Star Trek

Season 3 Episode 16

The Mark of Gideon

Aired Unknown Jan 17, 1969 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
148 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Kirk beams down on a diplomatic mission...and finds himself on an Enterprise where all the crew have vanished and only a mysterious woman resides.

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  • Captain Kirk attempts to beam down to the overpopulated planet of Gideon but is shocked to find himself back on the Enterprise - with the crew gone.

    This is one of those mystery episodes where they come up with a cool (and in this case budget saving) premise, but they don't know where to go with it and end up tacking on an ending that doesn't make any sense.

    The story itself, conceived by Stanley Adams (Cyrano Jones in "The Trouble with Tribbles"), cleverly contrasts being alone with the claustrophobia of overpopulation (both being something Cyrano Jones would know about). But the story is crying out for a holodeck-like twist (as teased in TNG's "Future Imperfect") and Star Trek isn't far enough along for that yet; instead, as the mystery starts to unravel, we get answers with plot holes you could drive a starship through.

    Kirk gets the A story, sharing it with Odona (Sharon Acker) on an empty Enterprise. Moving at a snail's pace, the first half of the show lays out the episode's main ideas and issues as the two converse and the script throws in some super creepy (and effective) reminders of the hell of over population. Acker is okay, though her bizarre bikini print pantsuit makes it clear the wardrobe department is mailing it in, knowing cancellation is around the corner. Shatner is fine as well, though it's interesting to ponder how well this could have worked as an Uhura or Sulu story, with these interesting characters too often overwhelmed by others that they wouldn't have to share the screen with here.

    Along with Spock and Scotty, they instead get the predictable B story, the search for the lost captain, but this time it has a clever twist: instead of having to zip around the galaxy or fight battles to find Kirk, they instead have to fight their way through bureaucratic red tape and play a game of semantics with a planetary leader, played by a hammy but hysterical German named David Hurst. Though it's all dialogue, it's actually a lot of fun and, anchored by Nimoy, uses the ensemble well.

    About three quarters of the way through, however, the episode hits the wall because it has no good conclusion to go to.

    In literal terms, the episode is probably a failure. In thematic and poetic terms, however, it's somewhat interesting... for a while.

    Remastered Edition:

    This is mostly your basic "new Enterprise and new planet" remastering effort (replacing the original's reuse of "The Deadly Years" footage) - but they do tweak a few other shots. Most notably, they update the chronometer to match the "The Naked Time", which here requires some fancy work due to a panning camera.

  • Interesting concept, but too many glitches to suspend disbelief

    Like many third season episodes, the writers try to go for an "alien" culture. While the people are humanoid, the fact that they are essentially immortal, and that their own love of life has driven them to become immortal, is... well, unique. It's not necessarily understandable from a human viewpoint.

    On the other hand, it's not clear where you go for there. So they value life... but they use Kirk's blood as a virus. Again, this might be some alien-type rationale ("Hey, we're not killing her: we're just injecting Odona with a deadly virus from someone else.") but it strains credulity just a bit too much.

    Then there's the fake Enterprise, which makes no sense in this or any other context. Besides the improbability of being able to make such an exact duplicate... why do they care if Kirk is happy? Knock him over the head, put him in a cell, take blood as needed. The Gideonites also seem awfully confident that the Enterprise will just fly away and figure the captain is lost in a transporter accident.

    Like other third-season episodes, the director tries to get alternately spooky and artsy. Granted, there are a few creepy moments, but those don't make sense either. Why is the ship silent, and then they hear the heartbeats, and then they stop? Did a circuit blow out? And why are people standing around peering through the viewports.

    The writers get in a few stabs at diplomacy and bureaucracy, but Spock disposes of two guards and rescues the captain. For a planet filled to overcrowding, it's amusing he only has to deal with two people.

    I'll give it a B for effort, and a C- minus for coherency.moreless
  • Tepid script, poor story, the viewer can almost see the concept at war with itself.

    Kirk is used as a pawn to carry disease to a planet cursed with long life and over-population.

    When I look at a program, I ask two questions. 1 - Is the story grand or unique and does it say something powerful about people and the human condition? Is some of the dialog unforgettable? 2 - Is the script competent and believable? If one fails and the other doesn't, it still has some merit to me. "The Mark of Gideon" fails both tests. Hard.

    The planet dynamics make no sense, no world could be so populated that it teems on every surface with one species. If one accepts the premise, why would birth control be so repugnant? The writers struggle with this by putting in non-sequiters that essentially say that the people love life so much that they long to die. How in the world can Gideon be capable of making a fake Enterprise so precisely that it simulates every single function of the real ship but they can't figure out how to make the view screens any better than cheap one-way glass? Other episodes make a strong point that one man cannot pilot the Enterprise, Kirk seems unconcerned about it. Aside from some of Spock's dialog with the planet, the writing quality is not sterling here either. Kirk says goodbye to his love interest with, "you are needed everywhere." Good grief, THAT'S on-topic.

    Aside from wanting to deal with a serious issue like over-population and 30 minutes of dramatic mystery (what the fake Enterprise is), this episode could contend for the worst of the worst. It may be in the bottom five.moreless
  • Beaming down to a planet that the Federation is trying to secure diplomatic relations with, Kirk finds himself on an Enterprise completely deserted, except for one mysterious young woman. An episode that should be far more intriguing that it is...moreless

    The first few minutes of this episode, with Kirk arriving on board a deserted Enterprise, looked to make for a very interesting and mysterious episode. Sadly, things soon really plummeted – the story was weak and awkward, with some real nitpicks and plot holes, and lacked the intrigue that should have gone with such a story.

