The eighth episode of the third season of Star Trek: The Original Series has a truly poetic title: For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky. And not only that! It’s based on a couple of ideas that maybe weren’t completely new in 1968, when the episode aired, but they hadn’t been used before in the series. There’s a multigenerational spaceship which has travelled for many decades with the crew thinking they are living underground on a planet and are not aware at all of being traveling in Space (like in the Robert Heinlein classic story entitled Orphans of the Sky, written in 1941).
The beginning of the episode, however, is almost a mirror of The Paradise Syndrome, the third episode of this same season: the USS Enterprise finds out that a large asteroid is on a collision course with a planet inhabited by billions of people. This time, however, instead of focusing on the planet, the asteroid is the interesting part of the story. It turns out that its interior is hollow and is inhabited by a population that is unaware of being on an asteroid-shaped ship. Once on board of it, Kirk and the others are taken prisoners and discover this strange reality in which priestess Natira (Katherine Woodville) rules over a population thanks to a computer that through subcutaneous implants forces everyone to live a submissive life where it’s forbidden to think outside the box (and above all no one cannot speak the truth about the hollow world, in case they find out about it).
This latter part is clearly the least innovative given that we’ve already seen several computers controlling entire populations (above all, Landru in The Return of the Archons), but it must be said that the episode doesn’t spend much time on it. Why? Because there’s an interesting love story between Natira and not Kirk, but Dr. McCoy (a bit like it happened to Spock in The Enterprise Incident)! And while we’re at it, I would have liked to see a little more passion between the two. The doctor eventually decides to stay on board the asteroid instead of returning to the Enterprise (there’s also a subplot in which it turns out that he has only one year of life left due to an incurable disease), but frankly there’s little on screen to justify such choice.
Needless to say, thanks to the medical knowledge of the Fabrini (the asteroid inhabitants), it’s possible to cure McCoy who also abandons the beautiful Natira and the asteroid course is changed to avoid a planetary catastrophe. In short, at the end we’re back to square one without any substantial character development, which is a bit inevitable given the rigid structure of the self-contained episodes, but at least this time we’ve seen some nice ideas bringing a breath of fresh air in the third season. Ciao!
Previous episode: Day of the Dove
Next episode: The Tholian Web