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Is There In Truth No Beauty?

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at September 1, 2006 - 9:21 PM GMT

See Also: 'Is There in Truth no Beauty?' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: The Enterprise serves as escort to Medusan ambassador Kollos and Vulcan-trained human Dr. Miranda Jones, who intend to attempt an unprecedented interspecies mind link so that Medusan technology might be adapted for Starfleet. Humans are not allowed contact with Medusans because their physiology is so radically different that most species go insane when looking upon them, though Vulcans are able to do so while wearing special visors. When Jones' jealous assistant Larry Marvick tries to kill Kollos, he sees the unshielded Medusan and becomes dangerously paranoid. Taking control of the Enterprise, Marvick strands the ship far beyond the reaches of the galaxy before dying of his madness.

Because the blind Jones cannot pilot the Enterprise, Spock mind-melds with Kollos over her objections and uses Medusan understanding of navigation to guide the ship home. But Spock forgets to wear the visor when he breaks the link, and a glimpse of the Medusan drives the Vulcan insane as well. Kirk convinces Jones to put aside her jealousy of Spock's telepathic skills and enter his mind to reconstruct his psyche. Her experience doing so enables her to form a mind link with Kollos, and the two are delivered to his home planet while Spock recovers.

Analysis: "Is There In Truth No Beauty?" would be a keeper for the concept of the Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations alone, though the IDIC was created as a marketing scheme to sell to fans and legend has it that Leonard Nimoy refused to wear the pendant until Gene Roddenberry rewrote the script to make it less heavy-handed. Roddenberry created all of Star Trek to be a commercial product and make money; I don't care whether he created the IDIC because he thought it was pretty, he thought it would sell or it represented his most deeply-held beliefs, it's one of the most important concepts I took away from Star Trek as a child and the one I find myself citing most often when people ask why the series still has relevance forty years after its debut.

It's rather a shame that so many people roll their eyes over the heavy-handed way the IDIC is introduced here, because the idea that people are stronger, smarter and empowered when they step outside their usual boxes and belief systems has no less relevance today than it did during the tumultuous 1960s or really any other human era. It's also a shame that Sulu, Chekov and Uhura aren't included at the scene where Jones and the senior officers sit at dinner in their dress uniforms - Spock wearing the Vulcan symbol, Scotty his kilt - while they try to puzzle out the meaning of "beauty" and consider whether Keats had it right when he wrote, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty - that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

Despite some awkward pacing, weak dialogue and un-Vulcan behavior, "Is There In Truth No Beauty?" remains one of my favorite episodes for several reasons. Miranda Jones remains one of my favorite female characters from the original series (and I have continued affection for Diana Muldaur, who later played Dr. Pulasi on The Next Generation). There's a bit of '60s sexism in her characterization - screaming when she learns that Kollos would like to meld with Spock, for instance - but Marvick is far more of a jealous hysteric than she is, and she handles herself quite well when Kirk turns on the charm to try to distract her from Spock's plans to meld with Kollos. She doesn't buy any of his blather about the attractions of one of her own kind, nor his unpleasant repetition of Marvick's insistence that she should act more like a woman, which in both cases seems to mean she should submit sexually to a man just because he's attracted to her. Obviously she has major issues with intimacy, but those are from growing up blind and pitied and from being a telepath, subject to the random lustful, violent, hostile thoughts of the humans around her before she studied with the Vulcans. She craves a joining beyond all that, and when she believes Spock may come between herself and her chosen partner, she reacts with understandable unhappiness.

Miranda is a character with what is considered a physical limitation for her species, yet it is not a handicap: there are things she cannot do, like pilot a starship, just as there are things Kirk cannot do, like initiate a mind-meld with an alien. The idea that people are "differently abled" rather than handicapped is portrayed beautifully here. The sensor web on her dress seems to be a forerunner of Geordi LaForge's VISOR, for like him, she can perceive things that ordinary humans cannot, such as precise distances and physiological changes in the people around her. And she is also gifted - and cursed - with extrasensory perception that enables her to hide her inability to see from others. The disability that sets her apart from the others is not her blindness, but her resentment of the difference between herself and Spock, that the mind-link he can perform naturally with Kollos is something at which she much work and which she fears she may not accomplish.

Very often in episodes, Spock cites Vulcan logic and rationality, only to be trumped by Kirk and McCoy's human intuition or passion, so it is interesting that in this story, the Vulcan way wins. Passion is dangerous, or in Marvick's case, deadly; it drives him to attempt murder, mistakenly believing that Kollos is his competition, then is so exacerbated in his madness that he puts the ship at risk to escape his demons and dies with a declaration of love on his lips. At one point Kirk, Spock, and McCoy all appear to be competing for Jones, exchanging barbs and wondering how she can want to spend the rest of her life with a creature as ugly as Kollos; Jones wins the argument handily, asking McCoy how he can want to spend the rest of his life looking at disease. Even Kollos, within Spock's body, is very nearly overcome by passion, contemplating how lonely humans must be in their shells of flesh. Having learned a lesson from Sargon, Kirk quickly orders Kollos out of the shell of flesh before he becomes intoxicated by the senses it affords him.

For a bottle show, the episode moves fairly quickly, if jerkily; the Marvick storyline seems to drag on, and the powerful story isn't served very well by the cheesy music and eerie lighting used to represent the alien ambassador. The fish-eye lens to portray paranoia is somewhat more effective. On the other hand, the costuming in the dinner scene is great fun, particularly Scotty's kilt, and there are some different camera angles on the bridge when the ship leaves normal space-time and Spock and Chekov look for ways to repair the damage. It's also nice to see the Enterprise's arboretum again. And any time we get to see Spock smiling in a plausible situation - not because evil aliens or spores have taken over his body - is a cause for celebration.

There are also some lovely moments that link this episode into the series as a whole that make up for its flaws. Spock tells Jones that he does not envy her position with Kollos because his place is on the Enterprise ("At his side, as if you've always been there and always will," to quote Edith Keeler from "The City on the Edge of Forever"); Spock replies to Jones' declaration that Kollos doesn't like transporters by saying the ship's surgeon often makes the same complaint; McCoy calls Jones a "poor girl" because she says that she spent four years on Vulcan studying mind control; McCoy insisting that the mind-linked man on the bridge is not Spock when he quotes, "She walks in beauty like the night", only to reply to the next question, "Are you surprised to find that I have read Byron, doctor?" with, "That's Spock!"

And Spock quotes The Tempest to Miranda, too. There's a sense of growth, accomplishment and wonder throughout "Is There In Truth No Beauty?" that pervades the somewhat messy story, which shows IDIC in action instead of trying to explain it. This is one of the highlights of the third season for me.

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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.

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