Here, the Enterprise travels to uncharted territory to try and find out what happened to the starship Defiant. They can see the Defiant, though it doesn’t appear on sensors, and beam aboard to find the crew dead and the ship dissolving. When a transporter problem requires Kirk to be transported to the Enterprise last, he disappears with the ship and the Enterprise must wait until it reappears again to save him. However, the crew begins to grow violent and the Tholians show up, demanding they leave their territory, making it a race against time as more of the crew is impacted and they must bring back a trapped Kirk, thought dead, before the Tholians close their web!
Judy Burns told Blastr she was such a fan of the show before writing this episode that she convinced a gas station across from NBC to let her hang a Spock poster on their wall reading “Save Star Trek” when it looked like the show might be canceled.
“At that time, I was also thinking, I will write an episode, and so I had ulterior motives, no doubt about it,” she said.
Ultimately, Burns decided to write the episode because she needed money to go to Africa to work with anthropologist Louis Leakey. According to Burns, Leakey would take care of things when she was in Nairobi, but she had to get there on her own, and it would cost $2,500.
“I was poor, poor as a church mouse. I spent most of my time in college tutoring just to get through college,” Burns said. “The idea struck me that I could write one of those, so I picked up the phone and called Paramount and talked to a secretary called Penny Unger and asked how much you got for writing a Star Trek. She said for newbies, you get $2,500 and that was like God speaking. Hence, I went, OK, I’ll write one.”
A few months later, she drove over to Paramount and asked Unger for some scripts to review.
“She gave me a [show] bible and two scripts, and I went home and I tore them apart to find out how they were written. I had not been an English major, but I’d read my whole life, and I basically worked out how to write a Star Trek,” Burns said.
The first script Burns submitted, she didn’t hear back about, but she continued writing. She realized she needed help from a friend who knew about science, since she had an idea for a ghost story. In the story, Spock was lost, and floating around the ship like a ghost.
“I had some science background, myself. I’d been going to be a physicist before I switched to anthropology, but I wasn’t as good as Chet,” Burns said. “So, I asked Chet Richards if he had an idea for how we could make a ghost, and he said, 'Well, let’s split dimensions,' and I went, 'That’s good, let’s do that.' He’ll be in two dimensions, on our side and one dimension somewhere else, which is how we ended up with the story we ended up with.”
The story, on which Richards is credited as a co-writer, was bought but, in the end, it wasn’t Spock who needed saving. Since they already had “Spock’s Brain” focusing on the half Vulcan half human, producer Bob Justman suggested making Kirk the “ghost,” instead.
To Burns, what has contributed to this story becoming a favorite among fans and leaving an impact on the franchise is not just the story, but also the special effects, which were nominated for an Emmy. Burns believes the episode’s following developed over the years and was helped by being chosen as one of the episodes to rerun during the summer. It would be a story revisited years later when Star Trek: Enterprise created a sequel to the episode in 2005’s “In a Mirror, Darkly.”