from operating in it. Noel manages to take care of the guard in the power control room and deactivate the field long enough for Kirk to escape the torture, and Spock and a security force to beam down and secure the colony.

In an ironic twist, Dr. Adams dies of exposure to the neural neutralizer. Dr. Van Gelder is cured, and resumes his responsibilities at the colony. He also dismantles and destroys the neural neutralizer equipment. The Enterprise then heads away from Tantalus V at warp factor 1.

Log entries Edit

  • "Captain's log, stardate 2715.1. Exchanged cargo with penal colony on Tantalus 5, have departed without going ashore."
  • "Captain's log, stardate 2715.2. Standard orbit... planet: Tantalus 5... mission: routine investigation and report as per ship's surgeon medical log. As for my last entry, it seems that I will get to meet Dr. Adams at last, however I would prefer other circumstances."
  • "Enterprise log, first officer Spock acting captain. I must now use an ancient Vulcan technique to probe into Van Gelder's tortured mind."

Memorable quotes Edit

"A cage is a cage, Jim."

- McCoy, on penal colonies

"Interesting. Your Earth people glorify organized violence for forty centuries, but you imprison those who employ it privately."

- Spock, to McCoy

"Where there is no emotion, there is no motive for violence."

- Spock, to McCoy

"It appears we may have an inmate of yours aboard the ship."
"Transporter crewman found unconscious, captain. Cargo case open and empty."
"Make that definite, doctor. He's aboard."

- Kirk and Uhura confirm that Van Gelder is on board the Enterprise to Adams

"I want asylum."
"At gunpoint?"

- Van Gelder and Kirk, as Van Gelder storms into the bridge

"You smart, button-pushing brass hat! Wash your hands of it! Is that your system?"

- Van Gelder to Kirk, in sickbay

"May we never find space so vast, planets so cold, heart and mind so empty that, that we cannot fill them with love and warmth."

- Adams, toasting with Kirk and Noel

"One of the advantages of being a captain, doctor, is being able to ask for advice without necessarily having to take it."

- Kirk, to Noel

"You begin to feel a strange euphoria. Your body floats."

- Spock, performing his first mind-meld on a Human

"It's hard to believe that a man could die of loneliness."
"Not when you've sat in that room."

- McCoy and Kirk, on the death of Doctor Adams

Background information Edit


  • The first draft for this episode's script was turned in on 6 July 1966. The final draft was turned in 30 July, and the revised final draft turned in 5 August, with further revised pages dated 6 and 8 August.
  • Writer S. Bar-David is a pen name for Shimon Wincelberg. He incorporated several references to Jewish parables into the screenplay.
  • The part of Helen Noel was originally written for Grace Lee Whitney's character Janice Rand; however, producers wanted to avoid showing Kirk becoming involved with her, and Whitney was already on the verge of leaving the show due to personal problems on the set. (The Star Trek Compendium) In any event, from a dramatic point of view, it made more sense for a trained psychotherapist, rather than a yeoman, to accompany Kirk to the Tantalus rehabilitation colony.
  • The title of this episode is taken from a line of Shakespeare's play, Macbeth. Macbeth is preparing to murder Duncan, the King of Scotland, and sees a dagger that he attempts to grasp, only to discover it is a figment of his imagination. The relevant passage from the soliloquy reads:
    Is this a dagger which I see before me
    The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
    I have thee not, and yet I see thee still
    Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
    To feeling as to sight? Or art thou but
    A dagger of the mind, a false creation
    Proceeding from the heat-oppressèd brain?
  • The name "Lethe" is a reference to the River of Forgetfulness in Greek mythology. (The Star Trek Compendium)
  • The shot of the Enterprise miniature heading back to Tantalus at the beginning of Act Two does not appear in any other episode. The ship shifts slightly before veering out of frame; when this shot is used in other episodes, the model merely veers off.
  • This was the final episode (except for "Assignment: Earth") solely produced by Gene Roddenberry.
  • The producers still hadn't settled on background sound effects for the bridge when this episode was produced. Both the older bridge sound effect (first heard in "The Cage") and the familiar whirring sound that eventually would became standard were used in this episode.
  • After finishing this episode, Morgan Woodward (playing the emotionally and physically intense role of Van Gelder) reportedly went home and took a rest for four days. [1]


