(written from a Production point of view)
Kirk is held captive on an empty duplicate of the USS Enterprise.
The USS Enterprise is in synchronous orbit over the capital city of Gideon, a candidate for Federation membership. The physio-cultural reports the Gideons have submitted describe their planet as a virtual paradise, with a germ-free atmosphere. Yet for the duration of the delicate negotiations, Starfleet has agreed to the Gideons' unusual stipulation that no surveillance scans be carried out upon their planet. Hodin, the Gideon Council's de facto ambassador to the Federation, accordingly provides the coordinates for the landing party's beam-down – 875-020-079 – a spot he says is within the Council Chamber. Furthermore, the Enterprise party must comprise only one particular individual: Captain Kirk. After being beamed down by Commander Spock, Kirk arrives in what seems to be a completely depopulated Enterprise. He presumes the beam-down was unsuccessful, and upon arriving on the empty bridge satisfies himself that he and the ship are "still orbiting Gideon."
In a corridor, Kirk continues to search every part of the ship, and can find no one. He has sustained a bruise on his arm, but has lost any recollection of the incident or indeed the minutes in which it occurred. While speaking to Spock via a viewscreen, The High Council's Ambassador Hodin denies responsibility for the loss of the captain, suggesting that the Enterprise's equipment must be faulty. Hodin repeats the coordinates for Kirk's transport that were given to the Enterprise, which Chekov confirms he was sent to. He frustrates ship's surgeon McCoy and even First Officer Spock with his steadfast refusal to drop his planet's sensor-jamming shields. He claims they are necessary to protect Gideons against any "contaminating contact" with violent otherworldly nature. Hodin does assent to a "thorough search" but pretends that Spock has agreed that the High Council should be the party to institute it.
During his search, Kirk encounters a young woman wandering the empty corridors of the ship in an ecstasy of new-found personal space. Telling Kirk that her name is Odona, she says that on her world "thousands pressed in against me. I could hardly breathe." When she evinces fear Kirk consoles her, offering his hand. She notes that Kirk seems to be troubled. The captains says he is, "I seem to be the only one of my crew left on board the Enterprise. 430... and I apparently am the only one left."
Uhura tells Spock that Starfleet wants him to go through diplomatic channels – the Federation – but that the department she has been referred to, the Bureau of Planetary Treaties, has, of course, no treaty with the Gideon and wishes Starfleet to handle the crisis.
Seeing the chronometer on the astrogator, Kirk says that there are indeed some nine minutes that are unaccounted for since his transport. Odona is plainly a Gideon, but apparently is not in the habit of calling her world by that name. Putting the Enterprise's forward environs onto the main viewer, Kirk finds that they seem no longer to be in orbit, but rather in some unfamiliar quadrant. Having no way to control their voyage, the two discuss their survival – the unlikelihood that they can ever use up the air and the provisions meant to feed 430 crewmembers for five years.
Meanwhile, back on the USS Enterprise, the ambassador informs Spock that Kirk is not on Gideon after a thorough search of the planet by the natives. However, Spock insists on transporting to the planet. The ambassador grants permission with the provision that a Gideon co-worker beam aboard the Enterprise. Spock agrees, and Scotty beams Krodak, a Gideon representative aboard, but when Spock begins to press for his beam-down to the planet, the Gideon ambassador prevaricates again, and claims he acted outside his authority to grant Spock the permission to come to the planet. Spock is clearly insistent and exasperated by both the bureaucratic logjam in the Federation, and by the diplomatic stonewalling of the ambassador. He tells Uhura to demand an answer from Starfleet about the issue of beaming to the planet's surface.
At the same time, Kirk and Odona are together on the bridge of the empty Enterprise, and unable to raise any form of communication at all. At the engineering station, the captain drops the ship out of warp, explaining this to Odona, who remarks that it feels exactly the same as when they were at warp. This raises Kirk's attention because there "is no change in how the ship feels." He gets suspicious and looks at the viewscreen, which is displaying a field of stars moving slowly. Odona asks if he is having a problem with the way the stars look.
After Odona and Kirk toy with the idea of remaining alone aboard the Enterprise, Kirk decides he has to discover and contact whoever is manipulating them. He asks Odona about her homeworld, and she says she doesn't remember; she only knows she is happy. She explains that her home planet is packed to the brim with people. There is not one area on the surface where an individual can find solitude.
While Kirk and Odona walk about the ship and discuss Kirk's bruise, they hear a strange thumping noise. Though Odona believes it is the engines or a storm, the captain knows every sound the Enterprise makes and that is not one of them. He opens a viewport, which shows an ordinary star field after a momentary ghostly appearance of the dense planetary population en masse, with the captain surmising the thumping sound was the heartbeats of all the people he saw out the window.
As Kirk begins to request answers from Odona, she begins to feel faint with the manifest prognostics of illness as the ambassador – her father – and his aides watch from the council chamber. Hodin then boards what Kirk now knows to be a fake Enterprise. The captain and the ambassador partake in a brief exchange regarding Odona's health before Hodin takes Kirk prisoner and lays Odona in a bed in the captain's quarters. The two muse on the feelings of pain, alien to both of them.
