by Jeff Bond
It seems like whenever I come down hard on a TOS episode in one of these reviews it’s at least one reader’s favorite episode—I’ll be curious to see if anyone’s fave is “Whom Gods Destroy.” Like “Dagger of the Mind,” “Whom Gods Destroy” takes place on a Federation “insane asylum,” this time Elba II, named after the island where Napoleon was sent into exile. Elba II has its own Napoleon, Garth if Izar (Steve Ihnat), a former fleet captain who went mad and ordered his crew to destroy a race that had helped the captain recover from an accident that had partially destroyed his body and in the process given him advanced shapeshifting powers.
The story begins with Kirk and Spock arriving at the facility to deliver a medicine that will cure the last 15 “incurably insane” people in the galaxy—which is an idea so big that it deserves a book trilogy devoted to it rather than a 48 minute teleplay. One of the peculiarities of Lee Erwin’s and Jerry Sohl’s script is that it leaves Dr. McCoy on the bridge of the Enterprise to fidgit while Kirk and Spock deliver this historic medical treatment—wouldn’t McCoy want to at least observe the curing of the last 15 mental patients in the galaxy?
It turns out the real chief of the facility, Donald Kory (Keye Luke) has been imprisoned by Garth, who’s now running the show with the rest of the inmates. In addition to being a military genius and a man who can change his shape—clothes included—at will, Garth is also a master inventor who’s created a powerful explosive that he demonstrates in the episode.
“Whom Gods Destroy” is colorful in the manner of an episode of the Sixties Batman TV series—all it’s missing is the tilted camera angles. It’s impossible not to compare this to the relative subtlety of “Dagger of the Mind,” in which an apparent raving madman is actually a victim of psychiatric treatment gone wrong and a genial, reasonable administrator is really a torturing monster. Garth has exactly one level to his character—he’s a grandly eloquent egomaniac given to fits of screaming—and Steve Ihnat is no Morgan Woodward. The more interesting performance is turned in, ironically enough, by a regular from the Batman show, Yvonne Craig as Orion slave girl Marta. She at least occasionally convinces you that there’s a sane woman somewhere at the center of her twitchy (but comely) exterior, and she gets what’s probably the episode’s best line in regard to her prisoner Spock (“Can’t I blow just one of his ears off?”).
The episode is at its best when it stops taking its premise seriously. Leonard Nimoy was vocal in his dissatisfaction with this story, noting that it was just a less-than-intelligent retread of “Dagger of the Mind” and complaining that Spock’s intelligence is shortchanged in the script, particularly when he proves incapable of quickly determining which of two Kirks in front of him is actually Garth (it’s clear from one of the first scenes in the story that Garth, no matter what guise he is in, is always just a few seconds away from a temper tantrum). Spock therefore functions best in the episode when he’s calmly needling the explosive madman as in the story’s early “party” sequence that provides a thin excuse for Marta to do a sexy dance number. Garth’s “REMOVE THIS ANIMAL!!” on the heels of one of Spock’s quite reasonable dissections of his behavior is genuinely funny.
Masquerades and torture sequences are the episode’s stock in trade (it was actually banned from the airwaves in Britain for years because of the torture scenes although they’re not much different and in fact are notably less effective than the similar “neural neutralizer” scenes in “Dagger”), but while there’s some token nods toward Kirk’s anguish about one of his former heroes turning into a madman, there’s not much drama to be had either. This is Trek at it’s most cartoonish but on that level at least it’s moderately entertaining.
CBS-D doesn’t have a great deal to do here although this is a rare case where they get to create a “non-Earthlike” planet, and the look of a lifeless gray moon covered with poisonous green mists is effective. Scenes of the Enterprise under Scotty’s command firing phasers to try to break down the facility’s defensive screen involve stock shots of the ship firing phasers culled from earlier episodes and two new shots of phaser fire hitting the surface of Elba II. Not much, but then this isn’t an episode that calls for heroic efforts.
by Matt Wright
Remastered vs. Original
Seasons One and Two discounted at Amazon
The Season Two box set is now available at Amazon for pre-order, discounted to $63.99 (Amazon has a low price guarantee that if they drop the price before ship date of August 5th you will get that lower price). Amazon has also discounted the Season One DVD / HD DVD combo disk is to $96.95 (retail is $194.99).
Seasons One and Two of TOS-R ($96.95 and $63.99 respectively)
An un-earhtlike planet!
I like the design of the planet.
I don’t care if Marta was crazy, she was hotttttt! RIP
why do the old screenshots always look superior?
