(written from a Production point of view)
The massive complex of the starship Enterprise, on its long-term mission to contact planets far out in space and establish friendly relations with Earth, lay inert while maintenance crews made a routine check of the outer structures...
Maintenance crews perform a routine check of the Enterprise's hull. One crewman feels a tug on his shoulder and thinks it is one of the crew. Another hits something unseen, and his tool is flung out of his hand. When the crews come back aboard, one of them is shoved aside by an unseen force.
Captain Kirk, completing his duty shift, retires to his quarters to get some rest. After sleeping for a few hours, his bedsheets are ripped off, suddenly awakening him. Before he is able to get his bearings, his uniform, sitting nearby, moves of its own accord and flies around the room. Alarmed and confused, Kirk flees into the corridor, shutting the door behind him. Just then, Spock approaches, and notes the similarity between Kirk's experience and that of the maintenance teams. Dismissing the possibility of ghosts, Spock concludes that aliens are aboard.
Spock lends Kirk a spare uniform, locking the door to the Captain's quarters. A meeting of the senior officers is called, and Doctor McCoy suggests asking the aliens what they want. Before Kirk can grab a nearby communicator, it lifts of its own accord and activates. The voice explains that twelve Zond envoys from the planet Vartax are aboard. They have come to warn the crew that the Enterprise is on a collision course with their planet. Vartax lies on another plane of existence, like the Zonds, and is undetectable by ship's sensors. The voice offers to provide transporter coordinates for Vartax.
Kirk accepts the invitation and beams down with Scotty and Sulu. They see a gleaming city against a jet-black sky. Scotty theorizes that it is the result of the barrier that shields the planet from outside observation. The hovering communicator leads them to a rotting corpse, explaining that this is his physical body.
The Zond says that his body is only at rest, and goes on to relate his race's history. A peaceful race, the Zonds lived in cities like the one the landing party saw earlier. One day, creatures from the depths of the planet arrived. Possessing no weapons, the Zonds were attacked by these Primitives and their civilization destroyed. Unbeknownst to their attackers, the Zonds had the ability to survive as disembodied consciousnesses, though the Primitives gained control of the planet.
After hearing the Zond plead for help, Kirk assembles an armed party on an expedition to recover restoration machinery to put the Zonds back in their dormant bodies. The Zond cautions the captain that the Primitives may have unraveled the workings of some Zond technology and become an even greater threat. The Zond elects to stay behind, and crewman Tremayne stays with him to cover the escape route.
The expedition soon discovers the Primitives, who are terrified of the outsiders. Although unable to communicate, the Primitives gesture, begging Kirk not to harm them. Since their only communicator, with a universal translator, was left with the Zond, Sulu goes back to the surface to retrieve it. Upon reaching the cavern entryway, Sulu discovers the lifeless body of Tremayne and the discarded communicator.
Sulu returns to the expedition, and the Primitives frantically assert that the Zonds are evil. They say that the Zonds are alien invaders that drove the Varticans from their cities and have the ability to assume invisibility at will. Kirk contacts Spock, still aboard the Enterprise, only to find that the Zonds have assumed control of the ship, beaming up all remaining survivors of their race. Having used up Vartax's resources, the Zonds are abandoning it, and are bent on finding another planet to plunder. The Zonds evacuate the crew to Vartax, but Spock manages evade the hijackers and hide aboard the ship.
Seeing Kirk disheartened, the Vartican leader suggests that he go to the abandoned city to search for weapons. They discover a long-range disintegrator, capable of destroying the Enterprise. Kirk weighs the decision of destroying the ship with Spock still aboard.
Spock stealthily weaves through the Enterprise, using gas grenades and phasers, disabling every Zond. Arriving at the bridge, Spock seizes the Zond leader at phaser-point, forcing his surrender. With their leader's life under threat, the Zonds are compelled to evacuate in a massive shuttlecraft, to await trial on Vartax. Locked on course for the planet, the Zonds self-destruct the vessel rather than be humiliated in defeat.
