Star Trek

Season 1 Episode 25

The Devil in the Dark

Aired Unknown Mar 09, 1967 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
196 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Kirk investigates a series of grisly murders on a mining planet that are the work of a seemingly hostile alien creature.

Who was the Episode MVP ?

No results found.
No results found.
No results found.
  • Kirk and Spock attempt to reason with a creature that has been killing people.

    Like "Arena", this episode is another story by Gene Coon that challenges the preconceived ideas of televised science fiction, this time eschewing comic book violence for thoughtful discovery.

    Taking place almost completely beneath the surface of the planet of Janus IV (brought to life through studio sets), this Kirk/Spock story is built upon the sci fi idea of silicon-based life, embodied by what looks like a bad slice of pizza. For the 60s, it's an advanced idea and an advanced look, particularly for a series that has so many humanoid aliens, with the original series presenting many, such as in "Miri", "The Return of Archons" and "A Taste of Armageddon", as regular looking folk.

    As in "Arena", the script embraces Kirk's entire character, faults and all, turning his eagerness to get the job done and the protective nature toward his crew into blinding aspects that cause him to misread the situation and choose the wrong course of action. As with the Gorn, he eventually ends up face to face with his enemy, only this time he realizes the monster is himself. Shatner plays it all perfectly, beaming down to the planet with a smug attitude that changes the moment one of his own men dies. (The look on his face as he processes the death is priceless. Let it not be said that Kirk doesn't care for a redshirt death! Well, not this week at least). And then when he meets the creature at last, he finally puts the puzzle pieces together and realizes what's going on, forcing him to reassess his outlook and his decisions. Giving Kirk this arc offers us a chance to see him learning and growing, and through this we can feel much closer to him than if he has to be perfect.

    The secret sauce, however, is how Coon and Nimoy are able to use Spock to bring out the Horta's personality and turn her into a three dimensional character. Future Star Trek episodes and movies take note and borrow the idea for other creatures, but Nimoy hits it so note-perfect the first time, the concept is never improved upon.

    It all shows what a long way Star Trek has come in its first season. After beginning with a simple monster hunt in "The Man Trap", the series approaches the finish line with a much improved version here. And to think that the season's greatest episode is still to come! It's quite a beginning for the one that started it all.

    Remastered: Of all the matte paintings of the original series, none is in more need of an upgrade than the one that begins this episode. Poor Albert Whitlock either mailed this one in or he was too rushed for time to create something more realistic; either way, while it's a fine piece of art, it looks so fake that even back in the 80s when I was watching the episode, poorly taped on VHS, on my 12 inch analogue television set, I thought, "Oh, come on!" when I was asked to accept that what I was looking at was a real underground factory and not an abstract product of Vincent Van Gogh's imagination. Fortunately, the show seems to feel the same way, since the matte painting only pops up one other episode ("The Gamesters of Triskelion") and only then in the far background of a live action set. For the remastered version, CBS Digital completely replaces it with a new matte that uses the same concepts but brings them alive in a much more realistic way. In its first appearance in the episode, it even includes an orange suited worker in the lower left entering a tunnel, which then cuts seamlessly into the live action where he continues on; it's amazing to think the shots were created forty years apart. The remainder of the episode only uses the matte painting behind an office window, and for this use, the original matte painting works ok, because it's far enough back to hide its flaws. Nonetheless, CBS Digital even replaces this with their new matte painting, which is painstaking rotoscoping work, with a moving camera and moving actors (occasionally blocking the view) to contend with. Like the window at Starbase 11 in "The Menagerie", the work is so well done, you'd never guess there was any work done at all - which is the best kind of digital upgrade.

    Other than that, there's not too much of note. We get an upgraded planet (closely matching the original, which was lifted from "The Man Trap") and an upgraded ship; and there's a shot of the "monster" coming through the wall that's been fixed so that she now emerges from a spherical tunnel matching the other tunnels she's made. (In the original, she emerges from a tunnel the shape of an upside down "u", going all the way down to the stage floor to allow the practical effect to emerge at ground level).

