Star Trek: Season 3, Episode 12

The Empath (6 Dec. 1968)

TV Episode  -   -  Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi
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Ratings: 6.7/10 from 739 users  
Reviews: 21 user | 1 critic

Trapped in an alien laboratory Kirk, Spock and McCoy meet an empath and are involved in a series of experiments.



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Title: The Empath (06 Dec 1968)

The Empath (06 Dec 1968) on IMDb 6.7/10

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Episode complete credited cast:
Kathryn Hays ...
Alan Bergmann ...
Davis Roberts ...
Jason Wingreen ...
Willard Sage ...


Kirk, Spock and McCoy suddenly find themselves in an underground laboratory where they meet an attractive young woman who is not only mute but also an empath who can absorb someone else's pain. When their captors make themselves known, they refuse to explain why the three men have been taken prisoner or why they and the young woman, whom McCoy has named Gem, are there. Inexplicably, they set about torturing them for no apparent reason. Fortunately, Gem's empathic powers allow her to take away their pain, but only at great sacrifice to herself. When their captors tell Kirk that he must choose which of his men to die, their selflessness comes to the fore, leaving Dr. McCoy volunteering himself. They all soon learn that the object of the experiment is Gem herself. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

alien | laboratory | mute | humanoid | torture | See more »


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Release Date:

6 December 1968 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


In the final scene, Scotty refers to the story of 'the pearl of great price'. This refers to a parable told by Jesus in Matthew 13:45-46. See more »


After Kirk is abducted by the Vian teleporter, there is a hand print on the dusty floor that reveals how William Shatner got up between shots. See more »


Dr. McCoy: Don't fight the force field. There's something about it that upsets the body metabolism.
Lal: Not quite, Doctor. The field draws its energy FROM your bodies. The more you resist, the stronger the force field becomes.
See more »


Referenced in Free Enterprise (1998) See more »

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User Reviews

Underrated Gem in an age without Empathy
27 May 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

It saddens me to see how many people are utterly lacking in any perspective on this episode. This episode is very different from any other, and perhaps this explains some of the pointless critique I have seen.

Deforrest Kelly called this his favorite episode. Those of you who fail to see its beauty are simply lacking in any artistic sense or human empathy.

Of course there are mistakes with effects, plot, etc. Show me an episode of ANY show from the 60's that is pristine. Show me any Star Trek episode with a perfect plot. This episode isn't about these things. It is about Empathy. It is about love. It is about the ability to perceive the feelings of others, and to incorporate these so completely into your own emotional and mental state that you must act in such a way as to serve the interests of others just as you serve your own.

This episode shows the pure love that exists between the big 3, and how each man will do his damnedest to protect the other, even unto death. This goes to the extent of even violating normal codes of conduct. This love is even expressed by Spock. Love is not only a gushy, touchy-feely thing. It is also respect, admiration, and duty. It is the moral imperative to serve one's comrades, and to sacrifice oneself if needed. No episode shows this so poignantly as this one, and this message is at the heart of all that is humane and civilized.

Torture? Gratuitous? Not at all. Anybody who has ever lived a significant life knows that life involves all kinds of torture on a continual basis. It is all around us, in our schools, our jobs, and sometimes even our relationships. It is part of the natural world too, and we can even say that life itself is often torturous.

The episode is a test for Gem, and the quickest way to evoke her empathic response is to injure somebody for no reason. This is exactly how any scientist would go about the experiment, were the test subjects considered to be below us like mice.

This episode loudly proclaims the most powerful of all of the messages in the series: It is our capacity to feel what others feel and to act in the interests of others that makes civilized and humane. It is this which ensures our survival.

But, as we all can see from the comments here, few people understand this. They do this for we live in an age where empathy is bad taste, and love is a cause for ridicule.

27 of 33 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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