#4-Beats me, because I feel just the opposite, at least about these.
I AM MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE!!!! TREMBLE AT MY MIGHTY PIMPHAND FOR IT IS STRONG !!!! STAND IN AWE AT MY BLING AND MY MAGESTIC FUR TRIMMED TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT !!!!!! BEWARE MY MUTE TELLERITE AND HIPHOP PINK FUR CAPE ROCKING MUTE ANDORIAN !!!!!
LORD GARTH HATH SPOKEN LET MY WORDS SHAKE THE VERY CORE OF THE GALAXY !!!!!!!
Sorry if this has been answered elsewhere, but how do the phaser beams diverge from the Enterprise and then converge on one spot on the planet?
The remastered shot added a new effect…. Garth must now have deployed a green CW logo as a defense mechanism against Federation Starships… LOL
Finally — a non-blue-and-white planet! A very nice change of pace.
Bring on the purple planets! :-)
By the way, I’ve been following the Phoenix Mars mission live. I have two computer screens streaming NASA TV and one cable TV screen previously tuned to CNN’s live coverage, and now to a PBS special on the mission.
Awaiting first images as I write.
Star Trek, like JPL, is all about the peaceful exploration of space. Let’s hope that future generations will see our steps as only the first in a relentless forward march in to the universe.
Surely only the mad would disagree? ;-)
At least the Enterprise no longer goes from Grey to White to Blue to Grey again.
Garth is very good at morphing his wardrobe. He even smashes one ring while pounding on the floor, then has it good to go in the next shot. Amazing ability.
I can’t love this ep all that much. It’s so tired. So much of the costumes, jewelry, computer consoles, stock shots are recycled… along with the basic sci-fi of the mind-bender chair. (Lord Garth, couldn’t you get Desilu to get you a new costume? Why did you let them give you Galactic High Commissioner Ferris stinky hand-me-downs? And which Trek chick gave you that ring you busted, anyway?
Still, Green Batgirl be hot.
“I don’t know which one to shoot!”
“Flexo! Shoot Flexo!”
Seriously, the Big E looks great in the “after” shots. Glamorous lady!
I met Yvonne Craig at New York comic con 7 , 8 years ago. She’s still great. She blushed when I very diplomatically told her how exciting she was to a young boy in the ’70’s.
I’d like to point out another favorite line from this episode when Garth nonchalantly threatens to beat Yvonne’s character to death. “I should have you beaten to death”. One of few gems from this episode. Plus an original Andorian,….albeit a stocky stuntman who doesn’t invest a lot into the character.
CmdrR – That costume you ridicule was pulled with my bare hands from Ferris’s stinking rotting corpse!!!! As I choked the last few breaths of life from his cursed body!!! It was Ferris whose force of miscreants first captured me at XIXON 5 and he paid for that insult!!! I proudly wear his simple garb under my magestic chinchilla trimmed Technicolor dreamcoat as a trophy and reminder to those that would defy me!!! The ring was crafted by Marta herself in the asylum craftsroom do not dare to ridicule my sweet green biotch’s gift only I can ridicule and blow my beloved to bits!!!!
It seems my needling has paid off in the form of a colorful diatribe.
Let’s see if we can up the ante.
Like your crown, Garth. Did you kill Jughead to get that, too?
Did anybody notice that when Kirk is grappling with Marta, he has green makeup on his hands? Or maybe it was just my TV, which admittedly has been behaving bizarrely lately.
Steve Ihnat & Yvonne Craig work well together in an episode which offers little more than 4 walls to work with (except for the surface shot where Marta is executed). It’s 3rd season after all. Bob Justman- “We didn’t have ANY Money.”
Donald Kory (Keye Luke) knows Kirk very well (first name basis). Apparently a long friendship which goes back to the Academy? Unknown.
Captain Garth was one of Kirk’s idols. The “Captain Kirk” of his time. It would be interesting if the Federation Captain in the next film turned out to be Garth.
No one has mentioned the Famous Password within this episode:
“Queen to Queen’s Level Three”
“Queen to King’s Level One”
Used it throughout College and beyond. When you meet someone who knows the answer – – you know you’ve found a fellow fan.
I wonder why nobody’s made a fanfilm about Garth’s early, not-cookoo-for-cocoa-puffs days….
One of the “All Time Stinkers” in Trek history. Has to be the worst episode of the original series.
“Worst episode ever.” As comic book guy from the Simpsons would say. Anybody have an episode that will top it?
