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The Trek Nation - For the World Is Hollow, and I Have Touched the Sky

For the World Is Hollow, and I Have Touched the Sky

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at September 29, 2006 - 9:51 PM GMT

See Also: 'For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: McCoy performs annual examinations on the crew and discovers that everyone is healthy but himself; he tells Captain Kirk that he has a condition that will prove fatal within a year. Meanwhile, the Enterprise is fired upon by an asteroid that upon investigation proves to be moving through the galaxy on an independent course...which will cause it to collide with an inhabited world if it is not diverted. Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam to the asteroid's hollow center and discover a colony of humanoids, descendants of the Fabrini who left their homeworld when their sun went nova. These people call their world Yonada and are governed by the priestess Natira, who serves and takes command from a godlike computer. She falls in love with the ailing McCoy while Kirk and Spock try without success to circumvent the computer and study the asteroid. When they are forced to return to the Enterprise, McCoy decides to remain and marry Natira. As part of the wedding ceremony, McCoy is shown the secrets of Yonada, including the book that contains information about how to control the artificial asteroid. The computer punishes him for sharing this information with the Enterprise, but Kirk and Spock have already beamed back to Yonada, where they use his knowledge to find the control room and reprogram the propulsion systems. They also find the Fabrini medical database, which contains a cure for McCoy's condition. But Natira chooses not to witness the secrets of her ancestors, and she and McCoy agree to part.


Analysis: There's nothing terribly wrong with "For the World Is Hollow, and I Have Touched the Sky" except that it's extremely clumsily done, like the people involved just couldn't be bothered to put in that extra effort which might have made this a thoughtful or moving episode. It has its moments, but they're very small - Kirk's grief upon learning that one of his best friends is dying, Spock's quiet concern for McCoy which betrays the fact that he knows too - while what should be dramatic scenes, like McCoy choosing companionship over his career and Natira discovering that her god may have lied to her, just aren't big enough. The intriguing sets of Yonada, like the Oracle Room, are undercut by costumes that make little sense for the repressed society controlled by a computer. Why are the men wearing shiny plaid suits and carrying swords when wrongdoers can be punished for their crimes by a computer? Why are the women wearing provocative gowns when only the priestess is allowed to choose her own mate?

The episode feels both too short and too long...too long in that it drags, particularly the tedious scenes where Kirk and Spock go hunting for facts and get zapped by the Oracle, yet too short in that we don't get the same kind of exploration of this very restrictive society that we did in "Return of the Archons", where despite a powerful computer and a seemingly much larger population, there was an organized resistance. The only resistance we see on Yonada comes from the source of the episode's title, in which an old man confesses that once he climbed the mountains and discovered that the world is hollow, for he had touched the sky...an admission that results in his immediate death by the Oracle which apparently monitors every word, if not every thought, of the citizens. I assume he survived so long with this knowledge because he never spoke it aloud, but what inspires him to tell the strangers after keeping silent among his priestess and people?

And along similar lines, Natira is at first adamant in her insistence that the Oracle can do no wrong, then abruptly willing to court death to question the nature of her world, but we don't see McCoy slowly breaking down her defenses, encouraging her to question; he accepts the Instrument of Obedience as the price for sharing his life with her and very nearly dies when it punishes him for contacting the Enterprise with his new knowledge, yet he never makes what I'd expect to be subtle efforts to get Natira to think and question for herself. Other than her beauty and the fact that she is drawn immediately to him - one of the rare instances in which a girl shows no interest at all in Kirk or Spock - we don't really see what he sees in her that would make him choose love in her very restricted society over the companionship of his friends of many years. Really, they barely know each other, and she certainly doesn't know his value system if she doesn't realize that he's not going to stop trying to save her society whether interference is forbidden or not.

There's so much it would have been interesting to know about how Yonada functions - is the sun in their sky holographic, how is the air recycled and the climate controlled - are we looking at a perfect ecosphere, where careful control of reproduction allows the plants to replenish oxygen for the animals and decaying organic matter feeds the crops, or is there a complex biochemical system in place, hidden from the childlike Fabrini descendants, that allows them to continue oblivious to the delicate machinery keeping them all alive? How many people must be destroyed each year because they ask too many questions or come too close to expressing the truth...or, if they do not question, how will they be ready to form a self-governing society when they reach the planet that is the asteroid's original destination? Starfleet appears to wish to stay uninvolved.

In fact, there is some implication that Starfleet may be thinking about blowing up Yonada to save the planet with which it may collide, as Kirk and Spock are ordered to leave quickly and move on to their next mission while Kirk is still mourning the loss of his chief medical officer and friend. The breakthrough that allows the Enterprise officers to save both Yonada and McCoy happens quickly, with little sense of peril, and once McCoy is cured, he gives little thought to the woman with whom he had intended to spend what was left of his life. Is he disappointed that she did not want to look at the machinery that replaced her Oracle? Or does having his death sentence rescinded simply remind him of how much bigger his universe can be?

So many questions left unanswered, so many more never asked. Even Spock seems content to communicate with McCoy on an empathic level rather than speaking logic to him - the fact that they have a year to study and possibly cure his condition, the likelihood that he is hiding rather than choosing happiness by staying with Natira. There are intriguing possibilities in "For the World..." but ultimately the episode is hollow, and there's no sky to touch.


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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.