The Devil in the Dark

"The Devil in the Dark" is the twenty-fifth episode of the first season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek. The show is about a 23rd century starship that explores space, and the show's futuristic vision and moral ethos became famous in late 20th century pop-culture.

"The Devil in the Dark"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
Kirk faces the Horta alone
Episode no.Season 1
Episode 25
Directed byJoseph Pevney
Written byGene L. Coon
Featured musicAlexander Courage
Cinematography byJerry Finnerman
Production code026
Original air dateMarch 9, 1967 (1967-03-09)
Guest appearance(s)
  • Ken Lynch – Chief Engineer Vanderberg
  • Janos Prohaska – Horta
  • Barry Russo – Security Chief Giotto
  • Brad Weston – Appel
  • Biff Elliot – Schmitter
  • George E. Allen – Engineer #1
  • Robert Hoy – Sam
  • Eddie Paskey – Lt. Leslie
  • Frank da Vinci – Ensign Vinci
  • John Cavett – Guard
  • Ron Veto – Security Guard
  • Bill Blackburn – Lt. Hadley

Written by Gene L. Coon and directed by Joseph Pevney, it first aired on March 9, 1967.[1]

In the episode, Captain Kirk and Spock face off with a deadly subterranean creature. They are called to investigate a mining facility on a planet, and go on an away mission to the facility to try to resolve the issue.


The starship Enterprise arrives at the pergium mining colony on planet Janus VI to help the colony deal with an unknown creature that has killed 50 miners and destroyed equipment with a strong corrosive substance. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy meet with the mine supervisor, Chief Engineer Vanderberg and an engineer, Appel, who describe the amorphous creature and its behavior. During the briefing, Spock's attention is drawn to a silicon nodule on Vanderberg's desk, which Vanderberg dismisses as a geological oddity. Suddenly, they are alerted to a problem in the colony's main nuclear reactor, and find its guard killed and the main circulating pump stolen. Chief Engineer Scott rigs a temporary replacement, but the crude improvisation fails shortly thereafter. Either the missing part or a more-effective replacement must be found within 48 hours.

Captain Kirk and his security team begin to search for the creature. Spock, suspecting the creature may be a silicon-based lifeform, modifies their phasers to be effective against it. They encounter the creature, which has the appearance of molten rock, and fire upon it, breaking a piece of its skin off; the creature flees by burrowing through the rock wall at a rapid pace. Spock analyzes the fragment, whose composition resembles asbestos. He deduces that it is able to burrow through solid rock by secreting the same corrosive substance that has killed the miners. They adjust their tricorders to scan for silicon-based life, and confirm that the creature is the only such lifeform for miles. Spock advises the captain that killing what appears to be the only creature of its species would be a crime against science, though Kirk believes that the creature has proven too dangerous to keep alive.

As all nonessential personnel are evacuated from the colony before the temporary pump fails, Kirk and Spock continue to search for the creature, happening upon a chamber containing thousands of the silicon nodules. The creature arrives, causing a cave-in that separates Kirk and the creature from Spock. Though Spock now urges Kirk to kill it, Kirk observes the creature has not attacked him, instead presenting its wound to him. Spock finds a way around the cave-in and joins Kirk, observing the creature. Spock attempts a mind meld with the creature, but perceives little but intense pain. The creature then etches the words "NO KILL I" into a rock, apparently having gained some knowledge of human language from the meld. Kirk wonders if this is a plea not to kill it or a promise it won't kill them. Spock attempts a second meld, and learns that the creature is called a Horta, and that its species dies out completely every 50,000 years, save for one individual that remains alive to protect the eggs of the next generation. The Horta, through Spock, tells them the location of the stolen pump.

Vanderberg and the remaining miners threaten to attack the creature when they see Kirk and McCoy caring for it, but Kirk explains that it was only protecting its eggs, the silicon nodules they have found. The miners fear the prospect of thousands of Horta, but Kirk convinces them that the Horta are peaceful and would be willing to cooperate with the miners.

Kirk, Spock, and McCoy return to the Enterprise, prepare to leave orbit, and learn from Vanderberg that the eggs have hatched and already the new Horta have found uncovered rich veins of pergium and other valuable metals. He adds that the miners are learning to overcome their aversion to the Horta. Spock remarks that the mother Horta felt similarly about humans, though she apparently found his pointed ears quite attractive.