My Mom was bipolar so maybe a planet of crazies hit a little to close to home when I watched this as a young child.
She used to parade around the house in her furry green bathrobe and jughead crown and make use kids call her Captain uh Lord Garth.
They don’t diverge/converge. It’s perspective. Two parallel lines will appear to converge or diverge if they’re coming at you. The effect is more pronounced (and less realistic) in the original shot.
THIS WAS THE BEST EPISODE EVER! WHO CAN FORGET SHATNER’S HORRIBLY ACTED TEMPER TANTRUM AS HE POUNDS THE FLOOR IN THE CONTROL ROOM WHEN HE COULDN’T BE BEAMED ABOARD THE SHIP. “NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!—NO! NO!-NO!”
AND OF COURSE:
“I had risen above this decadent weakness…
which still has you in its command, Captain.”
you have eyes but you cannot see.
Galaxies surround us,
limitless vistas !
And yet the Federation would have us grub away…
like some ants on some…
somewhat larger than usual anthill !
But I am not an insect !
I am master of the universe, and I must claim my domain.”
it’s the same reason train tracks look diverging in one direction, then turn around, and they’re converging. yeah, that’s it. sure… train tracks. I always thought that Garth of Izar would have been a cool character to see in his heyday. ah well.
Was there some reason not to show the colony on the surface of the planet? i.e. a structure? Its been so long since I’ve watched this one, I can’t remember.
I find one thing confusing. If they didn’t know there was an inmate that could change his shape at will, why would they create a password in order to beam up? Almost like they knew something like that would happen.
Not a showcase from a remastering standpoint, but well worth watching nonetheless. It’s almost like watching an episode of “The Prisoner”: camp as bunk beds, but with a genuinely unsettling undercurrent of darkness. The late Steve Ihnat, so theatrical that he makes Shatner look subdued, gives a fascinating and unpredictable performance as Garth. Obviously shot on the cheap (note the recycled Andorian and Tellarite costumes), but tense and filled with fabulous dialogue. I love Kirk’s defense of the philosophy of the Federation, and Garth’s meandering fustian. One of the handful of winners from season three, it’s compelling from beginning to end.
19. “Way to Eden” is still worse (and on so many levels!). But I think this one’s on a par with “Spock’s Brain” — only Yvonne Craig single-handedly lifts it a notch above that one.
Steve Inhat was terribly cast. He’s about as threatening as Liberace — and dresses like him as well. “Behold! This bottle of conditioner in my hand is actually the MOST POWERFUL EXLOSIVE IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE!” And for the last 15 pychopaths in the galaxy they sure are a smiling and well-behaved lot. The feather boa around that Andorian’s neck is just too much.
It really does remind me of the old Batman TV series (why has that not been released on DVD yet?!) and for that I can forgive it for it’s many short-comings. Even the crazy guys wearing re-used Fabrini costumes remind me of any number of guest Bat-villains’ silent stunt-henchmen.
I have been bothered that CBS-D is so inconsistant about how they show phasers on stun setting. There’s no actual beam, just an impact and sound effect. I don’t care for it.
The original viewscreen shot is the color I think of when TOS bridge shots come to mind. Why did they remaster it blue/grey with muddied out railings and no outline on the screen?
Ship shots are, ..meh. Planet looks good though.
#27 Even in the original FX, stun wouldn’t actually show a beam from phaser I (the small one that looks like a keyless entry thingee), stun would just show a blue splash effect.
Now I don’t remember correctly if it does show from Phaser II (probably not). Actually, for something that is not supposed to be related to lasers as far as the physics of the thing is concerned, you shouldn’t see any beam at all on any setting just like you can’t see microwaves or ultraviolet, x-rays, gamma rays etc….
I think it would have been neat to see a new matte shot of the outside of the facility, especially with the phasers hitting the force-field. But that planet was very well done. If it was possible, a reworking of Garth’s changing shape to make it less weird than what they did before.
This makes me wonder… did Garth ALWAYS have shape-shifting abilities? I would guess the crew was aware of this, since they made the whole “queen to qeens level 3” thing…. on the chance Garth escapes.
Another thing I’ve realized: there are quite a number of former starfleet captains who end up going rogue or crazy… doesn’t bode well for that job, lol! :-D
They don’t. Let it go.
This episode was unshown in the UK for years – the BBC decided it was so bad they didn’t screen it.
