Star Trek: For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky

Star Trek Blue LogoFor the love of Vulcan, what was that?  For the World is Hollow and I have Touched the Sky opens with the Enterprise under attack from… basically a mosquito.  I mean, the threat is so non-existent that one shot takes it out.  Then the crew track where the attack came from and find an asteroid on a collision course with another planet.  (Which Spock knows just by being told the trajectory the asteroid is on!)  Like The Paradise Syndrome, the Enterprise needs to divert the path of the asteroid.  At this point, I’m thinking Starfleet told Kirk to go explore the Asteroid-Rich Quadrant.  “Jim, there are a lot of asteroids here.  Like, a lot!  Probably a few on collision courses with planets!  Go check it out!”  To make things worse, Dr. McCoy tells Jim that he has a terminal illness.  Actually he says the ships chief medical officer has the illness, which Kirk justifiably has to clarify: “you?”  McCoy asks for only a few things: tell no one and let him work as usual.  So Kirk immediately calls Starfleet to ask for a replacement.  He almost doesn’t let McCoy come with them on the mission and when they get to the planet/asteroid/ship, Kirk tells Spock about McCoy’s illness.  Mind you, he does it to the line of, “I don’t think he would have told you himself!”  Well, Cap, maybe that’s not your place to tell Spock then, huh?  Where did Jim learn his lessons about keeping confidences?    I know who I won’t be asking to keep my secrets!

The entire premise of this lackluster lump of rock is that the asteroid is really a generation ship, the people inside don’t know, and the Oracle forbids them from finding out or they will get punished.  This too makes no sense.  They are just over a year from their destination, Kirk says at the end.  Doesn’t the Oracle think maybe now is a good time to start prepping people?   Like, in a year, everything they know will be gone… what’s the timeframe to make that appropriate?  10 days?  The Oracle keeps the book of truth in a “monolith”, where all good books should be kept, and doesn’t even let his high priestess read it?  (All good books should also have an index too, which thankfully, this does!)   Interestingly, when Kirk first starts the mission, Spock points out that it might be a violation of the Prime Directive to interfere.  Kirk’s comment to this is, “It’s better than exterminating them!”  Um… what?  Is this the Mirror, Mirror Kirk?  Who said anything about exterminating anyone?   Sure he means not allowing the asteroid to hit the planet, but then maybe he should have said, “it’s better than letting them all die!”  Big difference in the meaning of those words!

This is McCoy’s big episode.  We’ve really only had McCoy being a second rate character up until now, often getting it wrong and blundering into situations to the point where Roger has me thinking McCoy just flops along.  We could name a dozen moments of McCoy causing more grief than he’s worth whether injecting himself with hyper-adrenaline or not carrying a medical kit to a planet… chief surgeon that he is.   Yet this episode gives him a terminal disease, which gets cured before the end credits and gives him a wife.  Now, you’d think I’d have remembered that, right?  This season has been traumatic.  Spock had his brain removed.  Kirk became a Romulan.  Kirk’s wife got pregnant and then stoned to death.  Now, Dr. Lonely McCoy gets a wife, and loses her in the same episode.  He was ready to stay with her when he was dying, but once he had a cure in mind, Lonely decided to stay lonely.  Good god man!  This will have an impact on the future, surely?!

Nope… Classic Trek was unfortunately very episodic with no “carry over” from one story to another.  And that’s a shame because there was room to grow.  Unlike the society of Oracle worshippers!   This story nearly put me to sleep.  Even the idea of a generation ship is just noise in an episode missing the sound and fury, for all the nothing it signifies!   ML

The view from across the pond:

Never was there a more whirlwind romance than McCoy’s relationship with Natira. They are married in 30 minutes, and divorced in 50. It’s easy to see the appeal from McCoy’s point of view; those outfits are really snazzy. It’s no wonder he gets excited. I particularly liked the shiny leather hats worn by the men, and in one particularly amusing moment Kirk kicks someone and his hat goes flying.

