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The Enterprise has been assigned the relatively easy duty of transferring the Medusan ambassador, Kollos, back to his homework, along with the human Dr. Miranda Jones, who is a telepath. The poetically-named Medusans are formless beings that are so "ugly" that one glimpse of them can cause dangerous insanity in a human. Consequently, Kollos is encased in a box while on the ship and elaborate precautions are taken to make sure no humans see him accidentally. Vulcans (and those with Vulcan mental training, like Miranda) are able to withstand sight of a Medusan if they wear a colored visor.
Miranda is traveling to the Medusan homeworld where she will eventually join in a mind-link with Kollos that is so deep that they will essentially fuse into one person, each of them sharing the senses and thoughts of the other. Spock congratulates Miranda on being chosen for such an honor, commenting that she should find it fascinating, if his experience with mind-melds with other aliens is any indication. Miranda replies that she knows Spock was offered the position with Kollos (presumably because of the aforementioned mind-meld experience). Spock acknowledges this, but explains simply that he could not accept the position because his place is on the Enterprise. In this exchange, we get a nice bit of background on Spock - that his extraordinary experiences and talents have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated - as well as our first look at Miranda's jealousy about anyone else "accessing" Kollos.
Miranda is treated to a formal dinner with Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Scotty, the likes of which we haven't seen since season 1's "Space Seed" with Khan. The men are all completely enchanted with Miranda, who is very gracious and well-spoken, along with being beautiful. Joining them at the dinner is Miranda's colleague, Larry Marvick, who is one of the designers of the Enterprise's engines. Scotty, of course, is tickled to speak with Larry. During the dinner, Miranda senses that someone there is thinking of murder, but she can't tell who.
After the dinner, we see Larry follow Miranda to her quarters and beg her to change her mind about going with Kollos; from Miranda's reaction, we can tell this has been a much-repeated conversation. Larry loves Miranda and has asked her to marry him numerous times, but she has turned him down and is devoted to her work with Kollos. She gets the thoughts about murder again, and realizes that Larry is the source. She tries to draw him out, but he just gets angry and storms out. Does she tell anyone about his thoughts? Well, no.
Larry storms into Kollos's quarters. Kollos is a strong telepath, so presumably he can read Larry's thoughts immediately. Kollos's box opens - one can assume Kollos does this in self-defense - and Larry sees Kollos. Instantly, he's driven mad and drops his phaser. He rushes to engineering, where Scotty is thrilled to see him.
Meanwhile, Miranda has sensed Larry's attack on Kollos and called Kirk. They and Spock and McCoy ensure that Kollos is safe, and they begin searching for Larry. In engineering, Larry acts rationally for long enough to get Scotty to turn control of the Enterprise over to him, and then he sends the Enterprise on some crazy course out of the galaxy at super-warp speeds. By the time Larry is neutralized by security, the Enterprise is in some strange area of intergalactic space and lost.
Larry is clearly insane and paranoid, as he raves about something being out to get them. The sight of Miranda sets him off on a rant about loving her and losing her, and then he falls over dead.
The Enterprise is lost, but the ship is essentially undamaged. The Medusans are reputed to be excellent navigators, so Kirk, Spock, and McCoy conclude that the only course of action is to have Kollos find their way back to their galaxy. The only way Kollos can guide the ship is to use the human-oriented controls, so Spock will have to mind-meld with him.
They know that Miranda will not be happy about Spock mind-melding with Kollos, so they plan to distract her while Spock does the mind-meld. This is a really sleazy plan that is very disrespectful of Miranda. They just want to avoid a fight with her, but frankly, she has the right to have that fight and to make her displeasure known.
Kirk takes Miranda to the ship arboretum and turns on the charm. However, he has run into one woman who he can't charm. As a telepath, Miranda has been working all her life to keep out the thoughts of others, so she doesn't take well to Kirk's declaration that she'll miss humans on the Medusan homeworld. Kirk valiantly tries to keep the romantic mood, but Miranda senses the thoughts of either him or Spock concerning their plan. She rushes to Kollos's quarters and confronts Spock before he does the mind-meld.