    The original ending includes another one of those slow fades from the characters to the ship that causes trouble for this type of project (with all those frames unusable), so CBS digital has to crossfade from the bridge to their new shot of the ship as Kirk is still giving the order for warp speed. It would be better if they could delay the crossfade half a second, but they do the best they can, and it works ok.

  • Attack of the carpet barf!

  • Is the Horta costume better than the original Godzilla's? Maybe.

    Always considered this one of the worse episodes in the series, surprised how many high ratings it has been given. Granted, the story is ok; humans intruding in some creature's habitat and reaping the consequences, then finally learning to co-exist after smothing out some bumps.

    What bothered me is when the miners come across these dense spheres (Horta's eggs) and don't bother studying them, they simply move them, which causes the "mom" to come looking for its eggs and in the process kill a few humans. You would think people capable of interstellar travel would be a little more curious and (at least) study the spheres.

    The part that's really laughable is the Horta costume; simply a rug thrown over some stunt person. I realize this episode was filmed over 40 years ago, but come on! They could have done a little better...

    Oh yeah, I almost forgot; the part where Spoke mind melds with the creature and finally learns that it's distraught about its missing brood. The way Spok screams PAIN!!! PAIN!! over and over is just plain bad acting on the part of Leonard Nimoy. The director dropped the ball on this one, should have done more takes...moreless
  • Miners on Janus VI get scared by some guy crawling under a poorly constructed turtle costume

    What a beautiful message, really. I love the occasional theme in Star Trek that peace and beauty among other things are not always easy to see by mere appearance. I read it was one of Shatner's favorites with the additional side item that he lost his father during the shooting of this episode and the crew was quite supportive to him. I have used the "Horta lesson" many times in my life on misjudgment of character and behavior of people and situations. The creepiness and terror of this episode is overcome by warmth. What a nice idea.moreless
  • Kirk, Spock and McCoy investigate a series of incidents on a mining in which workers have been killed by a seemingly hostile subterranean creature. Although it looks somewhat cheap and dated in places, mostly a good episode...moreless

    (Note that, as with all of my 'Star Trek' reviews, I am reviewing the original versions; I have not yet seen the remastered versions).

    I have been watching 'Star Trek' since I was very young, thanks to my father who was a casual viewer. When I started to really get into it during my teens, this episode stuck in my mind as being one of my favourites for whatever reasons.

    Something that works against this episode somewhat is its cheap and dated look. In most cases, I will defend original 'Trek' episodes, as I believe they mostly worked wonders considering the technical limitations of the time, not to mention the usually tight budget. But I have to admit, this one looks a bit ropey in places.

    A key example of this is the backdrop to the mining colony; while elsewhere in the series we are treated to some stunning matte backdrops, this one sadly just looks like a cheap painting, and looks very unconvincing.

    The caves too aren't the best (looking distinctly like paper mache in places), and the creature itself looks like something from a weaker moment of vintage-era 'Doctor Who'. Some episodes have dated better than others, and I have to say, time hasn't been very kind to this one.

    But for all that, the episode is redeemed by being a really good story. Look past the dodgy effects and sets, and this is a great piece of 'Trek' writing and direction.

    Unusual with this episode, is that it features extremely little of the Starship Enterprise. The entire teaser does not feature any crew members – a rarity in itself – and we only get a brief Enterprise scene at the start of the second act, and in the final, obligatory "all laugh at Spock" scene.

    William Shatner has commented that this is his favourite 'Trek' episode, and in many respects I can see why. It is an interesting story, with an interesting twist in the tale, which makes you question just who the real villain of the piece is. Where other shows would dish up standard 'monster of the week' stories, 'Star Trek' would offer up more thoughtful – yet none the less entertaining – tales such as this.

    Talking of Shatner, I did notice in a number of shots from behind that it was a double in his place. This would be explained by the fact that his father passed away during filming of this episode, so a double was used in rear shots to allow him some time away.

