Star Trek – Dagger Of The Mind

★★★★1/2 November 3, 1966 Season 1 Episode 9

If you want to see where we are…and you missed a few…HERE is a list of the episodes in my index located at the top of my blog. 

This show was written by Shimon Wincelberg and Gene Roddenberry


This episode is excellent. Morgan Woodward played Dr. Simon van Gelder and did a superb job. He stated that the part of Van Gelder was perhaps the most physically and emotionally exhausting role he played…and it affected him for weeks. James Gregory as Dr. Tristan Adams turned in a nice performance as the sadistic doctor that has been corrupted by his power over the patients. James Gregory had a long successful career. He played on Barney Miller and many other shows.

Star Trek - Marianna Hill

Marianna Hill as Helen Noel did a great job as well but I felt she was underutilized in the row. She played a psychologist who knew Kirk in the past and helps save him in this episode. Her character is independent, strong, and viral. She holds her own throughout the episode and displays a strong female, not usually common, for 1960s television.

This episode also shows Spock doing the first mind meld in the series with a distraught Dr. Simon van Gelder. Provocative, intriguing, and intelligent, with some good tension with some great acting, makes this one a must. This episode is a pure human drama that explores the consequences of not only experimentation on humans but also of the need for past experiences to define us.


In several interviews, Morgan Woodward noted that his work on the episode greatly affected him on both a personal and professional level. Woodward felt the part of Van Gelder was perhaps the most physically and emotionally exhausting role he played. He also stated his experience in playing the part resulted in his being in a largely anti-social state of mind for a few weeks following. However, Woodward, who would later play Captain Tracey in Star Trek: The Omega Glory (1968), credits his work on Star Trek in helping him to finally break away from his being typecast in Western roles.

James Doohan and George Takei do not appear in this episode. Scotty appeared in the original script, operating the transporter in the first scene, when Van Gelder is beamed aboard. His appearance was nixed by Robert H. Justman, who saw this as a way of saving costs by eliminating Doohan, who would have been paid $890 for the episode, and replacing him with a random performer (Anthony Larry Paul, playing Lieutenant Berkeley), hired for a much lower salary.

A shipping label produced for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993) shows that a (now elderly) Dr. Van Gelder is still in charge of the Tantalus Penal Colony in the 2370s. TBF More likely to be the son or even grandson of the original Dr. Van Gelder given he would have to be at least 153 years old by the time of DS9.

This episode marks the first appearance of the Vulcan mind meld. The final shooting draft of this script had Spock placing his hands on Van Gelder’s abdomen while performing the mind meld. According to The Making of Star Trek, the mind meld was developed as an alternative to the scripts use of hypnosis to stabilize Van Gelder. They did not want to inaccurately depict hypnosis as a medical technique. Nor did they want to shoehorn into the script a pretext that Spock was qualified to act as a hypnotist in a medical capacity. Lastly, they did not want to risk accidentally hypnotizing viewers at home.

During filming of this episode, William Shatner was pulled away from the sound stage and rushed to a recording studio where, in 2 takes, he recorded the famous “Where No Man Has Gone Before” monologue, which had been re-written several times by different writers (mostly John D.F. Black). He read the first take flawlessly, but associate producer Robert H. Justman felt it should have a subtle echo, so he had the sound engineer create it for the second take. Since most of the effects sequences of the Enterprise were late and not yet been completed for the series debut, the opening credits were hurriedly assembled from existing shots from Star Trek: The Cage (1966) and Star Trek: Where No Man Has Gone Before (1966).


After a psychologically disturbed patient from the Tantalus penal colony, Dr. Simon Van Gelder manages to escape to the Enterprise, Dr. McCoy begins to suspect that something is amiss on the colony. Captain Kirk and Dr. Helen Noel beam down to the planet to investigate.


William Shatner … Captain James Tiberius ‘Jim’ Kirk
Leonard Nimoy … Mister Spock
James Gregory … Dr. Tristan Adams
DeForest Kelley … Doctor Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy
Morgan Woodward … Dr. Simon van Gelder
Marianna Hill … Helen Noel
Nichelle Nichols … Lieutenant Nyota Uhura
Susanne Wasson … Lethe
John Arndt … First Crewman
Ed McCready … Inmate
Eli Behar … Therapist
Frank da Vinci … Lt. Brent (uncredited)
Walt Davis … Tantalus (uncredited)
Louie Elias … Inmate Guard (uncredited)
Ron Kinwald … Tantalus Inmate (uncredited)
John Hugh McKnight John Hugh McKnight … Inmate Guard (uncredited)
Eddie Paskey … Lieutenant Leslie (uncredited)
Anthony Larry Paul … Crewman (uncredited)



Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

22 thoughts on “Star Trek – Dagger Of The Mind”

  1. Looks like another good episode, Max. My Star Trek exposure dates back to the mid-’70s, so it’s really hard to remember any specific episodes. Jeez, oftentimes I forget what I did the day before I posted about on this blog only a few months ago. Perhaps it would all come back to me by using that terrifying beam. “Christian, remember, you watched that Star Trek episode…” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The episode had an important warning about experimenting with mind control. I thought the psychologist’s suggestion that Kirk swept her off her feet after the Christmas Party was slightly unprofessional, but then on the other hand, it could be considered gutsy. Unfortunately, the bad guy jumped in and messed things up.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This one was good, and scary also. I can see the ray the mad doctor used on the patients as a fictionalized form of what has been done to patients in psychiatric hospitals with some of their “treatments” like ECT, lobodomy, various drugs, etc. I think Dr. Van Gelder was a little over the top, but it did ratchet up the drama of the episode. The psychologist was good-looking, and I like the way her character trusted the mad doctor because of his reputation only to learn he was the crazy one!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know…he was perfectly good…or so you thought at the beginning. Things went sideways quickly in this one…when Kirk was stuck on the table.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: