In this episode of Trekking Through Compliance, we consider the episode Devil in the Dark which aired on March 9, 1967, Star Date 3196.1

Story Synopsis

The Enterprise is sent to investigate a string of sabotages and murders on pergeum mining planet Janus 6. Starting 30 monthly previously when the new level 23 was opened, 50 people have been killed in the mines, including the guard Schmitter. All of the murdered mine workers were burned to a crisp. The only solid lead as to the culprit is a large fuzzy object seen briefly by Chief Processing Engineer Ed Appel. Although Appel shot the object with a phaser it had no effect.

Spock, McCoy, and Kirk beam down to confer with Chief Engineer Vanderberg. Spock notices a spherical silicon nodule, which he describes as a geological oddity, on display in the Engineer’s office. Spock also notes that the creature must have been moving at great speed in order to be capable of causing some of the deaths due to their large spatial separation but close temporal coincidence.

The next move of the creature is to kill the guard of the PXK pergeum reactor room and remove the main circulating pump of the reactor, placing it in danger of going supercritical. Scotty is able to rig up a replacement, but only expects it to last 48 hours. Spock and Kirk speculate that the creature may be based on silicon instead of carbon, and suggest that if that were the case, then phaser 2 would be much more effective than the phaser 1 used by the miners. They equip a landing party with phaser 2 and go in search of the creature. The creature finds one of the search party, and promptly fries him. Spock examines a nearby tunnel and discovers it to have been newly cut. The creature then shows itself and is fired upon. It escapes, but the blast chips off a chunk of fibrous silicon material which is apparently its skin.

The rock-like creature is then located by Spock’s tricorder tunneling through solid rock. Spock finds that there is only one creature, and has second thoughts about killing it, but Kirk is firm in his determination to destroy the creature.

Kirk is trapped in the creature’s lair, containing many nodules, after the roof collapses. Kirk tells Spock that the creature is 10 feet away from him, and Spock rushes to the scene. Spock mind melds with the creature but does not physically touch it because of the corrosive acid it emits. Spock discovers that the creature is in pain, and the creature uses the knowledge it has gained from the melding experience to tell Kirk and Spock that it is peaceful by corroding the words “No kill I” in stone. Spock then actually touches the creature, which he has learned calls itself a Horta. Spock discovers that the mining activity has accidentally killed off many of the Horta eggs (the silicon nodules). McCoy treats the Horta’s phaser injury using cement, but complains “I’m a doctor, not a bricklayer.” Spock finds where the stolen pump is, and Kirk goes to retrieve it.

Meanwhile, the miners overpower the security detail from the Enterprise and storm in to kill the Horta. However, they relent when Spock informs them that all the Hortas but this one have died off as a normal part of a 30,000-year reproductive cycle. Spock further explains that the Horta must now protect the eggs which are being accidentally destroyed by the miners, so that its kind can flourish again. In fact, the miners become big Horta fans when Kirk suggests that they can take advantage of the Horta’s tunneling abilities to get to profitable deposits.

As the Enterprise prepares to leave, Vanderberg informs Kirk than he and his men are getting along well with the hatching Hortas, although adjusting to their appearance is a little difficult. Spock mentions to Kirk that the Horta found human appearance repulsive. However, Spock reports that the Horta apparently liked his pointed ears, and so he did not have the heart to tell it that the ears were not a universal human characteristic.

Fun Fact

Arthur C. Clarke once remarked, in 1995, that of the Original Series, the only episode he could recall was “The Devil in the Dark”, stating that “It impressed me because it presented the idea, unusual in science fiction then and now, that something weird, and even dangerous, need not be malevolent. That is a lesson that many of today’s politicians have yet to learn.”

Compliance Takeaways:

  1. What is your root cause analysis?
  2. Have you analyzed your internal controls from the compliance perspective?
  3. Simply because something is different doesn’t means its wrong or illegal. Is there a business justification?

Resources

Excruciatingly Detailed Plot Summary by Eric W. Weisstein for Devil in the Dark

MissionLogPodcast.com-Devil in the Dark

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