Star Trek

Season 3 Episode 1

Spock's Brain

Aired Unknown Sep 20, 1968 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
180 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Stardate 5431.4: The Enterprise is intercepted by a starship of unknown design and a woman from the ship beams directly into the bridge and uses a device to render the Enterprise's crew unconscious. She then walks over to Spock... When the crew awakens, McCoy summons Kirk to sick bay and informs him that the alien visitor apparently removed Spock's entire brain without even performing surgery. After Spock's body is fitted with a device that allows McCoy to control the Vulcan's motor functions with a remote control, Kirk starts a search for Spock's brain, hoping it can be recovered and somehow returned to Spock before his body decays.moreless

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  • Cheesy good

    Mmmmmmm like grilled cheese sandwich baby.... So bad it's gooooooooooooooood. So funny I died laughing.
  • Oh the pain, the pain...

    (to borrow a line from another S.F. show's icon...)

    Caught this on the remastered run and if anything it's even worse then I remember. First up is the bad bad music cues. They beam Spock's body down to the planet, Kirk looks at in, zoom in on Spock's blank face, and... bombastic horror/music sting loud enough to rattle the windows. Cripes, the Horta didn't get this kind of musical buildup. Later when Kirk and the guys fight the Morg guards the music is equally blaring, and again there's an inexplicable cut to Spock's blank face for a "reaction" shot. Here's a hint, guys: there's no point doing reaction shots if the people you show don't have any reactions.

    I read Blish's short story adaptation and thankfully he omitted the whole remote-control windup Spock (which is noisier than the Tin Man from Oz: oil the joints, guys!). There looks like there are 10 buttons on the controller, and they keep hitting button number 1, so maybe they were rating this episode. One imagines Chapel helping McCoy perfect the mechanism.

    There's also a goofy cut to Sulu giving a supplemental log reading where he says... well, nothing we don't know already. The syndication cut even removes his finishing line about Chekov camped out on the planet.

    And of course at the end there's another god-like piece of technology that we'll never hear about again. Scotty even says he'd like a crack at it: why doesn't he or McCoy or the other 420+ crew just use it once each and dictate everything they know down. Then the Federation could be doing removals every week. Then again, we might get more episodes like this. Thankfully we were spared "Picard's Brain" in TNG. Although that's another bad thing about this episode: the title sounds like a bad 50s B-Movie. Also, if you're in the mood have a drinking game and take a shot every time they say "brain." Thankfully, you'll be passed out by the end of the episode.

    And there's cringeworthy moments like Kirk throwing himself on his knees to Kara to beg her for a chance to visit Spock. Ugh. And the unflattering torture belts. And the weird directorial touches like a camera shot through the helmet onto Kirk's face, or the dramatic frenzied-eye closeups of McCoy during the operation. Nobody does frenzied eyes like DeForest Kelley, check out "City on the Edge..." for another good example.

    Overall this definitely is a bad episode. All you can do is assume that everyone responsible for it knew it was a joke and wanted to pass that on the audience. Unfortunately, they seem a bit too sober-faced and you get the impression they really thought they had a winner on their hands. Oh well.moreless
  • Gene L. Coon's script played straight and executed badly

    Spock's Brain was actually penned by Gene L. Coon who intended the show to be played as a comedy. Unfortunately, the season 3 producer of Classic Trek, Fred Freiberger, didn't quite like comedies and decided to play it straight...which resulted in this catastrophe. In season 3, there were few comedic scenes except at the end of an episode such as when McCoy asks Kirk if he wants to look like Vulcan officer for the rest of his captaincy in 'The Enterprise Incident' or at the end of 'The Tholian Web' when Kirk is puzzled that McCoy and Spock never consulted his emergency recordings--in case he was dead or missing (and the rest of the crew quietly laugh). These scenes usually happened after the tension in an episode was resolved, however.

    Freiberger was a 'serious' science fiction producer and even David Gerrold recognised this when he wrote or rather re-wrote'The Cloudminders'--an allegory on social inequality. By the way, in Herb Solow and Robert Justman's 1996 book 'Inside Star Trek: The Real Story', Bob Justman candidly admits that it was he who suggested that Spock speak to and guide Dr.McCoy through the brain operation. Oh well, at least he admitted that this mistake. But no one could counter Star Trek's clear decline in quality as a result of NBC's budget cutbacks in its final season.moreless
  • Even the worst episode in TOS was better than the best episode in many others Sci-fi TV shows.

