I liked The Tholian Web a lot but I cannot deny that it contains an excessive amount of ideas without any intention of developing any one of them too deeply. Once again, the episode starts with a rescue mission: this time Starfleet lost the USS Defiant! The Enterprise finds it in an unknown part of Space, wrapped in some sort of green cloud that the sensors are unable penetrate.
Kirk, Spock, MCoy and Chekov teleport on board only to find that all the crew members are dead, apparently because they killed each other. And then two parallel stories start. Chekov is infected and becomes aggressive, which is exactly what caused the eventual death of everyone on the Defiant, and the infection spreads gradually to the other crew members of the Enterprise. At the same time, Captain Kirk gets trapped on the Defiant drifting to another dimension (this strange phenomenon is the cause of the infection, for some strange reason).
And while Spock tries to retrieve the captain, here’s a third story: a Tholian ship arrives and orders the Enterprise to leave the system. Spock obtains some time for Kirk’s rescue attempt, but when he fails the Tholians open fire. Spock responds by disabling the enemy ship, but then another one arrives and… it begins what appears to be the most ineffective space battle tactic in the history of space battles. Since the Enterprise lost its propulsion systems, the two Tholian ships build a web of energy around it, something that takes them hours and hours without any effect on the Enterprise. Bah…
In any case, the core of the episode is once again the conflicting friendship between Spock and McCoy. The latter always contests vehemently the choices of the former, and the half-Vulcan coldly asks the doctor to complete his tasks without losing time talking, and both of them do everything in their power not to fail Captain Kirk (Kirk’s message to them to be played in case of the captain’s death was a cool little detail of the story).
This is definitely the best part of the episode, and the rest is a bit disappointing simply because the various stories end in a very simplistic way. The Enterprise doesn’t disappear like the Defiant for some reason, and the reason for the green cloud around the latter is never explained. Moreover, McCoy easily finds an antidote to avoid the aggression epidemic, Kirk is magically recovered, and the Tholian web proves to be totally ineffective. I understand that there were too many elements for a satisfying ending, but… why so many in the first place? The episode could have worked well even without the Tholians and their slow web! Ciao!
PS: it’s easy to tell that the third season’s budget was smaller then that of the previous seasons. There are no guest stars in this episode and the Defiant is Constitution-class so that the Enterprise sets can be reused. That said, the special effects are still top-notch!
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