Review: “The Immunity Syndrome” Remastered

The Enterprise crew are on their way to some well-deserved R&R when Starfleet orders them to investigate the radio silence from the billions of inhabitants of the Gamma 7A system, as well as the loss of the starship Intrepid, crewed (despite being named for a U.S. aircraft carrier) by Vulcans. The Enterprise discovers a huge black splotch, which Spock identifies as “a zone of energy which is incompatible with our living and mechanical processes.” Worse, inside lurks—I kid you not—a giant space amoeba, some 11,000 miles wide (the metric system having fallen by the wayside for this episode).

Fortunately, McCoy has one of his philosophical moments, musing, “Here we are, antibodies of our own galaxy, attacking an invading germ. Be ironic indeed if that were our sole destiny, wouldn’t it?” Kirk suddenly makes the leap from antibodies to antimatter, and realizes that perhaps our old friend antimatter might save the day. (Of course, this should have occurred to him much earlier, particularly given that just the previous week, in original air-date order, he’d used antimatter to destroy the vampire cloud in “Obsession.”)

The antimatter does the trick (by making the amoeba and the zone of darkness simply disappear—no explosion is ever shown). Spock, who to this point had been lost in the protoplasmic soup aboard a shuttlecraft, is dragged to safety by a pair of tractor beams.

Most of the regulars have good bits in this episode, although Sulu is absent, so John Winston is back, this time at the helm, although Kirk inexplicably calls him Cowl instead of Kyle throughout.

Kyle? Cowl?

It’s interesting that CBS decided to syndicate this second-season episode immediately following third season’s “The Tholian Web,” as they have several similarities, and, sadly, “The Immunity Syndrome” suffers by comparison. Both are set entirely aboard the standing ship sets, both deal with a region of space that induces unfortunate behavior in the crew, both have a major crew member lost off the ship (Kirk in “Tholian,” Spock in “Immunity”), both have soliloquies that the characters wish people to listen to after their deaths (Kirk’s taped instructions to Spock and McCoy in “Tholian"; Spock and Kirk’s separate testimonials to the crew in “Immunity”), both have classic Spock-McCoy power struggles, and both depended on visual effects.

(“The Immunity Syndrome” also suffers sadly in comparison to Trek’s other mindless giant space thingy threatening the galaxy special-effects extravaganza, “The Doomsday Machine,” which had originally aired three months earlier.)

Still, this episode, penned by Robert Sabaroff and crisply directed by Joesph Pevney, does have its winning moments. The opening, in which Spock senses across the light-years the deaths of 400 fellow Vulcans aboard the Intrepid, is gripping. And seeing McCoy as an enthusiastic bio-scientist, instead of just a crusty country doctor, is terrific. Although he never gets to finish a thought, we’re reminded of just why this guy chooses to be out in space: “Jim, that organism contains chemical processes we’ve never seen before and may never see again. We could learn more in one day …” and “Do you think I intend to pass up the greatest living laboratory since—”

The interplay between McCoy and Spock, as they walk to the hangar deck, is some of the must powerful in the entire series:

McCoy: “You’re determined not to let me share in this, aren’t you?”

Spock: “This isn’t a competition. Whether you understand it or not, grant me my own kind of dignity.”

McCoy: “Vulcan dignity? How can I grant you what I don’t understand?”

Spock: “Then employ one of your own superstitions. Wish me luck.”

McCoy—but not until the hangar doors have closed behind Spock, so that he cannot hear: “Good luck, Spock.”

Of course, all is forgiven later:

Spock (via radio from the shuttlecraft): “Captain, I recommend you abandon the attempt. Do not risk the ship further on my behalf.”

McCoy (with gusto): “Shut up, Spock! We’re rescuing you!”

Spock: “Why, thank you, Captain McCoy.”

Classic Spock/McCoy moment

The new CGI effects for this episode are some of the nicest yet. They are way more respectful of the original source material than what was done with The Tholian Web. Indeed, when the teaser began, with a three-quarters beauty shot of the Enterprise, I thought for a second that my local station was accidentally showing the unremastered version, so perfectly had CBS Digital matched the original shot; by this, Trek’s second season, the Enterprise was looking fabulous in the model work. Only when the remastered shot moves in closer, and we start seeing detail within the windows on the rim of the primary hull, is it clear that we’re looking at a loving restoration.

The fine work continues with a beautiful bow-on pan across the Enterprise over the episode-specific titles. But the zone of darkness actually looked better in the original version, I think; featureless black with a neon border looks harsh and cartoonish when rendered as CGI.

