Star Trek

Season 1 Episode 25

The Devil in the Dark

Aired Unknown Mar 09, 1967 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (9)

Write A Review
out of 10
199 votes
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • 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...

    (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.
  • attack of the horta.

    a monster has killed 50 mean on palnet janus vi. so the leader calls to kirk to help them investigate and they discover the creature that is killing the men and kirk woounds it. the monster also destroyed the life support machine. kirk later finds the monster and has spock talk to it using the mind meld where they learn that they killed her babys so thats why see was attacknig so then the the convince the horta to help with the mining efforts since it was so good at tunneling and the people of janus vi discover more elements then they ever knew where there anf they will become rich. dr.mccoy healed the horta with concrete. a great episode.
  • The devil made me do It!

    Kirk, Mr. Spoock and Dr. McCoy are on Janus VI to investigate a monster attacking workers. They don't know the cause, but spook knows why the monster's doing it by examing a series of egg like balls that the workers may have found. Kirk is battling the creature the wrong way. Mr. spook knows how to communicate with the creature is thje key for the reason why the creature was attacking the workers. it lies within the egg-like balls as the key. it's a rare that the crew will take on stuff like the creature, but this is a good epiosde, if not a great episode.
  • Beware of The Blob …

    This a well-thought of episode that has Kirk and Spock tracking down a mysterious killer in the tunnels of a deep space mining colony. The murderer turns out to be an intelligent creature protecting its eggs from the careless miners.

    There’s some stand-out scenes where Spock establishes a mind-meld with the silicon-based, rock-like creature – a “horta” – to discover its intentions and McCoy has a cute comedy bit when he “cures” the wounded creature by plastering up its lesions with quick-drying cement.

    But to see the real value of this story, you have to consider what was going on in other “sci-fi” shows of the period. In series like “Lost in Space” the monsters attacked the Earthlings because, well, that’s what monsters do. They don’t need motivation because we all know that ugly aliens like to attack attractive humans. What Roddenberry and Coon did with this STAR TREK episode is ask, “WHY does the creature attack the humans” and then they came up with a pretty good answer.

    And that’s why the STAR TREK franchise has lasted forty tears and all the other shows were left behind in the 1960s …
  • "The Devil in the Dark" is hampered by the famously low budget of the series, but is a pretty good story nonetheless.

    The USS Enterprise is summoned to "Janus VI," a source of the rare mineral known as "pegium," to investigate reports of an unknown creature deep in the planet's mining tunnels that is apparently destroying machinery and killing miners. The creature has the ability to burrow through solid rock, leaving tunnels with smooth walls.

    As soon as a landing party, lead by "Capt. Kirk" (William Shatner) and "Mr. Spock" (Leonard Nimoy), arrives at the mining colony, a reactor pump is stolen which affects the colony's life support functions. This action, which was done by the creature, leads "Spock" to believe that the creature is not doing things by instinct, but by intelligence.

    A security team lead by "Kirk" and "Spock" discover the creature in one of the mines. It is a rock-like creature which burrows through solid rock as easy as a mole burrows through dirt. They also discover that the creature had been injured by a phaser shot.

    Subsequently, they discover the true nature of the silicon-based creature, which is called a "Horta", and why it had been terrorizing the miners.

    The episode is well acted by the cast. However, a couple of the supporting cast in the episode have few lines and aren't allowed to expand their performances. Nimoy stands out in the scenes where "Spock" is conducting a "mind-meld" with the "Horta" and helps the viewers understand the emotional termoil the creature is going through.

    Like in many episodes, "The Devil in the Dark" has to deal with the low budget the studio gave the producers of the series. The rock walls within the mine are obviously fake, and the "Horta" "eggs" appear to be silver plastic balls. The most notable effect that his hampered by the low budget is the "Horta" as it is actually a man covered by a blanket-like cover. Another problem thanks to the budget is the shots of the "mining facility" itself -- it is obviously a painted backdrop.

    The problems with the episode's budget is forgettable thanks to good performances and a good story with a fairly interesting silicon-based life-form.