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written by Jeremy Tarcher and Shari Lewis
FINAL DRAFT, October 28, 1968
with revised pages dated 10/31, 11/1, 11/4 and 11/8
report, review & analysis by Dave Tilotta

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The "disembodied megalomaniacal brain" theme of science fiction storytelling was popularized in the 1940s-1960s. Examples of classic tales that utilized this premise are Donovan’s Brain, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, and The Outer Limits episode "The Brain of Colonel Barham." Star Trek, too, had its own disembodied brain yarns such as "The Gamesters of Triskelion," "Spock’s Brain" (no megalomania for the brain in this one, though), and of course, "The Lights of Zetar."

For the most part, "The Lights of Zetar" – an episode from the third season – was filmed as written. However, when comparing the broadcast version of the episode with the script, there were definitely some portions of the latter that were either transplanted or lobotomized.

A Brain in Space

"The Lights of Zetar" tells the story of a giant space brain that attacks the crew of the Enterprise, and the script really leaves no doubt of this. In fact, the description of the "storm" when the Enterprise first comes upon it in the teaser is written in the script as:

INSERT VIEWER

A light form of varied hues – It is shaped like a brain. It sparks and flashes intermittently like a series of inspired thoughts.

And then later:

INSERT MAIN VIEWER

The sparking brain is moving in.

Fortunately for us, the brain-in-space concept was toned down because it is referred to as either "the storm" or "the community" in later page revisions following the teaser. It is interesting, though, that the major optical effect for the Zetar community is colored red and blue like oxygenated and deoxygenated blood, respectively.

Relocated Teaser Footage

Speaking of the teaser, ever notice that, as Kirk recites his captain’s log about Scotty’s love life, Scotty and Mira Romaine suddenly jump from Emergency Manual Monitor (EMM) to the bridge? Actually, that short footage of them in the EMM was filmed for another scene but cut from it and used here as part of a montage. Originally, the EMM footage in the teaser was the beginning of the EMM scene with Scotty and Mira following the beam-up from Memory Alpha:

INT. EMERGENCY MANUAL MONITOR

Mira and Scott are working side by side. She has hand device with a switch control. She holds it carefully in front of a section. She checks it. Then she moves it to another section and flips the switch and notes the device.

SCOTT

When I – thought we lost you
just now in the transporter room…
well, you’re not to do that again.

MIRA

It was so frightening…
I felt pulled apart.

SCOTT

You almost were. There was
interference with the transporter
mechanism.

MIRA

And that’s more than
you can say about me.

SCOTT

I’ll tell you something. You are
the sanest – the smartest – the nicest –
and the most beautiful woman that
has ever been aboard this ship.

MIRA

And what else?

SCOTT

Anything else, I’m keeping
to myself – for the moment –

MIRA

But, I’ve been so much trouble to you.

SCOTT

Trouble? What trouble? Of course –
you could drive a man daft…but that’s
not what I call trouble.

MIRA
(a smile of delight)

Drive a man daft…could
I drive you daft – Scotty?

SCOTT

Well now – if it was me,
you might have to work at it.

MIRA

I’d be willing…

Realizes she is perhaps too forward and with some embarrassment turns away and tries to be busy.

SCOTT

The Enterprise has been my life.
I love this ship, and I love every day
I’ve spent on it. But, until you came
aboard, I didn’t know how lonely it is to
be free in the galaxy…So, don’t you talk of ‘trouble’.

(begins to take her in his arms)

Now I want you to forget about Memory Alpha.

So, why was some of this material cut and redistributed? The likely answer is that the production team wanted to establish more quickly that Scotty and Mira were having a romantic relationship. So, rather than shoot additional material for the teaser, they simply used existing footage. It's unfortunate, however, that some of this dialogue was cut entirely because it does add greater depth to Scotty’s character and his relationship with Mira.

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The Zetarians, as Written

As shown in the broadcast version of the episode, when an individual gets possessed by the Zetarians, their face shifts colors (an effect done in post-production) and they mumble a guttural-type sound. Interestingly, the script specifies that both a face be seen for the Zetars as well as a language be heard. For example, here are some descriptions from the script of the technician on Memory Alpha as she becomes possessed:

ANGLE TO TECHNICIAN (GIRL)

She is on her knees – struggling to get up. She is speaking a strange language. An already dead man had evidently tried to help her.

