(written from a Production point of view)
The star ship Enterprise has lost all external visual contact. Spock and Captain Kirk go out to service the scanners, but the captain moves away from Spock and scratches a strange message on the ship's hull...
Having technical difficulties with the Enterprise's scanners for several days, Kirk writes up a report. Involuntarily, he writes "Spock" at the end, and is puzzled as to why he would do this. Putting his log aside, Kirk goes to the bridge and gets an update from Spock. The scanner tests are proceeding, and no malfunctions have been found. Still, the cameras just pick up starless blackness outside. Kirk visits sickbay, and when Doctor McCoy asks for the captain's signature for some prescriptions, Kirk writes "Spock must die". This disturbs Kirk, and McCoy consoles him by saying that it may just be a result of stress.
Spock informs Kirk that internal scanner checks have been completed, and Kirk says that he and Spock will go outside the ship to examine the sensors firsthand. As Spock works on a sensor, Kirk takes a tool and writes on the ship's hull "I MUST KILL SPOCK". Kirk then attempts to impale Spock, but Spock reacts quickly and fires a phaser in defense. The recoil sends Spock hurtling off into space, but he hits a black membrane that surrounds the ship. Kirk and Spock examine the membrane and cut through it, but it instantly repairs itself.
As Kirk and Spock consider the black skin enveloping the Enterprise, a group of energy-based aliens appear. They take responsibility for trapping the ship as well as manipulating Kirk to attack Spock, explaining that the crew would have arrested Kirk for murdering Spock, making the ship easier for takeover. Kirk orders Bailey to fire the ship's phasers at the aliens. The aliens absorb the blasts, and the strange membranes form around Kirk, Spock, and the aliens.
Kirk and Spock use their thrusters and radios, and are able to get back aboard the ship. Once they get through the airlocks, the membranes melt away. Spock concludes that the ship is passing through some sort of gaseous cloud which the ship's engines react with to form a chemical skin, and that the aliens were bluffing about controlling it.
Uhura reports the signal of a large planet in the vicinity, and Kirk orders the engines shut down. The skin dissolves, revealing a planet below. While Kirk and Spock discuss how to land without interference from the membranes, they observe the aliens descending to the planet's surface. Scans show that the unusual poisonous gas is the planet's atmosphere, generating its own heat and special light within a massive translucent blue membrane that surrounds the planet. Despite the initial hostility shown by the aliens, Kirk resolves to travel to the planet's surface and establish friendly contact, in accordance with the Enterprise's mission.
Kirk and Spock beam down to the planet in environmental suits and marvel at the luxuriant plant life, sustained by the cloud rather than water. They arrive at a clearing, littered with craters, and discover another large membrane in the bottom of a crater. A group of the aliens emerge, heading toward the landing party, and they conclude that the source of power under the dome must be a city. As quickly as the aliens appeared, they disappear back into their dome in panic. The cloud above Kirk and Spock tears open, and a shower of meteorites rushes through.
Kirk and Spock rush for the dome, and the aliens lower their force-shield, letting them through. The two are brought to the aliens' leader, Lutian, who explains that they harness electricity generated by the plant life to power their equipment. Lutian says that his people are the Kalins, who are peaceful and inventive. The aliens that attacked them earlier were the Balants, a race of warriors who have no protection from the meteors and want to leave the planet. The Balants then arrive, and levitate the fallen meteors on top of the town's force shield, trapping everyone inside. Scheming against the Enterprise, the Balants then leave the planet's surface.
Kirk contacts Bailey aboard the Enterprise, and tells him to come down with the Galileo. Relying on instruments alone, Bailey pilots the membrane-enveloped shuttle and destroys the meteorites piled on the town. Back in orbit, the Balants attach a device to one of the Enterprise's portholes, melting through and then shattering the window, and enveloping the crew in membranes. After a few moments of chaos, Doctor McCoy manages to activate autoglazer controls, reforming the window and dissolving the membranes inside the ship.
