The Devil in the Dark

The Devil in the Dark
"The Devil in the Dark"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
Kirk faces the Horta
Episode no. Episode 25
Directed by Joseph Pevney
Written by Gene L. Coon
Production code 026
Original air date March 9, 1967
Guest stars

Ken Lynch
Janos Prohaska
Barry Russo
Brad Weston
Biff Elliot
George E. Allen
Dick Dial
Davis Roberts
Eddie Paskey
Frank da Vinci
John Cavett
Ron Veto
Frank Backburn

Episode chronology
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"This Side of Paradise"
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"Errand of Mercy"
List of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes

"The Devil in the Dark" is a first-season episode Star Trek: The Original Series which first aired on March 9, 1967. It was repeated on June 15, 1967. It is episode 25 of the first season and was written by Gene L. Coon and directed by Joseph Pevney. William Shatner writes in his memoirs that "The Devil in the Dark" was his favorite original Star Trek episode.[1] From Shatner's perspective, this episode was "exciting, thought-provoking and intelligent, it contained all of the ingredients that made up our very best Star Treks".[2]

Overview: Captain Kirk and Spock face off with a deadly subterranean beast.


On Stardate 3196.1, the starship USS Enterprise, under the command of Captain James T. Kirk, is sent to the pergium mining colony on planet Janus VI to investigate reports of a strange creature that has recently killed 50 miners with a strong corrosive substance and is destroying equipment.

Spock's curiosity is aroused by a spherical object on the desk of the mine supervisor, Chief Engineer Vanderberg, who explains that it is one of thousands of silicon nodules found on recently-opened levels of the mine, but of no commercial value.

Soon, another guard is killed and a circulation pump, vital to the colony's main reactor, is stolen. Unfortunately, the entire unit is obsolete, and no replacement is available. The original component must be found within 48 hours or the reactor will fail, rendering the mine uninhabitable. Scotty improvises a temporary replacement pump. Spock suggests that the creature might be a silicon-based lifeform and would thus be resistant to the "Type I" handheld phasers carried by the colony guards; however, the landing party's "Type II" phasers, basically a firepower-boosting pistol grip for a Type I handheld unit, which snaps into it with additional power storage in the grip, should be able to stop it.

The landing party starts searching the newly opened Level 23, as it is where the attacks began. Kirk and Spock soon encounter a creature which looks like an animated clump of partially molten stone. The creature threatens them and receives a direct phaser blast. Injured, it escapes by burrowing quickly through solid rock. Spock examines a piece of the creature knocked off by the phaser blast and determines that it is silicon-based and secretes a strong acid which allows it to move through rock as easily as humanoids move through air. Spock's tricorder readings show that there is only one creature within a hundred miles and if it is the last of its type, killing it would be a crime against science, but Kirk believes the mine is too important and the creature too dangerous to let it live.

Scotty's improvised pump eventually fails and the colony begins evacuating, but the landing party and some of the miners remain behind to search for the pump and the life form. Kirk discovers a chamber filled with thousands of the silicon nodules and the creature causes the roof to collapse, trapping him. Kirk contacts Spock, who, in a reversal of their previous positions, urges Kirk to kill the creature immediately. However, Kirk realises that the creature is not threatening him and begins to "talk" to it. The creature turns, showing him a large wound in its side.

Spock finds a way into the cavern and attempts a Vulcan mind meld but cannot complete it as the creature is in agony from its wound. However, he does learn that it calls itself a Horta. The Horta also gains enough knowledge from the experience to be able to etch the words "NO KILL I" into a nearby rock. However, Kirk and Spock aren't sure if that means, "Please don't kill me," or "I won't kill you."

In an effort to win its confidence, Kirk orders Dr. McCoy to come and help the creature while Spock mind melds with it again. He discovers that every 50,000 years the entire race of Horta dies, except one who remains to protect the eggs and act as the mother to them. When the miners broke into the hatchery, it just fought back the only way it knew. McCoy arrives and analyzes the Horta's physiology and finding it is virtually made out of stone, declares: "I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer!" It understands Kirk is trying to help and tells him the missing pump is in the "Vault of Tomorrow".

Meanwhile, Vanderberg and the miners are being held back by a security detail, but their patience wears thin and they overpower the guards. Kirk stops them from killing the creature and explains that the Horta was simply protecting its eggs, the silicon nodules the miners have been collecting and destroying, which are now on the verge of hatching. Vanderberg regrets the damage his men have caused inadvertently, but is concerned that there will be thousands of those "things" crawling around. Kirk returns the pump and reassures him that the Horta are intelligent and peaceful and suggests they could assist the miners by locating new deposits of minerals in exchange for being left alone. McCoy proudly informs them that he's helped the Horta by using thermo-concrete, which is mostly silicon, as a bandage and reckons that he could probably "cure a rainy day!" Spock mind-melds with the Horta again and it agrees with the proposition. Spock mentions that contact with the highly logical Horta is "curiously refreshing".

As the Enterprise prepares to leave orbit, Vanderberg reports that the eggs have started to hatch and they have already hit huge new pergium deposits, as well as gold and platinum. He says that the Horta are not so bad once you get used to their appearance. Spock mentions to Kirk that the Horta also found humanoid appearance revolting, but he got the impression that she found pointed ears the most attractive human characteristic.

40th Anniversary remastering

This episode was remastered in 2006 and aired September 23, 2006 as part of the 40th anniversary remastering of the Original Series. It was preceded the week before by "Miri" and followed a week later by "The Naked Time". Aside from remastered video and audio, and the all-CGI animation of the USS Enterprise that is standard among the revisions, specific changes to this episode also include:[citation needed]

  • CGI-updated rendering of Janus VI which added thicker clouds and more realism.
  • 3D refinery backdrop matte which retained the original content but with more depth and added realism.
  • When the Horta is first encountered by Kirk and Spock, the rock actually bursts into flames as it dissolves. Previously, it simply glowed red and vanished. Also, there is the added heat shimmering effect and the addition of smoke pouring off the wall.
  • The addition of the tiny figure of a miner, supposedly playing with a baby Horta, in front of the refinery (seen through the window in Vanderberg's office in the next to final scene).

Production notes

The Horta was played by stuntman and acrobat Janos Prohaska, who also designed the costume. Prohaska was promised that if he created something good enough, the costume would be rented and Prohaska paid to play the part. Episode writer Gene Coon was convinced of the costume's effectiveness after an impromptu demonstration by Prohaska in the studios.[3]

According to Mike Okuda's text commentary of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, a Horta Ambassador was supposed to be included in the Federation Council sequences, but there was not enough time to create a costume.


Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club gave the episode an 'A' rating, describing it as a classic and noting the well written roles of Kirk, Spock and McCoy.[4]


  1. ^ William Shatner, Star Trek Memories, Harper Torch, 1994 paperback, p.200
  2. ^ Shatner, op. cit., p.200
  3. ^ Inside Star Trek The Real Story. June: Simon & Schuster. 1997. pp. 214-125. ISBN 0-671-00974-5. 
  4. ^ Handlen, Zack (10 April 2009). ""This Side Of Paradise" / "The Devil In The Dark"". The A.V. Club.,26460/. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 

External links

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