Captain's Blog pt. 63: Spock's Brain

On September 20, 1968, Star Trek launched its third season with perhaps the most notorious episode of all TOS:

Both Shatner and Nimoy rip this episode pretty hard in their respective memoirs. It's actually pretty rare you hear anyone say anything nice about it. Which on one hand is understandable. Like more than a few Season 3 episodes, it's a fairly ridiculous concept and is filled with presumably unintentional hilarity.

On the other, it's terrifically entertaining. It might help matters if you're familiar with 1950s sci-fi. Such as:


Even if you haven't, you're probably not the type of person who needs to be told what sort of tropes are common to these sort of things. The pics (and posters) make it clear enough, anyway.

Such things are parodied explicitly in 1987's Amazon Women of the Moon. Which, if you came of age in the era of video stores and late-night-UHF, is a real flashback.

Gene Coon (who wrote this episode but under his pseudonym, Lee Cronin) was certainly familiar with such things, and I can't help but wonder if he was sending up the genre. It makes a lot of sense to read the story that way. Unfortunately, Gene died shortly after leaving the show, so his opinion on what "Spock's Brain" was all about was never recorded. Perhaps it's just a crazy coincidence that it succeeds so well on that level.

Before we continue, here's Phish performing their song of the same name. Not a bad little tune, but I can't for the life of me figure out how any of the lyrics relate to the goings-on on Sigma Draconius VI. (Or VII, as both Sulu and Kirk refer to it erroneously in a couple of spots.)

Whenever I have such a question and the internet can't answer it, I ask my buddy (aka "Rhode Island's awesomest mediocre musician") Kevin. He's a little like the rock trivia A-Team in that respect. Here's what he told me:

"Its debut was 5/16/95 in Lowell, along with MANY other debuts. An epic one set show.

The audience voted on the title, it was multiple choice. I don't know what's going on with the words too much! Sorry I can't help with that part. I don't detect a whole lotta Star Trek in there myself."

Script / Story: (4.5 / 7 of 10/10) Despite such brilliantly memorable lines as "Brain and Brain! What is Brain?" or "You are not Morg. You are not Ey-Morg." or the "This gentleman is keeping us from our property" exchange between Kirk, Bones, and Scotty, I can't really say the script is particularly good. It does a decent job staying one step ahead of a ridiculous premise is about the best I can say about it.

As for the theme, if it's a parody of "The Planet of Strange Women!" sort of stuff, then it's pretty wild. It's hard to see how it couldn't be, to be honest, but I've certainly never heard anyone involved in its production ever corroborate that. So perhaps it's one of my whimsical interpretations.

Which raises the in-my-mind unlikelier scenario, that this was meant sincerely. No tongue in cheek, no parody, just hey, Spock's brain, it is what it is. Who knows. If that's the case, then you can certainly learn more from watching this episode about what feminists were reacting against in the 60s and 70s than from a daily Jezebel-dot-com habit. But I'll leave that up to you.

A mysterious woman appears on the Enterprise and renders everyone unconscious.
Her planet long ago divided into females (EyMorg) living in comfort, below, with the males (Morg) on the surface, as servants/ breeders/ workmen. The standard Morlocks/ Eloi arrangement.
Unfortunately, the ladies have forgotten how to run their machines so they hatch a plan to kidnap Spock's brain.
McCoy's able to keep Spock's brainless body alive while they follow the lady's ion trail to the 7th (or 6th) planet of the Sigma Draconius system. There they discover the "pain and delight" of the Eymorg, the matriarchal society behind the brainnapping.
Using the "teacher," a brain machine built by the EyMorg's ancestors, McCoy gains the (temporary) knowledge of how to put Spock's brain back into his head.
Surgery successful, the Enterprise leaves, the Morg/Ey-Morg civilization a wreck in its wake. But hey! Got Spock's brain back! Day seized.

That's basically it. It's amusing to consider the title (1 of 3) as if it's a metaphor, i.e. all of this is a representation of what it's like to be Mr. Spock, or something, (a Herman's Head scenario) but it's probably not.

Kirk and the Gang: (35 of 10). First of all, any episode that has Shatner charging down the hall saying "There she is! She's the one! What have you done with Spock's brain?" is going to get at least 10 points just for that. Maybe even 100. You're insane in the membrane if you don't do the same. Jaysus.

Second, all this stuff:

They get zapped with the Eymorg pain gizmos three different times. This is the first, right after the bit quoted above.
This is the second. Screencaps don't convey the amount of time Shatner's antics consume, here.
Finally, this last time. Extra points for Scotty and Bones, here.
Kirk finds a way to attack Kara with the remote control Spock.
I always wondered how Kirk's able to maneuver Spock so specifically. (Not to mention why Kara can't seem to elude the very, very slow-moving automaton.) Meh.