The neon zone

Of course, the money shot in this episode is the big reveal of the space amoeba. CBS Digital decided to very closely copy the original design: no extended pseudopods, no visible organelles except the nucleus, and lots of psychedelic colors (reminiscent of several other trippy effects in the original series, ranging from Redjack on the briefing room monitor in “Wolf in the Fold,” to the deep void of space in “Is There in Truth No Beauty”). I’d quite missed the groovy purples and greens of the asteroid in the remastered “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky,” and the loss of the colored-gel light effect on the Tholian ships in “The Tholian Web,” and so was glad to see the Sixties sensibility retained here.


There are great shots of the Enterprise, mostly dark (although still obviously illuminated to some degree by an off-camera light source) inside the zone of darkness. However, although the nucleus shows a little more detail as Spock’s shuttle gets closer to it, I think CBS Digital might have gone even further in detailing the amoeba from the inside.

This episode has probes launched several times, including the “warhead” (as Scotty calls it) containing the antimatter. CBS Digital chose not to insert quick cutaways of the probes leaving the Enterprise, which is too bad.

However, we do get an interesting shot of the shuttlecraft Galileo leaving the Enterprise, as seen from the rear (with the clamshell bay doors still rolling open as it zooms out). Interior hanger-deck shots are obviously recomposited from elements used in other shows, including “Journey to Babel,” but the Columbus, visible in that episode parked in the hangar, is gone here, presumably because the dialog in “The Immunity Syndrome” repeatedly implies that the Enterprise only carries one shuttle. (Also, the exterior landing-beacon lights below the hangar doors are still off, even when launching a shuttle, which seems wrong to me.)

Still, CBS Digital did nicely add a tiny Galileo being dragged out of the amoeba by the Enterprise’s tractor beams as the starship backs its way out. Also, throughout the episode, when the Enterprise is applying forward thrust to the slow the ship being sucked into the amoeba, the impulse engines glow bright red.

In the end, it’s a credible effort by CBS Digital, and although “The Immunity Syndrome” is no one’s favorite episode, it has always been a visual feast, and now is even more so—a fine choice to take along for a nice period of rest and relaxation on some lovely planet.

A little forward thrust


Robert J. Sawyer is a Hugo and Nebula Award-winning science-fiction writer from Toronto. 

His 17th novel, Rollback, was published in April 2007. 

His website is at

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Good review. I think CBS-D really did a good job on this one.

And I too would have liked to have seen a probe launched or more of the ship in action instead of the crew being thrown around the bridge, but I think CBS-D would have been a little hesitant of doing that. They have not yet taken out any of the live action probably as an act of respect towards the original episodes.

This is one of the 30 GREAT ones. Care to comment?

Good review and a fine job by CBS-D. How about some big screen shots of some of these groovy scenes of the big E with the ameoba?

Great episode and a nice job overall of remastering.

The metric system didn’t completely fall by the wayside for this episode…at one point Kirk says that a probe could drift “thousands of kilometers” if shot into the organism!


You mean, besides “Amok Time”.

Nice review Rob. I didn’t realize you hung out here too. I’ve been watching these remastered episodes with much interest. How if I can only get them to rescore and CGI The Animated Series…

great review Robert, and I just wanted to say what an honor it is to have you here. I am a big fan of your writing, especially the Hominid series. everyone here should rush out and buy that.

and if you can find it…watch Charlie Jade, a great Canadian/South African scifi show which had Robert as a consultant

No one’s favorite? This one has always been #2 on my all time favorite chart, behind Doomsday Machine. I always loved “ship only” shows, and the character interactions in this were gold for me.

This one is one of my all time favorites, thank you very much.

Would have preferred more fiddling with the sfx like in other episodes.

I would call this one of the good episodes, not one of the great ones–although it does have a few great moments, especially the opening scenes as pointed out in the review. Some nice new shots although once the Enterprise is inside the ameoba I kept thinking I was watching TAS “One of Our Planets is Missing.” Very nice seeing the shuttlecraft being pulled along by the Enterprise and as usual I think we’re still missing some additional effects shots due to syndication cuts.

I liked the “dark space” scenes but CBS/D I think has underestimated a little bit just how much ambient light the warp engine domes put out–I just got the Master Replicas illuminated Enterprise replica and when you turn that on in a dark room it’s interesting how much the orange warp engines cast light on the secondary hull as well as on the primary one.

I like this episode because in many ways it is dealing with the most Star -Trekkish concepts the series can deal with, expanding on the premise of the series to seek out new life and new civilizations.

