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written by Lee Cronin (Gene L. Coon)
STORY OUTLINE, dated April 22, 1968

report & analysis by David Eversole



While exploring the surface of an asteroid with an atmosphere, Spock is separated from Kirk and McCoy. They search for him and find him lying in a cave. McCoy runs a quick medical scan and, shocked, announces that Spock’s brain is gone.


Spock’s body is immediately beamed back to the Enterprise and tied into life-support systems, but McCoy warns that it will begin to deteriorate beyond repair in only a few days. It is determined that whoever stole Spock’s brain left the area in a spaceship. The ship’s faint trail is followed to a system containing many planets. Finely detailed scans finally track the ship to a highly-civilized class M world.

Kirk makes contact with the natives of the planet Nefel, but they do not wish him to beam down. He threatens force, and they finally acquiesce. Kirk, McCoy and Scott beam down to the planet, are greeted by diminutive friendly Nefelese who would not hurt a fly. They deny that a spaceship landed on their world. Yes, they admit, they have advanced spaceflight, but it is outlawed. They do not wish to visit other worlds, and they do not want visitors. They only want to be left alone. Kirk tells them he intends to stay until he is satisfied Spock’s brain is not here.

The Nefelese make them welcome, give them a luxurious apartment suite to live in while they’re here. Scott soon notes that this world’s entire existence hinges on its use of a highly sophisticated life support system. Without it, Nefel would be extremely inhospitable.

When Kirk has trouble raising the Enterprise on his communicator, he scans through several frequencies, is amazed to hear the voice of Spock. The voice seems touched with a tinge of panic, says that it is encompassed all about by a dark void.


Kirk angrily confronts Ehr Von, the head of the welcoming committee, and lets him listen to Spock’s voice. Ehr Von professes shock, says he cannot account for how Spock’s brain is here, if it is here. When Kirk grows angry with him, Ehr Von sends a signal, and several tiny Nefelese enter with weapons trained on Kirk and his men. It is the first time in untold millennia that his people have taken up arms, Ehr Von says, but they have no choice. They confiscate the Enterprise crew’s weapons and communicators. Scotty, however, is able to hide his communicator from them.

They use the communicator and dial in on Spock’s frequency again. He tells them that he is operating some vast mechanism. McCoy brings up a frightening point. Even if they can find Spock’s brain, he doesn’t have the surgical skill to replace it in his body and reattach it.

Kirk devises a way out of the apartment. He calls the Enterprise, describes exactly where the door is, orders the ship to lock a tractor beam onto it and rip it open. It is accomplished, and the Enterprise men rush out, overpower the tiny natives guarding the door and take their weapons.

Scotty determines that Spock’s voice transmission is originating below them. And the sound of vast machinery surrounds his voice. Find an opening to an underground facility, he advises. As they search, a party of small men appears, aim their weapons at them.

Kirk and crew are hit by invisible beams, collapse to the ground.


They wake up in bed, lovingly cared for by tiny beautiful women. Ehr Von tells Kirk that the Enterprise party’s very presence here is causing some of the Nefelese to act violently. No one has been punished on this world for thousands of years, but if Kirk doesn’t leave, Ehr Von will have him and his men killed.

Kirk, McCoy and Scotty are left to ponder this ultimatum. Scotty’s communicator was taken from him, but he sees some electronic equipment in the room and believes he can cobble a communications device together out of it. Kirk and McCoy request a meeting with Ehr Von, leaving Scotty behind.

Ehr Von finally admits that his people took Spock’s brain. The complex life support system requires a brilliant brain such as his. The greatest brain of their people had been attached to the system for hundreds of years but it was injured, and they needed another.

Scotty joins them with a small box-like communications device he has made. Kirk contacts Spock, tells him to go into the slon porra, the Vulcan state of complete mental control. Spock is reluctant, but obeys. Soon the lights in the room start flashing.

If Ehr Von does not take Kirk and his people to Spock’s brain, the life support system will be irretrievably shut down.


Ehr Von has a dilemma on his hands. If he refuses to return Spock’s brain, the life support system will be shut down, killing everyone on his planet. If he returns Spock’s brain, again, everybody dies. Kirk has no sympathy, orders him to take them to Spock’s brain.

It is in a small translucent box to which are attached many wires. Spock tells Kirk that while in slon porra, he was able to mentally devise a computer which would run the life support system for the Nefelese. All seems fine and dandy for all concerned, but there is the matter of the operation to return the brain to Spock’s body.

Kirk orders the reluctant McCoy to proceed with the operation. Assisted by the finest Nefelese surgeons, McCoy begins. The Nefelese doctors give him many small hints and suggest procedures he would not have considered. Finally, the surgery is complete, and McCoy seals Spock’s skull.

Spock sits up, falls flat on his face, stands, says that McCoy must have attached a couple of nerve endings backward. When he wants to move his arm, he moves a leg. When he wants to sneeze, he laughs. But his body will adapt, he assures them.

Spock gives the Nefelese the plans for the life support control computer he mentally devised, they build it quickly and soon the life support system is up and running.

On the Enterprise, Spock tells McCoy that when he meant to reach to scratch his ear, he poked himself in the eye.

McCoy whines that he has just performed the surgery of the century, and all he gets is complaints. He says that he wishes he had wired Spock’s brain so that whenever he wants to talk his vocal cords go to sleep. That way he can get some peace and quiet.

Kirk sighs, tells them both that if ever aliens need a brain again he is going to volunteer both of them so that he can get some peace and quiet.


Among fans, I have encountered more excuses for this episode than any other in the series. Many people, not believing that even Gene Coon could have an off day and write such a bad story, jump through hoops to come up with reasons for its existence.

"Oh, Coon wrote that as a comedy, but Roddenberry was too dumb to notice."

Uh, no. This is a dead serious outline, nothing remotely funny about it, save for small bits of Spock/McCoy humor at the end.

"Uh. . . okay, well, Gene Coon wrote it stupid on purpose."

Right, pal. A man who makes his living writing for television is going to potentially sabotage his own livelihood in this manner.

Give it up, guys. Gene Coon wrote a terrible story. Why? He just did.

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