The liberated Varticans return to their city, and Spock asks Kirk whether he would really have destroyed the ship with him aboard. Kirk says that he will happily forget the question.
"This is crazy! Did anyone bring a communicator?""
- - A Vartican and Kirk attempt a conversation
"They said that you were evil! That you destroyed their civilisation and condemned them to be eternally invisible!"
- - Kirk, not easily fooled
"I can't believe it! You didn't even put up a token resistance!"
- - Kirk, disappointed at his crew's response to getting hijacked
"Sure, Lieutenant! And what can Spock do against a gang of Zonds? Those smooth characters pack more tricks than a zoo full of monkeys!"
- - Kirk, lamenting the takeover of his ship
"This is Captain Kirk! Can you hear me, Mr. Spock? Can you hear me?"
"Hang it...yes! And so can everyone else!"
- - Kirk and Spock, fumbling the element of surprise
- Uhura is in command during Kirk's rest period.
- Spock lends Kirk a spare uniform. Captain Jean-Luc Picard also wore a blue uniform, albeit in an alternate timeline. (TNG: "Tapestry")
- This is the first reference to Chekov in one of the UK stories. He does not appear on-panel, but is stated to be in sickbay recovering from a minor throat infection. His inclusion among the senior staff dates the story between "Catspaw" (2267) and "Turnabout Intruder" (2269).
- Spock says that he heard a legend of an invisible planet during his childhood on Vulcan. He could have been referring to Aldea.
- Kirk takes a major gamble in following an invisible stowaway's directions to beam to an invisible planet. The landing party could have beamed into empty space.
- Sulu is said to have been brought up with a deep-rooted fear of the supernatural.
Setting and technology
- The ship is stated to have been inert during maintenance. It is unclear if the nacelles or impulse engines were actually powered down or only on standby.
- When a crewman hits an invisible alien, a hammer is mentioned in dialog, but a phaser is shown instead.
- It is never explained how the Zonds were able to move around in space before they board the Enterprise.
- Not only does the door to Kirk's quarters have hinges, but he leaves it unlocked and Spock opens it unannounced.
- It is not stated whether the Zond beamed down with the landing party, but it is implied that he holds on to the communicator from the time he picked it up in the briefing room. It is unclear how he would get down to the planet on his own, and it seems unlikely that he'd use a transporter and reveal himself to the ship's computers.
- The motif of the crew communicating with someone, only to rendezvous and find a long-dead corpse, was revisited in "The Sound of Her Voice".
- The subterranean Vartican swamp is made of "hot, bubbling plastic". Rather than a natural phenomenon, this could be a result of ecological damage wreaked on the planet by the Zonds.
- The Zonds bear a resemblance to Balok's puppet.
- The scenario of aliens hijacking the ship and leaving the crew stranded on a planet with primitives is repeated in "Basics, Part I".
- Spock says that the Zonds would be tried by the "Inter-Galactic Court", rather than Vartican authorities.
- Even after the Zonds' story is proved to be a lie, the Varticans are still called Primitives, despite possessing advanced technology.
None of the UK weekly stories had titles. Each installment was two pages in length.
- Part 1: TV21 & Joe 90 #1, 27 September 1969
- Part 2: TV21 & Joe 90 #2, 4 October 1969
- Part 3: TV21 & Joe 90 #3, 11 October 1969
- Part 4: TV21 & Joe 90 #4, 18 October 1969
- Part 5: TV21 & Joe 90 #5, 25 October 1969
- Part 6: TV21 & Joe 90 #6, 1 November 1969
- Ensign Pavel Chekov
- Captain James T. Kirk
- Doctor Leonard McCoy
- Montgomery Scott
- Helmsman Hikaru Sulu
- Lieutenant Uhura
- Ed - Maintenance crewman
- Joe - Maintenance crewman
- Sam - Maintenance crewman
- Tremayne - Landing party crewman
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