And here’s another episode with a mad scientist! After What are little girls made of? in which the good Dr. Korby had transferred himself into the body of an android and was dreaming of replacing humanity with a bunch of robots, in Dagger of the mind there’s a psychiatrist who for no reason at all enjoys torturing his patients. In fact, the dagger of the mind is the metaphorical instrument of torture used by the doctor. Let’s talk about this dagger!
The USS Enterprise must pass by the penal colony of Tantalus V directed by Dr. Tristan Adams (James Gregory) to drop some supplies. During the unloading operations, one of the inmates, Simon Van Gelder (Morgan Woodward), manages to escape on board the Enterprise. And here I would like to open a parenthesis: if I were Captain Kirk, I would change the security officer of the ship. In these first episodes, the following intruders sneaked aboard: the fake Dr. Crater (The man trap), an alien virus that drove half-crew mad (The naked time), the wild duplicate of Kirk (The enemy within), and also an android Kirk (What are little girls made of?). And now we have an escaped inmate of a penal colony! The Enterprise is the least secure place in the entire universe!
But let’s move on. The intruder is quickly captured and it’s clear that there’s something wrong with him, he seems crazy but at the same time he says things with enough sense to make Kirk think about what’s going on in the colony. Thus, the captain decides to go there to have a look himself. He asks McCoy to provide one of his collaborators, possibly an expert in psychology, and McCoy sends the beautiful Helen Noel (Marianna Hill), who thinks it’s a great idea to visit the penal colony in her underwear. Luckily for her, the situation is very different from that of The Silence of the lambs, even too different: the prisoners are extremely quiet and the explanation seems to lie in an apparatus used by Dr. Adams to treat them, the neural neutralizer. This discovery is made by Kirk and Noel as well as by Spock and McCoy aboard the Enterprise where we see for the first time the Vulcan mind meld that is so important in the Star Trek movies (at least in the II, III, and IV trilogy, and in VI). Immediately afterwards, things go awry, with Adams torturing Kirk for no reason and then remaining victim of his own torturing device.
Dagger of the mind is an interesting episode that once again seems to be more of a horror story than a science fiction one. The torture scenes are really disturbing and in the end it’s inevitable not to think about these isolated places (whether they are penal colonies, prisons, or psychiatric hospitals) where many people are at the mercy of someone who has so much power to be able to potentially cause a lot of damage if losing control.
PS: The matte painting of the penal colony in the scene in which Kirk and Noel materialize on the planet was beautiful, evocative, and really well done!
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