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"The Devil in the Dark" is a first season episode of the American science fiction television series Star Trek, first airing on March 9, 1967, and repeating on June 15, 1967. It was written by Gene L. Coon and directed by Joseph Pevney. William Shatner wrote in his memoirs that "The Devil in the Dark" was his favorite original Star Trek episode.[1] He thought it was "exciting, thought-provoking and intelligent, it contained all of the ingredients that made up our very best Star Treks".[1] In the documentary 50 Years of Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy also named "The Devil in the Dark" as an "interesting episode", stating "I thought [it] was a wonderful episode about the fear of the unknown, how we fear and even hate something that we don't know anything about, learn who your enemy is, and it's not, maybe then it's not no longer your enemy."[2]

"The Devil in the Dark"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
STDevil inTheDark.jpg
Kirk faces the Horta alone
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 25
Directed by Joseph Pevney
Written by Gene L. Coon
Featured music Alexander Courage
Cinematography by Jerry Finnerman
Production code 026
Original air date March 9, 1967 (1967-03-09)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"This Side of Paradise"
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"Errand of Mercy"
List of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes

In the episode, Captain Kirk and Spock face off with a deadly subterranean creature.



The starship Enterprise arrives at the pergium mining colony on planet Janus VI to help the colony deal with an unknown creature that has killed 50 miners and destroyed equipment with a strong corrosive substance. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy meet with the mine supervisor, Chief Engineer Vanderberg and an engineer, Appel, who describe the amorphous creature and its behavior. During the briefing, Spock's attention is drawn to a spherical object on Vanderberg's desk, which Vanderberg dismisses as a worthless silicon nodule, saying that there are thousands of them in the mines, and that they are a mere geological oddity. Suddenly, they are alerted to a problem in the colony's main nuclear reactor, and find its guard killed and the main circulating pump stolen. Unfortunately, the part is obsolete. Chief Engineer Scott rigs a temporary replacement, but warns, "That's the best I can do, and I guarantee it won't be good enough." Shortly thereafter, the crude improvisation fails. Either the missing part, or a more-effective replacement, must be found in 48 hours.

Captain Kirk, his Security Chief Commander Giotto, and his team begin to search for the creature. Spock, suspecting the creature may be a silicon-based lifeform, modifies their phasers to be effective against it. They encounter the creature, which has the appearance of molten rock, and fire upon it, breaking a part of it off; the creature flees by burrowing through the rock wall at a rapid pace. Spock analyzes the fragment, and confirms the creature is made of silicon. He deduces that it is able to burrow through solid rock by secreting the same corrosive substance that has killed the miners. They adjust their tricorders to scan for silicon-based life, and confirm that the creature is the only such lifeform for miles. Spock advises the captain that killing what appears to be the only one of its kind would be a crime against science, though Kirk believes that the creature has proven too dangerous to keep alive.

As all nonessential personnel are evacuated from the colony before the temporary pump fails, Kirk and Spock continue to search for the creature, happening upon a chamber containing thousands of the silicon nodules. The creature arrives, causing a cave-in that separates Kirk and the creature from Spock. Though Spock now urges Kirk to kill it, Kirk observes the creature has not attacked him, instead presenting its wound to him. Spock finds a way around the cave-in and joins Kirk, observing the creature. Spock attempts to mind meld with the creature, but it is in far too much pain to complete, though Spock is able to learn that the creature is called a Horta. The Horta, having gained some knowledge of them from the meld, is able to etch the words "NO KILL I" into the rock, demonstrating some sentience. Spock attempts a second meld, and learns that the Horta race dies out completely every fifty thousand years, save for one individual that remains alive to protect their eggs. The Horta, through Spock, tells them the location of the stolen pump. Kirk has Doctor McCoy beam down to try to heal the Horta while they recover the pump.

Vanderberg and the remaining miners threaten to attack the creature when they see Kirk and McCoy caring for it, but Kirk explains it was only protecting its eggs, the silicon nodules they have found. The miners fear that thousands of Horta could hatch and ravage their colony, but Kirk convinces them that the Horta are sentient and only want to be left alone. He offers the possibility that in exchange for leaving the Horta alone, they could get the Horta to help them locate more valuable deposits within the rock. Vanderberg agrees to the idea, and the Horta, now fully healed through McCoy's application of thermo-concrete and speaking through Spock's mind-meld, also agrees to this plan. The pump is installed and the colony restored to normal.

Kirk, Spock, and McCoy return to the Enterprise and prepare to leave orbit, and learn from Vanderberg that the eggs have hatched and already the new Horta have found them rich veins of pergium and other rare metals. He adds that the miners are learning to overcome their instinctive aversion to the Hortas. Spock remarks that the mother Horta felt similarly about humans, though she apparently found his pointed ears quite attractive.

Production notesEdit

The Horta was played by stuntman and acrobat Janos Prohaska, who also designed the costume. Prohaska was promised that if he created something good enough, the producers would rent the costume and pay Prohaska to play the part. Episode writer Gene Coon was convinced of the costume's effectiveness after an impromptu demonstration by Prohaska in the studios.[3]

William Shatner says this is his favorite episode of the series. His father died during its filming, but Shatner insisted on going through with production, and felt closer to the cast and crew for helping him through the difficult time.[1]

This episode also marks the first appearance of Doctor McCoy's catchphrase, "I'm a doctor, not a [fill in the blank]!"[4] In this case, the line is, "I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer!", said by McCoy when Kirk orders him to heal the Horta. The catchphrase has become so indelibly associated with Star Trek doctors that in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Doctor's Orders," Dr. Phlox, facing the challenge of firing up the warp reactor by himself and engaging the warp drive, blurted out, "I'm a physician, not an engineer!", in homage to Dr. McCoy.[5]


Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club gave the episode an 'A' rating, describing it as a classic and noting the well-written roles of Kirk, Spock and McCoy.[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Shatner, William (1993). Star Trek Memories (paperback). Harper Torch. p. 200. 
  2. ^ "50 Years of Star Trek", History Channel, August 14, 2016
  3. ^ Herbert Solow, Robert Justman (1997). Inside Star Trek The Real Story. June: Simon & Schuster. pp. 214–125. ISBN 0-671-00974-5. 
  4. ^ Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  5. ^ Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  6. ^ Handlen, Zack (10 April 2009). ""This Side Of Paradise" / "The Devil In The Dark"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 

External linksEdit