    As I say, as a teen I really liked this story, and I still enjoy it. There are a couple of moments where things slow up a little (heck, that's the case in many episodes), but if you're prepared to forgive the dodgy effects and sets, this is a really good episode.moreless
Ken Lynch

Ken Lynch

Chief Engineer Vanderberg

Guest Star

Barry Russo

Barry Russo

Lt. Cmdr. Giotto

Guest Star

Brad Weston

Brad Weston

Ed Appel

Guest Star

DeForest Kelley

DeForest Kelley

Dr. Leonard Horatio "Bones" McCoy

Recurring Role

James Doohan

James Doohan

Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery "Scotty" Scott

Recurring Role

Frank da Vinci

Frank da Vinci

Lt. Osborne (uncredited)

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (11)

    • Lt. Commander Giotto wears full commander stripes.

    • Several times in this episode, Kirk uses his communicator and it doesn't "chirp" when he opens it.

    • Vandenberg opens the door to his office with a button on the underside of his desk - at different times he presses different spots on the desk.

    • Why did the Horta steal the reactor pump rather then destroy it? It's trying to kill the miners or get them off the planet - what advantage is there for the Horta to save it?

    • How did the Horta know exactly what part to steal? It's smart, but it doesn't seem to be familiar with human technology.

    • During the confrontation with the Horta with Spock and Kirk, in one shot, Kirk's phaser is up, and the next shot, the phaser is down to his side.

    • While Kirk is waiting for Spock to arrive, after his meeting the Horta and sitting down, we see him holding his phaser pointed at the ground, near his waist. We then cut to a wide shot when Spock comes in and we see Kirk holding his arm stretched out, only this time he is holding his communicator. Then we cut back to a close-up of Kirk and his arm's holding the phaser again, pointing down.

    • When Spock and Kirk pursue the Horta, they come to a fork in the tunnel. Kirk points right and tells Spock to go left. Then he points left and says he'll go right.

    • Spock informs Kirk that the Horta excretes a highly corrosive substance that lingers on the tunnel walls, yet in later scenes a portion of the creature and eventually the creature itself is touched with no ill effects.

    • The Horta's tunnels don't match the shape of its body - watch the one scene where we actually see it going down one of its tunnel. The Horta is kind of oval/elliptical, but the tunnel is perfectly round and several feet higher than the top of the Horta.

    • For all their high-tech advances, McCoy uses a plastic yellow bucket to hold the thermo-concrete he uses on the Horta.

  • QUOTES (7)

    • Vanderberg: Look, we didn't call you here so you could collect rocks!

    • McCoy: He's dead, Jim.

    • Spock: If it is the only survivor of a dead race, to kill it would be a crime against science.

    • McCoy: [after being asked to treat the Horta] I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer!

    • Spock: The odds against both of us being killed are 2,228.7 to 1.
      Kirk: 2,228.7 to 1? Those are pretty good odds, Mr. Spock.
      Spock: And they are of course accurate.
      Kirk: Of course. Well, I hate to use the word, but, logically with those kinds of odds you might as well stay. But please stay out of trouble, Mr. Spock.
      Spock: That is always my intention, Captain.

    • Kirk: Think she'll go for it?
      Spock: It seems logical, Captain. The Horta has a very logical mind. And after close association with humans, I find that curiously refreshing.

    • Spock: Curious. What Chief Vanderberg said about the Horta is exactly what the Mother Horta said to me. She found humanoid appearance revolting, but she thought she could get used to it.
      McCoy: Oh, she did, did she? Now tell me--did she happen to make any comment about those ears?
      Spock: Not specifically. But I did get the distinct impression she found them the most attractive human characteristic of all. I didn't have the heart to tell her that only I have...
      Kirk: She really liked those ears?
      Spock: Captain, the Horta is a remarkably intelligent and sensitive creature with impeccable taste.
      Kirk: Because she approved of you.
      Spock: Really, Captain, my modesty...
      Kirk: Does not bear close examination, Mr. Spock. I suspect you're becoming more and more human all the time.
      Spock: Captain, I see no reason to stand here and be insulted.

  • NOTES (2)