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Whom Gods Destroy (episode)

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"Whom Gods Destroy"
TOS, Episode 3x16
Production number: 60043-71
First aired: 3 January 1969
Remastered version aired: 24 May 2008
72nd of 80 produced in TOS
69th of 80 released in TOS
70th of 80 released in TOS Remastered
69th of 728 released in all
Garth and Marta
Teleplay By
Lee Erwin

Story By
Lee Erwin and Jerry Sohl

Directed By
Herb Wallerstein
5718.3 (2269)
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Kirk and Spock are held captive in an insane asylum by a former Starfleet hero.



Kirk and Spock beam down to the Elba II asylum and are met in the asylum control center by Dr. Cory, the governor of the penal colony. He explains that in order to maintain security they are under a transport shield, and so he laughingly won't take "no" for an answer on his invitation to dinner. He also explains that the colony has just increased the number of inmates by one, and the new inmate is Garth of Izar. Kirk mentions that Garth was a legendary Fleet Captain before going insane, and that his exploits were required reading at the Academy.

Dr. Cory leads Kirk and Spock to Garth's holding cell, only to discover the actual Dr. Cory restrained and looking roughed-up. At this point, Garth reveals himself and opens the remaining holding cells, releasing the inmates of Elba II.

Act One

After knocking out Spock and dragging him off, Kirk is placed into the holding cell with the real Dr. Cory and it is explained that Garth learned how to morph his cellular structure to look like other people. Dr. Cory also says, "He claims to have developed the most powerful explosive in history and I believe him."

Garth morphs into Kirk and visits the control room, intent on taking command of the Enterprise and seeking vengeance against his former crewmembers. Scotty, who is in command of the Enterprise, asks "Kirk" for the transport code word: "Queen to Queen's level three," but Garth is unable to respond with the correct countersign. He tells Scotty that was just a test and then turns furious, causing him to turn back into his true form.

Act Two

Realizing that he can't board the Enterprise without the countersign, Garth returns and renews his invitation for Kirk and Spock to come to dinner, but states that Governor Cory is not on the guest list. They all proceed to an elaborate feast with the inmates serving as entertainment. Kirk and Spock whisper to each other their hopes of causing some sort of distraction which would allow Spock to get to the control room and de-activate the shield.

After the feast is over Garth brings in a rehabilitation chair which he has modified to cause pain. Governor Cory is placed in the chair and tortured for a short while. Kirk refuses to give in, and Garth places him in the chair instead.

Act Three

After another episode of torture Kirk is placed in a separate room where Marta comes to him and begins to seduce him. She suddenly loses it and tries to stab Kirk, who manages to fight her off. Spock arrives and Marta explains that Kirk is "her lover and she must kill him." She is prevented from doing so, apparently by the Vulcan nerve pinch.

Spock and Kirk proceed to the control room, and Spock attempts to get Kirk to give the countersign. Kirk refuses, and demands that Spock give the countersign. He steps back and draws his phaser instead. At this point, Spock morphs into Garth and reveals it was a trick all along. Kirk's phaser, not surprisingly, is uncharged.

Kirk now tries to appeal to Garth's better impulses, asking him to remember what he was like "before the accident." Kirk wants Garth to be the sort of man he was before he went mad; the sort of man that Kirk and so many others admired. Garth is nearly persuaded, until he wavers and shouts, "I am Lord Garth! You doubt me only because I have not as yet had my coronation." Unsuccessful, Kirk now rushes for the shield controls. Garth, however, stuns him before he reaches the controls.

Act Four

When Kirk awakens Garth is trying yet another tactic: he has arranged an elaborate coronation ceremony for himself, with Marta as Consort and Kirk as Heir Apparent. It seems he hopes this title will appeal to Kirk's vanity. When the ceremony is over, however, Kirk is returned not to his cell, but to the asylum control center. There, as a show of power, Garth displays the explosive Dr. Cory alluded to earlier and explains that he put a very small portion of it in Marta's necklace. Through the window in the control room, Kirk is forced to watch Marta choke in the poisonous atmosphere of the planet. With no real motivation or remorse behind his actions, Garth is clearly and completely insane.

