Captain's Blog pt. 93: The Tholian Web

If you haven't seen this one in awhile, have a look at the one-minute preview:

The editing on these "Next Voyage" trailers is always so funny. I probably should have included the preview for each episode I covered. Ah well. Hindsight.

November 15, 1968
Title (1.25) I just call it "The prequel to "In A Mirror Darkly," these days. 

The thing is, the Tholians and their web are so tantalizing. But the episode is only incidentally about the Tholian web. I'll give them credit for identifying the element of the story that lingers in the imagination the most, but my lackluster response to the title is a reflection more on the plot.

TrekMovie sums it up pretty well: "In the end, this is just a television tale where an hour is harmlessly passed by putting the series star character in a kind of faux jeopardy that we know must be happily resolved by the final commercial break. "

If that's what it means to be caught up in a Tholian web, then meh. 

Visual Design (4) One of the more visually distinctive episodes of TOS - all the more impressive in that it's 100% redressed previously-built sets. Good workaround for the budget.


Guest (2) Hey whaddya know? No guest stars. Couple of crewmembers we never see get some lines, but that's about it. Barbara Babcock provides the Tholian commander's voice, but it's only a handful of lines.

Script and Theme (5 / 5.5) I'm a sucker for any trans-dimensional shifting or space-madness story. Or any episode where Chekov flips out.

"Mister Chekov... chek-ov... chek-ov..."
"Something went wrong here."

Whenever the relationship between Kirk, Spock and Bones comes up, this episode always seems to be named as a key to understanding it. I've never quite been on board with this.

Sure, we get their viewing Kirk's Last Will and Testament when they think he's dead, which is a nice enough tv trope, and I love Spock's "What would you have me say, Doctor?" line (as well as their deceiving Kirk at episode's end about watching it) but Bones bitching at Spock because he's worried about Jim (and his process of elimination of imaginary chemical concoctions) veers towards the blah. Not uninteresting, or even uncalled for, just a little of that goes a long way, and we've seen all of this done better in many other episodes.

I am forever amused by these plastic bottles Bones keeps around. Second only to the Room of Skulls as far as Sick Bay curiosities.
The web in "In A Mirror Darkly" is a fantastic re-creation/ expansion of the original design:
"Do you suppose they're seeing Jim because they've lost confidence in you?" asks McCoy dickishly. (He apologies moments later.) Still, if it is the case, this image cracks me up.
We get to see Uhura's quarters for the first and only time. She has the vision/ premonition which proves to be the Captain's salvation.

Ghost Kirk proves too unsettling for her to return to duty, so she gets a lie-in until the crisis passes.
The Tholians, man. What's that background in the image below? Their ship's environmental controls? I picture the bridge as a small area carved out of alien phosphorescent stone.

I love the Commander (Loskene)'s voice so much. If there was an Audio category, I'd add an extra 5 pts for it.
Can the next Trek film be all about the Tholians? Have you ever told someone they're as punctual (or as un-punctual) as a Tholian then chortled with self-amusement? I honestly think I have not, which surprises me. I guess I'm saving it for the right moment.

Internal Logistics (2) Not bad, overall, but I always find it odd that McCoy's hypo works through Kirk's spacesuit.

In the future, permeable spacesuits are just part of the wondrous new age.
It's disappointing that we get no Captain's Log from Kirk while he's in his trans-phase state. That would be so fantastic. I'd like to write one myself, but I suspect it'd be a hard sale. For everyone but Shatner, of course.

Speaking of, can you freaking believe this guy?
93 blogs in, and I cannot properly explain in one sentence (or 93 blogs) how endlessly and hilariously bizarre I find this guy's career, how comprehensively I'm entertained and surprised by it.
Kirk and the Gang (20) A good ep for the secondary cast.

This guy's freakout during Kirk's eulogy is so abrupt and hilarious. Probably the best of the story's space madness moments.

Memorability (5) Trekmovie once again:

"Popular though it may be, 'The Tholian Web' is an unremarkable Star Trek story. Yes, the space madness subplot allows for some histrionic performances on the part of the usually-neglected supporting cast, which probably endears it to some viewers who are particularly fond of those characters. Yes, there’s some amusing fussing and hurt/comfort byplay between Spock and McCoy, but it’s thinly motivated and seems to exist mainly as a sop to some portion of the audience that’s understood to enjoy this adversarial back-and-forth no matter how distracting or extraneous."

Probably true on all counts. Regardless, "Tholian" has memorability in spades, so all 5 points awarded.

Total Points Awarded: 44.75


  1. Still working my way through "Enterprise," so I haven't yet seen "In a Mirror Darkly." But all I always wanted to see more of the Tholians, them diamond-headed sonsabitches... One of the absolute best race of aliens in all of Trek, because they are just really unique. I've never seen anything else quite like them.

    All the phantom-Kirk stuff is pretty cool, too.

    You know, the third season is better than it typically gets credit for being. There are some real dogs in the bunch, but there are several gems, too. This being one of them (pardon the semi-pun).

    1. Yeah I agree on season 3. Each of the seasons has its weak point / episodes. And while most of my favorite eps are season one, more than a few come from seasons two and three. I'm glad people don't just write off season 3 wholesale the way they used to; there seems to have been a temperature change on the subject.