and_who_will_guide_the_blind.gif (4496 bytes)

written by Judy Burns
STORY OUTLINE, dated 1969

report & analysis by David Eversole


The Enterprise approaches Signa Lepturus IV, a planet whose sun is in the preparatory stages of going nova.  Its mission -- relocate the 800 colonists to another planet, then destroy this world before it breaks free of its orbit and becomes a “rover.”

Complicating matters are two things:  1) the colonists, having already been moved from three separate planets (in fact, Kirk, as an Ensign, participated in moving them here eleven years ago), no longer recognize the authority of the Federation, and 2) David Woodland, a Federation psychologist, is onboard conducting annual psychological evaluations of the command staff.  In the briefing room, Woodland reports that Spock, McCoy and Scott have passed their evaluations.

Kirk, however, because of his tendency to put himself in direct danger -- his “hero syndrome” -- has failed.  Woodland, using the authority invested in him by Starfleet, relieves Kirk of command.


Despite all objections, Woodland is firm in his decision.  Kirk agrees to step down once the colonists have been removed from Signa Lepturus.  Woodland will not negotiate.  Kirk is relieved NOW!  He orders Spock to assume command.

Spock reluctantly does so, but orders that Kirk will remain on duty in an advisory position, despite Woodland’s objections.

Privately, Kirk and McCoy talk.   Kirk wonders if perhaps Woodland is correct -- maybe he does have a touch of a hero syndrome.  McCoy dismisses the notion -- Kirk only puts himself in danger to protect his ship and crew.  He is a prudent man, not a fool.

On the bridge, Spock commands from his regular position at the science station, and, noting that there are no extra chairs, orders Kirk to sit in the captain’s chair. When the crew addresses questions to Kirk, Woodland informs them quite loudly that all questions are to be addressed to Captain Spock.  Spock coolly informs Woodland that should he again attempt to embarrass Kirk, he will be removed from the bridge.

They approach Signa Lepturus.   Scotty fires a probe into the planet’s sun to gather information.  Suddenly there is a burst of radiation.  All grab their heads and rub at their eyes.

Spock stands, opens his eyes.   His vision is blurry, but at least he has sight.  From their confusion, and stumbling about, it is clear that all on the bridge are completely blind.


We soon learn that every person on the ship except Spock is blind.  Spock informs Kirk and McCoy that he has retained approximately forty percent of his sight, but already notes that it is deteriorating, and he too will be totally blind in a matter of hours.

Contact is made with Adrien, leader of the colonists on Signa Lepturus.  He hates Kirk, blames him for the relocation that brought them to this world, blames Kirk for the heart attack that killed his father.  Despite pleas from McCoy, Adrien will not allow surgeons on Signa Lepturus to beam aboard the Enterprise to assist with finding a way to cure the blindness.

Adrien, himself, does beam aboard with an assistant, to gloat at Kirk’s plight.

Kirk goes to his quarters and is attacked by Adrien’s assistant.


Despite his blindness, Kirk overpowers his assailant, who is confined to the brig.  Adrien has beamed back down to Lepturus.  Adrien does inform Kirk, who is effectively in command, despite Woodland’s objections, that he will allow his people to be beamed aboard the Enterprise if someone on the Enterprise will undergo SHALROD.

Only Kirk is familiar with the term.  He simply says that it is the method by which the colonists of Signa Lepturus select their leader.  Spock immediately says that he is willing to beam down and undergo Shalrod.  Kirk thinks he should do it, as he has seen the ordeal before.

Meanwhile McCoy wants Spock to perform surgery on him in an effort to restore his sight.  Once McCoy’s sight is restored, he can set about restoring the sight of the crew.  Spock objects -- he is not a surgeon.  McCoy is not deterred.  He is willing to take the risk that Spock might permanently blind, or even kill, him.

Woodland objects when he learns that Kirk is beaming down to undergo Shalrod.  He informs him that even if he does survive he will never even command as much as a desk again.

On Signa Lepturus we learn what Shalrod entails.  In a long tubular structure, barely high enough for a man to walk through, one must walk across a thin, sharp projection, two feet above floor level.  The walls of the tube are coated with a substance corrosive to organic material.  Running along the top of the tube is a thin bar, which is incredibly hot.  Should one slip on the sharp “tightrope” and fall, he will die, should he grab the bar for support, his hands will be burned.

Kirk begins his walk across the sharp edge.  Suddenly a quake strikes.  Kirk sways precariously...


Spock operates on McCoy.   Woodland and Scott (who monitors Spock’s surgery through an auditory device) are also present.  A screen in sickbay shows Kirk’s walk through the Shalrod tube.  He regains his balance as the quake subsides. 

In the brig, Adrien’s assistant escapes and dashes down a corridor.  He enters Sickbay and attacks Spock.  Woodland, despite his own blindness, is overcome by the “hero syndrome” and stumbles into the fight.  He and Scott are able to subdue the Lepturan, though Woodland is knocked unconscious in the melee.

In the tube, Kirk sways and nearly falls.  He has had enough of this.  Despite the fact that the bar above his head is hot, he leaps and grabs it, and makes his way through the tube, swinging hand over hand on the hot bar, even though he is in extreme pain.  He finishes the course and stands defiantly in front of Adrien, who grudgingly allows his people to be relocated.

The operation on McCoy is a success.  With his restored sight, he soon diagnoses the reason for the crew’s blindness.  Two days later, everyone’s vision is nearly back to normal.   David Woodland, nursing a broken jaw, now aware of how easy it is to act rashly, and how hard it is to act prudently and heroically, has withdrawn his earlier evaluation of Kirk.

All watch the viewscreen as the Enterprise destroys Signa Lepturus.


It’s not too bad, not too good.

The most interesting scenes, for my money, were those between Spock and McCoy as they debate the proposed optical surgery.   This “B” story, in my opinion, outshone the “A.”

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