Although “Kory” mentions his staff and at least one guard, he seems to be the only resident of the asylum who is not an inmate. We never see anyone else except for the “criminally insane.” Perhaps the staff is being guarded by the 5 inmates we never see. I believe, at maximum, we only see 10 out of the 15 incorrigibles. Even in the epilogue, the extra personal are all Starfleet. Where is Kory’s staff?
Actually, I wonder if the “torture scene” which supposedly got this episode banned in Britain might not have been the one the “rehabilitation chair” but rather the scene in which Marta is being held in the poisonous atmosphere by two inmates who are essentially asphyxiating her.
The nature and depiction of her ultimate demise is also quite striking for TV at the time. How often back then did one see a sociopath commit a senseless, cold blooded, on screen, premeditated murder for “fun?” How often did one see a victim beg for mercy only to be dismissively blown to bits? I would think that this scene woudl have been a much more likely reason for the episode to have been banned rather than the scene with the “uncomfy chair.”
This episode is really bad and ridiculous!! We’ve seen lots of insane people since this episode!
On a less serious note, Yvonne Graig is decidedly ordinary and kind of chunky.
“Yvonne Craig is decidedly ordinary and kind of chunky.” I love those kinds of comments from guys posting on message boards. I’d love to see what the guys who make these kind of dismissive comments about women look like: my guess is more like Twinkies than Power Bars (I make no claims to buffness myself, btw).
Re: 27 Izbot sums it all up, way too well… :-(
Yvonne Craig is stunning. Not like the anorexic actresses of today.
” The more interesting performance is turned in, ironically enough, by a regular from the Batman show, Yvonne Craig as Orion slave girl Marta. She at least occasionally convinces you that there’s a sane woman somewhere at the center of her twitchy (but comely) exterior, and she gets what’s probably the episode’s best line in regard to her prisoner Spock (“Can’t I blow just one of his ears off?”).”
When i watch this episode on my projector (picture is 11 feet corner-to-corner) Yvonne is absolutely riveting, even thru the green makeup you can tell she was one of the better – and better looking – actresses of the day. When she’s onscreen my pulse speeds up – no joke!
For this reason alone I HIGHLY recommend this episode to friends.
Just to refresh myself I took a look at an Yvonne Craig/Marta pic on the Internet–anyone who says she is chunky is a lunatic or at has stuck their finger down their or their girlfriend’s throats one too many times.
Marta is the only positive aspect I can find in this poor episode!
There was a novel that was a follow up to this episode titled Garth of Izar.
I can’t understand why they would ban it in England Just because of a torture scene. I have seen things on English TV that they wouldn’t even dream of showing on American TV.
So, perhaps I’m out on a limb on this one:
“Killed while trying to escape.”
“Yeah, its a classic.”
Have anyone talked about whether or not Kirk’s escape attempt from Rura Penthe in ST:VI is a reference to this episode? Other than Bones being run over by two Kirk’s, for me the two scenes have always felt quite similar..!
C’mon guys, first we have some more classic stuff for our collection – this time it’s Euripides and Longfellow being the inspiration for the ep’s title, and we have an allusion to Dr. Livingston when Spock asks “Captain Kirk, I presume”. Then, there’s this wonderful scene when Kirk speaks about Spock as his brother, and Spock’s high-eyebrow comment about his Captain speaking with undue emotion but nevertheless being correct (paraphrasing), and the look Kirk throws at him…priceless. We were enriched by the unforgettable “Queen to queen’s level three” moment; and be honest – who has never experienced a moment of “He’s my lover and I have to kill him”? ;)
Ok, it’s an overall stupid episode, but it still has its moments – let’s appreciate them.
I think Spock delivers the best line in this episode… something about Batgirl devising the perfect method to ensure male fidelity…
I, too, used to think this was one of the worst episodes, UNTIL I saw the remastered version this past weekend, I have a new-found interest in it now! Either it is because when I saw it back in the late 60’s I decided never to watch that crappy episode again and forgot about it, or watching it, now that I am older, I read more into the story than the costumes and props… either way I rank this episode much higher than ever before.
#37: I stand by what I said. She’s not ugly by any means, but definitely ordinary. It makes me wonder why there was so much focus on her in this episode. What I would have LOVED was a decent episode with Gart of Izar demonstrating his full abilities.
And actually yeah, I’m in pretty decent shape myself.
#22 LouisG and of Course Admiral Dirty Darendoc You shall most certainly have a ships in my fleet. Admiral Dirty Daren Doc shall command the Flagship Dreadnaught Bismark II while Louis shall command the USS Loknar !!!