Star Trek

Season 3 Episode 18

The Lights of Zetar

Aired Unknown Jan 31, 1969 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
136 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

The Enterprise must deal with discorporeal cloud-like aliens who have already destroyed the inhabitants of a library planet and plan to eliminate the Enterprise crew if they cannot acquire a human host.

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  • Lt. Romaine, who Scotty has fallen for, seems to become possessed by the mysterious lights of Zetar.

    Shari Lewis (the perky ventriloquist with Lambchop) wrote this dreary episode with the help of her husband for herself, though the producer (much to her ire) chose someone else to play Mira Romaine, the cute librarian who comes on board the Enterprise and has Scotty all over her while Kirk devotes long, poetic log entries to their romance. (If this was written today, Lewis could just post it on the internet as a fanfic). The story itself is a mix of science fiction and horror, like a cross between and "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and "Wolf in the Fold", even borrowing former's score to great effect.

    Its fatal mistake, however, is that it's all about "the girl", as everyone calls her, and the show might as well have cast Lewis, because Jan Shutan is so abrasive and annoying it's hard to find any sympathy for her character. (Kirk sure That's a shame, because the episode has a few good moments as a horror story, and - like several other third season episodes - its aliens are creatively different. But in the end, people watch the show to see what happens to Kirk, Spock, and the other regulars, and no one cares about Mira, no one cares about the aliens, and everyone just wonders when Scotty will get back to his day job. (It's a good thing Lewis didn't quit hers).

    Remastered Version:

    Like "Day of the Dove", the original episode includes a mixture of live action and effects that can't be separated, but here CBS Digital does a good job of overlaying some enhancements. Meanwhile, the exterior shots are reinvented to better tell the story, with the best replacement being the library planet. (The original is just a red blob, being a reuse of Vulcan from "Amok Time", but the new is an amazingly detailed sphere featuring a visible complex). An impressive chart on the viewscreen, complete with a mobile representation of the aliens, is left as is.

  • Shari Lewis, of Lambchop fame, makes mutton out of this

    I honestly want to love this story. It's refreshingly different, more horror than sci-fi, and some of Shari's offerings and input are great.

    But Scotty's blatant sexism toward Mira Romaine, a person whose name is synonymous for lettuce (albeit one of the healthier varieties), must be seen to be believed. He quickly pawns everything off as "space sickness", and despite what the crew has been through in their travels, they should all know better!!

    But despite that, at Memory Alpha, we see a female customer dying in amongst the dead men, which helps compensate. It's a chilling scene in its own right, but it's nice to see that women in the 23rd century are just as capable to educate themselves... keep in mind that the original pilot's first officer was a woman (who was rewritten to what Spock would become) that broke every anti-female stereotype and the execs watching the pilot wanted her gone, so sexism was a big problem behind the scenes and that led to problems in front of the camera, as many stories sadly reveal, as well. Except miniskirts - which were, ironically, a sign of sexual liberation at the time. But in a hetero male target audience, the execs would not complain either way...

    Actually,for season 3, this story is surprisingly solid and the horror works EXCEPTIONALLY well.

    The pressure chamber should have killed Romaine, while arguably harming (or not) the Zetarians in the process...

    I like the Zetarians as a gestalt entity, wanting to find corporeal life again. It's a good trope, but overall the execution is all over the map - some great scenes ruined by really bad ones elsewhere.

  • Interesting concept, but blah execution

    Like many third-season episodes, this one tries to be rather experimental. It's very much a horror/possession story: The Zetars (Zetarians?) aren't really aliens as much as a demonic "I am Legion" type of force intent on taking over the life and body of a human being for their own purposes.

    Despite this fact it comes from Shari Lewis of "Lambchop" fame, it features some definitely creepy scenes: the deaths on Memory Alpha, Romaine's possession episodes, the scenes of the possessed technician/Romaine changing face-color and making that weird garbled noise (a recycle from the aliens at the end of "Catspaw"?), and the grotesque form of death aliens bring. And we get another alien race, powerful, mildly apologetic, but with iron-willed determination to save themselves. Again, we get another "alien" alien in the third season. And the idea of a Federation library.

    Unfortunately, how it plays out is kind of flawed. James Doohan purportedly wasn't thrilled with the romance, and it's not surprising. Despite his best efforts (and some really awkward dialogue), there's not any chemistry between the two romantic leads. Jan Shutan does the horror elements well, and the character's late-in-the game "I will not be taken over" determination, and she's not conventionally drop-dead gorgeous. However, she doesn't really sell her side of the romance angle.

    There's also that excruciating log entry by Kirk at the beginning ("When a man of Scotty's years..." wow, way to rub it in), and the whole "high pressure can kill the aliens" angle that comes in from left field.

    So I'd give it around a 7 for general creepiness and alien alienness, but it doesn't really make it into the top tier. Just cruising along in the middle of the middle range.moreless
  • Leave it to Scotty to choose a girlfriend who talks with a guy's voice and floats in mid air

    I continue to say that I think this one is creepy. I still have to look away from the screen when they see the dead body on Memory Alpha in the library. I was reading one of the notes or trivia comments and they mentioned that it would have been so easy for the Zetarians to leave that pressure chamber the same way they came onto the ship. By simply moving away. They had no problem moving through that bulkhead. Great comment. Most of the trivia I knew about and shared the opinion, but that was a real good observance.moreless
  • At Memory Alpha, a planet full of library records, the Enterprise crew are temporarily incapacitated by mysterious energy-based life forms, which posses Lt. Mira Romaine, who Scotty has fallen in love with. Another average third season story...moreless

    (I am resuming my goal to review every episode of the Original Series. As if the third season wasn't enough of a slog in the first place, my DVD set had two damaged disks (one of them containing this episode) and I had to replace them. Oh well, back on track…)

    "The Lights of Zetar" is another one of those average-at-best third season episodes that has nothing particularly outstanding about it.

