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"Dagger Of The Mind"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 9
Directed by Vincent McEveety
Written by S. Bar-David
Featured music Alexander Courage
Cinematography by Jerry Finnerman
Production code 011
Original air date November 3, 1966 (1966-11-03)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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List of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes

"Dagger of the Mind" is a first season episode of the American science fiction television series, Star Trek. It is episode #9, production #11 and was broadcast November 3, 1966. It was written by Shimon Wincelberg under the pen name "S. Bar-David," and directed by Vincent McEveety. The title is taken from a soliloquy by the title character in William Shakespeare's play Macbeth.[1]

In the episode, the Enterprise visits a planet that houses a rehabilitation facility for the criminally insane where a new treatment has horrifying results. It marks the first appearance of the Vulcan mind meld.



The Enterprise, commanded by James T. Kirk, makes a supply run to planet Tantalus V, a colony where the criminally insane are confined for treatment. The Tantalus director is Dr. Tristan Adams, a psychiatrist famous for advocating more humane treatment of such patients. After the Enterprise delivers supplies and receives cargo from Tantalus, a man emerges from one of the containers taken aboard and assaults a technician. When they notify Tantalus of the escapee, First Officer Spock and Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy are surprised to learn that the stowaway is not a patient but Dr. Simon van Gelder, formerly Dr. Adams' assistant.

Van Gelder reaches the bridge, phaser in hand, and demands asylum. Spock subdues him with a Vulcan nerve pinch. McCoy, suspicious, wants to examine van Gelder and urges Kirk to investigate. Kirk transports down to the colony with the ship's psychiatrist, Dr. Helen Noel.

Adams introduces them to a strangely emotionless staff member, Lethe, and gives Kirk and Noel a tour of the colony. Although he is affable and accommodating, his staff, like Lethe, all seem remarkably wooden and lacking in affect, as though their emotions have been eliminated. Adams shows Kirk and Noel a treatment device which he claims is responsible for van Gelder's disturbed condition: an experimental neural neutralizer. According to Adams, van Gelder tested the device on himself, with horrifying results. He claims that the machine, harmless at low intensity, is used only to calm agitated inmates. Noel is satisfied with his explanation, but Kirk remains suspicious.

On the Enterprise Van Gelder becomes increasingly frantic, warning that the landing party is in danger. When he tries to explain the danger and refers to the neural neutralizer, he is convulsed with pain. Spock mind-melds with van Gelder, enabling him to bypass whatever mental block is keeping van Gelder from telling his story. Spock learns that Adams himself has gone mad, and is using the device on inmates and staff to gain total control of their minds. The first officer assembles a security team, but the colony's force field blocks transport and communication.

Unaware of events on the ship, Kirk decides to access the neutralizer and test it on himself, with Noel at the controls. During the test, she tries to find out whether the device can actually implant new memories and emotions in a subject by playfully suggesting that a Christmas-party encounter between the two of them went a little further than it did. Adams appears, overpowers Noel, seizes the controls, increases the neutralizer's intensity and brainwashes Kirk into thinking that he has been in love with Noel for years. Kirk and Noel are confined to their quarters.

With Kirk's help, Noel reaches the facility's control room through a ventilation duct and interrupts Kirk's next neutralizer session by shutting off power to the entire complex. Freed from the neutralizer, Kirk attacks Adams, leaving him unconscious in the treatment room. A guard discovers Noel's sabotage, restoring power before turning his attention to her. She tricks him by feigning unconsciousness before surprising him with a well aimed kick, propelling him into the circuitry and electrocuting him. She turns off the power. With the force field now off, Spock, McCoy and a security team beam down to the planet. Spock restores power to the colony after disabling the force field.

When the power was turned back on, the neutralizer emptied Adams' mind, killing him. Van Gelder recovers his sanity, takes charge of the colony and destroys the neural neutralizer.


Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club gave the episode a "B" rating, noting that the episode had "a handful of excellent moments (the mind-meld, that damn booth) that don't fit as well as they should". Handlen noted Kirk and Noel's relationship as the plot's "weakest element", and that Adams did not make a compelling villain. On the other hand, he felt that Nimoy made Spock's mind meld sequence "fairly effective". The booth and its effect on Adams were also cited as memorable moments in the episode.[2]

Legacy and influenceEdit

  • In articles in the magazines Starlog[3] and Entertainment Weekly[volume & issue needed], actor Morgan Woodward called the role of Dr. Simon Van Gelder the most physically and emotionally exhausting acting job of his career. Desperate to get out of Westerns and expand his range, he was cast against type for this episode and was so well regarded that he came on board next season to play the tragic Capt. Ronald Tracey in "The Omega Glory". Playing Van Gelder did take its toll on his personal life, as he confesses that for three weeks afterwards he was anti-social towards friends and family. He is grateful that this episode opened up whole new opportunities for him.
  • The second-season South Park episode "Roger Ebert Should Lay Off the Fatty Foods" is a parody of this episode.[4]


  1. ^ Rhiannon Guy; Emma Jones (2005). The Shakespeare Companions. Robson. p. 108. ISBN 978-1-86105-913-0. Retrieved October 20, 2010. 
  2. ^ Handlen, Zack (February 13, 2009). ""What Are Little Girls Made Of?"/"Miri"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2009-08-15. 
  3. ^ Starlog (USA) May 1988, Vol. 11, Iss. 130, pg. 72-73, by: Mark Phillips, "Morgan Woodard: Keeping Sane"
  4. ^ The Deep End of South Park: Critical Essays on Television's Shocking Cartoon Series. McFarland. 2009. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-7864-4307-9. Retrieved December 11, 2009. 

External linksEdit