Our episode opens with an incredible closeup of an actual planet. The imagery is so realistic, you've gotta appreciate these special effects. Also, our crew has finally figured out how to show a ship in space without it looking like a toy dangling bobbly-bobbly on a string against a fake backdrop. Nice space moves, Enterprise!
Kirk Bargaining with Brains,
Or, Those That We Will Come To Discover As a Warning Against Our Focusing too Much on Intellectual Pursuits Without Compassion
The planet our crew is exploring is uninhabited, but with automated exploration facilities. Sulu continues to be away for the filming of The Green Berets.
Our crew has taken up the habit, finally, of leaving a reasonable leader aboard the ship as others travel on away mission. With that in mind, Spock has been left aboard the Enterprise, along with Scotty. In the meantime, Kirk, Chekov, and Uhura have beamed down to inspect the automated research stations of the planet, but just as they board the transportation platform, they are instead suddenly moved in a quick flash from the Enterprise to a distant planet. It is clear they have not vaporized, and then rematerialized as would usually happen with the transportation device. Instead, they have been captured and space-moved somehow. Scotty has no record of where they have departed to. And on the planet our away team realizes they are not on the planet they'd expected to travel to. Further, their equipment--communication device, and phasers--do not work. Quickly following their arrival, humanoids in crazy costumes appear to fight our crew, and we discover Uhura has added a belt to her very short skirt.
After our team is defeated in combat, a vampire looking man appears to explain that our away team has been brought to the planet in order to be trained for the sake of unseen phantom leaders. We are told they are on the planet Triskelion, and are to spend the rest of their lives there being trained.
Back on board the Enterprise Scotty and Spock are unable to locate evidence of the away team, or to where they moved.
On the planet's surface Kirk attempts an escape. Immediately following the vampire man's eyes illuminate revealing his connection to "collars of obedience" placed about their necks. The three Star Fleet officers collapse onto the floor screaming in pain as the collars trigger horrible stimulation.
Unfortunately, Star Trek has become far too comfortable with showing violence against women. In the midst of their confinement, Uhura is selected to apparently mate with another humanoid creature. She fights him off, however, screaming, and after much struggle the humanoid male leaves, though he reprimands her for her refusal.
Shortly following, Spock somehow discovers a discrepency within a hydrogen cloud that miraculously indicates to him he should be searching for his crewmates in another galaxy.
Interestingly enough, back on the planet's surface, Chekov is paired with a humoid that shows mixed gender characteristics. He is unable to determine if his fellow captive should be regarded as man or woman, though ze are of a different species entirely, and so struggles with how to speak to zim. Chekov finds himself intimidated by the situation.
Kirk, on the other hand, is paired with a green haired woman in a silver swimsuit. He uses his masculine allurements to try and persuade her to give him information about the situation, though she repeatedly refuses. Still, Kirk knows he will teach her his masculine ways.
The Enterprise follows the hydrogen cloud evidence, which leads them to almost 12 light years away. The rest of the crew begins to suspect Spock must be crazy because the area of space they arrive at appears to be empty.
Back on the planet's surface, our away team becomes subject to extensive punishment and torture training. Kirk steps in to keep Uhura from being beaten, and as a result is whipped repeatedly. He fights back, however, and succeeds in hurting the humanoid that beats him. His behavior gains the favor of their punishers. For the first time our crew hears the voices of their captors. They speak as phantom voices bidding on "the new comers." Further, the voices place bets on the outcomes of our away team as well.
Kirk continues to work on gaining information from the woman he has been paired with. However, her entire life has been spent within this planet system, and as a result she simply takes her situation for granted, as if it is natural and normal. She has lived her entire existence trained into the ways of her captive situation. Kirk lures her into thinking further on her situation though by triggering her physical desires. The feelings and thoughts confuse her.
"Love is the most important thing on earth," Kirk tells her. He tells her about how on earth men and women choose each other and make each other happy. His talk scares her and he stops pushing her to develop romantic feelings. But as a result she agrees to speak the state of the providers, causing her collar to trigger serious pain for her. Kirk begs his captors to stop. As a result, he is able to bring her closely to him in near naked embrace as he kisses her. She is moved. It turns out his affection with the woman leads to the captors' amusement, and they decide to not punish his disobedience as a result.
Oh Kirk! Your kisses really do have special powers. Kirk's explanation of love "on his planet" only deepens the nobility we are supposed to see in him. Though he explains that humans value love above all other personal fulfillments, we know that he has chosen against it for the sake of his pursuit of knowledge and leadership throughout the galaxy. In this way, we are meant to believe in Kirk's willingness to sacrifice his own interests for the sake of the greater good; he apparently foregos his own desires for relationship instead turns to his commitment to Star Fleet. A true company man.
Back onboard the Enterprise, Scotty and McCoy are trying to demand that Spock is crazy for taking them away several light years from the original planet. Spock, however, explains that he is certain that a highly concentrated beam of light caught the missing crew members and took them away to a distant star system. They all agree that they will look in the new system, and then return to the original planet if no further evidence is found.
In the meantime, Kirk uses his masculine prowess to further confuse the woman he has continually made out, and then to knock her unconscious. Our crew then escapes from their quarters and are punished via their collars as a result.
The Enterprise arrives at a planet that shows humanoid life forms. Spock scans the planet and discovers a power source to which he will beam down along with McCoy. They leave Scotty in command. Before the pair is able to actually beam down the captor voices are suddenly heard aboard the Enterprise as well. The ship is captured, and its powers are taken from its crew.
Kirk convinces his captors, however, to let him see them. We discover that the creatures that hold them are in the shape of mere brains. They claim that they had previously been humanoids as well but evolved into limited physical abilities with pure mental capacity. Realizing that the brains are interested primarily in betting, Kirk challenges the brains to a wager. He will fight three other captors. If Kirk wins, his entire crew will be released, and the other captors will be released and trained. If Kirk dies, his people will become captives for the brains.
The brains appear, we realize, as a warning to us to not focus too heavily on the development of intellectual ability without the balance of compassion. If Roddenberry were alive today, I would beg him to write a new Star Trek series that showcases a warning to not forego the development of sound reasoning by instead turning to instant self-fulfillment and reactive decision making. We could use an update on this lesson of balance, it would seem.
During the fight we get to witness various alien life forms that have appeared in passing in previous episodes. In the midst of the fight Kirk is put against the woman he has been busy kissing. They discover that neither is able to kill the other. However, she surrenders, thereby causing Kirk to win his wager with the brains, and so allowing all the captives to be released. The woman has lived her entire life as a captive, and now discovers that she is free to choose what she will. However, she does not yet know how to choose for herself. So, one last time Kirk shows her. He takes her in embrace and kisses her before beaming away. The woman is left behind on the planet, with her non-binary trans-gender friend, and the vampire, crying for the thoughts that now trouble her.