We receive emails periodically from people with questions about things they’ve seen (or not seen) in various episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series. Most of the time, these queries are from deeply immersed fans who’ve watched each of the episodes multiple times, so the questions that are asked are often detailed, insightful and, to be honest, sometimes ones that force us to run to our libraries and spend time doing research.
The 50th anniversary of the next first-run episode of TOS isn’t until September 20, 2018, which is the birthday of everyone’s favorite… “Spock's Brain.” So, for this article, we thought we’d fill the hiatal space by sharing a few interesting questions we’ve gotten concerning items important to the stories of some of the episodes.
Oh, and we’ll also provide our answers to those questions, too.
Question: Mr. Sulu (George Takei) and his landing party get stranded on Alfa 177 when the transporter malfunctions in “The Enemy Within.” At night, when the planet’s temperature drops below zero, Sulu and the other crewmembers wrap themselves in colored blankets and huddle around heated rocks to keep warm. Where, exactly, did these crewmen get their cold-weather gear since they weren’t planning on staying overnight?
Answer: The resourceful and highly trained officers of the Enterprise used the top of the canopy that was erected to shelter the plant specimens that had been gathered. Initially, and very briefly, the canopy fabric was used uncut, but later it was sliced into three pieces.
Question: In Act IV of “Balance of Terror,” the Enterprise runs silent in order to contact/find an elusive Romulan bird-of-prey. While everyone on the ship is being hush-hush, Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), who’s just finished repairing a transfer coil under the dash of his station, accidentally pushes a button on his console which lets out a loud sound and alerts the Romulans to their presence. What is this sound and where is it from?
Answer: According to the script, Mr. Spock actually pushes the playback button for the tape slot that holds the recording of the intercepted Romulan transmission:
INSERT – LIBRARY COMPUTER PANEL
Showing the slim tape card of the alien recording still in its slot. Spock’s hand inadvertently activates the tape playback button as he pushes himself up. Immediately lights start to flicker on his panel and the weird noise of the Romulan transmission emanates from the speaker.
For whatever reason, the sound-effects editor chose to make this sound different from that of the Romulan transmission recorded previously. Nevertheless, if you carefully watch the scenes where Uhura makes the tape recording and then moves it around, you can easily see that that tape eventually ends up in Spock’s library computer slot and that he pushes a button below it. By the way, it’s implied in production memos and script drafts that the playback rebroadcasts the recording which is picked up by the scanners on the Romulan ship.
Question: In “Journey to Babel,” Sarek (Mark Lenard) becomes critically ill while being transported on the Enterprise and, according to Mr. Spock, needs a “serogenic” surgical procedure on his heart to repair it. What’s a serogenic surgical procedure?
Answer: That’s a good question. Checking the script, it appears that the word “cryogenic” – which relates to very low temperatures – was mispronounced as serogenic by Nimoy. Here’s the dialogue from the script:
I’d say a cryogenic open-heart
procedure is the logical approach.
As further proof that the word cryogenic was intended, the surgery that McCoy (DeForest Kelley) later performs on Sarek makes use of a “cryosurgical frame” that generates fog from condensed atmospheric water caused by the very cold temperature. (The effect was likely created by the effects team using smoke or dry ice).
Question: Vaal, the horned serpent machine in the episode “The Apple,” must be fed at regular intervals so that it can maintain its energy. What does it eat, fruit?
Answer: No, it eats the explosive rocks that are laying around on the planet. This is why they make such a big deal out of Mallory (Jay Jones) getting blown up when he steps on one. There are actually a couple of scenes in the broadcast version that show the People of Vaal feeding their God, but the editing choices don’t make it clear what that God eats. The script, however, leaves no doubt:
ANGLE ON VAAL
as the Villagers pick up rocks from the stockpile, carry them to the mouth, enter, dispose of them and come out again. The red eyes are flashing…
Question: If the Scalosians in “Wink of an Eye” move much faster than “normal,” what do they do when they encounter closed doors on the Enterprise? Wait several days for them to open?
Answer: No. If you notice, there are virtually no closed doors on the Enterprise. Shortly after the Scalosian's take over the ship, they lock the doors open so that they can get through them. Spock originally noted this in dialogue towards the end of Act I, shortly before Kirk (William Shatner) drank his contaminated coffee, but it was cut as the episode was being assembled:
A short while later, on Kirk, Spock, Scott at Spock’s console. The computer is operative. Elevator doors open.
Key systems have been crossed
or fused over the entire ship,
Captain. All doors now jammed open.
And with that question and answer, we’ve emptied our inbox, at least for now. Until next time.
David Tilotta is a professor at North Carolina State University and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Curt McAloney — an accomplished graphic artist — resides in Minnesota and can be reached at email@example.com. Together, Curt and David work on startrekhistory.com. Their book, Star Trek: Lost Scenes, was released on August 21 2018 by Titan Books. It’s filled with hundreds of carefully curated, never-before-seen color photos that are used to chronicle the making of TOS, reassemble deleted scenes left on the cutting-room floor, and showcase bloopers from the first pilot through the last episode.