Miranda demands to do the mind-meld instead of Spock. When the others point out that she needs the knowledge of how to pilot the ship, she asks to be taught and says she has eidetic memory. At this point, McCoy jumps in and says there's no way she can do this, because she's blind. This is quite a surprise to them and the viewer; although some of her mannerisms were a little odd, she certainly can do everything a sighted person can do. The only clue was that we had seen her "look" at Kolos unprotected earlier in the episode - now we see why she didn't go crazy. It turns out that the fancy net of jewels that she wears over her dress is a sensor web that somehow transmits information to her about the placement of objects around her. Exactly how the sensors transmit that information to her is unclear, because the information is extremely detailed - she knows the distance to the wall down to the nearest centimeter and can quote Kirk's heart rate.
Spock wonders aloud why Miranda kept her blindness a secret, but Kirk realizes it's because of a comment she made in the arboretum, that pity is the worst emotion. She goes off on a rant about how she can do everything they can, in some cases even better, because she feels like they are pitying her. I actually think they are not pitying her blindness so much as pitying her over-defensive response.
In the end, Kirk says that Kollos will decide whether or not Spock can mind-meld with him. Miranda enters Kollos's quarters to confer with him, and we hear a scream as she takes in his response. However, when she emerges, she is calm and collected again, and says Spock can do the mind-meld.
They set up precautions on the bridge for Spock to mind-meld with Kollos without anyone accidentally seeing the Medusan. The mind-meld is successful, and Spock/Kollos revels for a few minutes in the new senses Kollos has through Spock. Then Spock/Kollos gets down to business and quickly pilots the Enterprise back into the galaxy just where they left. Then Spock/Kollos begins to delay undoing the mind-meld, and Kirk gives him a gentle but firm reminder.
Spock/Kollos forgets the protective visor when undoing the mind-meld. Spock as himself sees Kollos and immediately goes insane. He begins attacking the bridge crew until Kirk stuns him with a phaser. McCoy checks him out in Sickbay, but says there's nothing he can do, and Spock's mind is gradually leaving him so that he's dying.
Spock's only hope is for Miranda to contact his mind telepathically and bring him "back". Kirk doesn't think that Miranda will care to try hard enough to be successful, so he goes in to confront her. He berates her for being jealous of Spock and considering letting him die so he will no longer be her competitor. Miranda denies his comments, but clearly at least some of it hits home. Once Kirk leaves, she's determined to bring Spock's mind back or die trying. Fortunately, she is successful.
Her rescue of Spock's mind was cathartic for her apparently, since she is now able to easily mind-meld with Kollos. They "fuse" by the time the ship arrives at the Medusan homeworld. She and Kirk, Spock, and McCoy part ways on good terms.
This was an interesting episode, although it was a little slow in parts. The Medusans are the first non-corporeal beings that we have known to be part of the Federation, rather than first-contact beings that are essentially god-like. The idea of the formless beings being "ugly" is pushed too far, however. Why not just say that they are so incomprehensible to human senses that they cause insanity? I think the writer wanted to make a point regarding ugliness and beauty, but that aspect just didn't work for me. Miranda herself said it, when she asked who it was that could say that the Medusans were too ugly to behold rather than to beautiful to behold.
The IDIC symbol and concept (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations) is a nice addition to the TOS universe. It's perfectly exemplified in the fusion of Miranda and Kollos, which will facilitate cooperation between humans and Medusans. The benefit of this is obvious in how easily Kollos piloted the Enterprise to our galaxy.
One part of the Miranda's characterization wasn't clear to me. She said that she has spent her life learning to keep out other people's thoughts. However, she is planning to spend the rest of her life among the Medusans, who communicate telepathically. As a completely telepathically society, one would have to think that the Medusans would all share their thoughts freely with everyone else. Why would Miranda want to immerse herself in that, when it's exactly what she has been trying to stop? The only resolution I can think of to this puzzle is that Miranda fights to keep out other humans' thoughts because they don't expect anyone else to know what they are thinking and Miranda wants to respect their privacy. The Medusans would not have that expectation, so she's free to let down her guard.
The dialog throughout the episode was sharp, with numerous subtle meanings that gave the events more significance. I particularly liked the direction of parts of the episode. The shots that were from Larry's and then Spock's "crazy" point of view were very well done, with some kind of distorting lens that made everything look very menacing.