Garth kills Marta in a massive explosion. The explosion registers above the planet. Scotty and McCoy on the Enterprise change their orbit to focus their phaser banks on weak areas of the force field to no avail. Meanwhile, back on the surface, Garth has decided that he may get further in his quest for the code with Spock, since he is "a very logical man." He sends for Spock, who escapes from his captors, but Garth finds out and is waiting for him in the control room.

The real Spock shows up where Garth has morphed into a likeness of Kirk. Spock questions the two "Kirks" but this does not help at first. They begin fighting while Spock tries to decide which one is the real Captain Kirk and which one is Garth. The fight ends in a tie, and one "Kirk" tells Spock to shoot the other, while one "Kirk" says to shoot both of them. Spock then shoots the fake Kirk and allows the security team from the Enterprise to beam down and restore order in the asylum.

Once the inmates have been returned to their holding cells, Garth is placed in the rehabilitation chair (the non-painful version) and returns to a sedated state. As he is being moved from the chair to his cell, he notices Kirk and very calmly asks if they know each other. Kirk tells him that they do not, and Garth is led away.

Log Entries

  • Captain's log, stardate 5718.3. The Enterprise is orbiting Elba II, a planet with a poisonous atmosphere, where the Federation maintains an asylum for the few remaining incorrigible, criminally insane of the galaxy. We are bringing a revolutionary new medicine to them. A medicine with which the Federation hopes to eliminate mental illness... for all time. I am transporting down with Mr. Spock, and we're delivering the medicine to Dr. Donald Cory, the governor of the colony.

Memorable Quotes

"How can we be powerful enough to wipe out a planet and still be so helpless?"

- McCoy, to Scott

"Why can't I blow off just one of his ears?"

- Marta to Garth, on Spock

"I may have you beaten to death."
"No, you won't, because I am the most beautiful woman on this planet."
"You're the only woman on this planet, you stupid cow!"

- Garth and Marta, as she accuses him of jealousy

"You wrote that?"
"Yesterday, as a matter of fact."
"It was written by an Earth man named Shakespeare a long time ago!"
"Which does not alter the fact that I wrote it again yesterday!"

- Garth and Marta, after she recites Sonnet XVIII

"What is your reaction, Mr. Spock?"
"Well, I find it, uh, mildly interesting and somewhat nostalgic, if I understand the use of that word."
"Yes. It is somewhat reminiscent of the dances that Vulcan children do in nursery school. Of course, the children are not so... well-coordinated."

- Garth and Spock, during Marta's dance

"I am master of the universe, and I must claim my domain."

- Garth, asking Kirk and Spock to join him

"They were humanitarians and statesmen. And they had a dream. A dream that became a reality and spread throughout the stars. A dream that made Mister Spock and me brothers."

- Kirk, on Starfleet's peace missions

"Remove this animal!!"

- Garth, before Spock is hauled away

"In the midnight of November, when the dead man's fair is nigh. And the danger in the valley, and the anger in the sky."

- Marta, reciting "Last Poems" XIX, by A. E. Housman

"He's my lover and I have to kill him."

- Marta to Spock, after she tries to attack Kirk

"Captain Garth, starship fleet captain. That's an honorable title."

- Kirk, appealing to Garth

"Captain Kirk, I presume."

- Spock, after stunning Garth

"Queen to queen's level three."
"Queen to king's level one."

- Scott and Spock, giving the sign and countersign

"Letting yourself be hit on the head, and I presume you let yourself be hit on the head, is not exactly a method King Solomon would have approved."