Kirk reasons that if the atmosphere is toxic to the crew, than the ship's atmosphere may be toxic to the Balants. He orders the oxygen output on the ship to double maximum and beams back to the Enterprise. Gaining access to the ship through an airlock, the Balants' leader reacts to the oxygen and disintegrates. Kirk then takes a spacewalk and talks to the surviving Balants, explaining that their leader died because he failed to appreciate that the cloud is their protector. One day, he says, they will learn to take the cloud with them, just as his own people have learned to take their atmosphere with them. Until then, he admonishes them to make peace with the Kalins.
- "Star Date 48 12 46: Computers register no fault. Mystery grows after four scanners dismantled. All in perfect order. Spock..."
"I hope the captain's not cracking up. Many a good man has lost his mind during a long tour of space duty."
- - Dr. McCoy, after Kirk tells him about an urge to kill his first officer
"It's like delivering the mail..."
- - Uhura, as the Enterprise opens the hatch to rescue Kirk and Spock
"Do you think they will do as you suggested?"
"Not immediately... But they have paid the price of trying to run before they can walk. That lesson will help them to mature and see sense.""
- - Spock and Kirk, reflecting on the Balants
"Now I suggest we both get some rest. We never know when we will meet more of the inhabitants of the universe!"
- - Kirk, ready for action
Background information Edit
- This is the second appearance of Uhura in the UK stories. In #23, she is sitting at the science station and wearing a gold uniform (actually colored green), but in #26 she is wearing a red uniform and sitting at communications.
- During a crisis with Kirk and Spock off the ship, Bailey takes command, despite being ranked by McCoy and Scott. Fellow bridge officers Sulu and Uhura also did not assume command, though perhaps they were more capable.
- The Balants say they manipulated Kirk's actions through what is effectively psychokinesis, but they later state among themselves that they do not know what it is like inside the ship. They must have had some further remote influence on Kirk to control him so specifically.
- Kirk's restlessness while the Enterprise is trapped in the membrane is similar to Captain Janeway's emotions while Voyager is trapped in the Void in VOY: "Night", though Kirk's feelings were brought on by alien influence.
- Sulu and Bailey wear blue uniforms.
Setting and technologyEdit
- This story must be set in early 2266 due to the presence of McCoy and Bailey.
- When Kirk uses two different PADDs, they display differently. When he records his log, he writes on the screen with a stylus, and the words display in a particular font. Later, when he records his signature on some documentation, it displays his actual handwriting.
- Spock explains that the external video-scanners are connected, and if one does not work, it could affect all of them. This does not seem very efficient.
- McCoy requires Kirk's signature to approve prescriptions for certain poison-based antibiotics.
- Kirk rescues Spock during a space walk using a "thruster", a device that resembles a kick board.
- This is the first time the UK stories refer to "transporters" instead of "teleporters" and phasers instead of "lasers".
- This is the first appearance of the Class F shuttlecraft in the UK stories, supplementing the Space Bugs. The Galileo is used, although it is misspelled "Galelio".
- Sickbay is called the "hospital floor".
- Spock says that the planet is not class M.
- "Spock Must Die!" was later the title of a Bantam novel.
None of the UK weekly stories had titles. Each installment was two pages in length. This was the longest arc to date, double the 8-page lengths of stories 1-5. The lettering in #25 appears to have been done by a different person than the rest of the story arc.
- Part 1: Joe 90: Top Secret #23, 21 June 1969
- Part 2: Joe 90: Top Secret #24, 28 June 1969
- Part 3: Joe 90: Top Secret #25, 5 July 1969
- Part 4: Joe 90: Top Secret #26, 12 July 1969
- Part 5: Joe 90: Top Secret #27, 19 July 1969
- Part 6: Joe 90: Top Secret #28, 26 July 1969
- Part 7: Joe 90: Top Secret #29, 2 August 1969
- Part 8: Joe 90: Top Secret #30, 9 August 1969
Out of the seven story arcs published in Joe 90: Top Secret, this is the only arc where Star Trek was featured on the cover.
- Dave Bailey
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