I’ve got to give writer Rik Vollaerts a lot of credit for doing something interesting with McCoy here, and actually making me like him a bit more. McCoy’s default state of being tends to be incompetent and xenophobic, but instead he comes across as somebody with some real human feelings, and you can understand why his outlook on life changes. Despite being set within the very odd, heightened reality of Trek, this episode manages to touch upon some issues that are very relevant to human life, past, present or future. If anyone finds out that they have a terminal illness, it is bound to cause a re-evaluation of their life, and McCoy actually gives consideration to leaving the Enterprise and settling down with a good woman, something that he would probably have never given a second thought in the normal course of events. Natira’s reaction to finding out about McCoy’s illness is lovely, pointing out what a gift just one day with her beloved would be, let alone a whole year. From start to finish, this episode actually gives us a beautifully positive examination of terminal illness, from McCoy’s resolve to continue to be a useful member of the crew, to Natira’s joy at the year their have left together.

Although the emotional journey is worthwhile, the nature of the jeopardy this week fell flat for me. Initially it’s a good idea for a story, with something hurtling towards a populated planet, and needing to be stopped. But the problem is that Vollaerts just can’t bring himself to let that storyline go, and insists on following through with it even after it has ceased to make any sense. I’m talking here about the Oracle, which is quite clearly running the show. Yes, it’s another computer in charge of a civilisation, but it seems to be carrying out the original plan of its creators. I’m not sure why the population are being kept in the dark about the nature of their journey, but the main thing is that they are heading for a new life on a habitable planet, the very planet they were supposed to be heading for, and unless I’m missing something the Oracle is continuing to do what it’s meant to do in that respect. Even after Kirk finds out that the asteroid is a ship that is being piloted to a new home for the refugees, he’s still saying that the course needs to be changed or if not he has to “blast it out of space”. So in other words, he’s still treating it like an asteroid instead of a spaceship being flown by an intelligent entity. What makes him think it’s going to smash into the planet instead of doing what it was built to do: land there? And the only reason for his odd behaviour appears to be the ship’s appearance. He never gets past the fact that it looks like a lump of rock, and he keeps treating it as if that’s what it is. If this was a spaceship that looked like a spaceship, heading for a planet and filled with refugees looking for a new home, would he be talking about blasting it out of the sky, even if the pilot was a computer? But then again, this is Kirk, destroyer of civilisations.

“You think you can do as you please, commit whatever offence amuses you.”

Yep, that’s about the size of it. Just to get all my complaints out of the way, if you’re going to show us triangular panels that are supposed to show carved letters, it’s probably not a good idea to press them all from exactly the same mould, so they all have the same pattern of glyphs on them and the inverted ones have the same symbols but upside down. Oh, and what kind of a weird philosophy has been programmed into the Oracle, that he wants visitors to “learn what it means to be our enemy before you learn what it means to be our friend.”? That’s an odd way to start a friendship. Shall we have a cup of tea? Only if you let me slap you round the face first. We’ll be friends after that.

That aside, I thought this was a great idea for a story. Natira sees sky and stars, but it’s all fake. What a fascinating possibility. How can we know for sure that the universe we see around us is real? Could we all be living in our own Yonada? Ouch! Why is one of my temples hurting, and glowing red?   RP

About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on Author of Editor of
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1 Response to Star Trek: For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky

  1. scifimike70 says:

    Thank you both for your reviews and especially your closing paragraph, RP. Indeed, Yonada can have much to say about the potential reality or unreality of the world we live in. This notion has been enhanced in SF since this Trek episode starting with Episode 1 of The Starlost. Of course we now have The Matrix saga to completely revolutionize the subject.

    What I remember most about this Trek is that it was the last of three appearances in the classic Trek by Jon Lormer, having also appeared in The Cage/Menagerie and as Tamar (also facing the death sentence for opposing an oppressive system) in The Return Of The Archons. My last memory of him was a very moving one. He appeared in an inspirational commercial as a frail old man who was compassionately helped by a group of sensitive children. His work includes four Twilight Zone episodes and his last acting role was in an episode of Highway To Heaven before passing from cancer at 79. R.I.P., Jon.

    Liked by 1 person

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