- Kirk, on Spock's solution in finding out who was the real Kirk

Background Information

Story and Script

  • The title is based on an anonymous Greek proverb often wrongly attributed to Euripides[1], and quoted by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in The Masque of Pandora: "Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad."
  • The story outline was produced 26 July 1968. In the first draft script (5 September 1968) Garth of Titan threw the asylum guards out into the poisonous atmosphere. The conditions inside the asylum were also more graphic, with inmates displaying symptoms of various mental illnesses. Produced mid-October 1968.
  • The plot of inmates taking over the asylum and impersonating the warden closely resembles TOS: "Dagger of the Mind", right down to the "agony chair" prop which is reused from that episode. In his memoir I Am Not Spock, Leonard Nimoy shares a memo that he wrote to the producers to complain about the similarities.
  • According to an interview published in Star Trek Lives by Sondra Marshak and Joan Winston, Nimoy also complained at some length about discrepancies in the script, including but not limited to inconsistencies in his own character. He blamed the director for making changes in the script to focus on "action" rather than on intelligent problem-solving, and felt the changes were a form of lying to the audience. He also complained about Spock not being able to tell the difference between the real Kirk from the impostor. Nimoy sent the memo to both producer Fred Freiberger and Paramount Television executive in charge of production, Douglas S. Cramer.[2]
  • Kirk tells Spock that he doubts King Solomon would have approved of the Vulcan's manner of determining who was Kirk and who was Garth. The two of them, and Dr. McCoy, would meet Solomon (an immortal Human who was born Akharin and was then living as Flint) not long afterward in TOS: "Requiem for Methuselah". Similarly, Garth had earlier referred to Alexander the Great, another of Flint's assumed identities.
  • Kirk refers to Spock as his "brother" and Spock agrees with this figurative interpretation of their relationship. Kirk would refer to Spock as his "brother" again in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
  • Spock's sentence "Captain Kirk, I presume?" is an allusion to the famous question asked by explorer Henry Morton Stanley (1841-1904) to David Livingstone (1813-1873) on the shores of Lake Tanganyika on November 10, 1871: "Doctor Livingstone, I presume?". The question was later alluded to in the title of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Doctor Bashir, I Presume".
  • Despite the apparent success of the drug in this episode being able to cure the mental illness of Garth and the other inmates, it seems never to have been employed again. In future episodes of TOS, the Enterprise crew encounters characters who are pronounced insane (such as Dr. Sevrin from "The Way to Eden" and Janice Lester from "Turnabout Intruder"), but no mention is made of using the drug introduced in this episode to cure them. (It could be, however, that this drug was only successful in the treatment of criminal/homicidal insanity and not all mental illness generally.)
  • There is no need for Spock to watch Garth and Kirk fight in order to determine who the real Captain Kirk is as he can stun both men non-fatally and reveal the impostor. This is obvious later as Garth sits unharmed in the chair receiving the insanity cure. In his interview in Star Trek Lives, Leonard Nimoy said the original script called for Spock to ask a series of questions and determine from the men's answers which is the real captain. When Kirk makes a remark about the safety of the Enterprise being more important than his own life he establishes his own identity. (This is the version of the story used by James Blish.) According to the Star Trek Lives interview with Nimoy, this is what the director threw out in favor of more "action".
  • Although the Elba II asylum is mentioned in this episode as being the last of its kind, mental asylums are mentioned as being maintained in future incarnations of Star Trek, such as the "Federation Funny Farm" from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Frame of Mind", though the former may simply be an unofficial nickname for the Elba II asylum. (Unless, Captain Kirk's claim that Elba II was the only treatment facility for "the few remaining incorrigible, criminally insane of the galaxy" is meant to differentiate criminally or homicidally insane individuals and those individuals suffering from mental illness or insanity of a type without criminal or homicidal tendencies. In such a case, there may be many other institutions throughout the Federation to treat mental illness without there being another, beyond Elba II, for the treatment of the criminally insane).
  • Elba II likely derives its name from the Earth island of Elba where Napoleon I was exiled to following his forced abdication. This notion is reinforced by the further dictatorial similarities between Garth and Napoleon, as well as the scriptwriters including the French emperor among the names of those failed leaders whom Garth references.



