Stardate 2715.1. After the USS Enterprise delivers supplies to a penal colony for the criminal insane, the crew discovers that one of the inmates has somehow managed to come aboard the ship. When the unbalanced intruder demands asylum, Captain Kirk (William Shatner) has no other choice but to investigate the man’s serious allegations of abuse at the hands of correctional officers.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“Where there is no emotion, there is no motive for violence.”
Star Trek has always explored important social issues in the guise of science fiction. Dagger of the Mind (the title is taken directly from William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth) deals with a couple of things that have remained hot topics of discussion: mass incarceration and prison rehabilitation programs. While not perfect, the episode offers many interesting conversations about how to best handle criminal behavior.
Dagger of the Mind also deals with scientific misconduct. It may seem hypocritical for a sci-fi TV show to question scientists, but Star Trek has always been a great vehicle for presenting urgent social issues without feeling like preaching and/or propaganda — Dagger of the Mind does a commendable job shedding light on the moral responsibilities of physicians and scientists.
Shimon Wincelberg’s (Cold Sweat) fine teleplay neatly interweaves two parallel stories, one about Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) interrogating the disoriented inmate aboard the Enterprise, the other about Capt. Kirk assessing the situation on the planet below. Both storylines work toward solving the main mystery, which has something to do with unscrupulous scientific research.
Dagger of the Mind is best remembered as the episode that introduced “The Vulcan-Mind-Meld.” Here the Vulcan rite is presented as something a little more dangerous than usual. In his book I Am Spock, actor Leonard Nimoy gives full credit to producer Gene Roddenberry for creating the famous Vulcan ritual. But Nimoy is solely responsible for the hand gestures associated with the “Vulcan-Mind-Meld.”
I can’t finish without mentioning the good work of the two main guest actors. James Gregory (John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate) is excellent as Dr. Tristan Adams, the man in charge of the penal colony. One has to take into consideration that Gregory is playing a severely underwritten character — it’s never explained why such a distinguished physician has gone bad. Morgan Woodward (“Boss” in Cool Hand Luke) is great too as the psychotic inmate who holds the key to the mystery.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Dagger of the Mind has everything one would expect from a good Star Trek episode: fine performances, suspense and thoughtful reflections on still relevant social issues, in this case the treatment of the criminally insane. Director Vincent McEveety (Disney’s The Castaway Cowboy) does a good job creating tension, even if some sections of the episode aren’t perfectly executed. Color, 50 minutes, Not Rated.