Spock must have liked the colony jumpsuit so much in "This Side in Paradise" that he kept it. McCoy must have went to his quarters and dressed him in it, for some reason. (Awkward.)

Despite getting his name in the title, Spock doesn't have much to do in this episode. He describes it in I Am Spock as... "There was little acting challenge in walking around pretending to be brainless; I just let me eyes glaze over, and functioned in automation style. But frankly, during the entire shooting, I was embarrassed - a feeling that overcame me many times during that final season."

Hey, to each his own. I un-ironically love "Spock's Brain." (But... do I love it for its brain or its body?)

Guest: (3 of 3) Kara is played by Marj Dusay:

aka Alexandra Spaulding from Guiding Light

Luma is played by Sheila Leighton, of whom I could find very little besides her imdb.

"And then they were like ker-pow, ker-pow!"
"And I was like 'Blaaaow...'"

And Alan Moore plays one of the Morg:

Visual Design: (2.5 of 3).

No stellar cartography for them.
The remastered version nicely touches up the planetside sequence to make it all look more glacial.

Season 3 plays around with montages and overlays in a way the other seasons didn't.

Okay, come on now. One overlay too many.

Internal Logistics: (0 of OMG). So yeah, this episode makes very little sense either in the Trekverse or the regular ol' universe. This section could easily be several dozen paragraphs. Just a couple of quick points:

- How exactly does Kara fall for the "Scotty pretends to faint" trick while under the influence of the same machine that enables Bones to perform brain implant surgery?

- What happens to the Morg and EyMorg after the Enterprise leaves?

- Shouldn't Spock's hair be just a little mussed up after his cranial surgery?

You get the idea.


Memorability: (5 of 5). Is that too low? Probably. But let's say 5 just the same.

Total Points Awarded: 58


  1. No comments on this on yet? What the what?!?

    I laughed out loud at the Alan Moore (Alan Morg?) joke. And it immediately made me think that I'd pay at least a hundred bucks to hear that dude talk about "Spock's Brain" for an hour. Because, like, somehow, I just know he could do it, probably from memory.

    Some great screencaps on this one. Shatner, boy...what can you say. I had not remembered that he went so out there in this episode. Perhaps he figured that he had to go the extra mile, what with Spock's name being in the title and all. (A distinction Spock achieved twice if you count the movies, whereas unless I misremember, Kirk achieved zero. That has to burn Shatner in some way.)

    McCoy is a sweaty mess in that one screencap. But DeForest Kelley is great in this episode. Even if I hated the rest, I'd enjoy his role in it.

    I kinda don't hate the rest, though. It's ridiculous, no doubt about it. But it's at least energetic and memorable. I'd much rather watch this than a few episodes I could name (and maybe more than one or two of the movies, as well).

    1. I can never figure out which of these will garner lots of comments and which won't. Always a mystery to me.

      Alan Morg! Nice.

      You hit the nail on the head with the watchability of this episode. Whenever I hear people go out of their way to bash it, I just don't get it. Did they see all the Shatner freakouts? Listen to the brain dialogue? etc. I think there are some who feel there are some episodes where Shatner just goes "too far" or where his hamminess "ruins" things or where the concept is "too absurd." (Hypothetical people here, I have no one in mind specifically) I don't think they've invented an instrument to measure the degree to which these people are mistaken.

  2. Spock's brain is stolen by a bunch of mini-skirted hotties. I'd say the same thing must have happened to Gene Coon. Like many a Trek fan, this is my least favorite episode of the whole series. Just awful.

    I agree with Bryant, McCoy has a great part in this. Kelley gets in some genuine acting in the scene where he's attempting to put Spock's brain back in his head. Kudos for that scene. Blah for the rest of the episode.

    I'm glad to see a screenie of Checkov mapping out the trail of the mysterious ship on the bridge viewscreen. This is what I was talking about in your review of Generations. It took him all of 30 seconds to do what Picard and Data spent 10 minutes doing in that movie, minus all the interminable dialogue.

    The only way I could possibly watch this episode again is if it was on MST3K. Mike and the 'bots might be able to make it watchable. I don't think anyone else could.

  3. This is not the worst episode ever! Not even close! I could watch it 100 times before I watched either of the Harry Mudd episodes or The Way to Eden.

    Is it bad? yes. And it may have been hard on Nimoy to do the acting. But, could it have been any easier on Kelley or Doohan to courtesy as they did in I, Mudd?

    1. "The Way to Eden" is the one I feel a need to defend, moreso than "Spock's Brain." As you say, both are bad; but I'm a sucker for the semi-tragic end of "The Way to Eden." It feels right in some way.

      But I'm with you, I'd rather watch either of those than either of the Mudd episodes. Ugh.