Anytime the Enterprise encounters a force of much greater magnitude, such as this space amoeba, Vejur in the first film, Nomad, etc, they are always interesting episodes.

Loved it! I always had a soft spot for the “unstoppable foe” episodes such as Doomsday Machine, Obsession and Immunity Syndrome…good stuff.


Obsession yes, that’s a good one, I had forgot about that one.

There was an episode of the animated series, the giant cloud that dissolved matter, dealing with this issue.

Also the cetacean probe in Trek IV.

You know, I don’t seem to recall any episodes from the later series dealing with the unknown, all-powerful force threatening the earth/galaxy?

I don’t include the Borg in that classification, I mean specifically higher order non-bipedal, esoteric and unknown objects threatening federation/human interests.

Can anyone think of an episode?

> “… ‘The Immunity Syndrome’ is no one’s favorite episode …”

With tongue presumably in cheek, someone called Immunity Syndrome
her favorite episode because there were “no dopey broads” in it.
(Could she not find any better episodes that meet this criterion?)

Someone else says “Star Trek … has been my favorite show since
I first saw ‘The Immunity Syndrome’ at my grandmother’s house at
the age of five.” He didn’t call it his favorite ep, but you could
forgive him if T.I.S. claims a special place in his heart.

Then there’s the cellular immunologist who can look past the
episode’s flaws and call it one of his all-time favorites.

T.I.S. fans, stand and be counted !
Worship teh Amoeba and be blessed.

I really liked CBS Digital’s effects in this episode. The shots of the Enterprise moving through the fluidic interior of the space amoeba were expertly done. Adding the shuttlecraft to the scenes of the ship’s escape was a wonderful touch as well.

I, too, would have liked to see a probe launch, though I knew I wouldn’t. The only real disappointment was not seeing the destruction of the creature. An insert of it dissolving under the force of the antimatter explosion would have been sweet.

All in all, though, an excellently remastered episode.

First, let me add to those who’ve mentioned what a thrill it is have Mr. Sawyer here. His love of the Trek franchise is very apparent, and not coincidentally shared by the protagonists in his own very fine novels such as “The Terminal Experiment” and “Calculating God.” It’s no surprise that he’s obviously enjoying the experience of watching these episodes anew as much as rest of us (with the possible exception of Hitch, who’s apparently enjoying himself to a degree that’s indecent, if not illegal). And I think his review here is pretty spot-on, though for my taste he quite overrates “The Tholian Web,” and somewhat underrates this episode.

Thanks for taking the time to stop by, Mr. Sawyer, and for your great body of work. Hope to see you here again sometime.

I think Shatner says “Cowl” because he’s Canadian… at least that’s the pro-cess that appears to be in play here. Give the captain some back bacon, eh?

Re #18

Which brings to mind the famous Shatner quote upon his pronuncuation of the word sabotage:

“Don’t correct me – it sickens me.”

This episode was always one of my personal favorites, for the storyline, the dialogue and the effects. Kirk’s line “AN-TI-BOD-IES!” is worth the price of admission alone. And I thought CBS-D did a very nice job this time with the remastered shots.

Not a great episode of the original series, but that exchange between McCoy and Spock – “Shut up, we’re rescuing you/Thank you, Captain McCoy” has always been one of my favorites.

Thank you, Mr. Sawyer! Hamiltonian here, been a fan for many years. Great to have you here!

A very nice review of the remaster, thanks! Like several of the above posters though, I’d say the episode was always a favorite of mine and IMHO compares very favorably to Tholian Web. To a science fiction writer, I could see how some of the plotting and pat resolution could seem a bit suspect. But in terms of Trek, the strong character interplay outweighs any other creakiness for me.

And you gotta love how they gave Kirk, not one, but TWO lacivious leers towards a comely female crewmember, with the same line no less. “On some lovely… planet” indeed!

Nice review, though I do put this one in my top fifteen (I just can’t break down and do a top ten). I’m more into the “space shows” than the “planet shows”:
1. The Doomsday Machine (my favorite)
2. Mirror, Mirror (the rest are in no particular order as my mind changes with my mood)
3. Where No Man Has Gone Before
4. The Naked Time
5. The Enemy Within
6. The Corbomite Manuever
7. Balance of Terror
8. Journey To Babel
9. The Squire of Gothos
10. Arena
11. Tomorrow Is Yesterday
12. The Tholian Web
13. The Enterprise Incident
14. The Trouble With Tribbles
15. The Immunity Syndrome
(yes, “City” is NOT in my top 15)

Only about half a dozen of those even HAVE a planet in them-LOL

#24 “yes, ‘City’ is NOT in my top 15”
What??!! Blasphemy! Oh well, I guess it’s all over but the shouting now…..