Sets and propsEdit

  • The wall behind the transporter console has been replaced with a panel from engineering in this episode. This was done so that the transporter operator could be distracted by checking the instruments as Van Gelder emerged from his crate on the transporter pad.
  • When Fields calls the bridge to report sighting Van Gelder in the corridor, the sign on the wall next to him says "Personnel Director." Another sign in the corridor can be seen to say "Science Library" while one with an arrow points to "Briefing Room."
  • The chair used in the neural neutralizer room was later re-used by Garth in "Whom Gods Destroy".
  • Albert Whitlock's matte painting for "Where No Man Has Gone Before" is recycled here, with the towers on the fuel bins painted out and a different doorway added to match with the live-action footage filmed of Kirk and Noel entering the surface shaft. This was made as a compromise between Gene Roddenberry and Bob Justman. Roddenberry wanted Kirk and Noel to arrive on the surface, then go underground via the elevator, while Justman urged him to eliminate this scene, and let them beam down directly into Dr. Adams' office (thus saving the costs of creating a matte painting and some extra sets). Roddenberry kept the surface scene in, but reused the old matte painting created for the second pilot. (These Are the Voyages: TOS Season One)
  • Some of the colony interiors are reused (and redressed) sets left over from the previous episode, "What Are Little Girls Made Of?". (These Are the Voyages: TOS Season One)


  • The treatment smocks worn by Adams and Eli have the same insignia as Dr. Cory in "Whom Gods Destroy".
  • However, when Van Gelder beams aboard, his smock does not bear the insignia.

Production ErrorsEdit

When Berkeley leaves the transporter room to secure a vaults assignment, he simply walks offscreen and does not exit the door into the corridor thereby leaving the transporter technician alone without explanation. Presumably, Berkeley departed for an unseen area of the transporter room.


  • This episode is mentioned as taking place after a Christmas party in the science labs. This is one of the few times a religious holiday is mentioned in the Star Trek future, and Christmas in particular was never mentioned again until Star Trek Generations. Additionally, the surname of the character who mentions this Christmas party to Kirk is (Helen) "Noel," which means "Christmas" in French.
  • This episode marks the first appearance of the Vulcan mind meld. The final shooting draft of this script had Spock placing his hands on Van Gelder's abdomen while performing the mind meld. According to The Making of Star Trek, the mind meld was developed as an alternative to the scripts use of hypnosis to stabilize Van Gelder. They did not want to inaccurately depict hypnosis as a medical technique. Nor did they want to shoehorn into the script a pretext that Spock was qualified to act as a hypnotist in a medical capacity. Lastly, they did not want to risk accidentally hypnotizing viewers at home.
  • The box beamed up from Tantalus in which Van Gelder is hiding is labeled "Bureau of Penology, Stockholm, Eurasia-NE." This may indicate that in the 23rd century, independent nations will no longer exist on Earth.
  • A shipping label produced for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine shows that a (now elderly) Dr. Van Gelder is still in charge of the Tantalus Penal Colony in the 2370s.
  • The flashback scenes of "last year's Christmas party" indicate that the mid-2260s Starfleet uniforms were issued by the end of 2265.

Production timeline Edit

Video and DVD releases Edit

Links and referencesEdit

Starring Edit

Also starring Edit

Guest star Edit

Co-starring Edit


Featuring Edit

Uncredited co-stars Edit

Stunt double Edit


References Edit

2nd millennium BC; 2220s; 2246; 2265; 2266; acting captain; air conditioning; asylum; beam neutralizing; "Bones"; briefing room; Central Bureau of Penology; Chamber of Horrors; Christmas; colony; criminal; Devil's Island; director; Earth; Emergency Channel D; euphoria; Eurasia; force field; general quarters; general quarters 3; hospital; hyper-power circuit; identification tape; infra-sensory drugs; hyperpower circuitry; kitchen; library; medical log; medikit; neural neutralizer; neuro-synapse; over-changer; penal colony; penology; Personnel Director; present; psychiatry; psychotherapy; rehabilitative therapy; science lab; Science Library; schizophrenia; security alert; security screen; sedative; ship's surgeon; speaker; sponge; standard orbit; Stockholm; study; Tantalus V; Tantalus colony; technical aide; therapist; tissue; toast; treatment room; Vulcan; Vulcan mind meld; Vulcan neck pinch

External links Edit

Previous episode produced:
"What Are Little Girls Made Of?"
Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 1
Next episode produced:
Previous episode aired:
Next episode aired:
"The Corbomite Maneuver"
Previous remastered episode aired:
"What Are Little Girls Made Of?"
TOS Remastered Next remastered episode aired:
"The Gamesters of Triskelion"

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