“Is There In Truth No Beauty?” is an episode I remember seeing when I was young, for the shocking premise of an alien being so ugly that the very sight of it will drive you insane. Said alien being is the ambassador Kollos of the Medusans (a name ripe with symbology), a species which is in fact a supremely peaceful and gentle. The Enterprise has the job of carrying Kollos back to his homeworld. The problem is, no human can safely look at him.
He beams aboard the Enterprise with only Spock in the transporter room, wearing a protective red visor. It turns out Kollos is inside a box, so there’s no real danger. He is accompanied by a human, the attractive Dr Miranda Jones (played by Diana Muldaur, who would later play Dr Pulaski in The Next Generation), who has spent the past 4 years on Vulcan learning the mental discipline necessary to be in Kollos’s presence without going insane. She has psychic powers, but also harbours a raging jealousy towards anyone else who interacts with Kollos, which in this case includes Spock, who wants to (gasp!) say hello to Kollos.
Also on board is Larry Marvick, one of the designer’s of the Enterprise engines, now with the job of adapting starships to allow Medusan navigators, since they are expert at celestial navigation. There is a tension between Larry and Miranda, with her rejecting his advances and his imploring that she leave Kollos to be with him. Soon after, Miranda psychically detects “murderous intent” in someone. Despite mentioning this to Kirk and Spock, they immediately dismiss and ignore it. Larry then enters Kollos’s quarters armed, but Kollos defends himself by opening his box, letting Larry see him, and thus driving Larry insane. Larry runs to engineering and sends the Enterprise flying off at incredible warp speed. Kirk arrives with a bunch of security guards – but instead of ordering the guards to stun Larry with phasers, Kirk launches himself at Larry, tackling him and initiating a fistfight. Kirk eventually prevails, but by this time they are outside the Galaxy! Larry promptly drops dead, eliciting a, “He’s dead, Jim,” from McCoy.
Now faced with the problem of how to return to the Galaxy, Kirk and Spock decide only Kollos’s navigation skills can help them. Spock says he must mind meld with Kollos to allow Kollos to navigate and steer the ship through Spock’s body. Miranda objects jealously, saying she should do it. McCoy steps in, saying she can’t pilot the ship because… she’s blind! He’s deduced her secret – how she can be around Kollos constantly and go mad. Miranda keeps this from everyone because she doesn’t want pity, and uses a sensor web built into her dress to visualise her surroundings. She reluctantly allows Spock to meld with Kollos, which he does on the bridge, behind a screen shielding everyone else, and with his protective visor on. They navigate the ship back to where they started, then Spock goes to break the meld and forgets his visor! How on Earth does Spock forget such a basic safety precaution?
Miranda uses her psychic powers to fix Spock, and all ends well. There is a blatant moral to the tale, that the ugly Kollos was in fact a beautiful being, while the beautiful Miranda harboured an ugly jealousy – although that is turned around by her experiences. The episode ends with Spock and Kirk in the transporter room beaming Kollos and Miranda down to the Medusan homeworld. At this point Spock wears the safety visor, but Kirk, standing right next to him, doesn’t bother!
Overall, this is an intriguing and refreshingly different episode. It has a decent story, which keeps you guessing, and some dramatic twists and turns. I rate it above average.
Tropes: Literary Allusion Title, Go Mad From The Revelation, Take Our Word For It, Girl Of The Week, Psychic Powers, Love Makes You Evil, Death By Despair, He’s Dead Jim, Psychic Link, Dream-Crushing Handicap, Idiot Ball.
Body count: Larry Marvick (dies of… insanity?).