Basically a nice review although I’m a pissed that you would just assume that this is no one’s favorite episode. This one has always been my favorite and the work by CBS Digital has only helped to secure that. The scene where they show Enterprise bursting into the organism from inside it is top notch work. I can’t wait to see the full version on DVD and see how it looks with several more minutes of footage.

Robert J. Sawyer wrote:

> …sadly, “The Immunity Syndrome” suffers by comparison.

Why? What is your reasoning?

> …although “The Immunity Syndrome” is no one’s favorite episode…

Incorrect. It is one of my favorite episodes.

Jeff Bond wrote:

> …I just got the Master Replicas illuminated Enterprise replica and when
> you turn that on in a dark room it’s interesting how much the orange
> warp engines cast light on the secondary hull as well as on the
> primary one.

A fellow MR Enterprise replica owner! It’s also interesting how much noise the nacelle blade motors make. :-)

Yeah I agree about 80%, This was a truly honest and fair review by someone with a credible voice indeed,

IMO Iit was for the most part very well done well by CBS/CGI this time ,
and in defference to the nice reviewers opinion, I find the new version of TIS, to be far superiot to the remade for HD Tholian episode.

Stay on track like you did here with the lovely shots of the Big E in deep space encountering dangers and adventure!

Oh! ….and by the way…..Here’s to MR KOWL!…lol.


This is one of my favourites as well. and the new fx simply enhance the experience. This coming from one whole thought the fx were already nicely done (especially considering the era) to begin with.

I’ve always liked the episodes based primarily in space aboard the enterprise somewhat more as it lends mystery to the alien encounter and a hightened sense of caution. This isn’t just Kirk/Spock/McCoy’s life on the line, but the whole ship is at risk to some unknown force. I like how the rest of the cast is usually featured more prominantly in these ep’s too and they are far better actors/characters than the majority of guest stars seen in the “planet” shows in my opinion.

Also, there is nothing cooler than an episode with Kirk aboard his one true love, the Enterprise. It always brings out the best in Shatner’s performance (The Changeling, The Doomsday Machine, The Ulitmate Computer, The Carbomite Maneuver – the “THE” episodes, you know what I’m talking about! ha!)

Regarding “The Changeling”, I was watching it last nite and a thought occurred to me, “CGI Nomad…or simply erase the strings its hanging from?”


Part of me says, “retain the original and simply remove the visible strings”. The other says “it would be be rad to not see a more convincing Nomad”. Gotta go witht he one that rhymes here, but given the work involved I doubt CBS-D would have the time to do it because over half the episode would be new fx scenes!

Post 2> They have not yet taken out any of the live action probably as an act of respect towards the original episodes.

Didn’t they cut a little bit in Amok Time in favour of a new establishing wide shot?

Great episode. What’s fantastic about it from a sci-fi angle (especially for TV) is the absolutely audacious boldness of the idea of a galactic infection realized as an 11,000 mile long undulating field of orange-pink-violet squish. Imaginative, to say the least.

re: #30…

I’m sure they will keep Nomad as is, but let’s hope they remove the wires. That would help a lot.

A solid episode. Top 40 for certain. My brother, who’s had a lot of medical issues over the years, often jokes with me after some grueling medical test or bout of illness, “Oh, and Dr. McCoy — you would not have survived it.”

Scott out.

The episode is actually quite dramatic, tense and serious in its presentation, however, I find that the ending gives it the aroma of cheese. After totally obliterating a unique single celled creature, barely escaping with their lives and ship intact, and discovering that Spock was still alive, the reaction of the bridge crew in the final scene (Kirk and McCoy in particular) is to have a hearty chuckle and lear at a cute yeoman in a short uniform. Not the type of behaviour expected so soon after such an ordeal. Still, a small flaw in an otherwise tension filled episode.

I also spotted a continuity error that I never noticed on previous viewings of this episode. In the scene where Spock and McCoy are at the door to the shuttlebay waiting for it to pressurize, Spock steps over to the right of the door, leaving McCoy in front of the control panel. McCoy is wearing his short-sleeved sickbay uniform. The camera cuts to a closeup of the control panel, and an arm reaches in and punches the “open” button. Only McCoy could have reached the panel (since he is right beside it) but the arm is clearly wearing a long sleeved uniform tunic with stripes on the cuff! Now that one would have been a challenge for CBS Digital to correct :-)