    I never really gave any Star Trek shows "1's" or "2's" because Star Trek at it's worst is better than any "best" episode of Lost in Space. Of course, Spock's Brain is teetering on Cat Women of the Moon stuff here with beautiful brainless women who capture neanderthal men and give them pleasure and pain. Plus, the ridiculous scene of Spock clearing his throat and guiding McCoy through the brain operation also teeters on making Star Trek more like TV sci-fi from the fifties. What so painful about this episode is that it's a hint how bad Star Trek may have gotten if it went on to a fourth season. Thus, the 3rd season is not as truly bad as some of have mentioned. But it does reveal a terrible direction that the series was headed. Like all Star Trek episodes, there are some diamonds in the rough here. I liked the scene with Sulu, Uhura, and Chevok all consolidating their scientific knowledge together (in Spock's absense) to determine where the alien ship may have left with Spock's Brain. I would say that Spock's strict mentoring has paid off. After all, the Federation has many starships and they just can't expect Spock to be the best science officer in the whole fleet.moreless
  • Spock's brain is stolen, and Kirk and company try to retrieve it.

    This third season opener is famous for being campy, and there certainly are some laugh out loud cheesy moments. But truth be told, most of it is rather boring and not even fun for laughs. The idea for this episode was an interesting science fiction premise by Gene Coon (who like Gene Roddenberry had left the show by the time the third season began, putting the show in the hands of Producer Fred Freiberger.) Coon thought it was interesting how we externally create devices that mirror how our brain internally handles our bodies: air conditioning and heating to regulate temperatures, communication systems to exchange messages, and sensors to gather information. Coon wondered what it would be like if a human brain was used to run a colony, controlling its functions as if it were a human body. It was an idea worthy of exploring, but the execution here is dreadful, with Spock's remote control body (complete with an unexplained clicking sound each time he moves) and disembodied voice adding to the ridiculousness of the sci fi idea gone awry.moreless
Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy

Mr. Spock

DeForest Kelley

DeForest Kelley

Dr. Leonard Horatio "Bones" McCoy

William Shatner

William Shatner

Captain James Tiberius Kirk

Marj Dusay

Marj Dusay


Guest Star

James Daris

James Daris


Guest Star

Sheila Leighton

Sheila Leighton


Guest Star

Walter Koenig

Walter Koenig

Ensign Pavel Chekov

Recurring Role

George Takei

George Takei

Lt. Hikaru Sulu

Recurring Role

Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols

Lt. Nyota Uhura

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (21)

    • Kara says the knowledge lasts two or three hours, and McCoy says that's just enough time to do the operation. So... how did Kara earlier get the knowledge, go on an open-ended trip hoping to find a suitable brain, do the surgery on the Enterprise, and get back using the knowledge to pilot the ship?

    • When Kara activates the belt-torture devices, it only affects the landing party even though the Morg slaves are wearing the same belts. She only has three buttons, so how does she get such precise control?

    • Is Spock really so impressive that Kara stops with him and leaves with his brain? Maybe there's someone else on the next deck with an even better brain.

    • While performing surgery on Spock, McCoy seems to be standing with his hands at a noticeable distance from where the top of Spock's head is.

    • An entire scene is devoted to discussing which of three planets to send the landing party to search for Spock's brain. But there are hundreds of people aboard the Enterprise. Kirk could conceivably send a hundred searchers to each planet and still have more than enough personnel for a skeleton crew to run the ship.

    • As McCoy tries to reconnect Spock's vocal chords, Spock himself tells the doctor to "finish reconnecting my speech center" so he can help out. But given that he just manages to say that, there doesn't seem to be much, if anything, left in that area to reconnect.

    • Chekov heats a rock with his phaser without melting the snow right next to it.

    • Kirk orders phasers on stun when they enter the caves because he wants them conscious. However, "stun" doesn't typically leave its victims conscious.

    • Despite the reference to suit temperature controls which were used just after Kirk and the landing party beamed down to the planet, Chekov then has to heat a rock with his phaser to keep him and his guards warm. Why couldn't they just turn their temperature controls up some more?

    • Before beaming down to the planet, Kirk mistakenly says the stardate is 4351.5 instead of 5431.5.

