In this episode of Trekking Through Compliance, we consider the episode Spock’s Brain which aired on September 20, 1968, Star Date 5431.4. This is the first episode of Season 3.

Story Synopsis

The Enterprise encounters an ion-propelled ship of unusual configuration, which then activates a transferral beam. The beam transports a mysterious woman onto the bridge of the Enterprise. Upon arrival, she stuns everyone with a gizmo on her bracelet. She examines the stunned crew on the bridge, and appears to take a special interest in Spock. So much so, in fact, that she surgically removes Spock’s brain, as McCoy and Kirk discover when they come to a short time later. Luckily, due to Vulcan physiology, Spock’s body can be maintained alive mechanically while Kirk goes in search of Spock’s brain.

When the Enterprise follows the ion trail of the woman’s ship, they are led to the Sigma Draconis system. Out of three habitable planets scanners detect none which is capable of having constructed an advanced ion-powered craft. Planet 3 rates letter B on the industrial scale, planet 4 letter G, and planet 6 shows no sign of industrial development and is in a glacial age. Uhura detects regular emission of high energy from planet 6, in contradiction to its supposed primitive status. Playing a hunch, Kirk beams down with a landing party to planet 6.

Sigma Draconis 6 is indeed in the middle of an ice age, but Kirk has no trouble locating inhabitants (who attack them, believing them to be the others. When Kirk captures one of the attackers, who calls himself a Morg and questions him, the Morg warns Kirk about the “givers of pain and delight.” Kirk asks Morg about females of his kind but is only met with befuddlement. When Kirk asks the Morg to help him find the “others,” the Morg runs away in terror.

The landing party soon locates a “dead and buried city,” and also discovers a trap elevator. Kirk has Bones beam down together with Spock’s mechanically controlled body, then intentionally triggers the elevator which takes them deep below ground. At the end of their downward journey, Kirk encounters the female, the I-morg, Luma and stuns her with a phaser before she can activate her bracelet. Questioning leads nowhere, since Luma has the mind of a child.

Spock makes contact with the landing party through a communicator, but before anything can be done, Kirk and his party are apprehended by Kara, the I-morg leader. The landing party is then equipped with irremovable belts capable of producing intense pain. In response to Kirk’s questions about the whereabouts of Spock’s noggin, Kara responds with the deep philosophical statement “Brain and brain: what is Brain!?” Following this outburst, Bones assures Kirk that all the I-morg have low intelligence and could not possibly be capable of removing a brain.

The answer to this riddle is discovered when Kirk and crew overpower their guard and follow Spock’s instruction to the central “controller,” which is actually Spock’s brain. Here, they also find Kara, who immediately immobilizes them using their pain belts. Kirk uses the remote control to command Spock to grab Kara’s wrist and press the red release button on her bracelet.

Spock’s brain informs Kirk via communicator that the I-morg are able to gain temporary understanding of the ancient knowledge from a machine called the teacher. Kirk forces Kara to put on the teacher, but she uses her new-found sophistication to level a phaser at them. Scott pretends to faint, and Kirk grabs the phaser away from her. McCoy then uses the teacher and discovers how to perform a brain transplant. He surgically restores Spock’s brain to his mechanically sustained body using a trilaser connector and a sonic separator, just before the knowledge’s three-hour period is exhausted. Luckily, Spock himself is able to provide some assistance in the procedure after McCoy manages to re-connect his vocal cords. Kirk then informs Kara that the I-morg will have to move to the surface and live as the Morg do. She is not too thrilled by the prospect, but Kirk does at least offer some Federation assistance.

Fun Fact

This episode is often cited as the worst episode but it not my candidate for the worst episode. The authors of the guidebook Star Trek 101 applied this episode’s title to the “Spock’s Brain” Award, given to the worst episode of each series as voted on by fans. Co-Producer Robert Justman described the episode as being “late lamented”. In his autobiography, Up Till Now, William Shatner joked that the plot of this episode is a tribute to NBC executives who had slashed the show’s budget and placed the show in an undesirable time-slot.

Compliance Takeaways:

  1. How can a compliance professional channel passion?
  2. What to do when facing intransigence?
  3. What are the skills you need to fill out your compliance team?


Excruciatingly Detailed Plot Summary by Eric W. Weisstein for Spock’s Brain.’s Brain