Star Trek (1966–1969)
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The Empath 

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


John Erman


Gene Roddenberry (created by), Joyce Muskat | 1 more credit »





Episode complete credited cast:
William Shatner ... Capt. Kirk
Leonard Nimoy ... Mr. Spock
DeForest Kelley ... Dr. McCoy
Kathryn Hays Kathryn Hays ... Gem
Alan Bergmann Alan Bergmann ... Lal
James Doohan ... Scott
George Takei ... Sulu
Davis Roberts ... Dr. Ozaba
Jason Wingreen ... Dr. Linke
Willard Sage ... Thann


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

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Release Date:

6 December 1968 (USA) See more »

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Did You Know?


The third season of Star Trek was famously only green lighted after viewer pressure made the NBC network change their mind after they originally planned to cancel the series after the second season. One of the conditions that NBC insisted on when they finally commissioned a third season was for the production company to implement cuts to the production budget by 25%, and this resulted in production design shortcuts (such as reusing footage, props and sets from previous episodes) as well as a purported drop in the quality of some of the scripts. The budget cuts are particularly noticeable in this episode, one of the last of the third season. With the production budget for the entire series already thinly stretched and close to running out as the production schedule for season three drew to a close, the producers were forced to creatively save money by implementing minimal set design in the laboratory scenes where much of this story takes place (hence why these scenes were filmed against a black backdrop) and re-use the slightly redressed alien desert planet surface set previously seen in Star Trek: The City on the Edge of Forever (1967) among others. See more »


The first time Kirk, Spock and McCoy are hit with the Vian force field, Kirk says he "can't seem to stand up", even though he is standing. See more »


Captain James T. Kirk: Be careful.
Dr. McCoy: Why, she seems harmless enough.
Mr. Spock: The sand-bats of Manark IV appear to be inanimate rock crystal, Doctor, until they attack.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Special Enhanced version Digitally Remastered with new exterior shots and remade opening theme song See more »


Featured in For the Love of Spock (2016) See more »

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User Reviews

Lab animals
21 June 2014 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

One of the best of Star Trek episodes is this one when the Enterprise comes upon a superior alien race that select the landing party of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley and a pair of unnamed crewmen as guinea pigs in a psychological experiment. The aliens look like second cousins to the Talosians and we know what intellects they had. You also know what happens to unnamed crewmen in any Star Trek episode.

This crowd is almost as good or bad depending on your point of view. The three regulars are put into a room together with a deaf mute named Gem played by Kathryn Hays. She cannot speak, but her facial expressions tell much because Hays is a total empath with healing powers. As all the series regulars are tortured, Hays heals them. But like that other healer from the big screen, John Coffey in The Green Mile it takes a lot out of Hays every time she heals. It's soon clear she's the object of the alien experiment.

As Kirk tells them at the end these experiments are futile because these aliens have evolved into pure intellect, way beyond even that noted Enterprise intellect Spock. Empathy is not something you can objectively analyze. You either have it or you don't. A little more empathy, a little less intellect without sacrificing too much is what this old world needs.

Nice issues are developed in this fine Star Trek story.

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