    • After deciding to go to the Sigma Draconis system, Kirk orders Sulu to take them there at "maximum speed". Sulu acknowledges the order with "Warp Six", but the Enterprise's maximum speed is Warp Eight on the 2260s scale.

    • While discussing Spock's missing brain in sickbay, McCoy says he doesn't know how long Spock can survive without his brain, but only a few seconds later, he randomly puts a 24-hour time limit on restoring the brain to Spock's body. Does he know how long Spock has or not?

    • When Kara tells them the knowledge implanted by the teaching device last for three hours, McCoy comments that that would be just enough time to restore Spock's brain. Um, how does he know how long this surgery -- thousands of years beyond his ability -- will take? Even if he were using the removal as a reference point, putting the brain back in is bound to me a very different matter than taking it out.

    • When Kirk and the crew reach the underground city, he stuns Kara and removes the bracelet from her arm. After he removes it, the unconcious Kara quite deliberately lays her hand flat on the ground.

    • The remote control that enables Scotty to control the brainless Spock only has a handful of buttons on it, yet Kirk is able to use the controller do make Spock perform some pretty inctricate movements with his arms and fingers. This seems a little odd.

    • When they arrived in the system they said they were heading for the sixth planet in the system of Sigma Draconis, but in his captain's log about halfway through the episode, Kirk calls it Sigma Draconis VII.

    • The rocks that the male locals initially throw at the landing party float like the styrofoam they really are.

    • Spock has cranial surgery, twice, and has perfect hair both times afterward. That's pretty advanced technology!

    • Why doesn't someone else (Scotty or Kirk, or beam down someone from the ship) get their brain enhanced to do the surgical operation on Spock after McCoy loses it?

    • Kara gets her intelligence boosted and then pulls out a phaser from her clothing already set on Kill. How did she know how to set it to "Kill" before she got her brain enhanced?

    • Kirk, McCoy, and Scotty manage to sit upright in those teeny little low-backed chairs despite the fact they're unconscious.

  • QUOTES (9)

    • McCoy: I'll never live this down--this Vulcan telling me how to operate.

    • Spock: While I might trust the doctor to remove a splinter or lance a boil, I do not believe he has the knowledge to restore a brain.
      McCoy: Thank you.

    • Kirk: Readout, Mr. Chekov.
      Chekov: No structures, Captain. No mechanized objects that I can read. No surface consumption, no generation of energy. Atmosphere is perfectly all right, of course. Temperature, a high maximum of 40. Livable.
      Kirk: You have a thick skin.

    • (after McCoy's successful surgery restoring Spock's brain)
      Kirk: How do you feel, Spock?
      Spock: On the whole Captain, I believe I'm quite fit. It's fascinating! A remarkable example of a retrograde civilization at the peak, advanced beyond any of our capabilities and now operating at this primitive level which you saw. And it all began thousands of years ago when a glacial age reoccurred. You see, this underground complex was developed for the women. Men remained above. And male/female schism took place. A fascinating cultural development of a kind...
      McCoy: I knew it was wrong, I shouldn't have done it!
      Kirk: What's that?
      McCoy: I should have never reconnected his mouth!
      Kirk: Well, we took the risk, Doctor.

    • Kirk: No one may kill a man. Not for any purpose. It cannot be condoned.

    • Kara: You are not Morg. You are not Eymorg.

    • Kara: How will we live?
      Spock: You'll learn to build houses to keep warm. You'll work. ... Humans have survived under worse conditions. It's a matter of evolution. Give it time.

    • Kara: Brain and brain! What is brain?

    • (Engines start)
      McCoy: Call Chekov and tell him to send my stomach down.

  • NOTES (6)

    • In the 2007 remastered version of the episode, the ship that Kara arrives in is changed from a 1960s missile/rocket design to a more modern advanced ship that looks nothing like the original. The ice planet also receives a makeover, showing ice and snow in the longer matte shots.

    • For the first time, the main viewscreen image is rear-projected live during filming in order to allow the actors to interact with the display. Previous viewscreen images were superimposed after the scene had been filmed.

    • The opening theme music now features a mix of a female soprano and a Theremin.

    • In this season, the opening credits are in blue instead of gold.

    • This episode was written by Gene L. Coon under the pseudonym Lee Cronin.

    • Starting with this episode, the third season saw Star Trek moved to a death timeslot: Friday nights @ 10:00!