  • Garth's furred robe is the same one worn by Anton Karidian in "The Conscience of the King".
  • While the Andorian inmate is wearing an almost boa-like red costume, one of the human inmates is wearing the traditional Andorian costume seen in the second season (and which can be seen again on an Andorian corpse in "The Lights of Zetar").
  • Garth's uniform appears to be the same one worn by Commissioner Ferris in "The Galileo Seven". It also appeared in the 2nd season episode "Journey to Babel". However, Garth wears the outfit with one silver boot and one gold boot.
  • The environmental suits are reused from "The Tholian Web".
  • The treatment smock worn by Dr. Cory has the same insignia as the one worn by Adams in "Dagger of the Mind".
  • Garth's uniform includes a medallion from which three beads are hanging. In the scene where he is shouting and punching the floor, right after shifting from Kirk's form, one bead can be seen falling and spining next to him, and when he stands up, his medallion has only two beads. In later scenes the beads are restored back to three.


  • This was the first episode produced without co-producer Robert Justman, who had been with the series, in different capacities, since the production of "The Cage" in 1964. He left the series to work on other projects, specifically the series Then Came Bronson. According to the book Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, Justman broke his contract with Paramount Television, and didn't set foot on the lot for almost twenty years (when he began working on Star Trek: The Next Generation).
  • Footage of the Enterprise firing phasers down to the surface of a planet is reused from "Who Mourns for Adonais?".
  • Garth's torture chair is a reuse of the chair in the neural neutralizer room from "Dagger of the Mind", except this time with the addition of earpieces mounted on either side.

Other Information

  • This is the only episode where Spock performs a simultaneous double Vulcan nerve pinch on two distinct alien species.
  • In this episode a Human (Garth) performs a Vulcan nerve pinch while impersonating Spock, although it is possible that Marta is playing along with the deception. This is the only scene in the TOS series where, strictly speaking, Leonard Nimoy (as Garth in disguise) plays a character other than Spock.
  • In the United Kingdom, the BBC skipped this episode in all runs of the series through to the early 1990s, due to its content. An official BBC statement by Sheila Cundy of the Programme Correspondence Section reads: "After very careful consideration a top level decision was made not to screen the episodes entitled "Empath" [sic], "Whom The Gods Destroy" [sic], ""Plato's Stepchildren"" and ""Miri"" [actually transmitted in 1970, but not re-aired until the '90s], because they all dealt most unpleasantly with the already unpleasant subjects of madness, torture, sadism and disease" (BBC form letter, undated, Reference 28/SPC). "Whom Gods Destroy" was finally shown for the first time on 19 January 1994. The UK satellite channel Sky had already acquired the rights to show the banned episodes before the BBC did.(citation needededit)
  • Contrary to popular belief, the Tellarites in TOS always had three fingers, even in this episode. The fingers are sleeker in appearance than they were in Season Two. "The Lights of Zetar" would be the only time we see a Tellarite with five fingers in TOS.

Production Timeline

Video and DVD releases

Released with "Plato's Stepchildren", the volume was originally unrated, as it was released prior to the Video Recordings Act 1984. After 1985, it received a rating of PG.
Because of the BBC's decision to omit this episode from its initial runs, this release was the first time that UK viewers could see it.

Links and References


Also Starring


Guest Stars


Uncredited Co-Stars



Alexander the Great; Andorian; ant; Antos IV; Antos race; asylum; atmosphere; Axanar; Axanar (planet); Axanar Peace Mission; Bonaparte, Napoleon; cadet; Caesar, Julius; cellular metamorphosis; chair; chess problem; Cochrane deceleration maneuver; consort; control room; coronation; cow; crown; crown prince; dance; dancer; doctor; Earth; Elba II; Elba II asylum; environmental suit; explorer; fasting; Federation; fleet captain; force field; governor; hand-to-hand struggle; heir apparent; Hitler, Adolf; humanitarian; insane; intramuscular; intravenous; Izar; Kuan, Lee; King; Krotus; Lord; May; mile; Milky Way Galaxy; mutiny; November; nursery school; Orion; paint; performer; poem; poetry; poison; politician; protective dome; rehabilitation chair; Romulan; sand; serpent; Shakespeare's sonnets; Shakespeare, William; shuttlecraft; Solomon; Starfleet Academy; statesman; Tau Ceti; Tellarite; three-dimensional chess; throne; tissue; ultrasonic wave; Vulcan; Vulcan neck pinch; warrior; wine

External link

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"Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"
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TOS Remastered Next remastered episode aired:
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