Production notes

The Horta was played by stuntman and acrobat Janos Prohaska, who also designed the costume. Prohaska was promised that if he created something good enough, the producers would rent the costume and pay Prohaska to play the part. Episode writer Gene Coon was convinced of the costume's effectiveness after an impromptu demonstration by Prohaska in the studios.[2]

William Shatner says this is his favorite episode of the series. His father died during its filming, but Shatner insisted on going through with production, and felt closer to the cast and crew for helping him through the difficult time.[3]

This episode also marks the first appearance of Doctor McCoy's catchphrase, "I'm a doctor, not a [fill in the blank]!" In this case, the line is, "I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer!", said by McCoy when Kirk orders him to heal the Horta. The catchphrase has become so indelibly associated with Star Trek doctors that in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Doctor's Orders," Dr. Phlox, facing the challenge of firing up the warp reactor by himself and engaging the warp drive, blurted out, "I'm a physician, not an engineer!"



William Shatner wrote in his memoirs that "The Devil in the Dark" was his favorite original Star Trek episode.[3] He thought it was "exciting, thought-provoking and intelligent, it contained all of the ingredients that made up our very best Star Treks".[3] In the documentary 50 Years of Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy also named "The Devil in the Dark" as an "interesting episode", stating "I thought [it] was a wonderful episode about the fear of the unknown, how we fear and even hate something that we don't know anything about, learn who your enemy is, and it's not, maybe then it's not no longer your enemy."[4]


In 2009, Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club gave the episode an 'A' rating, describing it as a classic and noting the well-written roles of Kirk, Spock and McCoy.[5] In 2012, The A.V. Club ranked this episode as one of the top ten "must see" episodes of the original series.[6] In 2017, Business Insider ranked "The Devil in the Dark" the 4th best episode of the original series.[7]

In 2012, Christian Science Monitor ranked this the eighth best episode of the original Star Trek.[8]

In 2013, W.I.R.E.D. magazine ranked this episode one of the top ten most underrated episodes of the original television series.[9]

In 2015, New York Public Library rated this episode as having Spock's fourth best scene in the show.[10]

In 2015, called it "one of the greatest episodes" of Star Trek.[11]

In 2016, Vox rated this one of the top 25 essential episodes of all Star Trek.[12]

Empire ranked "Devil in the Dark" 2nd in the top 50 episodes of all Star Trek in 2016.[13]

In 2017, Business Insider ranked "Devil in the Dark" the 4th best episode of the original series.[7]

In 2018, Collider ranked this episode the 10th best original series episode.[14]

In 2018, PopMatters ranked this the number one best episode of the original series.[15]

See also


  1. DeCandido, Keith R. A. (September 10, 2015). "Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: "The Devil in the Dark"". Retrieved July 24, 2019.
  2. Herbert Solow, Robert Justman (1997). Inside Star Trek The Real Story. June: Simon & Schuster. pp. 214–125. ISBN 978-0-671-00974-8.
  3. Shatner, William (1993). Star Trek Memories (paperback). Harper Torch. p. 200.
  4. "50 Years of Star Trek", History Channel, August 14, 2016
  5. Handlen, Zack (April 10, 2009). ""This Side Of Paradise" / "The Devil In The Dark"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved March 2, 2010.
  6. Handlen, Zack. "10 must-see episodes of Star Trek". TV Club. Retrieved June 29, 2019.
  7. Kiersz, Elena; Holodny, Andy (September 21, 2017). "Here are the 13 best original 'Star Trek' episodes, ranked". Business Insider. Retrieved July 6, 2019.
  8. "Star Trek: The Original Series: The 10 greatest episodes (+ video)". Christian Science Monitor. September 8, 2012. ISSN 0882-7729. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  9. "10 of the Most Underrated Episodes of the Original Star Trek Series". Wired. May 15, 2013. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  10. "10 Best Spock Moments in Star Trek: The Original Series". The New York Public Library. Retrieved July 10, 2019.
  11. DeCandido, Keith R. A. (September 10, 2015). "Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: "The Devil in the Dark"". Retrieved July 24, 2019.
  12. Siede, Caroline (September 6, 2016). "Star Trek, explained for non-Trekkies". Vox. Retrieved August 1, 2019.
  13. "The 50 best Star Trek episodes ever". Empire. July 27, 2016. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
  14. Lesnick, Silas (August 14, 2018). "The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'". Collider. Retrieved July 4, 2019.
  15. "The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'". PopMatters. July 16, 2018. Retrieved July 8, 2019.
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