CLOSE-UP - TECHNICIAN

Her speech is the same strange language Mira spoke.

CLOSE-UP – TECHNICIAN (MATTE OR OPTICAL)

The Technician’s face begins to disappear. Finally only seen are her hair, her eyes – the mouth which continues to speak the unknown language.

Her face alternates back and forth between its normal look and the faceless creature. The faceless image holds.

And similarly, when Mira is possessed in sickbay towards the end of the episode, this is how the scene is described:

INSERT – MIRA (OPTICAL)

Her contorted face begins to lose its flesh. Like the Reidonian, she is the eyes and the voice of the Enemy Life Force. The eyes blaze. The mouth speaks.

MIRA

(She speaks the strange syllables
that she and the Reidonian used.)

Clearly, the writers intended for the Zetarians to be represented in a somewhat believable manner during the possession sequences. Perhaps budgetary constraints prevented them from doing this.

Also, by the way, the Reidonian is apparently a reference to the original name for the species of the technician on Memory Alpha.

The Briefing Room Scene, Shortened

The briefing room scene where Kirk investigates the link between Romaine and the Zetar community was shortened in the final broadcast version. Here is a small portion of the excised material:

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KIRK

Dr. McCoy, is there anything else in
Starfleet’s psychological file?

McCoy repeats procedure.

McCOY
(reading)

Lt. Romaine has developed strong
defenses to guard against her extreme
competitiveness. Marked scientific and
mathematical abilities set up an early competition
with her distinguished father. Problem still not
completely resolved in Lt. Romaine.

CLOSEUP - MIRA

Tears come to her eyes.

MIRA

That’s not true. It was over long ago.
I’m not like that…Not any more.

 

BACK TO SCENE

 

KIRK

Everybody’s record has much worse
comments from the psychology majors.
Luckily for us, nobody ever reads ours.
Pretend you didn’t hear.

Mira is looking across to Scott.

MIRA

It just isn’t fair!

Scotty is having a hard time keeping still. Kirk notes it.

KIRK

Of course, it isn’t fair. Anyone of us
would feel the same way, But we have
to continue.

(turning to Spock)

Mr. Spock, functional and motivating
data on the life force.

Spock activates the computer.

 

SPOCK
(to the computer)

Why do these beings pursue the Enterprise?

COMPUTER’S VOICE

Completion.

Spock and the others look puzzled.

SPOCK

Meaning not clear. Request alternate
formulation.

COMPUTER’S VOICE

Fulfillment.

This material was likely cut for either timing or pacing, and really, none of it is necessary to advance the story. It does, however, shed some interesting light on Mira’s personality.

The Missing Tagline

Finally, this review would not be complete if I didn’t mention that Kirk’s final line in the broadcast version ("Well this is an Enterprise first…Can I stand the strain?") is not present in the script. In fact, it’s painfully obvious when you read the tag that the punch line to the joke is missing. I’m glad someone added it.


SHARI LEWIS (1933-1998): Entertainer, actress and writer – was best known for her work as a ventriloquist and puppeteer for the characters of Lamb Chop and Charlie Horse. She starred on her own TV shows, The Shari Lewis Show and The Shari Show, in the 1960s-1970s. She also had a revival of her career in 1992 with Lamb Chop's Play Along which aired on PBS and garnered her another Emmy award (she won 12 over her career along with a Peabody Award). Lewis wrote "The Lights of Zetar" with the intention of appearing in the episode as Lieutenant Mira Romaine.

JEREMY TARCHER: Shari Lewis' second husband and the brother of novelist Judith Krantz. He was a writer, production manager and producer. The bulk of his professional work was on The Shari Lewis Show, but he had a publishing company which published a number of books on paranormal and psychic phenomena. Tarcher and Lewis' daughter, Mallory Tarcher (aka Mallory Lewis), wrote for Lamb Chop's Play Along and has assumed the role of Lamb Chops herself.


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