Star Trek 3.8: For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky

For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the SkyFor the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky” is distinguished by having the longest title of any Star Trek episode. And that’s about the only thing that distinguishes it. I know I’ve seen this episode several times before, yet at no stage during it did I recall any of what was happening. The ending was a genuine surprise to me. It’s not a terrible episode, it’s just… boring.

It begins melodramatically, with McCoy telling Kirk that in a routine medical check-up, he’s discovered he (McCoy) has xenopolycythemia, which will kill him within a year. This is overshadowed by a “primitive” nuclear missile attack on the Enterprise. The attacker turns out to be an asteroid vessel – a generation ship in which the inhabitants live inside the hollowed out body. The twist is that the inhabitants don’t know they’re on a spaceship, and assume they live on a real planet. They discover this by Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beaming over and immediately getting captured. The beautiful high priestess Natira in a flimsy costume takes them below the “surface” to where the people live in tunnels.

Natira takes them to the Oracle, which is a strange idol that lives in a room. It zaps the heroes with some sort of electric knockout beam. Coming to, they meet an old man, who is amazed to learn that they are from the stars. The old man says he doesn’t believe they are on a planet, because he climbed a forbidden mountain and knows the Oracle lies, “For the world is hollow and I have touched the sky“. The Oracle immediately strikes the old man dead with a slave implant in the man’s temple. Natira falls in love at first sight with McCoy, who tells her he only has a year to live, but she doesn’t mind.

Meanwhile Spock and Kirk snoop around and discover the Oracle is a computer and the people on the asteroid are descendants of the Fabrini – a civilisation destroyed by a nova 10,000 years ago. Oddly, Spock can read their writing. They get into trouble, but Natira agrees to let them go when McCoy says he’ll stay with her. McCoy needs to get a slave device implanted, which he acquiesces to surprisingly meekly. Kirk and Spock decide they need to break the Prime Directive and tell the inhabitants that they are on a space ship, not a planet, because it’s about to collide with a populated planet. Natira doesn’t believe them, preferring to believe the Oracle’s pronouncements to the contrary. The Oracle goes nuts, raising the temperature in the Oracle room in an apparent attempt to sweat Kirk and Spock to death (lucky Spock is a Vulcan) – rather than using its demonstrated electrical shock ability to simply kill them on the spot. Some Fabrini guards stand by wearing lurid space pyjamas.

In the end they disable the Oracle, convince Natira they are telling the truth, and then raid the Fabrini medical database for a cure for McCoy’s life-threatening condition. McCoy decides to leave with the Enterprise and Natira is heartbroken, but promises to lead them to a new world for them to colonise. Gosh, it sounds more exciting than it was when actually watching the episode. There was so much potential with the storyline and the fact that the inhabitants didn’t know they were on a spaceship, but it isn’t developed in any interesting way and the story plays out so slowly and predictably that it completely fails to hold any interest. A complete non-event.

Tropes: Long Title, Your Days Are Numbered, That’s No Moon, Generation Ships, Hollow World, City In A Bottle, Theiss Titillation Theory, Title Drop, Shock Collar, Love At First Sight, Deus Est Machina, Alien Non-Interference Clause, Colony Drop, Religion Is Wrong, AI Is A Crapshoot, Space Clothes.
Body count: The Old Man (zorched by the Oracle).

3 Responses to “Star Trek 3.8: For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky”

  1. Mr Teufel says:

    “rather than using its demonstrated electrical shock ability to simply kill them on the spot.”

    Can’t the Oracle only zap people with slave implants – which Kirk and Spock don’t have?

  2. Well it did a pretty good job of incapacitating them with agonising electrical shock pain early in the episode, without the implants. It doesn’t even need to kill them – if it just did the same electric shock again to knock them out, the guards could have taken care of them. Instead it just raised the temperature and allowed Kirk and Spock to keep moving and doing stuff. I guess I didn’t make that entirely clear.

  3. The Ridger says:

    Oh, dear. This is one of the episodes I have fond memories of from its original airing. I’ve realized a lot of my childhood doesn’t bear rewatching!

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