Meanwhile, Spock contacts Starfleet Command and argues with Admiral Fitzgerald, who refuses to allow Spock to beam down to the planet's surface. On the planet, Kirk gets in a fistfight with the Gideon guards while Hodin, whose only tools are words, watches as his daughter is dying of Vegan choriomeningitis.
On the Enterprise, Spock finally resolves to violate Starfleet orders. He demonstrates the slight difference between the coordinates given them for beaming down Kirk to those beaming up the Gideon councilman, Krodak. He orders McCoy and the others to remain aboard the Enterprise, leaving Scott in command.
Spock then beams down to the original coordinates Kirk was transported to. He hopes to rescue the captain before the experiment reaches its conclusion with the result meaning the captain dying.
Hodin explains to Kirk how Gideon was once a paradise, and its atmosphere has always been germ-free. The lifespan increased and death became almost unknown to the Gideons. The birthrate continued to rise until Gideon became encased in a living mass, with no space to live in comfort. Hodin says sterilisation is impossible as their organs renew, and contraception is unthinkable because of their "love of life." Eventually, they decided to introduce mortal illness to Gideon, choosing Kirk as its source, and Odona as an inspirational model of self-sacrificial heroism.
Hodin tries to convince Kirk to stay and provide the necessary virus. Kirk argues against it. They are notified of the approaching death of Odona as Spock initiates a search for Kirk on the duplicate Enterprise. Kirk attempts to convince Odona to let them cure her, explaining that the virus in her blood could serve the Gideons just as well as his own.
Spock arrives and nerve-pinches one Gideon guard and bodily throws the other across the corridor. On Kirk's orders, Spock asks Scotty to beam up him, Kirk, and Odona. He warns Hodin not to interfere. McCoy then cures Odona and Kirk shows her around the real Enterprise, now filled with people. She tries in vain to persuade Kirk to go live with her on Gideon, wishing her homeworld could now fit one more person on it. They part, and she beams down to save her planet.
- "Captain's Log, Stardate 5423.4. We are orbiting the planet Gideon which is still not a member of the United Federation of Planets. The treaty negotiations have been difficult because Gideon has consistently refused the presence of a delegation from the Federation on its soil, or any surveillance by the ship's sensors. They have finally agreed to a delegation of one. They insisted it be the captain of the Enterprise. I am, therefore, beaming down at once."
- (Log entry made by Captain James T. Kirk) "I am alone on the Enterprise. I have searched every area of the ship and still cannot find a trace of the crew, or an indication of how its disappearance was managed. The one thing that is obvious is that I suffered a memory lapse, during which time I bruised my arm. It is causing me some irritation."
- "Ship's Log, Stardate 5423.8. First Officer Spock reporting. Obviously, the Gideons have transported Captain Kirk onto this replica of the Enterprise to so confuse his mind as to make him susceptible to some extraordinary experiment. It is my intention to locate the captain and warn him before the experiment reaches its conclusion, which logic indicates means the end of the captain's life as he knows it."
"We must acknowledge once and for all that the purpose of diplomacy is to prolong a crisis."
- - Spock, to McCoy
"Diplomats and bureaucrats may function differently, but they achieve exactly the same results."
- - Spock, to Sulu
"And just when I was beginning to think you might find a whole new career as a diplomat, Mr. Spock."
"Do not give up hope, doctor."
- - McCoy after Spock is yet again unsuccessful in gaining permission from Hodin to beam down to Gideon
"No. We are desperate."
- - Kirk and Hodin, on Odona's deliberate infection
"Your report to the Federation was a tissue of lies! You described conditions that would make Gideon a virtual paradise!"
- - Kirk to Hodin, in the council chamber
"We are incapable of destroying or interfering with the creation of that which we love so deeply. Life, in every form, from fetus to developed being. It is against our tradition, against our very nature. We simply could not do it."
"Yet you can kill a young girl."
- - Hodin and Kirk
"Your Excellency, please do not interfere. I already have one serious problem to resolve with upper echelons."
- - Spock's parting words to Hodin
"How can you bear to look at me after the way I deceived you?"
"At least you owe me the privilege of letting me look at you."
"You are a gentleman, Captain Kirk."
- - Odona and Kirk, after her recovery
"As crowded as my planet is, I could wish for it to hold one more person."
- - Odona, to Kirk
- The story for this episode was co-written by Stanley Adams, who previously played Cyrano Jones in TOS: "The Trouble with Tribbles". Reportedly, Adams was deeply concerned about the issue of overpopulation and had some casual discussions with Gene Roddenberry, during the production of "The Trouble with Tribbles", in which he suggested that Star Trek do an episode reflecting that subject matter. This episode is the evident result of those conversations. (Star Trek: The Original Series 365, p. 324) Adams' writing of this episode was influenced by advice from his son. Explained the writer, "My son says, 'Dad, you're in a position to really say something about the overpopulation problem.' He stood over my shoulder while I wrote around the beehive society." (Starlog issue #3, p. 29) A detailed description of the episode's initial story outline can be found here.