    This episode in many ways sums up why the third season is widely regarded as the weakest of the Original Series; In the first or second season, this would probably have made for an interesting if slightly filler episode, but here it is handled with little flair, and is not very engaging for the viewer as a result.

    [Minor spoiler] The Enterprise, which turns out to be a duplicate, could be an interesting concept, but – as other reviewers have also picked up on – how could the people of Gideon create such an exact duplicate? It just wasn't believable. [End of minor spoiler]

    Likewise, there is little real spark between Kirk and Odona, and by now the whole "Kirk and guest female of the week get romantically involved" device was getting very overused and worn out.

    This episode holds little rewatchable value. While other episodes (such as the infamous "Spock's Brain", for example) may be even worse to watch, "The Mark of Gideon" certainly ranks amongst the Original Series' weakest episodes.moreless
  • Kirk talks about contraception

    Who could forget that beautiful line that makes me cry... It is said by Odana who is answering her father's question about what pain is like "It is like when you see that people have no hope of happiness. You feel great despair. Your heart is heavy because you know you can do nothing. Pain is like that. How interesting that she describes mental pain when Hodin was asking about physical pain. I still get spooked out when Kirk turns on the viewing port and all those people are looking at them. Nice scene, director.moreless
William Shatner

William Shatner

Captain James Tiberius Kirk

Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy

Mr. Spock

DeForest Kelley

DeForest Kelley

Dr. Leonard Horatio "Bones" McCoy

Richard Derr

Richard Derr

Adm. Fitzgerald

Guest Star

Gene Dynarski

Gene Dynarski


Guest Star

David Hurst

David Hurst


Guest Star

Walter Koenig

Walter Koenig

Ensign Pavel Chekov

Recurring Role

Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols

Lt. Nyota Uhura

Recurring Role

George Takei

George Takei

Lt. Hikaru Sulu

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (9)

    • Other than because it's spooky, it's never explained why the heartbeats start up, then stop.

    • When Spock approaches the two Gideon guards, he uses the Vulcan nerve pinch on the one furthest away from him. Not surprisingly, the guard closer to him sees Spock's hand and reacts. Logically, Spock would have rendered unconscious the man closest to him, and behind his partner, first.

    • For some reason, as Kirk pages the ship and the camera shows different areas, sick bay and only sick bay is on red alert.

    • When Kirk arrives on the fake Enterprise, he is standing on one of the pads and is shot from the rear. Then the camera cuts to a shot from the front and Kirk is gone!

    • When Kirk uses the fake intercom on the fake Enterprise when he first arrives, it doesn't make any noise - later, when Spock arrives and uses it, it makes the standard beeping noise.

    • Where do the Gideons get their food and water? Their planet is supposedly one huge mass of people - it seems like they'd run out of resources.

    • The Gideons have long lives, but there's no indication they're super-powered or anything. But Hedin asks his daughter what it's like to feel pain.

    • The Gideons' plan doesn't make much sense - despite their overpopulation problems they create a huge empty replica of the Enterprise just to fool Kirk for a couple of hours so they can get a blood sample?

    • How the heck did the Gideons (who are not members of the Federation) get such exact specifications to make what Spock describes as "an exact duplicate of the Enterprise"? Does Starfleet just hand the plans out to anyone?

  • QUOTES (7)

    • Hodin: We're trying to readjust the life cycle of an entire civilization.
      Kirk: You're killing your own daughter!
      Hodin: My daughter hoped to make you feel the agony of Gideon. But it was impossible. No stranger could realize the horror that life can be here. I will not beg for your understanding of my personal grief, nor will I parade it for you to gain your cooperation. My love for my daughter is too deep for display. My pride in her runs even deeper.

    • Kirk: You're mad!
      Hodin: No, we are desperate.

    • Hodin: What is it like to feel pain? It is like ... when you see that people have no hope of happiness ... you feel great despair ... your heart is heavy because you know you can do nothing ... pain is like that.

    • Hodin: The people of Gideon have always believed that life is sacred. That the love of life is the greatest gift... we are incapable of destroying or interfering with the creation of that which we love so deeply... life in every form from fetus to developed being.

    • Hodin: Mr. Spock, you're an officer of a spaceship. In your profession, you use many instruments, tools and weapons to achieve your objectives.
      Spock: True, Your Excellency.
      Hodin: However, the only tool diplomacy has is language. It is of the utmost importance that the meaning be crystal clear.
      Spock: Your Excellency, I am basically a scientist. Clarity of formulation is essential in my profession also.
      Hodin: I'm glad to hear it. Perhaps you could then make greater effort to choose your words more precisely.

    • Spock: We must acknowledge once and for all that the purpose of diplomacy is to prolong a crisis.

    • Spock: Diplomats and bureaucrats may function differently, but they achieve exactly the same results.

  • NOTES (1)


    • Title
      References the Biblical recount of Gideon. Before Gideon prepared for battle, God told him to reduce the number of his men by having them drink from a stream. Those who drank directly from the stream were sent home and those who scooped water in their hands were kept.