Star Trek (1968): S03E09 – Tholian Web


“The Tholian Web” is the ninth episode of the third season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek.

Written by Judy Burns and Chet Richards and directed by Herb Wallerstein, it was first broadcast on 15 November 1968.

In the episode, Captain Kirk is caught between dimensions while the crew of the Enterprise works to retrieve him. All the while, the Tholians are weaving a destructive energy web around the Enterprise.


The starship USS Enterprise enters an uncharted region of space searching for her sister ship, the USS Defiant. Sensors detect fractures in space, and a power loss affects all systems. Defiant is found adrift, and Captain Kirk, First Officer Spock, Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy, and Navigator Ensign Chekov transport across wearing environmental suits for protection. Aboard Defiant, they find the crew dead, apparently having killed one another.

The boarding party discovers that Defiant is slowly fading out of our universe. At one point, McCoy passes his hand through an almost invisible man and a table. With limited transporter functionality due to the unexplained malfunctions, Kirk orders his men to return to Enterprise first. The beaming takes longer than usual, and as Chief Engineer Scott tries to beam Kirk aboard, the Defiant vanishes.

Spock determines that the local space is experiencing periods of “interphase”, when two parallel dimensions touch each other and objects in one can move to the other, and believes Kirk will reappear during the next one. As he explains the situation, Chekov lashes out in anger, a symptom that McCoy believes is due to their proximity to Defiant. Spock, however, refuses to move the ship, fearful of disrupting local space, which could result in the loss of the Captain.

With two hours before the next interphase, the Enterprise is approached by a small, unfamiliar ship. Its captain, Commander Loskene of the Tholian Assembly, asserts that Enterprise has violated Tholian space and must leave. Spock persuades Loskene to wait one hour and fifty-three minutes. When the time is up, Kirk does not reappear, and Spock concludes that the arrival of the Tholian ship disrupted the interphase.

When the Enterprise is attacked by Loskene, McCoy again urges Spock to leave, believing Kirk is lost. Spock chooses to return fire and the Tholian ship is disabled, but the Enterprise takes damage as well. Scott warns that because of the damage he cannot guarantee that he can hold their position. A second Tholian ship joins the first, and the two begin weaving an energy web that cages the Enterprise. Spock determines that if the web is completed before repairs are done, they will be unable to escape.

Spock conducts a memorial service for Kirk, during which another man goes insane. Spock and McCoy then view a tape left by Kirk, to be played in the event of his death, which implores the two of them to work together for the benefit of the ship. Lieutenant Uhura and Scott both report seeing ghostly manifestations of Kirk. Finally, the apparition is seen on the bridge; Kirk is still in his environmental suit and appears to be urging Spock to “hurry”.

With the Tholian web nearly complete, McCoy dispenses an antidote to the effects of the local space, and Spock determines the time of Kirk’s next appearance. They lock onto Kirk’s coordinates, and Spock orders the activation of the ship’s engines, which carries them through the spatial rift to a point 2.72 parsecs away. Kirk is brought along by the transporter lock, and beamed aboard just as his oxygen runs out.

On the bridge, Kirk questions Spock and McCoy about their handling of the emergency, particularly concerning the tape with his final orders. McCoy claims they did not have time to watch it, Spock confirms that they were very busy, and Kirk accepts their answers.

Link to Star Trek: Enterprise

In a two-part episode of Star Trek: Enterprise called “In a Mirror, Darkly” (S04E18 and S04E19), it is revealed that the Defiant has reappeared in the Mirror Universe of Archer’s time, where it is first salvaged by the Tholians and then stolen by the Terran Empire. The Defiant bridge is recreated in precise detail, even to the positions of the dead crewmen.

Star Trek TV Series

You can find a full index of Star Trek TV series here.

Star Trek TV Series, Films, and Documentaries

You can find a full index of all Star Trek TV series, films, documentaries here.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Herb Wallerstein and Ralph Senensky (uncredited).
  • Writer(s): Judy Burns and Chet Richards.
  • Production: Desilu Productions (1966-1967) and Paramount Television (1968-1969).
  • Distributor(s): Paramount Pictures (1966-2006), CBS Paramount Television (2006-2007), and CBS Television Distribution (2007-Present).
  • Original Network: NBC.
  • Release Date: 15 November 1968.
  • Running Time: 50 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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