    Memory Alpha, a planetoid that is a library for Federation records, is a very interesting concept, but deserves a story more solely devoted to it – here it rather just ends up as the standard 'endangered location of the week'. The title of Memory Alpha is now used as the name of a popular 'Star Trek' wiki.

    I don't find the love interest between Mr. Scott and Lt. Mira Romaine to be convincing at all. Although the late James Doohan appears to do his best with the material he is given, but there is little real spark between the pair. The interest seems purely one-way, with Scotty, I have to say, rather appearing as the lusty old man after the sexy young girl.

    ...Following on from which, there are some very out of character moments for Scotty. Yes he is in love with Mira, but I couldn't believe that he would deliberately disobey Kirk's orders and follow her to sickbay; nor would he not report Mira's strange condition that soon emerges.

    As with Scotty's previous love interest in the second seasons "Who Mourns for Adonais?", this is the last we ever heard of the girl (although several non-canon novels have included Mira).

    When Mira becomes possessed by the energy-based aliens, things started to become a tamer version of the first season's "Where No Man Has Gone Before". However, the story didn't follow up on the quality of that episode, and I didn't really buy the later moments of this instalment. I didn't fully grasp the climatic scene in the pressure chamber, and it didn't really feel like a pleasing nor believable solution to the premise.

    All-in-all, not really an outstanding episode. In seasons one or two, this would have served as filler offering at best; unfortunately, the third season is rather full of these middling stories, and is a prime example of why the third season is widely regarded as the weakest of the three seasons of the Original Series.moreless
William Shatner

William Shatner

Captain James Tiberius Kirk

Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy

Mr. Spock

DeForest Kelley

DeForest Kelley

Dr. Leonard Horatio "Bones" McCoy

Jan Shutan

Jan Shutan

Lt. Mira Romaine

Guest Star

Libby Erwin

Libby Erwin


Guest Star

Bud da Vinci

Bud da Vinci

voice of Crewman (uncredited)

Guest Star

James Doohan

James Doohan

Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery "Scotty" Scott

Recurring Role

George Takei

George Takei

Lt. Hikaru Sulu

Recurring Role

Walter Koenig

Walter Koenig

Ensign Pavel Chekov

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (9)

    • Mira is supposedly weightless in the pressure chamber, but her tunic skirt remains perfectly flat and her long hair doesn't even float - it's hanging straight down below her head.

    • When the landing party beamed down to the library planet after the "storm" hit, Kirk's voiceover said it was an "onimous" sign, instead of "ominous". "Onimous" isn't even a real word.

    • Kirk has Romaine put into the pressure chamber and increases the pressure one atmosphere per second. At that rate, she'd have been flattened more than a pancake in under a minute.

    • Scotty had a science patch on instead of the engineering patch in the episode.

    • Watch after one of the briefings when Kirk heads for the bridge. The briefing room door opens and an extra is standing outside, stock still, then immediately "unfreezes" and starts walking - apparently the extra missed his cue.

    • Kirk orders Sulu to evade the Zetars by turning to starboard and the creatures drift off the screen to the left. But then they come back on to the screen from the left, which doesn't make sense unless they circled all the way around the ship. Then Sulu turns the ship to port and the same thing happens, screwed up in reverse.

    • When Kirk goes to Memory Alpha there's a dead man with a viewscreen near his right shoulder - the shot changes and now it's near his left shoulder.

    • What's the point of making Romaine weightless in the pressure chamber? They exist in a vaccuum and McCoy and Spock both say they're getting stronger now that Romaine is weightless - so why do they just leave her floating there?

    • Scotty discusses Romaine's visions with the crew and says she foresaw the first attack on the ship - she never said anything about the first attack to him previously (a cut scene, perhaps?).

  • QUOTES (8)

    • Kirk: Scotty, where've you been? Where are you?
      Scotty: In the sickbay.
      Kirk: Are you sick?
      Scotty: Oh, no. I was just checkin' on the lass. She's going to be fine. There's nothing wrong.
      Kirk: Well, I'm relieved to hear your prognosis, Mr. Scott. Is the doctor there, or will I find him in Engineering?

    • McCoy: Somehow I find transporting into the darkness unnerving.

    • Kirk: (speaking into his Captain's log) When a man of Scotty's years falls in love, the loneliness of his life is suddenly revealed. His heart once throbbed to the sound of the ship's engines; now all he can see is the woman.

    • Chekov: I didn't think Mr. Scott would go for the brainy type.
      Sulu: I don't he's even noticed she has a brain.

    • Sulu: Captain! The storm is approaching us at Warp 2.6 and accelerating.
      Kirk: Check that! No natural phenomenon can travel faster than the speed of light.
      Spock: It is definitely doing so, Captain. Therefore it cannot be a phenomenon of nature.

    • Kirk: Well this is an Enterprise first. Dr. McCoy, Mr. Spock, and Engineer Scott find themselves in complete agreement. Can I stand the strain?

    • Kirk: Bones, are you able to judge the long-range effects on Lt. Romaine?
      McCoy: When the personality of a human is involved, exact predictions are hazardous.
      Spock: Particularly where humans are involved.

    • Spock: (talking about love) Humans do claim a great deal for that particular emotion

  • NOTES (1)