- This is the second of two TOS episodes that show an empty Constitution-class bridge, the other installment being the first season outing "This Side of Paradise" (which shows the bridge of the actual Enterprise).
- When Kirk tries to address anyone on the ship, one of the shots, showing an empty corridor, is recycled from "Is There in Truth No Beauty?". Also, another shot shows an empty Sickbay - with the Red Alert indicator light flashing, an obvious pickup shot from an earlier episode.
- This is also the only episode showing an exterior viewing port. The only other time a window looking outside the ship is seen is on the observation deck in "The Conscience of the King". Of course, in this case, the port seen is not on the real Enterprise. The exterior viewing port from this episode is the same design as the one used to witness Marta's execution in "Whom Gods Destroy".
- Fred Freiberger, producer of Season 3, was satisfied with this episode. He related, "One of my pet themes is overpopulation and I thought this was a good idea. We were taking a shot at something fresh and gutsy, and it worked out pretty well. That one was also shot entirely on the Enterprise. I felt that if we had to do the show under those restrictions, we had to come up with good stories and that one worked." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 74)
- However, neither Stanley Adams nor his son were as pleased with the episode's final form. In hindsight, Stanley Adams commented, "[My son] sees the TV version. He says, 'What did they do?!' But they do it to you. When you write for TV, there's an old expression: 'Take the money and run.'" (Starlog issue #3, p. 29)
- Remarkably, this episode did not run afoul of NBC censors, despite Kirk broaching such sensitive matters as sexual sterilization and birth control.
- Among the many disembodied Gideon citizens seen on the viewscreen is frequent background performer William Blackburn. His face is pointed out in the finale of the bonus featurette "Billy Blackburn's Treasure Chest: Rare Home Movies and Special Memories", offered on the third season DVD collection of Star Trek: The Original Series.
- In their unofficial reference book Trek Navigator: The Ultimate Guide to the Entire Trek Saga (pp. 138 & 139), co-writer Mark A. Altman scores this episode 2 out of 4 stars (defined as "mediocre") while fellow co-writer Edward Gross rates the installment 1 out of 4 stars (defined as "lousy").
- Cinefantastique gave this episode 1 and a half out of 4 stars. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 11/12, p. 104)
- In the unauthorized reference book Beyond the Final Frontier (p. 50), co-writers Mark Jones and Lance Parkin give their opinions of this installment; "An episode that starts out spooky and tense, but collapses well before the end under a mass of plot holes – leaving aside how the people of Gideon built such an exact replica of the Enterprise that even Kirk is fooled, there's just no reason why they build it. And if Kirk's so infectious, why is he allowed to beam down to planets in the first place?"
- The Star Trek Concordance (p. 82) also laments the plot holes; its synopsis of the episode unusually editorializes that "Odona ... is to die as a symbol (of the faultiest logic in the galaxy)."
- Treatment by George F. Slavin and Stanley Adams, 27 June 1968
- Story outline, 12 July 1968
- Final draft teleplay, 28 August 1968
- Revised final draft teleplay, 25 September 1968
- Final final draft script, 11 October 1968
- Filmed in late October 1968
- Original airdate, 17 January 1969
- First UK airdate 10 November 1971
Video and DVD releasesEdit
- Original US Betamax release: 1988
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 37, catalog number VHR 2433, 4 February 1991
- US VHS release: 15 April 1994
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 3.6, 5 January 1998
- Original US DVD release (single-disc): Volume 36, 23 October 2001
- As part of the TOS Season 3 DVD collection
- As part of the TOS-R Season 3 DVD collection.
Links and referencesEdit
- Sharon Acker as Odona
- David Hurst as Hodin
- James Doohan as Scott
- George Takei as Sulu
- Nichelle Nichols as Uhura
- Walter Koenig as Chekov
- Gene Dynarski as Krodak
- Richard Derr as Admiral Fitzgerald
- William Blackburn as a Gideon native
- Frank da Vinci as Brent
- Jay Jones as a Gideon guard 1
- Unknown actors as:
arm; assistant; atmosphere; auditorium; birth rate; blood; "Bones"; Bureau of Planetary Treaties; bureaucrat; capital city; diplomacy; diplomat; Enterprise, USS (replica); Excellency; Federation; fetus; fever; five-year mission; germ; Gideon; Gideon (planet); Gideon Council; Gideon Council Chambers; language; life span; logic; medical kit; medical practitioner; medical tricorder; microorganism; Milky Way Galaxy; mirage; oxygen; paradise; physio-cultural report; population; prime minister; quadrant; red priority; repairman; representative; scientist; Starfleet Command; sterile; synchronous orbit; thigh; transporter; tricorder; Vegan choriomeningitis; viewing port; Vulcan neck pinch
- "The Mark of Gideon" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "The Mark of Gideon" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "The Mark of Gideon" at Wikipedia
- "The Mark of Gideon" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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