“For The World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky” is a surprisingly effective episode about blind faith in rules and dogma, as well as a touching love story. It is unfortunate, then, that the both the episode’s beginning and conclusion are more than a little contrived to allow for the episodic nature of the series. Otherwise, this could easily have been one of the better episodes in the Original Series, despite its overly long title.
As the episode begins, the crew of the Enterprise fends off a primitive missile attack from a nearby asteroid. There’s simply no rationale provided for such an introduction to the asteroid, called Yonada, which means that the episode stumbles through its initial paces, blunting the very grave news that Dr. McCoy has for Kirk – namely that one of the crew members has an incurable, and terminal disease. That the character turns out to be McCoy himself is certainly surprising, and the result is to focus the narrative squarely on his character – which, of course, nicely lives up to expectations.
While exploring the asteroid, the McCoy, Spock and Kirk discover that it is, essentially, a bio-dome, harboring the survivors of a long dead civilization. More interestingly, these survivors are completely unaware that their world is, in actuality, a kind of spaceship. More pressing is the revelation that their asteroid-ship will collide with a densely populated planet. While on the asteroid, McCoy meets, and falls in love with, Natira, the woman who is the leader of the people. She, in turns falls in love with him – which triggers a wonderful commentary about how love needs to be cherished, even if it destined to be short-lived. Not surprisingly, McCoy chooses to resign from the Enterprise and stay on the planetoid. To the episode’s credit, this predictable decision doesn’t detract from the story. Indeed, it merely reinforces how precious true love can be.
The other plot, in which Kirk and Spock try to figure out how to alter the course of the asteroid, features its own commentary on people blindly following an imposed ideology. To underscore the point, they discover a “book” which contains all the secrets of the society – though reading it is forbidden. The conflict is only resolved when Natira chooses to look past the imposed restrictions of her society and accept a higher “truth” to the world on which she lives. At that moment, Kirk and Spock manage to gain access to the controls and save the asteroid.
Unfortunately, Kirk and Spock manage to “accidentally” discover the cure to McCoy’s incurable disease. And I say unfortunately because it makes the whole situation much more of a plot contrivance than a legitimate character arc. It doesn’t destroy the episode completely, but it does undermine some of the more sobering elements to it – and to McCoy’s new outlook on life and love.
Though, admittedly, the decision to revisit Yonada a year later, after her people arrive safely at their new home, was a nice touch.
“For The World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky” does a good job of providing character growth for McCoy. Had the episode not succumbed to an easy solution to his predicament – purely because these episodes need their characters to remain, essentially, the same – then this could have been a profound, moving narrative.