Star Trek: The Devil in the Dark   Rewatch 
January 10, 2015 10:11 AM - Season 1, Episode 26 - Subscribe

The Enterprise is called to a mining planet, where the personnel are being killed by an invisible creature. Said creature turns out to have a point of view too; she is 'the Horta' the mother of her race and the human miners have been carelessly destroying her eggs - thinking they are nothing but a curious mineral formation.

"The Devil in the Dark" is a first-season episode of the original science fiction television series Star Trek, first airing on March 9, 1967 and repeating on June 15, 1967. It was written by Gene L. Coon and directed by Joseph Pevney. William Shatner wrote in his memoirs that "The Devil in the Dark" was his favorite original Star Trek episode. He thought it was "exciting, thought-provoking and intelligent, it contained all of the ingredients that made up our very best Star Treks.

Memory Alpha Link

The episode can be viewed on Netflix and Hulu.
posted by Benway (5 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
It is also, I believe, the first TOS episode where McCoy uses his trademark "Dammit, Jim, I'm a doctor, not an XXX!" line (in this case, "bricklayer").
posted by briank at 10:17 AM on January 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I remember watching this as a kid and not being too impressed, then watching it as an adult after 15 or so years of more or less grimdark sci-fi and being amazed. The ending asking a huge amount of both sides; the Horta has to share her home with invaders who smashed her eggs; the miners have to accept their guilt and reconcile with a creature that killed 50 of them, and tried to kill them all, over what they see as an innocent mistake.

I feel like any modern series would have killed the Horta, or had the miners kill her so make a self-flagellating "We're really bastards" point. In Star Trek it's allowed to work. I've brought this up before in other places, as an example of how Star Trek's optimism seems to have gone so far out of date as to allow it to become almost novel and inspiring again.

That said, one thing I've always wanted to hear on a later Star Trek show is just some casual mention of a Horta Captain or the Horta establishing a new mining colony. Not just as a nod back to this episode, but also to establish the implicit benefits to the Horta from a partnership with Humanity were realized as well as the explicit benefit to the miners mentioned in the episodes.
posted by Grimgrin at 1:39 PM on January 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I can't help but draw a bit of a comparison with TNG epsiodes like "Symbosis" (where no effort is made to find a way to co-exist) and "Evolution", where the newly evolved nanites are relocated elsewhere. "The Devil in the Dark" really shows the Federation trying to work with other species, and putting in the effort to make it work.
posted by nubs at 3:07 PM on January 10, 2015


That said, one thing I've always wanted to hear on a later Star Trek show is just some casual mention of a Horta Captain or the Horta establishing a new mining colony. Not just as a nod back to this episode, but also to establish the implicit benefits to the Horta from a partnership with Humanity were realized as well as the explicit benefit to the miners mentioned in the episodes.

In one of the novels I recall from my misspent youth, the Enterprise does indeed have a Horta crewmember. A quick perusal of Memory Beta suggests this would have been My Enemy, My Ally as well as revealing several other more Hortacentric narratives published since.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:47 AM on January 11, 2015


For what it's worth, the (ragingly non-canonical), Star Trek MMO featured Horta duty officers. I was pleased - the resolution in this episode really is something you don't see a lot of places outside of Trek.

The other thing I remember about this episode was hearing about the out take where Nimoy is delivering the line about, "Pain... incredible PAIN!" and Shatner demanded, "Get this Vulcan some aspirin!" Gets me every time, now.
posted by mordax at 8:28 PM on January 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


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