The Empath

The Empath

ST episode
name = The Empath

The Vians run cruel experiments
series = TOS
ep_num = 67
prod_num = 063
remas._num = 79
date = December 6, 1968
writer = Joyce Muskat
director = John Erman
guest = Kathryn Hays Alan Bergmann Willard Sage Davis Roberts Jason Wingreen Richard Geary William Blackburn (actor) Roger Holloway
stardate = 5121.5
year = 2268
prev = Wink of an Eye
next = Elaan of Troyius

"The Empath" is a third season episode of "", and was broadcast December 6, 1968. It is episode #67, production #63, written by Joyce Muskat and directed by John Erman.

Overview: While visiting a doomed planet, the landing party is subject to torturous experiments by powerful aliens.


On stardate 5121.5, the starship USS "Enterprise" arrives at Minara II to pick up research personnel. The mission is crucial since the Minaran star is close to going supernova. Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, and Mr. Spock beam to the planet to locate the research team while the "Enterprise" waits in orbit. The landing team finds the research camp abandoned and the scientists missing.

Meanwhile in orbit, the "Enterprise" is bombarded by intense solar radiation which is causing instrumentation failure, and threatening the lives of the crew. Mr. Scott orders the ship to break orbit while the landing party continues the search for the missing scientists on the planet.

As the search continues, the landing party finds themselves teleported to an underground chamber, and there they find a young woman lying on a raised platform. The woman awakens but she appears to be mute and all attempts to verbally communicate with her are in vain. Dr. McCoy names the mystery woman "Gem".

Soon, two silver-robed aliens appear, and identify themselves as Vians. Kirk approaches the beings but they repel the team with a force field. Kirk is injured and knocked to the floor. The silent Gem then rushes to Kirk's side and uses a mental power to absorb Kirk's injuries, taking them on herself and then dissipating them, healing him instantly and revealing that she is a powerful empath. The Vians leave the chamber to prepare experiments upon their newly arrived subjects.

Spock takes the opportunity to scan their "prison" for a way out. He locates a nearby area filled with sophisticated machinery and computer banks. Along with the equipment are several glass cylinders, two of which contain dead bodies frozen in ghastly poses. Signs on the cylinders identify the test subjects as "Linke" and "Ozaba", the missing research scientists. Three more cylinders next to them are empty but contain name plaques: "McCoy", "Spock" and "Kirk".

The Vians appear again, explaining that Linke's and Ozaba's "own fears killed them," and demand that one of the landing party offer themselves for their tests. Kirk volunteers on the condition that Spock and McCoy are freed. The Vians agree, but only transport Spock, McCoy and Gem to the other room, and they subject Kirk to physical torture. They then send him back to the first chamber where Gem heals his wounds. Kirk has been so badly hurt that Gem expends almost all her power on him, and faints from the strain. Because Gem takes on others' injuries in order to heal them, Kirk and McCoy are concerned that she could severely hurt or kill herself if she overdoes it. McCoy points out that her instinct for self-preservation would take over to prevent this.

Not satisfied with the results of the experiment, the Vians return and demand another test subject, giving Kirk the choice of McCoy or Spock. They even "helpfully" explain that there is an 87% chance McCoy will die, and a 93% chance Spock will suffer brain damage resulting in permanent insanity. As Kirk ponders what to do, McCoy sedates him, intending to offer to be taken next. Spock, now in command as Kirk is unconscious, wants to offer himself, but McCoy sedates him as well. Later, Spock makes adjustments to a teleportation device stolen earlier from the Vians. Though Spock suggests that they return to the surface, Gem holds up McCoy's medical tricorder and Kirk says, "The best defense is a good offense, and I intend to start offending now" and they go to the Vians' medical chamber, finding McCoy near death.

They return to the first chamber where Gem rests. She is still weak and fearful. Kirk speculates that he may persuade her to stabilize McCoy, at which point the Vians reappear and imprison Kirk and Spock in the force field to prevent them from interfering. At last, Gem overcomes her fear and tries to help the doctor but struggles painfully with her remaining power to ease his suffering. Kirk angrily demands an explanation for the tortures.

The Vians explain that they aren't testing the landing party, but are in fact testing Gem. They claim they have the ability to save only one of the peoples living in their system from the impending supernova disaster. They want to see if Gem's race are worthy of rescue. If she has learned to value the lives of others before her own, they will consider her people worthy. If not, the Vians will spare another race that is doomed to die.

The aliens continue to observe Gem as she grows weaker, sacrificing her remaining energy to save McCoy's life, but breaking away from him to rest. This leads them to determine that she is not willing to give her life for that of another, and that her people will be the ones chosen to die. They demand that the test proceed to "completion", presumably the death either of Gem or McCoy. Gem does return to McCoy, but aware her attempt will cost her her own life, he shoves her away. Too drained to return, she falls to the floor.

Meanwhile, Spock observes that the force field's energy increases with strong emotions. He manages to break free and overpowers the two aliens. Kirk confiscates the devices used for controlling the force fields.

The Vians watch as Spock explains that since Gem has already offered her life, she's earned the right of survival for her planet. Moreover, McCoy's life is not solely dependent on Gem; the Vians have the technology to save him as well. But the Vians refuse, saying that Gem offering her life is not enough. Kirk accuses the aliens of lacking the one thing that Gem has already shown herself capable of, and the one thing the Vians sought: compassion. Kirk even returns the Vians' devices, saying, "If death is all you understand, here are four lives for you." The aliens consider the behavior and agree that Kirk's words have merit. The aliens restore Gem and McCoy to health and agree her people will be the ones they spare. The aliens, along with Gem, teleport away, and Kirk and his team return to the "Enterprise". Kirk muses on the "chance" encounter with Gem, and Scott talks about her in terms of the biblical parable of the "Pearl of Great Price".

40th Anniversary remastering

This episode was remastered in 2006 and aired July 26, 2008 as part of the remastered "Original Series". It was preceded a week earlier by the remastered "Spectre of the Gun" and followed a week later by the remastered "Turnabout Intruder". 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:

* The planet is more realistically depicted, with an extremely craggy and dry surface
* The sun, during the flare, is realistically depicted, with the brilliance damped to show the activity
* During the Gem healing sequences, the transition shots of the injuries on her face and wrists are more smoothly blended together.

McCoy's tricorder readout, however, is not remastered as might be expected to show Gem's brain and throat.


*This episode was reported to be DeForest Kelley's favorite.Fact|date=June 2008
*It is widely believedFact|date=June 2008 that the sparse settings for this episode were necessitated by the reduced budget under which the series worked in its last season on NBC. At the time of filming, writers and fan critics who were allowed on the set believed the sparseness was meant to be Expressionistic, for psychological effect.Fact|date=June 2008
*Gem can be seen as a type of stock character, a combination of an Ingénue and a Mute Kid With Powers.
*"Soap Opera Digest" once reportedVerify source|date=June 2008 that it was Hays' appearance as Gem that inspired creator Gene Roddenberry to write a role for her in all of his projects, in case she ever wanted to return.
*In the United Kingdom, the BBC skipped this episode in all runs of the series in the 1970s and 1980s, due to the torture scenesFact|date=June 2008. It was however released on home video with other "banned" episodes, and was shown on Sky One in 1991. It was broadcast for the first time on the BBC in January 1994.
*The daybed featured among the set elements is a replica in shape of the "agonizer" device from "Mirror, Mirror".

External links

* [ "The Empath"] at
* [ The Empath] report and script analysis
* [ The Empath] at IMDB

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